Friday, August 31, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Onigiri - Rice Balls

One day I ordered a rice ball in an Italian restaurant thinking that it would be something like a Japanese rice ball. I was dead wrong. It was good... but it wasn't like this. Onigiri are awesome, and we make them all the time because they are fast, easy, and adorable.

My boo likes big onigiri. I like little onigiri. He likes onigiri completely wrapped in seaweed, and I like mine partially wrapped. But we agree on the fillings, and it's the inside that matters.

$5 well spent. You just drop the onigiri mold in some salt water and they're ready to use.

We used 2 different fillings: wasabi mayo mixed with canned tuna, and the marinated sweet and salty seaweed straight out of the bag. Really simple and on two completely different ends of the filling spectrum.

Instead of plain rice, we used fried rice. The more ingredients the merrier! This had peas, corn, egg, and shishito peppers. It was seasoned with more wasabi and salt.

Notice the pearly quality of the rice. Ideally the grains would be nice and separated, but there's still enough moisture so that you can mush it into an onigiri ball.

Load them up with whatever you want, sandwiching the filling between 2 layers or rice. Squeeze the lid on, and you get...

Then you just fold it up in the seaweed! I used to cut the sheets of seaweed to make perfect wraps... but now I just cut them in half.

The seaweed makes them easier to hold and prevents the rice from crumbling while you eat.

As usual, we made too many.

So cute and so good!! I'm convinced that the cuteness makes them more delicious!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

ZOMFG Chicken Burgers

ZOH.M.F.G. These were so good that I ate 50% more than I was supposed to, and now I'm in horrible pain. Between the over eating and the exercise, I'm literally incapacitated.

After eating this chicken burger, I'm going to have a hard time paying $15 for a chicken burger ever again.... or even going out to eat a chicken burger ever again.

My story started with the leftover broccoli.

I was told to cook it. So I did. Then I got bored picking at it, so I went into the kitchen to see what other leftovers could be cooked.

But they were all gone, because my bf had sliced the leftover olives and shishito peppers and mushed them into the leftover chicken.

Suspicious looking. I know. But I encourage experimentation.

Shortly afterwards, he called me over to test if something was cooked.

It was a little dry, but it was very well seasoned and had a nice kick from the cayenne.

We prepared a pretzel baguette and some of that horse radish and chive havarti...

In the meantime, he worked on a new cooking method for the patties

And he figured out a way to trap in the moisture.

And holy chicken patty. They were mouth-watering-ly good.

They were *so* good, that it somehow gave him super billiards powers, and I nearly got destroyed in one turn.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dining in - French Toast and Nachos

Today I mostly sat back and relaxed as my boyfriend made my brunch and dinner. (So lucky! I know :) )

He made french toast with chocolate cherry bread, and these little Japanese breakfast sausages are THE BEST. Unfortunately I wasn't awake to take a picture of the packet. I'll do that the next time I go to Sunrise Mart. The savory/salty/spicy sausages were great paired with the sweet and buttery french toast. I didn't even need any syrup because the bread was already quite sweet.

Haha what a weird sausage.

For dinner, he made me these insane nachos with green chips, beef, chicken, horseradish and chive havarti, spicy sauce.... and avocado, tomatoes, red peppers, olives, and lettuce. We actually almost finished it all after a grueling hour of leg exercises at the gym. We ate like animals and didn't speak for almost half an hour.

I think that'll be enough fuel to get us through Monday morning...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Elevating Leftovers

Many great dishes probably came from leftovers... or can be made just as well with leftovers. Why do you think fried rice has so many random meats and vegetables in it? Think about bouillabaisse or any French stew where the meat is cooked to submission. I always thought that paella was possibly invented by a poor fisherman who only came back with scraps... who only picks up a small handful of each seafood?

Anyhow, I was starving for breakfast and didn't want to make more tempura with my half eaten yam, eggplant, and leftover batter. I felt inspired by the long history of cooking with leftovers and made it into this pancake with an egg on top.

The tempura batter is awfully similar to pajeon (korean pancake) batter, so all I had to do was dice my vegetables. I did have to cook the yam first and soften it up a bit, but I already had a pot ready - covered in oil from the frying last night. As a result, my pan's cleaner now.

I even left the random bits of broccoli inside. I think they add character.

It was all about making something new instead of a flatter and more compact version of what we ate yesterday, so I cracked an egg on top! Et voila!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Udon at home

We weren't going to make Udon noodles... but we made everything else.

This may look simple, but that soup was a convoluted work of love, and that egg was overcooked as a result of too much love for the tempura. The soup was the usual udon soup... the only problem is that it's one of those things that I don't cook very often, so it seemed rather annoying to boil dried konbu and bonito flakes in a rather precise fashion and then simmer it with soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and green onions.

The soup was delicious and tasted the same as any good restaurant, but it tasted so much more complex because I had to work for it.

Broccoli, eggplant, and sweet potato tempura. I don't have a proper fryer, and I hate wasting oil, so I fried these 3 pieces at a time in a tiny but tall pot. They were all delicious though!!

This might look strange and disgusting, but it was the best thing that we've cooked in a microwave that I remember. It's eel from a plastic bag. Shabu shabu just seemed too pedestrian at the time. After a quick zapping, it tasted like the stuff that I pay $15 for sometimes over rice. Oh wait... this cost $17... but it was at least twice as much! Maybe even 3x! I don't know because I gulped it down too fast. Thank god they don't sell these pre-warmed.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Adult Drunk Pizza

It all started last night when I noticed that my bf had forgotten his keys. I had finished reading and was already half asleep. I did not want to leave the front door open while showering (I grew up in Detroit - I'm paranoid), but I did not know when my bf would get home and didn't want to risk him waiting outside for 30 minutes. I asked him for an ETA so I could shower, but got an invitation instead.

"Everyone's here!"
"Who's everyone!"
It was a difficult decision, but he sounded like he wanted to party, so I threw on a black and pistachio dress and some lipstick and cabbed it to MePa.

Partying on borrowed youth has its consequences. The cookies I had for lunch probably did for my body what water would do for a car in lieu of gas.

Needless to say, neither of us wanted to cook or even walk to get food. I don't even think my bf wanted to eat, but as you might have inferred from the name of my blog, I had no choice.

Whole Foods is on the way home, and their pizza line looked short. I got this chicken bacon ranch pizza on whole wheat, which wasn't half bad. All it needed was a little Sriracha.

My bf got the mozzarella and sausage pizza on the left, which he quite liked, and I got a tiny sliver of the mushroom and arugula pizza on the right. It was a little plain, but I had no complaints.

It turned out to be the most expensive fast food ever, but at least I think we were eating mostly real meat and vegetables.

I wanted to cook us some steamed egg soup, but we only had one egg... which I just remembered that I forgot to put in the tang yuan soup we had for dessert (doh!). Previous blog entry about tang yuan here.

I'd better go to bed before someone gets hurt.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

That Beef & Vegetable Dish at Chinese Restaurants

In Chinese restaurants, they always have beef & broccoli, beef & onions, or pepper beef, or something... but it's basically the same beef dish.

I decided to make my own version today for dinner.

I got some chuck beef, nice and marbly, and seared them for 2 minutes on each side in oil and garlic. I threw in some anise as well. I seasoned each side of the steak with ground Sichuan peppercorns and salt. While that was going, I was cutting onions.

Here are the onions cooking in the steak fat.

Instead of using green peppers, I used anaheim peppers to give it a little kick. I've been using this floss thing (that I don't use as floss) to deseed my peppers without having to grab at the rind with my fingers. I tend to get the pepper oil into my skin and it burns like heck. This is way easier, and it even comes with clean refills!

I also sliced the steak into more reasonable pieces and trashed any big pieces of fat. I threw all of the ingredients into the pot along with some mirin, soy sauce, corn starch, and a little more salt.

Once the liquid simmered down a little bit, the corn starch turned stewy. All the flavors have mixed together, so I threw in a little sugar and mixed it in. Who needs MSG when you have sugar?!

A minute or 2 later, it's ready to eat!! All of the ingredients together cost about $7.50, and this was a bigger portion than anything you'd get in a restaurant. The meat was super tender, and the sauce was sweet and spicy.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Petite Abeille Lunch

We worked up a real appetite after a couple hours of soccer (and after 2 hours of football for my bf), so the bunch of us headed off to Petite Abeille. It's a chain but feels like a family joint with its white and blue awning and friendly bee logo. The interior is decorated with chalk drawings and framed pages from Tintin. A shelf in the corner has actual books in French.

I got my usual Eggs Florentine, which is with spinach instead of ham. The mashed potatoes looking thing is supposedly stoemp, which had leeks today. Sometimes it also has carrots. it's like the slightly better dressed older sister of mashed potatoes.

The food here is normally great, but I was extremely disappointed in whoever poached the eggs at the Tribeca location this morning, because all of the eggs were overcooked! My friend got one that ran ever so slightly, but I expected more from them. They deprived me of soaking up my runny yolk with bread.

Everything else tasted great, and I was starving, so no harm done. The hollandaise sauce, was as usual, perfect. It was just thick enough to cover the eggs, and if I didn't know how it was made, I would think that I'm eating something very light.

My boyfriend got the Petite Abeille burger. He was kind enough to describe to me why it's one of his favorite burgers. And he's had more different kinds of burgers than most people.

The bread was perfectly toasted so that it had the "burnt" flavor, but was not so hard that it cut the tongue. The burger itself did not make the bread soggy, but when you bite into it, the inside is so juicy that the almost-burning hot juice permeates your bite. The cheese and bacon were just icing on the cake so to speak.

I know why the fries are good. They are very well seasoned, crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside.

My friend asked me for a waffle recommendation, so I told him the banana split waffle. I don't normally like bananas, but it works perfectly with ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate fudge. I've tried some of the other waffles in the past, but they were not even close.

I don't know if some people were on a diet, but they ultimately decided to ignore my advice. I'm sure that the berry waffle was very good compared to not having any waffle at all.

Byebye Tintin! Hope to see you soon. (with better poached eggs please... but I might just get the banana split waffle because I didn't have it this time.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mas (Farmhouse)

I didn't even know what the "Farmhouse" in the name meant. I thought it was one of the restaurants that grow the food on the roof. Instead, I stepped off Downing street into a very elegant and compact space.

We had to decide between the 3 course menu in which we had to read and deliberate, and the 6 course menu in which the chef picked everything for us. After sipping some Mas Champagne and watching the words swim around the page, the decision seemed obvious.

Amuse bouche: duck rilette on pepper biscuit with pickle 6/10. It was a little difficult to navigate from the plate to the bouche, but it was pretty good. It didn't stand out though... I almost like the biscuit more than the duck.

Chilled zucchini soup with salmon 8.5/10. I don't normally like chilled soups, but this was very good. I think there was some starch in the zucchini soup, which made it taste more "cooked" than I expected. The radishes added a nice bite and texture. I think the salmon would be a little better off less cooked, but that might be just me.

Roasted black bass with eggplant puree 9/10. One of the better black basses that I've had. It was very flakey yet substantial, and the eggplant sauce was very well done. Most eggplant sauces tend to be too bland/slimy/salty, but this one tasted like eggplant, but did not overwhelm the fish. The tartness of the pink radishes helped balance the dish a great deal.

Lobster ravioli with corn ragu and carrot consommé 7/10. I could have sworn that the waitress said "consommé", but I did not find said consommé anywhere. The filling was a little too heavy on the cream. I don't think the preparation brought out the taste of the lobster enough. However! The ravioli and the corn were great.

Duck breast with potato puree 8/10. Before I saw the skin, I actually thought that I was looking at a steak. Normally the duck is without a doubt the star in any dish with duck, but I must say that the puree, beans, and (are those) collard greens(?) helped elevate the dish greatly. I took 2 points off for having a dull knife and slightly stringy duck.

Soy glazed lamb belly with risotto 10/10. This was the only dish that really blew me away. It made me wonder where all the other lamb bellies went, and why I'm eating pork belly all the time. Everything was perfectly done. The fat was so well cooked, it melted in my mouth. The risotto was chewy and filled with flavor, and the bites of mushroom just put the dish over the top.

Palate cleanser of creme fraiche sorbet, candied rhubarb, and melon ice (or was it candied melon and rhubarb ice?). I *love* creme fraiche sorbet. 10/10. I should keep palate cleansers like these at home.

Berry pie with raspberries and honey ice cream 9/10. I loved my dessert. The previous course put me in the mood for ice cream, and I love flaky pie crust with fruit filling that's just the right sweetness.

The other 3 people at the table all had different desserts.

I thought the different desserts was a very interesting idea! Dining rooms should have more controlled chaos. You're looking at pound cake, flour-less chocolate cake, and cream cheese ricotta.

We also got a delicious cheese platter.

This was a great restaurant. The flavors were very balanced. We had a sampling of sweet, savory, tart, and salty done in a number of different ways. The food kept me entertained. Overall, 8.5/10. I'd definitely go back.