Friday, November 30, 2007

Spaghetti Squash

I love cooking in the fall. The cold weather and the varieties of squash and apples in the market make me want to stay home all day to braise and bake. If you've never cooked with spaghetti squash its a really easy vegetable to cook with and can serve as a more healthy "pasta" for a variety of sauces.

Its yellow and oval shaped and found in the squash corner of the market. You can cook it a number of ways. Either split it open and roast it with a little olive oil. Or put them face down in a pan of water, cover and put in the oven. Or sprinkle some water cover with saran wrap and pop into the microwave for about 10 minutes. Whichever way you cook it when its soft enough to eat you take a fork and grate it. What comes out are thin "noodles" so to speak that look surprisingly like spaghetti and have enough structural integrity to withstand the weight of most sauces.

We often toss it with fresh pesto and serve it as a side vegetable. Although last night I made a tomato sauce with zucchini and it went beautifully with the spaghetti squash. While roasting the spaghetti squash in the over I also cut up a butternut squash and roasted that as well and tossed those on top of the pasta sauce (as opposed to mixing it in). I love the flavor of roasted butternut squash and wanted that flavor to stay pronounced which is why we didn't mix it into the sauce before serving.

What's nice about this dish is how healthy it is and how hearty and perfect it felt for a cold and rainy winter night. Hope you try using this squash sometime soon if you've never cooked with it before.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Cooking with Auntie Eva

If you've never traveled with one of your aunts, then I'd highly suggest you try it, at least once. I spent two weeks with one of my paternal aunts in Buenos Aires and had a ball. Not surprisingly, some of the most fun we had together was spent cooking (well, cooking & eating!)

From her I learned how to make pancit and lumpia (with adobo, the three most common dishes of the Philippines). From me she learned how to make real chicken and beef stock and was amazed by how freshly made stock could add so much flavor to simple dishes. I learned that like my mom, she doesn't throw out anything from the kitchen (and I mean anything). I tried to sneak a few old (and hardened) garlic cloves into the trash one day only to be reprimanded with a voice that sounds eerily similar to the voice of my grandmother's (also reprimanding me for doing something wrong in her kitchen 20 years ago). She enjoyed hearing how much this grandmother inspired me to want to learn how to cook when I was young. And I enjoyed hearing all of her childhood stories, in particular those that involved food!

We cooked a number of meals for friends and neighbors. The biggest hit was chicken and pork adobo (using my mom's recipe which she emailed to us after I sent her a note on my Blackberry while standing in an Argentine super-market ... you have to love technology!) One of our neighbors loved it so much they actually made it the next night for dinner and have since named it "Eva's Chicken". Its quite simple and very good with fresh and hot white rice. Here is my mom's recipe.

Mom's Adobo
Cut 1 pound pork (with some fat on it) and 1/2 pound chicken into serving sizes and put into a pot. Add 1 cup soy sauce, 1 cup vinegar (rice or white; not balsamic), 1 head of garlic smashed and diced, a sprinkle of sugar, generous servings of pepper and 1-2 bay leaves. Simmer for 1-2 hours or until the pork is fork tender. Like most braises, this gets better and better in the fridge with every passing day. Try it -- and maybe serve it to one of your aunts!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Kaoru: Kalbi & Bulgogi

I love Korean food – Korean BBQ, jap che, mandu, dok boki, pancakes, tofu soup & all the little pickled things you get when eating at a Korean restaurant. You name it, I like it! So I thought I'd try my hand at making a few dishes at home. Friends of ours had recently invited Mr. Martini and me over for home-cooked Korean BBQ; I took that opportunity to get their kalbi & bulgogi recipes.

Kalbi (short ribs)

Kalbi Recipe
1 # beef short ribs, cut for kalbi (buy at Korean market)
2+ Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon crushed/minced garlic
1 Tbs. sake
Pinch black pepper
½ piece of fresh kiwi (or pineapple or orange), juiced/shredded

1. Distribute sugar evenly on beef by sprinkling on each piece. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

2. In bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sake & black pepper.
3. Massage beef with shredded kiwi (& kiwi juice) using hands.
4. Add sauce & mix. Allow beef to marinate anywhere from 6 hours, up to 2 nights. If you do 2 nights, cut back on kiwi as it will tenderize the meat almost too much. The meat is traditionally eaten a little stiffer (vs. fall off the bone soft).
5. Once marinated, broil (or throw on grill) for about 5 mins.

The traditional way to eat kalbi is to wrap it in lettuce, with some rice & a smear of miso-sauce (see photo above).

Miso-sauce (for kalbi wraps)
Miso paste
~1/4 the amount of red pepper paste
Sesame oil
Minced garlic
Sesame seeds
Minced green onions (if desired)
Touch of white sugar



Bulgogi Recipe
1 # boneless pork or beef, sliced very thin (buy at Korean market)
3 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. crushed/minced garlic
½ teaspoon crushed ginger
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. red pepper sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tbs. sake
2 Tbs. sesame oil

1. Mix ingredients together.
2. Marinate meat in mixture anywhere from 6 hours, up to 2 nights.

3. Once marinated, broil (or throw on grill) for about 5 mins.

Bulgogi pairs well with rice and kimchi (particularly the daikon kind). Below is the kimchi we ate for dinner.

Monday, August 27, 2007

What I've Been Cooking

I thought I'd be very clever and post a picture of my belly under this header. And then I realized it would scare you all from ever having children. Needless to say, I look like I could birth my sister right about now. Yes, the 6 month pregnant one. T minus 2 weeks, maybe less if Little Miss B decides to be kind to her mama.

Yesterday was a busy day for visitors, so I finally got around to baking something. Our friends Joree and Lee came over for brunch, with their 2 girls, 17 mos and almost 4 years old. Who kindly showed us all the babyproofing we'll need to do over the coming years. Who knew that despite a houseful of toys at this point, the big blue Thermador range knobs would be the most desirable thing in the house to play wiith?

This is all an aside, as they didn't actually get to eat my baked good (as I made it in the afternoon). But for brunch I had a choose-your-own omelette station and it was really fun. I had chopped some different meats & cold cuts, some herbs, caramelized some onions, and had a couple different cheese options. I had 2 pans going simultaneously, so we could all sit down at once, and it worked out great. Served the eggies with some homefries I made with thyme & onions, and some toast with fresh tomatoes, and it was lovely (and EASY!)

Anyhoo, to get to the baking part. Joyce, Ed, Nat, Vlad and Joey were coming over for dinner. They all claimed they wanted to see the nursery, but I think they were really coming over to try and help me rally through this home stretch-- patience has never been one of my virtues. Shocking, I know. Really, pretend you are surprised.

Chris was bbqing, so I decided to go back to a standby for dessert inspiration-- our good ol' Cooking for Mr. Latte. I remembered the almond cake that Amanda had raved about, and I think Jer has tried and said would be good. I wanted something non-chocolate to at least pretend to be lighter, and something that would pair nicely with all the great summer fruit out there. So Mr. Latte's favorite Almond Cake is what I made. pg 70-71 I believe (I'll transcribe the recipe tomorrow when I'm near the book)

It was really easy to make, I'd forgotten how easy batter cakes were. All in the KitchenAid (in stages), then pour into the springform, bake for an hour, and voila. It came out deliciously. Lovely almond flavor and texture, great rise, and paired beautifully with fruit (we had blueberries and peaches from that day's farmers market-- yum). I really wanted to pour some Armagnac over the top of it for an extra dazzle of flavor (maybe even Armagnac whipped cream for super indulgence), but I figured Little Miss B might not appreciate me getting her drunk-- so I'll save that for next time. And there will be a next time as everyone agreed this was definitely a keeper.

But for now, I'm taking the rest to work with me, as if I don't she really is going to be 10 lbs by the time I birth her...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Kaoru: Sweet Corn & Tomato Salad

I went to the farmer's market yesterday during lunchtime. While I went to just pick up some fruit, I walked away with mission figs, yellow nectarines, corn, tomatoes & a bunch of Bells of Ireland (for my office). I could have purchased more had I had more arms to carry everything!

Inspired by Jer's tomato & corn posting, I decided to combine the two into a summer salad last night. First, remove kernels off 4 corn cobs.

Lightly saute in butter and olive oil for 3-4 minutes. You don't want to overdo it (or you end up with mushy corn).

Remove from pan. Add ~1 basket of cherry tomatoes (sliced in half), 1/2 finely chopped red onion, and season with S&P, olive oil & healthy drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Enjoy - it's so sweet & refreshing it will blow your mind away!

Note, you'll have plenty of leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Summer Fun at Chinos

For the first time this summer, Pete and I are down in San Diego getting to actually spend some time in our place. To be back in my own kitchen has been pure bliss. I went to Chino's Family Farm in Del Mar last week and picked up some incredible heirloom tomatoes and fresh corn. They charge an arm and a leg but it is so worth it. The caprese salad we made with the tomatoes and basil was so incredibly good that Nelson, Pete and I had to stop after every bite just to say "Oh my gosh, this is so good." ps -- as a side note, instead of regular balsamic vinegar I use balsamic "syrup" on my caprese salads. It is must thicker and has more concentrated flavor. Plus, because of its consistency it holds its shape/design when you dress your salad so it always looks really fabulous.

For the corn I shucked all the ears and made fresh corn chowder soup (using Ina Garten's recipe from the first Barefoot Contessa cookbook). It was the most amazing corn chowder soup I had ever made (and I've made gallons of this soup over the years). It was the corn. Something about Chino's corn is unlike anything I have ever tasted.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Summer Fruits - Experimenting with Tarts

Having been totally inspired by all your lovely cobblers, I bought some beautiful fresh peaches on Friday to get ready for my own. After scanning all my cookbooks, I couldn't help but come back to pies and tarts - peach pie especially has always been my favorite. Last fall I was on a mission to perfect a classic French Tarte Tatin, and have to admit didn't have much success. The apples didn't hold their shape well and the whole deal fell apart when I went to serve it. Now I got to thinking, why not try again with these nice looking peaches? And make them in single servings to avoid the mess of cutting it up. I modified the classic recipe slightly, cooking the fruit in the oven instead of all in the same pan on the stove. Here is the result, which turned out completely delicious - even better than the apple.

The recipe is very straightforward:

Individual Peach Tartes Tatin

6 medium to large peaches, should be ripe but still firm

3/4 cup brown (or white) sugar

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons butterjuice of half a lemon

pate brisee (recipe follows)

whipping cream

dash almond extract

Muffin tin for 6 large muffins

Preheat the oven to 375 degree. Prep the muffin tin by greasing each cup well with butter, and then place in the refrigerator to chill. Pit and quarter the peachs, sprinkle with lemon juice, and set aside. Do not peel the peaches - keeping the skin on helps them hold their shape.

In a small non-stick sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil and continue at high heat, without stirring, for about 10 minutes. A thick syrup will form. Remove from heat, and stir in the butter and remaining lemon juice.

Poor the hot syrup into the prepared muffin tins, dividing equally into each cup. Position the peach quarters, skin side down into the cups. Each cup should hold four quarters (one entire peach). Put the tin in the oven to cook the peaches, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the pastry:

Pate Brisee (half batch)

1-1/4 cups flour

8 tablespoons butter, cold

1/8 teaspoon salt

ice water

Combine flour, salt and butter in a food processer. Add ice water, one teaspoon at a time, until dough comes together into a single ball. Remove dough and press into a flat disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 20 minutes.

Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness or less, and cut into 4-inch rounds. Wrap and keep remaining dough.When the peaches are done, remove the pan from the oven and cover each cup with a pastry round. Press the dough down on top of the peaches. It won't be completely flat, but do the best you can.

Return to the oven and bake until crust turns pale brown, about 30 minutes. After it comes out of the oven, let the tartes stand in the pan for 15-20 minutes until slightly cooled. Then comes the fun part. Run a knife around the edges of each tarte to make sure everything is loose from the pan. Place a cookie sheet on top of the pan and flip the whole operation over smoothly. Bang hard on the tops of the muffin tins so that the tartes slide out onto the cookie sheet. All six tartes should pop out, crust side down, onto the cookie sheet.

Whip the cream, and add a bit of the almond extract, and use this to garnish each tarte.

With the leftover crust, you can pre-pake in a small tart pan, and make any number of creations, such as this little tomato one. Super simple, just heirloom tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and grated lemon rind, over goat cheese.