Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Green chili... Again.


Boys and Girls - for the first time in my decade of filing taxes (whoa... let's pause and reflect on the fact that I have had a job for 10 years now while only managing to be out of school for 2 of them...) I have filed taxes before April. Just last year, I filed for the first time before April 14th at 11 pm at night. Not only is it not the 12th hour before they're due, but in case you haven't seen a calendar, it's also still January. Some people don't even have their forms yet - but mine are DONE! Yippee!! So, in celebration (and before I get dragged into homework for the night...), you get another post!

Pork shoulder, cubed

I'm having sleeping issues - it usually happens right around my bi-monthly drug infusion. I get fatigued towards the end of the 8 weeks. So I up my caffeine intake. In the days following the infusion, my body rebounds, and I get even more tired. Then it gets better for 7 weeks. But yesterday I was dragging - so I had delicious coffee all day (sshhh - I know I shouldn't. Does that make it better? No? Well, I did it) and into class. Can you see what's coming next? Yup - I got home from class at 9 pm and was so jazzed that I couldn't sleep. So, I did a little homework reading, a little surfing the net, and a little work email answering. About 1 am, I finally tuckered myself out and tried for sleep. Which is fine, but it means that 6:30 comes around real quick. And then I overslept and have had coffee all day. And now - here we are at 7:30 pm and I'm excited about my maturity for finishing taxes, and all that caffeine, and maybe I've already had a mug cake but haven't started dinner, so I'm a little wired. I was going to go to bed at 8 pm to catch up on sleep. Are you laughing? I'm laughing a little.

Diced onion

I thought I would catch up on a pot by finally posting about some delicious green chili I made. But guess what? I already posted about it. Embarrassing... I did realize I couldn't post any pictures because I was a terrible blogger the first time. And I made it again because it was that good. And took pictures the second time (blogger redemption!). Enjoy the pictures (not many) and think about a spicy love jacuzzi of chili to celebrates Valentine's day.

Feel the delicious burn

Searing the meat

Tomatillos (again)

Sr. Jose to help

Spicy Love Jacuzzi

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sushi Obsession

Confession: I am obsessed with sushi. Specifically: salmon. And California rolls. It all started with lox - on bagels, in omelettes, on little pizzas... I was hooked with the silky, almost creamy texture of the uncooked fish (yes, technically lox is cured... sshhh! I'm waxing poetic here). And then my wonderful mom introduced me to sushi.  And then there was light - and it was good.

When I'm stressed and don't want matzo ball soup, sushi will forever fill my soul. It's light, but will fill me up without that "roll me out" feeling that over-eating tends to lend. While I cannot afford to eat sushi every day, believe you me - I would if I could. And for some reason, I have had in my brain an idea about a California roll salad: deconstructed on a plate with lettuce. Sweet crab, creamy avocado, the bite of cucumber - and rounded out with some ginger dressing. I haven't been able to get it out of my head, but I've been too distracted to make it. And then... the sushi place near our apartment has a special local roll. Salmon, tuna, and cream cheese are rolled in rice and seaweed, the whole dang thing is tempura fried (I will pause here for effect...) and then the whole glorious mouth-delight is covered in sriracha, sweet eel teriyaki sauce, and creamy sriracha mayo.

Isn't it beautiful?
So, tonight, while stressed from only 50 things to do (half of them due tomorrow) and upset tumtum from a delayed treatment (also tomorrow) and just a teense of family stress and home-sickness... I wanted sushi. And gosh-darned-it, I was going to make this mind-salad going on in my head, and I was going to combine these two mouth-parties (y'know - it's a party in my mouth? Mouth party. It's a thing. You're now invited).

Let me also say that I have recipe photos primed and ready to post from... like... October. I'm *clearly* behind on my blogging. But this recipe, that I just finished eating 2 hours ago, needed to be posted immediately. Also, I've had just about enough of 21 CFR 814 and ISO 14155 - and I'm glad you asked what they are because they have everything to do with my practicum (read: thesis) and before I slip into quoting why audits are super fantastic... let's talk amazing foodgasms. Because you should make this. I don't exaggerate. Except the fantasticness of federal regulations - I have to pretend to be excited in order to survive the next 137 days. SO! YAY! That might be the hard apple cider that's excited... but y'know... whatever.

Salmon Tempura Salad (AKA: Mouth Party - Sushi-style)
Note: Don't judge me for my shortcuts. I'm very busy and important. Also, I didn't get home from a meeting until after 7 tonight and I still had 50 things to do. Very important federally-regulated stuff. Or something.

Ingredients - for about 3 servings
About 3/4 lb salmon (deboned, no skin - ask your fishmonger to do it for you)
1 cup Teriyaki sauce or marinade
Dry tempura batter (you can also use your favorite recipe, if you have one)
Oil for frying
About 2 cups long-grained rice, cooked and cooled to room temperature
2 cups of your favorite lettuce (I used bibb, my favorite)
1 large avocado
1 English cucumber
As much siracha sauce and sesame ginger dressing that you want (Note: I happened to find pre-packaged siracha-mayo mixture, but there are plenty of recipes online that allow you to mix it yourself. I also used packaged sesame ginger salad dressing.)

1. About 5 hours before dinner (before an annoyingly late dinner would be good), put the salmon and the teriyaki in a gallon-size plastic bag. Let it hang out in the fridge (depending on your timing) at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours.

2. Mix the tempura batter according to package directions - my package said 3/4 cup dry to 1 cup ice-cold water. Mix quickly, it will still be lumpy. Remove the salmon from the fridge and cut into 3-4 equally sized pieces. (I've seen that you can use something as simple as flour with club soda... but I have no experience with this. Heresay...)

3. In a large pot, pour a few inches of oil (any vegetable oil would work) and heat to about 350-375 degrees over medium-low or medium heat. While oil slowly heats up, dice half of the avocado. Slice the other half.

4. Peel the cucumber, slice in half, and remove the seeds with a spoon. Dice half of the cucumber, thinly slice the other half.

5. In a large bowl, mix the diced avocado, diced cucumber, and 3 tablespoons of siracha-mayo sauce and mix. You can add more or less, depending on your spice-tolerance. When the rice is cooled, you can add that to this mixture and combine. Please wait - your train is moments away from Flavortown.

Flavortown. You're almost there.
6. Your oil should be ready now. Batter the salmon in the tempura and fry the pieces, 2 at a time. Careful not to crowd the pot. My first batch cooked in 97 seconds, the second batch (thicker pieces) took about 127 seconds. Let them rest. Don't burn your mouth. (Also, I'm not exaggerating the timing. You may not need to be that exact, but I happen to be... weird).

It's getting hot in Flavortown
7. In two large plates, put a handful of lettuce on each. Next to the lettuce, a few big spoonfuls of the rice-mixture. Place the salmon on top, and a few pieces of sliced avocado and sliced cucumber. Dress Flavortown with a heavy drizzle of siracha sauce and then a round of sesame-ginger dressing.

Mouth party. Location: Flavortown. Guest list: you
Try to take a breath between bites.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nostalgic Oatmeal

Grandmas have a smell. A delightful comforting smell and sometimes you can't quite put your finger on it. When I visit my mom's parents, they always smell like boats. It helps that they live right near the ocean, but they also have a boat. Slightly salty from the sea water, kind of woody from the boat hardware, and just a hint of duct tape.

We wouldn't visit my dad's mom quite as much - mostly because she just lived further away. But no matter the season, she would always make oatmeal for us. Every time I make it (and not from a packet), I travel back to her house. The creaky floors, the avocado green recliner in front of the TV, the shag carpet.

She passed on a few years ago, and it had been quite some time even since I'd stayed with her before that. But the link of oatmeal simmering on the stove always takes me back to her kitchen table. Waiting anxiously for the familiar timer to pass to 5 minutes. We'd get a big scoop of oatmeal and we'd top it with sugar, a little butter, and milk.

The bowls *always* had chickens on the bottom (a farm scene painted on) and we could not be excused until we saw the chickens on the bottom. I do find myself looking for bowls like those whenever I go to a vintage store or go on an Etsy.com rampage. Hard to find. And I think it's funny how little things like breakfast at grandma's can mean so much to us. 

Without getting too poetic here, it's just nice how something as simple as breakfast can bring families together. While I do have a lot of wonderful memories of my grandma - swimming, her garden, learning to crochet, walking to the park near her house - those darned chickens are still my favorite. In another 10 or 20 years, I wonder what my favorite thing will be about the early years of our marriage. What silly little thing will stay with me? With him? And where can I find those chicken bowls??

Anyways... Oatmeal!
Nothing special here... Pulled from the back of the Quaker tub
2 servings
1 1/2 cups Quaker oats (not the quick 2-minute kind)
3 cups water
milk, brown sugar, and butter for serving (raisins if you want to get crazy, but that's not the way Grammy did it, so there)

1. Boil water.
2. Add oats, stir. Set timer for 5 minutes. Stir once.
3. When timer goes off, pour oatmeal into a chicken bowl (okay, any bowl will work).
4. Top with toppings of your choice.
5. Eat until you see the chickens. Then go play on the shag carpet.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shepard's Pi

I just realized that my last post was about failure. And it was almost 4 months ago. Oops. I admit to my woeful neglect of the blog and I would like to blame it 100% on the final 8 months of my Master's program. Somewhere between a full time job, classes, thesis project, and, like, a husband - the blog just got lost. But I have been cooking. Occassionally. And sometimes I even remember to take pictures. And because of that, I have about a dozen recipes with edited photos ready to post, but no story to go with them. I hope to find a few minutes to at least post them. Most of them are warm and toasty winter recipes that will seem silly to post if it gets any warmer. And now that I am trapped in my apartment, thanks to the 8" of snow we've had in Seattle - it has CRIPPLED the city - I've had some wine, and a mug cake, and lots of dinner, and now I'm ready to type a little. But just a little.

Once upon a time, I made pot roast from Guy Fieri. And there was lots of leftovers for just the two of us. And I made it with mashed potatoes. And I knew what I wanted to do with the leftovers: Shepard's Pie! I love a good casserole, and I love transforming leftovers into something difference because here's a secret: I. Hate. Leftovers. I can't stand them. They're dry, and mushy, and almost Never as good as the original. So, by adding a little moisture and fresh ingredients, you can take boring, dry leftovers and turn it into a warm, gooey casserole that will soothe your cold, winter soul. And, AND!!, it's a one-pot meal. I love one-pot meals. Enough veggies that you don't need a side-dish. Unless you're some weird nursing student with a veggie-obsession (previous comment is without judgement to nursing students - I love you all. And veggies. I love veggies. Never mind). Anyways - one pot meals are GREAT. And awesome for dishes. I hate to do dishes. I'm really lucky that my husband does them. Three cheers for fewer dishes! You save water. Do it for the environment. That's right - I made the jump - this dish will help you save the environment.

Shepard's Pie
You can use any variety of leftovers for this - I happened to have pot roast, gravy, and mashed potatoes left. If you are missing any, you can replace cooked ground beef for pot roast. You can make a gravy (from a packet or from a roux with beef broth). Mashed potatoes are easy and (if you're into that sort of thing) you can even use instant flakes - don't judge, I used to eat them all the time. They're FINE. And cheap. If you're feeling really wild and crazy, you can substitute chicken or turkey for the beef, and add poultry-based gravy or broth. Go crazy.

2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl butter
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 pint mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups - or exactly, if you're into conversions like that)
1/2 cup red wine
~1 pound of beef (ground, roast, whatever)
2 cups gravy (or beef broth would work if you were desperate)
2 cups leftover mashed taters

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and olive oil over medium heat to an oven-proof pan (enameled cast-iron works great for this). Add the onion with a large pinch of salt. Heat until translucent.

2. Add the carrots and celery and saute for about 3 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms and wine. As much wine as feels right. Be bad - it's cold outside. Cook until wine evaporates. But just barely.

4. Add the beef. Where's the beef??

5. Stir in the gravy.

6. Spread the mashed potatoes on top.

7. Put the whole pot, uncovered, in the oven. Bake until lightly browned and bubbly - about 30 minutes. At this point, everything is cooked - it's just melding flavors.

8. Yum-town - population, YOU!