Friday, December 14, 2012

#LetsLunch December: Celebrations from around the world

So, after a long hiatus from this blog (and LetsLunch), I'm making my triumphant return.

What have been up to in the meantime? In September, I agreed to start developing a series of recipes for a friend's blog, Being Geek Chic. In October, I took a new job (actually, it's pretty much the same as my old job) at The Chronicle of Philanthropy. In addition to working on our signature surveys (collecting and analyzing data about the nonprofit world), I've been growing my skills at creating interactive graphics and contributing social media reporting. In November, Jake and I drove up to Penn State to watch my brother play a hockey series (it's his senior year), and I also spent Thanksgiving with my extended family in New Jersey.

And, I almost didn't make it to today's edition of LetsLunch.

My contribution to today's celebration lunch may surprise you: latkes. We're not Jewish, but my college roommate was, so I spent a good amount of time in college at the campus Hillel. Some of what we did there was relating to the culture, some relating to the religion. But what stuck with me was the food.

In the spirit of Hannukah, I decided to make some latkes last night. I had attempted latkes previously, first, in our college apartment, just winging it (they were too wet, too gummy and took way too long to hold our interest), then a couple of years ago using a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. They were easy enough to make, because you shredded the potatoes using the food processor, but I didn't love them. These were essentially hashbrowns.


So, last night, I went back to box grating. I kept the recipe small, only using three Russet potatoes. In exchange for the time it took to grate the potatoes, I skipped the steps that usually go into trying to keep the potatoes from oxidizing (cold water, ice, etc). I alternated between using a coarse grate and a fine grate. After using my flour sack towels to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze as much moisture from the potatoes as I could, I also added about 2/3 of a grated onion, an egg and about 2/3 cup of flour. If I had really planned ahead, I probably would have used matzoh meal.

What I liked about these is that they were crisp on the outside, and nice and potato-y on the inside. Three potatoes yielded about 20 latkes. They're best served immediately, while they're still hot (salt them immediately), but I had a few for breakfast this morning, and they heated up nicely in the toaster oven. 

You can see in the fun .gif file above, I fried mine in a shallow, nonstick pan in batches of about three or four. I used an ice cream scoop that was about 3/4 full for each latke. If you can, dip the spatula in the oil before pressing down on the scoop of potato batter to flatten, it helps with the sticking. 

I'm pretty basic with my latkes, so I serve them with sour cream and a little coarse salt.
Check out the rest of the Let's Lunch posts today by following the hashtag #letslunch on Twitter or clicking through below. If you would like to join us next month, send us a tweet introducing yourself! I'm @emmacarew on Twitter.

Cheers to this month's host, Rashda! See all of the fabulous blog posts on her pinboard.

Annabelle's Pecan Slices at Glass of Fancy

Linda's Sorrel Cocktail at Spicebox Travels

Lucy's Ham and Cheddar Cheese Scones at A Cook and Her Books

Grace's Persimmon Salad at Hapa Mama

Joe's Orange Honey Cake

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Korean snacks: deconstructed tteok-bogi and kimchi pancakes

Since moving to DC, most of my cooking has fallen into two camps: recipe testing for the newsletters I'm continuing to write for The Cooking Club and lots of Korean food. 

Jake made some baked tofu recently with a sweet and spicy gochuchang-based sauce. We used the leftover to make a tteok fondue of sorts. I had these extra long rice cakes in the freezer and I made them the Momofuku way for dipping in the red sauce. 

The rice cakes went into a very hot cast iron grill pan with vegetable oil until they started smoking. Once they were browned on all sides, I brushed them with sesame oil and took them off the heat. I served them with grilled odeng (the fish cake) and dipped them in the warmed gochuchang sauce.

The gochuchang sauce includes brown sugar, grated ginger, minced garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and gochuchang. It's a bit stronger and sweeter in flavor, I think, that your typical tteokbogi sauce.

There comes a point in every jar of kimchi when you take a sniff and there's only one word to describe your result: funky. It's that point where the sharp, pungent taste of kimchi has ripened a bit over the edge. It's not that you can't eat the kimchi any more, it's just not as delicious as when you first break open a brand new jar.

Thankfully, there are plenty of options for extra ripe, funky kimchi. One option, great for the fall and winter months is to make a steaming, bubbling pot of kimchi chiggae. Better for the summer months, I'm a fan of kimchi pajeon (above).

I also had some homemade Korean radish pickles in the fridge that had also gotten a little funky, so I chopped it up with the kimchi and mixed them into the pancakes. It's always hard to get these crispy enough (as soon as you put them on a plate, the steam trapped between the hot pancake and the plate condenses), but they are fabulous dipped in soy sauce and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

Korean snacks have definitely been one of the highlights of moving back to DC this summer. Enjoy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

#LetsLunch September: three grandmothers' recipes

This month for Let's Lunch, our group decided to post recipes from our grandmothers to honor our friend Pat, whose book The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook came out in paperback recently.

What I like about this book is that it's a great primer to Asian cuisine. Pat includes a sections on techniques and common ingredients in addition to the great recipes. 

I felt like a kindred spirit to Pat reading the introduction of the book, growing up in a country away from her heritage. Like Pat, I also learned to connect with my culture through food, she via her mother, me via a mishmash of culture camps, dance moms and later, blogs and YouTube videos.

I grew up far away from all of my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother died when I was very young, and we lived halfway across the country from my maternal grandmother. I only met my Korean grandmother a handful of times before she passed away last year. 

So, needless to say, I'm not exactly a wealth of family recipes. My favorite recipe from my Nan is her Irish Soda bread, which I posted last year for Cheryl's Family Recipe Day

I've made this bread time and time again since first receiving the recipe for it in college. The oven temp is boldly written at the top of my recipe book page because the first time I made it, I misread the emailed instructions and baked my bread at 450 for an hour. Not quite "burnt" but definitely tougher than expected. 

I didn't spend much time around my dad's mother -- in fact, I'm not sure I can even remember having a meal she cooked. But I know that she used to cook Polish food, a nod to a small slice of her heritage. 

Two years ago, I jumped at the chance to head north a day early to help my aunt make stuffed cabbage rolls and pierogies for Easter. I had never gotten the chance to do this with my Grandma, but this was the best substitute I could have had. 

(These are the actual cabbage rolls we made for Easter two years ago, and the pierogies on the right are ones I made last summer. Recipe is here.)

And, being an adoptee who has searched for and found my biological family, I'm in the strange position of having had three grandmothers during my life.

My wei-halmonie, my birth mother's mother, first came into my life in 2005 when I went on my first trip to Korea. She made dinner for my mom and I when we went to visit the family's home in Inchon. The dish I hoped to someday learn to make is captured in my chopsticks above. I'm not entirely certain sure what they are called, but they're sort of a small, Korean vegetable/fish pancake thing. They're about the size of a silver dollar and awesomely delicious.

Next time I'm in Korea, hopefully someone in my family can teach me how to make them, since my halmonie passed away last spring. I'm also hoping to learn the name of these yummy nibbles.

So, cheers to our friend Pat and do check out her awesome book, The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook.

Check out the rest of the Let's Lunch posts today by following the hashtag #letslunch on Twitter or clicking through below. If you would like to join us next month, send us a tweet introducing yourself! I'm @emmacarew on Twitter.

Karen's Ode to Nana on Geofooding

Linda's Taiwanese Oyster Omelet on Spicebox Travels

Lisa's Polish Potato Cake on Monday Morning Cooking Club

Cheryl's Gambling Rice on A Tiger in the Kitchen

Jill's Stuffed Cabbage on Eating My Words

Charissa's Gluten-Free Depression-Era Cake at Zest Bakery

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pumpkin Pasties

Harry Potter is one of my favorite books ever. I've read them each about 100 times and have the British version of all seven audio books, which I've also listened to about 100 times each.

So when my recipe testing last week turned up an extra half can of pumpkin, I knew exactly how I wanted to use it up: Pumpkin Pasties.

Last year, Serious Eats did a "Cook the Book" series from an unofficial Harry Potter cookbook that included a recipe for Pumpkin Pasties, one of the treats Harry buys on the train during his first journey to Hogwarts.

The basic gist of the recipe is to make a homemade pie crust and fill it with pumpkin-y goodness. Mine were a little smaller than the Serious Eats ones, I think, so I baked them at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

I mixed my half-can (the big size) of pumpkin with some cinnamon streusel topping that I also had leftover from recipe testing last week. I used a butter pie crust recipe from Michael Ruhlman's Twenty, brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with sugar. The result was a nice, not-too-sweet filling with a flaky pastry.

If you don't have leftover cinnamon streusel, I would guess mix about 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup diced pecans, 2-3 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg and stir into the pumpkin.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mango Salsa and Chipotle Black Bean Tostadas

I made a big batch of mango salsa last week but have been a little slow eating it up, so I picked up a sleeve of tostadas to put the salsa to good use. I layered seasoned black beans, 4-cheese blend and a squeeze of lime with the salsa to make these for a quick dinner.

Start by warming the tostadas for about 5 minutes in the toaster oven at 375 F.

Spoon seasoned black beans over the tostada shell. I cooked 2 rinsed cans of black beans (to attempt to lower the sodium) with 1 small can of chipotle peppers in adobo for about 20 minutes, then used an immersion blender on the beans.

Sprinkle with cheese and a squeeze of lime juice. I only had 4-cheese blend but crumbled queso fresco would have been nice too.  

Finally, pile on the mango salsa and enjoy! 

RECIPE (makes about 6 cups of salsa)
Mango Salsa
4  to 6 ripe mangoes (should be very soft to the touch)
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 medium red onion
1 bunch cilantro
1 jalapeno 
2 limes (more if they're on the small side)
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt to taste

Dice the mango and squeeze the lime juice over. Set aside while you chop the remaining ingredients. 

Rinse the tomatoes well and add to the mango. 

Dice the red onion and jalapeno (remove seeds if you like it less spicy), then finely chop the cilantro. 

Toss with the mango and tomatoes and season with cayenne and salt to taste. 

The flavors in this salsa are better the next day. Keep refrigerated up to one week. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

#LetsLunch: miso-glazed grilled veggies and polenta

Happy July edition of #LetsLunch!!

This month's theme for my LetsLunch group is grilled foods. I was a little bummed when we first chose this, because in our move we had to leave our giant grill behind during the move last month.

But, as my LetsLunch friends pointed out on Twitter, it just meant that much more of a creative challenge.

So, I broke out my cast iron grill pan and went to work in my new smallish, DC kitchen.

First, I made some polenta and chilled it for a few hours. I grilled the pieces on both sides, using my other cast iron as a weight.

I whisked together a quick garlicky honey-miso glaze and grilled spears of eggplant and zucchini squash in batches, soaking them in the glaze before throwing them in the pan.

Use the left over glaze to brush the polenta and sprinkle the veggies with toasted sesame seeds just before serving.

LetsLunch is a monthly "meeting" of food bloggers from around the world. We select a theme and each blog our lunch on the first Friday of every month. Interested in joining? Just search #letslunch on Twitter and send us a tweet introducing yourself!

Grilled Polenta Wedges
(Adapted from Mark Bittman's The Minimalist)
2 cups coarse ground cornmeal
2 cups water (or milk for creamier polenta), plus 1-2 cups more
Optional: 2 bouillon cubes
4 TBS olive oil or butter
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
salt to taste

Melt butter (if using) in a medium saucepan, otherwise bring the water and olive oil to a boil.

Lower heat slightly and add the bouillon (if using), a generous pinch of salt and the chile flakes, then pour in the cornmeal while whisking continuously.

Continue stirring the polenta, adding more water a few tablespoons at a time as the mixture gets too thick. Cook 15-20 minutes until the polenta tastes cooked.

Pour into a cake pan or pie plate and chill for a couple hours. Slice into 8 wedges.

Brush a cast iron grill pan with oil and heat over medium high heat. Grill polenta wedges 2-4 at a time, using a second pan to weigh them down. After five to seven minutes, flip the polenta and grill the other side.

Keep warm until ready to serve.

Honey Miso Glaze
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 TBS miso paste
1/3 cup soy sauce
2-3 TBS honey
1 tsp red chili flakes
up to 1 TBS water (to take the salty edge off, add slowly to taste)

Whisk ingredients together, brush on zucchini and eggplant spears before and after grilling.

Brush onto polenta just before serving.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Happy 25th birthday to us!

A couple of weeks ago, over Memorial Day weekend, Jake and I celebrated our 25th birthdays, mine on a Friday, his on a Monday.

Having our birthdays this close together usually means we're willing to up the ante a little how we would normally otherwise celebrate, since it's a group effort.

Back in January, I came across a great deal on plane tickets from MSP to LGA and decided to surprise Jake with a trip to one of his favorite places: New York City.

After laying down false track (Jake thought we were going to his parents' on Saturday and out to lunch with friends on Sunday to celebrate), I proceeded to pack a suitcase in secret, then wake my husband up at 4 a.m. to give him the news we were running away for the long weekend.

It was insanely hot in the city, so most of our photos turned out to be of food, rather than snapshots of us enjoying the city. So, here's a quick rundown of our delicious food tours of NYC:

Our first stop after dropping our bags in our hotel (we stayed near Penn Station) was a walk over to K-Town on 32nd St. where we had bossam and oysters for lunch.

Jake found a description of the Landbrot Bakery in the current issue of New York magazine during our flight, so we stopped in for brezeln and a beer. The staff were incredibly friendly and we had a great mini-meal.

After grabbing pizza at Brookyln's famous Grimaldi's, we went to the Brooklyn Brewery with a college friend. We took the "tour," which was more like "The History of Our Brewery While Standing in a Production Space."

Ordered the Cheese and Crackers at McSorely's Ale House (and I also discovered that I enjoy porter beers)

Veselka's pierogies -- a longtime favorite! Great way to start out the meal. I also snagged the cookbook so we can make more Ukranian food at home now.

Was very thankful not to have to hunt down the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck in the heat. Just waited in the line outside their new shop for a bit. Tasty stuff!

Inspired by this post on Amateur Gourmet's blog about the Second Avenue Deli, we met my cousin here for brunch one day. We had the absolutely delicious matzoh ball soup (not something Jake or I had had before, having grown up in Minnesota). At the end of the meal, they brought us tiny chocolate sodas!

While wandering the East Village, we stopped into Murray's Cheese just to gawk and enjoy one of the best smelling stores I had ever been to.

To celebrate Jake's birthday "officially" we went back to K-Town and had a huge table full of Korean barbecue (before and after shots)

And we liked Second Avenue Deli SO MUCH we went back a second time.

The very awesome pickles and coleslaw. Below, our first ever knish, Jake's grownup chocolate soda, and another plate of pierogies.

My foodie souvenirs! What could be better than picking up the cookbooks at two of the awesome restaurants we ate at? The 2nd Ave Deli book has been a great read so far -- lots of cool stories about the owner and the history of the restaurant.

Happy birthday Jake!! Your turn to plan something awesome for 26.... :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

#LetsLunch: Food to Honor Dads

(photo by Glen Stubbe

Ah, my poor neglected food blog. It's been a busy couple of weeks. The biggest news of the last month is that Jake and I are on the move yet again and are currently in the process of moving our lives back to Washington, D.C.

So, due to packing up our home, wrapping up my current job, and a host of other blah blah blah reasons, I almost sat this round of #LetsLunch out. But, we're doing posts about food to honor our dads (in the U.S it is Father's Day on June 17th), and I really like my dad, so I am pulling this one together for him.

Above is a photo of my dad (and my mom) giving a toast at our wedding in September. We skipped a lot of the dad-ly duties like giving me away or a father-daughter dance, so I somehow do not have a photo of just me and my dad from the wedding.

The funny thing about picking a food to honor my dad is that the man doesn't really like food all that much. He's been gluten intolerant since he was about 18 or 20, or approximately 30 years before companies started pumping out half-way decent GF options.

So, the recipe I'm sharing today isn't a gluten-free one, but it's the closest thing to an "old family recipe" we have. Ham and Rice is a leftover from my parents' broke and newlywed days, and it is exactly what it sounds like. It embodies a lot of the things that come to mind when I think of my dad and food: simple, not a ton of ostentatious flavors, and easy to make.

To start, measure out about 1 cup of rice per person (yes, uncooked rice). It's a very generous portion but trust me on this. Feel free to use whatever white rice you have in the house, but my dad swears by Kokuho Rose rice. If long ago your kid insisted you own a rice cooker for her benefit, then start your rice cooker and set it aside. If not, go about your business making rice however you normally do.

Next, take a large amount of ham, cube it and fry it in butter or margarine. This gives the butter a nice hammy flavor which goes toward seasoning the rice. The trick here is not to make the pieces of ham too big or too small. About the size of an M&M (but square-ish, obviously). The amount you make will vary, but at our house, this is a family favorite, so when we make it for 4-6 people, we usually make enough to actually feed 10. This is an old step-shot, but I think this is about two hamsteaks.

The final step is pretty easy. Mix the two parts together. We usually do the ham in a large skillet with high sides and dump the rice in. What's the correct ham to rice ratio? You're looking at it. Basically, you want to be able to get one, two, maybe three cubes of ham in every bite of rice you scoop up.

That's it, folks. No further seasoning (but we do serve ours with salt and pepper at the table), nothing. Just serve it up in bowls and enjoy. And, if you're health conscious at all, consider serving with a large green salad.

The "recipe" as it were:
Ham and Rice
* about 2 hamsteaks to feed 4 people, or maybe 1/2-2/3 cubed ham per person.
* about 1 cup uncooked rice per person (you'll probably have leftovers, but it's great leftover
* 1 stick of butter per 4 people

Cook the rice according to directions or in a rice cooker. Set aside and keep warm.

Cube the ham and fry over medium heat for 8-10 minutes.

Toss the rice into the ham mixture until fully combined and rice is coated in the butter.

Serve with salt and pepper.

#LetsLunch is a monthly "lunch date" of food bloggers from around the world. We meet on Twitter and would LOVE to have you join us! Just send us a tweet on the hashtag (I'm @emmacarew) and introduce yourself.

In place of listing everyone's posts, I've started a Pinboard round up of all today's posts, which I'll update throughout the weekend.

See you next month!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May LetsLunch: Food across two cultures

Source: via Emma on Pinterest

It all started here. Wildly delicious kimchi bulgogi fries from a food truck in Austin.

When my LetsLunch group mentioned doing fusion foods for this month's virtual lunch date, I knew that this was a perfect time to try and adapt this recipe.

Where I landed instead was a little further from the basket of deliciousness I first bit into back in January, but an equally tasty option, I think.

Source: via Emma on Pinterest

Kimchi bulgogi nachos.

The thing you have to understand about me is that I really love nachos. And they don't even have to be good ones at a halfway decent Mexican restaurant. I actually really love the super salty chips with the questionably plastic cheese product dispensed from a warm bag that you get at the town hockey rink. (Can you tell I grew up in Minnesota?)

I adapted the cheese sauce recipe found here. We already had a giant bucket of homemade kimchi.

If you have those two things, you are more than halfway there (and really, for the average person, a perfectly nice storebought kimchi works well too -- just get it a good Korean market, not that crap they sell in mainstream grocery stores!)

So, start by draining about 1 1/2 cups of kimchi. You can squeeze some of the extra liquid out with your hands if you like. Chop this coarsely and set aside.

The rest of your toppings: beef bulgogi (marinate rib eye or other nice cut of beef in 3 parts soy sauce, 1 part each: sugar (or honey), sesame oil, rice vinegar, then grill), diced onion and cilantro.

Throw down your chips (I used Trader Joe's multigrain and low-fat blue corn) then drizzle your cheese sauce on top.  I added a few dashes of cayenne and a teaspoon or two of mustard powder to my cheese sauce to give it a little kick.

Then pile on the toppings (be extra generous with the kimchi!). I also gave mine a good squirt of Sriracha rooster sauce for a little extra kick.

I actually liked these better than the french fries I had in Austin - the crispy chips were a good base to really load up each bite. And the Korean-Mexican fusion trend has been popular elsewhere, with Korean tacos and the like, so the flavors complement each other really well.


Be sure to check the LetsLunch hashtag throughout the day Friday (and into the weekend, we often have stragglers --hell, I'm usually one of them) to see the delicious fusion offerings of the rest of our gang!

edit: Or check out my Pinterest Board, where I've pulled all of the links together!

Interested in joining us? Send us a tweet with #LetsLunch and introduce yourself! I'm @emmacarew.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The start of grilled pizza season!

It seems like pretty much everyone on the internet was talking about pizza at home and grilled pizzas this week. Inspired by the New York Times dining section's Pizza Issue and this post from Amateur Gourmet.  

So, Jake and I made big plans (which were threatened by the on-again-off-again rain all weekend) to make grilled pizzas. 

This morning, I made Mark Bittman's pizza dough recipe and let it sit for a few hours. I subbed 1 cup of whole wheat flour into the recipe and it was a little shaggier than I expected (it didn't come together quite as firmly as in the video), so I ended up making a second batch. 

We used the cheese-sauce-toppings method described on Serious Eats' Pizza Lab post. My best pairing of toppings is this one: brussels sprouts, garlic and bacon. 

Action shot of Jake checking the pizzas.

Four delicious mini-pizzas, grilled to perfection.