Monday, April 30, 2012

Herb Coated Rack of Lamb

I'm not a huge fan of lamb. For one thing, I think lambs are really cute so it's difficult to want to eat them and two, lamb can be kind of gamey. However, in the spirit of fancy Easter meals, I decided that lamb was appropriate (plus, it was on sale).

Ingredients [serves 4]
1 8-rib frenched rack of lamb
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
4 tablespoons fresh parsley
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
sprinkle of salt, pinch of pepper

I started by preparing the herb coating. First, I pulled the leaves off of the stems of rosemary. The stems are way too woody and not delicious so they're not really meant to be eaten.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rice Pilaf

Pilaf is rice that's been cooked with seasonings and maybe some veggies and meat. I like it because it's a bit fancier than plain rice, has much more flavor, and tastes just as good reheated the next day.

Ingredients [serves 4 to 6]
1 cup rice
1-1/2 cups broth (I used chicken)
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
pinch of salt, bit of pepper
1 teaspoon butter (optional)
** you could also add in more vegetables if you'd like, e.g. bell peppers, peas, corn, broccoli florets
Start by chopping up the onion and mincing the garlic. Then, heat up a saucepan over medium heat and add in the oil and vegetables. [A little note about the type of pot you use: it shouldn't be too shallow or too deep - you want the height of the rice in the pot to be pretty equal to the width]. Let the onions sweat; add in butter if you don't mind a few more calories and some more flavor. Once the vegetables become translucent, add in the rice. Stir to make sure each grain of rice gets coated in fat and let the grains toast a bit, maybe two minutes. This step makes sure that the rice doesn't get gummy. Then, add in the stock, salt, and pepper, and lower the heat and place the lid on the pot. Step away and leave the rice to cook for 12 minutes (set a timer to be safe).
After 12 minutes turn off the heat and leave the rice alone for another 5 minutes. Then, remove the lid and fluff up the rice with a fork. It should be perfect and fluffy and delicious.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Roasted Vegetables

I love making roasted vegetables. It's an easy side dish, pleasing to the eye (as long as you pick good veggies), and nutritious. Here's a really colorful springy/summery version that I made for Easter.

Ingredients [serves 6 to 8]
1 cup chopped baby purple Peruvian potatoes
2 cups green beans
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2 cups chopped sweet baby bell peppers
3 cloves garlic
juice of 1 lemon
2 scallions, chopped
sprinkle of salt, pinch of pepper
olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.
Chop up the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and toss with a generous drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Spread the vegetables evenly onto a baking sheet and put in the oven. Roast for about 30 minutes, tossing with tongs every 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Look at those colors!!
Meanwhile, chop up the scallions and get the lemon ready to juice over the hot vegetables.
Once the vegetables are done, remove them from the oven and immediately add to a large bowl.
Toss the vegetables with the lemon juice, scallions, and parsley (if you want). Add more salt and pepper to taste, if necessary. I love how the vegetables retain their beautiful bright colors even after being roasted. Pretty dish, right?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Bruschetta, which I should emphasize is pronounced 'broo-SKEH-ta' in Italian (and not "broo-SHEH-tuh"), is an appetizer. It's just roasted bread that's been seasoned with olive oil and rubbed with garlic. Often, they're topped with either a tomato salad, meats, or cheese. I love tomato bruschetta - which is what's most commonly known to Americans. It's an easy appetizer to serve as an hors d'oeuvres or with pasta and it looks fancy so it's great for serving company.

Ingredients [serves 4]:
1 loaf of good crusty bread
olive oil to drizzle on bread + 1 teaspoon for the tomato salad
3 or 4 cloves of garlic; 2 cloves to rub on the bread, 2 cloves for the tomato salad
sprinkle of salt
pinch of pepper
5 or 6 plum tomatoes
large handful of basil
1/4 sweet onion
1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced (optional)
I like to start by assembling the tomato salad topping because when it sits for a bit, the tomatoes get more time to soak up the flavor of the basil and the garlic and onions have a chance to mellow out and lose a bit of their breath-ruining bite.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cooking on the Go

When I went to Hawaii back in January, I stayed in a condo and our whole group did a lot of cooking at "home" instead of going out for every meal. To prepare, I packed a bunch of spices in a free daily pill case (from my local pharmacy - most pharmacies have these up for grabs) and a little jewelry/bead case from a craft store.

It's good to get the type of case where you can open each compartment individually - not one where the entire lid comes off all at once just to prevent spillage and/or accidents. I packed a nice variety of spices that I thought would be useful for my destination. Since I assumed we'd be consuming lots of seafood, I thought of what sorts of seasonings would be great on fish and shrimp and packed accordingly.

This is a great idea for picnicking too.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tuna Diavolo

There's an Italian deli in Baltimore (featured on DDD) that I frequent for lunch during the workweek and they have this amazing tuna sandwich. I don't like mayonnaise so though I enjoy tuna salad and chicken salad, I'm not quick to order either. However, this type of tuna sandwich is mayo-less and has lots of hot cherry peppers so I LOVE it and order it frequently. It's just as easy to make at home too so over the weekend, I made it for lunch.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
good loaf of crusty Italian bread
balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
hot cherry peppers
1 can tuna packed in olive oil
provolone cheese
baby greens
Start by cutting the bread (I love good, fresh, crusty Italian) and sprinkle each side with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Next, drain half the oil in the can but save the rest and add it all to a bowl. Using a fork, break up the tuna and then add in a few teaspoons of capers and stir.
Then assemble the sandwich. Start with a slice of provolone on each side, then the tuna, greens, and hot cherry peppers (which I chop up into pieces for uniformity).
Cut in half and enjoy!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Korean-Style Green Bean Side Dish

Making any vegetable taste like a Korean side dish is easy. The special ingredient that does the trick is sesame oil. Here's how I make green beans, Korean style:

2 cups green beans
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
sprinkle of sesame seeds

Start by blanching the green beans - a.k.a. tossing them in boiling, salted water for 1 minute and then shocking them in ice water.
In a large pan, heat up the sesame oil and start to toast the garlic.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Easter: Capirotada

My coworker, who's from Mexico, told me about a traditional Mexican dessert that he had as a kid called Capirotada (there's a whole story and history to why and how it's made). It's essentially bread pudding with the added surprise ingredient of CHEESE. Yes, cheese. I was intrigued so I asked him how to make it and along with his advice and using a recipe I found online as a rough guide, I attempted to make it over the Easter holiday weekend.

A few of the ingredients may be hard to find so I've included a bunch of things you can substitute and I've underlined what I used.

Ingredients [makes 8 servings]:
4 bollilo rolls OR 1 loaf of Italian bread OR 1 baguette - you want bread that's has a crisp crusty crust and a soft and fluffy interior, and day old stale bread is better to use than fresh bread (it'll soak up the syrup better)
8 oz. queso fresco OR queso blanco OR farmer's cheese OR monterrey jack
1 granny smith apple (an apple that will hold up when cooked)
1/4 cup raisins
3 or 4 large piloncillo cones (raw cane sugar) OR 1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans OR almonds OR peanuts - can be omitted altogether
1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes - can be omitted
2 cinnamon sticks
1 clove, if you have them
2 cups water
1/2 stick of butter

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Japanese Curry Rice

I love Japanese curry rice (a.k.a. kare rice). It's hearty, delicious, and an easy dish to serve to a big group. If you've never had it, it's really good. It's quite different from Indian curry because it's more mild (less bite from exotic spices) and it's a bit sweeter.
[serves 4 to 6] - Don't forget to make a big pot of sticky rice (short grain).

My family always buys the "Golden Curry" brand. It comes in a box with two blocks of roux and the package is perforated so you can use one half and use the other for later. According to the package, each block makes 6 servings, but that also depends on how severely each person likes to drown their rice in curry. Here's what it looks like:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Making Food Fancier

Whenever I'm inviting anyone over for a meal, I get a bit anxious about wanting the food to taste good and for it to look impressive. But who wants to slave away in the kitchen for hours? Here are some easy tips for elevating easy dishes with v. little effort:

If you're serving bread, toast it on a grill pan so you get some nice grill lines. It makes the bread look a lot more striking and delicious.
If you're serving a salad, make sure you're using a lot of colorful ingredients (multi-colored peppers, apples, mixed greens) and add a bit of pasta instead of croutons. Tricolor rotini is really vibrant and pretty but whatever short-cut pasta you have on hand is fine. It's a quick way to make the salad course seem less bland.
And if you're serving some sort of potato dish - mashed, baked, fries - sprinkle on some shredded cheese and crumbled bacon, stick the (oven-safe) dish in the broiler for 2 minutes to melt the cheese. It's not necessarily gourmet-fancy but it gives the bland beige potatoes some color and who doesn't like bacon and cheese?
It's little touches like this that can make a meal memorable.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Roasted Garlic

Garlic. Olive oil. Aluminum foil. 400 degree oven. Magic.
Roasted garlic is great because it gets really sweet and delicious but it loses a lot of its pungency so it's a milder flavor for those people who don't like garlic (honestly, I don't trust people who don't like garlic!). Plus, you don't have to worry (as much) about your breath.
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut off the top 1/2" of a head of garlic, or however much is enough to expose the cloves.
  3. Drizzle on a good amount of good olive oil over the cloves.
  4. Wrap the garlic up in foil and place on a sheet pan.
  5. Put the garlic in the oven and let it roast for 25 minutes.
The garlic is ready when you can stick a knife in and pull out a clove easily. And remember, the leftover oil in the foil is full of garlic flavor too so you can add it to dressings, use it to saute vegetables in, or spread it on some toast.

Hold the bulb at the base and squeeze and all of the cloves will fall out.

Store the bulbs in an airtight container in the fridge and use within 1 week (if it even lasts that long).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spicy Potato Side Dish

Another easy side dish recipe; sorry for the lack of step-by-step photos, I forgot to snap as I cooked! I like making this when we don't have any warm banchan to eat with our rice.

1 potato, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 teaspoon Korean hot pepper flakes (gochugaru)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang)

Start by cooking the potatoes in boiling water just until they're barely tender (took me just 5 minutes). Then, in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the hot pepper flakes in the sesame oil until they start to sizzle. Then add in the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, and hot pepper paste and stir until the pepper paste dissolves. Then add in the potatoes and stir around in the sauce until coated. Let them cook for a few more minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.

The potatoes should still be a bit firm and be slightly sweet and sticky, spicy, and salty.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Miyuk Guk - Seaweed Soup (미역국)

Miyuk guk is what Koreans have instead of birthday cake. As a kid, I remember my mom making it on my birthday (though not exclusively - we had it for non-special occasions as well) and she ate a lot of it when she was pregnant with my sister. It's really nutritious (the seaweed contains tons of iodine and calcium, which is good for moms-to-be) but it's also really yummy so it's one of my favorite soups.

It's simple to make and only requires a few ingredients:
1 fistful of dried seaweed (found in Asian markets)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
salt to taste
6 cups of stock**

** Miyuk guk can be made with either a beef stock or a seafood stock - usually made from mussels and clams and dried anchovies

Here's what the seaweed looks like: black strips of crispy papery stuff. They plump up a lot once they're rehydrated so a little goes a long way.
I used oxtails to make my stock. Start by soaking both the seaweed and oxtails in water, both for around 2 hours. Often times, the seaweed is still really salty (because it's not rinsed before it's dried) so this step is important for drawing out the salt and also to rehydrate the seaweed. Once it's soaked, rinse and then squeeze out the excess water and if the pieces seem gigantic, cut them up with some scissors so that they're not difficult to eat.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Campanelle Pasta with Radicchio, Asparagus, and Prosciutto

I'm not a huge fan of sauce on pasta. I prefer tossed pastas with lots of vegetables over spaghetti drowning in marinara. It's easier to improvise recipes with tossed pastas because you can just use what you have in your pantry and fridge. Here's what I made recently {serves 4}:
You can use whatever pasta you like; I used campanelle, which is Italian for "little bells." Looks kind of like a little bell or flower. Start by boiling a huge pot of water to cook your pasta.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chewy Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

... a.k.a. Treasure Cookies, via Eagle Brand - except I tweaked the recipe a bit to my preferences. I learned about this recipe from my cousin who learned it from her husband. It's so sad that I went through the majority of my life without knowing about them because they're so good.

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Boxes of graham crackers usually have three little individually wrapped packets of about 10 crackers. Each one will make about 1-1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs - exactly what's required of this recipe.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Watercress Side Dish

Another super easy side dish (banchan) that's really nutritious as well as being yummy: watercress.

1 bunch watercress, rinsed
1 teaspoon Korean hot pepper paste
1 scallion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

Here's what watercress looks like: stalks with leaves on top - kind of like clovers. Just give them a good rinse before you start using them because they can be dirty or sandy and sometimes leaves detach and then go bad and stick to the good leaves. I just fill up a huge bowl with water and swish them around, drain and repeat a few more times until I'm satisfied that they're good and clean. If you've never eaten them, they have a slightly pepper taste when raw and get much more mild and almost sweet once they're cooked.
Boil some water in a pot and add in the watercress. Blanch them for just a second before draining them and then plunging them in an ice bath. Once the watercress is cool, squeeze the water out of them, much like you'd do with spinach.

Then, just mix all of the ingredients together and you're done!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Anchovy Side Dish

There's an updated version of this recipe with prettier photos and a recipe page if you're interested!

On lazy days where I'm craving Korean food but don't have the energy to make anything too complicated, I'll just make a simple side dish to go with my rice, myulchee. It's just stir-fried dried anchovies; super easy to make and yummy. You can make the following without the hot peppers or hot pepper paste and just add in some sesame seeds to make a non-spicy version, but I prefer it with a little kick.
To prepare, just heat the oil in a big non-stick skillet and stir fry the anchovies, peppers, and garlic together until they all start to soften up. Then sprinkle in the brown sugar, add in the hot pepper paste, and then stir together. I use wooden chopsticks to stir because it's the best tool. I can't really think of anything else that would work as well.
 Enjoy :)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

New Stuff: Stone Pot

Yay! So a few weeks ago, I picked up a stone pot from HMart ($40, also available online from koamart) and it's been amazing to make rice in it. It's pretty quick (10 minutes cooking time) and it makes some really delicious rice. I prefer a drier rice (sticky rice cooked to a consistency similar to short grain rice) but some of my family members prefer a wetter rice (sticky rice cooked to its true nature). This pot produces a nice compromise because the rice is sticky but not overly wet.

If you decide to invest in a pot like this, you'll have to treat it with care. There is a process to "season" the pot (similar to how you treat cast iron before cooking with it).

First, fill up the pot about two-thirds full with water and add in a few pinches of salt. Place the lid on it and let the water come to a boil. Once the water boils, empty it and let the heat of the pot evaporate all the moisture out. Next, brush the inside with oil - I used sesame oil because I like the flavor but canola or vegetable oil would be fine.

To make rice in the pot, rinse (I like to rinse and drain 3 times) and then soak your short grain rice in water for at least an hour (you could leave it in the fridge overnight too). I used 3 cups of rice - which was pretty much all my pot could handle.

Once your rice has soaked - you'll notice that the grains, which were slightly translucent prior to soaking, will become white and opaque - drain it. Then add the rice to the pot and then top it off with enough water to cover the grains plus about 1 cm above it. The 1 cm rule is just something my mom taught me. I do the same when I make rice in a rice cooker. Place the lid back on the pot, turn the heat on med-low and then leave it alone for about 10 minutes and then tada! The rice should be perfectly cooked and fluffy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Scallion Pancakes

I've done posts on zucchini pancakes and kimchee pancakes and now I'm writing a post on scallion pancakes. They're just as easy, fast, and yummy.

1 bunch of scallions
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup water
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon canola oil

+ 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil, sprinkle of sesame seeds, sprinkle of Korean hot pepper flakes

Roughly chop the scallions into 2" pieces. You could cut the scallions up smaller but I actually prefer the giant pieces. Then mix all of the batter ingredients together - the consistency should be like runny pancake batter.
Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, add 1 teaspoon of canola oil (or any neutral tasting oil), and then pour in the batter. Use a spoon to spread the batter around and make sure that the scallions are well distributed. After about three minutes, flip the pancake to let the other side get a chance to cook. The pancake is finished when it's golden and toasted on each side.
Serve with the soy sauce mixture (ingredients above) as an appetizer or snack.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Maeoontang (매운탕) - Spicy Fish Soup

I love love LOVE maeoontang because of the fish. It's super easy to make and it's really yummy.
1 snapper, scaled (you could use any fleshy white fish like croaker or sea bass or cod)
3 cups water
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes (gochugaru)
1 tablespoon hot pepper paste (gochujang)
1/2 small onion
1 zucchini
2 Korean hot peppers
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1/2 a 16 oz. package of firm tofu
1 bunch of watercress (2 loosely packed cups)

  1. heat a pot over medium heat
  2. add in oil and hot pepper flakes and let them sizzle until the oil turns red
  3. add in the water
  4. stir in the hot pepper paste until it dissolves
  5. add in garlic
  6. chop up the vegetables and tofu
  7. clean up the fish
  8. chop the fish into chunks
  9. bring soup to a boil
  10. add in vegetables
  11. add in the fish
  12. add in the tofu
  13. let it cook for 10 minutes until the tofu absorbs the spiciness of the soup and the fish is cooked through
  14. add in the watercress
  15. spoon some soup over the watercress to help it wilt
Serve with a bowl of rice and enjoy.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Roasted Pork Loin

Rustic, homey, easy, and delicious, this recipe is great for a chilly day. And since last week's frosty temperatures were quite depressing compared to the previous week's summer-preview temperatures, this meal is perfect for making you feel warm and cozy.

I used a tenderloin that was barely over 1 lb. You only need about 1/4 lb of pork per person.
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