Sunday, March 29, 2009

Asian Miso Risotto with Avocado

I hate making risotto; it's a pain in the ass. I know there is probably some secret to it, but for me, it always involves an hour at least standing in front of a stove, stirring rice. Its just boring and my inpatient nature wants to pull it from the burner before its completely done.

To cut out all the fuss, I often make a microwave risotto by reheating pre-made rice with vinegar and miso then mixing in a fresh avocado to create a creamy vegan sauce. Its been a while since I tried to make risotto the proper way, so I decided to try the authentic technique with these Asian ingredients to see if all the hassle is worth the fuss and to test if it can hold up to my quick microwave method. Here is the recipe I made for the taste off.

Miso Risotto with Mushrooms and Avocado
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1-2 c. mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp powdered mustard
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 2 c. short grained sushi rice
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 4-6 c. vegetable stock
  • 1/2 - 1 c. rice vinegar
  • 1-2 Tbs miso paste
  • 1 large ripe avocado

In a large sauce pan, saute onions in olive oil until translucent.

Add spices and mushrooms, and saute until mushrooms are soft but not totally cooked (5 minutes or so).

Separate mushrooms out and set aside.

Add rice to onions and saute until rice becomes partially translucent (7 minutes or so). Keep stirring rice while it sautes. While sauteing, microwave wine for 30 seconds to heat.

After 7 minutes or so, and rice is partially translucent, reduce heat to low and add heated wine. The wine is heated so it doesn't shock the rice (or so I am told). Allow to cook until the wine is completely evaporated while stirring rice to keep it from burning to the bottom of the pot.

Add a cup of stock to the rice, and stir allowing it to cook into rice. Continue to add a cup of stock to the mixture as the liquid cooks into the rice. After the third cup of stock, add 1/2 c. rice vinegar along with 1 Tbs of miso and stir in.

When rice is feeling soft, taste to see if the rice is completely cooked. If not, add more stock and for gods sake, keep stirring. Once rice tastes nice and soft, add avocado and stir until fully mixed. You can now rest your aching arm. Season to taste and serve. Finally.

I served the risotto with roasted eggplant discs. Small sheets of nori made wonderful wrappers.

This dish was so wonderfully creamy and smooth, it leaves my microwave "risotto" far in its wake. The constant stirring weaves the flavors together while the rice slowly cooks. While absolutely irritating, it is worth the time. But only when you have the time. Otherwise, you can just heat up a bowl of pre-made rice, with vinegar, miso and soy, stir in an avocado until creamy and eat within 5 minutes. I just had some and it was OK.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

10 Must Have Korean Foods

Its fun to look at exotic foods at the Korean market, but WHAT do you do with them? I have a few main staple items I go to Chicago Foods for. In addition to the cheap cans of coconut milk I mentioned in my last post, here's my list of top 10 items you'll often find in my shopping basket.

  1. Rice Vinegar: is my absolute favorite vinegar for its sweet tart flavor. I use it all the time in my salad dressings, as an added accent in my salsa and guacamole, or as a substitute for lemon/lime juice. I use so much of this stuff, I usually buy it in gallon bottles. When I can't find it in a gallon I have to content myself with two large bottles (above).

  2. Miso

    Miso is a salty-sweet paste made of fermented soy beans which can be used similar to a vegetarian bullion due to its naturally intense flavors. Its definitely a fridge staple because it lasts forever, makes a quick soup broth or marinade and is a great thing to have in a pinch if you need to quickly give some added body to any dish.

  3. Frozen Dumplings:

    Although I like to make things from scratch, I also like dumplings ALL THE TIME! Found in the frozen food section are bags and bags of frozen gyoza, fluffy buns and all kinds of deliciousness. I like to buy a few bags to keep on hand to be steamed and served with rice for a quick dinner.

  4. Nori:

    Sheets of dried nori can be found in a few sizes, but I like the small rectangles (~3" x 4") which is sold wrapped with multiple single serving packets to keep the seaweed from getting stale. Its a tasty addition to miso soup, or great to wrap around rice for a finger food. If you're grossed out by seaweed, you don't know what you're missing; nori is nutritious and delicious.

  5. Lemongrass:

    I like to think of Lemongrass as the Asian bay leaf as you don't actually eat the stalks but boil it in your broth for flavoring. I keep some stalks in my freezer at all times to throw into my stock or broth for my favorite Asian soups.

  6. Fresh Fish

    The Chicago Foods fish counter is stacked full of fresh fish; heads still on and cheap! Buckets of clams. Shrimp for $2.99. Come on! This stuff may smell bad, but hopefully you don't have that far to get home (although if you're taking the blue line from the Belmont stop, the people on the train won't like you so much).

  7. Mushrooms:

    Mushrooms can be expensive. Chicago Foods is a great place to find awesome prices on shitake and other exotic Asian mushrooms like oyster and beech difficult to find elsewhere. Because of their limited shelf life, its worth checking out their affordable selection of dried mushrooms to keep in the pantry as a quick substitution.

  8. Soju:

    Soju is like a Korean sake; its stronger then a wine but less potent and slightly sweeter then its Russian cousin. Its delicious, full of alcohol and ridiculously cheap. Good to drink; good to cook with.

  9. Sprouts:

    Chicago Foods is the only store I know of which has a year round sprouts station. $0.69 a lb. Do you know how many sprouts you get for in a lb? What I can't figure out, is who needs 10 lbs?

    Radish sprouts adds a hot peppery kick to any salad or stir fry.

  10. Fish Sauce:

    Ever tried to recreate an Asian dish and you're sure you've got all the ingredients in place but it still doesn't taste right. You're missing the fish sauce. This is my favorite brand and a bottle with last you for years.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Fun Trip To the Korean Market

There's nothing better for Sunday afternoon fun then a trip to my favorite Korean market, Chicago Foods.

Its a great place to:

get good prices on staple items like coconut milk (90 cents a can!)

peruse exotic produce including an extensive selection in varieties of radishes and greens,

and investigate items you've never seen before like dang-kwi, chun kung and a variety of other unknown dried roots and fungus.

What are the practical uses of these?

Do you eat it or use it to kill bugs?

Seasoned pig "trotters", yum!

You can also shop for inexpensive cookware.

My favorite brand, "Cook Help" right next to the Love Home Magic Pan.

(While I was looking at the food, Ira was looking for funny signs)

Sometimes stacked in with the cookware, you'll find a reasonably priced pair of shoes.

Here's a slide show of all our pics if you still haven't gotten enough.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Olive Oil Dreams Come True.

Sometimes its the simplest things which give you the most pleasure. I've always wanted an olive oil bottle dispenser with a spigot to control pouring, but I've never gotten one. I've had to content myself with a wide mouthed bottle which always dripped all over the place.

Finally the other day, I found a nice simple bottle with the spigot with the air hole which allows for smooth pouring for $3.00 and I bought that sucka. It makes me so happy every time I use it. Its so easy to control the amount of oil poured. I can't believe I've gone for so long without having one.

A bottle like this is definitely a kitchen staple. It makes me feel like the host of my own cooking show every time I use it!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Roasting Peppers: A Video

Ahh, its a video of myself! Ugh, I have the most nasal voice in the world. I've been wanting to try a video blog for a while, but I'm no good at video editing, so I had to do it all in one shot. I hope you don't get motion sickness with this.

Roasting Peppers on Your Stove Top: At A Glance
Prep/Cook time: 5 minutes. Total Time: 15-20 minutes.
  1. Turn gas burner on high.
  2. Place pepper onto burner grate directly into flames.
  3. Allow skin of pepper to char until it is completely black.
  4. Flip pepper on burner to allow even heat to all sides.
  5. Remove from burner once pepper is completely black
  6. Place in a paper bag and allow to cool for ~10 minutes.
  7. Peel skin away from pepper.
Bam, you've got a roasted pepper.

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patricks Day Grub, Corned Beef and Cabbage

A mandatory Chicago statute requires each citizen to spend the weekend of St. Patrick's day stinking drunk. We're not ones to break any laws here, so true to form, this past Saturday was spent in all day drinking binge downing all manner of green beer and Irish whiskey. Sunday awoke with a bit of a headache and an inability to think straight. Luckily for us, the traditional St. Patty's day meal of corned beef and cabbage is so easy to make, you don't need to think much. The Irish have made sure their holiday meal is perfect for those cooks who have a beer magnate in their hand and no control over their right arm. You just throw everything in a pot and boil it together. Yums.

Corned Beef and Cabbage
  • 1 4-5 lb corned beef brisket
  • 4-5 potatoes, cut into approx. 2-3" pieces
  • 3-4 carrots, cut into approx. 2" pieces
  • 1 cabbage
  • water

Place your corned beef in a large soup pot. Cover with water until completely submerged. Usually the corned beef you buy from the store comes with a seasonings packet, which you can just add in. If for some reason yours doesn't, just add 4 or 5 bay leaves and peppercorns and a bit of coriander seed to the water.

Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for about 90 minutes.

After 90 minutes, add the potatoes and carrots. Allow to cook for 20 more minutes.

Test potatoes. When slightly cooked but not completely soft, add cabbage. Just set cabbage on top so they are mostly sticking out of water. When we place the lid back on the pot, the cabbage will be steamed by the heat of the pot.

If you don't have enough room in the pot for the cabbage, check your corned beef. If its done, you can take it out and set it aside and finish cooking the vegetables alone. Place the lid back on the pot and allow to cook for 15-20 more minutes or until the cabbage is steamed and the potatoes and carrots are cooked.

Too hung over to style the food. Doesn't matter anyway because this isn't stylish food, but good peasant grub.

Slice the corned beef and side with a dollop of mustard. Smear butter all over boiled vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve and eat. Meat and potatoes is the perfect meal for when you're overhung. You can't get more Irish then this!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Scotch Eggs: A How To

"In a quest for foods which pair well with whiskey, I have become obsessed with the Scotch Egg. Concentric spheres of protein and fat form the cradle in which within my stomach, hardwood-aged corn liquor will rest." -From Scotch eggs, an ode
I love how this lyrical quote from Ira's blog, Being Totally Sweet In Chicago, is talking about how eating meat wrapped eggs is a great way to prevent a hangover. Its like lace curtains in the trailer. But these meat wrapped eggs made the perfect snack for the whiskey tasting Ira hosted here at the house last night. It was awesome! Ira got a bunch of people to bring tons of whiskey for me to drink, and he made all the food. I could get used to this!

I came home from work yesterday to an aproned Ira, hard at work in the kitchen. He had been busy researching scotch egg recipes, and was actively putting his knowledge to the test. Here's the recipe he came up with:

Ira's Scotch Eggs
  • 1 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, grated
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp powdered sage
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp salt
  • 8 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 c. bread crumbs

Mix pork with herbs and spices.

Rolling out a patty of the spiced sausage, wrap around hard boiled egg.

Roll sausage wrapped eggs in flour, then egg, and finally in the bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

They were successful at absorbing lots of alcohol because today I feel great. And, they were yummers!

**Notes: The eggs needed a bit of salt. I added in the recipe above some salt to the sausage. I might roll the egg in a bit of salt before I wrap in the sausage in an attempt to salt the egg a bit. I also think wrapping the eggs in bacon or prosciutto would be a great addition.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Wedding Presents and Potato Chips

Everyday I feel like my head is going to explode. Ira and I are getting married in two months and I've got so much stuff to get done, it's insane. Keeping up with my blogging has been a bit difficult but I've set a goal to post every three days, and by God I am going to do it. I could sit here and complain about all the stuff I have to do, but instead, I am going to talk about the positive side of getting married and that's wedding presents!

Last weekend, my sister hosted a wedding shower for us, and I, I mean "WE", got lots of amazing gifts. I am sure its not too hard to imagine what kind of presents people got us. That's right, kitchen and cooking stuff!! Our good friend Trish, gave us a mandolin, something I've been wanting for a long time, nothing makes slicing easier.

Last night, I finally got the chance to try it out and make some homemade potato chips. Our awesome new mandolin sliced through those potatoes in no time! I love this thing.

When I got done with the potatoes, I remembered I had some radishes which were on the verge of going bad, so I decided to slice them up too. I was on a roll, you need something sliced, I'll take care of it!

Frying potatoes on left and radishes on right.

We fried these up and sprinkled them with kosher salt and a bit of amchur, an Indian spice made of powdered mango. The amchur gives a slightly tart acidic flavor, which slightly mimics my favorite salt and vinegar chips.

Potato and radish chips

People tell me to think of how much I love Ira every time I get stressed out with all this wedding planning, but it doesn't seem to work. I'm gonna think about these potato chips and all the other awesome foods I'm going to make with my new kitchen stuff. That'll keep me motivated!