Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rogan Josh


After a summer of salads and grilled meats, I wanted something soul-satisfying and deeply flavored. "Rogan josh," my brain whispered.

I am not an expert in Indian food -- check out Chef Prasad if you want the real deal -- but I have had friends teach me the technique of frying spices in oil, so their flavors bloom.  I use this technique when I make beef chili too; it really makes a difference. Try it out if you've never used this technique before.

For the rogan josh, I used beef chuck instead of the more traditional lamb, and I used Penzey's rogan josh seasoning.  I am addicted to Penzey's spices. While I could have just used the spice mix, I threw in some fresh garlic, fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, and some cardamom pods.  When they hit the oil, the most amazing warm smells fill the kitchen.

To finish the dish, I threw in fresh diced tomatoes and fresh cilantro for some brightness and served it with chickpea crepes and roasted cauliflower. Delicious (and low carb!).

Rogan Josh
1 lb. beef chuck or lamb
1 cinnamon stick (3-4 inches)
3 cardamom pods
1 1/2 inches ginger, peeled and cut into 4 slices or "coins"
2 bay leaves
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 jalapeno, diced (remove seeds and rinds if you want less heat)
2 tbs. Penzey's Rogan Josh seasoning
Few tbs. of yoghurt (or cream or coconut oil)
Salt and pepper
Fresh tomatoes
Fresh cilantro

Heat dutch oven or pressure cooker over medium-high heat until hot.  Add several tbs. of oil. 

Sear meat in batches on all sides, making sure the cubes don't touch each other and that the pot is not overcrowded (otherwise, the meat will kick off liquid and sweat).  Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper as you cook it. Set browned meat on a plate as you cook the other batches.  Add more oil if necessary while you are browning.

Once you're done browning the meat, add more oil if necessary, turn the heat down to medium and add the cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and bay leaves.  Fry in the oil for 30 seconds.  Add onions, garlic, and jalapenos.  Cook for five minutes or until the onions are translucent and browned, stirring occasionally.

Add 2 tbs. of Penzey's seasoning and a little salt and pepper to the onions. Stir until seasoning is incorporated.  Add back beef and it's juices.  Stir and cook for another minute.  Add a spoonful of yogurt and mix to incorporate.  Add two more spoonfuls, incorporating each time.  (Don't add the yogurt all at once as it won't mix in well and could separate.)

Add 1 cup or more of water to cover, and pressure cook for 30 minutes or cook for 1 1/2 hours in a regular dutch oven or until beef is tender.  If you use a pressure cooker, let it simmer after you take off the cover, so that the sauce reduces to a level you like (soupy, stewy, or dryer).

Stir in fresh tomatoes and taste.  Adjust seasonings as needed.

Top with fresh chopped cilantro and serve. (Note: let people know they should remove the ginger coins and cardamom pods if they come upon them.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Leftover Maven: Grilled Flatbread with Sirloin, Caramelized Onions, Tomatoes, and Arugula Salad

I've heard that most Americans celebrate Independence Day with hamburgers and hot dogs.  Nothing says it's July 4th for us like grilled sirloin tips, chicken breasts, potatoes, rice pilaf, Uncle John's bread, Aunt Ann's fruit salad, and Cousin Karen's chocolate chip cookies. These are perennial favorites at the annual family party.

It's always fun the next day to poke around the kitchen to see what's left and make something new.  This time around, we had some leftover sirloin tips, a bag of pizza dough, three slices of provolone cheese, and some young arugula and other salad greens from my brother-in-law's garden. Score!

I split the dough in three and made flatbread pizzas.  While the dough rested, I caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes (you have to try these!) on the grill, sliced the beef, rinsed the arugula, and a made a balsamic-olive oil dressing with a pinch of sugar to soften the slight bitterness of the arugula.

I cooked the flatbread pizzas on the grill on both sides, topped them with the tomatoes, onions, beef, and provolone and placed them back on the grill so the cheese could melt.  Topped with dressed arugula and cut into slices, these "leftovers" were delectable.

I'm definitely going to make these again.  Delish!

Note: These would be even easier to make with store-bought naan bread or even pita bread sliced in half. Roast beef would be an easy substitute for the sirloin tips as well. A great appetizer or meal.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kale Chips

Kale chips are all the rage these days.  Who knew something so good for you could actually taste like something sinful?

Kale is a superfood, full of beta-carotene and folic acid, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K.  It's also a low-carb and high protein vegetable.

Tossed in heart-healthy olive oil and generously sprinkled with kosher salt, kale is an excellent replacement for potato chips when you have a craving for something crispy and salty.

Note that the kale will really shrink down during baking, so if you're in the grocery store and you think you could never eat that big bunch of kale, think again. Enjoy!

Kale Chips

Olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Farhenheit.

Take off lower stems and tear kale into smaller pieces (maybe 2-3 pieces per kale leaf).  Rinse and dry in a salad spinner or using dishtowels.  The kale needs to be mostly dry to crisp up properly. Put in a bowl large enough to hold the kale and toss with olive oil until the leaves are coated.  I use my hands to toss the kales leaves.  Add a generous sprinkling of kosher salt to the top portion of leaves, toss, and add salt again to the new top portion of leaves.  Toss again and taste a kale piece.  Adjust the seasoning if necessary. The kale should taste potato chip salty.  If you like it less salty, that's fine too.

Lay out on a baking sheet, put in the oven, and cook for about 20 minutes or until the kale is dry and crisp.

Use several baking sheets if you have a lot of kale. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Basil-Zucchini Pesto Turkey Patties

Liz the nutritionist put me on a Candida diet earlier this week.  Like other diets, this diet shuns carbs, sugars, and processed foods in favor of proteins, lots of vegetables, nuts, and low-sugar fruits.

Liz recommended that I have cooked turkey patties on hand, so that if I got hungry, I would have something readily available.  I don't think I've ever eaten a turkey burger in my life.  I don't much like turkey, but I decided to try to make a turkey burger that would pass muster.

Poultry-based burgers can be dry.  When I make chicken meatballs, I use bread, milk, and egg to keep them moist, but under the diet, I cannot use bread, milk or cheese.

I decided to try a riff on a cheeseless pesto, and add onion and zucchini.  Onion and zucchini have a lot of moisture, and I thought the addition to the meatballs would keep them turning into hockey pucks. I also added a little fresh lemon zest for a bright note.

Success!  The turkey burgers were moist and flavorful.  Great for a snack or for a meal.

Note: A Cuisinart or other food processor makes quick work of making the pesto.

Serving ideas: Serve with a salad.  Make meatballs to put in tomato sauce or glaze with honey-dijon sauce and serve as appetizers. Make burgers. Put on skewers, grill on serve with a cucumber yogurt sauce as part of a mezze platter.

Basil-Zucchini Pesto Turkey Patties

1 1/2 pounds of ground turkey or chicken

1 cup shredded zucchini (1/2 zucchini)
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup basil leaves, firmly packed
1/4 cup parsley leaves, firmly packed
2 handfuls walnuts or pine nuts
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/8-1/2 tsp. Lemon zest, grated (optional)
1/3 cup olive oil

In Cuisinart, shred zucchini first. Take out of bowl and set to the side. Put onion, garlic, basil, parsley, nuts salt, Italian seasoning, freshly ground pepper and lemon zest.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Add in zucchini.

Pulse while adding olive oil through the top until it's a paste, and pesto mixture is sticking on the sides of the bowl.

Put ground turkey in a bowl and evenly distribute the pesto throughout the meat. Mixing with your hands is the easiest.

Make into patties and place on a baking sheet.  I made them into 2 oz. patties, using a large scooper, but you can make them any size (meatballs, turkey burgers, etc.).

Heat of skillet to medium-high and add a little olive oil when it's hot.  Turn down the heat and add the patties. Cook until cooked on the edges and opaque in the center.  Flip over a cook a couple more minutes.  Depending on the thickness of your patties, they will take shorter or longer to cook.  The patties I made took 2-3 minutes per side, but if you're not sure, cook a test one and break it open to make sure it's cooked and your timing is good.  Then you can cook the rest.

You can also cook these on the grill.  If you made meatballs, you can cook them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, turning them every ten minutes.  Again, this depends on the size of your meatballs, so you should check them to see if they cook faster.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Beef Brisket on the Gas Grill

I think brisket is one of the best meats on the grill.  Cooked low and slow over hardwood charcoal and hickory wood, it takes on the flavor of wood and smoke and its meat becomes succulently tender and unforgettable.

My smoker of choice is the Big Green Egg (brisket on the Big Green Egg recipe here), but today I used our Weber Genesis gas grill.  While we lost some of the smoke flavor, this brisket was mind-blowingly good.  It's completely worth making, particularly if you are more familiar with or want the convenience of your gas grill.

The recipe is below, but here are some general tips that work for me:

1) When you get your brisket, ask the butcher not to trim it.  Score the fat in a crosshatch pattern before seasoning. Cook fat side up. The fat bastes the meat while it's cooking, and that's a good thing.

2) Dry rub all the way! I use Penzey's BBQ 3000 seasoning, but any mixed rub will do. Generously season (don't be shy!) and massage it into the meat. I probably use a couple tbs. or more of rub.  If I don't have any rub, I will generously season the brisket with paprika, a little chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, kosher salt, pepper, and brown sugar. I don't even bother mixing the rub together.  I just sprinkle the spices in different layers.

3) If you think of it, dry rub the meat the night before, put it in a Ziploc bag, and let it season overnight.  If you don't remember, no worries.  Just dry rub before cooking and go.

4) Even if you're using a gas grill, some smoke is nice.  Take a couple handfuls of hickory chips and soak in water for 30 minutes.  Place drained chips in a foil pouch, poke holes in the top and follow your grill's instructions on where to put the pouch so that it will smoke.  On our Weber, we put the packet under the grill grate and on top of one of the flavorizer bars that is lit.  You can replace the pouch every hour with a new pouch if you want.  We didn't bother this time around, and the brisket was still fantastic.

5) Get the grill to an even temp of 275 degrees.  On our Weber, we turn the outermost left and right burners on and place the brisket, fat side up, in the center of the grill.  The heat acts like a convection oven and the brisket, b/c no direct heat is under it, slowly browns and burnishes without burning.  You don't even need to flip it.  If your grill doesn't work this way, you need to watch it.  You may want to cook it uncovered the first hour as the wood chips are smoking, and then if you think it's in danger of burning, wrap it in foil and cook it the rest of the way.

6) Get a meat thermometer.  The meat is ready when it's an internal temp of 197 degrees. We have one of those meat thermometers that has a probe that goes into the meat and into the oven/grill, and the thermometer can sit on the counter and continuously show the temp.  It's very convenient.

7) Be prepared to have your time thrown off.  The first time I made this brisket, it took 4-5 hours to get to temp.  This time around, it took around 7 hours to get to temp.  Maybe it's a difference between the Big Green Egg and the Weber, but there shouldn't be a difference if I'm cooking at the same temperature.  It's a mystery. By the way, if you want to cook it at a higher temp, say 300 or 325 degrees, it will take less time.  It'll still be great.

8) When the brisket is done, wrap it in foil and let it rest for 30 minutes.  Cut in thin slices against the grain. 

9) Prepare to go to heaven when you put the brisket in your mouth!

Postscript: It's a few weeks later, and I'm cooking another brisket, but since I'm trying to get the brisket to cook faster (okay, I'm last minute), I put it in a foil packet with some beer to see what happens.  I found this link after the fact, and I guess this is a variation on the "Texas crutch." This is an informative article, so I recommend reading it if you're interested in cooking brisket.

Beef Brisket on the Gas Grill

3-6 lb. beef brisket, untrimmed of fat
Penzey's BBQ 3000 seasoning or other mixed rub
Hickory chips
Meat thermometer
4-7 hours worth of time on the grill

Preferably the day before, score the fat layer on the brisket in a crosshatch pattern.  Generously season both sides of the brisket with dry rib rub and massage it into the meat. I probably use a couple tbs. or more of rub.  If you're doing this the night before, put it in a Ziploc bag, and let it season overnight.  If you are doing this the day of, place the seasoned meat on a plate or baking sheet and leave on the counter while you're doing your next steps (another 30 minutes).  It's all right, even preferable, for the meat to come to room temperature.

Put a couple handful of hickory chips in a bowl with water and soak for 30 minutes. After they have soaked, put the drained chips onto a piece of foil and make it into a packet.  Poke holes in the top with a fork, so that the smoke can come out.

While the chips are soaking, get your grill ready.  If your grates are not clean, heat the grill up to high and then scrape the grates clean with your grill scraper.  Turn off the burners and let cool down.  

When you're ready to go, put the foil packet of chips where it is recommended for your grill for smoking. We have a Weber and put it on top of a flavorizer bar that will be turned on.  Turn on outer left and right burners and leave the center burners off.  Adjust heat until you have a 275 degree temperature with the lid closed. 

When the grill is to temp, place the brisket on the center grate, fat side up.  Close the grill lid and adjust temp until it's at 275 degrees.

Cook for about 5 hours, although it could take longer.  The meat is ready when it's an internal temp of 197 degrees.

When the brisket is done, wrap it in foil and let it rest for 30 minutes.  Cut in thin slices against the grain. 

Serve plain or with BBQ sauce.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Brussel Sprout Chips

It's 4 pm, and I am starving.  I shouldn't be hungry as in the the last few hours I have eaten an orange, blueberries, a handful of nuts, and some watermelon. I have drunk some berry tea and several glasses of water.

This is what happens to me on Day 1 of a diet. The feeling of deprivation.

I was in the kitchen looking for what I could eat on this Candida Diet the nutritionist put me on, and I found it right there in the fridge.  Brussel sprouts!

Roasted until crisp, they taste just as good as potato chips.  But with a lot more vitamins and no carbs.  If you like potato chips or kale chips, try these out.

Brussel Sprout Chips

Brussel Sprouts
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Pepper or red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse brussel sprouts.  Cut stem off brussel sprout, almost 1/3 up the brussel sprout and enough to loosen the leaves.  Discarding any discolored leaves, separate the rest of the leaves as much as you can and then cut the remaining little ball in 1/2.  Place on a Silpat-lined baking sheet.  Continue with the rest of the sprouts until you are done.

Drizzle sprouts with olive oil and sprinkle generously with kosher salt (you want them potato chip salty).  Toss together until the sprouts are evenly coated and spread out on the baking sheet.  Top with a few grinds of black pepper or sprinkle with a few red pepper flakes.

Bake for 10 minutes and check.  If there are any browned and crispy leaves, pull them out. Toss with tongs or a spatula, redistributing the leaves so they cook evenly.  Check every few minutes and take out any more crisped leaves, tossing and redistributing again. Repeat until the centers are browned and fork-tender.

This can take another 10 minutes or more.

Yeast Free Diet Recipe: Roasted Cauliflower

I haven't blogged in so long.  Work has kept me busy these past few months.  I miss all my blog friends; I hope I have not been forgotten.

I'm starting a new journey today.  In order to enjoy better health, I met with Liz, a friend and nutritionist, and she has put me on a yeast-free diet.  If you saw Liz, with her bright eyes, glowing skin, and trim figure, you would go on this diet too.

Have you ever heard tried this diet?

I googled online when I got home to find out more, and this diet is focused on controlling yeast in the body.  Rampant yeast, encouraged by a diet of starch, sugar, and yes, yeast, throws the body's systems out of balance and wreaks havoc, causing syptoms like headaches, fatigue, leaky gut syndrome and more.

The first phase of the program is about 10 days, and you must stay strict to the guidelines as your goal is to kill off the overgrowth of yeast by starving it.  No carbs, sugar, fermented foods (vinegar, mustard, alcohol, ketchup, soy sauce, etc.), dairy, funghi, peanuts and pistachios, dried fruits, and high-sugar fruits like bananas,  pineapples, cherries and mangos.

While my first reaction was this diet would really put a damper on my summer cooking, I think I'd rather take it on as a challenge to make great food that fits the restrictions.  The first is an oldie but goodie for me: roasted cauliflower.

Wish me luck!

Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower
A few tbs. olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Separate the head into florets and cut the florets into thinner pieces.  You can cut them as thick or thin as you like -- you'll just have to adjust the cooking time as the thicker they are, the longer they will take to brown and vice versa.

I like to put the cut florets into a big bowl, so I can toss the cauliflower well with olive, garlic, kosher salt, and pepper.  I use my hands to toss the cauliflower, so I know everything is well-coated and the garlic is distributed.  Then I put the cauliflower onto a Silpat-covered baking sheet.  The other way to do it is to to put the cauliflower onto the baking sheet, generously drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt, pepper, and garlic, and mix it around directly on the baking sheet. Your choice.

Put the baking sheet into the oven and after 10 minutes, flip the cauliflower over, turning occasionally from there on in.  If after 20 minutes, the cauliflower is browned to your liking, take it out.  If you want to cook the cauliflower longer, go ahead.  They're really yummy when they're browned and almost charred.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Rewind: Mexican-Inspired Chicken Wings

I first posted this recipe last August, but since everyone loves these chicken wings, it's time to post them again. If you're looking for an easy and winning chicken wing recipe for a weeknight supper or a party, this is it.  Hands down.

I served these wings this week for a Cinco de Mayo party for my school, and they were gone in the blink of an eye.  Even though I *way* overcooked them -- blame it on my penchant for talking to guests and completely forgetting they were in the oven -- people devoured them and were asking who made the wings.

In addition to being crispy, delectable wings, they are full proof. You can't beat that!

Mexican-Inspired Chicken Wings

2 packs chicken wings or drum sticks,
1 1/2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice (or a mixture)
4 tablespoons olive oil,
2 teaspoons Penzeys Fajita Seasoning
1 teaspoon chili powder,
4 grinds of pepper,
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt,
1 teaspoon sugar


Take the chicken and all the other chicken wing ingedients and put them in a plastic Zip-loc bag.

Put the bag in the fridge and let it marinate for 2 hours to over night.

Take out the chicken and place it on a cookie sheet(s), preferably not touching each other, and bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees.

Check the chicken wings and switch racks if you have 2 trays and bake for another 25 minutes until the skin is lightly browned.

You can cook them over an hour to get them really crispy.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Kulinarya Vegetable Challenge: Bok Choy & Shiitake Mushroom Sotanghon

For this month's Kulinarya challenge, Erika of Ivoryhut picked vegetables.  

I was never one of those kids whose mother admonished, "Eat your vegetables!"  And no, it wasn't because I dove into the green stuff with gusto.

My mom didn't nag me, because she didn't eat vegetables herself.  She is a strict carni-, black coffee-, and orange soda-vore.  And she doesn't cook either.

This leaves me in a bit of a quandary.  Make a Filipino vegetable dish?  I don't think I know one.

So I made my own vegetable dish with veggies I happened to have in the fridge: baby bok choy and sliced shiitake mushrooms.  I sauteed them with garlic and ginger, a little rice wine and a shot of oyster sauce.  I served them over sotanghon, bean thread noodles, which I soaked in hot chicken broth until they were tender.

Does that count?  I hope so.  If not, it was good chow anyway.


If you’re interested in joining our Kulinarya Cooking Club and participating in its monthly challenges, please visit, and become a fan on our Facebook page.   Kulinarya was started by a group of Filipino foodies (Kath, Trisha and Trissa) living in Sydney, who are passionate about Filipino culture and its colorful cuisine.  You don't have to be a Filipino or have a food blog to join, and you can participate as much or as little as your time and interest allows.  Everyone is welcome.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Double-fried French Fries

Who doesn't love a good french fry?  The secret to crispy fries is a double fry.  The first fry blanches the fries and cooks them through at a lower oil temperature.  The second fry is to crisp and brown the fries at a higher temperature.  A generous sprinkling of salt, and you're good to go!

Double-fried French Fries

Russet potatoes (1 big potato can feed 1-2 people, depending on how much they love fries)
Kosher salt
Oil (Peanut is best for frying,but canola or vegetable oils work just fine

Preheat oil to 325 degrees.

Peel and cut potatoes lengthwise into 1/4 inch sticks.  Put cut potatoes in a bowl of water, so they don't brown as you cut the rest of the fries.

When you're ready to fry, drain the potatoes and dry them off really well.

Cook fries in batches.  Add fries to the oil, so that you have enough fries but they have plenty of room to move around.  If your oil is too full of cold fries, the temperature will drop down too far, and you'll have greasy fries.  Cook fries for 4-5 minutes and remove to spread out on paper towels.  Cook the remaining fries and repeat until done.

Increase oil temperature to 375 degrees.

Cook fries in batches again, this time until crispy and browned, a couple minutes more.  Place on paper towels and salt generously.  Serve.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Swedish Meatballs

I've had the most terrible recurrent craving for Swedish meatballs.

The first time I had these was when I was a kid in the 1970s.  My mom would go load up on oodles of frozen food at what really were dingy food warehouses -- pre-Sam's Club and Costco -- and she would buy Swedish meatballs to serve at her parties.  The frozen meatballs would go ding! ding! ding! into the steam tray and we would squeeze some preservative-laden sauce out of sealed plastic bags into the tray. A few hours later the meatballs would be warmed through and covered in the slightly gloppy sauce, beckoning me with their salty and slighty tangy aroma.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was in my 20s and out in the workforce.  I did the Firm tapes for 2 hours a day, and Stouffers' Lean Cuisine Swedish meatballs were my favorite weekly lunch item.  At the time, my palate, loaded down with fat free this and that, thought the meatballs tasted dandy.

Fast forward 20 years and here I was with a Swedish meatball craving.  I went to the store, bought some Stouffers, and eagerly heated it up in the microwave.  I ripped open the plastic, forked a meatball, closed my eyes in anticipation, and took a bite.


All I could taste were chemicals, and the meatballs were stringy and springy.  I threw the rest away.

You would think that would have been the demise of the craving, but no, two weeks later, Swedish meatballs were rolling around in my brain again.

This time I was smart.  I went to the store and bought meatloaf mix, a mixture of beef, pork, and veal.  I made meatballs from scratch, mixing the meat with fresh white bread crumbs soaked in milk, eggs, onions, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and allspice.  I rolled and rolled and rolled the little balls and then browned them on all sides in a skillet, and took them out and set them aside.  Now these were meatballs, tender and light.

To the drippings in the skillet, I added some flour to make a roux, cooked it for a few minutes to take away any floury aftertaste, and then slowly added beef broth until I had a sauce.  I added the meatballs back and simmered them for 10 minutes so they were cooked through.  To finish off the meatballs, I folded in some sour cream, tasted and adjusted the salt and pepper, and added some parsley.

All natural.  All delicious.

I didn't write down what I did, but no worries.  For some Swedish meatball recipes, check out the recipe at Simply Recipes and Alton Brown's recipe on the Food Network site.

I do have some tips for making meatballs without a recipe that is based on ratios.  For 1 lb. of meat, use
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt.  This should nicely season your meatballs.
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices white bread, no crust, made into breadcrumbs.
  • If you want the meatballs super soft, make a panade by soaking the bread crumbs in about 1/4-1/3 cup milk.
  • So that I can eyeball seasonings, what I normally do is spread the meat on a Silpat or cookie sheet.  This way, it's almost like seasoning your food at the table .  I distribute salt, pepper, any additional spices, parsley, breadcrumbs, cheese on the top of the meat, and I can easily see how much meat I have in relation to other ingredients.  I then put everything in a bowl, add an egg and some liquid (if I didn't make a panade) and incorporate everything together.
  • I cook a sample of meatball meat before I roll all the meatballs.  That way I can taste it and adjust seasonings.
I found the Swedish meatballs were even better the next day.  I love leftovers!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Caramelized Tomatoes

If I had to pick a few choice recipes for you to try on this blog, caramelized tomatoes would be one of them. Caramelized tomatoes are sublime -- once you've tasted their concentrated, toasty flavor, you might never go back to regular tomatoes.

In addition to eating them like candy because they are so addictive on their own, they are wonderful served with crackers and cheese, used in pasta dishes and soup -- I threw them in some beef barley soup this week -- and in sandwiches, as I did here with caramelized onions and gouda cheese on baguette.  Honestly, making these caramelized tomatoes is like winning the lottery, as they open doors to a wealth of dishes.  The sky's the limit!

I first made these tomatoes at my friend Christine's house.  We house sat there last summer when we were between houses.  I was pretty freaked out to have sold our house and not have anywhere to go, but staying at Christine's house turned out to be the best thing that could ever happen.  In addition to being a lovely, comfortable, and comforting home because of the gracious spirit of the people who live there, Christine's house has a prolific vegetable garden,  Gifted with dozens of cherry tomatoes every week,  I had a chance to try this recipe for caramelized tomatoes at the blog Tigers & Strawberries

Within 40 minutes, I had the most delicious tomatoes, soft yet crispy, roasted yet fresh with garden flavor.  Sunlight in a bottle, or rather tantalizing, little red bowls.  I hope you try them!

Caramelized Tomatoes
adapted from the recipe at Tigers & Strawberries

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

I used cherry tomatoes here, but you can do plum, grape, or regular tomatoes.  Core if necessary, taking out the leafy stem.  Cut in half and squeeze and/or scrape the seeds and liquid out with your fingers.

Put the cut tomatoes in a bowl.

When done cutting, toss the tomatoes with olive oil, making sure all tomatoes are lightly covered with oil.  They shouldn't be drowning in oil, but there shouldn't be so little oil that they will dry out in the oven.

Lay all of your tomato halves or slices cut side up on a baking sheet (you can cover the bottom of the sheet with non-stick foil or silpats for easy clean up).

Put them in the oven.

Leave them in the oven for thirty minutes and then check them. If they are a bit shrunken and drying a bit with some toasty dark bits on the edges, they are ready for you to sprinkle on the sugar. If they still seem a bit too juicy and there is no darkening, give them another ten minutes in the oven.

If they are ready, take them out of the oven. Sprinkle a little bit of sugar evenly over the tomatoes. At this time, if you want to add herbs, either fresh or dried, this is the time.

Put the tomatoes back into the oven and let them cook for another five to ten minutes or so.
Remove from the oven, and allow to cool until you can handle them–they should still be warm, but not blisteringly hot–and remove them from the baking sheets and set them on a tray or in a bowl, depending on how you want to use them.

Any syrupy juice that you have on the baking sheets, scrape out and drizzle over the tomatoes.

You can store them in the fridge for up to a week, and you can freeze them for later use. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Kulinarya Cooking Club February Aphrodisiac Challenge: Wontons with Spicy Soy-Sesame Sauce

In honor of Valentine's Day, the Kulinarya Cooking Club was challenged by KCC member Pia to make a Filipino dish with an aphrodisiac. 

My response is a variation on Pancit Molo, which is essentially Filipino wonton soup.  In this case, I simmered pre-made Chinese wontons in chicken broth infused with grated GINGER -- ding! ding! the love ingredient -- for ten minutes. When cooked, I transferred them to a bowl with just a little of the broth, spooned a little spicy soy mixture over them, and served them with minced scallions.  Wet, hot, slippery, and stimulating on the tongue ... do I need to say more?

[I am blushing after I wrote that.  We Catholic school girls normally don't talk this way!]

Want to know more about aphrodisiacs?  Here are some links:

If you’re interested in joining our Kulinarya Cooking Club and participating in its monthly challenges, please visit, and become a fan on our Facebook page.   Kulinarya was started by a group of Filipino foodies (Kath, Trisha and Trissa) living in Sydney, who are passionate about Filipino culture and its colorful cuisine.  You don't have to be a Filipino or have a food blog to join, and you can participate as much or as little as your time and interest allows.  Everyone is welcome.

Quick Wontons with Spicy Soy-Sesame Sauce

Premade wontons (as many as you want)
Chicken stock
Fresh ginger
Soy mix: 2 tbs. soy sauce, 1 tbs. rice vinegar, 1 tbs. sugar, dash of spicy sesame oil or to taste

Bring chicken stock to a boil -- you should have enough stock that the wontons can simmer freely and not be too crowded.  Take a knob of ginger, cut the end off and shave off some of the outer skin near the end, maybe 1/4-1/2 an inch.  Using a grater (I use a Microplane), grate some ginger into the broth.  How much?  This is up to you.  Grate the ginger several times, up and down, up and down, and up and down, and then tap the grater on the edge of the sauce pan, to drop the grated ginger into the pan.  Do that one more time.  Taste the broth.  If you want more ginger, grate some more in.

Add the wontons, and when the broth comes up to a boil, turn down the heat until it's at a gentle simmer so that the wontons don't break apart.  Follow the directions on the wonton package and cook them until they're done.

While the wontons are cooking, mix your dumpling sauce out of the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and spicy sesame oil.

Using a slotted spoon, put the wontons in a bowl or on a plate with curved sides.  Spoon some chicken broth over the wontons.  Spoon some dumpling sauce over the wontons.  Sprinkle with some minced scallions.

Serve to the object of your desire.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Momofuku Octo-Vin Sauce (with Scallions)

David Chang of Momofuku fame says repeatedly in his cookbook that he has no idea how he got famous, that he and his crew were just a bunch of hacks, and that he was embarrassed about all the hoopla about his food.

I understand what he means.  If you look at his recipes, they are simple in ingredients.  Many of them use the same ingredients as a way of economizing and repurposing things in a small restaurant kitchen.  Many of them use techniques where food is prepared in advance and can be finished off in minutes for hungry diners.

That's exactly why David is brilliant.  His food is enduring and familiar, but it's also fresh and exciting.  It's down to earth yet on the edge.  How can that be?  I haven't quite got a handle on it yet.  I am still in awe that sauces like this Octo-vin sauce can be so surprisingly good, even though I've combined these same ingredients countless times before I ever heard of David Chang.

His sauce normally doesn't have scallions, but since I had his ginger scallion sauce on hand, I just used that instead of the ginger suggested in the recipe.  I tossed some chicken wings in the sauce, and I bet it would be good with dumplings, on steak in place of chimichurri sauce, on seafood, and grilled or steamed vegetables.  Throw in some orange juice, and I know it would be a lovely marinade.  The more I think about it, this sauce as a base for other sauces opens up many possibilities.

I hope you try it.  It will become a foundation sauce for you.

Octo-Vin Sauce

Note: If you have ginger scallion sauce on hand, you can substitute that for the ginger below.  Also, if you don't have fresh chili pepper, you can use a little red crushed pepper, hot sesame oil, cayenne, and/or ichimi togarashi to taste. David Chang cautions to cut the ginger and garlic fine, so the texture is right to the palate.

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chili pepper
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup light soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola, vegetable or grapeseed oil
1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

freshly ground black pepper    

Mix ingredients together.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Momofuku Ginger Scallion Sauce

This ginger scallion sauce from the Momofuku cookbook, a great cookbook, is so versatile that you'll use it in everything -- on noodles, vegetables, soup, foods hot and cold.  I teach an Asian cooking class, and this is going on the list to make!

Ginger Scallion Sauce
Makes about 3 cups
2½ cups thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1 to 2 large bunches)
½ cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
¼ cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1½ tsp usukuchi (light soy sauce)
¾ tsp sherry vinegar
¾ tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
Mix all the ingredients together and let sit for 15-20 minutes before using. It’ll keep in the fridge for about a week.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Leftover Maven: Mushroom Stroganoff

My friends Kate and Julia are vegetarians, and I admire them.  I wish I could leave meat behind.  But as my daughter Christina says, beef and bacon tastes too good!

I endeavor, however, to eat less meat, and I appreciate people like Mark Bittman who has promoted eating less meat and movements like Meatless Monday.

I had some leftover caramelized onions and mushrooms from Super Bowl Sunday, and I thought they would be great in a stroganoff.  I heated them in a skillet, added some broth, worcestershire sauce, paprika, and sour cream.  With egg noodles, it was delectable, and I didn't miss the meat at all.  And it only took 10 minutes!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What Did You Make for Super Bowl Sunday?

Super Bowl Sunday is a major cook- and eat-fest for a lot of people.  Wings, chili, ribs, pizza, bratwurst, chips, lots of Mex or Tex-mex food, and tons of dips, cold or hot.  In other words, classic American chow.

I wasn't that interested in cooking after mounting several Snow Day Challenges, where my friend Julia and I were posting 7-8 dishes in a 24-hour period.  This past Friday, my husband picked up takeout, and I was happy as a clam not to turn on the stove or wash any pots.

On Saturday, I sat around in my pajamas all day and devoured a book instead of food.  It was divine.

Then today, Sunday, came, as did the requests.  Can we make salsa?  Boy, I'd like some wings.  Geez, I'd really like to not eat meat.  (By the way, the last person was me.)

I ended up going to the grocery store, firing up the stove and oven, and generating some Super Bowl-worthy dishes.  My family was happy.  And so was I.  How can you not be when you hear, "Wow, Mom, that was outstanding."?  I am a sucker for compliments.

Super Bowl 2011 Dish #1: Honey mustard spareribs smoked over oak on my indoor smoker.  I dry rubbed the rubs with salt, pepper, paprika, and a little ground chipotle.  Then I mixed together a couple spoonfuls of dijon mustard with a couple spoonfuls of honey, and a splash of apple cider vinegar, and rubbed that onto the ribs.  I smoked the ribs for an hour in my indoor smoker.  Then I wrapped them in foil with a little beer and transferred them to a 325 degree oven to cook a couple hours until they were tender.  A few minutes under the broiler and they were done.  My family is not really a sauce family, so I served the sauce on the side (equal amounts honey and mustard with a splash of vinegar).

Super Bowl 2011 Dish #2: Chicken Bites with Buffalo Wing Sauce.  The grocery store was cleaned out of chicken wings, so I bought boneless chicken thighs.  I cut them into bite-size pieces and tossed them in melted butter and a little mustard.  I then breaded them with panko, put them on a baking sheet, sprayed them with olive oil spray, and baked them in a 400 degree oven until they were browned -- 20-30 minutes.  I served them with buffalo wing sauce on the side (almost equal parts melted butter and Frank's Red Hot Sauce with a little more hot sauce and a shot of vinegar).

Super Bowl 2011 Dish #3: Pita pizzas with Boursin Cheese, caramelized onions, and sauteed mushrooms. In this heavy meat-eating house, these turned out to be the favorite!  I caramelized onions and then sauteed mushrooms in the same pan with shallots, garlic, a dash of wine, balsamic vinegar, and dried thyme.  Salt and pepper of course.  I split pita bread in 1/2, spread Boursin cheese on the bread and topped them with the onions, mushrooms, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  Then I threw them under the broiler until they were toasty and cut them into wedges.  Very flavorful and yummy.

Super Bowl 2011 Dish #4: Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  My daughter Christina made these yesterday, and yes, the frosting is also homemade.  I'll be posting this recipe soon.

Super Bowl 2011 Dish #5: Nutella on baguette slices with banana and toffee bits. These were in honor of World Nutella Day (2/4/11).  Delish!

What did you make for Super Bowl Sunday?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dimple's Jamaican Chicken with Rum BBQ Sauce (using Momofuku Technique)

We've had a lot of snow days this winter -- 7 so far.  Last week, my friend Julia started the Snow Day Challenge.  The challenge is to not make a panic run to the grocery store but to cook something creative with what you have in your pantries. 

Julia is no slouch, so we kept throwing down dishes and posting them on Facebook. On the first SDC, I made seven dishes, and Julia made eight, including her finale which involved mixing leftover bottles of red wine to fill her drinking glass.  I declared her the winner on that one, and on her banana cake which involved using a random frozen banana she found in the freezer.

The past two days was SDC 2.0 as we got snow and then ice.  These wings were dish #7.  With this round, I decided I was going to make things I hadn't made before or use a new technique.  With the wings, I decided to use David Chang's technique at Momofuku for fried chicken, which involves steaming the chicken first and then a quick fry.  I steamed the wings in my indoor smoker/steamer for 20 minutes.

It's a great technique for prepping wings in advance, such as for the Super Bowl or other party, and I'm sure you could finish them off on the grill instead of deep frying them.

As for the recipe, I found a recipe in Steve Raichlen's cookbook, , which is a great cookbook by the way.  It's for Dimple's Jamaican chicken.

Here's a link to Steve Raichlen' cooking forum  and a reader making this recipe.

Dimple's Barbequed Chicken Wings and Rum BBQ Sauce
adapted from Steve Raichlen's The Barbeque Bible and Momofuku Cookbook fried chicken technique

(Note: Give yourself advance time -- 12-24 hours to marinate the chicken.)

1 dozen chicken wingettes (1 pack) or more

1 bunch scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 Scotch bonnet chile, seeded and finely chopped, or 1/2 to 1 tp. Scotch bonnet-based hot sauce (or your pick of chile or hot sauce; I used Sriracha.)
1 tbs. sweet paprika
1 tsp. fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs. soy sauce (or more if you're using chicken wings or chicken parts)
1 tbs. vegetable oil.

BBQ Sauce (I made 1/2)

1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup soy sauce
4 scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs. minced, peeled fresh ginger
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tbs. dark rum, or more to taste

Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl or in a Ziploc bag if you're using chicken wings.  You can puree the ingredients together if you want a richer flavor.  Set aside.

Rinse chicken wings.  Put them in the Ziploc bag with the marinade ingredients and "smush" the bag, distributing the ingredients evenly over the wings; if there's not enough liquid to distribute, add more soy sauce.  Refrigerate for 12-24 hours, turning the bag over several times.

Make BBQ sauce by combining ingredients except for the rum in a saucepan and simmering for 10-15 minutes, until thick and richly flavored.  Add rum during the last two minute, taste for seasoning and adding more rum if necessary.  Remove from heat.  You should have about 2 cups.

Steam wings (I have a Cameron's indoor smoker which I also use as a steamer) for 20 minutes.  When done, dry off on paper towels.

Heat oil to 375 degrees and dry for 4 minutes or until nice and crispy.  Serve with BBQ sauce.