Tuesday, September 18, 2012
I’ll be blogging on a new site from here on out. Blogspot has been great to me, but I just wanted to relaunch with a broadened theme.
So loyal readers, please visit me at http://www.acookandageek.com/ !
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Hot on the heels of the last +5 Food of Eating test for Peanut Butter and Jalapeno Hummus we have the an accompanying dish, the olive oil cracker.
I’ve baked many things, but I’ve never baked a cracker before, so this was a nice learning experience. While I can not say all cracker recipes are easy (as this has been the first time I’ve tried one) this particular recipe is in the straightforward category.
As for the result? It is very crisp and not too light nor heavy. I can see this working well with light cured meats and spreadable cheeses as well!
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
It’s been a while since I’ve posted, I’ve been busy with lots of projects, including preparations for the +5 Food of Eating tasting party this Saturday. There’s going to be awesome food and games, and some awesome drinks provided by local brewery JP Das Brew!
As background, for those of you who don’t recall, I’m contributing some of my time in the kitchen to test some recipes for the upcoming tabletop gaming themed cookbook, +5 Food of Eating. Tiffany has been kind enough to let me blog about some of the recipes I’ll be testing!
This week I’ll be testing a recipe I honestly wasn’t so sure about, Peanut Butter and Jalapeno Hummus. I like hummus, and I like peanut butter and jalapenos, but putting them all together did not seem like the most obvious thing, but it did make sense on some level. Tahini is often located near peanut butter and I’ve had roasted pepper hummus too, so this is something still pepper related.
I have to say, it actually works! The peanuts are more complimentary than overwhelming, and the jalapeno pepper added a nice bit of kick, but I’m a bit curious how a serrano or a bit of habanero would do instead.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
No, not a certain avian purveyor of artificially flavored corn circles, but two cans of that mechanically processed pork product.
So why Spam for this post? A number of reasons. One, I felt it’s been a while since I posted on r/asianeats, and this is… vaguely Asian, since I think my family is one of the few that does it this way (and since we’re Vietnamese that automatically qualifies it as Asian right?) And secondly because it is “boring to great” week on r/52weeksofcooking, and Spam was listed right there as a boring food.
I’m not sure what h3ather meant when she said that spam was boring. Don’t get me wrong, I know spam has an extremely large and outspoken contingent of detractors, and there’s a lot of negative adjectives that can be applied to it, but boring would not be the first word I applied to it. Since I actually like Spam, I will not repeat those words here.
Oh yeah, before I forget, nobody in my household eats a can of spam over a kitchen sink. We have however eaten it with a pocketknife on one of the sandy shores at Yosemite, along with baguette. After a long day of hiking, eating it like that in the shade is just wonderful. But I digress.
So, Vietnamese style spam, what is that exactly? It’s actually two dishes actually that go well with rice. Here’s some of the stuff you’ll need for both. Two cans of spam (well, one will do really) cabbage, onion, a red chili, garlic. You will also need a big of fish sauce. And that automatically ups the “Vietnameseness” of any dish. Well, it could also up the Thai-ness, Phillipinesness or Cambodeliciousness of a dish as well.
But, I’m Vietnamese, so I’ll call this Vietnamese-style Spam.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Ah, spatchcocking. No, that isn’t something dirty (probably) and no, it’s not what they play with in Badminton. It’s a method of flattening out a whole chicken by removing it’s backbone so you can spread it flat across a grill so it cooks more quickly than leaving it whole.
I learned the essentials of technique and temperature from this link but used a very different mixture for the marinating process. Also note this is a recipe for grilling, so you will need either a gas or charcoal barbecue grill.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
I’ve worked on this recipe a few times, tweaking it a bit each time. The last time I tried using it as a less wet alternative to salsa in the Yakisoburrito.
This time, I decided to make it completely a side dish, good for accompanying grilled meats and whatnot, and overall I am pretty satisfied with the result.
I replaced the rather thin wax pepper with a much meatier cousin, the pasilla pepper, and spiked everything with a bit of habanero. The result is a satisfying, toothsome dish that will fill many a belly quite nicely.
Before I continue on with the recipe, please let me shill an awesome project again briefly. Tiffany Simmons is writing a cookbook themed around tabletop gaming, and it is going to be awesome. Yes, I am taking part of it as a recipe tester. And if you’re in the Northern California Bay Area and are free on September 8th, you should consider joining me in San Rafael for a gaming and recipe testing/tasting event, I’ll be cooking up a storm! Just check out the Secret Passage reward level!
Ok, now back to the sortatash recipe.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
First of all, a quick plug for the Kickstarter for +5 Food Of Eating, a geeky/nerdy cookbook to be written by the very cool Tiffany Simmons. Full disclosure, I am involved with the project as a tester. I will not be receiving monies directly from the Kickstarter however, so I’m not going to get rich off of this if it becomes one of those amazing Kickstarter smash hits. I do think it will be an amazing project though, so if you like the idea, you should give it some love!
Now to the post proper!
I do often think about themes for food; different types of cuisine, food for certain kinds of parties, food for movies, comfort foods, fried foods, and many more such categorizations have all been highlighted at various points. This is the first time I’ve considered color as point to highlight.
Do not get me wrong, I definitely appreciate color. The appealing redness of a rare steak contrasted with it’s perfectly browned exterior, the vibrant pink hue of strawberry ice cream, the calming yellow of sweet lemon curd, and the muted brick color of oven dried tomatoes are all visually appealing. But I have yet to cook with color as the goal in mind.
So, with the notion of color in mind, I’ll pay tribute to the color green, with a very simple but delicious treatment of the green mild chili peppers. The chili peppers are pan fried with garlic, salt, and drizzled with a squeeze of lemon.
Monday, July 16, 2012
A second day of posting in a row? Crazy? Maybe so, but I’m just trying to make up for lost time.
But on a more exciting note, today’s post is another Cast Iron Therapy Original! Well, an alpha version of one anyway, there are definite improvements that can be made.
Now, prepare yourself for some stream of consciousness style meandering narrative, or just skip to after the picture if that’s not your thing.
I wanted to make something regional initially, and a few ideas bounced around in my head as to what regional things were good in the area. Were I a lot further south in California, I could do a California Burrito, so there was that bouncing in my head.
At the same time, I wanted to try using some things from the farmer’s market as well, as that is pretty regional.
Going back to the idea of California however, there’s California Cuisine, which is “marked by an interest in fusion cuisine.” So, how about a fusion dish that uses local goods, and is partly inspired by the California Burrito. And… oh let’s fuse it with yakisoba while we’re at it.
In the end, this is regional from a very broad interpretation. It’s from the region of my brain.
I truly hope that I am not doing something horrific that the Japan and Mexico will hate me for doing in working on this recipe.
Ok, thanks for bearing with me in that really long introduction! Now for the recipe.
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Those are dried strawberries I’m garnishing it with by the way.
Another post, another absurdly late response to the 52 weeks of cooking challenge. I’ll be honest, it’s been pretty rough lately, I started an online course and I just started doing night classes to get my teaching credential. Not to mention all manner of freelance projects I can’t share at the moment!
I’m definitely keeping busy and I’m thankful for it, but it is definitely a drain on the ability to meet my ideal post quota.
Enough complaining though, I’ve got ice cream! Please note that I’m assuming you have an ice cream maker. There are other ways to handle it when you don’t have one, but really, if you like making ice cream, it is worth the investment. I’ve been using an older model of the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker for a number of years now and I have no complaints.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
I’ll leave aside most of the political commentary and just hope that everyone is having a good day of food, family, friends, and fireworks.
Since fireworks are illegal in my city, you’ll have to make do with the floral fireworks.
50 imaginary points to your House if you can identify this flower!
And here’s a bonus flower with a bit of a firework like look to it. It’s dill!
Everyone, have a safe and fun holiday.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Twenty minutes or less. Such a theme brings up a number of ideas for dishes, and it also makes one think up a variety of possible loopholes to exploit, especially since this week’s theme stipulated it was twenty minutes that starts after you assemble the mise en place.
So what about preheating an oven or a pot of oil? Or perhaps I was “assembling” my bread dough before baking it, or just “putting together” the batter for tempura before frying?
However, I don’t really like lawyers or exploiting a turn of phrase, so for this week, I decided to do something in twenty minutes, including the amount of time it took to put the things together…. Kale Chips. All in all, from start to the completion of the first batch took 16 minutes, including the time spent taking photos.
I suppose you could say there’s some exploitation involved since I was using non stick spray and a microwave, neither of which are involved in my usual cooking methodologies, but when beating the clock, you gotta do what you gotta do.
First the assembly of everything I’ll need. A large mixing bowl for washing and dressing the kale, one bunch of kale, a large plate that will fit in the microwave, parchment paper, and some ground sea salt. So far, two minutes elapsed.
Next, the Kale is washed and dried, shaken vigorously in the backyards with a swishing motion that makes people who haven’t seen it before wonder why you are throwing your vegetables on the ground, but say “ooh” when they realize what you’ve done.
Six minutes in total elapsed.
Tear the kale vigorously into smaller pieces with your hands quickly.
Spray quickly with non stick spray, then sprinkle on sea salt and get hands into it, ensuring non stick spray or oil and sea salt has coated all the surfaces of the kale. Nine minutes in total elapsed so far.
Spread a layer of kale on a dish lined with parchment paper. Ten minutes.
Microwave four minutes and test chips, decide they need one more minute. Scramble to hit the timer again. Sixteen minutes elapsed.
First batch of microwaved kale chips, not bad at all.
Place in a bowl to allow to cool a bit while finishing out the rest of the kale. The whole bunch obviously took a bit longer than twenty minutes, but if you cut out the cleaning and drying time with adequate preparation before hand, it will easily fit into twenty minutes.
Here’s my second batch. I have to say I was surprised at just how crispy and satisfying the kale chips were. I may have eaten most of an entire bunch of kale on my own in one night. I’d like to experiment with curry powder or other spice mixtures in the future.
Microwave Kale Chips, adapted from a bunch of different sources on the web.
- One bunch kale, washed and well dried
- Non stick spray or olive oil
- Finely ground sea salt to taste
- Ground pepper and other spices to taste
- Tear kale into medium sized pieces, discarding the thick stems, and place in a large container.
- Spray with enough nonstick spray to coat every piece of kale and sprinkle on a little sea salt and extra seasoning if using.
- Mix well with hands to ensure even coating and seasoning.
- Place kale on a large dish lined with parchment paper in an even layer. You probably can only do a third of the bunch or less per batch.
- Microwave for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Carefully remove kale chips from microwave, as the dish can get very hot. Pour into a serving bowl and repeat until all the kale has been turned into kale chips.
Sunday, May 27, 2012
French food week on 52 weeks of belated cooking posts. I mean 52 weeks of cooking. The week of the best cuisine in the world, at least if you subscribe to the theory that French food is the best food. I haven’t eaten enough or done enough comparison to make that judgment myself, but there is definitely a reputation there.
Then again, maybe there isn’t such a reputation anymore, depending on who you ask. That’s all I’ll say on that matter for now.
On a more personal level however, as a Vietnamese American, it is hard to deny the influence of the French upon our cuisine. The introduction of baguettes led to the now well known banh mi. Custards, potatoes, and onions are also a few of the many other introductions they made to Vietnamese cuisine, and I certainly have no complaints with these items at all.
And while it would be fairly easy to show off a French influenced Vietnamese dish, I shall try to be a bit more French leanings with the Gateau de Crepes, literally translated into a Crepe Cake. It may also be called a mille crepe, or thousand crepes, but given that it is either 20 or 30 layers typically, wouldn’t it be better to call it the vingt or trente cake?
Friday, May 18, 2012
It’s rice week on Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking, and I could have totally taken some more intrinsic routes, given my +2 to making Vietnamese rice dishes as a Vietnamese person.
Over the course of my life, it was very common to have rice twice a day, or maybe even three times a day, with a breakfast of fried rice from last night’s leftovers. Not to mention the uses of glutinous rice as well in desserts, celebratory dishes and so on.
It also usually involves a contraption like this. Asian people don’t need to know how to cook rice, since we have these fabulous machines to do it for us!
But when it comes to cooking I try to avoid the road more traveled, at least with cooking challenges. So I opted to take the rice I had on hand (from the traditional 50 pound bag most Asian households have) and made Horchata! Very glad I did too, it is super easy and delicious. Unfortunately she was not around, and was very jealous.
Thursday, May 3, 2012
A heads up for those who want to be in the know but are not yet, I thought I’d give everyone notice that I’ve been a writer for the comic book focused website, Comic Booked.
Mostly my focus has been on webcomics, but I’ve been given the freedom to start up a new column, Comic Cooked! For the first time around, I am doing a homage to Iron Man, and the man behind the armor, Tony Stark.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Few of the foods I have loved from my childhood evoke more ire and disdain from friends and celebrated food icons than the much maligned processed cheese food, also known as American Cheese, the boldly orange stuff found in convenient individual plastic wraps. Often considered a lowbrow food, it must be admitted that it is a much used ingredient by harried mothers everywhere seeking to make something quick and satisfying for their children after a long day of school and a great way to shut them up for a few minutes which they scarf down their white bread and American cheese while watching the afternoon cartoons.
Before then, I actually did not know what a true grilled cheese sandwich in this form was for a long time. My family had always simply placed the cheese on bread slices, and toasted them in the toaster oven, and I had liked it just fine, and still did after learning the proper way. Truth be told, I still enjoy this as a quick snack when I can get away with it. But when I witnessed my friend’s mother butter the sides of two pieces of bread, slide not one but two pieces of American cheese between them, and them grill them between the plates of a George Foreman grill did my perception of how grand a grilled cheese could be was truly elevated. Perhaps that experience was one of the contributing elements to my love of cooking and its abilities to transform food.
So it is this memory that I pay homage to for this post, and with love that I transform it into this. I really hope I’m not using the word deconstruction incorrectly when I call this a deconstructed grilled cheese. It seems more like a reconstruction, but obviously I haven’t watched enough Top Chef to figure it out.
So behold my creation of love and quick thinking, a “deconstructed grilled cheese,” which is now in the form of homemade bread dough, studded with chopped garlic, stuffed with American cheese, and fried to doneness.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Actually, I’d understand perfectly well if you were not, I won’t be offended really. That said, if you’re into asparagus, custards, and are adventurous enough to see what the bizarre love child of mingling the two would be, I would suggest you consider this admittedly somewhat out there recipe.
Ah, yes, by the way, this week’s theme is asparagus, not custard, but no one is keeping score I don’t think.
I originally had intended on doing something a bit more commonplace, such as roasted asparagus, a regular favorite in the household, but it being a challenge I decided to challenge myself. A tickle in the back of my head reminded me that there was something one could do with asparagus and eggs that was mentioned in Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio so I took a look and there it was, Asparagus Custard.
A bit taken aback, I had to beg my family to allow me to foist this upon them.
Molding issues aside, it had a really nice green color at the end of it. Oh and don’t worry, this isn’t a dessert at all, but it is certainly cooling. Read on if you haven’t been scared off!
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Instead, I opted to try out no knead bread, a baking application which has been on my mind since I read about it in The New York Times (online). It also involves an enameled cast iron pot, which if one uses as the mixing bowl as well, could justify my claim that this is indeed a one pot meal. Plus a towel and table. Details. And whether some slices of delicious bread and butter constitutes a meal.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
This is truly a glorious week for Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking, because it focuses on the sandwich! My love of sandwiches as a food marvel cannot be overstated, especially given how many of them I’ve posted here.
The sandwich is truly one of the most wonderful of food delivery mechanisms, as well as the most versatile. Though he wasn’t the inventor, the sandwich was given its most commonly used name by the John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who popularized the food item as a way to eat without needing to take a break from playing cards back in the day (Source: Sesame Street, Wikipedia.)
Friday, April 6, 2012
The great thing about quality products is that you don’t have to make a big production to have great results. The other day I had on hand some lovely Coho salmon, and found this rather simple preparation for baked salmon with bell peppers and capers, with both bell pepper and capers being items my mother loves in cooking. This is a key detail because I made this dish a few nights ago for my mother’s birthday.
The recipe actually calls for sockeye salmon. I’m not sure why there’s a particular emphasis on that kind, as I think this would work well with any fairly thick salmon fillet.
The ingredients are very simple to pull together. A few pounds of salmon fillet, olive oil, sea salt, capers, garlic (not pictured)…
And of course the bell pepper. Three would be preferable, as the peppers were quite nice. In a way, I felt a bit like Donald Rumsfeld in this aspect: you don’t go to dinner with the peppers you want, you go to dinner with the peppers you have. Actually, no, I didn’t feel like Donald Rumsfeld at all. That guy can go to hell.
You might want to preheat the oven to 375 degrees F at this point, but it can probably wait until the peppers have been dealt with.
That is you need to char them. A blow torch really would have been a better tool, as a bell pepper is a rather inconveniently shaped thing.
Once well charred all around, darkening as much skin as you can get without burning down into the flesh, allow to cool a bit and then wrap in plastic, or place in a covered bowl. The idea is to trap them with the moisture.
If you haven’t preheated the oven, now’s the time to do it.
Now, lay out your washed and paper towel dried salmon fillets in a baking dish coated liberally with olive oil.
Toss the capers and some cloves of garlic on the fillets.
Now’s a good time to deal with the bell peppers. Those uncharred nooks and crevices are a bit annoying but we’ll deal.
Rub off all of the skin from the now cooled off peppers. If you are a big cheater like me, doing this under running water helps speed up the process quite a bit. I’m sure you lose some flavor and nutrients but when you’re on the clock there’s no shame in a shortcut.
There we go, some beautiful skinned bell peppers with a nice moist “chewy” feel to the flesh.
Even roasted bell peppers can be cut up using the side slicing method I describe here, albeit with a bit more care. Then cut them up into roughly square inch-inch and half pieces and toss onto the fish.
Finally, season with finely ground black (or white) pepper and sea salt.
Put the whole assortment into the preheated oven for 16 minutes, and you’re all set! Let it sit for a few minutes before serving.
And there you have it. A simple but still very nice birthday meal for a mother. Provided she likes fish.
Baked salmon with Bell Pepper and Capers, adapted from Epicurious.
- Char bell peppers, then place in a covered bowl, or allow to cool slightly before placing them in a food safe plastic bag. Once completely cooled, remove skin and chop roughly into square pieces of about an inch or an inch and a half.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Wash and dry fish with paper towels.
- Place fish fillets, skin side down, in a baking dish coated liberally (but don’t go overboard) with olive oil.
- Toss on the capers, cloves, and bell pepper pieces, then season with fine sea salt and ground black or white pepper.
- Place baking dish into preheated oven for 16 minutes. Remove and allow to cool a few minutes before serving.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Note: Don’t actually drink this much sbiten.
Ok, a bit late. I have finally done what I didn’t want to do, submit a recipe for 52 weeks of cooking on the first day of the following week.
But I guess given how many people submit weeks afterwards, I should not be so hard on myself.
This week’s theme is Russian food by the way, which is something I’ve never ever really thought about outside of a James Bond movie, or hearing about borscht. I wanted to try something a bit different however, and I think I found the ticket on wikipedia: sbiten, a spiced honey drink akin to good old grog, scourge of scurvy. Actually given how little citrus is in this, I’m not sure it would prevent scurvy.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
A few weeks back, I gave my first try at using choux pastry to make profiteroles, most definitely a sweet treat. This time I am using it as a vessel to serve of some cheesy goodness, seeing as how cheese is this week’s theme for the 52 week cooking challenge.
Oh, a quick aside, here is a shout out to a young person in PA who has just started checking out the blog and going through some challenges right now. There are people thinking of you and rooting for things to work out! All the best luck to ya kid.
Ok back to business.
The preparation is called the gougere and is prepared almost exactly like the choux pastry for the profiteroles, with possibly the slight change of slightly more salt. And of course the addition of cheese. I’d like to take the time to add a caveat that one not go too crazy with the salt depending on the cheese you intend to use.
If you had, say a particularly salty Parmigiano-Reggiano, rather than adding a full teaspoon extra of salt, you might just want to go for a pretty big pinch.
And if you don’t care about looks and feel very lazy, they can end up rather flat looking. But still wonderfully creamy and cheesy on the inside.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Thanks for coming to check out the blog again. Something a bit different this time. This time the challenge on Reddit was to make a dish that was movie or book inspired.
So I went and made something. So what the hell is it some of you may be asking? I might actually be cheating here since rather than a novel kind of book it’s from the manga/anime Yakitate!! Ja-Pan, which follows the story of some baker in the pursuit of bread, with the focus being on protagonist Azuma Kazuma, both something of a bumpkin and baking genius who has come up with several classic bread recipes out of his own head, and having no idea of the original recipe, refers to them as Ja-pan, a pun on being Japanese and pan, or bread.
So what the hell is this you thing I have presented here you might ask? Why it is Ja-pan #16 obviously!
Sunday, March 4, 2012
It’s another almost last minute post to meet this week’s theme on 52 Weeks of Cooking. At least it isn’t Sunday. Well, maybe it is, but I started working on this post on Saturday, so give me at least partial credit. Ok racing the clock!
As stated in the title, the theme is Coffee. I wrestled quite a bit over what to make. After a bit of deliberation, along with some flat out rejection of my thoughts of some savory coffee dishes by my family, I opted to go with something a bit more conventional, and took the dessert route. I had my heart set on making curry, but I suppose paying tribute to a Vietnamese Borrowed from French cooking tradition, the Bánh Choux, or as it is more commonly called in the States, a Cream Puff. Other equally acceptable names are Bánh Xu, Bánh Su, Bánh Sữa, and as mentioned in the title, profiteroles. I’m sure I’ve missed a few iterations not to mention several languages, but we have some cooking to get to.
Anyway, first the glamour shot. This is the end result folks! So now that you know what we’re in for, you can continue reading or… well, I hope you do.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Are there terrible puns I am unwilling to make? No. Especially if they are based on food. I will apologize for them though, so, I’m sorry. Kind of.
Now that apologies are out of the way, I will put the most awesome foreword I could ever put on this blog (for now.) This bread is Michael Ruhlman approved! He retweeted the picture I put on twitter, saying “nice crumb!” Super awesome feeling to have someone I respect that much compliment something I did learning from his book!
So with that in mind, I promised I would post about the ciabatta bread in my last post, and so here we go.
I opted to take some of his suggestions for making a roasted garlic and rosemary bread to heart, and substituted dried oregano for fresh rosemary.
As always, the use of Michael’s guidelines in Ratio greatly demystified the process of baking.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
I again push the deadline on posting something for the 52 Weeks of Cooking challenge on Reddit. But by the time this posts, it should be before midnight in my time zone. Heck there is plenty of time before it is midnight in Hawaii. But enough apologizing, on to the soup.
I again am doing something mostly by the seat of my pants in this case. Looking for a few recipes gave me a good idea of what would work; unfortunately, I didn’t have all the ingredients to any particular recipe, so I just borrowed some ideas from a few recipes and went with it.
So why is it ItaLatino Chicken Stew? One because it sounds ridiculous, and I’m open to new names. Two because it uses “Italian style” crushed tomatoes and fajita seasoning. And Italian Fajita soup just sounds even more wrong. And there’s not really that many fajita ingredients in this dish. And while there’s a slightly chili like quality to the dish, I know people are really particular about what to call chili, and I don’t feel like offending anyone today.
There’s a whole lot of delicious though, and it was a pretty good way to slightly empty out the freezer and pantry, which is always appreciated in this household.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
We’ve done this dance once before, but I saw enough potential in the agnolotti method that I simply had to give it another go with different ingredients. Specifically, something with more protein. I also thought that this attempt would be a good time to knock out another ratio from Ratio. With this post I have currently used 7 out of 31 ratios. For anyone trying to keep count here’s what I’ve done so far: fritters, pasta, pie dough, sponge cake, brine, mayo, mousseline.
Chicken mousseline is typically made with the dark meat, but I decided to chance it with chicken breast meat this time. For the record, it worked out just fine.