Saturday, May 23, 2009

quite old photos

Hello again! It's been crazy busy these past couple months, as evidenced by the lack of activity on the blog. But first, out with the big news: I, uh, graduated from college last week! :-) I've now got a shiny BA in Music and am ready to go out and tackle Real Life (starting with getting a job, my lack of success at which has lost me no small amount of sleep over the last month or so).

However, I do have pictures! They are from the first Easter dinner I made without my parents, which I was worried was going to be one hopeless mishap after another (I am still very much learning how to cook), but ended up being extremely delicious. Cooking this dinner was a team effort between myself, my sister Sarah, and my friend Alex, and the group dynamic may have contributed to nothing going horribly, horribly wrong. We made lamb chops with glazed apples, a salad, and garlic bread. Yum!

Lamb chops looking delicious as they cook. The recipe called for 1-inch thick chops, but the store didn't have them so I got 2-inch ones and improvised tastily.

Apples getting ready to go in with the lamb.

The finished products--salad, lamb with apples, and garlic bread. Success!

LAMB CHOPS WITH GLAZED APPLES (recipe courtesy of my mom and wherever she got it)

4 lamb loin or sirloin chops (each cut about 1" thick)
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
2 medium cooking applies, cut in wedges
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

(About 30 minutes before serving)

Slash edges of lamb chops. In 12" skillet over medium heat, in hot butter or margarine, cook chops until browned on both sides and of desired doneness (about 15 minutes). Place chops on platter. In same skillet, in hot lamb drippings, cook apples until tender, stirring from time to time. Stir in remaining ingredients; heat just until brown sugar is melted, stirring constantly. Arrange apple mixture around lab chops. Makes 4 servings.

Things are going to continue to be busy here, both with the aforementioned job search and real life hitting me in the face, and also because I'm spending the next month making preparations for a very special and exciting event. :-) And, if you're like my friends, teachers, and everyone else who's asked me what my move out to KC really means, calm down--your fearless bloggers are NOT getting engaged. :-P Believe me, if you've answered that question as much as I have, you'd put a disclaimer on the blog too. We are, however, very excited to not be writing these posts from a literal thousand miles away anymore.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stir-fry/Steamed Asparagus

Two weeks ago at the market, I bought some asparagus, and was told that it was the last harvest of the season. I wasn't surprised, as it wasn't the best-looking asparagus ever (a bit thick), and was also the only bunch I saw in the entire market. Well, that was apparently false, as this past week there was asparagus everywhere. At least five farmers were selling it, and it was all the beautiful thin kind. So I bought some. Last week I sauteed mine with ginger and new potatoes and it was delicious, so I decided to try a variant on that today.

I don't know if "stir-fry/steaming" is a real technique of any sort, but that's my name for what you do when you first stir-fry a vegetable, then add a small amount of liquid and cover the pot to let it fully cook by steaming. I debated just using water, but I wanted to infuse the asparagus with some flavor, so I added just a bit of soy sauce and vinegar.

1 small bunch thin asparagus (twelve to fifteen stalks)
1 small piece ginger, minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
Light soy sauce
Rice vinegar

Heat about one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pot until shimmering, and add the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for about thirty seconds, and add the asparagus. Stir-fry for another minute or two, then add about a tablespoon of soy sauce, a dash of rice vinegar, and just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot evenly. Cover the pot, turn the heat to medium-low, and steam for three or four minutes - this happens pretty fast. When the asparagus is as tender as you like it, uncover the pot, turn the heat back to high, and cook until the water boils off. Serve with rice!

Speaking of rice, I bought some new rice at the Chinatown market. It's a short-grain black rice called Gao Den, so my guess is it's Vietnamese. I tried making a batch today - I had no idea what proportions to use, so I tried six ounces of rice and ten ounces of water. That was a little too much water, since it was done in 25 minutes and there was still water in the bottom. I'll try nine ounces of water next time. The rice turns the cooking water an amazing dark purple, and the rice is delicious - not sticky as I thought it might be, but slightly nutty and flavorful.

No pictures of either yet, but some may be forthcoming if I can persuade myself to take them before I devour everything. :)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Three Cups Swiss Chard, Modified (plus extra pictures)

A couple of weeks ago, I read a recipe for Three Cups Chicken on Appetite for China. It looked quite tasty and easy, so I saved it for future reference - it's a Taiwanese recipe that involves braising chicken in equal parts sesame oil, rice wine, and soy sauce. Then today, I picked up some great-looking red chard at the market, and was fishing for a way to season it up. I decided to try the three cups seasoning, although I remembered it as using rice vinegar instead of rice wine. So I tossed some ginger and garlic in a hot pan, then added the chard to wilt it quickly, added soy sauce, vinegar, and oil, covered the pan for about ten minutes, and the results are below. It was delicious! The vinegar taste balanced out by the slight sweetness of the sesame oil, and the soy sauce just added a slight earthiness to the whole dish.

This next picture is of a quick stir-fry I cooked up last week when I needed dinner on short notice. I don't remember exactly what was in it, but it was definitely at least onions, green onions, cilantro, garlic, and some seasoning sauces.

On to baking! These are some beautiful corn muffins I made, based on my mom's recipe. Here's my version:

1 cup AP flour (160 grams)
1 cup or 190g cornmeal
1/3-1/2c or 100-130g sugar depending on how sweet you like it
2-3 tbsp or ~70g vegetable oil
1 egg
1c milk or water (~240g)
2-3 tsp baking powder (12-18g)
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Beat the egg and mix with the oil and milk/water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing until they're just combined - lumps are fine. Don't overmix. Fill six muffin cups evenly and bake for 20-25 minutes depending on the consistency of your oven - start toothpick-testing at 20 minutes.

Up next: scones! This is a recipe I made just as Baking Bites' recipe described*, so go there and check it out! They were fantastic - slightly crumbly but moist, and very peanut-buttery.

*One addition I made: I stirred an extra tablespoon of peanut butter in after adding all the liquids. It made for an almost-swirl of peanut butter in the finished scones, since it wasn't completely incorporated, and it was a very good flavor boost.

The last recipe is matzah brei! The recipe I used is almost ridiculously easy, and here it is:

Two pieces matzah
One egg
Brown sugar (optional)

Crumble the matzah into small pieces and soak in cold water for a few minutes. It should be soft but not disintegrating. Drain the matzah by picking it up in clumps and squeezing as much water as possible out of it. Beat the egg and combine with the matzah, using a fork to mix them together evenly. Heat 2 teaspoons or so of butter in a pan and add the matzah-egg mixture, then pat it evenly into the pan with a spatula. You're trying to end up with a matzah brei cake like in the picture below. Slicing the cake into the pieces in the pan will make it easier to flip - brown the cake on both sides and you're done! Garnish liberally with brown sugar and salt. :)