Fifty Shades of Salad

Start Saying Hanjuku Tamago

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a plate photo!

Full Disclosure: I can’t think of any other phrase that would properly articulate the joy of reading, “Welcome back!” in text messages responding to plate photos being sent to them for the first time in far too long besides “Thank You. Thank you so, so much.” Y’all rock.

Okay. On the off-chance you thought the title of this post referred to some sort of complicated methodology you wouldn’t dream of attempting, think again. For the trivia lovers, non-Japanese-Americans, and the few who don’t make a regular habit of consuming ramen, (By the way, please start consuming ramen if you don’t. Find your Ramen Wonderland, go forth, and be centered. I digress.), hanjuku tamago just means “half-boiled egg.”

A dear friend of mine recently purchased a sous vide immersion circulator, (Google it), and told me about his ability to make the liquid-yolk eggs of my fantasies consistently as a result, and I’ve since been in search of radioactive spiders to bite me, in hope that they will provide me with this superpower.

The concept of cooking eggs in sous vide immersion circulators being hyped as the ideal means of execution brings about the angsty teenage rebel in me. This may be true, but if restaurants without such technology can make it happen on a regular basis, then why can’t I do the same at home?

The way I prepare hanjuku tamago (get used to it, start using it) is not the same way I prepare hard-boiled eggs. Don’t start groaning, yet. The end will justify the means.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat, then add a large pinch of salt. (Remember, you only need enough water to cover the eggs, so a smaller pot is fine. Just remember to account for water displacement once things start getting hot.)

Use a slotted spoon to lower the eggs into the water, (Trust me when I say dumping water out of an egg while peeling it just feels yucky.), and let them sit there for 6-8 minutes. The eggs photographed below were cooked for 8 minutes, then sat around for a bit while I made the plate look halfway decent.

When time is up, gently drain the eggs into a colander, then immediately run tap water as cold as you can get it over them. Scandalize and shock those eggs into not cooking any further. Keep running the water and turning the eggs until they are cool to the touch, then gently crack and peel them. When it’s time to serve them, slice them in half with a sharp knife, otherwise yolk will ooze everywhere in something more tragic than choosing to take the 405 in Los Angeles at 5:00 PM – that’s not sexy.

This amazing cookbook, written by the American wife of a Japanese egg farmer, recommends dipping hanjuku tamago in both soy sauce and mayonnaise. With this in mind, the dipping sauce/salad dressing used here consisted of the following:

  • soy sauce (low sodium, please)
  • sesame oil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • garlic
  • green onions

Mess around with the proportions. Quite honestly, I wasn’t keeping track, but I’d recommend one tablespoon of sesame oil for every two tablespoons of soy sauce for getting started. The amount of olive oil is a matter of preference. I only added a splash, because I was worried the dipping sauce would start tasting too greasy. Fling a dollop of mayonnaise on the side, and if you’re into this sort of thing, a raaare steak on top. (Seriously, just walk the cow through a warm room with some flame-throwers, and I’m good.)

hanjuku tamago

For all you Spotify guys and gals, the playlist for this one went as follows:

“Miss Jackson” – Panic! At the Disco
“Stereo Hearts” – Gym Glass Heroes & Adam Levine
“Mind Your Manners” – Chiddy Bang
“Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” – Jay Z
“Stacy’s Mom” – Bowling for Soup
“Stroke Me” – Mickey Avalon
“All Star” – Smash Mouth”

Fifty Shades of Salad: #30 Buttermilk-Goat Cheese Dressing

Everyone around me seems to be giving up meat and alcohol until Easter. This leaves me with a seemingly endless amount of time to experiment with cooking meat, provided I can keep thinking of ways to prepare it. As such, I’ve been having an affair with steak salad. I’m also in a fair amount of trouble, because I have no idea what type of dressing goes with steak salad.

The majority of my salad-eating friends don’t take their dressing on the side. They’re a one-stop-shop for creamy dressings, meat, and the occasional poached egg on top. You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s the high-quality call girl version of a salad, and her name isn’t “Ginger,” “Belle,” or “Bambi.” This dressing is worth every penny paid for the ingredients, just like that hooker. (Not that I condone anything illegal. I would never.)

I should tell you up-front there’s horseradish in this dressing. I wanted to incorporate a classic steak garnish into a new version of creamy salad dressing. The balance and proportions are up to you when it comes to the horseradish. Taste your food, people. I’m not going to leave you alone until you taste your food.

Making this salad dressing was a journey. It’s just a couple of ingredients, nothing major, but there’s just enough of a twist in flavor and texture to bring up questions you’ll want answers to. “What is that tang?”; “Where is that heat coming from?” (FYI: The goat cheese is the tang. The horseradish is the heat.)

Don’t get flustered if the proportions don’t taste clear the first time you try making this. For me, this started as two sentences in a pamphlet from an old Food Network Magazine, and turned into something I’d want to eat weekly. Besides, standard vinaigrettes feel like ordering your coffee black for a walk through the park after you’ve made this dressing. I can vouch for it, because I threw up my hands in frustration while trying to figure out the ratios of this and broodingly whisked together red wine vinegar, dijon, and olive oil to prove I wasn’t completely useless.

Buttermilk Goat-Cheese Dressing

Puree 2/3 cup Buttermilk (you can buy it in the dairy section; and no, low-fat or skim milk won’t cut it); 5 ounces Goat Cheese (look on the package for reference); 3 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar; 1 tablespoon horseradish (NOT a heaping tablespoon); and 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a blender/food processor/Vitamix/Magic Bullet/etc. until smooth. Stir in chopped fresh dill and chives to taste.

Steak Salad

Fifty Shades of Salad #5: Mediterranean Vinaigrette (and a Moderately Serious Post About My Mother)

My mother loves fresh vegetables, especially tomatoes grown at my grandmother’s farm in Sacramento. She still finds it amusing that the bumpy, multi-colored tomatoes too ugly to sell for profit and only used for family meals are now the expensive “heirloom” varieties in stores and farmers markets.

I didn’t develop an appreciation for tomatoes and salad until my senior year of high school. Strange, but true.

My mom is awesome. I talk to my parents as often as possible, and can honestly say there are no secrets between us. Nothing is off-limits with them. From a very young age, they drilled into me their desire to always know – the sex, drugs, and Kim/Kanye elements of everything I do.

Don’t worry. She’s not this mom.

My parents let me experience things for myself before asking them for help. This is especially emotional for me to process now, since some of the stuff I pulled couldn’t have been easy to watch. It was recently the three-year anniversary of a very intense brain surgery my mother had in 2010. Needless to say, I’m feeling very nostalgic and had some tears to spare earlier.

Mediterranean Vinaigrette for Any of Mom’s Salads:

Whisk together 2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar + 2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard + 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + pepper to taste + 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Mash in 1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese.

Whisk in an additional 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley + 1 teaspoon dry oregano + 1 diced plum tomato.

This vinaigrette goes wonderfully with any Mediterranean-type chicken recipe.

Tell whatever motherly figure – family, friend, etc. – that you love them.

Love you, Mom. Real talk.

Fifty Shades of Salad #4: I know it’s a lot, but I’m giving you bacon.

Bacon (n.) – [BAY-KON]

the back and sides of the hog, salted and dried or smoked, usually sliced thin and fried for food

Idioms:

“Bring home the bacon” – i.e. to provide for material needs, be successful or victorious

According to urbandictionary:

Delicious strips of juicy, pork heaven. Served often at breakfast with eggs, but perfectly good served alone and at any time of day.

Bacon is delicious. It’s enough to make one-night stands stick around for breakfast and keep hangovers at bay until you can sink back into the safety of your pillow. Or if you’re me, it’s enough to make the busiest week of the museum year (my Monday and Tuesday consisted of dealing with 1,168 and 1,248 visitors respectively….and that was only the beginning….) go away when eaten in bed while watching “How I Met Your Mother,” “Daria,” and “Friends.”

Try this vinaigrette for a hint of decadent happiness without compromising calories.

Whisk together 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, pepper to taste, and 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Once emulsified, whisk in 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, 3 slices of crumbled cooked bacon (try to find thick cut bacon….it’s got the best texture), and 2 tablespoons chopped green onions.

Crispy nuggets of love.

Finally getting my hair cut tomorrow. After which I plan to lounge about in the sunshine while watching 90s TV reruns on my laptop.

Within the next couple of weeks, I’ll also be filming my first video blog entry. Any suggestions for things to cook? Or advice on how to look skinny on camera?

Fifty Shades of Salad #3: Roasted Garlic Salad Dressing

October 2013: The Month of Garlic. At least that’s what it seems to be turning into. I realize the month is just beginning, but I’ve been craving strong, garlicky flavor with everything…..on fries….on macaroni and cheese recipe….and in salad dressing. I’m not fighting any vampires, and at least the person most likely to smell my garlic breath is consuming all these things with me?

I’m ordinarily strongly opposed to salad dressings that take longer than one minute to make. I made an exception for this one because I wanted an excuse to roast garlic. If you’ve never tried roasted garlic, there’s no time like the present. Our Awesome Former Roommate and I have both admitted to eating an entire head of roasted garlic by ourselves. Because we’re awesome.

(And vampire slayers.)

Oh, right. You’re here for the salad. Go make the vinaigrette, already.

Instructions:

Slice the top off 1 head of garlic and drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Wrap in foil and roast at 400 degrees until tender (about 35 minutes). Place a baking sheet underneath the foil ball of garlic love in case any of the oil drips out. Once tender, let cool and squeeze out the cloves – they should be golden brown and delicious looking.

Combine 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, pepper to taste, and 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a blender, food processor, or magic bullet until smooth.

Add the peeled roasted garlic cloves and 3 tablespoons grated parmesan and blend again.

No vampire or wooden stake necessary for serving.

No Edward Cullen in sight.

Fifty Shades of Salad #2: Scallion White Wine Vinaigrette

Maybe I’m not the biggest White Wine Vinegar fan? Maybe I’m craving whole grain mustard instead of a singular texture? I’ll try again with my work salad today. Regardless of my “meh” feeling, this one got the seal of approval from various gentlemen visiting our apartment – all claiming willingness to have this dressing again.

While I’m thinking of it: what are your opinions on bottling homemade salad dressings for Christmas gifts? I’m not trying to start a holiday panic; I’m trying to think ahead. I always see the most interesting glass bottles and other eclectic craftsy things on sale during the summer. Is it because people are too busy flocking to beaches and vacation destinations to craft things? People who are talented at this sort of thing (crafting), please fill me in….

The original version of this recipe in my notes called for one raw shallot, but multiple years of avoiding green onions in my stereotypically-Japanese-American favorite childhood snack of miso soup has made me use them in en masse.

P.S. If you chop an onion while it’s submerged in water, your eyes won’t tear up. Stay happy! Cooking is fun!

Scallion White Wine Vinaigrette

Whisk together 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar + 2 teaspoons Dijon + 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + pepper to taste + 3 green onions, tips cut off, thinly sliced + 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Fifty Shades of Salad #1: A Classic Vinaigrette for an Anything-But-Classic Day

Bad days suck.

It started with spilling foundation on one of my favorite dresses (thank you for alleviating my fears, Tide To-Go) and ending with a sleepy Mr. Right closing the window of my car onto three of my fingers. (OW.)

What’s your favorite comfort food? I don’t necessarily mean the classic image of comfort food – mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, any form of dessert or potato chip….those things are all delicious, but they don’t magically make everything better. At least not for me.

When everything still gloomy and poignantly over-dramatic, I need chocolate milk (and I mean adding Ghirardelli syrup to regular milk, not that nasty pre-mixed nonsense , a large salad, or Thai food. (Not all at the same time, though. That’s just gross.)

Whilst brooding and annoying Mr. Right, who was being saintly and doing numerous things to make me feel better, i.e. dunking me in a hot bath with ice on the side for my injured finger and a glass of wine, I flipped through my notebooks, magazines, and books in search of something interesting to drag me out of my funk. I discovered I had over fifty different versions of…..salad dressing.

What the hell? How did that happen? Real talk, that’s just sad….

Hence the following:

fiftyshades

Not saying it’s as awesome as Neil Patrick Harris. But at least it’ll get me through bikini season with a healthier body?

Classic Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar + 2 teaspoons Dijon (any texture will do) + 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt + pepper to taste – Then whisk in 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Also remember that the best salads are simple. It’s about adding the right pop of flavor to the fresh produce at hand. For best results, spoon the dressing over your salad one tablespoon at a time.