New Classics

Gee, Vocal Chords. You Suck. : A Miso Soup Re-Run

Dear Vocal Chords, you’ve got to understand where I’m coming from. Your decision to go on strike is getting a bit out-of-hand. If it’s about indulging in dairy products or consuming alcohol, we can discuss other options besides a complete shut-out. I feel like it’s the 90s and any minute now, Ashton Kutcher is going to walk out with a Zoo York or Von Dutch trucker hat and tell me I’ve been Punk’d.

Exhibit A. Him holding a T-Mobile Sidekick is just a bonus.

I didn’t realize how upsetting a sudden onset of vocal chord drama could be. This is nothing compared to the misunderstood teenagers on Degrassi: The Next Generation.

I digress.

I’m pretty rough on my vocal chords. I’m sure I could be a better human by valuing my ability to speak. I have no other symptoms of misery – fever, chills, etc. – just a cough worthy of Lifetime movie drug addicts and no sound when I attempt to speak. I’m a loon, and as such am not using sick leave from work, and have been getting by with e-mails, a notepad, and goodwill of others.

And miso soup. Misoshiru, for members of my family reading this who think I’ve forgotten all of my toddler Nihongo.

I’ve posted about miso soup before. I’ve even made a shitty video with no background music attempting to demonstrate how to make it. It is disturbingly simple to make, and miraculously healing. That is quite a deal – a lot for soup to give you in return for a trip to a Japanese market or international aisle/section of a grocery store.

We’re going to have a brief discussion about miso. Roll your eyes, but if you end up with nasty or weak-tasting soup, don’t come back crying. These next two paragraphs are crucial.

The type of miso you use will drastically change the flavor of your soup. All misos are not created equally. My mother (and entire family) uses Shiromiso, or white miso. It is the most widely produced type of miso, and uses the least amount of soybeans and fermentation time. The taste is consequently sweet, soft, and light. Awase miso is my favorite. It mixes white and red miso together for a slightly stronger taste without losing the light texture.

After choosing your miso wisely, choose your proportions wisely. Since I like stronger miso, 2 tablespoons dissolved in 2 cups of boiling stock is more than enough for me. Experiment. You’ll be buying these ingredients in bulk, anyway.

Misoshiru aka Miso Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick iriko dashi – Japanese Soup base. The tubes look like blue pixie sticks with Japanese writing on them. They come in large bags at Japanese markets. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you want konbu dashi, since iriko dashi is made with a fish base.
  • 2 cups Water
  • 2 tablespoons awase miso (or shiro miso)
  • 4 inari – Fried Bean Curd. Eat them, don’t eat them, choose your own adventure. Buy them and use them to give your soup flavor, even if you don’t like eating the curd itself.
  • 1 block Extra-Firm Tofu, cut into bite-size cubes – Anything less firm than Extra-Firm will fall apart in the soup and look gross. Tofu is like binary code, use the right kind (1) or nothing at all (0).
  • Green Onions – Roughly Chopped

Combine the iriko dashi and water together in a pot over High heat. Stir until the dashi powder is dissolved. Bring to a solid (not rolling) boil, then turn the heat down to medium. Add the miso, and stir until it is completely dissolved.

Once the miso is dissolved, add the inari and tofu.

Let everything simmer together until the tofu is cooked to your liking.  (15 minutes? 20 minutes? Something like that.)

Cure yo’self.

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No Muss, Some Fuss: Cumin and Citrus Roasted Carrots

One of the reasons self-diagnosed lachanophobics still risk the possible horror of eating vegetables is the possible magic of beautiful and delicate flavor. Sometimes it’s best to steer into the curve and forgo meat in favor of vegetable authenticity. Plus it couldn’t hurt to throw the vegan, gluten-free members of my core a bone. Or carrot top, since nothing they eat involves bones. Hey! No judgment. This recipe is warm and luscious with a spicy edge, just like that George Clooney scene in “Out of Sight.” See below for reference.

As an alternative, I also present a synonym to this level of steaminess: Jessica Alba and Paul Walker in “Into the Blue.”

This recipe is from a Jean-Georges cookbook, which makes it elegant and flavorful, with a hint of food-snob. Get “kinda interested,” in this one. I know you’re probably not in the market for a celebrity chef commitment, but this recipe takes less than an hour to throw together. That’s not even enough time for two episodes of “Friends” on Netflix.

The light-hearted references aside, this is one of those perfect recipes that will make you look like a more talented cook than you actually are. Your day will change. And don’t worry, it’s not always perfect in Curating My Cooking Land. Later this week, I’ll update you on what happened when I tried to mess with creamy salad dressing. For now, just make these carrots.

Roasted Carrots with Whole Cumin and Citrus

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound medium carrots – peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves – finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds aka “Whole Cumin” if you shop at Vons or Whole Foods
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Red Chili Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Equal parts (about 1 to 2 tablespoons each) Red Wine Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and boil the carrots for 20 minutes.

While the carrots are boiling, combine the garlic, cumin seeds, thyme, red chili flakes, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Whisk in the red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Remove the carrots from the boiling water with tongs, so they keep their pretty shape. Place in a small baking dish, and pour the cumin seed dressing/marinade thing over the top. Slice the orange and lemon in half – squeeze the juice on top of the carrots, and leave the halves resting on top during the roasting process to infuse the flavor.

Roast for 25 minutes.

Shazam. Flavor.

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What’s the Deal with Spam?

We do not eat Spam. We eat fast food burgers and hot dogs from street carts at 2:00 AM, but we do not eat Spam. Spam is for weirdos…..what’s it made out of, anyway? Eating Spam would destroy my reputation.

What if I told you Spam is delicious?

First, open the can….you don’t even need a can opener. Break the seal and slide it out (this is not sexual at all – trust)….in this moment your entire existence will change. This is the moment you decide who you are….there is no “reset” button. Now look. The reason we “don’t eat Spam,” is because Spam doesn’t play by the rules. We don’t know what’s in it. It comes in a can. It’s processed. It’s strange.

Why?

It’s found all over Hawai’i. It’s found all over the world. In 2007, seventy years after its inception by Hormel, the 7-billionth can was sold.

I’m serious! You can go on and on (and on) about how you “don’t get” Spam. That doesn’t change the fact that 30% of American households consume it on a regular basis. The highest per-capita consumption is in Hawai’i, but that makes sense, considering it was developed by local Japanese residents during World War II to be used by American troops. The large military presence in Hawai’i cemented its use after the conclusion of the war.

Its most common use is in Spam Musubi.

musubi – (Japanese) a rice ball wrapped in nori, usually with some kind of filling – usually something salty

Wait! Don’t pack up and leave yet. Go to Amazon and purchase a Spam Musubi mold for between $4-6 if you don’t have one. (I’m assuming you don’t, since you’re most likely reading this post with moderately perturbed curiosity, unless you’re a member of my family.)  If you don’t like this recipe, you can use this mold for other Japanese sushi rice cooking endeavors. Try it.

A basic teriyaki sauce consists of equal ratios of soy sauce and sugar (i.e. 1 tablespoon of soy sauce for every 1 tablespoon of sugar, for those of you not used to talking in ratios,) and you’re going to use this magical unicorn sauce principle to make Spam taste delicious. This isn’t about ego, this is about you experiencing a simple, onolicious flavor that’s da kine, bro. I don’t have time to explain what “da kine” means, because I’m too occupied trying to get you to try Spam. Google it after this.

Onolicious Spam Musubi

STEP 1: Prepare steamed white rice. (I use a rice cooker. You may use the stove. Tomato. Tomaahto.)

STEP 2: Remove Spam from can and slice lengthwise into 8 pieces.

STEP 3: Heat a few tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is warm – NOT smoking – add the Spam slices and sprinkle sugar on top. Cook, flipping occasionally, until caramelized on both sides. Remove with a spatula and drain on a paper towel.

ASSEMBLE: Lay out 1/2 sheet of nori (that’s the dry seaweed sold in the red bag in the international section, for those of you without access to a Japanese market) and place the musubi mold on top. Fill the mold with rice, a singular cooked Spam slice, and more rice. (Don’t overstuff the mold, or your musubi will fall apart.) Press the top of the mold down to compact the rice and spam. Wrap the seaweed around the finished pressed filling.

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I know what you’re hesitation is. I honestly do, but you’re doing the right thing. Trust.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie: A Ridiculous Rhyme and A Legacy Recipe

First, a poem I composed while drinking wine and packing for my Thanksgiving flight up north.

‘Twas the day before Thanksgiving, and all through the house
The scent of ground cinnamon saturated my hair and my blouse;
My apron and sweater hung forgotten in the corner;
My prep list was making me wish I were a foreigner;
A disposable pie tin nestled all snug in its plastic,
While visions of burnt crust made my task unenthusiastic;
With Jay-Z, Cher, and Blink-182 on shuffle,
I was ready to settle for buying a Godiva truffle (or twelve);
When out in the living room there arose such a sound,
It was my cell phone – as always – bringing me something profound;
An e-mail from my mother pops up with a flash,
Calming me just before my teeth started to gnash;
The recipe for my late Grandmother’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie,
Was enough to make me heave a relieved sigh;
Losing her this year is still raw and I miss her so dearly,
Maybe by making her pie – my favorite growing up – I’ll be able to feel her presence clearly;
It’s simple enough – nothing strange or profound,
And all my holiday memories are full of me eating slices by the pound;
More rapid than eagles my inspiration came about,
Enough to rid my mind of any shadow of a doubt;
It’s pie crust, and filling, and a meringue, to boot,
The directions so simple, there couldn’t be a more clear route.

For my Grandmother, who laughed at my foolishness and never complained.

 

I apologize for the ridiculous rhyme. It’s my first Thanksgiving without my maternal Grandmother, the classic iteration of a Japanese-American farm matriarch, and I’m not quite ready or certain about what to write. The fact that I’m making the pie always associated with her – she made it last year, with the exception of the crust, since the arthritis in her hands made her unable to roll out the dough – hasn’t fully absorbed yet.

I’m tearing up, and I haven’t even written the recipe yet. Just know that this is copied almost directly from an ancient edition (1950s or earlier) of a Betty Crocker/Better Homes and Gardens/equivalent recipe book. The pie crust recipe is a combination of various experiments, and doesn’t include directions for a food-processor, since my Grandmother couldn’t afford one.

This is the lightest pumpkin pie I have ever had, and probably have yet to have.

My Grandmother’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

For The Crust (9″):

Don’t freak out at the weight measurements! Those proportions come from the incomparable pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini, who believes measuring cups are for sandcastles when it comes to baking. (Buy his shirt at Flavour Gallery if you agree.)

  • 1 and 1/4 cup (200 g) All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 g) Cold Unsalted Butter – Cut in Cubes
  • 3 tablespoons Ice Water

Combine the dry ingredients with the cold butter – use your hands, get dirty – until it becomes the size of small peas/coarse meal. Add the ice water and knead lightly until the dough becomes a ball. Pat the dough into a round disc, wrap in plastic, and chill for 1 hour.

Once the dough is chilled, roll out to your liking. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.

For the Pie Filling:

  • 1 envelope Unflavored Gelatin
  • 2/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/4 cup Pumpkin (use Libby’s. Make life easier on yourself. Besides, any other variety will use a lower quality squash and not actual pumpkin.)
  • 3 Eggs – Whites and Yolks Separated and Saved
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 3/8 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
  • 1/2 cup Sugar

In a saucepan, combine the gelatin, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin, egg yolks, and milk over Medium Heat until it just starts to boil. Let cool.

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until frothy, then beat in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is stiff and glossy. (You’ll feel it get difficult to mix.)

Fold the egg white mixture into the pumpkin mixture and pour into the baked pie crust. Cool for at least three hours.

No whipped cream necessary for enjoyment.

Pumpkin Pie

“Baby’s First Curry” Has a Better Ring to It than “Baby’s First Steps”

The first time I had curry and remembered it was at a Japanese restaurant I frequented growing up in Sacramento. A new collaborative chef-partner revised the menu after I left for college. While home for a visit and out to dinner with friends, I randomly selected one of the new dishes to try. My initial reaction was to look around in shock, my eyes widened and most likely dilated. “Guys, this is f**king perfect. I’m serious,” I said.

After that, I didn’t speak very much. I was too busy shoveling as much curry as possible into my mouth like a truck driver. The restaurant in question passed to new ownership last year. This broke my heart, but I’ll always have my spicy and creamy memories.

Do not fret. I won’t get on a plane and leave you without giving you this curry recipe. I’d regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of my life.

My preference for curry exploded during my senior undergraduate year. A conservative estimate is that I ordered or ate curry out once every other week. I’ve calmed down about various combinations of garam masala, coconut milk, tamarind, ginger, chilis, papadum, sambal, etc. from various parts of South Asia, but this doesn’t mean I’ve stopped imbibing occasionally. On the rare irksome day where I come home and the thought of cooking fills me with anxiety, I will inevitably roll lazily to my computer, where curry is only a few clicks away.

The title of this post is deceptive, because I’ve actually attempted making my own curry several times; usually when I look at charges made to my card, and realize that I could probably figure out how to satisfy my own craving.

Curry is a difficult thing to execute correctly. The spicy, sweet, creamy, and crisp stars all need to align into a gorgeous constellation of flavor. This isn’t an easy task to accomplish. Unless perfection is staring you straight in the face, you’ve failed miserably and should run along and play with other toys for awhile.

I still want to refine this recipe, but it’s the closest to a restaurant love-affair with a curry recipe I’ve ever gotten. The original proportions for the curry paste came from the Foot Network website, but the vegetables and methodology have been revised considerably to suit my kitchen.

Almost-A-Love-Affair Green Curry

Ingredients:

  • Green Beans
  • Small Purple Potatoes
  • Broccoli Florets
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 1 bunch Cilantro, roughly chopped (No that’s not an error. Use the ENTIRE bunch.)
  • Fresh Ginger, roughly chopped – I used a piece that was the size of my two thumbs held together
  • 1 Jalapeno, seeded
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 Lime’s-worth of Juice
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Stock
  • 1 cup Unsweetened Condensed Coconut Milk – Yes, the kind from a can, guys.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil over High heat. When the water boils, add a large pinch of salt. Throw in the potatoes and let summer for 5-ish minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, toast the cumin and coriander in a tiny (as tiny as they make them) skillet over medium heat. When you can actively smell the spices without trying too hard, they’re ready.

Blend the toasted spices, cilantro, ginger, jalapeno, garlic, onion, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of water until a thick paste forms. This is your curry paste (duh.)

Throw the broccoli into the boiling water and cook for 1-ish minutes. Stir in the green beans and let them cook for another minute. Drain the vegetables (careful of the boiling water and steam, I accept no responsibility for you inadvertently scalding yourself) and put them back into the pot.

Pour in the vegetable stock, coconut milk, and 3 tablespoons of the prepared curry paste from the blender. Bring everything to a simmer, then serve over steamed rice or coconut rice.

Green Curry

Try not to shove your face into the bowl. I know it’s tempting.

A Pitcher is a Single Serving, Right? P.S. This Cocktail Tastes Like Iced Coffee

Trivia: Two Mondays ago, it was National Coffee Day.

In preparation for this momentous occasion, I figured I would combine the taste of two favorites: coffee and alcohol.

Trivia: 57% of coffee drinkers add some sort of sweetener to their drink.
I am not one of those people. I like my coffee beverages the way I like my soul, my men, my women and my humor. Don’t analyze that sentence with the stereotypical ending, either. Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, suffice to say I understand the desire of most female coffee (and alcohol) drinkers for something sweet.

Make that, I had bangs until age 20.

Trivia: Between 20% and 30% of coffee sales are comprised of flavored coffees (i.e. chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, and cinnamon).

This is based on a recipe torn from inside “Cosmopolitan.” I shifted things around a bit, with feedback from one of my girlfriends, who came over this weekend for a day of cocktail experimenting, pizza-dough making, and film-noir watching. (By the way, films from 1948 have amazing “Is it Good or Is It Bad?” pick-up lines, despite their lack of cultural variety.) Don’t worry, the pizza dough recipe is coming later this week.

The original magazine tear-out called for half-and-half. While shopping for ingredients, I pulled a small carton of fat-free half-and-half, because I wanted to be mindful of the figure-conscious ladies who read this blog. (Thanks for sticking around through the numerous bacon mentions, by the way. You girls rock.) My verdict? It tastes disgusting, and coated my tongue more thoroughly than heavy cream. While searching for ingredient alternatives and cross-referencing other “coffee-tasting dessert cocktails,” I noticed how many after-dinner drinks are dairy-based. Not so much fun for people like my Mother, Aunts, or the 65% of the population who identify as Lactose-Intolerant. Raise your hand if you order your Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Peets, or anything in-between/indie with almond milk, since soy milk has the major-estrogen-it’s-actually-bad-for-you-if-you-drink-it-every-day thing going on. That’s what I thought.

Using almond milk turned out to be a phenomenal solution. Counter-intuitively, it mellows out the sweetness from the Kahlua. Add one of those hyper-feminine flavored rims, and your adult quasi-iced coffee/quasi-chocolate milk is served.

Iced Coffee Cocktail (for one, double the proportions for two if you’ve already had one on an empty stomach)

  • 1 shot Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey Whiskey
  • 1 shot Kahlua
  • 2 shots Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • Honey (optional)
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (optional)
  • Graham Cracker Crumbs (optional)
  • Ice

If you’re going for presentation (and flavor) points and making the graham cracker/chocolate rim, use the tip of your finger to spread honey around the rim of whatever glasses you’ll be serving this drink in. Once the rim is suitably sticky (and you’ve made several inappropriate jokes about this), pour equal parts cocoa powder and graham cracker crumbs onto a paper plate, turn the serving glass upside down, and rub the glass around and about on the plate to coat the rim with deliciousness. (Make more sexual jokes during and after this part.)

Place ice in both the cocktail shaker. (If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, improvise with some sort of mason jar type deal. If you’ve gotten as far as buying the ingredients, there’s no going back now.)

Shake the whiskey, Kahlua, and almond milk over ice, and strain into the serving glass.

coffee drink

 

 

 

Everything is Better with Tacos: Pork and Green Chili Stew

I’m sorry about not posting last week. Computer Complications + First Family Visit in Six Months + Some Sort of Stomach Virus = No Free Time to Speak Of.

 

To quickly get to the point:  I’ve realized tacos are a universe-uniting food, capable of solving emotional problems and alleviating unwanted stress.

World Peace

I cooked for my parents while they were in town with a couple of old reliable recipes, but this recipe is definitely inspired by their visit. I’m happy that six months isn’t going to pass again before I see them. (By the way, Sacramento, I’m coming for you twice in November and for New Year’s Day.) However, I’m also happy that I’ll have an ace up my sleeve the next time they come to visit.

Pork and Green Chili Tacos

  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Pork Shoulder (that’s Pork Butt, to you) cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • Sat and Pepper
  • 1 large Sweet Onion – finely chopped
  • 1 pound Mild Green Chilis – I used poblanos and anaheims – finely chopped
  • 3 Serrano Chilis – seeded and finely chopped
  • 6 Garlic Coves – finely chopped
  • 2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • Cilantro
  • Lime Wedges
  • Corn Tortillas

Heat the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a large pot over High heat. Season the pork shoulder cubes with salt and pepper to taste, and cook in the oil until lightly browned (less than 5 minutes.) Throw all vegetables into the pot, and cover the pot until the vegetables are soft. This should take another five-ish minutes.

“This recipe takes so much time,” she said sarcastically while drinking a Pacifico with lime.

Once the vegetables are soft, add the chicken broth and bring everything to a boil.

Once the stew is boiling, partially cover the pot and simmer over Medium-Low heat until the mixture has reduced by half (20-ish minutes.)

Stir in the cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with lime wedges on corn tortillas. If your parents like cocktails, make sure the beer is cold.

Pork Taco

Wake Me Up When September Ends: Denial of Summer Growing Season Ending Charred Corn Salad

“Don’t you love New York [i.e. Los Angeles] in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I’d send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

-Meg Ryan (sort of) in, “You’ve Got Mail”

Things that excite me about September:

  • Not being socially shunned for drinking hot coffee
  • Festive legwarmers and boots
  • Soup, Stew, Chili, and every other warm, hearty comfort food

Things that are the opposite of exciting in September:

  • Pumpkin mania – Thanks, Starbucks for killing my soul by offering Pumpkin Spice Lattes in 95-Degree August Los Angeles weather
  • The implication of everything becoming serious again, i.e. school beginning for those still doing that sort of thing and work vacation time elapsed with no end in sight until Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • The end of the summer growing season

I love so many things about autumn, but I’m definitely attempting to ignore summer being over like a parent dealing with a bratty child….which is not unlike how decent human beings treat ratchet girls at the club…..I digress.

This recipe is ridiculously simple. Twenty minutes gate-to-gate simple. Use-up-the-last-summer-corn-before-it’s-too-late-you-fool simple. Seriously, go make it. Slice some avocado on top of it, while you’re at it.

Charred Corn Salad

  • 4 Ears of Corn, Shucked
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1/2 Small Red Onion, Thinly Sliced
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 Jalapeno, Diced
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro

Brush the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper before grilling over Medium-High heat for 12-ish minutes, i.e. until charred all over.

Meanwhile, let the onion sit in the lime juice for 10 minutes to mellow out the flavor. After 10 minutes have passed, add the maple syrup, jalapeno, and 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Once the corn is charred to your liking, remove from the cob and toss with the dressing you’ve just made. Tear the mint, parsley, and cilantro leaves – because chopping is too much damn work when you’re hungry – and add the torn leaves to the corn mixture to your liking.

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So Obvious, It Should Have Slapped Me In The Face: This week, I Simplified.

“The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity.”          -Douglas Horton

I’ve been rediscovering my love of the farmers market. Once upon a time, when I was in the midst of looking for a job and would get random, glorious weekdays off, I would attempt to orient those days around one of the many farmers markets dotting the Los Angeles cityscape. I eventually stopped going, because “life happened.” (See below for details.)

Working a classic 9:00 -5:00 is exhausting, but the one thing I can’t fault about my new position is the consistency. I know exactly when and where I’m available. Per always, it’s not often – that hasn’t changed much since I was a teenager. When I call my parents, it’s usually from the car, and one of their first questions when they pick up the phone is, “So where are you driving to now?”

If it’s a Saturday morning, I am headed to the farmers market. It is the one place I go without a shopping list. I don’t even take one of my notebooks with me. When I go to the farmers market, it is to get out of my own head and into my visceral instincts as an eater: What looks good? What sounds good? It allows me to cook both in and of the moment. Try it.

The summer growing season still seems to be at a peak, though fall is attempting to work its way in edgewise. Saying goodbye to perfect tomatoes, corn, and stone fruit makes me shudder slightly, but as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” (Also, to the dudes selling pomegranates this early last Saturday, thanks for simultaneously getting me excited and killing my soul. I wasn’t quite ready for life to start all over just yet.) The farmers market forces me to simplify, and it’s not only because I going in with a limited amount of cash and no shopping list.

I know the concept is difficult to grasp sometimes. I am definitely guilty (as we all are) of over-thinking and over-complicating things. My goal this week is to streamline my ingredient lists and simplify what my palate is experiencing. It started with the photo below:

Indigo Rose Tomatoes, Burrata (which I would still love to figure out how to make), Membrillo, Olive Oil, Fig Balsamic, and Salt

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Subtract the obvious. Add the meaningful.

Put The Rice In the Coconut – Or Something Like That

I came across the phrase “Coconut Rice,” and I couldn’t get the lip-smacking deliciousness of that particular descriptor out of my head. I stared at various poorly-photographed bowls of rice over the course of three days, (seriously, I challenge you to take an attractive photo of a bowl of rice. I’ll make this recipe exclusively for you if you can), and contemplated writing about it. The Carbohydrate Battle of Wills even continued over the course of a weekend in Santa Barbara.

We escalated from this state of morning bliss to an extra 90 minutes of traffic in an absurdly short amount of time.

Since driving back to Los Angeles from Santa Barbara involved spending an unplanned extra 90 minutes in traffic, I had even more time to stare at the awkwardly-photographed bowl of coconut rice and text a chef friend for flavor-pairing advice (“Heavy spice – like blackened chicken”). By the time we’d pulled into the carport behind our apartment complex, I wanted coconut water to both cure my hangover and cook my rice.

I should also preface this recipe description with an emphasis on how much of a rice cooker Kool-Aid drinker I am. I am not usually a fan of cooking rice in a pot on the stove. I realize it’s easy and that several of my friends who cook for a living will make various annoyed visceral sounds at my laziness for admitting this. Now that the appropriate context has been given, I’d like to emphasize how easy this recipe makes cooking rice on the stove. I’m talking perfect texture, fluffiness, and creaminess.

Coconut Rice

  • 1 Cup Long Grain White Rice (I grew up with my family buying the bag with the big red rose on it, so you should, too)
  • 2 Cups Coconut Water (Use the all natural coconut water, with no flavoring added to it, otherwise the flavor will be compromised. Duh.)
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • Salt and Pepper To Taste

Combine everything in a small-ish saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once everything is boiling, stir to fully combine, turn the heat down to low, and cover the saucepan.

Let all the goodness cook together for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so the rice doesn’t get that strange baby food rice pudding texture, then remove the saucepan from the heat completely and give the rice a quick stir before re-covering and letting everything sit for 10 more minutes.

Fluff up the rice with a fork and season with more salt and pepper to taste.

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As far as the spice blend for blackening the chicken, I used paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, white pepper, black pepper, thyme, and oregano. Oh, and salt. Obviously.

The process for blackening the chicken is very straightforward: use a meat tenderizer, bottom of a frying pan, or some other flat heavy object to pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts between two layers of cellophane/inside a plastic bag/something to prevent nasty bacteria from getting everywhere. Dredge in the seasoning blend (I recommend using a plate and dragging both sides through the blend for maximum flavor coverage) and sear with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or Coconut Oil, for Coconut-Ception) at medium high heat until cooked through.