Recipes

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

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.

007

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

Chocolate. Cake.

Once upon a “second time around,” (and I really do mean the second time around, since I completely destroyed the first cake batter), in a mythical land between “rich” and “too dense to handle,” a mere mortal pulled a chocolate cake from the oven. It was perfect. I felt like Hozier playing lead guitar for Annie Lennox at the 2015 Grammys.

Entering my equivalent of hell….baking. Say what you will of the stigma associated with designer boxes of cake mix, they work the same way every single time. Yesterday afternoon, I got to thinking about cravings and desserts – cookies, ice cream, cake, frozen yogurt….are they really mutually exclusive when what we want is anything made with chocolate? We seem to feel a desperate need to pick a favorite chocolate dessert to explain the random hopelessness that is staring into a full pastry display case. Usually, we choose for the sake of variety. Eating too much of the same thing weighs on the palate and nerves. After what seems like an eternal internal monologue of “I’m not really a brownie person,” we suddenly realize we’re nervous about committing to the slice of chocolate cake. Will the dessert gods smile and relieve us of guilt? Or will we sigh and grab a bottle of water and a Be Kind bar? (Not to hate on the Be Kind brand, because those things are definitely responsible for 15% of my existence.)

I put little stock in the idea of “the perfect chocolate dessert,” but I have a very strong belief in searching for the perfect chocolate cake.

Never mind that when the first cake was in the oven, I realized I’d forgotten 2 of the 3 liquid elements and vanilla extract. It was the sort of scenario I have nightmares about: the equivalent of Jack Dawson freezing to death and sinking off that piece of the Titanic into the ocean, while I’m in my seat yelling at Rose that “Myth Busters” proved there was plenty of room for both of them.

Speaking of mythology, in every myth, there comes a point where the tragic hero is given a test. Unfortunately, the way this hero responds does not determine their ultimate fate, because the tragic hero is doomed to be benefited and limited by their super-ability for all eternity.

I didn’t want my cake to become urban myth content, so I started over. Everyone in my apartment must have heard me swearing and banging just-washed mixing bowls around.

It was worth it.

Chocolate Blackout Cake

For an 8-inch cake pan (I experimented with both round and square, so you’re covered boo.)

  • 1 and 1/2 sticks Unsalted Butter, diced
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 3 large Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise (Don’t question it. Just use it. Your cake will stay moist and be spoon-tender.)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • A large pinch of Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup Low-Fat Buttermilk (It’s in the dairy section, I promise.)

Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees and grease whatever pan you’re planning on using.

(If you have a stand/hand-mixer or immersion blender whisk attachment, this next step will work much more efficiently. A whisk works just as well, but it will take more elbow grease.) Combine the butter and sugar together until a thick paste forms and no butter lumps remain – it will look like frosting-in-a-can. Don’t fret, you’re not reading the wrong recipe. Cake is coming.

Add the eggs one-at-a-time, whisking thoroughly after adding each egg. Remember to scrape the side of the bowl! Add the mayonnaise and vanilla, and whisk again.

In a separate bowl: Combine the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Sprinkle a large pinch of Kosher Salt over the top – you can’t have sweet without some salt. Gradually add this flour mixture to the egg mixture (Add, Whisk, Add, Whisk, Add, Whisk. This process should have three-ish parts to it.) Pour in the buttermilk and whisk together.
Pour batter into greased cake pan and bake for 27-30 minutes-ish, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.Cool for 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pan. To complete the blackout cake process, pour Easiest Chocolate Ganache Ever over the top, recipe below.

Easiest Chocolate Ganache Ever

Heat 1 small container (the itty-bitty-one that only looks like, 1 cup) heavy whipping cream in a saucepan over Medium Heat until simmering. Pour 8 ounces (the standard Nestle bags are usually 10 ounces) dark chocolate chips into a heat-proof bowl (that means glass, y’all). Put out 1 tablespoon unsalted butter to warm to room temperature.Once the milk is simmering, pour over the chocolate chips and let stand (seriously, don’t do anything, or I’ll cut you) for five-ish minutes or until the chips are melted. Stir in the room-temperature butter until the ganache looks like something out of a sexual fantasy. Pour over cake, ice cream, brownies, etc.

chocolate blackout cake

Do I need to caption this? Come on.

 

Turn to Popcorn

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating, there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”          – John Ruskin

It’s finally raining in Los Angeles.

We need it. Farmers need it. The reservoirs need it. Everything needs it. What we don’t need is the increased traffic, subsequent automobile accidents, and everyone coughing, sneezing, and shivering.

Meanwhile, life needs to go on the way it does in every other part of the world that has ever experienced rainfall. I stare forlornly out of the shower window and fight with my Lazy Girl urge to call in sick. (Yes, there’s a window in my shower. It has a great view of a wall.) Don’t worry Mom, Dad, and employers of the word. I’ve never called in fake sick for ANYTHING. I’m too concerned about my karmic cosmic balance kicking me in the face at an inopportune time.

Although not a bad alternative, there are only so many coffees and delivery containers of Hot and Sour Soup I can go through before I start staring forlornly out of the window again. In my world, rainy days are an ideal time for popcorn. Have it curled up under a blanket with some sort of movie or TV marathon on, or eat it at your work desk while skimming through Business Insider and Buzzfeed on your ten minute break.

Popcorn is an ancient variety of comfort food. I’m talking 3600 BCE in what is now New Mexico ancient. Maybe even 4700 BCE in Peru ancient. Don’t believe the hype that English settlers learned about popcorn from Native Americans. There is no evidence to suggest that popping corn grew in New England during the colonial period.

Popcorn mania began during the Great Depression and World War II, when farmers struggling for cash supplied it to purveyors who sold it for 5 to 10 cents a bag. (It also helped that candy production was focused on making products like M&Ms to send to the boys in the trenches overseas, but that’s another history lesson for another time.)

Also, if I haven’t been clear, I’m referring to the type of popping corn made on the stovetop and in over-priced (but still badass and cravable) popcorn machines. It’s easy to make, but remember to keep an eye on the heat. If the heat is too high, the outer layers of the popcorn break too early (burned/scalded popcorn or popcorn with a hard texture.) If the heat is too low, the pressure inside the kernel won’t increase enough to pop.

Oh, calm down. It’s easy. Plus now you’ll get to see what all those gourmet varieties of popcorn are about (although I’m pretty devoted to my name-brand Orville Redenbacher.)

Popcorn Instructions:

Heat a few tablespoons (enough to cover the bottom of the pot) of extra virgin olive oil or butter in a large pot over medium heat. Throw 3 individual popcorn kernels and cover the pot, leaving a small crack for steam to escape. Once all 3 kernels have popped, pour in 1/2 cup of popcorn, and tilt the pot to spread the kernels around evenly. Re-cover the pot, leaving a small crack for steam to escape again.

Now listen for the magic. The same rules for microwave popcorn apply to stovetop popcorn – 1 or 2 seconds between pops (“One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand”) means the popcorn is done.

Pour the popcorn into a bowl and season to taste with a couple of tablespoons of melted butter, salt/truffle salt/garlic salt/various other toppings.

Now, your only mission is to eat the entire bowl in one sitting.

Popcorn

Back to the Beginning: Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza Dough

“The universe is hilarious! Like, Venus is 900 degrees. I could tell you it melts lead. But that’s not as fun as saying, ‘You can cook a pizza on the windowsill in nine seconds.’ ”          -Neil deGrasse Tyson

Is there a guilty pleasure more well-rounded than pizza? Not the cauliflower or whole-grain or pita crust type. The type of pizza you order in the personal size after you’ve had a bad day, when the warmth of the box on your lap fuses with the glow of your favorite television show. The type of pizza that comes in a “jumbo” size that sits open on a coffee table while you and a group of four friends are playing Mario Kart, the latest edition of FIFA, or Borderlands.

Don’t get it twisted. Pizza is a beautiful thing, but the combination of bread (low in nutrients, full of blood-sugar-spiking glucose, bloat-causing, you know the stuff), cheese (saturated fat), and potentially some form of red meat (sorry vegetarians and vegans) isn’t the wisest one as far as various nutritionists are concerned.

Yes, I comprehend that the basic ingredients needed to make a pizza have the potential to be less-unhealthy and full of clean-eating-good-karma. I also comprehend that the amount and type of cheese, processed meat toppings, and amount of pizza consumed in one sitting also contribute to diet-busting. I fully realize that making a healthy pizza is possible. I just chose not to do that.

I’m not going to get into a discussion analyzing what went into this pizza besides the dough. I refuse. Pizza toppings and condiments are enough to inspire arguments, and the choice between swallowing glass versus discussing the pros and cons of pizza crust iterations is an easy one for me. After this post goes public, I welcome combinations of cheese, toppings, and condiments from all walks of life. I’m an equal-opportunity pizza eater, as long as my crust isn’t burnt.

When I was in middle school, my mother’s boss hosted an office party. The brick pizza oven imported brick-by-brick from Italy was the centerpiece of his backyard. He’s a nice gentleman, but very intimidating. Growing up, I always shied away from him behind my mother’s skirts when he attempted conversation during my in-office visits. At this party, I lingered transfixed on the edge of adult conversation I didn’t understand. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pizza dough being kneaded and tossed into the air. I couldn’t believe this man with flour on his t-shirt and glass of beer in hand joking with those around him was the same person I’d been scared of. Pizza has a way of making whoever is preparing it look jovial and festive.

The idea of making my own pizza dough always appealed to me, but I had a strange mental block about working with active dry yeast. In many ways, I still do, but cooking with a glass of wine next to me alleviates that stress long enough to be productive.

Wolfgang Puck’s recipe and methodology saved me with this one. I recommend having a friend over to help you (thanks Saylor, love you girl) so you can make all sorts of inappropriate jokes about yeast and balls. Sexuality aside, pizza dough made from scratch is equivalent to a small child. Take it seriously, or things will get messy and annoying. Remember, yeast is a living thing.

Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza Dough

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon Honey (I used Buckwheat Honey)
  • 1 cup warm (105 – 115 degrees F) water
  • 3 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Don’t be too proud to use a stick thermometer. Remember, the yeast will die and you will fail miserably in your task if the water is too hot.

Heat water in a kettle or on the stove until the temperature reaches 105-115 degrees F. Any warmer than this, and the yeast you are trying to wake up and activate will die.

Once the water is the correct temperature, dissolve 1 package of active dry yeast in 1/4 cup of the water with 1 teaspoon of honey. (The honey gives the yeast something to eat when it wakes up. It’s alive like Frankenstein’s monster, guys. Treat it with respect.) Let the yeast dissolve for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes have passed, combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 3/4 cup of water (still in that 105-115 degrees F range), and the yeast mixture together until it barely forms a dough-like substance. Turn the dough onto a work surface sprinkled with flour (make sure there’s plenty of flour on your hands, as well) and knead in the remaining 2 cups of all-purpose flour.

Put the dough in some sort of vessel (a large bowl) and cover with a damp towel/washcloth and let rise for 30 minutes to 2 hours. (Yes, 2 hours. This is why a friend coming over to help you with this is helpful.)

Pizza Dough

It started at approximately 1/3 this size. Who said playing with yeast wasn’t fun? Wait….

After the dough has suitably risen, turn it back onto the floured work surface and pat it down with your hands. Yes, deflate it. I know you’re incredibly proud of your hard work, but just do it.

Quarter the dough, and divide it into 4 balls. (Make as many inappropriate jokes as you like.) Pull down the sides of the dough balls (this just keeps getting worse) and tuck the dough under itself 4 or 5 times until it is smooth and firm. Cover with a damp towel/washcloth and let rest for 1 hour.

Pizza Balls

Direct Quote: “When I grow up, I’m going to teach my children all about these balls.”

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let chill for 24 hours.

To Make the Dough Into Pizza:

Heat your oven to 500 degrees. (If you’ve got a pizza stone, use it. If not, sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet to make sure the dough crisps up properly.)

Stretch 1 ball of dough into a 12-inch round (or something close to round) pizza shape. Leave a 1/2-inch border for the crust, regardless of what toppings you put on. The general rule of thumb for things not getting too soggy is 1/2 cup sauce for every 3-ounces of cheese. I can’t be more specific than that at this time, because I’m too busy getting excited over all the dough I have to experiment with this week.

Play around. Have fun with it. It’s PIZZA, for crying out loud.

Pizza Puck

So I missed the “round” memo, which makes this pizza look like a diorama of the Island of the Blue Dolphins. It was delicious.

Great Pumpkin Soup, For Those Of You Who Don’t Want To Wait in a Pumpkin Patch with Linus

I waited until almost the last possible second to make this. As a Thanksgiving-ish baby who chowed-down on full-size pumpkin pies instead of birthday cake, my pumpkin season begins during the week of Halloween. After prancing about in a culturally-contrived “sexy” costume for a few evenings, I finally let peer pressure run its course and slide into legwarmers, sweaters, and seasonal Starbucks drinks.

What is everyone doing for Halloween, by the way? Are you dressing up? Staying in? Staying in and dressing up? Ordering pizza, watching horror films, and passing out candy? None of the above? Have I inquired enough into your personal lives?

I’m sorry, by asking you too many questions, did I become this girl?

As opposed to this girl?

The original recipe for this came from food52, I’ve supplemented a few of my own proportions, beer preference (did I forget to mention this soup is flavored with pumpkin beer), and – because the pumpkin I purchased for this purpose was utilized in a homebrew experiment – canned pumpkin.

Pumpkin Soup with Pumpkin Beer and Various Bourgeois Toppings

  • 1 can Pure Pumpkin (go with Libby’s on this one, most other canned varieties use a lower quality of squash instead of anything remotely sweet and orange-colored)
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted Butter
  • 1 finely chopped Sweet Onion
  • 4 finely chopped Garlic Cloves
  • 16 Ounces Pumpkin Beer – I used half of one Growler Saranac Pumpkin Ale and drank the rest. A 12-ounce Dogfish Head Punkin Ale would also be perfect. (Tangent: There’s so much shitty pumpkin beer on the market. It’s unreal.)
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • 2 cups Vegetable Stock
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Brown Sugar

Bourgeois Toppings:

  • Pepitas (That’s Spanish for “Pumpkin Seeds,” for those new to the class.)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sage Leaves
  • Goat Cheese

Heat the Extra Virgin Olive Oil over Medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft. Pour in the pumpkin and season to taste with cinnamon and nutmeg (be generous, but remember you can always add more later if it’s not saturated enough with autumnal spice.)

Turn heat up to High and pour in the beer. Leave uncovered and let half of the beer burn off. (It should almost not smell like beer anymore.)

Turn heat down to Low and pour in the Vegetable Stock. Let simmer for 20-ish minutes. Stir occasionally so disgusting scalded soup won’t ruin the pot you’re cooking in.

Puree until smooth using an immersion blender – (Real talk, I highly recommend investing in one of these. It cuts hot soup puree time in half.) – or in batches in a Vitamix/stand blender. Once smooth, stir in the heaping tablespoon of brown sugar, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

I might be stating the obvious here, but TASTE YOUR FOOD. If it’s too bitter, add more brown sugar. If it doesn’t taste like anything besides pumpkin, add more cinnamon and nutmeg. If it’s missing something, but you can’t tell what, it’s bland, i.e. add salt.

To prepare the bourgeois toppings:

Toast the pepitas in a dry pan over Medium-Low heat until slightly fragrant or one of them pops. (Take it off the heat if they pop. You’re not in a movie theater. The time for popcorn-esque things is later.)

Heat Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pan over Medium heat and fry the Sage Leaves until they’re crispy, but not brown and dead-looking.

For the goat cheese, you have two options: crumble it on top, or place a disc of it somewhere near the middle.

Drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil (no more than a tablespoon) on top of your vat of soup slash whichever garnishes you elect to make use of.

pumpkin beer soup

“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