Skipping Lunch

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.

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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Shrimp, Corn, and Brown Butter Pasta: I Tried Classic Comfort Food

In 2011, the United States was seventh in the world in pasta per capita consumption, but consumed more total pounds of pasta than Italy. Pasta is everywhere, all the time. It’s a date night classic, easy to throw together when you’re too lazy or tired to cook, and the majority of things it can be mixed with for flavor even comes in cans, jars, or some combination thereof for maximum convenience.

I recently had a conversation with a good friend and chef during which he described making pork bolognese to feel better after a bad day. I came home from that conversation to our former roommate sitting on the sofa, drinking beer and describing bolognese as the ultimate comfort food. Deja vu.

I mean, I get it. It’s warm, hearty, rich, meaty (or vegetable-y, depending on what school of thought you follow), and like a good relationship, gives back exactly what you put into it. I’ll be honest, though. This culinary force is not strong within me. To be blunt: I have never associated pasta with being a comfort food. I do not crave it after a bad day. I do not crave it after a good day. I do not crave it here or there, I do not crave it anywhere.

All right. What were we talking about?

Right.

I realize my wolf pack is going to dwindle to a minuscule number after I reveal I’m “not into pasta.” This acknowledged, I wanted to drink the Kool-Aid and try making something recognizable to the general public as a pasta dish. The focus was flavor. If the dish ended up being comforting, it would be a bonus.

I find comfort in….

  • closing my eyes on the sofa with The Beach Boys, The Ventures, or other instrumental surf music playing in the background and a glass of nice Tempranillo (preferably a Crianza….and Reserva….) on the side.
  • a long massage followed by a leisurely cappuccino.
  • curling up with cheese toast and a juicy book.

Which translated itself in my notebook to something rich (but not necessarily creamy), simple, and relaxing (i.e. very few steps) to make. I don’t have a new comfort food, but at least I’ll be able to whip something together for a last-minute date night.

Shrimp, Corn, and Brown Butter Pasta

  • 1/2 pound Shrimp – Peeled and Deveined
  • 2 ears Corn
  • Unsalted Butter (3  and 1/2 Tablespoons Total)
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup Dry White Wine (I used Francis Ford Coppola’s Director’s Cut Chardonnay. Remember, always be willing to drink the wine you’re cooking with.)
  • 1 stalk Celery – roughly chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons Celery Leaves
  • 1 Shallott – 1/2 left whole, 1/2 finely diced
  • Parsley Sprigs (Grab a large handful)
  • Paprika
  • 1/2 pound (usually half a box) Fettuccine, Pappardelle, or other long pasta

Melt 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a pan over Medium-High heat and saute shrimp until pink and fully cooked through. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Cut the kernels off the corn cobs. SAVE THE COBS! YOU NEED THEM. Repeat, YOU NEED THEM.

Melt 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a pot over Medium-High heat until the butter starts to brown. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Toss in the corn cobs, celery, whole shallott half, parsley sprigs, and 3 cups of water. Boil this again, and reduce by 1/3. (30 minutes-ish)

Strain the vegetable stock (congratulations! You made stock without realizing it!) into a bowl and save.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter (it’s not that much, I’m just mentioning it a lot. Do you want to feel better or not?) over medium heat, saute the diced shallott half until soft, then stir in paprika to taste until everything is a rusty red color. Pour in the reserved vegetable stock and 1 additional cup of water. Reduce by 1/3 (20 minutes-ish).

Stir in the corn and let boil and toil in the butter/stock mixture until fully cooked. If you’re stressed about scalding the bottom of your pan, add more water by the 1/4 or 1/2 cup….I didn’t need to, but you might, depending on how volcano-like your stovetop is.

Finally, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a large pinch of salt. Cook pasta until al dente according to package directions, drain, and return to pot. Stir in the corn mixture and cooked shrimp until heated through.

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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.

I Like Eggs

DISCLAIMER: This recipe will not make Jason Derulo appear for you to be the flight that you get on.

I feel like this website revamp is never going to finish, but I realize this is only because we’re at the beginning of it. Honestly, I’m pretty stoked on the direction things are taking. It feels good to have more fuel thrown on the internal cooking flames. (No, that was not intended to be a stove or oven pun, I just had to be at work at dawn, and am consequently loopy.)

The most difficult obstacle to overcome with redoing this website is getting Mr. Right and I into the same room at the same time to discuss anything. (Especially when lately, the only reason we’ve been able to venture from our respective projects into the same room is to watch a new episode of “Hell’s Kitchen.”)

Speaking of which, that show is terrible. Producers, please find a new writing team. I realize it’s how Gordon Ramsay became an American household name, but I can feel him internally cringing at the bad puns. He’s too intelligent and talented for you to keep giving him awful things to say.

Just let Mr. Ramsay ad-lib. It’s what he’s best at.

I digress.

Any form of Breakfast-for-Dinner is a wonderful thing. These were the dinners I looked forward to most growing up (thanks for the continuous stream of waffles, Mom.) The inspiration for this recipe comes from a combination of two things:

1. This month’s “Martha Stewart” waxing poetic about herbed mayonnaise and Greek yogurt for multiple pages.

2. The obscene prices Le Pain Quotidien charges for brunch tartines.

Oh, and in case you were wondering:

tartine (n.) – a fancy way of saying “open-faced sandwich,” usually consisting of a singular slice of bread.

Trivia: This phrase most likely comes from the Middle Ages in France or England, when thickly sliced peasant bread was used in lieu of plates.

Exactly.

The result was something like a deconstructed deviled egg sandwich? Which sounds incredibly pretentious? But more balanced? Try it for yourself.

Soft Boiled Egg Tartines with Herbed Mayonnaise

For the Mayonnaise:

  • 1/2 cup Arugula
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs – whatever you have lying around – I used Parsley, Dill, Basil, and Chives
  • 1/3 cup Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons Low-Fat Mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Lemon’s worth of Juice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

This part is easy, just puree all of these things together until smooth, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Maybe stir in-between food processor/blender/Magic Bullet/Vitamix pulses to make sure the texture is turning into what it should be.

For the Tartines:

  • 2 Eggs per person being served
  • 2 Slices of Toasted Bread (we used Ezekiel bread, but I have a feeling this would be spectacular with sourdough toast) per person being served
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Mayonnaise (See Above)
  • Arugula
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika

Place eggs in pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, and cook to your liking. (For the record, it’s 2 minutes on our stove for a perfectly soft-boiled egg.)

Run under cold water immediately to stop the cooking process and separate the egg white from the shell membrane. (Otherwise the eggs will fall apart and look anemic and sad when you peel them.)

I recommend timing putting bread in the toaster to when you take the eggs off the stove and peel them…..because real talk, no one likes cold toast. That’s just wrong.

Assemble the sandwiches by brushing the toast with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, spreading the herbed mayonnaise on top, then topping everything with the arugula, sliced/peeled eggs, and salt/pepper/paprika to taste.

Try not to make these multiple days in a row if you’re having a busy week. It will be a challenge.

If I were incredibly pretentious, I’d call this a “Deconstructed Deviled Egg Sandwich.” Since that title is cumbersome, I’ll just call it, “Addicting.”

Cajun-Inspired Pork Chops with Kale and White Bean Stew

Does anyone else get anxiety when cooking for their parents?

More important, is anyone at the point in their life where their parents are turning into actual friends?

I actually love when my parents come to visit. It gives me an opportunity to step up my game, and show them they aren’t letting their daughter run wild in the big city.

The official reason for my parents’ visit was to help break up with a storage shed. (Thank you to both of you for doing all that heavy lifting while I was at work. Also thank you for being you. And for reading this blog. I digress.)

Cooking for my mother is easy. Cooking for my father is easy, as long as I give him exactly what he wants.

In my Father’s defense, he’s my biggest fan. He drove me to every activity of my formative years. This meant sitting in ice rinks, sweating at soccer games, or attempting to read a newspaper in a dance studio full of screaming children. These aren’t the only passions of mine he’s been forced to sit through. “Gossip Girl?” Seen it. “So You Think You Can Dance?” Absolutely. “Project Runway?” He’s a huge Tim Gunn fan. Now, he cooperates when I want to show him museum things and sits through my running commentary of every culinary television show on the planet.

No one does that. I’m not entirely certain why anyone would.

My father is much more of an omnivore than I. He also makes magical unicorn chili and the best hangover “junk eggs” known to man, but I digress again.

Before his visit to town, I scoured my notebooks and various food sources for meat points-of-reference. I even asked all the men in my life, which yielded classic steak, potato, and bacon results. Quite honestly, I’m not entirely certain when the word “pork chop” entered the scenario

Foods along classic Itailan or Cajun-inspired lines tend to be my father’s flavor profiles of choice. My mother eats the way I do, and loves fresh vegetables and fruit after growing up on a farm. (She’s another one who asks me about kale.) After finding an old “Food and Wine” recipe for a kale and white bean side dish, and letting my father choose the pork chops I’d be sliding under the broiler, I ended up with what my father called “Perfection.”

Cheers to a new family classic.

Cajun-Inspired Pork Chops with Kale and White Bean Stew

Ingredients:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Chili Powder
  • Jalapeno Hot Sauce (I used the Frontera brand, because I’m a celebrity chef disciple….and Rick Bayless is a badass)
  • 1 pound’s worth of bone-in pork chops – Look for thin ones, but you can always pound them a bit to thin them out so they don’t take as long to cook. Additional Advice: If your father or father-figure wants to pick these out, LET HIM.
  • Kosher Salt
  • 4 chopped Celery Stalks
  • 1 chopped large White Onion
  • 3 chopped Garlic Cloves
  • 3-ish cups Low Sodium Chicken Stock
  • One 15-ounce can (no salt added, or as low-sodium as the shelf will let you have) rinsed and drained Great Northern White Beans
  • 5 ounces roughly chopped Kale (I’m getting better about weighing my ingredients and proportions….I just need to remember to do it.)

Preheat your oven’s broiler.

Whisk together equal parts (start with a radio of 1 tablespoon each) of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Chili Powder, and Hot Sauce.
(TASTE THIS to make sure the balance is right. The hot sauce is there to balance the acidic lemon taste of the Extra Virgin Olive oil. The chili powder is there for flavor, not heat. If you want heat, put pepper or chili flakes on the pork chops.)

Season the pork chops on both sides with kosher salt, pierce them with a fork in a few places, and smother with the sauce mixture. – The holes incorporate the flavor into the chop, instead of just on the outside.

Heat some Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pot over Medium Heat and saute the celery, onion, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of chili powder until the vegetables are translucent.

Once the vegetables are translucent, pour in the chicken stock and reduce the entire mixture by about 1/3. (Look at the boil line on the side of the pot for reference if you feel confused.)
When the mixture is reduced, add the white beans and kale and cook until the kale is tender (7 minutes ish.)
If you start to run out of liquid to cook the kale in, add water by 1/2 cup-increments. I didn’t have to do this, but I almost did, so be prepared.
Season the stew with salt to taste. (I didn’t use pepper or chili flakes this time, since my parents aren’t as big on spice as Mr. Right and I are, but feel free to do so in your own version.)

As soon as you add the white beans and kale to the stew, put the pork chops under the broiler, so everything that’s part of this dish comes out hot.
Broil the pork until browned – 4 to 6ish minutes on the first side, then flip and cook for 2ish minutes on the second side.

It’s certainly aesthetically pleasing enough to be a classic.

Back to Basics with Ingredients No One Can Pronounce: Grilled Age with Ginger and Green Onions

I’d like to pause for a moment, in acknowledgment of anyone who is currently having one of “those” days.

And so on and so forth. When these days occur, there are several plans capable of being put into action to assuage the damage. For me, the breakdown usually works itself into something like the following….

Plan A: Cry. Curl into a ball and plan on letting gravity carry you through the floor to somewhere near Earth’s core.

Yeah, right. Did you really think I’d leave you hanging there? There’s no crying in baseball, y’all. Or anywhere else for that matter, unless you’re under extreme provocation.

Plan B: Have some sort of alcoholic beverage.

Yes, I realize this screengrab is overused. This just means it speaks to all of us. #PreachSJP

I’m not saying this doesn’t work, for the most part. But I have a feeling those who care deeply about you, numerous people in the medical industry, and your liver will thank me for providing you with what’s next.

Plan C: Eat something.

Padma Lakshmi, you demonstrate this point far better than I ever could. All my “sexual eating photos” will never come close. You are a goddess divine and I worship at your alter.

See? Crickets. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Padma, how on earth do you do it?

Those close to me can always tell when I’ve had a bad day based on the way I conduct myself in the kitchen. This doesn’t mean I throw pans around, curse, or anything of the sort. It’s the opposite – I get very quiet, put my head down, and get to work.

I’ve been reading a book about Japanese Farm Cooking in attempt to restrengthen my family roots. I’ve been scribbling recipes on a mini brown paper notepad since New Year’s Day, and I finally made one of them. Of course, the majority of you aren’t going to know what some of these ingredients are. Hopefully that doesn’t add to your bad day.

Look at it this way – nothing to lose, everything to gain. Etc. and so forth. Just cook the thing, already. Less time in the kitchen means more time with your feet up and wallowing in your misery.

Grilled Age with Ginger and Green Onions

Ingredients:

  • As much steamed white rice you think will cure your sadness. (Yes, that’s a measurement.)
  • 2 packages usuage – It’s fried bean curd. It gets used in miso soup quite a bit. Most Japanese markets will call this inari.
  • 1 tablespoo-ish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion
  • Bonito shavings to taste – Yes, they’re dried fish flakes.You can find them at any Japanese market. If this grosses you out, don’t use them. Simple enough, right?
  • Low Sodium Soy Sauce to taste (I used none, but that’s because I’m strange. Use as much or as little as you like.)

If you haven’t already cooked your rice, do so, then follow the rest of these instructions.

Cut the usuage in half horizontally, then into triangles.

Heat the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pan over High heat. Cook the usuage until lightly charred. These are extremely thin, so flip and toss them around in the pan a lot, so they don’t burn.

Take the pan off the heat and toss in the ginger and green onions. The leftover heat from the pan will be plenty for finishing the cooking process.

Scoop the steamed rice into a vat (sorry, I mean bowl), and top with the cooked usuage. Top with bonito and soy sauce, if you like.

Inhale without tableside manner, and feel better.

A zen garden after a non-ideal day.

Asparagus and Lemon Risotto: Patience is a Virtue, and Other Profound Life Lessons

I don’t know why I always choose to try recipes I’ve never prepared before when company is coming over.

One of our best friends currently attends the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. She’s a lovely girl: full of barbed wit, euphemisms, and confidence. It takes a very secure person to take as many selfies for SnapChat as she does. I met her through Mr. Right, and was instantly taken with her, since she reminded me of my twenty-year-old self. Obviously, I plan to teach her all sorts of terribly wonderful things, like how to make a man faint with one sultry raised eyebrow and start a campfire without a handy stick lighter.

A fabulous representation of us on one of our more rebellious evenings.

I learn plenty from her, though. This lovely girl is allergic to several things in life. Without listing a long series of medical terminology, we’ll identify her as someone required to eat in the style of a gluten-intolerant vegan.

While cooking for her is difficult, she’s not exactly restricted to nuts and berries. She eats a lot of curry when she’s away at school, so I wanted to give her a different sort of rice dish. A risotto: Deceptively creamy. Extremely filling. And, per usual when I have company coming over, something I’ve never made before.

The only culinary trivia I knew for certain about risotto before embarking on a search for sample recipes was that risotto is the name of a cooking process, and not the dish itself. Confused? I’ll elaborate.

The word “risotto” refers to a cooking procedure, in which a grain with very high starch content releases those starches into the liquid its cooked in, consequently creating a creamy texture. In the states, this is usually done with arborio rice, but any high-starch grain will suffice. For example, “Top Chef: All Stars” winner Richard Blais (who just made my heart sing by following me on Twitter and Instagram – celebrate with me, small victories excite me) has a recipe for Oatmeal Risotto in his book I’m enthused to try, now that I feel more confident in my ability to execute the risotto cooking process.

You will hear every chef providing instruction related to risotto emphasizing patience, and I’m not going to tell you anything new. Risotto is a process. I watched a lot of Giada de Laurentiis videos when looking up inspirations for this recipe, and one of the first things she said in each one of them was that risotto isn’t a cooking process you can walk away from. When making risotto, you have to be willing to stand next to the stove and stir the rice for twenty minutes. It’s easy, provided you have that sort of patience.

It’s not as demanding as it sounds.

I gave up on making truffles due to their time-consuming nature. So, if I have the patience to make risotto, I hope you will as well.

 Asparagus and Lemon Risotto

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 small onion – finely diced
  • 1 cup Arborio Rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine – I used Riesling for this, since Riesling has tons of citrus notes
  • 1 bunch asparagus – cut into 2-inch segments
  • 1 cup thawed frozen peas
  • 1 lemon – for zesting and juicing
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Salt & Pepper

Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a separate small pot. Keep a ladle next to you, and keep this stock simmering during the entire risotto cooking process.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pan over medium heat, and toss in the onion and arborio rice.

It’s time to start stirring. Get your guns ready.

Cook the rice and onion mixture until the edges of the rice start to become transparent. Get down on the pan’s level, and actually look at the rice.

Once the edges of the rice are transparent, pour in the wine. Keep stirring until all the wine has evaporated.

Now, the real process begins. No, it hasn’t really started yet.

Add the stock to the rice and onion mixture one ladle at-a-time. Keep stirring until the liquid completely dissolves, and keep adding stock in one-ladle increments until the liquid starts to remain in the pan and look creamy. Once the mixture starts sticking together, taste the rice to see when it becomes al dente.

(No, I can’t give you a solid cooking time estimate, because the dish will be done when the rice is cooked. Twenty-ish minutes. Have patience.)

Once the rice is al dente (sort enough to bite through, firm enough that it’s not baby food), add the asparagus. Keep stirring until the asparagus is heated through and also al dente. Next, add the peas and stir for one minute ish.

Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the juice and zest of one lemon, chopped fresh parsley to taste, and two tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (Adding the Extra Virgin Olive Oil at the end of the cooking process gives texture and brightness against the vegetable stock taste.)

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Divine. Especially with a glass of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.