Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tofu Cakes--Ascertain You Are All "Caked Up"

Dear readers, I am back [hoping some of you are still here].

So, I have been cooking a lot, but I have also been doing a *lot* of writing for some other blogs, hence the lull here.

Now, back to the lecture at hand, long before the cupcake craze made made anything cakey the du-jour, haute thing [ha, selling like haute cakes!], there was this:

Yes, I always have to school in the cypher way, sons and daughters :) "Caked up" used to mean having money and not scoring a baker's dozen from a cupcakery.

But cakes can also be made out of anything--zucchini, potatoes, and pretty much anything else. So, here, I present tofu cakes. Before I say that, let me explain the "trick" to getting proper tofu cubes and working with your tofu. After you have taken it out of the container, place it on a plate, cover with a paper towel, and top with something really heavy, like a big pan or a cutting board and let it sit for a good hour. Trust me--there will be a marked difference:
  • 1 Tbs. sesame seeds
  • 15 oz. firm tofu, drained of water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded or finely-diced on the bias
  • 2-3 scallions, diced
  • 1/3 cup defrosted frozen peas
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp. sriracha

Directions


  1. In small skillet, toast sesame seeds until golden brown, stirring often, 1 minute. Transfer to small plate and set aside.
  2. Mash tofu with fork until it resembles chopped eggs.
  3. Mix in all the rest of the ingredients until well blended. Adjust salt as needed.
  4. Fry the cakes on low-medium heat.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Everyone Has A Summer/Dal-icious Dal


"Sitting in the cut, looking classy;
Loungin', sippin' on my mango lassi;
Wearing Stussy, talking sassy;
Not baby--Miss T, if you are nasty."

-Me [don't laugh--nascent emcee Toni is getting ready to drop her new scorchingly hot single "Too Mad To Mack"] :)

So, my dear friends, it has been a while, no? It has not been for lack of material to write about--more that I have been busy...sadly, just busy ruminating [wow, so exciting, I know] and being a regular ruminant human--i.e. chewing a lot. I get made fun of a lot for my huge appetite but hey, I am just a healthy Eastern European girl, you see.

Summer has an ethos far broader than hot temperatures, BBQs, and vacations. "Everyone has a summer" just reminds me that everyone has that one magic moment, really. A day in the sun, if you will. It's not the moment where you get something you want and come out on top...the one that makes your heart light up like the fireflies in the night. So, remember--you will always have a summer, even in the dead of winter, sometime.

So, remember all the hoopla over the Royal Wedding? Wasn't quite blood and circuses [pfft, we are far more "civilized" than the Romans...right?], more like pomp and circumstance, but it shows that people sure do have an undeniable need for public rites/performances. It is an archetypal part of the human fabric...and what it got me to thinking is that we should treat all people in our lives like kings and queens. All that "I get by with a little help from my friends" business--it always amazes me that people are not appropriately humbled by how amazing it is to have people around you to spend time with. So, this is not so much for me get me on my soap box and enlighten you [ha!]--I am just sharing that every time I go to a potluck, I feel like I went to the Royal Wedding. Minus the cool hats :)

So many moons ago, I was invited to two Indian potlucks in one day. Now, harken here. Dear white people, putting curry powder in something does not make it Indian. No, seriously! You should probably not even call it "curried" anything. Believe me, I can say this as an "honorary Desi." I made dal and potato curry.









I

Toor Dal

1C toor dal [soaked at least overnight! *crucial*-aids in digestion and answers the question why Indians never have gas :)]
mustard seeds
1 tomato, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
onion [1/2 large onion, finely diced--white or red is fine, yellow not so much]
turmeric
red chili powder

Soak the dal, keep changing the water at least a couple of times, drain the water and put the dal with some water in a pressure cooker [if you do not have one, just use a pot, but the cooking time will be longer]. Add 1 tsp. of turmeric and 3 teaspoons of chili powder in with the dal and cook it until quite, quite well-cooked [almost to a mushy consistency but the taste should not be mushy]. Be careful with the cooking time as you neither want to undercook nor overcook--in pressure cooker, maximum 5-6 mins., otherwise maybe 15-20 or so.
In a pan, heat up some oil, add the mustard seeds and make certain they open fully or else they will be bitter--you will hear a popping sound as they start to open up and their color will go from brown to black and they will grow a bit in size. Add the finely-chopped onion and the finely chopped garlic. Saute on medium heat until cooked through and soft. Towards the end, add the chopped tomato but do not cook it too much. Add this "tadka" [a cooking technique name so you can get edumacated!] to the now-cooked dal. Salt as desired. You could finish it off with some fresh-squeezed lime or lemon.

Toni's Insane Amount of Work Rasam-Dal Hybrid [get Madhur Jaffrey's kitchen minions to help you here because, apparently, I like to work a LOT and wash a lot of dishes]


I invented this one because it tasted good--it is a bit of a hybrid of a dal and rasam, but it tastes really good. Took eons to perfect but money now.

1C masoor dal=red lentils [soaked at least overnight!]
mustard seeds
cumin seeds
1 tomato, chopped
3 cloves, finely chopped
onion [1/2 large onion, finely diced--white or red is fine, yellow not so much]
turmeric
red chili powder
ginger [about 1 inch piece, very finely diced]
corriander powder
cumin powder
garam masala
cilantro, chopped
tamarind pulp [can be found in most Asian stores--looks like a block of compressed tamarind]

Soak the dal, keep changing the water at least a couple of times, drain the water and put the dal with some water in a pressure cooker [if you do not have one, just use a pot, but the cooking time will be longer]. Add 1 tsp. of turmeric and 3 teaspoons of chili powder in with the dal and cook it until quite, quite well-cooked [almost to a mushy consistency but the taste should not be mushy].
In a pan, heat up some oil, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and make certain they open fully or else they will be bitter--you will hear a popping sound from the mustard seeds as they start to open up and their color will go from brown to black and they will grow a bit in size. Add the finely-chopped onion and the finely chopped garlic and finely chopped ginger. Saute on medium heat until cooked through and soft. Also, add a teaspoon of corriander, cumin powder, and a lot less garam masala, to taste=do not go overboard but you are using the heat of the pan to allow the spices to release their flavors. Towards the end, add the chopped tomato, but do not cook it too much. Add this "tadka" to the now-cooked dal. Salt as desired. Break off a one inch piece of the tamarind pulp and put in a little water in the microwave for a minute. Squeeze out the tamarind juice from the rest of the pulp through a sieve and add that to the cooked dal. Chop some fresh cilantro finely and add to the finished and cooled dal.

Now that I have revealed the key to making successful dal, you have no excuse to not be able to make a full Indian dinner! Hold the curry powder!



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kale--Not Just For Errant Children Or Dinosaurs Anymore...



"You are cooking kale tonight!? Kale is for errant children, not potential dating interests!"

Yeah, well. There is nothing that says "I would like to impress you" better than "I am serving you your daily allowance of greens and fiber." Let me clarify--I did not cook this for a date, but it's totally suitable for such. This verdant number [quite literally] appeals to my green sensibilities and my love of dinosaurs--I mean look at this and tell me T.Rex would not be all about this baby.

Let me clarify something here. Using a "softer" kale such as dino kale and other such more expensive varieties from Whole Bucks would be preferable to using the ol' gnarly sort I got from H Mart, but really...if I made it work with this kind, I am sure you can only improve upon things.

kale [a large bunch]
garlic
red pepper flakes
nutmeg
miso paste [optional]
walnuts/pumpkin seeds or both
fresh basil
olive oil
nutritional yeast

1. Roast about 1/2C of walnuts + 1/2 C pepitas/raw pumpkin seeds. You can also only use walnuts or only pepitas...or pine nuts. Get creative. Pan roast them on a burner till they are fragrant but not burned [obviously].
2. In another pan, heat up some olive oil. Put 3-4 large whole cloves of garlic. Do not chop the garlic. Trust me. Allow the garlic to get a delicious golden color on each side.
3. Chop the kale [including the ribs--yes, I like maximum fiber :)!] finely and start sauteeing it in with the garlic. Add a dash of nutmeg, a good bit of red pepper flakes, and salt.
4. Once the kale has softened significantly but not overcooked, pull it off the hot range and allow it to cool.
5. In a blender, combine the nuts, the kale mixture, 1 T of mild miso paste [white miso], some olive oil, a little bit of fresh basil, and about 1T of nutritional yeast flakes into a smoothish pesto, as you see in the pic above. The color should definitely be a nice, fresh green. If it really looks like basil pesto, I am afraid you have overcooked it and you will now never have a second date [just kidding on that second part].

There you have it--kale, not just for errant children or dinos anymore!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Long Lost and Long Squash Nights




 Whatever anyone is doing, I am soaking lentils—so much foresight I have...Anyway, while I try not to brag, I will say I have often been dubbed an "honorary Indian" as I know a lot more about Indian culture than most and I cook Indian all the time. Heck, I freakin' have asafoetida in my kitchen cabinet so I am way above, "I bought curry powder at the Safeway level."









Long Squash And Lentils/Dal/Dahl
1. Soak a cup of masoor dal [red Indian lentils] or urad dal overnight, changing the water a couple of times. This aids with digestion and explains why Indian people are able to eat dal on dates :).
2. In a pan, heat about a T of high-smoking point oil such as vegetable oil or grape seed oil.
3. Add about a T of whole cumin seeds and whole mustard seeds. The oil will allow them to "open up/pop" and release their flavor.
4. Add a whole lot of red onions, sliced in ribbons. I think they look prettier this way and you are also aiming to let them caramelize as much as possible.
5. Add an entire finely chopped tomato and the long squash [pictured above] and continue cooking all of this. You may wish to put a lid on it and cook it on a low flame.
6. Chop a lot of fresh cilantro finely and add it to the squash mixture once it has cooled off so it doesn't cook the cilantro and make it wilt completely.
7. Chop some ginger and garlic finely [about 1 inch piece of ginger and 3 cloves of garlic] and saute them in a little oil for them to release their flavor. Add that to the base of the pot you will be using to cook your dal in.
8. In the mean time, start getting the dal ready. Put the soaked dal in a pot with water. Add turmeric and red chili powder or fresh green chilis in the pot. Cook the dal, scooping off any foam that forms as it boils.
9. If using a pressure cooker, the dal takes about 5-10 minutes. If not, takes about 20-30 mins. on a medium heat. Add some cumin powder, corriander powder, and a little garam masala at the end. Also prepare either tamarind concentrate [soak whole tamarind in hot water and then run through a sieve] or just lime juice or lemon juice and add it to the cooked dal towards the very end [do not overcook with those things in there].
10. Finally mix the squash in with the dal.
11. Perfect--ever since the day of Jacques Pepin cooking cucumbers, people realized that putting watery vegetables in with hot things does not lead to boiled cucumber [blech!] but instead adds a refreshing element to seemingly heavy dishes such as legume soups.

I know the recipe sounds a tad confusing and sounds like it requires 10 bajillion things, but common, don't kid yourself and think that just because you put curry powder in something, you are cooking Indian. The nice things about all those spices is that they are the base for most Indian cooking so once you have them, you will keep using them and you will be cooking authentic Indian and not some white-washed, half-baked nonsense :) [yes, I said it!].
Anyway, there will be a lot more Indian coming to the blog so keep an eye out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Time Is The Enemy...

So this entry is my first attempt to bring out my truly pensive/moderately Debbie Downer-esque side to the fore...let the world see Dark Toni, if you will. It is not so much that she is that off-putting. In my typically droll, British-humor-esque way, I feel compelled to make light of everything and sometimes the contrast between my naive/pie-eyed and deeply cynical self is a little shocking; the chiaroscuro too jarring. Nevertheless, sometimes I have to talk about serious things, all the more so as a recovering/former Psychology major and someone who often thinks very deeply on the human condition. Don't worry--I am still going to talk about food, but bear with me as I go on this amazing journey of a segue :)

Let's talk about the scary L word [no, not lesbianism which is def. in and not at all scary]-loneliness. You see--even obnoxiously gregarious and affable people like me suffer from a severe case of it. No, I am not in some delusional world where I haven't noticed that the reason I don't have friends is some major shortcoming on my part or a function of really bad halitosis...or at least I don't think so, in view of the fact that I have micro-analyzed myself to a fault. I just really *don't* have friends. I am not talking about true-grit-friends...I am even referring to something as simple as "someone to hang out with and who might answer the phone if I call him/her." I like to think that this is a function of the shifting social milieu-a lot of trends aligning together to create one vast landscape of loneliness. A howling chasm worthy of a Poe poem--I mean, wasn't he the original lonely guy, talking to a raven and all?

"Time is the enemy..." I doubt Quantic were referencing what I am here, but when you are alone, time *is* the enemy. And this makes me profoundly sad on such a cosmic level because it seems like time is the most precious commodity of our modern existence. It is coveted, sought after, saved, coddled, and used as currency and even a metric system. Tomes have been written on how to preserve its magical/mythical essence.
I have a much more banal take on this--painfully banal, really. When you are alone, you have too much time. Time becomes my enemy because it has to be filled. I am fighting time with ingenuity and desperation. Before you accuse me of being lazy and unable to find activities, let me stop you there. In theory, do you *really* want to spend entire days reading, by yourself or turning yourself into a perfect superhuman with endless skills...I am a reader and I like to think fairly good at finding things to do, but ultimately and unquestionably, I need humans around me. I need people to chill with, hang out with, talk with, and learn things from. Some of you might dismiss me as "needy" and sure, you may or may not be right, but I find that my [moderately] creative mind really flourishes when around like-minded people. Plainly put--I need cool and *breathing* humans around me. If I was born in a different age, I would probably be in some Anais-Nin/Henry-Miller-esque crazy artist commune, but the future which promised me electric cars has instead only brought me Twitter, Facebook, and Kim Kardashian, none of which warm the cockles of my human heart.

In one of my favorite X-Files episodes, Milagro, Scully declares loneliness to be a "choice." I think it could be...although I certainly can't viscerally process why anyone would elect it. I know I certainly don't. So, let's assume--you have no one to hang out with and you are lonely. Well, I take that and raise you one. Precisely because I am in this boat...dinghy...whatever, I feel like whatever simple "human comforts," I can bring into my life, I will not deny myself them. The other day, I finished reading The 4 Hour Body and one major theme that jumped out at me was the author's insistence on doing things to "save time." Things as outlandish as eating out of microwaveable plastic containers to avoid doing dishes and to essentially eat on the run because "who has time for cooking." I, for one, refuse to live like some kind of a near-Neanderthal so I can "save time." Save time for what? To be by myself more?

With that in mind, dear reader, remember--single and lonely is all the more reason for you to cook for yourself, to take care of yourself, and to "waste time" on yourself. I am NOT encouraging egomania and self-myopia [yes, I coined that word, Toni Ti trademark :)] or frivolity, but I am reminding you that a nice meal you cooked for yourself will introduce a modicum of human comfort, even if you have to eat it alone at your dining room table with your newspaper to keep you company.

And I should also mention that I am quite fed up with America's obsession on how-to books for everything! Case in point, cooking-for-one cookbooks! Articles, Joe Yonan from the Washington Post's book, trees upon trees felled. Let me tell you something--cooking for one is like cooking for two or three or four or five. In fact, cooking for one has compelled me to make some of the most creative dishes because the way I and other "natural cooks" [that's my word for someone who can just cook and will make something out of nothing, as all great grandmas can] cook is we open our fridge and attempt to make something edible and tasty from all the stuff that is about to go bad. I do not go to the store every night with a grocery list. I am too cool for that, loneliness whine notwithstanding. I will give you an example. The other night I opened the fridge and found snap peas. That is literally all I had...with some whole wheat pasta and a jar of harissa [Moroccan spice paste--I have 10 permutations of fire-inducing sauces in my fridge]. I didn't sit there and wait for the manna from the heavens to give me an idea on "how to cook for one." I started cookifyin', yo.

 
Turmeric-Harissa-Snap Peas Farfalle

1. I discovered a really nifty technique I wanna share :) Cooking pasta in water with 1 tsp. of turmeric not only makes it a lovely golden color, but also gives it great flavor, which is especially useful for cooking whole wheat pasta. Cook the pasta according to directions and drain it. When draining, reserve about 1/2C of the turmeric/pasta water liquid.
2. In a separate pan, saute some shallots + 2-3 cloves of minced garlic. Add a splash of white wine [if you have it] and a generous tsp. of harissa or anything spicy...harissa is great though as it has some preserved lemons diced in it for a piquant flavor.
3. Add in a good amount of snap peas, but do not overcook them. Maximum 2 mins.
4. Combine the pasta + the snap peas mix + some of the reserved pasta water.
5. Top with some nutritional yeast or cheese [believe it or not, the nutritional yeast tastes super on this].

So, yeah, necessity is the mother of invention. I totally improv-ed this meal and now I constantly find myself craving it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

With A Broccoli Soupernova In The Sky...



So, looks like my ten-day-long bout with the Bubonic Plague [just kidding--only influenza] is nigh over. It gave me ample opportunity to work on some soupernova, souper-duper soups.




Asparagus Egg Drop Soup

1. Dice [large dice] half a white onion and saute in some olive oil.
2. Add 2 C of veggie broth + 1/2C water.
3. Cook for 10 mins. Add 3-4 stalks of diced asparagus.
4. Do not bloody overcook the asparagus! Max 1-2 minutes till it is a verdant green. This is what separates the girls from the women [j/k]--always when cooking soups think about cooking times. Do not put nicely green vegetables at the beginning causing them to turn into Cthulhu green ooze by the end of your little cooking endeavor. Do not be an amateur. Seriously.
5. Beat an egg. *Slowly* and in a circular motion swirl it into the soup, stirring it with a chopstick or fork--you get a beautiful "egg drop" effect.
6. Take off the stove immediately--i.e. do not overcook cook the soup with the egg already in there. Salt & pepper to taste.


Broccoli Soup




I invented this one because as you will read many a time on this blog, cream of any sort [even half-and-half] is my mortal enemy, ever since I was little. I am so hateful of it, I can even *smell* it in soups. Most restaurants will serve you over-salted, over-cremated [yes, literally] broccoli soup. Why subject yourself to this abomination!? Yes, you could also use soy milk, buttermilk, skim milk, unsweetened hemp/rice milk, regular milk, and a number of other permutations thereof, which I can address in the future, but why do that when I have discovered the perfect smoothing/thickening agent. *drumroll* The Baked Potato! Yes, it's that easy, friends.

1. In a pot, saute half a diced white onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic in some olive oil.
2. I experimented with a roasted jalapeno also added here. It really gives some amazing flavor, but you can omit this step altogether.
3. Throw in 2C veggie broth + 2C water.
4. Add in a chopped, baked potato.
5. Boil for maybe 10 minutes on medium heat.
6. Roughly chop a head of broccoli [I like to use even the tough parts] and throw the tough parts in first and the tops a little later.
7. Once the broccoli is in, only cook until a little green so maybe 3-4 minutes max. Do not let it get brown.
8. Take the entire soup off the stove, let it cool, and transfer to a blender to blend in batches.
9. Once fully blended, adjust salt and pepper and throw it back onto the stove to warm up/thicken for 1-2 minutes.
10. Serve with maybe a slice of Parmigiano Reggiano and flatbread.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Resourceful With Rosemary: Rosemary and Lemon Cookies


I have recently been making forays into an area that has broken the spirits and the relationships of many a folk--namely, baking. Do not get me wrong--as a Bulgarian, our country's starch staple is bread, so I have definitely made many a bread in my time, but baking has been a whole 'nother ball of...dough. So, it was with some apprehension that I set out to bake these cookies, but my love for all things lemony was the right impetus. I used this recipe from Vegetarian Times, but below you will read my modifications/suggestions. Before beginning, be sure to cue up a lovely lemony tune for inspiration. Like this ear-mollifyin' Herb Alpert remix.


Rosemary Lemon Cookies
  • 4 oz. (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup corn flour [note: this is NOT the same as cornmeal, unless you have really coarsely-ground/big grain cornmeal on hand; I used semolina but you can use any sort of flour that has a bit of a coarser texture...I was even thinking polenta would work well too. If you have none of the above, just use 1/3C regular flour]
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • some turbinado sugar for decorating [again, if you do not have this, you could use regular sugar, but the point is again, to create texture so any bigger-grain sugar will do]

1. Beat butter, sugar, rosemary, and lemon zest with electric mixer until creamy. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla.
2. Whisk together flours, baking powder, and salt in bowl. Add to butter mixture, and beat until just combined. Shape into 2 1-inch-wide logs. Wrap in wax paper, and chill 2 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray. Slice cookies into 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Place turbinado sugar in bowl and press one cut side of cookies into sugar. Place sugar-side up on baking sheets. Bake 15 minutes, or until golden brown on bottoms.
While these cookies were exquisitely delicious and seriously, surprisingly, jauntily yum-yum!!!, I would put maybe even more rosemary and even more lemon peel and maybe even some lemon juice in these, but that's just me--I can never get enough lemon or rosemary. Now, if you are sitting here fuming about why you spent 2-3 dollars on fresh rosemary and you have no utility for it past these cookies, fret not--there is no such thing as useless rosemary. You could put it in mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, biscuits, breads, chicken, meats...with baked fruit. So, get resourceful with that rosemary.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Down In A Hole, Feeling So Small..." Eggs-In-A-Hole


Sorry, the Alice in Chains reference was a little obvious there, but I got a kick out of it, nevertheless. I am easily amused.

So, let's talk eggs. Or better yet, let's talk breakfast and a battle of epic proportions. No, it’s not a land war in Russia in winter, although it’s equally ferocious—it’s liquid yolk vs. solid yolk. Many a relationship has ended over this very debate [I kid…although I know several friends who have had this very fight with their in/significant others]. There is nothing I detest more than an omelet cooked to a flat eggboard consistency [useful for garnish but not much else] or sunny side up eggs that do not release a delicious golden pool of yolky goodness at the fork’s touch. Sacrilege!

For me, breakfast has always been the most momentous and favorite of meals. It sets the tone for the day and on weekends, it is so languorous. It has leisure…and love written all over it. So, it should not be messed up. This is why I present to you, a fail-proof and very feminist [I cringed at that one too, no worries] breakfast--eggs-in-a-hole. Otherwise known as toad-in-a-hole.


1. Melt 1T of butter in a pan on medium heat. This is crucial for the entire process--medium-low heat. Do not go nuts with the power.

2. Take a slice of bread. Cut a hole in the bread, either with a biscuit cutter, a glass, or a knife [I used a knife since I had none of the above--worked a-OK]. Very important note: one of the contestants on Top Chef whose name escapes me now had this brilliant idea to make a French toast eggs-in-a-hole. I tried it myself and it worked admirably. You are welcome to do that. To that end--beat an egg with a splash of milk and some cinnamon and salt and then dip the bread slice in the mixture first.

3. The butter should have melted by now and have a lovely foamy residue. Put the bread in the pan, crack an egg in the hole, season with salt and pepper. Cook it on the low-medium heat for maybe 3 minutes. You are not trying to cook the egg all the way through, remember? Or maybe you are...who am I to judge! If you are, maybe 5 minutes.

4. Turn the slice of bread over. Oh, I used Afghani bread for this, which is super yummy due to being cooked in a tandoor oven, but really you can use any bread. Except Wonder--because that is *not* bread.

5. Serve drizzled with maple syrup if you made it French toast style or with hot sauce otherwise. I also made a lovely little salad of tomatoes, green peppers, pomegranates, basil, pomegranate syrup + olive oil as the dressing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kimchi/Good For Your Chi Pancakes




So, before we begin the food portion of this post, I want to take a moment to express my vitriol towards Oprah. I know I am pointing out the obvious here, but how megalomaniacal can one get--she is literally on the cover of her magazine every month. Literally. It just boggles the mind. And how apropos that her new network will be called OWN. Right, lest we forget, ME, ME, ME. My gripes with Oprah will be aired out many a time in future installments of this blog as I have some major bones to pick with her, including her incessant peddling of misogynistic pop-psychology drivel/nonsense like He Is Not That Into You.

Now, let's talk about kimchi. It is a heck of a polarizing food, no? Some people hear "fermented" and "cabbage" and run for the hills. Or they whine about having "kimchi breath." Listen, if your significant other cannot handle your quest for a healthy stomach [lactobacilli, anyone], I suggest immediate dumping [Toni tm].
I, for one, cannot get enough kimchi in my life. A lesser-known fact about it is that...really, *you* can pick the level of fermentation. I much prefer the fresher tasting kimchee--the one that has only recently started fermenting, when the red pepper paste is a vibrant, fiery red and the cabbage is still verdant green.

Kimchi Pancakes

4 oz. cabbage kimchi [squeeze out the juice and set aside and chop]
1 potato [baked and mashed]

1/4C milk

1/4C flour
1 egg, beaten

1t garlic, finely chopped
Sriracha Sauce [if desired]
Dipping Sauce
2T soy sauce 1/2t sesame oil 1t lemon/lime juice [optional]

The recipe I used advised that you squeeze out the kimchi completely and set the juice aside--well, I ended up using a good half of the juice so do not shy from that. Essentially, you are mixing all of the above and forming a pancake. Use your discretion with adding more flour/more liquid/less liquid, etc. because well...I am sure all y'all have made pancakes before and know the consistency of pancake batter.

And you know that saying "A hungry child is an angry child?" Well, this picture is the very antithesis of that--"A fed Toni is a happy Toni."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Miso Magical



Dear readers, excuse the obnoxiously long lull in posting. I wish I had some glamorous excuse like "I was mauled by a bear," or "I joined a Fight Club," but instead I have to confess to being too chicken to post because I was busy "finding my voice." Ah, so tormented, so Henry Miller-esque, so luhame! [don't worry--I am not about to embark on an Sit, Pay, Barf treck across the globe to find myself *shudder*]. Fret not, I have been a busy little bee in the kitchen so there is much to report on in that department.

Recently, I had the misfortune of experiencing the stomach flu. You know--that lovely feeling where your head feels like the epicenter of a hornet's orgy and your stomach feels like twenty angry wolverines are going all cavemen-artist on your stomach walls [yes, I just made this up, but I think it sums it up pretty accurately]. Well, the only cure, my friends, is the magical miso soup--note, this is not any old miso soup. It's magical because you are instantly cured upon cupping that adorable steaming bowl--it even *looks* salutary! I am a firm believer in feasting with your eyes and as soon as I see my soup bowls, my little heart gets all warm and fuzzy.

To make miso soup, you need to start with the dashi stock, which is made by using konbu [dried kelp] and katsuo-boshi [dried bonito flakes]. If you do not have time/the ingredients to make the stock, then definitely go to an Asian store and look for a dashi stock base. There are plenty that are MSG-free and they last a good while so don't shy away from using that.

1. Boil 2C water. Sprinkle in the dashi stock base or use your own dashi stock.
2. Drop in a handful [or to taste] of wakame, allowing it to fully hydrate in the water.
3. Take off the fire and add in small cubes of soft tofu.
4. Finally sprinkle in chopped scallions and stir in the miso paste. A note on miso paste--there is white, red, yellow. I use the white one [shiromiso] for miso soup.
5. Super important--never, ever, NEVER cook the miso paste in boiling hot water. Always take the soup off the fire prior to even thinking about stirring it in. It absolutely ruins its texture and taste and doing so would make you a silly gaijin!

Another dish I like to make when it's cold outside
is fried rice. The permutations are absolutely endless, as you can see by the one I made here, which has purple cabbage [what can I say--I bought it because I like purple, but my silly consumerism is your win because it is that good!]

1. Crucial info--never ever use rice you just cooked for fried rice. Unless you wanna be eating gruel, ala Oliver Twist, "Please, Sir, may I have some more?"
2. Either cook the rice the night before and let it sit in the fridge or at a minimum cook it at least 2 hours prior to making the fried rice and leave it in the fridge. I love brown rice so this is what I used here--short-grain brown rice.
3. Wok/Pan heat--this also cannot be stressed enough. Pre-heat your wok or pan to an absurdly high temperature :) Meaning that you should put it on the burner and let it heat up to the point where dropping a drop of water in it causes the drop to sizzle.
4. Another crucial step is make certain all your ingredients are chopped and ready to go when you begin cooking. You cannot afford to waste time in the cooking process and you need to be sure you know when each of the ingredients is going in. Order, my friends. Order. Think putting in the things that need to cook the longest first. Rudimentary :)
5. When the wok is super hot, I add in the oil [I use grapeseed as it is very healthy for you and has a high smoking point]. Throw in a chopped white onion.
6. Make a sort of an alcove in the pan and scramble an egg in it and scoop out the cooked egg as you do not want it overcooked. Omit this step if you are just adding sunny side up eggs on top of the rice at the end--perfectly respectable and just as good.
7. Add the rice. The key here is you want each and every grain cooked, maybe even a little charred. To that end, it makes sense not to stir the rice constantly like a mad man/woman. Allow a couple of minutes on each side, then toss, again let it rest, repeat until the rice is well, well cooked.
8. Throw in some spicy chili sauce of whatever kind you have [I prefer sambal oelek] and some soy sauce [tamari or otherwise].
9. Throw in chopped purple cabbage only at the end--you want it to cook minimally and not become a slimy mush.
10. Garnish with scallions.

This is the first of many entries detailing my fascination with all things Asian. Writing this post, I found myself thinking about Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata and DJ Krush.

And Shing02:
"It's funny how the music put times in perspective
Add a soundtrack to your life and perfect it
Whenever you are feeling blue keep walking and we can get far
Wherever you are."