Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jupiter Bowl munchies and staying on track :)

It was 2:30pm, after lunch but not yet time for dinner. We hit the arcade at Jupiter Bowl for fun grub and a good time. The Lift Grill and Lounge, the restaurant serving the bowling alley, has a great menu with reasonable prices. We ordered some standard kiddie fare: Jupiter Fries, Sweet Potato Fries and Mac N Cheese (...and a glass of Riesling for me!). 
Above, Jupiter Fries $4, glass of Riesling $7. Below, Sweet Potato Fries $4.
Macaroni and Cheese, $6. The four girls shared two orders.
Happy Girls, kid food, loud Top 20 music playing....! Woohoo!
Miss Kraft, 1st grade teacher, sent home this poem on the first day of school. These friendly reminders (though TOTALLY cliché, I know!) help me stay on track...

Children Learn What They Live
by Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn. 
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with pity, he learns to feel sorry for himself.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with jealousy, he learns what envy is.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative.
If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with recognition, he learns that it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with sharing, he learns about generosity.

If a child lives with honesty and fairness, he learns what truth and justice are.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in him self and in those about him.
If a child lives with friendliness, he learns what the world is a nice place in which to live.
If you live with serenity, your child will live with peace of mind.

With what is your child living?

Fruit of the day: Strawberries.
Jupiter Bowl on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 30, 2010

a stir-fry: king crab, asparagus, corn...

What is a stir-fry? (FYI: I'll be using a pan vs a wok!) Stir-fry is the process of adding ingredients to the super-hot pan with oil one at a time, in specific cooking order. Serially. Sequentially. Foods that take the longest to cook, like carrots, should be put in FIRST. The pan should be wide enough for the food to have as must surface area contact to the hot pan (and space between) so that each item caramelizes. If the pan is too crowded, moisture will build up, consequently, resulting in mushy, soft and unattractive food! Sooooo, fast cooking using a really big, super hot pan, will take about 5 minutes on the heat.

Mise en place (MEEZ en plahs), French for "everything in its place," allows the cook to work in a state of constant readiness without having to stop to find or assemble basic items. For stir-frys, EVERYTHING must be prepped ahead of time with the mise en place in tidy order nearby. The foods must be dry (they can be moist and cold, but should be dry as possible) to prevent explosive food when it hits the hot oil (yikes!!).

*King Crab Stir-fry w/ Asparagus, Corn, Tomato*
2 large king crab legs, deshelled
2-3 tablespoons of Oyster Sauce (depending on how saucy you like it)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch of salt
cracked pepper
a bundle of fresh asparagus, cut into 3-4 inch segments
cooked Corn, cut from 2 cobs
4 cloves of Garlic, smashed
Oil to coat the pan, about 1-2 tablespoons
a handful of teeny grape tomatoes, cut in half
roasted sesame seeds and black sesame seeds
pinch of crushed red peppers (pizza peppers)

(1) Heat a pan. When the pan is HOT, add oil.
(2) Get out splatter screen. Add Asparagus, Garlic, Oyster Sauce, Sugar, Salt and Pepper. Use a spatula or jerk the pan to flip over the pieces after a few seconds. The Asparagus should be lightly browned on some edges and the Garlic should be golden but not black. Do not move around the ingredients too much or the result will be wet and soggy, versus crisp and seared.
(3) Add the de-shelled Crab (which should be cold and moist, but not wet). Quickly...
(4) ...Add the Corn. Toss.
(5) Turn off the heat and add Tomatoes.
(6) Serve immediately on a platter or individual plates. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and black sesame seeds. If you have chopped Scallion, add that too!!

Oyster Sauce. Oyster Sauce is a staple in Cantonese cooking and is now one of the most familiar bottled sauce-condiment in Asian cooking around the world. This is a distinctly flavored sauce containing salty oyster extract that is thickened with cornstarch and darkened with caramel. Its unique savory taste goes beautifully with all vegetables and most proteins. Lee Kum Kee invented oyster sauce in 1888 and has always been the leading (and the best tasting!) brand for oyster sauce.

Fresh Asparagus. For long skinny vegetables like asparagus, cut segments on a diagonal, aka "bias" cut or "Asian" cut. This simple cut turns a rather boring long vegetable into interesting geometric pieces. This cut also creates a much greater surface area, allowing a shorter cooking time. 

Garlic. 4 cloves of garlic, smashed. Lay the garlic on a cutting board. Using a BIG knife, press the side of the the knife down on the garlic and SMASH the side of the blade with palm of your other hand. Lift the knife off and peel the garlic.

King Crab. If you don't live on an Alaskan King Crab Fishery, most likely the freshest king crab you'll have access to will be frozen, as most grocery stores receive frozen king crab legs and claws and display them at the counters to thaw. Use kitchen scissors to cut through the shells for fast results. I use nonlatex surgical gloves to protect my hands from the sharp spiky shells. Throw away the shells (or use them creatively as a garnish!).

Corn. Use frozen corn or fresh corn on the cob. Since corn is in season, we'll use the cobs. Cook the corn by boiling or grilling. Using a sharp knife, cut down the sides. Do we call this de-cobbing?!
1. Hot Pan! Add Oil. Once all your mise en place in order, you can start cooking! First, heat the pan. When the pan is very hot, add 1-2 tablespoons of oil to generously coat the pan. Put in the cut asparagus and smashed garlic. Keep the heat on High.

2. Add Asparagus, Garlic, Oyster Sauce, Sugar, Salt, Pepper. Leave the food alone to heat up and sear, about a minute. Use a spatula or jerk the pan to flip the food over to cook the top side. Quickly and immediately, add the oyster sauce, sugar, and a dash of salt and pepper. Moving it around too much will prevent it from caramelizing properly. If it doesn't caramelize, the veggies will be soft and mushy (not good). See how golden brown (not black!) the smashed chunks of garlic are? Delicious!

3. Add the Crab. Make sure the Crab is cold and moist, but dry as possible (not wet). Add more oil if the pan appears dry, just enough oil so that the crab does not dry out. Do not add too much oil or everything will turn into a saucy, wet stew.

4. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes. Jerk the pan again (or use tongs) to distribute the food evenly around the pan. Try to keep some space between the individual pieces of crab, asparagus and garlic. (Again, we want each item to have its own flavor, not to be bunch up into soft mush!) Add some crushed red pepper flakes, the dry kind that you sprinkle onto pizza.

5. Add Corn. Next add the cooked cut corn.

6. Sear! Jerk the pan and let it sit for a few seconds, still on HIGH heat.

The corn will add a beautiful sweet crunch.

7. Add Tomatoes and Serve. Turn the heat off and add the tomatoes last. (Or if you want your tomatoes crunchy and less cooked, add the tomatoes at the very end after plating.)

8. Garnish with Sesame! Transfer this pan of delicious stir-fry to a plate or platter. Add sesame seeds. If you have scallion, add some chopped scallion to top it off. YUMMM!!!

Look - YUMMY!!!

Cool off the spice on your lips with a modest riesling....

Think about how you want to serve this. Were there big pieces that require a fork and knife or will chopsticks do?

PS: I know what you've been thinking, "Wassup with all that YELLOW tone?! Get your color saturation right..." Sorry if the yellowish glow was a buggin you more than it was buggin me!
Song of the day, vibe of the day: Nas and Damian Marley, 'Patience.' 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Takashi on Market Street, Salt Lake City

Takashi is the perfect spot to grab a quick amazing lunch before heading to the airport, only 5 minutes away. I couldn't resist posting Takashi again (this time with my new Canon G11). The "usual" was still SO GOOD...

(1) Summit Cucumber Roll - made with salmon instead of crab, tobiko, avocado, tuna, rolled in cucumber, with ginger sauce and chili.
(2) Strawberry Fields - hamachi, strawberries, chili, spicy mayo, sprinkled with toasted almonds.
(3) King Kong Roll - tempura banana, salmon, tuna, tobiko, sesame.
(4) Sablefish Nigiri - we had 8 total pieces, torched cod with ponzu, garlic, scallion.
You will not believe how explosive the tempura banana is next to the fish and tobiko. Omg.
Here it is again...sablefish heaven. Heaven!

Takashi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Spade L Ranch - best marinade rub on the market

Spade L Ranch "Beef Marinade and Seasoning" is the best marinade rub on the market. It rocks! Just because it says Beef on the bottle doesn't mean you are limited to just meat. In addition to steaks, this seasoning is also awesome on fish fillets (especially salmon), vegetables and stews. I first discovered this years ago at Albertson's on a rack next to the meat. Not sure what possessed me to try it, but I'm hooked. The other Spade L Ranch rubs don't even compare to this "beef" label one. Use it with EVERYTHING.

Here, we have 4 thick awesome tenderloin fillets (filet mignon). Lightly sprinkle the Spade L Ranch Beef Marinade on both sides and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Since these are fabulous cuts, don't over-season. Since it is cold and late outside, we'll pan-sear it (more reason not to over-do it with spice) inside.
Heat a pan with olive oil, enough to coat it nicely. When the oil is hot and just beginning to smoke, add the fillets.

Pull out that spatter screen. If the oil and pan are as hot as they should be, the juices and oil will start popping. Danger zone!

Remember to not move the meat around once you set that steak down on the pan with the oil. It needs to stay put to sear. Depending on how rare or medium you like your steak, turn it over as you see the sides cooking. Looks like about 2 minutes per side.

Wow, look at how gorgeous that is. Perfectly black edges and a pinkish red center. Incredible flavors are in the air! 
Remove the steaks from the pan to keep it from cooking any further. Remember to let the steak sit for at least 5-10 minutes before cutting into it. This will result in deliciously juicy slices once you start cutting. While you wait, add some mushrooms and onion to that same pan and heat on high for another 3-5 minutes, a quick saute using the leftover flavors from the steaks. Flip the pan once. Serve the steak, mushrooms and onion with some white rice. Trust me, it is AMAZING!

Listening to The Doors,  eating steak and doing KenKen. (Thanks, Adamo!)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gnocchi and Figs - outrageously good.

Figs are uniquely sweet, seedy, even crunchy with a rich, dense and substantial bite. As they ripen, they get super delicate, so soft and sugary! I was stoked to find baskets of perfectly ripe-yet-firm figs at Whole Foods this morning. I still had some boxes of gnocchi ("fresh, handmade") by Cucina Fresca at home and immediately thought of Seared Gnocchi with Grapes...
...but with FIGS! Wow, just PERFECT.
**Seared Gnocchi and Fresh Figs**
  • cooked gnocchi (I'm using one 10oz box of Cucina Fresca Gnocchi
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-5 garlic gloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 bundles of scallion (preferably sweet wild scallion), chopped
  • about 6-8 fresh figs, cut in half or, for larger figs, cut into quarters
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or more to taste, for spicier) crushed red peppers, aka pizza peppers
  • optional: fresh grated parmesan cheese or pecorino

Heat a pan with Oil. Add cooked (boiled and strained) Gnocchi to the pan. Pull out that splatter screen if the oil starts popping! Add the Garlic now. After a minute, or when the bottom side of the gnocchi is seared, browned and hardened, toss with a spatula (or flip-it move with the pan) to cook/sear the other side. After a few more seconds when you see that the the gnocchi are pretty browned all around, add Salt, Pepper and Crushed Red Peppers. Toss quickly while still hot. Then turn off the heat. Add the Scallion and Figs. Before the Scallions start to wilt and the Figs start to soften too much, immediately transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with more Scallion. Shave some fresh pecorino or parm. Shake on more crushed peppers. Pour some red. Bon appetit!

If you haven't had seared gnocchi, then this will be a treat! Idea is to heat them enough to produce a hard toasty shell on the gnocchi. The end result is a bunch of delicious, dense, almost crunchy and chewy little round balls. No more mush. (I never liked soft, mushy gnocchi.)
Get out some fresh garlic, wild scallion (the wild ones are fantastically sweet), oil and figs.
Make sure you don't over-boil the gnocchi or they will crumble into a messy paste.

Check that the figs aren't too ripe, too soft or bruised. I don't think super ripe figs balance well with the strong texture of the gnocchi. Have the figs cut, garlic smashed and scallion chopped first. Because once you start cooking the gnocchi, it goes by fast! 

Okay, heat the pan with some olive oil, enough to just coat it a bit.

Add the boiled, cooked (and soft) gnocchi to the heat. If the oil is hot and the gnocchi is still pretty wet (as it should be), oil will start popping! Get out that splatter screen!

Add the smashed garlic. Toss everything by using a spatula or whip the pan like a pro to flip it.

When all the pieces start looking brown (and slightly burned), add some salt, fresh cracked pepper and some crushed red peppers. If you don't like spicy, you should still add just at least A TEENY BIT (important to balance the sugary sweetness of the figs later on!).

Toss one more time. Turn off the heat. Add scallion...

...and add all the cut figs.

Wow, what chemistry...and the colors... The spicy peppers next to the fresh sugary figs create a magical kick.

Don't leave the figs in the pan too long or they will soften and, in my mind, get too mushy. Cooked figs are brilliant too, but not now/here with the seared crunchy gnocchi. The gnocchi should be cool or slightly warm, not hot or soft.

Transfer the cooked gnocchi and figs immediately to a dish or platter.

Sprinkle more scallion to top it off. If you have pecorino or parmesan, shave some.  This will be perfect for any BBQ or dinner party or potluck!
Flowers of the week...mixed wild flowers and awesome happy sunflowers. Gosh, I always forget how thick their stems are... Gorgeous.
Music of the day...reminiscing back to the teenage days with Fugazi and old Beck.