Archive for July, 2011

Pickled Things: Dill Pickles, Okra & Chinese Long Beans

July 31, 2011 1 comment

Pickled Stuff

More pickles!! I love getting a fresh pickle when I order a burger or sandwich so I don’t know why I didn’t try to make my own sooner. I looked up a few recipes online, picked up some cucumbers at the farmer’s market…and then picked up some okra to pickle for bloody marys.

I was originally going to use two separate brines (is that what its called?) but got lazy and used the same ratio of vinegar/water/salt for both the dill pickles and the okra (I threw in Chinese long beans because they were around). I only had table salt for this batch but just picked up a box of kosher salt for my next batch of pickles.

While I wasn’t completely satisfied with this batch of dill pickles (too much vinegar), the okra and beans turned out great! The beans were still surprisingly crisp and the okra were exactly as I remembered from New Orleans. I brought this batch of dill pickles over to a friend’s house to go with a smoked brisket (with an “its not perfect” caveat)…and the okra will go to my cousin. As soon as I have time to go to the farmer’s market, there will be more pickling…especially now that the beers have all moved to their own fridge…more room for pickles! Read more…

Categories: pickles, vegetables, vegetarian Tags: ,

Peaches & Honey Cinnamon Custard

July 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Fresh peaches & honey cinnamon custard ice cream

This isn’t a recipe or even a pretty picture…but its a damn good dessert, especially right now. I’ve been singing about peaches for several weeks and will continue to do so! Sliced, fresh peaches at their peak from (where else?) the farmer’s market with a scoop of honey cinnamon custard (found at Whole Foods). Often, the sugars in ice cream overpower the natural sugars of fruit, but somehow we hit the perfect balance with this one.

I think my midwestern boy’s opinion of fruit as a dessert is slowly changing…

Categories: sweets Tags: ,

Canh Mong Toi (Vietnamese Spinach Soup)

July 25, 2011 2 comments

Canh Mong Toi

I rarely cook Vietnamese food. It is usually cheaper to go to a restaurant and its a good excuse for me to visit my dad. However, some things (such as this) aren’t available at Vietnamese restaurants and the reality is that my dad won’t be around forever. I figured its time to figure things out for myself while I still have my dad and aunts around to advise me.

My favorite soup is Canh Rau Day but it involves a level of sliminess that many people don’t appreciate (similar to okra). I wanted to make something both the boy and I would eat.  Canh Mong Toi involves a type of Vietnamese spinach that isn’t slimy, which my mom cooked often for my family growing up.

The soup is very simple, fresh and light. Growing up, it was served with sides such as braised fish, salted eggs, fried fish, pickled eggplants, or braised pork belly.  This soup certainly isn’t for everyone but its a comfort food for me and am happy that I’ve figured it out.

I served mine with some claypot braised fish and fried tofu. I’d never done claypot braised fried tofu before but will definitely do it again! Read more…

Penne with Vodka Sauce (& Roasted Beets)

July 20, 2011 2 comments

Penne w/Vodka Sauce

Long ago, Joel declared to me his love for vodka sauce. However, I never made it for him because I generally shy from creamy sauces, the vodka sauces I’d had from a jar never seemed particularly remarkable and I never understood the point of adding vodka anyway. However, I thought I’d surprise him, so I picked up some pancetta and vodka on my afternoon run (stopping at a liquor store mid-run is amusing. running home with vodka in hand is even moreso) and whipped up the sauce before he got home.

Since I am curious, maybe you are too. I learned that any type of alcohol has some sort of chemical reaction with tomatoes that brings out their sweetness (hence pouring wine into sauces). Vodka is often used by commercial manufacturers because it is cheap and flavorless. I think some vodka concern also tried to popularize its use in tomato sauce several decades ago, and this was the result.

Roasted Beets

I served the pasta with a side of roasted beets (drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil packet and bake at 375F until ready), freshly pulled from my friend’s garden. Our friend, who was over for dinner, doesn’t eat cheese so I resisted sprinkling the roasted beets with balsamic and feta (next time!).

Read more…

Categories: food, Italian, pasta Tags: , ,


July 19, 2011 1 comment

Gumbo & Rice

In my twenties, I visited New Orleans, fell in love with the food and used Zatarain’s mixes whenever I had a hankering for Cajun. These days, I generally don’t like to cook from a pre-packaged mix. I now have the skills, patience and confidence in the kitchen to make gumbo from scratch, and I like to know and control what goes into my food. However, a box of Zatarain’s Gumbo Base had made the move with us from Chicago and I am my mother’s daughter so I didn’t want it to go to waste.

We had Boccalone spicy sausages and red peppers left over from pizza night, shrimp and cod (I usually prefer catfish) in the freezer, and fresh okra (love love okra!) from the farmer’s market…the perfect storm for an easy batch of gumbo served over white rice.

Categories: Cajun Tags:

Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Gra Pow Gai) w/Chinese Long Beans

July 18, 2011 1 comment

Thai Basil Chicken w/chinese long beans

I had a ton of Thai basil left over from a batch of red tofu curry and wasn’t really sure what to do with it. Then my friend Tom blogged about Thai basil chicken. Great idea, since I also had kaffir lime leaves and birdseye chilies in the fridge as well. All I had to do was buy 1 lb. of boneless chicken thighs…and while I was at the market, I picked up some Chinese long beans to add some extra veggies to the mix.

Though I was inspired by Tom’s blog, I forgot to consult his recipe when I was actually making the dish and used this recipe instead. I only had thick soy sauce and not black soy sauce, which probably changed the taste a bit but its what I had. If I used thick soy sauce again, I would probably add a little bit of brown sugar to sweeten it up a bit. Read more…

Categories: Asian, meat, Thai Tags: ,

Green Chile Enchiladas

July 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Green Chile Enchiladas

I’m getting better at staring into our pantry for inspiration. I had anaheim chiles and corn tortillas in the fridge and a portion of pork chile verde in the freezer. I picked up some cotijo cheese and some of Rick Bayless’ Green Chile Enchilada Sauce (found at Whole Foods). Though I’ve never made enchiladas before (nor do I ever order them), but my friend made them once for dinner over ten years ago.

I only had enough pork chile verde for 3 enchiladas, so I stuffed the other two with slices of roasted anaheim chiles and cotija cheese. Since I had leftover chunks of roasted chiles, I stuffed those with cheese and tucked those into the pan as well. Finally, I sliced some yellow squash for extra vegetables. Next time, I would shred the yellow squash and add it to the stuffing. Breakfast enchiladas (scrambled eggs, chorizo & zuchini?) would probably be good too!

Once everything was assembled, I poured the enchilada sauce (which matched perfectly with my chile verde) over the top, sprinkled on some cheese and baked it in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 375F.

Green Chile Enchiladas
Right before I put it in the oven

Categories: food, leftovers, Mexican Tags: , ,