Tuesday, May 24, 2011

grilled scallions and scallion vinaigrette (with a sunny side up egg)

scallions, eggs, bread
since changing jobs,
i've imagined all the things
that i'm going to do,
all the things that i'm going
to cook,
all the things that i'm
going to see and change
about my life.

i thought maybe i'd
finally get around to
making zuni chicken - and being
the kind of person who remembers
to buy chickens two days ahead
of time -
and rick bayless' 27-ingredient
mole. i thought that i'd just make
quick breads and muffins on the
weekends and spend my days
making stock. maybe i'd finally
start canning.

and, i did do some things
that are new, determined to
somehow show my appreciation
that i've regained several hours
each week.

i made a torte for
dinner (a torte! on a
weeknight!) and even added
the two tablespoons of mint
that i usually would have left
out because, ew, mint. i figured,
i'm trying to be a different
person in many other ways,
why can't i make myself be the kind
of person who likes mint?
it was ok.
but, still, i tried.
not quite summer
i stopped myself from insisting
that we go grocery shopping,
like we normally do on sundays
and instead, went to the beach
to walk along the boardwalk on
a surprisingly beautiful day.
crazy sky
and when we walked outside
to catch a dinner reservation,
i took the time to wait as larry
ran back in the house to get the
camera, so that i could snap a few
pictures of the gorgeous sunset.

but, i've remembered something.
i love cooking, probably more than a lot
of people i know. i love devoting time
to making crazy things that most people
would rather buy. i love serving food
to my family and my friends.
but - sometimes.

i'm not a cooking robot with one button
always set to cook. i want to be like other
bloggers i read and those on twitter who
cook from friday night to sunday night,
but i'm not. i still have a job that requires
energy, i still have a family that i want to
see, errands that i have to run, pictures
that have to be hung on the walls of the
house that we've lived in for a year and season
finales that i want to watch sometime near
when they originally aired.

these things - these are things i've
struggled with. i've always felt like if
i was truly as passionate about food
as i claim to be, i would want to live
my life in the kitchen, always. but, i'm coming
to understand that there are different
ways to love cooking and ingredients
and technique. and sometimes, that
means embracing the most simple of
recipes and appreciating them for what
they offer, too.
ears of corn
i've let myself buy store-made turkey
sausages, that larry tossed onto the grill
along with ears of corn. and last night,
when i got out of work way later than
i was supposed to, i embraced
the quick sandwiches that i made with
peppadews, shallots, capers, feta,
oil-packed tuna and lemon, instead
of the more elaborate dinner i had planned.
and, that's why i was drawn to this recipe
from the may issue of bon appetit.
it looked so simple, but so lovely.

and, i'll admit, even though i'm a little
embarrassed by it, i was intrigued
by the idea of microwave-poaching
the eggs. i'm not sure why i even considered
it - i'm a good egg poacher.
(lest you take me as insanely sure of myself,
let me explain -
i'm a pretty poor producer of
runny sunnyside up eggs,
eggs over easy,
pretty-looking hard-cooked eggs,
or even, fluffy scrambled eggs.
but, i can poach eggs, and i wave that flag, proudly.)

however, a lot of people struggle
with poaching eggs and i thought,
hey, if this mug in the microwave version works,
maybe it could be poached eggs
for everyone.
scallion vinaigrette
so, i chopped up two scallions, which
i whisked together with lemon juice and the really
exceptional olive oil that we hadn't used since
we bought it on our trip to temecula last year.
grilled scallions
i tossed the rest of the scallions on the grill
and placed slices of a baguette under the broiler.

and, then, i cracked an egg into a mug filled with
1/2 cup water. i microwaved for 1 minute, just like
the recipe said. when it beeped, i checked the egg,
which was clearly still liquidy. i gave it 25 seconds
more and tried to gently pour the egg onto a slotted
spoon, before watching the white, still liquid, start
to slither out. i gave the mixture 25 seconds more.
again, still liquid, but i could see that the yellow
was more than set.

there was egg in the sink.
i had an egg ready to go in another mug
of water. for some reason, the egg shells
were on the counter. the scallions - charred
and on plates - were getting
cold and i was cursing. without thinking,
i turned the grill pan back on, and tossed fresh
eggs over the ridges, watching the whites run,
and continuing to curse. but, then, the whites
set and i gently lifted the bottom to make sure
it wasn't sticking. this "quick" dinner was
actually going to be ok.

i arranged the scallions on two plates.
i smeared a bit of ricotta over the toasted
bread and placed them next to the scallions.
when the eggs were ready, i carefully removed
them from the impractical cooking device and
used them to top the bread. and then i drizzled
both plates with a bit of the vinaigrette.
even, after all the cursing, they looked quite pretty.

pretty enough that i
insisted that we go outside,
so that larry could hold the plate
while i snapped pictures,
ignoring the neighbor's dog
barking up a storm at his
crazy new neighbors
who step outside in the evening
to take pictures of their dinner.

and, while as usual with eggs,
i could take or leave
the surprisingly set whites
surrounding a runny yolk,
i loved the seared scallions and the really simple
vinaigrette. i think that i
would enjoy them even more,
under a thick piece of pan-roasted fish.
but, that?
that would have been too complicated.
scallions, eggs, bread
grilled scallions and and scallion vinaigrette (with a sunny side up egg)
adapted from bon appetit magazine
i think the stars of this recipe are the grilled scallions and the vinaigrette. the eggs were fine, but i think we all know how to make an egg. even though i coped by cooking the eggs on the griddle, feel free to make them in a pan, poach them or, i would think, even scrambled and served over toast would be nice. besides cooking the eggs on the griddle, i made a few changes: i increased the quantity of chopped scallions in the vinaigrette from one to two and used half a lemon, instead of just 1 teaspoon of juice.

also, i chose to toss a few pieces of a baguette under the broil for a couple of minutes (checking on them occasionally), until just golden and firm and then smeared them with fresh ricotta that we had in the fridge. the eggs sat nicely on top - but that's your choice.

2 bunches scallions
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large juicy lemon, juiced
eggs, cooked to your liking (how many? i ate one, larry ate two - your choice)
toasted baguettes slices topped with ricotta cheese (if you like that kind of thing)

using sharp knife, thinly slice 2 scallions; run your knife over the sliced scallions a couple times to chop a bit smaller. place in bowl; whisk in olive oil and lemon juice. season gently with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. set aside.

place remaining scallions on a plate; drizzle with remaining olive oil and toss to coat. season gently with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. heat a grill pan (or skillet) over medium-high heat. place scallions on hot pan and cook 5 minutes, or until tender and slightly charred, flipping occasionally. divide scallions between two plates.

place eggs and bread (if using) on plates, if desired. drizzle with scallion vinaigrette.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

homemade sriracha

homemade sriracha
those who know me,
know that i will never get
over the thrill - a thrill that
is probably only mine - of making
something in my kitchen that
a saner person would settle for
coming out of a bottle, box or bakery.

so, i appreciate my small doses of joy,
and preserved lemons, and other things
like beer mustard, grape nuts,
graham crackers and sesame-topped
hamburger buns, which
i don't think i've ever told you about.
(scratch that - i did talk briefly about
the buns.) i always keep my eyes
open for the next homemade adventure.

i discovered the newest project to
make my family ask why,
(why, brooke, why?
you know you can just buy that, right?)
several months ago,
tucked into the finalist page of
food52. the contest was
your best condiment and
the candidate i was instantly
drawn to was
to be honest, this one was chosen as the
runner up and i cannot remember what won.

(ok, to be fair (or maybe meaner?),
i just looked up the winner.
it is called
maybe i never knew?
i think i would have remembered
something with a name like that.)

but, i've digressed.
back to the rooster.

we are a family who
always has sriracha in the fridge door
(along with too many other hot sauces,
mustards and other condiments to count),
so how could i pass up the opportunity to
make a from-scratch batch?
fresno chili peppers
there was only one roadblock:
red fresno chilies. i could not find
them anywhere and when a recipe
only has 5 ingredients, i think it's
a pretty good idea to stick closely
to the original.

i looked in my local grocery stores.
i looked in my asian markets.
i asked people, from my friends to
my boss, to keep an eye out for red fresnos,
promising that i'd pay them back and
give them sriracha for their troubles.
my (now former) boss said ok,
but i think he was surprised and tried,
as was his right to do, to promptly
forget the request.

and then, because everything has
just been slightly easier over the past
couple weeks, i turned around in
a new-to-me market and realized
i was staring at a basket of them.
i grabbed three handfuls and headed
to the scale, shocked that i had
pulled exactly 1/2 pound and thinking
maybe this was a sign that the recipe
was meant to be.
when i got home,
i set to work seeding and chopping
the peppers using my wing and a prayer
method: don't use gloves and then
cross your fingers that you don't
accidentally touch your eyes.

i tossed them into a container with
a few giant cloves of garlic,
distilled white vinegar and kosher salt.
i shook it a couple times, because
i can't leave well enough alone, and
faced the consequences the next morning
when i accidentally tipped a good tablespoon
or two onto the counter.
fresnos, garlic, salt, vinegar
later that next day,
i tossed the whole lot into a
small saucepot with a few tablespoons
of tropical, gooey palm sugar, let the whole
thing simmer for five minutes and then,
waited really impatiently for the
mixture to cool. after 10 minutes,
steam was still rising from the top.
so, i transferred it to the blender,
hoping it would cool faster outside
of the hot pot. after 10 more minutes,
i couldn't take it. i wanted out of the
kitchen. sometimes i get like that.
simmered, about to blend
so, i took my chances, tossed a dish towel
over the blender, hit puree and pressed on the lid
with all my might, praying that larry wouldn't
come home to me and our schoolhouse slate-colored
walls, covered in chili sauce. he didn't have to.
and two minutes into the blending, i gathered
up the nerve to let go and take a picture.

i almost didn't strain the mixture.
it seemed like the right consistency, and frankly,
i have a certain hatred for straining, especially
when recipes instruct you to press hard to
extract all the liquids. but i did and it was
barely any work.
and, then, i tasted the sriracha,
worried that i would be forced to admit
that i should have, for once,
just left well enough
alone and continued to buy our
standard squeeze bottle.

but, happily, that is not the case.
this recipe does everything it promises -
delivering the same flavor we expect
from our asian chili sauce, but significantly
fresher, less salty and, as i already knew
from the ingredients, without the
crazy preservatives.

and, i'm sure you'll be shocked to know:
i think it was totally worth it.
ready to store
homemade sriracha
adapted from edamame2003 via food52
i wasn't sure if i was meant to seed the peppers or not - it didn't say in the recipe (which i think most people would take to mean, don't seed). i opted to take the seeds out, worried about the potential spice level if they were kept in. but, i did make the decision not to sweat it if some seeds made their way into the vinegar. i was very happy with the spice level, but for a spicier sauce, i'm guessing you could keep them all in.

also - as i think you can see from the picture, the chili sauce was slightly foamy when first made. that went away after it spent a night in the fridge.

1/2 pound red fresno chili peppers
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and trimmed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons palm sugar

halve peppers; seed (or don't - see note). chop peppers. place in jar or container with lid; add garlic, salt and vinegar. stir; cover tightly. let sit overnight.

the next day, transfer mixture to small saucepot; add palm sugar and stir to combine. over high heat, bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low. let simmer 5 minutes. remove from heat; let cool.

transfer cooled mixture to blender; puree 5 minutes, or until smooth and mixture is an orange-reddish color. pour into strainer set in bowl; pressing to release as much liquid as possible. (it may seem a little thin, but it will thicken up in the fridge.)

transfer chili sauce to a jar, bottle or squeeze container. the mixture should keep for about 1 month.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

shiitake turkey burgers with scallion-sesame mayo and pickled korean radishes

asian turkey burger, pickled radish, scallion sesame mayo and baked sweet potato fries
i saw a really delicious-sounding recipe
last weekend for shrimp burgers.
on wednesday, i really wanted to use
that i had just made for something
more than snacking.
so, i did the only thing that made sense:
i made turkey burgers.

clearly, burgers were on my brain
and i kept thinking about traditional
cheeseburgers (why? i'm not sure):
and, usually, pickles.

so, instead i strayed:
korean-inspired turkey burgers
(that quickly made the leap to asian
burgers when i started tossing every
sauce in my fridge into the bowl),
enhanced with shiitake mushrooms
and topped with a
sesame-scallion mayo instead of ketchup.
skip the cheese.
and instead of the cucumber pickles,
neon pink radish wedges.

i decided to wing it,
buying whatever looked good to me
in the produce department, from
gigantic shiitake mushrooms,
to scallions, a firm jalapeno
and knobby ginger.

when i got home, i diced the mushrooms,
and reasoned that in spite of the fact
that i just didn't want to dirty another
pan, i really should saute them first.
so, i heated a bit of oil, added the
mushrooms, followed by the ginger,
jalapeno and garlic, cooking them all until they
were just tender and fragrant.

as soon as the mixture was out of the pan,
i stirred in the scallions,
sesame seeds,
sesame oil
hoisin and
oyster sauce.

the made-up mixture was spicy,
and even though i reasoned that
all the turkey would mellow it,
i still opted to make a very
gently-flavored spread to
smear over the burger:
and sesame oil.
it was...fine.
sesame scallion mayo
yes, on it's own, it was
ok. with the burger, it
was better. is it worth it
to make again? i really
don't know. i do know that
i wanted it to be fabulous.
but, sometimes, as in life,
things just aren't.

it was a good burger.
still spicy after cooking,
moist thanks to the mushrooms
and packed with all of my favorites.
but, i wasn't as original
as i believed i was.
while assembling, i
realized that they were a
clear imitations of one of my
very favorites: turkey meatball banh mi.
but, these tasted even better because we
ate them in the daylight.
and that?
that was fabulous.
shiitake, scallion and ginger turkey burger
shiitake turkey burgers with scallion-sesame mayo and pickled korean radishes
i made some interesting choices with these burgers. an avid lover of sticky sweet hoisin sauce, i added a spoonful before considering the consequences. it was already stirred in before i thought about the fact that these burgers were sure to burn, thanks to the sugars in the sauce. since i had already taken a wrong turn, i thought stirring in equally sugary oyster sauce seemed like a good idea. i also added in sesame seeds, which i loved - but i'm pretty sure some of those burned, too. at that point, the more the merrier, right? if you worry that the burgers charring a few minutes before they're finished will bother you, maybe think about removing these ingredients from the turkey and instead, adding the sauces to mayo. maybe.

a note about the toasted sesame seeds. i buy them from the asian markets, toasted, in large quantities and on the cheap. totally worth it.

scallion-sesame mayo
i think it's safe to say that you will have more mayonnaise than you need. that's ok - even not-so-exciting mayo has it's uses.

3 large scallions, trimmed and sliced
2 small cloves garlic, peeled and halved
2/3 cup reduced-fat mayo
1-2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

in mini food processor, pulse scallions and garlic 10 times, or until finely chopped. add mayo, sesame oil and a pinch of kosher salt. process 30 seconds, or until well combined, scraping down sides, if necessary. taste and adjust seasoning, if desired.

shiitake turkey burgers
2 teaspoons grapeseed or canola oil
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into 1/4" dice
1 (1-inch piece) gingerroot, peeled and finely diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced (use only half if you want to tone down the spice)
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
3 large scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 heaping tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce, like sriracha
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/4 pounds ground dark turkey
4 buns, halved (it's a nice echo if they're sesame buns)
scallion-sesame mayo
pickled korean purple radishes, dried with a paper towel

in medium skillet over medium heat, heat oil 30 seconds, or until shimmering. add mushrooms; cook 2 minutes, or until softened, stirring often. add ginger and jalapeno; cook 1 minute, more. add garlic; cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly. remove from heat and immediately transfer to large mixing bowl. stir in scallions, sesame seeds, soy, hoisin, oyster and chili sauces and sesame oil; season gently with salt and black pepper. let cool completely.

add turkey to bowl; using hands, mix just until combined. separate into four equal patties.

heat grill or grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. add burgers. cook 10 minutes, or until cooked through and no longer pink in the center, turning once. transfer to plate. place buns on grill and cook 1 minute, or until toasted and golden brown (do yourself a favor and check them midway through in case your grill runs hot).

to assemble: place one burger on bottom of each bun. top with pickled radishes. spread top bun with mayo and place on burger. if you happen to have made baked sweet potato fries during this whole thing - all the better. put those on the other side of your plate. you may find yourself thinking the scallion-sesame mayo isn't all that bad on the tip of a fry.