Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day

We went for a walk in the Arboretum. I have no idea what this is, but it sure smelled nice.

For Valentine's Day, Steven and I did what we've done for the last three years, instead of going out for an overpriced and cliched meal, we stayed at home enjoyed a quiet and sweet dinner. I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day food because oh my god, everything is heart shaped! Just because the crabcakes are heart shaped does not make it romantic! And being surrounded by other couples cooing and swooning doesn't make it a special occasion, only awkward. Anyway enough ranting. I really love our Valentine's Day tradition. We started it not long after I began cooking so it's nice to see the meals getting better and better. This year, we really splurged and bought some really great ingredients - black tiger prawns, giant sea scallops, and organic ribeye steak. I really went all out this year because it just happened to be a long weekend after a grueling exam. It's a rare occasion to have so much free time to unwind and enjoy some great food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Garlic Butter Butterflied Shrimp
Who needs lobster tails when you have prawns. Rawr! Roasted butterflied shrimp with garlic, lemon, parsley, and lots of butter.

Seared Ribeye
For Steven, it always has to be steak, specifically ribeye, cooked medium with mushroom sauce. We added a little blue cheese because according to Heston Blumenthal (our new chef idol), the nutty aroma is supposed to mimic the aromas from a long aging process. Hey, if it's good enough for Heston, it's certainly good enough for us. I also made some unbelievably delicious double cooked potatoes roasted in duck fat (also courtesy of Heston). Oh. My. God. They deserve their own post and trust me, it'll be worth it.

Seared Scallop
Typically I go with a seafood dish and this year I chose to make scallops. The last time Steven and I went out for dinner to a supposedly great local restaurant, Enotria, I was really let down with my scallop entree (and the restaurant overall, but I digress). The scallops arrived beautifully but deceptively seared because once I flipped the scallop over, the second side was completely colorless. I felt a little cheated! One side of the scallop was overly salted and the other side was completely bland. I dunno about you, but I prefer my food evenly salted and cooked. And the fact that I only got 3 scallops, pretty wimpy... Overall it was very disappointing for an entree that was nearly $20. So for Valentine's Day, I spoiled myself by cooking a generous 6 scallops (even though the picture only shows 3).

Now just for kicks... let's revisit an old photo. Valentine's Day 2007.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kalbi - Korean Barbeque Short Ribs

Korean BBQ
N&P is now 2 years old! The local store had a special on flanken style short ribs and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to revisit the very first recipe I posted back in 2007, Kalbi, or Korean BBQ. It was also the perfect occasion to use the shiny new indoor grill that I got Steven for Xmas, part of my not-so-secret-anymore ploy to get him to cook for me. I'm hoping I can tap into that innate man and grill bond. I started making Kalbi not long after my first Korean barbeque restaurant experience. I thought the fact that each table had their own built-in grill was just the coolest thing (what can I say, I'm easily amused). Of course the ventilation system can never keep up with 20 tables simultaneously grilling, so Steven's parents wisely advised me to leave my coat in the car. The whole process of cooking your meal at the table is so much fun and very family/group oriented. If you've never been to a Korean BBQ place, I highly recommend you round up some people and go.

Yikes! Can you believe this ancient picture?!

At home I would either sear the short ribs on the stove top or broil them in the oven. Back in the college days, when we still had a George Foreman, that worked out pretty well too, albeit a little bacheloresque. Now that we have this new indoor grill, we can get those pretty grill marks.

Korean BBQ

Note: Flanken-style short ribs are ribs that have been cut across the bone.

Galbi/Kalbi – Korean Short Ribs
2 pounds flanken-style short ribs/spare ribs
1/2 C soy sauce (look for brewed soy sauce rather than artificially flavored and colored sauces)
1 pureed pear or 1/4 C orange juice
1/4 C rice wine
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar or honey
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil (my favorite is Kadoya)
4 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
4 - 6 green onions, smashed, cut in half lengthwise then cut into 2 inch segments
6 slices of ginger 1/8 in thick

Optional Garnish
Toasted sesame seeds

Serve with
Romaine lettuce or perilla leaves
Steamed rice
Ssam jang mixed with a little sesame oil (add a few drops of water if it's too thick)

Mix the marinade and pour over ribs in a dish or in a zipperlock bag. Marinate in fridge for 6 hours to preferably overnight. Turn ribs or flip bag once during marinating time.

Lightly oil your skillet or grill grate.

Sear on medium high heat, broil at 500 deg F on the top rack, or grill the ribs on medium high heat to your desired doneness. I usually like to cook them until no red juices come out of the bones and they have a nice sear, about medium - medium well.

Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve with ssamjang and rice. If you want you can also include Romaine lettuce leaves or perilla leaves to wrap a bite-size portion of beef and rice with a dollop of sauce.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cold Soba

When exam crunch time rolls around, which is all too often, time is precious and there's very little of it that can be set aside to cook. Now, that's not to say I stop cooking all together, I just have to spend my time wisely. Anything that can be made in less than 30 minutes is good (as long as it's not remotely connected to Rachael Ray), less than 15 is ideal. Which brings me to one of my favorite meals, cold soba. It's simple, healthy, and delicious. I boil some noodles, make the dipping sauce while the noodles cook, and sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds, seaweed, sliced green onions on at the end to make it look pretty because pretty food keeps the morale up while studying. It can be cooked, slurped, and the dishes washed in under 30 minutes. And it's healthier than ramen, which will be a post for another day.

Buckwheat is high in protein, good for your cardiovascular system, and just does a lot of great things for your body. When you buy soba noodles, make sure to look at the ingredients list, and if buckwheat is not the first ingredient you see, don't buy it. Preferably, the noodles should be 100% buckwheat. Cheaper, low quality noodles often cut their buckwheat with yam or other ingredients. Cold soba is particularly refreshing after a night of heavy takeout. If I have more time to spare, I'll pan fry some tofu to add on top and make a cucumber salad for a more complete meal.

Like most people, I rarely have dashi stock just sitting in the fridge so I usually just use water. Or I cheat by simmering some bonito and seaweed with the soy sauce and mirin when I'm making the sauce, let sit for a few minutes, and strain. If you have chicken stock or vegetable stock that will work too.

Cold Soba
Serves 2

2 bunches of soba noodles

Soba sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp mirin
1/2 tsp sugar (more to taste)
1/4 C Dashi stock (or chicken/vegetable stock or cheater dashi-see note)

Toasted Seasame seeds
Sliced green onions
Seaweed slivers
Grated daikon

Boil water in a saucepan and cook the soba noodles according to package instructions.

While the noodles cook bring the ingredients for the sauce to a boil then remove from heat and set aside.

When the noodles are cooked, drain the soba noodles. Return them back to the pot and fill with cold water, swirl the noodles around, drain and repeat this process until the water is no longer starchy and cloudy. Put the drained noodles on a platter or bamboo tray. Top with whatever garnishes you want.

Pour a little sauce in a bowl, pick up some noodles, dunk in the sauce, and slurp to your heart's content.


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