Monday, January 31, 2011

Dubu Ganjang Jorim - Korean Tofu Side Dish

Mr. Unoriginal Chef wanted to have tofu with our dinner, but thought fried tofu was a bit bland.  He knows I love Maangchi's website and actually pointed out this recipe as something he wanted for dinner.

I call myself his personal cook.  He points, I cook.  What a life.

Today's Korean lesson:
Dubu - tofu
Ganjang - soy sauce
Jorim - generic term for food cooked in soy sauce
Banchan - name for Korean side dishes

Featured on today's plate are brown rice and mandoo (dumplings) from Trader Joe's. 

Dubu Ganjang Jorim from Maangchi

Ingredients to serve two people:
  • Half a block of tofu, drained, sliced into 8 pieces, and patted dry with paper towels. 
  • One clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of corn syrup
  • 1.5 tablespoons of soy sauce (more than Maangchi's recipe)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Optional:  Sesame seeds for serving.
1.  Heat up a frying pan and spread about two tablespoons of oil in the pan.  Put the tofu in the pan and fry each side for five minutes over medium heat.

2.  In the meantime, mince one clove of garlic.  Combine the corn syrup and soy sauce in a bowl and set aside.

3.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4.  Give the corn syrup/soy sauce mixture a quick stir to recombine, and add to the pan.  Stir around to coat the pieces of tofu and flip to make sure both sides are covered.  Cook over medium-low heat until the soy sauce mixture mostly cooks off, although whatever is remaining is absolutely delicious over rice.

5.  Serve!  Sprinkle sesame seeds on top if using.

The first time we (who am I kidding, I) made this, the soy sauce didn't really permeate the tofu, so the overall effect was slightly bland tofu.  The second time I made this recipe, I upped the soy sauce by half a tablespoon, and I cooked it a bit longer to make sure the sauce got into the tofu.  I also drizzled a bit of the remaining sauce in the pan over the tofu for that extra kick.

Combine this tofu dish with my earlier potato dish and you now have two Korean side dishes you can serve!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese by Alton Brown

Alton Brown is one of my favorite personalities on Food Network.  His scientific approach to cooking is so helpful, because it really does help me to understand how my food cooks and what I can do to enhance my meals.

Plus the science is dumbed down enough for me to understand.  Needless to say, I was in the School of Social Sciences in college. 

I noticed Brown Eyed Baker mention that January is THE month for macaroni and cheese and I just had to contribute this Alton Brown recipe I love.  It's so simple, so quick, and has drawn raves each time I've brought it for pot lucks. 

(Or maybe people are just being polite...)

Is politeness necessary when the mac and cheese so cheesy good?

I think not.

  • 1/2 pound dry elbow macaroni
  • 4 tablespoons butter (I live by unsalted butter)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I omitted this)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard (I recommend 1/2 teaspoon to cut down on the sharp mustard taste)
  • 10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1.  In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the macaroni to al dente and drain. 

2.  While the pasta is cooking, whisk together eggs, milk, hot sauce, pepper, and mustard.

3.  Return the pasta to the pot and add butter (I sliced it into one tablespoon pieces.)  Stir to melt butter and coat.

4.  Stir in the eggs/milk/hot sauce/pepper/mustard mixture into the pasta. 

5.  Add the cheese.  Over low heat continue to stir for about 3 minutes or until creamy.

The results were absolutely delicious, creamy, and ridiculously easy to prepare macaroni and cheese.  It's much better than any box version of macaroni and cheese out there!  They may be cheaper, but the quality of fresh ingredients in mac and cheese absolutely cannot be beat.

How fast is this recipe?  I made it for a pot luck at work, and I managed to make it in less than 20 minutes in the morning before leaving for work - that's how fast.  The majority of the time is spent waiting for the water to boil and the pasta to cook.  I think I took more time looking for a six ounce can of evaporated milk!

You might ask why evaporated milk - simply, it elminates the need for a roux.  Evaporated milk regularly comes in 12 ounce cans, but I was able to find a five ounce can at Target.  I said "I'll make do!!!" and used that, as I didn't want to waste half a can of milk.

Definitely make this if you need a quick dish for a pot luck or a fast dinner.

Also check out the macaroni and cheese blog from the Wisconsin Cheese Council.  While I am a California Girl and I think California Cheese trumps all, they have a lot of great recipes for mac and cheese.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kitchen Tips - Onion Storage

I cook for only two people - myself and Mr. Unoriginal Chef.  I used to buy onions individually, but it wasn't always easy to gauge how much I would need, and I wound up making trips to the grocery store to buy one thing, which was extremely wasteful.

I discovered onions were sold in three pound bags at the grocery store, and in a size that was consistent for a dinner for two!  We win!  They were also cheaper per pound, and I stored them in my cupboard.

Over the past month, I discovered my onions were starting to become moldy and rotten on the inside.  Ugh.  Talk about a waste.  I was storing my onions inside the mesh bag (good) inside a dark cupboard (good) inside the plastic bag (whoops.)  In my defense, I kept the onions inside the bag so that I wouldn't be left with a ridiculous onion mess at the bottom of my cupboard to clean up.  Unfortunately, that promoted rotting and molding coupled with how warm it has been recently.

A quick google search directed me to and this helpful tip on how to store onions.  All you need is one paper bag.  It is a much more attractive option than taking stockings and hanging them on the wall in my kitchen.

Cut the bag down to above the fold, or as per one of the commenters, fold the bag down to the size you need.  I took this recommendation, as it made the bag sturdier and I could move the bag around easily if necessary.

Oh Trader Joe's - how I love thee.  I chose a Trader Joe's bag over a Whole Foods bag because it was smaller, meaning less folds!  (I'm lazy and not very strong.)

I transported the few onions I had remaining into their new home.

I kept the mesh netting... for now.  I bought a new bag of onions and while I kept the netting (to deal with my OCDness about onion skins all over the bottom of the bag) I broke the netting apart so that the onions have room to breathe at the bottom of the paper bag. 

As a side note, you may have noticed I have white onions.  My current bag o'onions are yellow.  In cooked recipes, there isn't much of a difference between white and yellow onions.  I prefer white because I think they're sweeter and not as sharp as yellow onions when eaten raw.  This would be an excellent point if I actually ate raw onions...

Anyways out of habit I kept picking up white onions, but the last time I was at the grocery store, the white onion bags had 1-2 onions that were either already moldy or soft (I'm that crazy lady in the store feeling up every onion in the bag) and the onion sizes were wildy inconsistent - one large onion, a few medium ones, and a couple of baby sized ones.  Ugh.  I grabbed a bag of yellow onions that seemed fresher, with consistent sized onions, and no rotting or molding visible on the outside. 

Today we learned:
1.  How to store onions (and it works for potatoes too!)
2.  My carpet is whiteish.
3.  My cupboards are really shallow, which I hate.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Old-Fashioned Pancakes

As a kid, I made pancakes all the time - pull out some Bisquick, add liquid and an egg, and then heat up a frying pan and pour out some batter.

Easy peasy.  So easy a 10 year old can do it.

Fast forward twenty years.  I still love pancakes, but I banned Bisquick from my cupboard.  What's a girl to do when a pancake craving strikes?  Make them from scratch!  Pancakes can be made from the staples found in almost any pantry.

Today's recipe is from Lucinda Scala Quinn, Executive Food Director for Martha's empire,  hosts her own show on Hallmark Channel called "Mad Hungry."

Oh to be that little pool of butter, in the middle of a pile of steaming pancake goodness...

The recipe makes 16 4-inch pancakes.  I scaled it down to make two normal sized pancakes and one abnormal sized pancake.  The scaled down ingredients is in parenthesis.

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour (0.5 heaping cup of flour)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (0.25 tbsp sugar, or 1/3 heaping tsp of sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt (0.25 tsp salt, or a pinch of salt.)
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder (0.5 heaping tsp of baking powder)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten (a smidge of egg, cook the rest on the side, or use an egg substitute)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (just under 1/3 cup of milk)
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for serving (0.25 tbsp melted butter for the batter)
  • Vegetable oil for the griddle
  • Pure maple syrup (or any old syrup)

A note when scaling this recipe down - I would consider omitting the egg, or scrambling part of the egg as a side to your pancakes.  I used one whole egg, and the batter came out really thick.  I had to keep adding milk to thin it out, and I eventually gave up.

The batter smells a lot like Bisquick - you're not missing anything by making this from scratch!  It only takes a little extra effort to measure the ingredients.

1.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.  Make a well in the center of the mixture, and add the egg, milk and 2 tablespoons of melted butter.  Whisk from the center, slowly incorporating the dry mixture.
(I didn't do that last part, I just threw everything in, and mixed vigorously.  That might have explained why my batter was so thick.)

2.  Heat a skillet, griddle or in my case, a non stick pan over medium high heat.  Swirl the remaining tablespoon of butter in the skillet, or use oil to coat the griddle. (I used cooking spray.  I'm sorry!!)  Pour 1/4th cup of batter per pancake.  When bubbles rise to the surface, flip the pancake over and reduce heat to medium.  Cook until the bottom is golden and centers are cooked, about 1 minute.

3.  As the pancakes come off the skillet, either keep warm in the oven on an oven safe plate, or serve to the hungry, waiting masses.

4.  Serve a stack of three with a pat of butter and real maple syrup.

Syrup action shot, even if it is picture taking fail.  It is really difficult to take these pictures by yourself!

It was delicious.  I love this recipe, although I would want to try it again without the egg or a smaller amount of egg.  I loved the taste of the pancakes - it reminded me of the pancakes of my childhood.  I wish they came out a bit fluffier, but I think that is due to using too much egg and overmixing the batter.  Plus I tend to flatten the pancakes when I flip them over, which is silly on my part, but this is a habit that is hard to break.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ratatouille... the dish, not the movie.

To save money, I shop based on the ads of the week - if I see a certain vegetable or protein on sale that week, I will plan my weekly cooking around that item.  It allows me to save money and keep expanding my repertoire of recipes.

Eggplant was on sale for $1.00 each, so I declared this week to be eggplant week!  I picked out the biggest honking eggplant out of the bunch, and brought it home to meet it's maker, aka my Santoku knife and my stainless steel pan.

After cooking with eggplant, I promtly declared eggplant week OVER!  I'm really tired of eating eggplant - that big honking eggplant provided a lot more servings than I anticipated!  

My first thought of cooking with eggplant was to make beef and eggplant lasagna.  I then remembered Ratatouille.

No, not the adorable Disney movie that I watch obsessively every time it's on TV like The Incredibles... the dish that was prepared in the movie for the critic Ego.  I don't cook with eggplant often (err ... ever) so I figured I would go for the gusto and find a dish that used eggplant prominently.

Today's recipe is courtesy of Everyday Food, October 2010, the issue with mac and cheese on the cover.  

It smells SO good when it cooks.

Ingredients: (Makes 3 quarts.  I halved this recipe.)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large eggplant (1 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 large yellow onions (1 pound total), diced large
  • 1 head garlic, cloves smashed and peeled
  • 2 bell peppers (any color), seeded and diced large
  • 2 large zucchini (1 pound total), diced large
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram or oregano leaves (I used dried.  Don't hurt me.)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar (I find this to be optional.  It doesn't add much to the flavor.)
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place tomato and juices on a rimmed baking sheet.  Use your hands to break the tomato into smaller pieces.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bake until thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Or, you can cheat like I did, because I forgot to buy whole canned tomatoes, and use a can of already diced tomatoes.  No one will judge you!

2.  In a colander, toss the eggplant with 1.5 teaspoons of salt.  Let sit for 20 minutes, then squeeze out excess liquid.  (I forgot to do this.  I didn't notice a difference.)  

3.  In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot with a lid, add 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, and cook until onions and garlic are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add peppers and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

4.  Add tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, bay leaf, and marjoram or oregano (I used oregano) to the pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to simmer.  Reduce heat to medium low, partially cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender but not mushy.  Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper.  

Remove the bay leaf before serving!

Serving suggestions include serving this as a side dish, over pasta, with baked eggs, or as phyllo wraps.  I highly recommend serving this over pasta:

I first tried it with rice, and the flavor was so bland, I couldn't bring myself to finish the serving.  I felt so disgusted eating the ratatouille, I wasn't sure if I could bring myself to finish the rest I had in my fridge.  

For dinner, I cooked some whole wheat pasta, heated up the ratatouille, poured it over the pasta, and heated up two Trader Joe's tenderloins to go with my pasta.  This version of dinner (I couldn't go full vegetarian, I can't do it!  I also went to the gym, so I needed protein!) was delicious beyond belief.  At first I wasn't a fan of this dish, which made me sad since I usually love everything out of Everyday Food, but over pasta, the dish was saved.


And remember what Remy said:  "DON'T HORK IT DOWN!"  Happy vegetarian eating!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gamja Jorim

When I lived in Los Angeles, the banchan (side dishes) we would receive at Korean restaurants included a winter salad of potato and apples mixed in mayo.  When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, I discovered a new potato side dish - gamja jorim.

I love the simple flavor and would nearly fill up eating just the gamja jorim and japchae (a Korean fried noodle dish) before my entree would arrive!

Gamja jorim is a great item to put in lunches, as you can heat it up, or serve it slightly cold.

Today's recipe is courtesy of Maangchi, which is a great resource for cooking Korean food.

  • 2-3 medium potatoes (or one monster baking potato)
  • onion, white or yellow
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 - 2.5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

1.  Wash the potato, peel the skin, and cut into one inch pieces.

2.  Rinse the potato in a colander to remove the starch and allow to drain.

3.  Cut half of the onion into one inch pieces.  Reserve the other half for another use.  (or make a double recipe!)

4.  Heat a large pan over medium heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of oil.  I used vegetable oil, Maangchi used olive oil. Either one will be fine.

5.  Add the potato and minced garlic to the pan, and cook until the potato looks translucent.

6.  Add the water, soy sauce, sugar, and corn syrup to the pan.  Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on the pan, until the liquid has evaporated.  You can check with a knife to see if the potato is soft after about 8 minutes - if the knife goes into the potato easily, the potato is done.  Check occasionally to make sure it doesn't burn and stir.

7.  Remove from the pan, add a little sesame oil (optional) and sprinkle sesame seeds (also optional.)  I prefer not to add these to my gamja jorim since I'm not used to that flavor.

Overall verdict:  Delicious.  I made a lot so we were eating it as a side dish with our dinner for a few days.  I almost wanted to make some galbi, some kimchi, some gamja jorim and have a full on Korean meal!  

This recipe is also very easy to make, and a good, basic introduction to Korean cooking that doesn't have a lot of ingredients.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Spaghetti Garlic and Oil)

I recently started watching the Korean Drama "Pasta" which is about the complicated lives of the chefs at an Italian restaurant in Korea.  One of the dishes on the show that is of great importance to the main female character is Aglio e Olio, or garlic and oil pasta.

You MUST click on the larger picture.  This doesn't do it justice.

It is a beautifully simple dish - pasta, garlic, oil and a bit of cheese to round out the flavor.  I knew Mr. Unoriginal Chef would love this recipe due to his picky eating habits.

Today's recipe is courtesy of Chef John of foodwishes.  Please check out his blog - his recipes are delicious, and the videos are extremely helpful in guiding new and not so new cooks through unfamiliar dishes.  He's also hilarious.  And a Californian.  :-D

Ingredients (to serve approximately four people)
  • 1 Pound dry spaghetti
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil.  (Chef John recommends regular.  I only have Extra Virgin, so I substituted 1/4th cup of butter, making it 1/4th olive oil, 1/4th butter.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (omitted, I dial down the fire in my food)
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley (I cheated and used dried parsley.)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano highly recommended.  (I substituted with grated parmesan cheese.  Yes, out of the shaker.  I made do with what I have!)
1.  Start by slicing the garlic into long, thin slices.

2.  Boil water for your pasta.  When it begins to boil, add the pasta and cook to al dente.

3.  In a cold pan, add your olive oil and garlic.  Turn heat to medium and slowly saute the garlic.  As soon as it starts to bubble, turn the heat down to medium low.

4.  Stir the oil and garlic until the garlic begins to brown.  When it is lightly browned, turn the heat off and add about 1/2 cup of boiling pasta water (which is needed to stop the browning process.)

5.  Drain the pasta and pour into a large bowl.

6.  To the pasta, add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Pour the garlic oil over the pasta.

7.  Add 2/3rds of the cheese and the parsley.  Mix to combine.

8.  Top with the remaining cheese when serving.

Mr. Unoriginal Chef was a fan of the simplicity in this dish (the first time I made it, I didn't have cheese... it was just garlic and oil, but the garlic flavor was infused into the oil) and really liked the garlicky and slightly nutty aftertaste.  However, I recommend having the cheese - it provides depth to the flavors.

I was a fan of how easy this dish is to prepare - the hardest part is slicing the garlic.  If you ever need a quick weeknight dinner, this is it.  The Mister added some Trader Joe's Chicken Tenderloins to add some protein, but you can also add grilled chicken or roast chicken.  Prepare this when you get the chance!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Monthly Food Porn... err Magazines

 (some may think this is a problem... I call it a collection.)

I subscribe to a few food magazines and I can't bear to throw any of them away.  For now, they all fit perfectly in a plastic file box, but one day I will need to organize them and reduce my stash.

Someday I will cook my way through these magazines - it should only take two lifetimes, right?

I currently subscribe to the following magazines:
Martha Stewart Living
Where would I be without the Queen Bee of Domesticity? 

Everyday Food
I personally love the recipes in here, as they are much more down to earth.  Or less complicated... and I don't have to search for Egyptian spices... or cheese cloths.

Food & Wine
I actually don't drink, but I received this magazine as a gift.  The recipes are actually a bit more fussy at times than MSL recipes, but the pictures are gorgeous.  I just ignore all the wine recommendations.

Magazines I would like to receive:
Every Day with Rachael Ray
I admit it, I like RR.  She's not a chef, but she doesn't portray herself as one.  At least her food looks edible and doesn't mix weird flavors, *cough cough* Sandra Lee.

Cooks Illustrated
America's Test Kitchen is my FAVORITE cooking show by far on TV.  I love how they test recipes over and over to get the taste and consistency they desire, so I know 99% of the time when I cook from a CI or ATK recipe, it will be delicious.

Do you subscribe to food magazines?  Which ones?  Are there any you would recommend?

Do you also have a shameful stash of magazines?  In a box, in the back of your closet?  Like porn!  (Gleeks should recognize that line.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Banana Nut Muffins

Last week I bought four of the biggest bananas known to mankind.  Mr. Unoriginal Chef didn't want to eat them, so they rapidly decayed to my favorite stage - baking ready.

Before I begin, here are two quick banana tips:
1.  If your banana isn't overripe, you can speed up the ripening process by putting the banana in the oven while it pre-heats.  The skin will turn completely black.  Cool, and then mash.
2.  If your banana is ripe but you aren't ready to bake, you can freeze the banana whole, and just defrost when you are ready to bake.

I've made banana bread many times, so this time I decided to go for banana nut muffins.  After a quick consultation with the mighty recipe oracle (aka Google) I found Tyler Florence's banana nut muffins recipe.  Being highly rated, I had a feeling it would come out well.

Gather your ingredients!
(not pictured - eggs)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 overripe bananas
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
You will also need three mixing bowls and at least two muffin tins (six muffins per tin)

1.  Preheat your oven to 375 and line your muffin pans or lightly grease with butter.

2.  Melt the butter in the microwave - in a microwave safe bowl, cut the butter into thin slices and microwave for 1 minute at power level 50.  If it hasn't completely melted, microwave for another 20-30 seconds at power level 50 until is melted.  Set aside to cool.

3.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

4.  In a small bowl, mash two of the bananas with a fork, leaving some texture (meaning don't turn it into baby food mush.)

5.  With a mixer with the whisk attachment or a strong arm and whisk, combine the remaining two bananas and sugar for at least 3 minutes.  It will get runny, don't worry!

6.  Add butter, eggs, and vanilla extract.  Beat well.

7.  Mix in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Stir until barely combined.

8.  Fold in the nuts and mashed bananas with a spatula.

9.  Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, about halfway filled in each cup.  Tap the tins against the counter to get out the air bubbles.

10.  Bake 18-20 minutes or when a toothpick is inserted, it comes out clean.  I also rotated the muffin tins halfway through the baking process.

11.  Allow to cool in the tins on a rack for 5 minutes, and then on a tray completely.

Helloooo gorgeous!

No, really, hubba hubba.

They tasted delicious when warm - they're not overly sweet, and the second addition of not completely mashed bananas help to keep them moist.

Extremely simple, quick, and great - an excellent recipe to use when you have rapidly ripening bananas or need to bring something to a breakfast meeting.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Yes, I am unoriginal.

I confess.

For years, I watched my mother cook, throwing together meat, vegetables, sauces, spices and ate many delicious meals.

When I headed off to college, and then began living on my own, I realized one thing:

I never learned how to cook.

Sure, I can throw things in a pot, and hope for the best.  Usually my "best" became a bland concoction that was almost edible.  I then discovered I'm really good at following directions.

Hand me a recipe, and I'm almost Julia Child.  Just a lot shorter.

I could bake, saute, stew, anything in my limited kitchen space as long as I had exact measurements, cooking times, and a reference picture.

I began reading food blogs, watching cooking shows, subscribing to food magazines, and lovingly caress cookbooks at Borders.  But how do you know if the recipe is actually good?

That is the mission of this blog - to take the recipes we find on the web, books, magazines, newspapers, etc, cook them and give my honest assessment, along with the Mr. Unoriginal Chef's judgement.

I hope you enjoy reading, suggest recipes, and let's recipe hunt and stockpile!

(ok maybe my secondary hope is to get through my recipe stockpile, which grows every single month.)