Wednesday, January 28, 2009

asian home cooking

as i have mentioned before, seth really loves asian food, and i am a pretty big fan myself. so we have been cooking up some yummy asian food at home. seth recently made this awesome thai curry he has been making for years and i tried a new recipe for pork meatballs from this new cook book we got call food lovers vietnamese, a culinary journey of discovery. both recipes follow.

red or green chicken curry:
heat 1 oz oil and 2-3 tbsp red or green curry paste for one minute
add 3/4-1 lb cubed chicken until brown
add 1 cup coconut milk and 2 cup water, bring to boil, simmer 15 minutes
add veggies (tomatoes, snow peas, shitakis, etc.) cook 5 minutes
add 1 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tsp brown sugar, 2 tsp grated lime rind, 1/2 cup basil
toss well and season with salt and pepper to your liking
serve with basmati rice

this past time seth made this dish he used maine shrimp in addition to chicken. the shrimp worked beautifully. any protien really would. my only complaint about this amazingly flavorful meal is that the curry is never as thick as the ones you get in thai restaurants. in looking at the recipe it may be because you add so much water. cutting back on the water a little may help to thicken it. we also always use low fat coconut milk which probably changes the consistency a little. i'm sure we have tried to thicken it with corn starch before, but i can't remember how it turned out.

vietnamese pork meatballs (nem nuong):
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1lb coarsely ground pork
1 head tender lettuce, leaves separated
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 small cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced into half-rounds
12 or more fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp vegetable oil

put fish sauce and sugar in a bowl and whisk until sugar is completely dissolved. stir in shallot and garlic, and season with pepper to taste. add ground pork and mix together thoroughly. cover and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.
pinch off about 1 tbsp pork mixture and shape into small meatballs.
arrange lettuce leaves, carrots, cucumber, and mint leaves in individual piles on a large platter.
heat oil in a nonstick skillet, then add meatballs and cook, rolling them around, for 5 minutes, or until golden all over.
to eat, put meatball in center of lettuce leaf with carrot cucumber and mint leaf. wrap up and dip in your favorite sauce.

i served the meatballs with a super simple peanut sauce made by mixing equal parts water, hoisin sauce, and peanut butter. i also make a quick nuoc cham by mixing fish sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, garlic, and thai chilies. both sauces were also from food lovers vietnamese.

the meatballs were delicious. the sugar sort of caramelized all over the outside so even though they were quite savory they had this delicate sweetness to them. we ate them as dinner but they would also be a great appetizer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

indulgences in fat

for a while seth and i have been wanting to try the strangely named restaurant duck fat. but knowing that any restaurant with such a name would be an indulgence, we had to wait until we had a little extra cash. with some money burning a hole in our pockets we decided what better day to splurge than some random wednesday in the middle of january (in fact it is not so random a day in that we have a new president today, but this isn't really a political blog so we will stay away from that for now).
from our home in the west end we walked down to that foodie corner of portland, nestled between old port and the east end, which houses duck fat. it is so named because they use duck fat to fry their french fries. and oh what french fries they were! it is no hyperbole to say they were the best french fries i have ever had. it is rarely a french fry i meet that i do not need to salt, but these were perfectly seasoned, not only with salt but with little bits of fried garlic. we opted for truffled ketchup and garlic aoli as our dipping sauces. they were wonderful complements to the fries and quite ample portions. this is a lot for me to say, because as seth points out, i am a sauce whore.
they have a nice selection of panini, salads, and soups and today seth and i both went for panini. i had the tuna melt with provolone, capers, tomato, and cornichons. seth was a little skeptical at my selection but was pleasantly surprised to taste the deliciousness. this was no ordinary chicken-of-the-sea tuna melt, no doubt made with high quality canned tuna in olive oil (i don't know this for sure but its what i like to think for my $8.75 sandwich). it was salty and crispy and perfectly filling. seth went for the long island duck confit panino which he loved very much. the waiter suggested that for a mere $2.50 more he could add goat cheese. seth opted not to add it as the sandwich was already$9.50 but said that he did think the goat cheese would have been great addition. he thought their panini were wonderfully thin and commented on how it is difficult to find a panino with the right bread to filling ratio.
the service was excellent and even though you order at the counter the attention was better than table service at many places. with a tip commensurate with the fine service, our bill was just over $30. a bit of a splurge for a mid-week lunch for two. but as they are open until 9pm every night but sunday, it would be an affordable dinner. they also had some signs up about an awesome happy hour featuring a pbr tall boy and a small french fry for $5. sounds like a very happy hour to me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

i could get used to this

seth is unemployed. in these hard economic times it is a little stressful, but we are managing. he has defiantly picked up the slack around the house, which includes making dinner. i have a very long commute to and from work and there is nothing better to coming home to a home-cooked meal, ready and waiting.
especially if that meal is vietnamese-style maine shrimp summer rolls and chicken satay with home-made peanut sauce. in an effort to keep himself from going stir crazy, seth set about cooking this extravagant meal this past tuesday night. he consulted 3 separate cook books for the peanut sauce recipe. it had a wonderful flavor but was a little thick for actual dipping. he julienned carrots and cucumbers, boiled up some rice vermicelli noodles, broiled the chicken satay, and blanched the shrimp. luckily he didn't roll the rolls himself because it turns out he is no good at that. so we each assembled our own rolls, one by delicious one.
the following night i cooked dinner for seth, otis, and marya. from my stack of recipes to try i selected a pork loin stuffed with figs and blue cheese and a quinoa and spinach gratin. the pork loin, from cooking light, turned out pretty good. it was my first time using my new probe thermometer and i didn't quite realize that i wouldn't be able to hear the alarm in the living room. so it was a little overcooked. and as much as i love that fig-y taste, i don't like the crunch of all the seeds. the gratin recipe i got from the garden of eating blog was amazing. i changed it just a bit, skipping the gruyere and just using some sharp chedder we had in the fridge and i didn't use any of the three fresh herbs the recipe called for. its winter in new england, i have no herb garden, and i'm not spending a small fortune for a few teaspoons of herbs. even without the herbs it was great. cheesy and comforting and filling without being heavy. i ate it with gusto as leftovers for days after.
for dessert marya brought a selection of cookies from two fat cats bakery. yum yum.

quite palace

last saturday, after returning from my wedding dress shopping fiasco, seth and i headed out for a bite to eat. we decided we wanted indian, but had no leads to the best indian in portland, so we headed down congress to india palace (565 congress st.). there was absolutely no one in the restaurant. usually i take this as a message that i do not want to eat in such an establishment. but as i had just alerted seth that i was about to have a hunger melt down, we went inside anyway. needless to say, as the only costumers, the service was very prompt.
we quickly ordered the palace mixed platter (a favorite of seth's at any restaurant and any cuisine). along with our taj mahal beer, it came out fast and proved to be a plate of fried deliciousness. it included samosas, tikki pakora, paneer pakora, and papadam. the accompanying sauces, we will call them brown, green, and oniony, were great.
i'm a very adventurous eater, and in some circles the pure fact that i eat indian food would be considered adventurous. but in truth i tend to play it pretty safe when it comes to indian. for our mains we ordered chicken tikka saag, a perennial favorite, and malai kofta, a relatively new favorite. we ordered them at medium spice which was the perfect amount of spice -- enough to give the dish a nice heat but not so hot that all other flavors are overpowered. along with some naan and basmati rice, the dinner was really great. both dishes were richly flavorful and aromatic. it absolutely satisfied my indian food craving and didn't cause a stomach ache later on.
the atmosphere of the restaurant was a little lacking, though this may have been helped if there were other people in the restaurant. as it was a saturday night at 7:30 pm i can only imagine that india palace must do a great lunch business in order to stay in business. but in these hard economic times, maybe less people are going out for indian.

Monday, January 12, 2009

david's bridal fiasco

i could tell you all about it but this sums it up:
check out this amazing video made by my fabulous friend about our trip to david's bridal, or db as we like to call it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

a shower a day keeps the mrsa away

i won't delve into the gritty details of the events that inspired this posting, but i will ask the simple question: why wouldn't you want to bathe on a regular basis? i personally shower just about every day though i'm known to skip a day on the weekends. and i frequently do suggest to my patients plagued by eczema that less frequent showers may be good for their oh-so-dry skin. but when i say less frequent i mean every other day or every two days, i don't mean skipping a shower until you have the undeniable odor of human stench.
but i wonder if i am missing something important here. has my stinky patient suddenly found herself and her family homeless and without means to clean her body? is she so horribly depressed that she can't bring herself to bathe? or does she simply have very bad hygiene habits? these are things that are difficult to assess cuz what do you say? hey honey, i noticed that you reek, why is this so?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

i've got a crush on you

i have a thing for bakeries. it is such a serious thing that seth says i get crushes on bakeries. its true, a good bakery can win a special place in my heart and visiting such a place can make me fell all warm and fuzzy inside. so i am pretty lucky to be here in portland because we have a few excellent bakeries.
my favorite is scratch baking co. in south portland. it is truly one of the cutest bakeries i have ever visited and i consider moving to the willard beach neighborhood just to be close to it. in portland proper there is the quite adorable two fat cats bakery on india street in the old port. walking into this place you just get a sense that the women who work here truly love their jobs. it was even written up in bon appetite magazine. also in the old port, right on commercial, is standard baking co. in a beautiful space with beautiful baked goods. its located right under fore street, which it is actually affiliated with (and with two fat cats i just learned).
my standby is always a chocolate chip cookie and a cup of coffee. i've heard the chicken pot pies at two fat cats are amazing and the madelines are light and fluffy at standard.
let me know if you have a bakery i should check out! i wouldn't mind a new love affair.

i can't help myself

call it what you will, but i love crappy tv. seth has frequently said to me, "jenner, it's amazing that someone as smart as you could like something so stupid." so with those sentiments in mind, when i saw that the new season of the bachelor was starting i quickly and shamefully dvr'd it before he could notice. today, on my mid-week day off, as the snow fell outside, i enjoyed the guilty pleasure of the bachelor. i will say that i could never watch it on live tv again, as i must fast forward through the inevitable moment when one of the bachelorettes reads the bachelor the rhyming poem she has written just for him.
in my defense, i have to use my brain a lot at work. i spend a lot of time just listening to people and trying to find something meaningful and motivational to say to them. between people with sky high blood pressure and cholesterol, obesity, and borderline blood sugars (that is all one patient) and everyone from teens to adults with anxiety to arguing with patients that want antibiotics for their viral upper respiratory infection and treating anal warts, my work can take a lot out of me. and on my day off, god dammit, i want a little brainless activity to relax to. and if the bachelor doesn't fit that bill i don't know what does.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

bring on the bbq!

some may argue that a girl from california, who lives deep in northern new england, and has only briefly visited the south, does not really know barbecue. and this may, in fact, be true. but i do love the barbecue that i have eaten in my life and i fantasize about a bbq road trip through the south.
so i was quite pleased when we freshly moved to portland and marya and otis took us to beale street bbq in south portland. it was great and to my, albeit bbq naive, taste buds, it tasted authentic. plus the service is wonderful.
we started with these amazing fried cheese curds that had cinnamon in the batter and were served with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce. i chose for my main course a half a rack of st. louis baby back ribs, which come with corn bread and choice of two sides. mac and cheese and greens, please! the servings are very generous, and even though i like to eat A LOT i had about half my entree to bring home and enjoy for lunch the next day.
we went again a month later, again with otis and marya, and the food was again terrific. i ordered exactly the same thing and again it proved to be a great and pleasing choice, with leftovers!
well last night seth and i decided we were in the mood for a little bbq so we headed over to south portland, this time without otis and marya, to get our bbq on. overall beale street bbq let me down this time. first, they had changed their cheese curds. they were still good but no longer had cinnomon in the batter and are now being served with a creamy garlic sauce. they really were quite tasty but if i had my choice would pick the old cheese curds.
as i can be a creature of habit, i ordered the same thing again for my entree. the sides were consistent and wonderful but of my six ribs, four were so over cooked they were like jerky. what a disappointment! seth had a better ratio of meaty verses jerky ribs but he still had a couple jerky.
i don't know if it was just a bad night for beale street, or what? we will defiantly give them another chance, cuz 2 out of 3 isn't bad. but i may try buck's naked bbq in freeport before going back.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

christmas cooking and eating

i was going to try to write about my christmas cooking before new year's eve rolled around, but it didn't happen. so will write about christmas today, january 1st, and try to get to new year's eve in a couple of days.
for christmas cooking inspiration i looked through my december cooking magazines from present and past and again martha stewart provided me with many of my dishes. in defense of martha i will say this: her recipes are well written, easy to follow, and produce delicious food. and what is so wrong with that?
for christmas even we went to sandy's house, who is seth's dad's girlfriend. this is our second year in a row so i guess it's becoming a bit of a tradition. its kind of a riot because the guests include sandy's daughter and partner, her daughter's father and his wife, and her two sons. its like this huge extended family that by all cliches shouldn't get along, but do. and lobster is always served. who can beat lobster for christmas eve dinner? the one thing i realized though is that i rush through my lobster. as much as i love that sweet lobster meat, it drives me crazy to have my hands so dirty. i think i prefer a lobster roll, cuz i can take my time to enjoy the lobster without getting messy.
let me talk about what i brought. i have been quite literally obsessed with pepperdews recently. pepperdews are these amazingly sweet and hot little peppers from south africa. i find them in the antipasti bar at the supermarket. i must have had this dish at some point, but i decided that i had to make pepperdews stuffed with goat cheese as an appetizer. they were as wonderful as i imagined they would be. the creamy, salty, tangy, goat cheese was the perfect complement to the sweet spicy crunch of the marinated pepperdews. seth and i also picked up some fresh maine shrimp, which i blanched and served with cocktail sauce. everyone loved their unique flavor and texture.
as it is christmas i had to make some cookies and for christmas eve i made banana chocolate chunk cookies. i have made them before and they are so so so good. the banana improves on something i didn't think could be improved on, the chocolate chip cookie. the recipe calls for walnuts which i leave out and part whole wheat flour. if i had whole wheat flour i would use it but i just sub white flour for the whole wheat.
for christmas dinner we went over to the manach's. just before christmas the patriarch of the family, greg manach, passed away. as christmas is always at the manach's this was in some ways a informal memorial to greg. it was wonderful to be with family and friends and the food was wonderful. greg was an amazing cook himself and he made his living as a butcher so holidays with him were always guaranteed to be delicious. the main course on christmas is always bbq'd beef tenderloin and this year ethan did an amazing job. i contributed to the meal with a wild rice salad and almond-orange cookies.
the almond-orange cookies are just a variation on italian christmas cookies, which is really just the same cookie as mexican wedding balls or russian tea cookies. other than chocolate chip cookies, this is probably my favorite cookie in the world and is so full of memories for me. growing up my dad spent a lot of time hanging out at the fairfax bakery, the local bakery in my hometown of fairfax, ca. he would bring my brother and me in there a lot and sometimes if i was passing by on my own, i just might be lucky enough to spot my dad in the bakery. he would always buy us a treat and my stand-by were two russian tea cookies and a carton of milk. yum-yum.
in addition, i made potato latkes twice in two days to celebrate hanukkah. as a variation on the traditional, i love to mix sweet potatoes in with the regular potatoes. they are super labor intensive and result in a cook that smells like chinese food (as my friend emily frawley pointed out when we met her for drinks later that night) but they are worth it!