Saturday, June 7, 2008

creme fraiche

Another quick note on the creme fraiche. Though it tastes a lot like sour cream, it behaves a lot like ultra thick whipping cream. I have never used sour cream to make a white sauce before, so I don't know if it would work the same way. A lot of american sour cream is more gelatinous (and most of it has a lot of additives). My recommendation, if you can't find creme fraiche for the previous recipe, try using regular creme. Or if you want that sour note, use an organic sour creme with no additives (or regular, non organic Daisy Brand sour creme, which lists these ingredients from what I recall: grade A creme, culture). It also comes with "inspirational" sayings on the lid, like "When there's a song in your heart, sing along!" Yay for Daisy!

Fish in white sauce

I was going for something similar to the previous recipe, but I'm currently residing in Paris in a dorm, so I have different ingredients on hand and different utensils to cook with.

1/2 red bell pepper
4 - 5 white mushrooms
1 med clove of garlic
olive oil
rose wine

2 salmon filets (I really used 1 and then a filet of another fish whose name I don't remember, but the salmon was better in my opinion)

1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup coconut milk

Thougths/background: So I think I never knew what creme fraiche was until I bought it instead of creme today. I'll admit to that, but in my defense, I was rushed and trying to shop in french. Anyway, if you don't know what it is, it's like the step between creme and sour creme. I discovered this as I was in the middle of cooking the sauce and had to modify the recipe on the fly. By dumb chance, I also bought coconut milk, and it really complimented the creme fraiche in a very delicate way. Hooray!

Directions: Fry the bell pepper, mushrooms, and garlic in olive oil and wine. You could add other veggies, but these worked really well, in my opinion. When the veggies are sufficiently cooked, scoop them out and save in a bowl. Leave the wine/olive oil in the pan. In the same stuff, cook the fish. When the fish is cooked, set it aside as well. If you could keep it warm while this cooks, cool! I don't have the facilites for that. Now toss in the creme fraiche, and a minute later, the coconut milk. Let the sauce solidify some (I really hate the word "congeal") and then toss in the veggies. My veggies were still pretty wet, so I had to let the sauce sit on the stove a while longer. I also boiled some fettaccini in the meantime. Just place the pasta on the plate, throw some fish on top and pour the white veggie sauce over all of it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Red Pepper Onion Cream Sauce

I was watching Ratatouille and I was inspired both to animate and to cook, but since I was hungry, I decided to cook. There wasn't much here, though, except some chicken breasts marinating in some soy sauce and some dying red peppers in the fridge. Yet somehow, I got pretty fancy with it all :).

2 chicken breasts, cut into med. size pieces (marinated in soy sauce or salted)
1.5 red bell peppers (hey, it's what I had)
0.5 white onion
2 cloves of garlic, grated
ginger, grated (probably an amount proportional to 2 cloves of garlic)
olive oil
white wine (I estimate it was bout 2/3 - 1 cup)

0.5 cup heavy cream

Throw all the ingredients (except the cream, and reserving some wine) on a frying pan and let the veggies and chicken stew/fry until the chicken is cooked through and the veggies are soft. Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep warm if possible. Scoop out the peppers and onion with a strainer spoon and throw them in a blender. Blend the veggies until smooth. In the meantime, pour the heavy cream and the rest of the wine into the pan and bring to a boil, mixing the remaining cooking juices from the chicken and peppers. Simmer until white sauce is thick and creamy. So now you have chicken with two shnazzy sauces. The makings of something really delicious and with tons of potential for cool presentation :).

I made this with some fried potatoes. I just diced them in round circles (you need small potatoes for this, in my opinion), and fried them with a clove of garlic and some fresh thyme. Just poured the sauces over both chicken and potato and it worked really well.

Then my mom came home with some fresh veggies (finally! yay) and I warmed up the chicken for her. I kept her company and just had a diced cucumber with the remains of the sauce on my plate. It was still good lol :)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Coconut milk mmm

So since Ian is posting general stuff than just recipes, I will too. Way to expand my horizons, Ian :P.

So I've been playing a lot with coconut milk lately. It really is a nice pair to some of the world's stronger flavors (such as turmeric, as seen in the mediterrasian recipe).

I made a discovery recently, while trying to pick out which 79 cent can of coconut milk to buy at the chinese market by my house. Instead of picking the one with the prettiest colors, I started reading the ingredients. It turns out that most coconut milk you can buy out there contains coconut extract instead of being actual coconut milk! I'm sure that costs less and probably stays "fresh" longer, but I'd rather have the real stuff, thanks!

The only brand I found that contained actual coconut milk was one that was called SAVOY coconut cream.

The ingredients on this bugger read as follows: coconut milk 70%, water, potassium metabisulphate (E244) as a preservative. It has some allergy advice: contains sulphordioxide. Ok, so it's not ideal, but it's about the best I've seen out there.

Good thing I wasn't trying to buy coconut milk at Safeway, where they only have one brand. The point I'm trying to make here, is that if you are going to try to cook so-called "ethnic" food, where you need ingredients out of the "ordinary," see if you can find an "ethnic" market that has the good stuff. And do some research on what the good stuff is, if you can't figure out just by the ingredients. For instance, here's a link to a guide by San Jose chef Andrea Nguyen, on picking out Vietnamese fish sauce. Cool, huh?

If you live in the Bay, I have a list of local "ethnic" markets on my yelp profile. Check it out!. It's under the list called "Grocery for the Adventurous Cook."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

back from the store

last night i came back from the store with a bunch of stuff. there was a good balance of real food and desert/junk food there.

  • chicken thighs
  • beef sirloin
  • ground beef
  • chorizo <#
  • sliced turkey
  • pepperoni
  • salami
  • nathan's hot dogs <#
  • red onion
  • regular boring onion
  • parsley
  • romaine hearts
  • peas <#
  • garlic
  • lemon
  • tomatoes
  • canned beans
  • canned crushed tomatoes
  • mushrooms
  • strawberries
  • clementines
  • splenda raspberry jam (which i broke before we reached home)
  • orange juice
  • mango smoothie
  • reduced fat milk
  • diet sodas with splenda (that's all amanda)
  • orzo
  • tortilla
  • wheat sliced bread
  • buttermilk white sliced bread
  • mac n cheese
  • slow churn cookies and cream ice cream
  • mango sorbet
  • sliced cheese
  • cookies
  • sour cream

that was most of it. theres a good distribution of stuff in there. i know i'm going to have to come back for vegetables anyway, so i'm not going to get too much of that stuff. from jamie oliver's site which i linked to last time, i decided to make his wild mushroom venison stroganoff. since i didnt have access to a whole foods, i had to change some stuff in the recipe. one thing i would like to note here is that people should not be too afraid of changing a recipe if the ingredients you're switching out is fairly compatible. for example, i couldnt get venison so instead i got beef. it asked for rice, but since amanda and i really like orzo, we decided to go with that instead. i took jamie's advice on using the sour cream instead of the other french thing.

though i dont recommend you do this at first, this is what i do with recipes. i read through it and get a feel of what tastes the dish is trying to create, and then i modify it to my liking. besides, once you get the feel for something, you dont really need to follow it step by step. you just kinda... know what to do. in my opinion, cooking is a creative art. recipes are ill-equipped  to transfer type of intrinsic knowledge between people. i read through it and basically got that you were suppose to cook the meat, the vegetables, and everything else except the creme to get all the flavors together. then, you add the cream at the very end and put it over the rice. dont get me wrong, there are a lot of things you make that will require a particular technique which you cant wing. for the purposes of most of the things i make, it'll be fine. learn to use your eyes for quantity and you'll never have to bother with measuring things again. note: this does not apply to baking. you must measure out everything or else things can turn funky.

in the next post, i'm going to post the video of what i actually did. there will be some tidbits in there about how to cut things easily and what is the proper order of cooking things to get the most flavor out of your ingredients. sorry i cant post it sooner, but i need to edit it first because there were parts that were quite boring (me cutting beef for 5 mins).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

grocery shopping for the culinarily challenged

i often go shopping for groceries with friends who cook maybe one or two things. they never know what to get. they then end up getting drinks, junk food, sandwich stuff, and pasta. its all fine, but after a couple times of that, they tend to start eating out again. there seems to be a hump for these people where they can never get into the habit of eating in.

its hard to figure out what to get if you dont know how to make anything. you mostly try to cook by recipe. the problem is you're never going to the supermarket with a tome of them. as you stand amidst the overwhelming aisles of produce, it is hard to not be a deer in headlights.  

the first step is to not be afraid that you wont know what to do with what you buy. let's assume you have no idea what to get. well, what do you like to eat? by that, i dont mean particular dishes, but rather, ingredients. for example, i like chicken, and being asian, i prefer dark meat. i always get a bunch of thighs. be sure to store them in meal sizes (two or three pieces) in freezer bags and store them for later. do this for your meats, vegetables and carbs. unfortunately , vegetables and certain fresh carbs (breads, fresh pasta, unfrozen bagels, etc) have a shorter shelf life than meats, so you may not want to buy as much and make another trip to the grocery store.

once you get all that stuff, then you can start thinking about what to cook. to help, there are a lot of sites and chefs that specialize in simple meals. after you've done this a few times, you can start making your own creations. later i will drop some wisdom on general cooking techniques that works for everything. it'll make sure you dont make bland or burnt food.

right now i gotta goto the supermarket. i'll let you know what i come back with.


Because I post here so rarely, here is another person who apparently shares my spontaneous cooking style and lack of commitment to blogging.

Introducing my buddy Ian, who will possibly post something on here sometimes!

Enjoy. :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

French-ish Beet Salad with Rosemary flowers

Ahhh rosemary flowers! My favorite new discovery. My rosemary bush is in bloom and I thought "why not?" and put a flower in my mouth! All the delicious rosemary taste without any of the harshness and hardness that you can't swallow.

Here's my mom's trick to beets: suck it up and peel them before you cook them, wash them and there you go: no earthy taste. She likes to microwave them in a glass dish, but I'm sure you could bake them with the same results.

a couple cooked beets, grated or sliced thinly
a handful roasted almonds, sliced
a spring of chives, chopped
a handful fresh rosemary flowers (yum!)

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp spicy mustard

Well it's a salad, you know what to do.

Oh and if you're lame and turn your nose up at beets, you can do this same salad with spinach or arugula and it's just as delicious. Just add honey to the dressing to make up for the sweetness of the beets.

Mediterrasian Veggies

As you can see to the right, I link to a site called Mediterrasian Cooking. It's a cute site, but it fails to live up to the interesting name. Really it just talks about the health benefits of Mediterranean and Asian cuisines, but speaks not of the fusion the name seems to imply.

So here is my attempt at East meets... Middle East (my two fav. areas, foodwise).


1 clove garlic
1/4 onion, sliced in half rings
2 tb. spoons olive oil
spices: turmeric, coriander, allspice, dried mint
1/2 cup coconut milk

a couple white mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
any other veggies you may wish

Caramelize the garlic and onion in the olive oil with the spices. Add the coconut milk and the veggies and simmer until the sauce is thick. Serve over rice.

There you go: Mediterrasian!

PS I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that this is, in fact, a vegan recipe. Triumph!!

PPS I made this recipe again recently, with a whole bunch of other veggies and also some mango cubes I threw in at the last minute. Worked out well :).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Red Cabbage Apple Salad

This is an Isreali-inspired salad that was some kind of stroke of genius. Since I made it up, I've made it like three times in a week and a half, which is amazing, since the dish turnaround for me is usually more like a month or two. Literally, I made a batch of it, ate HALF of it and then, in the morning, took some bread, butter, cheese, and put the salad on top of it for breakfast.

The proportions change from day to day, but overall here are the ingredients.

1 apple, grated
small piece of a red cabbage, sliced thinly
1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, sliced thinly (optional)
1 tb spoon mayo
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice

sometimes I also add olive oil.

Each time I make it, I make the apple a larger portion of the salad than before hehe.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sasha's Sake Chicken Surprise

Sorry for the stupid name, guys... I just had no idea what to title this one. To be honest, this chicken kind of surprised me too :).
So lately I've just been throwing together random sauces. I'm not worrying too much about veggies in the dishes because I've gotten really into fresh salads (thank you Israelis!!).

Ok, seriously, I am no food photographer. For that, I'd need a better camera, better lighting, and possibly some skills.

This is for about 2 chicken breasts. I never cook a lot, since I am not cooking for a big family. And as always, the measurements are guesstimated at best.

1/2 cup sake (I use Nigori Creme de Sake, which is coarsely filtered. It's very sweet and mild)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp dijon mustard (I have some sweet honey dijon mustard)
2 tbsp honey

Wash the chicken and pull off all the excess fat. Marinate it in a ziplock bag for about an hour. Rub the chicken with salt and pepper and simply place chicken on a frying pan, and pour some of the marinade over it and set in on medium heat. (I suppose you could put the salt and pepper in the marinade, but that's not how I did it).

I know it's taboo to use chicken marinade as the sauce, but that's why we wash the chicken first. Anyway, this time around it worked out very interestingly for me. That's where the surprise came in, I guess. The sauce browned and congealed very quickly. Why didn't I expect that? I'm not sure. Anyway, this caused the chicken to brown beautifully. I poured in the rest of the marinade when I discovered this and stirred it all around. It still boiled away rather quickly, but it was enough time to finish cooking the chicken and caramelize some thinly sliced onions on the sauce.

In the end this turned out to be a really strong flavor, and I'm not totally sure how to make it milder. So the simple solution was to couple it with some very yummy coconut rice! They work very well together. Maybe next time I'll just put coconut milk in the sauce?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Reheating Chinese Food

(and other saucy asian food)

I know a lot of people have trouble with this and it took me a little bit of time to figure this out, so I just thought I'd share real quick. All you need is a skillet (or a pan), heat, and WATER. Yes, water, to dilute the sauce, so it doesn't congeal and burn.