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
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
- nathan's hot dogs <#
- red onion
- regular boring onion
- romaine hearts
- peas <#
- canned beans
- canned crushed tomatoes
- 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)
- wheat sliced bread
- buttermilk white sliced bread
- mac n cheese
- slow churn cookies and cream ice cream
- mango sorbet
- sliced cheese
- 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
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.