It's been quite a while since my last post, during which I did a rather hellish OB/GYN round and a physically exhausting but also highly entertaining GS round. And now it's finally summer holidays! So an update on what I've recently been up to, and things I would like to do during my newfound (and short-lived) freedom. Predictably, it's all about food.
In fact, it's high time I updated my bookmarks list, mainly because the traffic I contribute to certain food blogs and cooking channels on Youtube far, far outstrips the sum total of the visits I make to those websites to the right column in the past year. In addition to Smitten Kitchen, 101 Cookbooks and Simply Recipes, I've discovered Foodwishes, Cooking With Dog, ShinShine, and Eat a Duck I Must (the last title which I find really cute: a phonetic approximation of the Japanese "itadakimasu" into English). I've also found the various About.com guides to ethnic food to be a rich repository of surprisingly excellent recipes.
So some of the things I've recently cooked:
- Za'alouk. Normally I scoop it up with crusty bread, but this time I sliced the bread, drizzled with olive oil and toasted, rubbed with a garlic clove, and served up the za'alouk bruschetta style. Huge success.
- Eggplant parmigiana. I have two recipes, from Jamie Oliver and Simply Recipes. I made my sauce like Oliver because given a choice, I seem to always take the more tortuous route (but it was fun, and also less involved than the recipe would have you think). I still went with battering and frying the eggplant (as is traditional) rather than simply grilling it. Because who doesn't love fat?
- Tuna pizza. I ran across the recipe on (believe it or not) the About Moroccan Food guide, and apparently this is the most popular style of pizza in Morocco. Not having a pizza stone or the temerity to try my hand at making the dough myself, I lined up the toppings (tomato sauce, sriracha swapped for harissa, tuna, olives, red onions, and cheese) on a tortilla and it worked out fine.
- Makhani murgh, also known as butter chicken. I really liked Journey Kitchen's approach: grinding the stronger and more fragrant spices with the almonds together, separately from the spices that go into the yogurt marinade, and again stewing the tomatoes separately and adding cream at the very end. It's this layering of flavors that elevates this curry house staple far beyond Campbell's Tomato Soup (which is seriously the way a place near my house does it... yet everyone I know really likes it there, which mystifies me.)
- This phớ bò was an absolute labor of love, and oh the layering of the flavors looks almost too much for what seems like a "simple" bowl of noodles: the char-grilled onion and ginger root, dry-roasted spices, beef bones simmered for hours to draw out and mature all the flavors, and finally the scatterings of fragrant cilantro and the clean-edged heat of green pepper. One may wonder if it was worth it, but because I'm so intimate with the whole process that went into the dish, I can appreciate much better the intricacies of the resulting flavor, even if it was—in this case—unavoidably Koreanized.
- Cooking With Dog has awakened in me a new enthusiasm for Japanese cuisine, and the first recipe I actually tried was the tamagoyaki, which is basically the Japanese version of the 계란말이 from my childhood. I hadn't yet got the knack of cooking the layers of egg without browning them when I did the version you see at the top of the page, and I put in too much soy sauce so it looks an unappetizing shade of gray. But still, don't tell me you'd refuse a platter like that for a midnight snack, eh?*
Patatas bravas. I cooked this today, following Chef John's recipe from Foodwishes. It's a multistep affair: boiling the potatos in flavored water until just barely cooked, cooling and drying in air, and deep-frying, finally tossing with flavored salt and covering with an allioli sauce. For all the steps involved, it was a surprisingly short time before I had the potatoes done and on the table.
- I really never considered a plate of wienerschinitzel as anything more than Austrian donkassu. I still don't think of it as any more than donkassu, but the description of what schnitzel can be like when properly done is mouthwatering: a golden puffed up crust with a sandy texture that melts in your mouth to reveal succulent juicy meat inside. If that doesn't get you, everything else on the plate just might: Viennese cucumber salad, warm potato salad dressed in vinegar and pickled onions, and tender, succulent lettuce rich with a fragrant oil, like pumpkin seed or hazelnut.
- I relish Korean food, which makes it come as all the more of a surprise that I never cook it for myself. Possibly Korean dishes don't fire my imagination like more exotic recipes do, or I find the prospect of making all those banchan too daunting. Whatever the reason, I feel a little ashamed of myself, as if I'm betraying my heritage. Then I discovered ShinShine, which made cooking Korean look attractive again. I plan to try my hand at some banchan soon: braised black beans and lotus root, tofu battered in egg and pan-fried, and various namul dishes seems like a good place to start.
- Grilled mackerel with blistered skin and succulent flesh, possibly served up with blackened tomatoes or rose petal harissa. The harissa recipe I got from JamieOliver.com, and while it seemed so nifty at first, I'm less enthusiastic about it now, and while rosewater and edible roses are not that hard to come by, it requires jumping through a few hoops to get, so we'll see.
- I have a side of salmon on order, cured in the gravlax style, which I got for a steal. I've got quite a few plans for it: a sort of salmon nigiri-zushi I've made before, more like a salmon-rice petit-four, with layers of flying fish roe and remoulade sandwiched in between layers of rice, and the salmon in place of frosting. Then I'm also planning to grill some of it and serve it with fondant potatoes and green beans. The rest I'll use to top ochazuke, perhaps the humblest recipe of the three, but the one I've been looking forward to the most... mostly for the visual effect of the sunrise-tinted flesh against mellow leaf-green water.
But that's enough of my soapbox talk. Dear reader, what are you cooking up these days?
*Unless you follow Kosher / Halal law. Or are gluten-intolerant. Or allergic to eggs. In which case I totally understand.