In which the world of culinary hedonism is explored with a cup and a half of curiosity, a heaping tablespoon of passion and a dash of clumsiness.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

109 ~ Tuna steak and Veggies (at a price)

Last night I left campus at 7pm - yes, on a Saturday - because I had been riding a wave of productivity that continues even today. So this is going to be short and sweet, as I'm heading back in to finish my To-Do list! But last night I was craving simple, wholesome fare. And so I did one of those "If I could have anything in the world right now, what would I eat" games. It's a dangerous game to play when you're living so far away from Wegmans or Panera. I settled on simply prepared fish and a steamed veggie.

I wandered in to Cold Storage and grabbed a tray of Brussels Sprouts, which, I'm sad to say, were 50 cents a sprout. But fresh veggies are worth it, right? Next was a tuna steak - a tray with two - so I could justify the cost since I'd be getting a second meal out of it, right? I won't tell you what I paid for the tuna. I just won't. Next into my cart went an oaky Chardonnay. Because if you're gonna be a big spender, you might as well go all the way, right? RIGHT?!

This was one of those meals that was so simple I almost wonder if anyone out there wants to read a blog post about it, but I think the reason I will post on it is because it shows how fast preparing a truly delicious meal can be. I was sitting down to eat this less than 15 minutes after I walked in the door.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Tuna steak
  • Butter
  • Seasoned salt (I chose garlic salt)
  • Coarse salt
  • Brussels sprouts (yours will be cheaper. Be quiet.)
First things first - open the wine. Ha! You thought I was going to wax poetic about starting the pan heating? Let's be realistic. Okay, NOW you can get the pan on the stove. I always cook with stick-free cookware. Start a good chunk of butter melting down in the pan. 

Wash the brussels sprouts. With the absence of an oven, another great way to eat Brussels Sprouts is how my mom and I prepare them when we're home together. We buy them pre-shredded at Wegmans and steam them. Since mine aren't pre-shredded, I make short order of them myself with a chef's knife, then stick them in a bowl with a little water and tightly cover it with cling wrap. I popped them into the microwave on 1:30 and then put the tuna steak onto the pan. I seasoned one side lightly with the garlic salt, and when I saw it was heated partway through, I flipped it over. At the same time, I stirred the Brussels Sprouts and popped them in for 30 more seconds. 

: : PAUSE : : 

All in all, the tuna was probably cooked for about 10 minutes (I decided to cook this tuna all the way through, but you can use your judgment on cooking times and make it to your preference).

: : UNPAUSE : : 

I flipped the tuna steak one more time, making sure to move it around the pan to get all that good browned butter on it, turned off the heat but let it sit there a little longer while I drained, buttered and salted the sprouts. 

Onto a plate it all went, and I called it dinner.

And a grand dinner it was!
Yours in the love of good food and wine and a speedy combination of the two,

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Post 108 ~ "The Purest" French Toast

Growing up, my mom would sometimes declare a certain night "French Toast and Sausage" night. This would typically be when summer was drawing toward autumn and the air had a crispness in it, or better yet, in the darkest days of February, when the sun starts setting at 4pm and the world has gone quiet and frozen.

In any case, it meant that the kitchen would fill with the smell of browning butter, warm sage, maple syrup - all the smells of a dinner that was surely better as a reward at the end of a day than as a sluggish "well-I'm-obviously-not-getting-anything-done-today" starter. When my mom makes French toast, it's not an over-the-top, flavored, sugary-sweet dish. "It's all about the eggs and the bread," she'd say, beating eggs in a bowl as butter browned on a long, rectangular skillet. "Eggs, bread, and maple syrup. It should be unadulterated."

In Singapore, it may be September, but it hardly means the weather is cooler. In fact, the temps have been consistently in the 90s with a "real feel" temperature sticking (pun intended) around 103 all week. I have survived these days in a manner not unlike a CW vampire, hissing at the touch of the sun and ducking into shade spots, seeking, perhaps, the cold and darkness of the comforting winter months.

But that doesn't mean I'm not still craving autumnal foods. In fact, with the ubiquity of social media (hello, Pinterest, and your obsession with all things pumpkin), reminders of autumn foods are impossible to escape, even on the equator. So this morning, I set about making my version of "Purest" French toast. Minus a few key things, like sagey sausage and maple syrup. The simplicity of this dish is what enabled me to justify it as a breakfast food. Here's what you'll need:

  • French bread
  • Eggs
  • Condensed milk
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Cinnamon
  • Honey
I was cooking for one, and made a small portion. I started a stick-free skillet heating on med-high with some butter. I sliced three slices about one inch thick off of a b√Ętard I bought at the Swiss bakery downstairs. It's always a little stale when I get it (pretty impossible to keep a crusty bread like that fresh in 90% humidity!) so it's perfect toasting bread. I put about a tablespoon and a half of condensed milk into a bowl when I mixed up a new jug of creamer this morning (more on that another time!) and added about a teaspoon of regular milk. I cracked an egg into it and mixed it all together.

I dunked the bread slices into the mixture, making sure it had a few seconds to soak in, then onto the hot pan it went with a sizzle! I let it brown on one side while I made coffee, then added a bit more butter so I could flip them over. I flipped them all a few times, pressing down lightly on the centers and sides of the pieces so they would brown nicely. I put them on a plate, dusted them ever-so-lightly with cinnamon (this is, after all, supposed to be PUREST) and added a drizzle of honey over the top of the whole thing.

Lovely, warm, nostalgic and pure. A perfect not-too-heavy breakfast that has sated a bit of my desire for autumnal food - and has made me that much more excited for winter dinners to come over break!

Yours in the love of food and nostalgia,

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Post #107 ~ Lemon Chicken Rice Soup

I'm delighted that a friend of mine from Buffalo is arriving in Singapore to join her husband, my friend and colleague (and neighbor!) for the rest of the semester! I wanted to give her something to say "Welcome back!" and knowing how I feel when I'm jetlagged, I decided on soup. Something light. Something simple. I found this recipe, and naturally, utterly failed to follow any of the directions. However, it has been taste-tested and approved by said neighbor, and, if I do say so myself, I think it is quite good!

Here's what you'll need. Again, I'd like to point out that this was a recipe that I adopted from foodiecrush, but I butchered the directions to such an extent, I felt it merited its own post by yours truly!

  • Splash of EVOO
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 kg. skinless and boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup water with 2 chicken bouillon dissolved
  • Hearty splash of white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 1/2 cup Wegmans Mountain Red Blend rice
  • 1 full stem fresh tarragon, chopped
The directions on the blog are quite straightforward. However, I did not realize how much of my brain's cognitive powers had been sapped by a double-header of COM101 today. So here's how I went about it.

Put on a good rainy day album. I chose Death Cab for Cutie's Transatlantacism Demos. Start choppin'. I chopped up the carrots, onion, celery, garlic and leek, and put them all in a bowl. I've never cooked with leeks before, but I'm really happy that to say that this is another new veggie that's going to become a staple in my soups.

Chop up the tarragon and add it to the veggies (this is the point where my brain and my attention span seriously parted ways with the directions). Chop the lemon in half and squeeeeeeeeeeze the juice over everything. It smells SOOOO GOOOD! Today is the first day of spring, too, and while this isn't a terribly big deal in Singapore where it's summer year round, the Northerner in me still feels that chopping up all these fresh smelling veggies was a good springtime thing to be doing!

Dump a splash of EVOO into a large soup pot. Start it heating.

Heat it way too much. Back that baby down.

Chop up the chicken, season with salt, and slide into the hot oil to brown.


Okay, so the chicken is browning fine without the flour. Whatever. Add a hearty splash of Chardonnay to the chicken. Mmmmmm! Smells even better! (I love cooking with wine! Sometimes I even add it too the food!).

Dump ALL the veggies and tarragon and lemon into the pot and stir it around. Smells really good. Realize at this point you were supposed to do all of this separately. Shrug. Carry on.

Pour in the stock and realize you're one cup short. Quickly dissolve two Herb Ox bouillon cubes in a cup of water. Pour it in! Dump in another cup of water shy a bit, since you've added wine... 

Turn it down and let it simmer. I probably had it simmering for about 15-20 minutes, and then added my half cup of rice and simmered it for 20 more. I tasted the broth after the first 10 minutes, and it was pretty puckerful (I just made that word up. "Puckerful," © A. Lohiser, 2014) with all that lemon and tarragon. I'm pleased to say that it mellows beautifully over the course of the cooking time. I turned off the heat and dished some up in a take-away container for my friends to enjoy in good health and good company!

And I'll be enjoying a lot of bowls of this soup, now and in the future, that's for sure! This recipe is now part of my regular rotation! So fast and easy, healthy, and yummy!

Yours in the love of good food and wine,

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Post #106 ~ Pan-fried Dijon pork with homemade applesauce

This is one of those super simple meals I love. And again, may I state my undying love for my crock pot?

The main attraction of this meal, to me, is the applesauce. Every semester when we arrive at our serviced apartments, we are greeted with a lovely welcome basket. The basket always contains some butter cookies (called "biscuits" here), a granola bar, some chocolate, and bananas and green apples. Lots of apples.

The apples are good, but you can only eat so many (insert "keep the doctor away" jokes here), so around Week 2, when the apples are starting to look a little sad, I make some applesauce. My mom always makes applesauce (well, we call it "hot apples," being a very literal family) so the added perk here is that it also makes my apartment smell like home. Rather than increase the homesickness factor, it actually serves to abate it. Perhaps "home" can be wherever you feel your family's love - no matter how far away they are?

So usually I make it on the stove top, which requires, you know, attention, but today I thought I'd toss them in my crock pot. Great idea, if I do say so myself. Here's what you'll need:

  • Lots of apples. In this case, 6
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar (I use brown and white, but I don't suppose it matters too much)
  • Dried fruit is a bonus
  • Just a tiny pinch of salt
Get out your cutting board and make short order of your apples. I am pleased to say I don't waste much, but everyone's applesauce desires are unique. I leave the skin on, but am generous in my coring, cutting each apple in half, then whack-whack-whacka-whack each half like I'm cutting lines of longitude on a globe. Then I run the knife down the insides of the wedges wherever it's seedy. 

Toss the wedges into your crock pot with about a half cup water. Sugar and cinnamon are largely a to-taste thing. I use quite a bit, because, well, sugar and cinnamon are yummy. You can't take it out, though, so my suggestion is add some, taste, let it cook; you can always add more. I start by just kind of sprinkle-pouring it over the surface of the apples as they rest in the pot.

Slap the lid on, put in on high, and walk away. Stir it once in 30 minutes and that's a good time to assess your sugar and cinnamon levels. At that point, turn it on low. I let mine cook on low for another hour and a half. Halfway into that cook time, I stirred it once more and added a good handful of dried berries. They reconstitute in the most lovely way, adding just a touch of tart to the otherwise sugary sweet apples.

I came back downstairs and turned off the apples and made the pork. This would have been doubly-good marinated, but honestly, I just thought of it as I was coming down the stairs. Here's what you'll need:
  • Pork tenderloin cut into medallions (to serve one - in a country where this cut of meat is expensive - I used three medallions for my serving)
  • One scant teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Garlic salt
  • Dried herbs
  • Butter
Open the baggie/container of pork and sprinkle it generously with garlic salt. Smoosh it all around so the meat is evenly seasoned. Add the mustard and continue smooshing. Seal it up for a little bit while you let your butter melt in the pan on low-medium heat. Prep your side (mine was more steamed green beans, this time with a small clove of garlic cut in). 

Dump the pork in the pan (please don't splatter yourself with hot butter like I foolishly did; I mean, really.) and let it cook slowly, moving it as minimally as possible. One flip #1 I sprinkled with herbs, let it cook a bit more, flipped it again and let it cook for a few more minutes. I like my pork a little pink inside, so once I pierce it with a fork and the juices run clear with just a little red, I turn off the heat and let them rest.

Serve the pork with the apples on top with your side and enjoy! I had a glass of a French red table wine - it honestly would have been paired better with an oaky white, but this was on hand and paired just fine, thank-you-very-much! It added a note of tart acidity like the reconstituted berries in the applesauce!

All in all, a homey meal!
Yours in the love of good food and wine,

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Post #105 ~ Crock pot "coq au vin"

I put the title in somewhat ironic quotes, because I fear Julia Child would have a few things to say about my accidental rendition of this dish.

My story goes like this:

Back in Singapore for another semester, I have a freezer full of chicken and a crock pot at the ready. I love my crock pot. I invested $30 and a strenuous train ride back to my apartment to enable me to enjoy slow cooked "fix-and-forget" meals. I will do a separate post on the wonders of freezer meals, but for now, let us return to our story.

I had been madly pinning recipes over the summer to try when I returned to the Lion City, one of which is this one. I had read in the comments section that this recipe could also be done in a crock pot, and seeing as I possess both a crock pot and a penchant for garlic, I was in like Flynn.

This morning I woke up to an out-of-whack lower back. I'm not sure what I did yesterday (well, I'm pretty sure it entailed carrying heavy stuff - when I return to the States and become a car owner again, I will appreciate the convenience of a trunk in a whole new way!) but it was definitely looking like one of those bottle-of-advil-and-a-heat-pack kind of days. But I still wanted to make a good dinner. So I remembered this recipe, thawed out two large chicken breasts and got out the garlic.

And completely chickened out.

No, that's not a pun.

I had peeled six cloves, and by now my hands and my apartment are smelling intensely like garlic. Just how pungent would this dish be? What would happen if I cooked it for six hours in my small apartment? Would I have any friends left?

So I decided to wimp out on the garlic and substituted some other things instead. So into the bottom of the crock pot went:

  • 1 tbs EVOO to coat the pot
  • 1 medium sized onion, julienned
  • 6 peeled but whole cloves of garlic
  • 2 small tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 green apple, sliced (hey, I had a bunch on hand)
  • 1 sprig each rosemary, thyme, oregano

On top of all of this I plopped the chicken. I put a bit more EVOO over the chicken and sprinkled some coarse-ground salt over it. Now for some chicken broth. I have some broth in my fridge from a few days ago - one sec...

OH, no. Never mind. Equatorial climate + a jetlagged interpretation of "a few days" have not been kind to this opened carton of broth.

"What other liquid is within reach?" I think, as I hunch over my counter, a heating pad upstairs calling my name.

Well, that's a simple answer, if you know me well enough: Wine.

I had about 2/3 of a glass of a red table wine left that was a little too dried out for drinking, but not bad at all for cooking. Into the pot it went. 

I set it on low to cook for 5-6 hours. About half-way through, I stirred things around and added 3 chicken bouillon cubes. It smelled AMAZING.

I steamed and buttered some green beans to go with it and uncorked a new bottle of a French red. The thing that bugs me about crock pot meals is that as good as they smell and taste, they just don't photograph that well. So you'll forgive the above image if it doesn't look as pretty as other dishes do. Take my word for it - it makes up in taste for what it lacks in appearance!

And the garlic cloves?

Well, my friends, when I make it again for a crock-pot swap I've got arranged with my colleague and friend who also lives in this building, I'm thinking of the following adjustments: Less onion and more garlic.

Yep, more garlic.

The garlic cloves turn out rich, buttery and smooth. I actually spread two of them over the chicken breast I ate and it was FABulous. Next time I might get a piece of crusty bread and spread the rest of the garlic over that. It's not pungent or bitter at all - just sweet and nutty and mellow and oh-so-creamy!

So, there's something to be said for both Pinterest and accidentally cooking with wine instead of broth: 1.) Garlic is good and 2.) A bit of wine never hurt anyone (or anybird!).

Yours in the love of good food and wine,

The blogger is not an experienced chef. She takes no responsibility for the quality of the meals prepared while following her advice. Use your own judgment regarding cooking times and proper food handling.