Double-feature bonus posts this week! My offering to you, Dear Reader, for being a faithful audience. Enjoy!
A few years ago, I found myself buying one of those cup-salads from Whole Foods a lot in the summer. I liked it so much I figured I should start making it, so I can (a)get it without cilantro and (b)stop feeling like such a yuppie for buying a salad I could clearly reverse-engineer to make myself. Now when I’m up for more than throwing together some greens with nuts (read: up for more chopping), I’ll use this mix as the base recipe and improvise from there. I was actually pretty surprised when I couldn’t find a blog entry for this. Perhaps because it’s so straightforward, it didn’t feel like a recipe. This week’s weather in Seattle is sneaking up to the mid-80s, which counts as hot, so here’s a good option for those hot late Summer days when you don’t want to add another degree to your house by turning on cooking appliances. Air conditioning is a luxury, yo.
You guys, I have a confession: I hate cilantro.* I used to think I hate parsley, but in the last five years its resemblance to the flavor of cilantro has faded. Then, I had the privilege to vacation in Chile last year, and there was this sauce that kept appearing at restaurants with the steak. It tasted of garlic, and was full of green stuff. I liked it so much I had to stop a waiter to find out what it was. His reply was: chimichurri. Obvi, K and I had to grab some pre-mixed (as training wheels) packets on our habitual grocery-store-for-travel-keepsakes** run before we left Santiago. I think it was a Carrefour..
Fast forward months later when I finally got around to mixing it up as K seared some steak on the Big Green Egg, some balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, and a bunch of the dry packet. Eh, it was okay, but it also kind of tasted like dried leaves and dust. Long-time readers may notice this packet also made an appearance in one crispy-bottomed oyster mushroom steak post. The sauce was much improved once eaten on top of something, but I feel like anything you pour atop something else, even if a little strong, should be able to stand on its own too.
Now get back in the time machine, and move forward a little more:
I went out and got some actual red wine vinegar to add to my pantry for this, just to get closer to the intended flavor. I was doing another recipe that called for some parsley, and needed to make use of the rest before it sits in a jar in the back of my fridge getting forgotten. Then, I mixed up a big batch of this into 3 mason jars, to last a whole month in the fridge! Continue Reading
Related to the other top contender: I’ve had a lot of ‘random musings on exercise vs. food’ lately, and also ‘less calories for great flavor’ ideas to try and counteract a little lax indulgence while I was on vacation in Kauai recently. I found this one from Food Republic, they had a column called Crispianity, all about the crispy! You know I love me some crunchy..
Crispy-Bottomed Oyster Mushroom Steaks With Chimichurri Sauce Recipe
– 1 pound of oyster mushroom, get a cluster if you can
– 2-3 tablespoons canola oil (olive oil will smoke more)
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste Continue Reading
Sorry I’ve been a little M.I.A. with no weekly post for a while. I started a new job assignment and was pretty busy with that, …and a quick vacation in Kauai to get some quality relaxation in before my work & life falls back into hectic-ness. Also just generally always busy trying to seize life by the throat and shake it all around..
Without further ado, here’s a new installment:
Factor 1: Ah, how memories blur with time. A few years ago I got the privilege of exploring a little bit of Turkey, mostly Istanbul. As an ancient history fan, it was super exciting to explore this city with so much East-Meets-West history, with layers and layers of stories all piled on top of itself, not to mention multiple legacies of countless Roman leaders! That, and trying the food was such an adventure. I still dream of the egg and tomato dish I ate on an Airbnb host’s recommendation near Galata Tower in Istanbul. Fast forward to now, when I finally get around to trying my hand at the recipe below: tomato, egg, peppers, sounds delicious, right? Sounds the same!
Factor 2: When I was a kid and my mama went out of town I’d look forward to my Baba making his signature dish, egg and tomato fry. Yum! Apparently, it is a popular combination with me..
Voila: Sunday brunch dish trial, thinking I was making this:
I was hunting for chickpea recipes a while ago to help me eat more lean protein, and I tried this one. I did not like the result. Then I ate some the following day, and it was delicious! The flavors just needed to marinate more. I took the recipe and cut it in half, because I was making an other giant vat of soup in parallel. This is a nice hearty one for winter, I made a pot on Sunday for the rest of the week.
Chickpea and Chorizo Soup
(originally from The Kitchn)
makes about 1 quart
6 ounces chorizo sausage, sliced
1/2 large white onion, chopped and thinly sliced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
1/2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
I looked in the fridge, and all we had were drumsticks, an onion, and a bag of frozen pineapple. I had just a little extra time before my spouse would arrive home from his 20 mile bike ride, so, seized with a mild feeling of inspiration, I took a shot at this classic filipino dish of comfort food (perfect for old school methods of non-refrigeration preservation).
1.5 – 2 lbs dark meat
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
5 Cloves Peeled Garlic, Minced
About 1 tsp minced ginger
1/2 Large Onion, Peeled and Julienned
1 Cups Soy Sauce (for gluten-free: try tamari sauce)
3/4 Cups White Vinegar
1/2 c Fresh Pineapple, Crushed (used frozen, but I’d go with fresh if I had it in reach)
1 TB Black Pepper 3 Bay Leaves (didn’t have any in the house)
Fresh back from a cross-country road trip through 4 national parks, three rolls of campfire-cooked Pillsbury products, and too many kinds of 80+-degree weather, I give you…
Cold Zucchini Basil Salad A variation from simply real health I googled after a random Instagram find.
1 large heirloom tomato, sliced into bite-sized pieces
3-4 zucchini total (prefer a mix of green and yellow summer squash)
1/4 c goat cheese
A handful of basil, rolled and chopped into ribbons
olive oil (the highest quality you have on hand)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 fresh lemon
1/4 c slivered almonds
1. With a vegetable peeler, thinly scrape the zucchini and summer squash into long ribbon slices, tossing the seedy core, or saving it for a Sunday frittata mix.
2. Add the ribbons to a bowl, season with sea salt* and pepper*, basil, drizzle with olive oil* per preference. [*NOTE: if you want salad for later, pack the zucchini separate from the olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice to keep the crunch, and combine just before eating]. Toss to mix.
Before more recent whirlwind adventures to a wedding in Vermont, K____ and I took a brief respite to camp in the North Cascades National Park. The votes are in, and the top winning option for next blog post was Campfire Cooking Methods! Special thanks to Logistikris for the unique comment entry of ‘Campfire chocoraspberry cake.’ I’ll try to cover chocoraspberry cake next. We were only there a couple nights, or: “as long as my back will take tent sleeping,” and “that’s how long the giant cooler of ice and frozen meats lasts to a safe-ish temp.”
Method Part 1: Pack it!
If you were a compulsive planner like me, you might list what you’d like to eat on your camping trip, and portion out ingredients as you pack up the accompanying junk food (in my house any road trip merits a hiatus from healthier eating). This time, I had in mind..
chocolate raspberry cake
and traditional sausage-bacon-egg-potato breakfast foods
In retrospect, it was too much in one night’s work to prep everything and also make spam musubi, but yeah, that’s what I did (even with lots of help from K___). If you are NOT a compulsive planner like me, I leave it to you to wing it like you do (i.e. like a BOSS). Really, I only measured things out for the first two items listed there, and I cheated with box chocolate cake mix. It’s camping, not the Iron Chef. I also made a little mix of balsamic vinegar and olive oil which came in handy as dressing and marinade.
Method Part 2: Fire, not for backpacking -especially in high-fire-prone areas.
With the exception of marshmallow roasting, you want a low, even fire with plenty of coals. K____ and I treated fire-building like a team sport, with him as captain. We spread the logs out pretty wide for cooking, to make room for an even surface for the tools. Want more on this? Let me google that for you... Don’t forget to read up before you are out of cell phone reception zones. Obvi, if you are backpacking, all this “camping” is a whole different ball game.
Method Part 3: Tools
Here’s what the latest full-scale carried-a-little-too-far Wong Way of camping entails for cooking tools:
Tool 1: Cast Iron Skillet
-Needs: high temp cooking oil or butter, don’t forget the metal flipper!
-Good for bacon and all-purpose random cooking, especially when you snag the last possible campsite and it turns out to have no standard grill rack.
-Bad for open-flame potatoes.
-Obviously a bad idea for for light-weight packs.
Tool 2: Dutch Oven
-Good for making cake, probably good for a lot else too, like stew. It really holds the heat in.
-Bad for your back. This thing is so heavy. At least that means the squirrels can’t mess with it, only Yogi Bear.
-ditto on the backpacking
Tool 3: Aluminum Foil
-Good for..tubers, if you can get coals. Much better to wrap potatoes than expose them in cooking on a skillet. It was useful to shape handles on top of them for easier maneuvering.
-Also good for fashioning makeshift plateware and utensils, for that one time when you forgot sporks.
Tool 4: Percolator. Just add water!
-Good for coffee, tea, hot cocoa
–Hot toddies (basically, pre-mix everything but the water and lemon).
-Easy mac & cup noodle.
-Thermos + raw chicken noodle soup to cook over time.
Surprise Winning Tool: Percolator?!
That’s right, folks. While I’m grateful for the delicious breakfast K___ served up via skillet, and the fully-baked cake thanks to how well the dutch oven holds heat in, the percolator was the one I was most grateful to have, both to stave off a caffeine headache in the morning with coffee, and to keep me really cozy in the evening with hot toddies. It also felt like the easiest, most versatile one with endless possibilities. Maybe my opinion is swayed too strongly by how precious having water was on this trip since they hadn’t turned on the taps on the North Cascades yet. Oops.
Second Runner Up: Dutch Oven! This one is getting googled some more for the next camping trip. I’d probably rather just cheat directly with hot cakes’ take ‘n’ bake for smaller portion sizes on cakes, but I think you might get a good stew out of the dutch oven instead. They even come with campfire directions!
Safety Notes: on meat thermometers and a giant cooler on wheels..
-It’s definitely good to not poison yourself (see: safe cooking temps for meat).
-Tried to store meats on the bottom of the cooler, separated by ziplocs for extra OCD-style care.
-Tried to cook the more salmonella-prone items first, like eggs.