One overcast Monday morning, I ventured over to the Book Larder, a community cookbook store on Fremont Ave of Seattle. I’ve ridden past there many a time by bike and by bus, and always meant to go. Finally, I found time and managed to sign up for classes a few days ahead.
Note: if you are scrambling for last minute gifts for people who love to eat, cooking classes may be a good option that ships instantaneously! Be mindful to check if it’s a demo, or hands-on, as that may matter depending on how much your loved one likes to cook (i.e. more hands-on for those who are into working with their hands, more demo for those who are more into eating the final product). Go ahead, click away from this post, I won’t mind.. 🙂
Chef Kyle Wisner did a delicious demo for the group on some straightforward recipes for swift home cooking, perfect for a hectic holiday season. Below are some recipes he shared, editorial commentary is my own.
Center-cut pork roast
Enough za’atar spices to cover surface of the roast
kosher salt to preference
Tools: oven, , baking dish, meat thermometer
Salt the roast “aggressively”, like any steak or other big cut of meat, rest the roast out to room temperature before roasting. Preheat oven to 400 (or 425F if your oven is weak sauce).
Cover surface in za’atar spice.
Bake roast in oven until it reaches an internal temp of 120F, approximately 18-30 minutes. It will likely still be a little pink in the middle, but the juices will disperse back and finish as you let the roast rest a while before serving.
Optional: bonus points for drawing a depiction of “aggressively salting.”
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.
Introducing a new category for this blog: crunchy. I’ll be indexing recipes by what’s got that crispy, crunchy thing going on. Contribute by writing in the comments with your top favorite crunchy Food the Wong Way recipes, and stay tuned for a new “crunchy” category in the navigation menu!
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
The forecast in many parts of North America reaches 90 degrees in the next several days, so here’s a cold drink recipe to try. Shout out to my many Northwest peeps living without air conditioning. I had a real brain-sparking juice from Assembly Hall (a part of that behemoth conglomerate known as Tom Douglas restaurants) in Belltown, Seattle which spurred me to attempt an imitation, which inevitably spawned variants.
PLOC Juice (Pineapple Orange Lime Cayenne)
Inspired by Tropical Spice Juice from Assembly Hall
1 fresh pineapple, cut in chunks with rind removed*
1.5 orange, peel off, scrape a bit of pith off too
2-3 limes, (see oranges)
ice to desired thickness
Optional: 1/2 c frozen mango or ice, or coconut milk to taste
1 small dash of cayenne pepper
Optional: mint, coconut flakes, for garnish
I agreed with my “roommate” about a month ago (during vacation eating) to do some sort of cleanse, and we somewhat arbitrarily picked the BluePrint cleanse because (a) it looked easier and made of more whole foods than the 24-day supp. also proposed, and (b) a friend tried it a while ago (as one method of many), of his healthier lifestyle attempts, and he appears noticeably slimmer with healthier food habits now. In retrospect, secret reason (c): it seemed a bit extreme, which is always an adventure!
I am not especially advocating this “cleanse” for anyone, especially based on my own experience of the 3rd day, but seeing as a few friends have asked me about the results, here’s some thoughts on my own experience of it.I did some reading on various blog posts about BluePrint and saved a few dollars by getting the juice on sale from Whole Foods (and PCC, when they were out), skipping the delivery fee and instructions that came with it, and filling in the details on pre and post-cleanse advice with blog info. BluePrint is in New York City, so if you live over there maybe they’re cheaper. It was also arguably fresher from the store.
Not a slave to caffeine. I ramped down from coffee to tea for a few days, minor miracle.
Not physically painful. Was not physically hungry-feeling for most of it.
Saved loads of time from not cooking, dishwashing, or eating (you know, I am an extra slow eater).
Fun discovery of plenty your body can do on 1100 calories.
My pants fit slightly better: I lost about 3 pounds, around 2 below my normal range..not sure this would be true for everyone.
I won the mental challenge! Didn’t even eat the almonds I gave my cube neighbor in case I couldn’t stand it.
Having a co-conspirator was very motivating (at least until the day after, when he immediately baked me tater tots and veggie breakfast patties).
The 6th drink, cashew milk, is f*cking delicious. Also the most calories. I don’t think I ate anything that was inherently bad for me, though..
Productivity: I went to a lot of lunch-time meetings without getting grouchy at work (I rarely do that). I also had more time to do non-food things when I got home.
The day before was pretty hard, we both tried to ramp down food consumption, to mostly fruits and veggies, and significantly fewer calories. No coffee was the hardest part, also no alcoholic drinks.
My data-driven [healthy] co-workers looked at me like I was crazy, and this may have been the dumbest planned thing I’ve done in my life, but 3 days isn’t too long for most anything. It brooks less debate to call it a ‘fast’ rather than a ‘cleanse.’
Exercise motivation was at an all-time low by the second day, the first day’s bike commute went fine (13 miles round trip), with a little elbow grease up those hills. My co-conspirator felt sluggish on his run. I definitely would not have gone for anything the third day.
Turns out I think about food a lot. Like, a whole lot. I read food blogs, news on restaurant openings, co-workers ask me for restaurant recommendations, I start thinking about my Friday lunch plans on Wednesday, I meet people over food, I sometimes write a food blog, I get food on the way home, cook it when I get home, eat it really slowly..yeah. The hardest part was mental. Turns out Friday is a high free food day at work, plus happy hour after some one’s retirement party. My boss kindly wrapped me up a few treats from her trip abroad so I could eat them a day later.
Digestion: the third day was the worst, and my juice belly started getting really gurgle-y by evening. My digestive tract was not feeling healthy by end of third day for sure, I need more fiber in my diet than this. Residual effects continued a few days after cleanse was done.
Expensive! Saved a bit on the ~$65*/day cost per person from online, because we didn’t go out to eat and drink Friday night like we usually do, and bought from Whole Foods on sale. On Friday we hid inside and watched the Americans, until way too early and retired to bed in anticipation of waking up sooner to actually chewing, and coffee! ..eating on Saturday led to some extended stomachaches, though.
Doing a juice “cleanse” officially gives you a Yuppie card and there’s no going back. This was the first fast I did since (before the term ‘third world’ was so gauche) junior high when I did a Third World Diet as a class bonus exercise to demonstrate how the prescribed nutrition for children in developing world was not enough to study will with.
Still expensive! Relatedly, if you had a more physical non-desk job, this would put a dent in your productivity.
Not-tasty. I didn’t especially enjoy most of the drinks. I’m a picky eater, and while I only found the Pineapple Apple Mint especially gross (#2), reminiscent of a car air freshener, and the Lemon Cayenne Agave (#4) was okay but didn’t feel like food, I was really just drinking 5 of them for energy and not food-satisfaction. Geez I do not like parsley.
I snack a lot, and I have been eating maybe 1/3 to twice as much as I needed to eat for lunch and dinner + snacks.
Self control: those tater tots the day after cleanse? For the first time in my life I didn’t eat them all in one sitting! So far a slightly higher level of self control seems to have stayed with me. I just have to keep reminding myself there’s no famine coming, and in the Pacific Northwest, no winter to store up for. Of course moderation on food was something I know cognitively, but it seems something else in my brain has learned it better now.
It’s not so bad to eat sometimes-foods that are not so good for me that I love to eat, moderating the amount is just as satisfying.
Eating solid food is awesome! Babies must be really uncomfortable.. maybe that will be the next fad diet, baby food.
This is an extreme method to change your food habits, apparently my no-sugar, and smaller-portion trials a few months earlier only made me better at working around my own rules. Three days of this did more to my willpower than 2 months of those.
Friends, if you want to do this one, I have a tracking sheet with some details on before and after, how the labels online are different from in-store (save on delivery cost! discounted at Whole Foods!), and a bunch of blog links I read to be stingy and save on the online delivery fee. Just let me know.
1/2 a jicama, julienned
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/6 red onion, sliced in thin strips
~1 Tbs orange juice
~1/4 tsp lime rind
~2 tsp lime juice 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
a dash of salt to taste 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Fresh cilantro sprigs (optional)
substituted: 2 sprigs mint, stems removed and leaves cut in ribbons
Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl, and toss gently to coat. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir in the mint just before serving. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.
Today’s Recipe #1 Rating:
Novelty Rating: 4 of 5 stars.
Never made this before, and it has quite a strong sweet flavor even without sugar. You really get to taste the jicama, which was a novelty to me. I only started buying (and identifying) jicama last year. Likelihood of Repeat: 80%
I think I have a strong bias for salads that don’t involve any leafy greens, bonus points for the use of multiple citrus items. I think I would like to re-try this with some orange slices thrown in too. Lesson Learned: 1/6 of a red onion may still be too much onion to rejoin humanity after eating this.
(2) Summer Rolls & Peanut Sauce
based on an altered recipe based on one from Chow.com
For the peanut sauce:
3/4 cup natural-style creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 1/2 medium limes)
4 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons chili-garlic paste
1 medium garlic clove, mashed to a paste –okay, I cheated with pre-chopped garlic from the jar, fresh garlic is too spicy sometimes..
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
For the summer rolls: 24 medium shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled and deveined fried or firm tofu, sliced
1 hank dried rice stick noodles or rice vermicelli
5 (8-1/2-inch) round rice paper wrappers
1/8 cup mung bean sprouts**
4 sprigs fresh mint leaves
32 fresh basil
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4-by-1/4-by-2-1/2-inch sticks
3 medium scallions, quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 2-1/2-inch pieces (white and light green parts only) -used chives because i had some
8 butter lettuce leaves cut in half
jicama, julienned (same portion as cukes)
a dash of rice vinegar
For the peanut sauce:
1. Whisk all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.
For the summer rolls:
1. Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions. Drain, try rinsing, then tossing with rice vinegar and salt; then separate in clumps for each roll lest the noodles get all stuck together during assembly.
2. Place all of the ingredients in separate piles and arrange them in the following order around a work surface: rice paper wrappers, tofu, rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint, basil, cucumber, scallions, and lettuce.
3. Place a clean, damp kitchen towel on a work surface, or lay out a damp wooden cutting board. Fill a medium frying pan or wide, shallow dish large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers with warm tap water. Working with one wrapper at a time, completely submerge the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the towel/board.
4. Working quickly, lay down ingredients sparsely atop rice wrapper (see picture), adding lettuce last, and mint and chive leaves near end of roll for aesthetics.
5. Fold the bottom half of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Holding the whole thing firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in. Then, pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire wrapper horizontally up from the bottom to the top.
6. Turn the roll so that the seam faces down and the row of tofu faces up. Place it on a rimmed baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and fillings. Leave 3/4 inch between each summer roll on the sheet so they don’t stick together, and replace the water in the pan or dish with hot tap water as needed.
**If not serving immediately, keep the summer rolls tightly covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 hours, OR wrap individually in plastic wrap, then in tightly-covered tupperware to keep overnight (see below for photo). Serve with the peanut sauce for dipping. If you are worried about it drying out, another precaution is to barely coat the outside of the rolls with sesame or olive oil, then wrap. The oil helps hold in the moisture.
Tip 1: Even when I scale down the amounts for the rolls, it’s been good to do the full or at least half portion of the sauce, since that is really the flavor that adds depth to the light crisp summer roll. Tip 2: I keep my coconut flakes in an empty spice container for easy sprinkling over this, yogurts, and desserts. Tip 3: I find my wrapping is more successful when I stretch the wrapper a smidge more than I think it will take. Definitely err on the side of less ingredients when you are first practicing the rolling.
Note: I first tried making these in the height of the Seattle summer (when I didn’t want to cook anything and add heat in a brief “80-degree heat wave”), and I am still using the same bag of rice wrappers, so yes, you will have more leftover, and you can stuff it with whatever leftovers you think will go well.
Today’s Recipe #2 Rating:
Novelty Rating: 2 of 5 stars.
I’ve made it before. I think it’s tasty, but definitely getting a little stale to eat in the winter when I crave potatoes and meat dishes. ..but it tastes so…healthy..
Likelihood of Repeat: 90%
As I mentioned before, I am still using the same packet of rice wrappers from the summer, and plan on continuing to put random ingredients together for a slapdash lunch. You will note the significant difference in length of steps between the two recipes above. That alone may indicate that #1 is going to win out in repeats.. Lesson Learned: I will always, always have leftover filling after I run out of those tasty rice noodles. This, in fact, was the original reason for recipe #1, as jicama only comes in certain sizes, so you’d have to make tons of summer rolls to actually use it up.
**Stay tuned for a future blog post on sprouting mung beans! I’ll do it so you don’t have to try it.
In anticipation of potential consumers of my meal output going down by 50% this week, I went for a minor trial this time: tzatziki sauce. I found one from The Man Fuel Blog that at least mentioned the risk of heartburn, so I went with that, at half portion.
1 tsp garlic (went with pre-cut stuff from the jar to get something milder than fresh raw garlic)
1 cup greek yogurt
1 Tbsp sour cream
1/4 tsp dried mint
salt to taste
1/2 c finely diced cucumber (peeled first)
Didn’t take much mixing (for specifics, see the instructions linked above), and I just let this sit for about 30 minutes:
Thanks to my helpful co-chef, got some falafel (prepped “fresh from the box”) fried up with tomato, lettuce, cukes, and roasted butternut squash and potato to overload atop some pita bread for a tasty but vegetarian dinner, and lunch the next day!
This week’s trial recipe ratings:
Novelty: 4 of 5 stars Likelihood of repeat: 60%
Felt really good to have this for lunch. It was delicious, kept well, but didn’t feel over-filling. I really like the novelty of home made tzatziki sauce, since it is so simple to make, but I’m still wishing I could find a delicious yet non-raw-garlic version. You got anything?