vegetarian


Khao soi.

Until recently, we thought it was something our friend Reid had made up as a cruel joke on us. He had been to Thailand years ago, you see, and he insisted that he had eaten this really amazing noodle dish there. And the dish did sound amazing – a tangle of egg noodles swimming in creamy red coconut curry with juicy pieces of chicken and garnished with fresh lime wedges, a handful of chopped shallots, and plenty of cilantro. It sounded so amazing that Nathan and I immediately made a pact to find it as soon as humanly possible.

We searched all our favorite Thai restaurants in town, but never did we see those two words paired together on the menus. Hmm, maybe it’s a secret in-the-know item? Or listed only in some untranslated Thai menu? We mustered up some courage and started asking the staff, resulting in many confused smiles accompanied by head shakes. As we began doubting the existence of Khao Soi, we started plotting some sort of revenge food joke on our dear friend.

Then one day, I opened up my RSS reader and saw that Chez Pim just had Khao Soi for dinner! Not only that, but she made Khao Soi for dinner and hey, would you like the recipe? [*insert choir of angels here*] Not being as well-versed in Thai cooking nor as hardcore as Pim, I had to make some slight (read: more wimpy) adjustments at home. But I encourage you to check out Pim’s recipe first for the more authentic version.

And it’s true, I didn’t even think to ask the interweb gods before now – silly me. One quick trip over to Wikipedia and all is explained:

“Khao Soi is a Burmese-influenced dish served in northern Laos and northern Thailand… In northern Thailand, there is a similar dish known as Thai khao soi, which is a soup-like dish made with deep-fried crispy egg noodles, pickled cabbage, shallots, lime, nam prik pao, and meat in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk… It is popular as a street dish eaten by Thai people, though not frequently served in Western Thai restaurants.”

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Spring is appearing in SF in sneaky little bursts this year – a few days of gorgeous sunshine (Yay! How we’ve missed being outside!) followed by days of chilly rain (Wait, staying home is not so bad either!). But as far as I’m concerned, spring is already here and winter is just being a little lazy and clingy and not willing to let it go until next year. And let’s face it, we’ve all felt lazy and clingy at one time or another, so let’s give Mr. Winter a little break, shall we?

Besides, we don’t need good weather to deduce the arrival of spring, right? I have hard evidence in the forms of snap peas and green garlic in our veggie box from Two Small Farms. To be honest, because our CSA stops deliveries in the winter, Nathan and I are out of practice with our vegetable management skills. The other day, I opened the fridge and vegetables were practically tumbling off the shelves, threatening to crush a curious Toro who was just stopping by to check out the kibbles status of the fridge (yup, still negative).

We needed some spring cleaning (ha!) and needed it fast before next week’s veggie box threatens to jump into the fray. Whenever a vegetable purge is called for, we roll up our sleeves, chop up as much vegetables as is humanely possible, and throw them all into either a Thai curry or a vegetable biryani. You’ve probably guessed by now which recipe won this time.

We ended up with a not-very-traditional biryani because who puts beets in biryanis?! Well, we do, when we’re desperate. But guess what? They actually stained the rice into a pretty red color! Now, if only we made this closer to Chinese New Year, it would be very auspicious indeed.

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Did you see some broiled, miso-glazed eggplants hiding out amongst the pork belly stew last time? If you did, my dear hawk-eyed reader, then perhaps you also thought to yourself, “Forget the pork belly! Tell me how to make those eggplants!” For surely, this little scene did not only happen in my head.

Well, here, at long last, is that eggplant recipe!

It now seems silly that I took so long to write this follow-up post. Seriously, these eggplants are easier to make than, well, just about anything else (except maybe toast since you know, toast is pretty easy). They make a great side dish and an even better snack, especially with some cold sake. In fact, the first time I had these was at an izakaya which, as an aside, I must say that the Japanese have us Americans beat when it comes to bar snacks.

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables but it’s also one I cook with at home rarely. Have you noticed that most recipes involving eggplants also involve cuploads of oil? Many eggplant-based dishes call for deep-frying the eggplants, including my beloved Fish-Fragrant Eggplants (which, as another aside, has my vote for most misleading name for a dish ever, since there’s no fish involved and it certainly doesn’t evoke the ‘fragrance’ of a fish either). While I will happily eat deep-fried eggplants at restaurants, I personally don’t ever get the urge to deal with large volumes of oil at home. So whenever I find eggplant recipes that manage to not resort to deep-frying, I jump for joy.

*Jump*

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Remember how I was singing the praises of flour not that long ago? Well, flour must also be on other people’s minds because I opened up one of my favorite blogs the other day and there was this gorgeous picture of flour in action.

It seems Michael Ruhlman was also reading the same issue of Saveur I was but instead of chicken paprikash, the recipe that caught his eye was one for buttermilk dinner rolls baked in a cluster in a springform pan. He adapted the original recipe, which itself was an adaptation of one found on The Fresh Loaf. Funnily enough, in following Ruhlman’s recipe, I ended up having to make some adaptations of my own, including sticking the dough in the fridge when I had to leave for a Super Bowl party. When I got home and was assembling the cluster, I took a little extra time to rewarm each of the dough balls by working the dough with my hands before rolling them into little tight boules.

Lately, I’ve been working from home every so often when I don’t have to go into lab for meetings. I love that not only do I actually get more work done from home, I can also multitask and make bread during the day. It takes all of 15 minutes to mix up some dough in the morning and then while I’m being the good little worker bee all day, the yeast is also working hard in the kitchen. By the time the sun is setting, you’re ready to stick the dough in the oven and look forward to freshly baked bread for dinner. I predict this recipe will come in handy during one of these future work-from-home days.

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Happy New Year!

I thought I’d kick off the new year with a few of my favorite things: lentils, spinach, and Indian food! Sadly, to this day, I have not yet found a good way to take a super appetizing picture of Indian food, so pardon the kind of crappy shot above. I have this theory that Indian food looks best when you have a spread of multiple differently-colored dishes but when Nathan and I are cooking for ourselves, especially on a weeknight, we usually settle for one dish. Ah well. But let me assure you that while this dish may not look that great on camera, it definitely tasted delicious and warmed our bellies.

I love love love dhal and I love love love keeping jars of all the different dhals you can buy at an Indian grocery store in my pantry. Not only do they look pretty and colorful, but they never go bad and they’ll make sure you’re always ready to whip up a batch of yummy dhal for dinner.

This recipe is based on one I found from one of my new favorite cookbooks: “South Indian Cookbook” by Devagi Sanmugam. I had actually picked up this book with some leftover foreign currency at the Singapore airport a few years back and have been loving the recipes in the book since. FYI, in the book, this dish is actually called ‘Paruppu Keerai’ and not ‘Saag Dhal’ – perhaps a difference in dialect?

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Happy Holidays, everyone!

Before Nathan and I head out for Hong Kong tomorrow, I originally wanted to end 2009 (at least blog-wise) on a sweet note. We made chai tea panna cotta for Christmas Eve dinner at Nathan’s parents’ place and while the panna cotta did set (woo!), the unmolding was an ordeal in itself. Although it tasted great, we ended up slightly soupy panna cotta, so we’ll have to wait and try again in 2010. Stay tuned!

Instead, I’ll turn things over to Molly of Orangette, who wrote about one of my favorite discoveries of 2009 in her Bon Appetit column: Pomodori al Forno, or slow-roasted tomatoes. Something about the process of slow-roasting (ok ok, the cup of olive oil probably helps too) transforms even the crappiest tomatoes into gorgeously silky and delicious morsels. Lay them on some toasty baguette slices with a bit of goat cheese and you’ve got appetizers fit for any holiday party!

If I’m remembering correctly, my dear ex-roomie Laura tried this recipe with canned tomatoes and reported success also. So really, you can’t go wrong! And all that extra flavored olive oil left? May I suggest using as a dip for crusty bread or making it the base of an awesome pasta sauce?

I wish all of you a lovely holiday season, filled with excellent food, wine, and company!

Lemon Berry Scones

Right before our wedding, Nathan and I were invited to brunch at our friends Amar and Aliza’s house. Amar’s parents were in town and Auntie likes to treat us kids to dosas whenever she’s around. After (not) much consideration, we decided that even with a list of wedding to-dos staring at us, we of course could not resist the call of homemade dosas. I mean, a wedding is serious stuff but so are homemade dosas! So off we went … with a plate of scones in hand.

I love making scones. I love them not only because they’re tasty and delicious, but also because they’re easy, fast, way better when fresh and warm from the oven, and most importantly, the perfect baking project for us lazy people. Why? Because you actually want to mix as little as possible to ensure light, flaky, and tender scones. Oh, and they’re also the perfect thing to bring to parties because honestly, you don’t want a whole batch of them sitting at your house tempting you with their buttery goodness.

I’ve tried this recipe twice now and it’s worked out well both times. The first time was in the middle of blueberry season so I used fresh blueberries. This time, no blueberries were in sight at the store, so I experimented with chopped-up fresh strawberries and it still worked out quite well. Frozen berries should also work splendidly. I think in the winter, I might try this recipe again with dried berries to see if this is a recipe for all seasons.

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