Every so often, I like to go treasure-hunting.

In my freezer.

Without fail, I would find some package of meat I had forgotten about hiding way back in the corner, by the little box of baking soda and the bigger box of delicious Melona bars. My last round of treasure hunting unearthed a neatly-wrapped, butcher-paper-encased package of ‘fresh side pork’…Huh?

It turns out that fresh side pork is basically the same cut of meat as bacon, except that it’s fresh and not cured. Not wanting to wait another week before eating it (that’s the amount of time it would take to make bacon), Nathan and I quickly decided on the #2 best use of fresh pork belly: buta no kakuni. We had it at a Japanese izakaya months before and ever since, I’ve been talking about trying to make it at home. Yup, just call me a copycat. Meow.

I will warn you now that this is not a recipe for warm days since you will be heating up your kitchen for multiple hours to make a hearty, belly-warming stew. But on a cold, rainy night, there is nothing better than snuggling up with such a bowl of porky goodness. Plus, your whole house will smell insanely delicious for the rest of the night, so much so that your kitty (if you happen to have one) will go absolutely bonkers.

PS: Another post to come about those miso-glazed eggplants you see in the background above.



Change is definitely in the air. A new year (happy 2009, everyone!), a new President (hurray!), and … in about a week, a new apartment for me and Nathan!

While moving grows into a bigger and bigger pain the older you get, I like to focus on the fact that it motivates me to purge my belongings – an early spring cleaning, if you will. Coincidentally, our move this time happens to coincide with Chinese New Year, so the purging will be doubly appropriate. Goodbye, novelty T-shirts from college! Goodbye, baggy sweaters! Goodbye, three out of six very-similar-looking pairs of khaki pants!

In the spirit of cleaning, I’m also trying to make sure we don’t have too many perishables in the fridge to move across town. And with the return of rainy weather, a stew seems to be the perfect solution.

After peeking around the fridge a bit, I spied two black radishes hiding out in a corner. (Aside: I stumbled upon that article and then realized it’s written by Andy from Mariquita, from whom I got these black radishes in the first place!) A bit of Internet searching dug up an Uzbek(!!) recipe called Khoplama and my mind was set. Because you know, I can never resist recipes from exotic places!



One of my presents from this past Christmas was a Macy’s gift card (thanks, John and Pam!). Although I had every intention of going into the store and buying some much-needed new jeans, I “accidentally” strolled into the kitchen section. There, sitting on a shelf with a big “50% off” tag on it, was a shiny red enameled cast-iron pot! No, it wasn’t a Le Creuset. It was a “Martha Stewart Collection” but when one is a grad student, one cannot be too picky.

So it was that we came home with Nathan lugging “Martha” up the stairs. A few days later, Martha ventured out of her box and onto our stove, where she helped us prepare a deliciously huge pot of chile verde. We even bought masa and made fresh corn tortillas to celebrate her maiden voyage. *Sniff* She made us so proud.

And honestly, who needs jeans when one has chile verde??



With winter fog plus the added gloominess of a recent oil spill hanging over my lovely city, there’s really no better time for a hearty stew involving an animal of the land! If you know me, you’ll know that me eating beef is a pretty rare event – I generally abide by the principle that I’ll eat beef, or most meats, only when my body really craves it. Me cooking red meat at home is an even rarer occurrence. So, listen up! This is probably one of the only beef recipes you’ll get out of me!

After convincing Nathan that I do indeed want to make a beef stew (not chicken, not lamb), off I went to Drewes’ butcher shop a few blocks away to buy me some happy, sustainably-raised moo-cow. When I asked the guy working at the counter about the difference between the stew meat ($6.49/lb) and a whole chuck roast ($6.99), he said something about how they’re exactly the same thing but one’s cut up and the ‘gland taken out’ for my convenience. Now I don’t know much about cuts of meat so call me ignorant, but what’s a gland doing in a shoulder cut?

In any case, even though his whole explanation didn’t make much sense to me, I still went with the pre-cut stew meat, figuring that it shouldn’t really matter for a stew. Looking back and after doing some research online, however, I think I should have bought the whole roast – the logic is that when you buy the roast, you know exactly the cut you’re getting and not just scraps from various parts of the animal. You can also cut up chunks which are all about the same size, so everything cooks at the same rate. Oh well.

Originally, I had this grand vision of making a boeuf bourguignon, full of delicious red wine. But then I remembered that one of my main reasons for making a beef stew was to use up a bunch of our CSA carrots; boeuf bourguignon, while delicious-sounding, traditionally involves only onions, mushrooms, beef, wine, and bacon. Darn.

In the end, I made a red wine beef stew with carrots and green beans (can I call it boeuf bourguignon-esque?) and served it with some smashed potatoes and a gremolata mixed with some coarse sea salt. The gremolata idea was taken from reading one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes and I got to give him props – it really brightens up the whole dish. Good job, Mr. Naked Chef!