making food from anywhere, with anything

  • excuse the poor photography
  • tortilla chips with guacamole
  • tilapia ceviche
  • rubbed ribs
  • anthony bourdain signing a copy of his book
  • cheesey, herby polenta cake
  • pan fried oyster topped green salad
  • grilled lamb chops

Latest

new URL

Hey everyone!

I created a new domain for the blog. Instead of the rather nonsensical, eating-disorder provoking “stricteating,” the new URL that you should all have on hand is http://everythingbutthebaa.wordpress.com

See you on the other side!

at last, a reprieve

Hello everyone.

This weekend, I took a micro-vacation to visit my aunt and uncle in Indiana. Before heading out there, I received a challenge:

It is your job to plan (and assist cooking) our meal for the Saturday evening you are here. The requirements are vegetarian only, no eggplant, keep it simple.

Vegetarian food (by the by, I added a vegetarian tag for my posts…). How would I plan a menu without relying on pasta? Or veggie burgers? Wait, no eggplant?

In any case, I began scouring the blogs I most frequently turn to when in need of something easy, impressive, and adaptable.  I also did some consulting (thank you, Alex), and decided I would throw together my take on Iranian food.

Nearly the minute after I got to my aunt and uncle’s house, the cooking began.  I began by making Mast o Khiar, which is just yogurt, cucumbers, and mint.  We didn’t have any mint, so I substituted with dill.  Really, though, you could use whatever herb you have on hand if mint eludes you.  It’s probably one of the easiest side dishes to make.  All I did was add one English cucumber (the long, seedless variety) to one 16oz tub of plain greek yogurt.  I chopped up as much dill as I thought necessary, sprinkled a little salt and pepper, and threw it in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or so.  Initially, I was a little skeptical about using greek yogurt out of fear it would be too thick, but it loosens some with the liquid from the cucumber.  I would only use greek yogurt for this recipe because I really dislike thin, soupy yogurt.  This dish is cool, refreshing, light, and perfect for hot and humid days.  With mint, it would have been even better because it’s such a bright herb.  I’d even recommend adding a teaspoon of rosewater to add a wonderful aromatic component.  Rosewater is wonderful on super hot days.

Up next was my take on a Shirazi salad.

(excuse the poor photography)

Again, we had no mint, so I switched things up a bit.  This is another insanely easy dish to make, and is something you can prepare about an hour or so ahead of time.  It calls for cucumber, tomato, red onion, lime juice, a little bit of olive oil, and mint.  I won’t bother giving you measurements, because it’ll depend on how many cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions you plan to use.  Because we didn’t have mint, I just added salt, pepper, and garlic.  (I had to sneak some garlic in somewhere.)  Personally, I should have used more lime juice.  All in all, it was quite comparable to a salsa.  While I wasn’t as enthusiastic about this side dish, fresh vegetables are always an awesome addition to any meal.

And finally, for our main meal, I attempted kuku sabzi.  Kuku sabzi is essentially an intensely-herbed frittata.  Really, the eggs are more or less a vehicle for the herbs.  For about 6 eggs, you should use a cup of fresh: parsley, cilantro, dill, and chives.  You can add in about 1/3 cup of walnuts, if you want, and you must also add 1 tsp of baking powder.  The baking powder makes the eggs fluffy and sponge-like.

kuku sabzi

(I promise, the other side of the kuku sabzi was much more herb-dense.  The herbs floated to the top of the mix while cooking, which is to be expected.)

Procedure:

1.  In a large mixing bowl, combine 6 eggs, salt, pepper, and baking powder.  Whisk to combine.

2.  Add your chopped herbs and walnuts to the mixture and whisk again.

3.  To a medium nonstick skillet, add some olive oil over medium-low heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the egg mix and cook for approximately 20 minutes over medium-low heat.  Check the bottom of the egg every once and a while to ensure nothing is burning.  It should get to be a nice brownish color.

4.  Now.  You have two options.  You can get out two spatulas and try to flip this thing yourself, or you can cut it into quarters and carefully flip each piece.  I opted for the two spatula method, with my aunt holding the skillet.  After three or so flip attempts, the kuku sabzi flipped with no spillage.  Cook the other side for another 20 minutes over medium low.  (I got impatient, as I often do, and cranked up the heat so it would cook faster.)

Cut into pieces and serve.

The kuku sabzi was really cool, actually.  It was light and airy, and really flavorful because of the herbs.  The herbs are the star of this show, so I resisted the urge to add any sort of spices like turmeric or something.  Salt and pepper do the job well, allowing the herbs to stand their ground.  While some lemon zest would’ve been a nice accompaniment, why mess with tradition (especially on the first time making it)?

As another side dish, I attempted to make hummus without tahini.  Word to the wise (or perhaps the not so wise), this doesn’t work.  Don’t even.

Before I began my marathon dinner preparation, my aunt and I made this awesome bunt cake a la Betty Crocker.

awesome cake

It came out sooooo good.  While I’m not a confident baker, this cake was rather easy to make.  It used sour cream, and we put this awesome cinnamon-sugar-walnut mixture between layers of batter.  And who doesn’t love gooey cinnamon sugar in their cake?

So, what did we learn today?  Vegetarian food doesn’t always have to involve pasta, eggplant, or processed soy.  It can be bright, inventive, flavorful, and best of all, simple.

Have fun:

Which cheese is the best?
(polls)

yet another milestone has been reached

Good evening, everyone.

I accomplished something today.  Hat tip to my Uncle, who invited my family and me to my new favorite spot in New Brunswick, NJ.  It’s called Costa Chica restaurant located at 314 Handy Street.  It’s in a relatively hidden location, so only the motivated will find it.

This place produces awesome Mexican food.  Not Chipotle, not Taco Bell, or Qdoba Mexican food, but legit Oaxacan-influenced food.  The menu includes everything from tamales to tortas, burritos to tacos, to full on entrees like grilled chicken or beef with salsa and plantains.  Each meal starts off with complimentary tortilla chips (we even got a free refill) with three different condiments.  One was a salsa verde, which had a bit of heat to it.  The other was a salsa rojo, which had a more intense, smokey heat.  The last was a more typical tomato salsa that I actually didn’t try.

tortilla chips with guacamole

We also ordered some guacamole to go along with the chips, but I wasn’t as impressed with it.  It seemed to be lacking some acidity, and was almost too creamy for my liking.

In any case, the chips were an awesome free appetizer.

Now.  I mentioned in the title that a milestone had been reached.  Today, for the very first time, I tried tripe.  Not only did I try tripe, but I had beef head and goat tacos.  The tortillas are clearly made in-house, and they were very well done.  They, my friends, were epic.

taco de cabeza

The beef head meat was fatty, meaty, and all-around succulent.  It melted the minute it hit the tongue, indicative of careful, slow cooking.  Mixed with cilantro and salsa verde, it was the perfect blend of savory, zesty, and spicy.

Just take a moment and really look into that taco below (the pictures never format properly with this layout….).  Looks a little bit like bacon, no?  Look.

taco de tripa

Tripe is not scary.  People, particularly in this country, tend to harbor the notion that with industrialization and thus, civilization, comes the privilege of no longer eating certain parts of animals.  Gone are the days when every part of the pig, cow, lamb, or chicken need be cooked.  Why, with the advent of packaged, portioned, processed, and unapologetically adultered foods that are now staples in most Americans’ homes, who should give a second (or even first, for that matter) thought to the foods that lay the foundation for every culture?

Anyway.  This tripe was cooked the RIGHT way.  Whatever way that was.  I assume it was boiled for a long period of time to soften it up.  Then, it was chopped and fried to crispy perfection.  I thought it had great texture and was not at all chewy, as most would expect.  It did not have a gamey flavor, and with some salsa verde (which was my favorite salsa, if you couldn’t tell), it was absolutely delicious.  If you have tripe prepared properly, the texture will not throw you.  Neither will the taste.  It is all about the preparation, and I’m very….VERY happy that this place introduced me to tripe.

Finally, the taco de barbacoa, or goat taco.  Here’s a bit of an analogy for you:  duck is to chicken as goat is to lamb.  Goat is fattier, darker, and much tastier than lamb.  Just like duck is to chicken.  The goat was hearty and well-seasoned.  It had clearly been braised for a while, and was then shredded (or pulled, if you prefer).  Again, accompanied simply by cilantro and some onion (and salsa verde, but you probably guessed that much by now), it was fantastic.  Absolutely fantastic.

And that was that.  That was my experience.  I encourage you all in Central Jersey to check this spot out.  New Brunswick is full of awesome places like this, and I’m really interested to explore the area a little more thoroughly.  However, this is my new go-to place, and they even deliver and do take out.  So seriously, check out Costa Chica.

record breaking heat

Hello everyone.

It’s hot here in New Jersey.  I mean, 100+ degrees (F) hot…plus humidity.  To some, this is every day weather and is, therefore, no big deal.  For us, however, this is record-breaking, danger zone, fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement hot.  On days like today, the last thing I want is a heavy meal.  So, what to have?

Ceviche.

Ceviche?  Yes.  You can make something as elegant as ceviche at home.  And with much ease, I might add.  In fact, it’s one of the easiest things I’ve made.  Ceviche, a dish with its relatively unknown roots attributed to South America and Spain, consists of citrus marinated seafood and a few other basic ingredients.  This dish relies on an important chemical reaction between citrus and seafood.  The seafood in ceviche is technically not cooked, as no heat is applied to it.  Instead, the citric acid in the marinade induces what is called denaturation.  De-what?  Well, the citric acid manipulates the proteins in the seafood, changing their physical and chemical properties.  After sitting in the marinade, the seafood turns firm and opaque, just like it had met heat.  So, do you take the same risks with eating seafood in ceviche as with eating sashimi?  Yes, actually.  While the citric acid does modify the seafood protein, it does not kill off any bacteria and such that could potentially be hanging around your fish.  However, if you buy fresh fish, then you really don’t have anything to worry about.  Really.

So, for my ceviche, I used tilapia.  I wanted a firm white fish, and it was either that or cod.  I think tilapia has a meatier texture to it, and cod seemed too flaky for this.  After consulting a variety of sources (like here and here), I began making my citrus marinade.  The following is for just under 1 1/2 lbs. of tilapia.

3 limes, squeezed of their juice

about 1/4-1/3 cup of orange juice (I only used this because I realized I definitely did not have enough lime juice……it worked out well)

about 3 pinches of freshly minced cilantro (fresh is a must. no exceptions.)

about 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 tomato, seeded, diced

about 1/4 of a cup of red onion, diced

salt and freshly cracked black pepper

3 tilapia fillets cut into bite-sized pieces

tilapia ceviche

So, basically all you need to do is get a shallow dish.  Lay out all your fish pieces in the dish.  In a separate bowl, combine all of the above ingredients and then pour over the fish.  Cover with plastic wrap, and throw it in the fridge.  I would marinate this for 20-50 minutes.  If you take it out before 20 minutes, there’s a decent chance the inside of the pieces will be quite raw.  If you like that sort of thing (I certainly don’t mind), then go for it.  If you leave it in longer than 50 minutes, it will probably have the texture of overcooked fish.  Ew.  In any case, my ceviche tasted fresh, bright, and citrusy.  The fish got a huge kick from the cilantro and the onion, and the texture was very meaty.  The pieces of fish had some bite to them, which I really enjoyed.  The garlic undertones complimented the citrus so nicely.  It really hit the spot.

So, what goes along with this awesome ceviche?  How about tostones?  Ah, tostones are awesome. I’ve had good (crunchy on the outside, pillowy and soft on the inside) and bad (rubbery….tough….) ones.  If you like french fries, you’ll like tostones even more.

So, what the hell are tostones?

perfect tostones

Very simply, fried (green) plantains.   Get a cast iron skillet. Fill it about 1/4 inch of the way with vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium heat.  You’ll know the oil is hot enough when you stick the end of a wooden spoon in and it bubbles.

Grab about 3 green plantains.  Slice the skin lengthwise, and peel off to reveal the plantain itself.  Slice into 1-inch thick pieces on an angle.

Now, you’re going to blanch the pieces in the oil.  Fry the pieces on each side for about 1-2 minutes (until lightly golden).  Do this in batches.  Lay the pieces out on a paper towel lined plate.  Once cooled, take a wooden spoon or the bottom of a small glass — whatever you have on hand — and smash lightly.  The pieces should still be in tact.  Once you’ve done this to all of the pieces, put them back into the oil and fry for another 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the pieces have reached a medium gold color.  It’s okay if some get a little dark (one of mine got kind of crispy….).  Immediately place them onto a paper towel lined plate.  This is so the oil gets wicked away from the pieces, resulting in a crispy crust with a delicate interior.  Sprinkle some salt over top of the tostones, squirt some lemon juice too if you’d like.  These tostones were perfect.  I can’t even be modest about it.  I have never made them before, but they came out so crisp on the outside, yet so tender on the inside.  And with just the right amount of salt and lemon juice, it was a PERFECT addition to the light and airy ceviche.

Usually, tostones are served with a mojo.  I chose to serve mine with some guacamole.  I love avocados.

ultra chunky guacamole

They seem like the perfect fruit (?) to have on a blazing hot day.  They’re creamy, light, decadent, and so damn good for you.  I like my guacamole chunky, so I didn’t mash this as much as I could have.  All I added to this was 1 avocado, juice from 1/2 a lemon, a few pinches of freshly minced cilantro, 1/2 a tomato, diced, 2 TBSP of diced red onion, and a pinch of salt.

I could’ve just spooned this out of the bowl and eaten it.

So, that was probably the perfect meal for a 100 degree day.  Light, citrusy, and satisfying.  Mmmm….

you’ll need many a napkin to eat this sticky rack of deliciousness.

Good morning all.

My life has been overrun by my part-time job, internship, and now the World Cup.  What will I watch when the World Cup is over?

Anyway….We celebrated Father’s Day a few days early this year.  Initially, my plan was to make some delicious hanger steak.  I’ve seen hanger steak at this one grocery store I often turn to for my foodie needs.  However, (as predicted) the store did not have hanger steak in stock when I was, of course, looking for it.  So, Plan B?  Barbecued beef short ribs.

rubbed ribs getting ready for the oven

I started off by rubbing the ribs with a nice spice mix.  For two slabs of ribs, I used (adapted from here):

4 TBSP brown sugar

2 TBSP smoked paprika

3 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp celery salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

I let the ribs sit in the rub all day so all the flavors could marry.  If I had things my way, I would’ve smoked these ribs for about 4-6 hours over low heat with hickory wood chips and such.  Buuut, I don’t have a smoker.  So instead, I opted to braise the ribs first, then finish them on the grill.  In a roasting pan with a rack, add 1 16oz bottle of beer and some water so that there is about an inch of liquid in the pan.  Place the ribs that you rubbed at least 12 hours ago on the roasting rack and put them in the pan.  Cover with foil, and place in a preheated 250F oven.  Roast for 1.5-2 hours.  Check your ribs after an hour to be sure there is enough liquid.  When the ribs are done (the meat on mine was falling off the bones – a challenge to get on the grill, but so worth it), slather (and I mean SLATHER.  BATHE those ribs) in some barbecue sauce and grill for about 10 minutes.

While you’ve got some time on your hands as the ribs are braising, you may as well make your own barbecue sauce, right?  Well, I did.  I had no idea what I was doing, and it thankfully came out really well.  I adapted this sauce from a variety of sources in an attempt to combine the best of both tomato-based and vinegar-based sauces.  My sauce started out involving about…

1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of ketchup

1 TBSP molasses

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp paprika

some freshly cracked black pepper

2 tsp ground cumin

2 TBSP brown sugar

sweet and spicey short ribs

Whisk all the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Then, reduce to a simmer.  Cook until the mixture has reduced and thickened to your desired consistency.  I think I cooked mine for about 20-30 minutes.  It was perfect timing, really.  Once I put it in the refrigerator, the sauce thickened up really nicely.  The sauce was REALLY vinegary at first, but it sweetened throughout the cooking process.  Throughout cooking, I added a few more shakes of paprika for an additional smokey flavor, and a few more shakes of cumin for….well, mostly because I enjoy cumin a lot.  The sauce was sweet, but had a nice kick.  A perfect blend.

fresh garden herbs

Now that the ribs are figured out, it’s time for the side dishes.  I decided to make grilled vegetable kebabs with summer squash, cherry tomatoes, onion, and little bell peppers.  To go along with the vegetables, I made a sauce inspired by the chimichurri sauce native to Uruguay and Argentina (and probably other countries, too).  It’s an awesome sauce, traditionally made with parsley, garlic, pepper and olive oil.  I needed all of my parsley for the crab cakes I planned to make, so I used basil, oregano, and cilantro.  The recipe is adapted from here.   It turned out really nicely.  Cilantro is such a powerful herb, and when combined with garlic, it stands out with such an intensity.  I minced the garlic VERY finely (almost to a paste) so it functioned on an aromatic level, as well.  (Yesterday, I spread some of the sauce on some bread and made a sandwich with it.  I hope to use the rest of the leftover sauce as a marinade — it’d be awesome with chicken.)

Along with the grilled vegetable kebabs, I made some crab cakes.  I used the same recipe as in here, except I added a little more mustard and worcestershire sauce.  The difference ended up being minimal, but the cakes were still REALLY good.

jumbo lump crab cakes

Completing the compendium of side dishes was some awesome Mexican-inspired grilled corn on the cob, adapted from here.  I grilled the corn for about 20 minutes, rotating the cobs every now and then to ensure even cooking.

a riff on Elote

Then, I deviated from the original recipe a bit and spread only a little butter and mayo on the warm cobs.  I felt 1 TBSP of each was waaayy too much.  I grated some cotija cheese, sprinkled it on the cobs, and dusted with a little smoked paprika.  The cobs were still fairly warm, so the cheese ended up melting slightly.  The mayo and cheese added a nice salty bite to the juicy, sweet corn.

And that was that!  It was a fantastic and flavorful dinner.  I don’t usually like barbecue sauce (I have been rather vocal about my dislike  — the bottled nonsense is always way too sweet…), but thought this was deliciously savory, sticky, sweet, spicy, and perhaps most importantly, addictive as all hell.  I could’ve eaten an entire rack of short ribs (in all fairness, there isn’t THAT much meat on ribs).

whew!

Happy Father’s Day to all, and Happy Summer, too!

yet another foodie milestone

Hello everyone.

Anyone who reads this blog may know that I am a devoted fan of Anthony Bourdain.  While he’s viciously uncensored and dripping with sarcasm, I love him, his show, and books.

Yesterday, he was doing a book signing at the Borders in downtown Manhattan, so I went.

anthony bourdain signing a copy of his book

As he strolled into the signing area with a beer in hand, he smiled and waved at everyone there to see him.  He was really chill, friendly, and seemed to really enjoy bullshitting with his fans.  His fans, by the by, are a weird sort.  A mix of young and old, they appear to cleave onto everything Bourdain stands for:  brutal honesty, which can at times be quite humorous.

I realize that he is just another person, like you and me, and that there was no real reason to be totally tongue-tied.  However, once I approached the table at which he sat, all logic and reason left me.  I went from being a composed, articulate individual to a stammering idiot with a flushed face.  That’s okay, though.  He greeted me with a huge smile, a slightly nervous hello, and he shook my hand.  We talked about his beer, and the moment that I spent 2 hours waiting in line for passed in mere moments.

gaaahhhh

Sure, I could have asked him about being a chef.  I could have asked him where and what to eat when I’m in Sydney.  Hell, I could have even asked him if he’s heard the latest New York Dolls album.  Instead, we talked about the stupid beer, smiled, I giggled, we posed, and finally said our goodbyes.   Ah well.  It still made my day.

After the signing, my mom and I went to Les Halles.  Bourdain was formerly executive chef at Les Halles, though not at the location at which we ate.  Nevertheless, the food surpassed my expectations and their fries are to die for.  In his Les Halles cookbook, he gives the recipe for the fries in case anyone reading this wants to go for it.

What did I have?

moules

These mussels were DELICIOUS.   And the portion was very generous, as well.  I had my mussels in a tomato-garlic broth with cilantro and chorizo.  I could’ve bathed in it.

frites

These french fries were expertly fried.  They were very salty and crunchy on the outside, but warm and fluffy on the inside.  These people know what they are doing.  And I got a heaping plateful of them with my mussels.

profiteroles

Finally, for dessert, my mom and I split cream puffs filled with vanilla ice cream.  I gather they make their own ice cream because it was VERY VERY vanilla.  I loved it.  I usually hate vanilla ice cream, but this was done so well.  It was creamy, but not heavy.  There were specs of seeds from the vanilla bean, indicating that this was not store -bought shit.  And the chocolate sauce they serve on the side was divine.  Not heavy like a ganache, just light and frothy enough to drizzle over the pastry.  It was bittersweet chocolate with a hint of cocoa.  Whew.

It was an awesome day – probably the best this summer (so far?).

timely

Good morning everyone.

I did say that I would post again in a timely manner, so I’m attempting to make good on my word.

Two items are featured today: polenta that no one in my house liked, and pork that generally everyone felt tasted good.

Let’s begin with the polenta.

I tend not to post my failures on here, partly because I never take pictures of them, and also because I’m thinking of making a worst hits post in the future.

So, polenta.

cheesey, herby polenta cake

Polenta is essentially coarse corn meal cooked in water.  Typically, 1 1/2 cups of polenta is cooked with about 4 cups of water.  The water can be salted, as you would for pasta or potatoes.  The cooking liquid doesn’t have to be just water, of course.  For more flavor, you could substitute any stock of your preference, or you could even add a bit of heavy cream for some deliciously silky polenta.

I decided to just cook it in water.  To a medium sauce pan, add 4 cups of cold water.  Then, add 1 and 1/2 cups of polenta.  Begin stirring, and turn on the heat to high, bring to a boil.  This will need your constant attention…so keep stirring!  If you don’t, it will stick and scorch.  And who wants that?  Once it begins to form a porridge-like consistency, add seasonings, herbs, whatever you want.  After all the water has been absorbed, turn the heat down to medium-low/low and add 1 TBSP of butter.  Then, fold in some cheese, perhaps marscapone or creme fraiche for a really velvety consistency, or some gruyere or cheddar for a nice bite.  And there you have it.

You can serve it like that, or you can preheat your oven to about 350F and pour the polenta into a cast iron skillet (or some other oven-proof dish).  Spread it out so it’s even, top it with more herbs or cheese, and throw it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.  It forms a delicious crust on the outside, and maintains its creaminess on the inside.  *I* thought it was very good.

The other night, we were set to have pork chops.  So, with my day off, I decided to roast them until they were fall-off-the-bone tender.

roasted pork chops with roasted tomatoes and fresh herbs

I generally followed my previous roasted pork recipes and made an interesting sauce prior to putting this all in the oven.  In a medium saucepan, I combined 2 cans of diced tomatoes, about a cup of red wine, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and fresh basil, oregano, and tarragon from my garden.  I am LOVING my basil plant, it is going crazy  out there and it’s REALLY fragrant.  By far one of my favorite herbs.

In some olive oil, saute about half a vidalia onion until soft.  Then add garlic, loads of salt and pepper.  Stir, add the wine and cook out some of the alcohol.  Then, add the tomatoes and mushrooms.  Reduce about 1/4th of the volume.  Then, add the herbs.

Add a generous amount of salt and pepper to the pork chops and place in an oven proof dish.  Pour the sauce over the chops, and put in a preheated 350F oven for about 2 1/2 hours.  Serve with some egg noodles and you’re all set.

Tuesday, I am (hopefully) going to a book signing with Anthony Bourdain.  Holy. Shit.

to learn to cook

Hello everyone.

It seems as though I never write anymore!  Unfortunately, my schedule for the summer is almost more intense than my school-year  schedule.

A few weeks ago, my mom and I went to a cooking class at Classic Thyme in Westfield, NJ.  The subject was “Supremely Simple Seafood,” which it was.  It was as delicious as it was simple.  My mom and I recently recreated this menu, and it took us a fair bit of time, but there are a lot of dishes involved.

pan fried oyster topped green salad

There were about 15 people in the class, and each group of people was charged with prepping a specific portion of the meal.  The first dish of the night was pan fried oysters atop a green salad with creamy garlic and peppercorn dressing.  Mom and I got to drain and dredge the oysters.  They were huge, freshly shucked oysters and were, admittedly, a little gross to handle raw.  Believe it or not, I have never tasted an oyster before this.   If I didn’t like clams so much, I would say oysters are  my favorite!

The oysters were soaked in a mixture of buttermilk and cajun seasoning, and then dredged in cajun-seasoned panko breadcrumbs.  Then, they were fried in oil (not deep fried, just pan fried in enough oil covering the oysters halfway), and dropped on a paper towel to drain while cooling.  The oysters take very little time to cook – about 2 to 4 minutes.  They had a great crunch on the outside, and were absolutely luscious on the inside.  A perfect contrast in textures.

The oysters were placed atop a salad with a creamy garlic dressing.  The dressing was really fragrant, and had so many different flavors happening.  The dressing involved sauteing some shallot, garlic, and peppercorn melange in some extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.  Once the garlic browned and the shallots were translucent, 1/2 cup of white balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of worcestershire sauce were added.  This mix was reduced by half and cooled completely in the refrigerator.  Then, in a blender, that mix was first thickened with some olive oil, and then mayo, dijon mustard, and some herbs were added.

sauteed flounder ala orange topped with seared shrimp

Initially, I was very skeptical about the orange in this dish.  I am not a fan of orange-flavored things, and really favor lemon with my fish.  However, the orange just…worked.  It completely won me over.  The fish was lightly breaded and then quickly pan fried, leaving the interior delicate and flaky.  White fish has a very subtle flavor, which the orange lifted to another dimension.  The shrimp was perfectly cooked, as well.  It was seasoned with salt and pepper, and seared in butter (delicious).  It was meaty, but not chewy (as overcooked shrimp so often is).  It was juicy and succulent; the orange tasted really good with it as well.

pan seared scallop with horseradish mashed potatoes

This was an excellent side dish.  Not only were the mashed potatoes decadent and creamy, but the scallop was seared to perfection.  The trick to getting the most flavor out of these potatoes is to salt the boiling water with enough salt so it tastes like the ocean.  Once the potatoes are cooked, mash them with butter, horseradish, and heavy cream.  That is all it takes, and the result is DIVINE.  I love horseradish, it adds a kick of heat without being overwhelming.  The scallop was seasoned with salt and pepper, and then seared quickly over high heat so it caramelizes.  Searing it on high heat ensures a deep caramelization without overcooking.  After removing the scallop, some shallot, garlic, and leeks were sauteed with some lemon juice and butter.  This “confetti” of leeks and shallots was placed on top of the scallop.  That aromatic and savory confetti balanced the luscious, velvety interior of the scallop.

At this point, you are probably wondering if there was dessert.  After all these savory dishes, what sweetness was to be had?

almond, walnut, chocolate and caramel bars

These oat bars were dessert.  I am not going to lie, I felt a little ripped off by this.  Don’t get me wrong, the bars were really good.  Interestingly, the bars never cooled completely, so we had them while they were warm and gooey. But after that intense meal, this dessert did not seem to suffice.  I like granola bars as a snack between meals, or even for a quick breakfast if I’m not all that hungry.  Dessert?  Not quite.  They probably should have been served with vanilla ice cream or something to make it more desserty, but oh well.  Served warm and gooey, these really quenched my craving for something sweet after all the garlicy-savoriness.

I have cooked a few things recently because I have been home in the evenings (at least part of the evenings), so more updates to come (in a timely manner).

Embarrassment.

Hello everyone.

Hopefully you’ll forgive me for my disappearance.

I really haven’t cooked at all since I’ve been back home, with the exception of Mother’s Day.  Within the last year or so, my Dad and I have successfully joined forces in the kitchen to make good food for my Mom (hi Mom!) – whether for her birthday or Mother’s Day.

This year, I unfortunately had to work the evening of Mother’s Day, but we made an awesomely huge lunch to make up for it.

First up is grilled lamb chops.  Yes, lamb.  As many of you may have observed, this blog is called everything but the baa.  I’ve undoubtedly explained this in the past, but will reiterate here.  I try to avoid eating lamb.  Not because it tastes badly, but because of how much I enjoy living lambs.  I make exceptions for occasions such as these, because lamb is one of my Mom’s favorite things.

Having said that, here is roughly what we did.

grilled lamb chops

with a bright lemon-herb sauce

I have to say, I highly prefer grilled lamb over roasted.   Then again, I find I tend to have a preference toward almost anything grilled.  I enjoy the smokey flavor.  Initially, we thought the sauce’s recipe called for too much lemon zest so we halved it.  Personally, I would have appreciated the full amount, but even with half it tasted wonderfully.  The lemon serves two purposes here.  The zest functions as an aromatic enhancement, while the juice brightens the intensity of all the herbs.  I thought the combination of mint and rosemary with lamb seemed a little tired, and was so happy to find this recipe.  The thyme and parsley pair quite well with lamb.

We decided to go with a surf-and-turf theme and make some serious crab cakes.  Seafood is one of my favorite food groups (in fact, I think it may be THE favorite), but I make it a point to avoid restaurant crab cakes at all cost.  In fact, you should avoid commercial crab cakes as well.  It’s well-known that the cakes are nothing but filler (be it bread crumbs, crushed crackers, or whatever other non-crab ingredient they throw in there).  I actually quite pride myself on these cakes, adopted from here.

UBER crab cakes

I only had 1 lb. of jumbo lump crab meat, so I adjusted the recipe accordingly.  The bottoms were a little crispy, at which I initially freaked out.  However, it worked out well, because crispy crab meat is delicious.   After they came out of the oil, I set them on a plate lined with two paper towels.  Do this, otherwise the oil will sit in the cakes and make them soggy and greasy (and who wants that?).  Next time, I would probably increase the amount of Worcestershire sauce a little bit, as well as the mustard.  I love the taste of crab (more than lobster, if I’m honest), but I wanted some more of the other flavors in the cakes.  Nevertheless, these cakes were great because I was able to control how much filler went into them.  Once you make these, there is no going back to those….excuses you get at most restaurants.

And finally, for the vegetable component to the meal, I blanched some green beans and tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper.  Simple, but so good with lamb.  The beans were so crunchy and full of vibrancy.  In fact, a squirt of lemon juice over them would’ve been great.

crunchy green beans

And that is that!  I made blackberry souffles (first try ever!) for breakfast, but never took pictures.  They turned out nicely, but I wasn’t that enthusiastic about them.  I guess I expected something different (I’ve never had a souffle before).

Oh, fun fact.  I turned 21 this past Tuesday, and to celebrate, I got cannolis instead of a birthday cake.  If you are in the Central Jersey area, PLEASE go to this bakery.  They have a location in Brooklyn (which is what the site links to), and one on Middlesex Ave in Metuchen.  They have some of the finest cannolis I have had the pleasure of eating.  Good bakeries are dying out, so SUPPORT THEM (but leave all the cannolis for me)!

screw cake

hiatus to end soon!

Hello everyone!

The end of the semester was quite busy, and the beginning of the summer is proving to be no different!   I do have some food to post, so fear not!  I will update soon….

Thanks for staying tuned!

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