Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

KimchiFriedRice3I think everyone has certain rules or considerations before people can be considered as friends.  There are obvious considerations such as not being a complete tool or tosser in order to be looked upon as a friend… unless you like those qualities in people.  Some people prefer to limit their friendships with folks who have like-minded religious or political beliefs.  Ok, cool.  That’s fine.  I have certain rules and guidelines as well.  I can’t be friends with people who don’t like to suck the brains and guts out of shrimp heads when eating whole shrimp, or are grossed out when I do.  For those of you who don’t do that, you don’t know what you’re missing.  I also can’t be friends with people who refuse to try kimchi.  It’s cool if you don’t like it but as long as you’ve tried it.  But to flat out say that you won’t even taste it… that’s the culinary equivalent of being a narrow-minded bigot if you ask me.

I kid, I kid.

I’m not that serious, but you can see the point I’m getting at.  I often ask people who refuse to eat or try kimchi why they won’t taste it.  I get responses such as, “Isn’t it fermented?  Meaning that it’s rotten cabbage?”  Why yes.  Yes it is.  I often follow that up with counter questions of my own.  “Do you like cheese?  Oh you do?  Well you realize that’s rotten milk, right?”  “Do you like wine?  Oh you do!?  You realize that’s rotten grape juice, right?”  “Do you like beer?  Who am I kidding… of course you do!  You realize that’s rotten barley juice, right?”  And finally, “do you like sauerkraut?  Perhaps with your Rueben sandwich or with your hotdogs and brats?  Oh you do?  Well what do you know… kimchi is pretty much the exact same thing except spicier.”  Free your minds, people.KimchiFriedRice1

I’ve seen kimchi fried rice on menus in Korean restaurants before but I’ve never taken the plunge in ordering it.  I’ve of course had my fair share of kimchi and would be very happy eating it with plain rice.  Cold kimchi and hot rice is a typical lunch in Korea for the working class and it’s more than enough to make me happy.  But I started thinking about other uses for the kimchi I had bought at the local Asian store and decided to scour the internet for a kimchi friend rice recipe. One of my favorite accompaniments for kimchi is barbecue and I recently made a rack of ribs (that’s another post for another time) that went perfect with it.  The sweetness of the barbecue sauce with the richness of the fatty ribs with white rice and a side of cold spicy/sour/acidic kimchi hits a lot of flavor combinations that would make any palette dance.  But I wanted to try something different and dug up a kimchi friend rice recipe that I made some tweaks to form my own

Ingredients

-Previously cooked rice.  Preferably cooked 1-2 days before.  Enough for 3 servings or so.

-1 carrot

-Several shiitake mushrooms

-3-4 green onions (spring onions)

-Several garlic cloves (or less if you prefer)

-1 cup of kimchi

-Vegetable cooking oil

-1 egg per serving

-Salt and pepper

KimchiFriedRice2Start by heating cooking oil in a wok or large pan.  As the oil gets hot, julienne cut the carrot, chop up the shiitake mushrooms, chop up the green onions (save some for garnish), and mince the garlic.  Toss the julienned carrot, chopped up shiitake mushrooms/green onion, and minced garlic and let the flavors combine and soften.

As it’s softening, cut up the kimchi in a bowl using kitchen shears which would be a perfect tool.  The reason you’re cutting kimchi in a bowl is because if you do it on a cutting board, it will stain it and perhaps even leave a lingering smell.

Add the cut up kimchi to the wok and mix it in to incorporate it with the rest of the vegetables.  Add in the rice, and break up the clumps with the back of the spoon so that individual grains can pick up the sauce brought about from the kimchi and vegetable mixture.  It should have a light red tint.  Add salt and pepper as needed.

Before plating, fry a sunny side up egg on a separate pan.  Plate the fried rice, sprinkle some of the remaining chopped up green onion, and land the sunny side up fried egg on top.  Enjoy with Korean barbecue, or your own barbecue concoction such as ribs, beef brisket, or even pulled pork.  I’d put this up against any other version of friend rice around Asia as well (Chinese, Filipino, Nasi Goreng from Indonesia, etc.).

Plus for those out there who have yet to try kimchi, this is a great way to get an initial taste before eating it as an accompanying side dish as it is meant to be.

Bruschetta.jpgJ. and I attempt, but don’t always succeed, to have a date night once a week. We usually head out to a nice restaurant or a movie but last week we were beat and just wanted to stay home. I had baked some wonderful crusty Italian style bread earlier in the day and we had found some beautiful tomatoes at the farmers market… Bruschetta was the answer.

I decided to make 2 different versions and after a quick trip to Wholefoods for some delicious meat we were set to go. I didn’t just want to make an ordinary tomato combination for the top. It was date night after all, I wanted something a little different and unusual. I went with garlic roasted tomatoes on Tomato and basilsoppressata or prosciutto with jalapeno lime white balsamic vinegar to finish it off.

First off I put the tomatoes into the oven to roast. I only wanted them cooked for a very short time with some garlic and olive oil to really bring out the sweetness in these gorgeous tomatoes we found. I wanted them to hold their shape and keep the firm texture, not go all mushy.

ProscuittoWhile the tomatoes were in a 350F degree oven for 10 minutes, I sliced some chunky bits of our Italian crusty bread and smeared them will olive oil. I heated up our grill pan and toasted these on both sides. I tried to get nice crusty grill marks on the bread. I did ok for the most part but there were some slightly crispier parts.Soppressata

Once these were grilled I just rubbed them with some garlic and set them aside to dress. I did a few of each meat for J. and I. Layer 1 being either soppressata or prosciutto. To be honest a few slices of each magically disappeared between the two of us… I love that stuff!

Basil leavesAfter the first layer of meaty goodness I added some fresh basil leaves. We had also picked the basil up at the market since our basil plant hasn’t survived it’s first (and only) Arizonan summer. By this stage the tomatoes were out and cooling down.

I cut the tomatoes in half and put them in a bowl, seasoned them with plenty of salt and pepper and then generously drizzled jalapeno lime white balsamic vinegar over them. I mixed them together and placed them on each piece of bread.

After pouring some wine J. and I sat down to a yummy, simple dinner. I had some goats cheese on the side as well for us to eat with the bruschetta. The creamy rich flavor worked so well with the freshness of the bruschetta. J enjoyed it so much we actually had something similar for dinner the next night. The tomatoes were extremely sweet and juicy. I was happy with how crusty and delicious the bread was as well. Such an easy, quick date night dinner. A good way of keeping my boy J. happy too!

Chocolate Raspberry Muffin.jpgAfter making the banana muffins last weekend I was inspired into a little more muffin madness. For Valentine’s Day I decided to bake up a batch of Raspberry Chocolate Muffins for J. and I to take into our offices.

This is another Australian Institute of Sport recipe my mother commandeered and just unbelievably delicious!

In a large bowl I sifted 2½ cups of self-raising flour, ¼ cup of good cocoa and ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. I then added in ¾ cup of caster sugar (super fine sugar) and mixed all of this together.

The recipe says to add a ½ cup of Dark Choc Bits but I am not a huge dark chocolate fan so I added in ¾ cup of milk chocolate bits. What harm could a little bit extra chocolate do!?Dry Ingredients.jpg

I mixed all of this together and made a well in the center (pretty much the same instructions as the banana muffins I made earlier in the week).

In a small bowl I melted 1 tablespoon of margarine. I added 1 cup of skim milk to that and then whisked in 1 egg. I then just gently started to fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. When it was nearly completely folded together I added 300 g frozen raspberries. I add these as close to the end as possible because I don’t want them to break Wet ingredients.jpgup to much.

Again, make sure you don’t over mix. Just fold the raspberries through until everything is combined.

I put some paper cupcake liners into my muffin tin and then spooned in the mixture. I filled them to about ¾ because I didn’t want them too large and I needed enough for both of our offices. This made 20 muffins but you could make them larger and only make 12.

I put them into the oven that had been preheated at 350F. They baked for 25 minutes and then I took them out and let Add the Rasberries.jpgthem cool.

We both packed up a bunch each and set off to work. They disappeared in my office very quickly and everyone thought they were delicious. The chocolate bits and the tang of the raspberries really do make them really really good. They are also incredibly moist (still hate that word) from the fruit and chocolate. I have to admit the extra1/4 cup of chocolate did no harm, they probably made them even better!

Ready for the oven.jpgJ’s office didn’t finish them off the way mine did… they were lucky enough to have other treats as well. But those who tried them enjoyed them and more importantly J. preferred my treats over the others that were on offer! Ok, that isn’t sooo important but still nice to know!

Though they are sweet and sugary there is a lot less fat than normal muffins too which you just have to love. I strongly encourage you to give these a try… they are incredible!

Fairytale Brownie.jpgOnce upon a time… a long time ago… in a land far far away… a boy and a girl met. Boy wanted to impress girl with sweet, delicious treats, girl was happy to be impressed.

These are the stuff of fairytales, magic and myth… of love, romance and decadence… (I’m talking about my love and romance with chocolate).

Fairytale Brownies

J. had these sent to me very early in our relationship when we were both still trying to impress each other… He told me that they were great, that I would love them. To be honest I was incredibly skeptical. Every brownie I had ever eaten was ok, it was yummy sure but nothing special. Brownies really aren’t such a big thing in Australia.

This spectacular box of brownies arrived at my, then, office. of course, I couldn’t wait until I got home to try them so I ripped Big brownies.jpgthem open right there and then. Inside were 12 individually wrapped brownies of varying flavors. As pretty as the packaging was I still didn’t believe they were as great as J kept saying.

I chose an original brownie to try first… I took a bite, my knees went weak, I quickly sat down. Oh my, these were the best thing I had ever tasted! How is this possible when they were sent across the Pacific all packaged up?

Ever since that first bite it has been true love, a love that will never die. I have brought back countless boxes from the US to Australia for gifts, for my family, for friends. They freeze incredibly well so we used to have a stash of them in our freezer in Australia.

Why are they so good you ask? They melt in your mouth, they are incredibly chocolaty, they are moist, rich and decadent, and last but certainly not least the different flavors are just genius!

  • Original – Belgian dark chocolate brownie
  • Walnut – Brownie piled walnuts
  • Pecan – Bursting with handfuls of fresh, crunchy pecan halves
  • Raspberry Swirl – Raspberry purée swirls through the chocolate brownie
  • Cream Cheese – Cream cheese swirled through the chocolate brownie
  • Toffee Crunch – Big chunks of crunchie toffee have been baked into the brownie
  • Caramel – A thin layer of caramel through the center of the chocolate brownie
  • Mint Chocolate – Mint flavored chocolate hand-drizzled over brownie
  • Espresso Nib – Filled with rich espresso flavor, sprinkled with crushed cocoa nibs
  • White Chocolate –Chocolate brownie with white chocolate chips inside and white chocolate drizzled on top
  • Peanut Butter – Yummy peanut butter swirled through the chocolate brownie
  • Choc Chip – Chocolate chips inside the brownie for some extra chocolate

Sprites.jpgI have to admit that I have tried every one of these at least twice but I do have my favorites. I am a huge fan of the toffee crunch and the cream cheese while J. loves the caramel brownie. I don’t particularly enjoy the walnut or pecan brownies but then if they were my only choices I would still eat them. To be honest I would eat all of them over and over and over again, and we have!

J. and I recently stocked up for our Holiday trip home to Australia. We got one large box of brownies to share with the family. We will cut these up and they will go a long way. We also got a box of brownie sprites which are half the size but perfect to give away as gifts. I don’t think my family is concerned with Christmas presents, as long as I bring them home some brownies.Toffee Crunch.jpg

They are too good to be true; you eat them and think it has to be a dream. So Fairytale Brownies has a fitting name, and they certainly helped J. in his attempts to impress me. A little Phoenix based shop that delivers around the world… perfect!

I have to wait until Christmas for my next bite though… so I’m going to close my eyes and think about them for a little while now…

And they lived happily ever after… (me and the brownies)

J’s Second Contribution… and his relationship advice!

Fellas… let me tell you about one of the greatest pasta dishes you need to memorize. Keep it as an ace in the hole, or use it as a pulled rabbit from the hat when you need to impress your lady. It’s so versatile that you can even use it to say sorry, make up for not putting the toilet seat down, or to barter out of doing the laundry for a while. Pasta Carbonara has to be one of the easiest but most delicious pasta dishes out there… the ultimate comfort food.

You’ll need:

-1lb of spaghetti (I used the whole wheat kind)

-1 cup of grated parmesan

-several cloves of garlic, chopped

-2 eggs

-several strips of pancetta (I live in AZ, so that’s not exactly readily available as I have no idea where the nearest Italian grocery/deli is, so bacon is completely acceptable)

-olive oil

-ground black pepper

-chopped parsley for garnish

Render down the pancetta (or bacon) in a pan with olive oil. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil to cook the pasta, making sure to salt the water as it begins to form a running boil. As the pancetta/bacon begins to crisp up, add the chopped garlic cloves (I use about 4) watching it to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Cook the pasta al dente since you’ll be finishing it in the same pan the garlic and pancetta/bacon are in. In a small bowl, mix together two eggs and a cup of parmesan and make sure there aren’t any lumps. Add some pasta water (very little by little since you don’t want scrambled eggs) to get the egg/cheese mixture to the consistency you like. I like mine to be about the same consistency as rice porridge.

Drain the pasta thoroughly and add it back to the pan with the pancetta/bacon and garlic, mixing together thoroughly to make sure the rendered fat and olive oil cover the pasta completely. Remove from the heat and mix in the egg/cheese mixture, tossing the pasta for an even coating. Be sure to add plenty of fresh cracked black pepper along with some dried parsley for garnish.

C. made some amazing garlic bread to go with this which went great to balance things out along with a glass of red wine. I unfortunately don’t drink rotten grape juice so I stuck with iced tea. There were a few servings left over for lunch at the office which were consumed with much satisfaction.

So fellas… the next time you need something pulled out of thin air to save your hides, whip this up in the kitchen and you can thank me later. Trust me with this, C. is half Italian and is as fussy about Italian food as I am about Korean and she loved this so much I haven’t had to do laundry for weeks.