Monday, May 16, 2016

Bottoms Up With Bubbles


I know some of these special food “holidays” are a bit of a joke. National Jelly Doughnut Day or National White Peppercorn Day are kind of ridiculous.  (I actually made those up, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they exist.) Obviously, it’s a way for marketing folks to get their products center stage and have them featured on social media particularly. I have to admit I fell for today’s special day – National Mimosa Day. WHY it wasn’t on a Sunday (to go along with brunch) I have no idea. But I couldn’t resist pouring myself one…or two. 

Aperol Spritz Mimosa

Pour 2 ounces of orange juice in the bottom of a pretty champagne glass. (All champagne glasses are pretty.)  Add a splash of Aperol. Fill almost all the way up with champagne. (Prosecco counts too.) Top it off with a hit of seltzer. Drink, enjoy, repeat.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pop Open The Champagne!

I was planning to serve champagne to some family friends before we went out to dinner and I decided to search around for the perfect snacks to go with it. 

I found the usual foie gras and anything with truffles, but I wanted something more fun. Anything with cheese was a common suggestion, so I made some smoked gouda choux puffs. (See note below.) 

Then I kept coming across another suggestion which really surprised me – POPCORN! I had never even THOUGHT of popcorn with champagne before. I studied up on various seasonings and I ended up making Rosemary and Thyme Buttered Popcorn and I have to say, although it was good on its own, it was REALLY wonderful with the champagne. 

As I looked around more, I decided I was the last person on earth to know that Champagne and popcorn belong together. Last year at Oscar time, this liquor store site posted a perfect explanation of why this is.
I agree! What THEY said!

Anyhoo, here’s my recipe using Paul Newman’s finest microwave popcorn. Obviously, you can use “real” popcorn and it will be even better…


Rosemary and Thyme Buttered Popcorn

½ tsp. Kosher salt
5 sprigs of rosemary, stripped
6 sprigs of thyme, stripped
4 tbls. unsalted butter

1 3.5 oz. bag Paul Newman Natural Microwave Popcorn

More thyme sprigs for garnish

Place salt in a mini food processor (or big one) with rosemary and thyme. Process until chopped finely.

Place butter in small saucepan. Place on low heat to melt and stir in salt and herb mixture. Leave pan on low until butter is completely melted. Cook for 2 minutes on low. Remove from heat until ready to use.

Pop popcorn according to package instructions.  Reheat herb butter for a minute or so. Pour popcorn into large bowl. Pour over butter. Stir with metal slotted spoon. (A salad serving spoon works well.) Pour into serving bowl. Garnish with fresh sprigs of thyme. Eat…now. Serve with champagne.

NOTE: I used this recipe for the choux puffs with the following additions:
  • I used grated smoked gouda cheese.
  • Add the flour OFF the heat and then stir the mixture vigorously on the heat.
  • The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the choux puffs. After turning down the heat, start checking them after 15 minutes. They should be well-browned.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Make Your Own Bibimbap

I promised you all a Bibimbap recipe before we went to California last (last) week.* Here it is. 

Once you have your Bulgogi organized and you’ve either made or bought Gochujang, it’s just a matter of stir-frying vegetables in separate batches and arranging the bundles prettily on top of the rice. A fried egg (or four) goes on top.

Some folks don’t fuss with the rice. They just put the cooked short grain rice in the bottom of a shallow, wide bowl and top it with the vegetables. I like the rice to be crispy, even crunchy, on the bottom, so you’ll see how to do that in the recipe below.

The amounts of the vegetables don’t have to be exact. Also add in or take out what you like and/or don’t like.

2 cups short grain white rice
Bulgogi (Use as little or much as you like. The recipe calls for 1½ lbs. of beef.)
4 carrots, cut into a thick matchstick
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
½ big red pepper, cut into a thick matchstick
1 zucchini, cut into a thick matchstick
1 bunch of kale, washed, stripped of center core and sliced into thin strips
1 container bean sprouts, washed well
Oil for stir-frying
2 tbls. oil for crisping the rice
For serving:
1 tbl. sesame oil 
a few spoonfuls Gochujang

(If possible, cook your rice earlier in the day or at least an hour or two before.) Wash the rice in several changes of water. Place in a heavy bottomed pot with 2½ cups water. (Purists would faint, but sometimes I get nervous and add as much as 3 cups of water. I’ve never noticed a difference.) Bring to a boil. Cover and turn heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, without opening the lid. Let sit, covered, for 10 minutes, then spoon out onto a dinner plate and let cool until ready to use.

Stir fry each batch of vegetables separately in vegetable or olive oil in a wok or nonstick frying pan. Season each one lightly with salt.  

Heat 2 tbls. oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add rice and pat down evenly. Cover and let cook for 10 to 15 minutes. If it’s cooking too fast, turn down heat just a bit.  Check to see if the rice has a nice crust. Arrange the vegetables and bulgogi on top of the rice.

Fry 4 eggs in a nonstick frying pan and carefully lay them on top of the vegetables and bulgogi. It’s prettier if you leave them sunny side up, but one of my eggs was a little snotty, so I’ll turn it over next time. Drizzle with sesame oil and serve with Gochujang. 

*(I posted some Cali pix on Instagram and Foodspotting.)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Spending Time With Bulgogi and Gochujang

I didn’t completely want to, but the other night I made my own Bulgogi and Gochujang Paste, because I was making Bibimbap. The gochujang was actually on purpose, but the bulgogi was because Trader Joe's parking lot was so crowded I thought a rave was happening inside. I wasn’t that wrong. When I looked in the door, there was a horde of frantic shoppers snapping up lots of brightly packaged snack foods and six packs of wine and boxes of beer. (Sorry, that should be the other way around.) Anyway, I turned right around and went to my usual supermarket and bought unseasoned beef.

Let’s define some terms here. Gochujang is that Korean Chili Paste, which is becoming the new Sriracha. It’s everywhere. In my quest to use up my white miso, I decided to make gochujang instead of buying it. Bulgogi is marinated beef strips often served in Bibimbap, which is a Korean rice dish topped with vegetables (and beef too, if you like). And it’s served with gochujang. I’ll talk about the Bibimbap in my next post.

For the Bulgogi, I intended to leave out the sugar or honey, but I chickened out. It does have a sweet component that I decided I would miss. But instead of just SERVING the bulgogi with gochujang paste, I decided to add some into the meat marinade, because...why not?

Bulgogi can be served simply with plain rice or fried rice or rice noodles...if you’re not doing a whole Bibimbap thing. Here’s the recipe to get you started.

¼ cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic
2 tbls. sesame oil
1 tbl. finely chopped or grated ginger
1 tbl. toasted sesame seeds
2 tsps. honey
2 scallions, chopped
2 tsps. gochujang paste (Recipe below or use the fabulous stuff from a jar)
1½ lbs sirloin, sliced into thin strips (or buy it in strips)

Whisk together all the ingredients, except meat, in a large glass bowl. Add the beef and turn to coat. Cover and marinate in fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight. 

Oil a stove top grill pan or spray a nonstick pan with nonstick spray and place on medium heat. Remove beef from marinade and cook for 3 minutes on the first side or until nicely browned on the edges and 1 or 2 minutes on the other. Serve immediately or set aside to be added to the Bibimbap. 

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Your Korean grandmother would ferment her gochujang for weeks, months or longer(!). This is quickly made with a casual hanging out on the counter before you add the last ingredients. It has a hoisin sauce-like consistency. It’s SO good. I used this batch for the bulgogi and to serve with Bibimbap, but gochujang is good next to any Asian rice or meat (or chicken or anything) dish.

My Gochujang
Based on Homemade Gochujang


½ cup water
1¼ cups brown sugar
½ cup white miso
2 tbls. chili powder, from the supermarket (Korean chili powder will make the sauce hotter and much redder. Use it if you prefer.)
½ tsp. cayenne
½ tsp. chili pepper flakes
½ tsp. dry sherry
½ tsp. rice vinegar

Over medium heat, stir together the water and brown sugar until completely dissolved. Stir in the miso until the mixture is smooth. A fork will help to break down the miso.

Add chili powder, cayenne and chili flakes and stir over low heat for 3 minutes. The mixture should be simmering gently. Take it off the heat and put the uncovered pot on the counter until it cools to about 100°F, or slightly warm to the touch.

Stir in the sherry and rice vinegar and let cool completely. Pour into a jar, cover and refrigerate.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

I'll Be Miso-ing My Peanut Sauce From Now On

When I make peanut sauce, it’s usually from a recipe in an ancient 1989 Bon Appétit magazine.* Recently, however, another recipe caught my eye on Food52. It was made with white miso. And since I’ve had an open container of that in my fridge since Christmas (when I made Nobu’s Miso Cod), I was psyched. (And I’m not kidding about the word OPEN. When I dug it out of the back of the fridge, somehow the lid had disappeared and it was truly OPEN and uncovered! Luckily, miso is really hearty and it didn’t seem to matter a bit.) 


This miso peanut sauce turned out to be sensational, but I did change it a bit. I used more garlic and sesame oil...and black tea instead of water. BTW, I use so little peanut butter in my life that I decided a while ago to forego the natural stuff (which I always had to whirl up in the food processor). Now I just buy Jif in a tiny jar and I don’t have gobs of it hanging out in the fridge space pledged to other more important items. 

Miso Peanut Sauce

½ inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled, with center stalk removed
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (Use your favorite. I use Jif)
1 heaping tbl. white miso (also called Shiro Miso)
2 tbls. unflavored rice wine vinegar
3 squeezes Sriracha
1 tbl. honey (If your peanut butter is unsweetened, add a bit more)
2 tsps. sesame oil
1/2 cup of black tea - divided in half, freshly brewed and still warm

plus extra 2 tbls. black tea or water, if desired

Place ginger and garlic in food processor fitted with metal blade. Whirl until finely chopped. Add remaining ingredients, including the first 1/4 cup of black tea. Process until smooth. Add up to another 1/4 cup of black tea by spoonfuls to get the consistency you prefer. 

Set peanut sauce aside, covered, until ready to use. Refrigerate if not using in the next hour. Check consistency before using. Add extra black tea or water little by little, if the peanut sauce is too thick.

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This time I was using the peanut sauce on top of grilled flank steak. I also served it with brown rice, steamed broccoli and snow peas, plus halved and vinaigrette-dressed grape tomatoes.  

Other times, I like to toss rice noodles or just cooked spaghetti with peanut sauce and add lots of julienned vegetables – cucumbers, red pepper, carrots and a bit of red onion. I can serve that alone or with julienned leftover flank steak or chicken. 

Note: If you’re using any peanut sauce to coat uncooked chicken, meat or fish (or shrimp), make sure to set aside that amount separately. You don’t want the spoon that touched the raw chicken, for example, to go back in the peanut sauce that may go on top of your raw vegetables.  

*(Email me if you want the Bon Appétit Peanut Sauce recipe, since it’s not mine to post.)