Saturday, December 4, 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I'm sitting in the Lavazza cafe in downtown Chicago. SB and I have spent a whirlwind 3 days trying to lock down an apartment here. It has been an exhausting 3 days but we couldn't be more excited. Chicago is BEAUTIFUL! It's even more beautiful today as it has started snowing last night and everything is covered with white. Everything looks so romantic and festive. BUT as it turns out, our flight has also been delayed for a few hours. To be expected, right? Well, on the bright side, I am eating a wonderful Prosciutto sandwich with brie and arugula. YUM!!!! Yes, it is 10am in the morning - so what??? SB is giving me a hard time, but whoever said you can't have cold cuts in the morning??? I'm a rebel - I'm gonna do what I want and eat it whenever I want. BITE ME! Ha ha!

Hope you guys are having a wonderful Saturday, eating something fabulous and delicious wherever in the world you are. Keep your fingers crossed for us that we'll leave sometime today!

Happy eating!!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I'm moving on, I want the world to know, la la la laaa....

My motto right now should be boxes, upon boxes, upon boxes! If you were me right now, sitting here in our TriBeCa apartment, you would look at boxes and more boxes, no matter what direction you would look in.

I like being organized and having every little item in its very own, little place and home. Needless to say that this disaster of an apartment is driving me a tiny bit (A LOT) insane!! So right now, I'm taking a little break from speaking to realtors on the phone, assembling boxes, wrapping things in bubble wrap, stacking more boxes and creating a somewhat organized chaos. Btw - I LOVE popping the bubbles in the bubble wrap. What is it that is so satisfying about popping bubbles?? It makes no sense - but it's completely addicting, isn't it? Anyway, moving on... as I am packing I get an email from a friend asking me for the Julie's Thanksgiving 2010 Cocktail recipe. And a light bulb went off in my head. It suddenly dawned on me! A good old Happy Hour or "Packing Day" cocktail would make this entire process so much more fun :)! Let's be honest here, this cocktail is fantastic ANYTIME, and as far as I'm concerned it doesn't have to be Thanksgiving. It is so refreshing, so delicious, simply tastebud-tantalizing. Heck, if you find yourself packing one day, have this drink and think of me :)! I promise you, packing will be more fun. I still have all the ingredients left over from Thanksgiving; packing-day-cocktail time it is!
All you need is:
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Mint
  • Sugar
  • Club Soda or Tonic Water
  • Ginger syrup
  • Your choice of vodka
Here is what you do: In a glass add (2) slices of lemon, (2) slices of limes, a handful of mint leaves and (2) tablespoons of sugar and muddle them together. If you don't have a muddler, just use a spoon, that's what I did. Or anything that you think is good for smushing all the ingredients together (I know I'm getting quite technical here LOL). The sugar will start dissolving during this process. Add (2) shots of your choice of vodka (any citrus vodkas would be delicious too) and some ice cubes and top with club soda or tonic water and finish off with a splash of ginger syrup. Ginger syrup is quite easy to make. Take (1) cup of water, (1) cup of sugar, a few slices of ginger and bring to a boil in a saucepan. Don't bother peeling the ginger. It's only there for flavor and won't end up in the drink anyway. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes and voila, you have ginger syrup. Let it cool completely before you add it to your drink.

Garnish and drink!! Happy Packing-Day or Doing-Laundry-Day or Whatever-you-are-doing-at-the-moment drinking!!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving dinner for 4

Turkey Day this year is going to be a little unusual for us. Normally we would fly to Hilton Head and Pappa Dukes would make his fabulous turkey on the grill. We would then sit down, say grace and have a feast, with all the Thanksgiving trimmings, with SB's family and his extended family.

We would then probably pass out in a food coma to only wake up to go back for seconds or thirds (but who's counting). Well, this year around, things are a little different. With our pending move to the Windy City and all that goes along with an out of state move, time is of the essence. As sad as it is, we won't be able to make it to see SB's family :(. Fortunately, my brother and his lovely wife are driving down from Boston to spend their holiday with us. Therefore, this year around, I will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Now, if I were cooking dinner for a large group of people, I would definitely go with turkey because - well - it's Turkey Day, right? In this case however, since it's only going to be the four of us I feel like making a big ole turkey is just a huge undertaking. Having said that, I still want it to feel like Thanksgiving and I don't want to go without all the traditional trimmings. So I asked myself what would feel festive and go well with the cranberry sauce, the apple compote and all of the other lovelies. I concluded: pork roast!

Julie's Meltingpot Thanksgiving Menu 2010

Boneless Pork Loin Roast
marinated in a garlic, olive oil, lemon, thyme, sage mixture; wrapped in bacon

Julie's Garlic Mashed Potatoes
with cream and butter

Julie's Stuffing
with apple, bacon, celery, carrots and a hint of maple syrup

Julie's Cranberry Sauce
with orange juice, maple syrup and lemon zest

Julie's Apple Compote
with caramelized onions and a touch of maple syrup

Oven Roasted Vegetables
Carrots, fennel, onion and garlic

Green Bean Casserole
prepared by E.S.

Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts
prepared by E.S.

Julie's Homemade Sweet Rolls

For Dessert:

Julie's Tart Apple Pie
served with homemade whipped cream

Bourbon Orange Pecan Pie
prepared by E.S.

Julie's Thanksgiving 2010 cocktail
muddled lemon, lime, mint, with sugar; topped with Grey Goose vodka, club soda (or Tonic) and homemade ginger syrup

On a concluding note, I wanted to say Thank you to my wonderful boyfriend SB. You are the love of my life, my best friend, and my rock and I am deeply thankful that life has brought us together because I simply could not imagine it without you in it. Thank you to my mother, without whom I would be nothing and have nothing. Thank you for your love and all the sacrifices you have made (and there are many) to give me a chance at a wonderful life. Thank you to SB's parents for your unconditional, unwavering love and support. Thank you to the rest of our families, extended families and friends for always being there for us. Lastly but not least, I give Thanks to all of you, my readers who keep coming back and supporting my blog. It truly means the world to me. I hope that all of you have a spectacular Thanksgiving with your families and all your loved ones.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Eating!!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Banana bread and the Windy City

Julie's Meltingpot is moving to Chicago! Lots has been going on... lots to fill you guys in on. SB got a promotion within his company and it is taking him to Chicago. YAY to SB!!!! Because I love him and couldn't imagine my life without him, I am going with him :) (everyone say aawww :). Since I have posted my last entry I have rearranged, repainted our apartment, moved a whole bunch of stuff to storage (because I felt inspired to make it cozier and prettier in our apartment) to only move all our stuff back from storage to be reorganized and packed up, paint the apartment back to white and get us ready to ship out to Chicago. Funny how life plays these little jokes on you sometimes.

Well, needless to say that life has been sort of hectic, trying to get organized and get ready for our pending move. While we are sad to leave our friends in NYC behind, we are truly looking forward to a new chapter in our life. We look back to our time and memories in NYC with a great sense of nostalgia and yet look toward our future in Chicago with a heart full of hope. Everything has been incredibly exciting and SB and I couldn't be happier about these wonderful changes that are happening in our lives but moreover to be so lucky to experience these things together. THAT is what makes all of this so special. Nonetheless, because of the type A personality I can be at times, I stress myself out a little more than is quite necessary.

When I get crazed there are only a few things that can calm me down and baking is one of them. For some reason baking has sort of a therapeutic effect on me. It is soothing to my soul. Especially baking something that brings back comforting or childhood memories like, banana bread.

I don't really quite remember the first time I've ever had banana bread. But as long as I can remember banana bread has been a part of my childhood. I've always asked myself as a child why banana bread was called bread when it always tasted and felt more like cake or a treat to me. To this day I still haven't quite figured out the answer. However, what I do know is that it's sweet, it's spongy and such a comforting treat, especially when it's fresh out of the oven. When you cut into loaf the steam that comes out is this heavenly fragrance that has this love affair with your nostrils. It's pure comfort, pure love. I really believe that the beautiful part of it is that it is simple and it is that which reminds people of the kind of simplicity of childhood. It's true for me. I have always believed that some of the most beautiful things in life are the simplest.

The recipe I use is straight out of the Pillsbury cookbook, which is my go to guide for a lot of baked goods I make. I have modified the recipe a little bit (of course!) - I always have to change things around. I have a hard time sticking to recipes exactly. (Hmmm, I wonder what that says about my personality LOL).

Here it goes:
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened (I think vegetable oil is ok too - actually keeps the loaf moist longer)
  • 2 eggs (I use extra large eggs or 3 large eggs)
  • 1/3 cup of milk
  • 2 medium mashed ripe bananas (but I always use 3!!!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional. I leave them out because SB doesn't really like them)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom only of 9x5 or 8x4-inch loaf pan. In large bowl, cream sugar and margarine until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs; blend in bananas, milk and vanilla. In small bowl, combine flour, nuts, baking soda and salt; mix well. Add to creamed mixture; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes; remove. Now, the Pillsbury cookbook that says "cool completely on wire rack" but I say: nonsense. While it is still warm, cut yourself a slice, put some butter on it and EAT! I think it tastes even more amazing when it is fresh out of the oven and warm!

Happy eating!!


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Crepes for every soul

I love crepes! I grew up near the Alcace region in Germany where crepes are quite common. I've therefore, been eating crepes since I've been a little girl. But as far as I am concerned, no matter which way you slice it or dice it, everyone loves crepes. I've never met a single person who hasn't loved them. You can make them for breakfast, dinner, dessert or even a midnight snack - and the beauty of it all is, that they are super simple and easy to make. I feel like there is a crepe for every person in the world because you can make whatever topping moves you at the moment and create your very own custom crepe.

When I went to Hilton Head to visit SB's family (along with my own) I made crepes for breakfast and they were a huge hit. My mom and I were the first ones to wake up one particular morning, so we decided to go on a little adventure and look for a grocery store to get all the ingredients. Well, to make a long story short, it took us longer to find the store than to make the actual breakfast for everyone! But after 8 U-turns and many miles driven way too far, we finally found and conquered a grocery store.

The crepe recipe I use I get straight out of the Pillsbury cook book:
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl by hand or electric mixer. Rest the batter for a few minutes so that the air bubbles have a chance to settle. Heat a little non-stick pan to a medium heat, melt a little butter or veggie oil (I also like to use Pam - makes life so easy!) in the pan. Try to stay away from olive oil - it has too strong of a flavor and will overpower the crepe. Scoop about 1/3 cup of the batter into the pan. Spread the batter quickly by swirling the pan. After a minute or so check the bottom side of the crepe for a lightly golden brown color and flip it. Play around with the heat a little. Usually it takes me 2 crepes to get the temperature of the pan just right. This recipe makes about 20 crepes. As far as the toppings go, you can top it with really anything your little heart desires. When I am making this for other people I generally make at least one savory and a few sweet option. Typically I will set up all the toppings buffet style and everyone can help themselves.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Sliced Black Forest ham and sliced Swiss cheese (melt it in the pan and then roll it up and serve)

  • Mascarpone (or cream cheese / butter / ricotta cheese) with jam

  • Mascarpone (or cream cheese / butter / ricotta cheese) with sugar or cinnamon sugar

  • Sweetened mascarpone (or cream / ricotta cheese) mixed with lemon or orange zest and topped with sliced, sugared strawberries (or any other berry or fruit of your choice).
  • Whipped cream with melted Nutella
  • SB's personal favorites: with peanut butter and my mom's homemade blackberry jam or just nutella!

They are so succulent and amazing my mouth is watering just thinking about them!!!

Happy eating!!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Crust making demystified

After and extended hiatus I have finally returned to the world of blogging - and it feels so good to be back! As much as I love love LOVE blogging I got momentarily swept away by work, family, friends and all the other beautiful intricacies of life. I'm sure you all know what that sometimes feels like.

I however, come back bearing good - wait, let me take that back - GREAT news. During my sabbatical, if you will, I have become and American citizen! YAY! Wooohoooo!!!! It has been such a long, windy and sometimes challenging process that it still hasn't quite sunken in yet. There were definitely times I thought this day would never come. After being here for so long I have always felt like an American deep down inside but for it to be finally official feels pretty darn incredible!

Me outside the courthouse in New Haven, about to be sworn in :)

Now that I have shared some of my good news with you, back to the food. Even though I've been gone for a bit, I don't want you all to think that my blog has become crusty. So I thought it would only be appropriate if I dedicated this entry to crust - pie crust to be specific. And in keeping with the theme, is there anything more Americana than pie??? Now, I know that crust for some can be sort of a mystery. I used to feel that way too, but I discovered it doesn't have to be. I was watching Ina Garten on the Food Network one day and saw that she was using a food processor to make her pie crust. I had never tried that before and thought that it looked easy enough. At that point I had nothing to lose - all my other methods were less than desirable. Well, lo and behold, it was easy breezy! I have since then used this recipe a bunch and it has always come out beautifully. I use it for all kind of things: pies, tarts and chicken potpie to name a few. I use it all the time to make tarts because it is soooo easy and super delish! So here it goes:

For the crust:
  • 3 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
Pulse a few times to mix the dry ingredients together. Then add
  • 12 tablespoons of very cold butter, cubed
  • 1/3 cup of shortening
Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour 1/2 cup of ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. I have found that I could keep the dough in the fridge up to 2 weeks. This recipe makes enough dough to cover a 13" by 18" cookie sheet, or 3 open-faced pies / tarts.

After the dough has chilled for at least 30 minutes I roll it out, butter a pie dish and line it with the dough. For the topping, I have used anything from peaches, plums and apples. For my go to tart I use about 3 tablespoons of my mother's blackberry jam to cover the bottom of the crust. I then slice enough plums and peaches to cover the jam in a scalloping manner. I then take about 3 tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle it on top. I have also used this recipe without any jam and it came out just as delish. When I use apples for this, I like to use cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top.

To finish it, I top the tart with about 6-8 tablespoon of cubed butter before it goes in the oven at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes. Baking times will vary depending on how ripe the fruits are and what kind you are using.

I know it seems like a lot of instructions - but trust me this is easy breezy and your guest will be so impressed. Top it with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and you are golden!

Happy eating!!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Slice of Heaven

Image from (not the described pizza below)

Over the past year and change, SB and I have gotten into the tradition of going on date night once a week. Or at least we try. With our schedules being exactly the opposite schedules, and our intermittent travel, that's easier said that done. SB, being the hard worker that he is, works A LOT and I usually work when he doesn't work. See what I mean, it can get complicated. But having said that, that is pretty much everyone's story. Isn't it? Life just gets busy. And somehow as times goes by, life only gets busier, schedules get fuller, and days somehow run out of hours faster than usual.

But I strongly believe that it is important, that no matter how crazy life gets, to stop every once in a while to smell the roses. And that's what SB and I told each other when we first started dating. That no matter how far along we were in our relationship, we would never take each other for granted. We would always make each other a priority and create opportunities to show how much we truly appreciate each other, how lucky we are to have one another. Sometimes that's on a Friday, sometimes on Saturday, but if it has to be a Monday or Tuesday or any other night - so be it.

Well for our date night this week we went to Mario Batali's OTTO. I had been dying to go there forever. To top it off, my friend Linds had recently told me about this pizza there that she has been addicted to. So the decision was made - OTTO it was. I don't like being in the dark about things, especially when it comes to food. When we headed to the restaurant, I never went with the intention in mind to blog about it. Let's be honest, it's Mario Batali's place. He simply rocks. I mean he's an Iron Chef! How can it be bad right? So do we really need me to tell the world how good he is? I didn't think I needed to because it would just be stating the obvious. Well - I am going to anyway, because I can't keep it inside! It was AMAZING! Mario Batali: you're a GENIUS!!! I bow down to you. I might even kiss the ground you walk on...

This pizza that is on the special menu, is TO DIE for!!!! I wish I had brought my camera and notebook with me so I could share the details with you. I didn't bring them because I wasn't going to blog about it (!) - such an amateur move. (Never again will I go anywhere unprepared!!) I believe it has mozzarella cheese, sliced black truffle, some sort of diced cured meat and a sunny side up egg on top of it!! It is outrageously fantastic, ridiculously delicious, mind-blowingly satisfiying and every other superlative I might have left out! Pleeeeaaaasssseeee - go make yourself a reservation and get yourself a slice of HEAVEN!!!!!

Happy eating!!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bulgogi - Beef Korean Style

This is probably one of my all time favorite dishes from growing up. It is the kind of comfort food that brings me right back to my childhood. I remember when my mother used to cook this, the smell would perfume the entire house, and every minute I had to wait to eat was torture! I'm salivating just thinking about it.

I thought that it was just me (and probably every other Korean child) that loved this dish, but it isn't so. When I made this for SB for the first time, he couldn't get enough of it. I believe the words out of his mouth were "I could eat this every day for the rest of my life!"

But without further ado here it is:
  • 2 lbs of beef sliced into thin strips against the grain (any cut of your choice is fine - obviously the more tender of a cut the better but you don't have to go crazy)
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of Mirin
  • 1/4 cup of beef broth (or water is fine too)
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger (or ground through microplane)
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic (or ground through microplane)
  • 1 small onion julienned
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 diced green onions
In a mixing bowl combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, Mirin, beef broth (or water), ginger and garlic and toss the beef strips in the marinade and set aside. In a frying saute the julienned onion in olive oil. When the onions are translucent, turn up the heat to high, and all the entire beef marinade mixture. Cook until the beef is cooked through. The cooking times will vary depending on how hot the pan is and how thinly sliced the beef is. Turn the heat off and as a finishing touch sprinkle the green over the top and it's ready to be served. I will generally served with over brown rice with a side of kimchi. In Korea no meal is complete without a side of kimchi :).

Happy eating!!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Eat at eat!

Tuna tartar, wasabi honey ginger, avocado chutney, soy ginger

I don't know about you, but for me, every once in a very rare while I experience those special, key moments in life, when everything comes together perfectly in front of my eyes. When everything just seems to make perfect sense and a feeling of peaceful happiness fulfills me. I really don't know any other way to explain it but to call it a visual and visceral epiphany of sorts - although I don't think that description really does it justice either. The kind of moments that make you feel like jumping for joy, laughing out loud, wanting to cry out of happiness - and all at the same time. And somehow you just end up with a big grin on your face, while everyone else wonders what is the matter with you. But I'm sure you know what I mean. They are those moments you wish you could bottle up and keep with you forever. The kind that fills you with a deep sense of gratitude. These moments that give you the kind of serene knowing that, as confusing, complicated and challenging this world may be at times, that everything has its perfect place in this universe and everything truly does happen for a reason.

I feel as though I have uttered these words so often, mindlessly, as sort of a mantra, as I do my best to navigate through this labyrinth called life. But in gifted moments of clarity these simple words resonate so true within.

That is exactly what I experienced at eat! in Hilton Head. Everything in my life leading up to that moment made perfect sense and it was beautiful sight. It was one of these momentous occasions for me that will forever be etched in my memory. Momentous not because anything big or extraordinary happened but because it was simple and therefore perhaps extraordinary in its own right. Life at that moment was reduced to what is truly the only important thing in life, to me: family and the people I love. Kind of like a sauce that you reduce to its essence. All the excess and unimportant things evaporate and what you are left with is the heart and soul, the backbone. For the first time, I was with my family and my SB's family together at one table, sharing a spectacular meal. I was in the company of the most important people in my life and I couldn't imagine anything better than that.

We were laughing, eating, translating, sharing stories, hand-gesturing and chatting eagerly like reunited old souls. We were celebrating Momma B's birthday, our families and the gift of each and every day of good health.

The gang: Pappa Dukes at the head of the table; to the right of him in order: SB, me, Mamma, the little one and Wonni. To the left of Pappa Dukes: Momma B, Pies, Gibs, MS and KB.

Now, I am sure you are curious about the food. I mean after all this is a food blog of sorts, right? Well, let me tell you - it was fantastic! The restaurant is owned by chef Robert Irvine of Food Network's Dinner: Impossible. It comes as no surprise after you eat his food that he once was a White House chef and also worked on Charles & Diana's wedding cake. I will let the pictures do most of the talking, but I urge you - if you find yourself in the Hilton Head area, make yourself a reservation at eat!. You won't regret it.

Cornmeal crusted oysters, Tabasco butter, blue cheese, Asian slaw
This was my mothers favorite dish. My Mamma thinks similarly to me in this regard: how can a meal that includes oysters be a bad one? It can't. The crunchiness or the cornmeal and the slaw provides a very nice contrast in texture. This dish is definitely not your traditional fried oyster. It's a must try!

Blackened snapper and grits, bay shrimp, tomato havarti grits, red pepper goat cheese coulis, balsamic
This, as it was explained to us by the waiter, would be their signature dish if they had one. One of the most popular items on the menu. 4 people from our gang ordered it and loved it!

Fried green tomatoes, brown butter, feta cheese, balsamic
I mean, you can't go to the South and not have fried green tomatoes, right? This was a first for me and my family and we loved it. But then again, can you think of anything that is fried and doesn't taste good?

Seared diver scallops, cajun spice, mango butter
I loooove me some scallops. To be honest, I haven't met a scallop that I didn't like (so far, at least). This was no exception. Yum, yum, yum!!!

Pan roasted free range chicken roulade, pork sausage stuffed, pan jus, roast vegetable couscous

Pan seared breast of duck, black bean more, cherry gastrique, cilantro and micro herb citrus salad
My mother orderd this dish and loved it. I must warn you though, if you try to order this dish anything but rare the waiter may bite you head off. My mother isn't a big fan of rare meats and prefers them at medium temperature at the least. Well the waiter insisted and was quite adamant about serving this duck rare and if she wanted it cooked anything more than medium "she should order something else." It was definitely one of the more interesting conversations I've had at a restaurant. lol

Fennel brined pork chop, orange pepper gastrique glaze, house made kraut, veal stock
DE-LISH!!! I just love a good pork chop. This was everything I was craving at the time. It was hearty but lean. It was sweet and savory and it was cooked just the way I like my pork: medium ;) with just a little pink in the middle. My mouth is watering just thinking about this dish.

Lobster mac & cheese
Need I say more?

I am showing you only a fraction of the food that we had. I think we ordered pretty much one of each item on the menu (whoever said our families love to eat??). By the time the appetizers were consumed I was already bursting out of my seams. I was so grateful that I had chosen to wear a forgivable and expandable dress versus pants. It may have gotten ugly. What we accomplished that night truly bordered on competitive eating. And just to drive my point home here's a photo of one out of 4 desserts we ordered:

eat! gets 3 and 3/4 out of 5 meltingpots!

Happy eating!!


Friday, August 13, 2010

Pizza Pizza Pizza

After an extended hiatus I have returned to the world of blogging!

I thought a perfect way to return - is with pizza! Everyone loves pizza, right?? From a recent get-together that SB and I hosted we had a lot of cheese leftover. It was too precious for me to throw out but at the same token way too much for two people to possibly consume. I thought about how I could put all this cheese to good use. I thought about Mac and Cheese but somehow that didn't excite me and then I thought about Fondue but for that I didn't have enough of the right cheeses. The only option in my mind left was (yes, you guessed it): Pizza! Ahhhhh!!!!

I remember growing up in Germany, pizza was always one of my all time favorite foods to eat. But it was also one of my favorite foods to make. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are in the kitchen with my mother and my brother and sisters. We would knead the dough, throw flour at each other, laugh together, and throw any toppings we wanted onto the pizza. (OK - so perhaps not one of my mother's fondest memories as she was left to deal with the mess and destruction that we left behind in the kitchen). The anxious wait to eat what we had made always seemed to last forever. But when we finally got to eat it, it was so satisfying, and perhaps as a child even a little tastier knowing that we had made it ourselves.

Now as an adult I still enjoy a good pizza and there is still something so satisfying about getting your hands dirty and kneading the dough. I know, some might still prefer to have a big, sweaty, hairy Italian dude get his aggression out on the dough. Let's be honest here with ourselves, that is how it's been done traditionally. Not that there's anything wrong with that - but why let him have all the fun?? I'm telling you if you have never done it before you're missing out! You might find it quite enjoyable; plus every now and again it's nice to defy tradition.

I got this recipe for pizza dough from Giada on the Food Network:
  • 1 pack dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 5 cups flour
  • Pinch of salt
In a bowl combine the warm water and yeast and stir a little to dissolve the yeast. In a separate bowl combine the flour and salt and mix. Combine the dry and wet ingredients and mix. Dump the mixture onto a clean working surface and start kneading the dough. Now - I have found that 1 1/2 cup of water (as the recipe calls for) was not enough. So much of baking and working with flour depends on environmental conditions, such as humidity as well. In my case I needed about another 3 tablespoons of warm water to get the consistency that I wanted. My suggestion is, as you knead the dough add additional water one teaspoon at a time and see how the dough comes together. You want the dough to be soft, smooth, workable, elastic but not stick to your hands.

Then place the dough in a greased bowl with either butter or olive oil, cover it with a damp kitchen towel and place it in the oven (turned off). Let it rest and rise for 2 hours. Then remove the dough from the bowl and knead for few minutes and cut into 3 or 4 equal balls (depending on how small or big you want the pizzas). Place each dough ball into another greased bowl and again place a damp towel over it and place in the oven (turned off). Let rise for another hour.

After the hour has passed, knead the air bubbles our of the dough and roll it out on a floured surface. Place the rolled out dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Top it with any toppings of your choice and bake for 15-17 minutes at 475 degrees.

Here is my favorite, I call it the Fresh Fresh Pizza (here are the ingredients. Place in the order in which they appear):

  • A drizzle of Olive oil
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Very finely minced garlic
  • Very finely sliced red onion (use a mandoline if you have one)
  • Whole basil leaves
  • Fresh Mozzarella
Another one I love, is my Veggie Pizza:

  • Tomato sauce
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Minced garlic
  • Sliced onions
  • Minced bell peppers (all colors)
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Minced kalmata olives
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
The beautiful thing is that it really is so easy to make and you can really put anything you like on it. Have fun with it - be experimental! This is truly such a fun activity to do with you family or even friends. Make the dough, have some friends over, open a bottle of wine and then reap the delicious fruits of your labor!

Happy eating!!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Mamma's Green Bean Salad

This is one of many entries, to come in the future, dedicated to my Mamma, whom I also like to call Om-ma (the Korean version). If you have had a chance to read my "About Me" section, you may have caught a glimpse of how important and truly special this person is to me. My Om-ma is the single most influential person in my life for a multitude of different reasons. Because of her I am the woman I am, everything I know is because of the principles and fundamentals of life she has taught me. I couldn't possibly be more blessed and grateful to have spent my formative years around such a spectacular woman. With every passing day of my life, I become more aware of the magnitude of adversities she has overcome in her life and all the vast accomplishments she has achieved. Her physical stature is so little, as she barely measures 5 feet and yet her personality and strength measure that of a giant. In her lifetime she has grieved the death of her father at a tender age of 12, dropped out of middle-school to help her mother raise a family, fought hunger in a post-war, 3rd world South Korea, escaped the claws of an abusive husband and given her own children the kind of opportunities she only dreamed of as a child.

She is my mother, she is my heroine, she is my friend. I miss her dearly every day as she lives thousands of miles away in Germany. It is also she, who inspires me to cook and keep on dreaming. I am honored to share with you one of her German inspired recipes: green bean salad. She made this when she came to visit in Hilton Head and it was a hit! Even SB, who hasn't seen, let alone, eaten a green bean in his life loved it.

Now, if I were to give you the recipe in the words of my mother it would read something like this "cooked green beans, minced garlic, chopped onion, salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, titch of light soy sauce, pinch of sugar, flavor to taste." You see, my mother doesn't believe in measuring anything. All the measures come to her intuitively as she cooks and that is at times hard to replicate. However, I have tried just that, in hopes that it tastes as close to the real thing as possible.

Here it goes:
  • 2 lbs fresh green beans
  • 1/4 medium sized red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cloves of finely minced garlic - depending on the size (feel free to use your microplane if you have one)
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar (white wine or apple cider vinegar should be ok too)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • a splash of soy sauce
  • 2 pinches of pepper

In a mixing bowl add the finely chopped onion, minced garlic, veggie oil, vinegar, low sodium soy sauce, and a pinch of salt, pepper and sugar. Set aside. In a pot bring water, seasoned with salt, to a boil. In the meantime wash and trim the ends of the green beans and cut them in half. Add them to the boiling water. Cook until tender. Approximately 10 minutes and drain. DO NOT shock them in ice water. Add the HOT green beans into the bowl containing the onion, garlic and seasonings and toss everything together. This step is important because the temperature of beans will help the seasonings to come together and also to cook the garlic and the onions ever so slightly. Enough to bring out the essential oils. Taste it, make sure it doesn't need another pinch of salt and you are ready to serve and eat!!!

I really hope you try this recipe as it is truly one of my favorite by my Om-ma.

Happy eating!!


Burgers on the Fly

The embarrassing truth: the contents of my fridge

Last night I found myself in the rare and peculiar situation of having almost nothing edible in the fridge. After coming back from an amazingly fun filled trip of visiting family in Hilton Head, working through the weekend, and preparing SB for an upcoming trip, all that was left in the fridge (as depicted above) were condiments, beer and coconut water. Now don't get me wrong, I like my chilled coronas, and you may already be familiar with my coconut water obsession - but a girl has got to eat! All the perishables had tragically perished, the can of tomato soup was not calling my name, and let's face it, there are only so many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches one can eat (although SB might beg to differ - one day I'll have to break it to him that PBJs, in fact, are not one of the 5 major food groups).

So here I was, with an empty stomach, it was too late to order and a pile of laundry was staring at me with puppy eyes - in need of dire attention. It was a new challenge: make something magically appear out of almost nothing. Fortunately, I still had about 1 lb of ground beef leftover, which I had frozen after I made Momma B's Taco Salad. I also had an onion and some garlic lurking around. Burgers it was. My goal was to make it as tasty and interesting as I could, with what I had, because I simply didn't have the staple items that normally go with a burger.

Here is what I did:
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 small - medium sized Vidalia onion
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (this is an approximation as I wasn't measuring precisely. Sames goes for the Maggi)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Maggi seasoning
Place the beef in a mixing bowl. Work your clove of garlic through a microplane (or very finely mince it). Finely dice 1/4 of the onion. Add the garlic and onion to the meat. Add the Worcestershire, Maggi seasoning, a pinch of salt and pepper to the meat. Mix everything together with your hands until well incorporated. Form patties and place into preheated skillet with olive oil. Cook the patties about 7 minutes on each side.

As soon as I placed the patties into the skillet I put a lid on it to prevent the oil from splattering but also to create a steam chamber. When the patties where almost ready to flip, I took the leftover onion, julienned them (cut them into thin strips), and placed them into the pan with/around the burgers. I then flipped the burgers and a few minutes before they were ready to be taken out, I removed the lid completely. After the patties had finished cooking, I set them aside and let the onions continue to caramelize in the pan for few more minutes, until they reached a golden brown color (This will happen fairly quickly). A lot of the seasoning and juices from burgers had seeped into the pan and flavored the onions wonderfully!

To serve, I spread a little bit of mayo (and ketchup for SB) on slices of sourdough bread, added the patty and the caramelized onions. YUMMY!!!! I mean not to toot my own horn, but I thought it was pretty fantastic. The seasoned patty with the caramelized onions had so much flavor that I really didn't miss any of the other staples, like the cheese or the tomato, at all. Just goes to show, delicious food does not have to be complicated at all. Kind of like life: why make it complicated when it can be simple. Ahhh and another parallel.

SB gave it 2 thumbs up (maybe even a few more, if he had more thumbs :)).

If any of you try it, let me know how it goes and if you like it!

Happy eating!!


Sometimes a fridge that looks like this is a blessing in disguise

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Julie, SB, Linds, B, Abe & Arthur


Let me ask you a question: How can an evening that starts out with oysters be a bad one? Let me answer that question for you: it can't. I can't say that I have always felt that way. To be perfectly honest with you, I haven't always loved oysters. As a matter of fact, it's a fairly new acquisition in my food / flavor repertoire. I don't know why, but up until recently I've been sort of apprehensive about trying oysters. In the past they've looked a bit scary to me so I never really bothered to try them. SB has really opened my eyes to a lot of different kind of seafood. You must be thinking: how can I claim to be a foodie and not have had oysters for 30 years of my life. The truth is that I really don't have an answer to that. I am certainly no Anthony Bourdain that's for sure. Perhaps, in my mind I always thought that they would be kind of fishy tasting, and therefore have been resistant to them. But for any of you out there who feel the same as I did and feel hesitant to try oysters or other types of seafood: give it a shot!! What do you have to lose?? I now know I've truly been missing out all these years!! Also note that fresh, high quality oysters do not taste or smell fishy at all.

I'd definitely start out with these cute little Blue Point oysters, like the ones I had at Abe & Arthur's. Put some of the lovely condiments on top and you are golden. They are fantastic and less intimidating to start out with. If you don't happen to be the biggest fan right away, try it at least once or twice more. I feel like with a lot of foods that we are resistant to trying, we immediately have an adverse reaction because we want to hate it, to be right. It's almost like our minds set us up for failure. But if we try things a few times with an open mind and get over the initial reaction, we might be positively surprised. Don't you feel like that's true for many other situations in life too? The parallels of food and life, isn't it beautiful :)?

Truffled Fries

Mac & Cheese

The rest of our evening proceeded just as beautifully as it had begun. Good food, great wine and even better company. Linds is such a dear friend of mine and any time I get to spend with her and her fiancee B, I appreciate so much.

Meatball appetizer

Miniature Tuna Tartar Taco assembled by none other than: moi

Tuna Tartar

All the food was wonderfully prepared. From the tuna tartar tacos and meatball appetizers, to the truffled fries and the carnival dessert. Everyone loved their entrees and I thought the cod I ordered was spectacular. It was moist and flaky, the sauce so flavorful with a hint of ginger and soy, and crisp sugar snap peas provided for a perfect contrast in texture I love so much in my food.

Grilled Pork Chop

Wood-Grilled Branzino

Yellowfin Tuna

Pan Roasted Cod

I usually have mixed feelings about new, "ueber" trendy restaurants. I tend to feel that a lot of these types of places do not have the goods to back up all the hype. I had been wanting to try Abe & Arthur's for a while, even though it would fit into that trendy mold. I must say it didn't disappoint. Kudos to executive check Franklin Becker. The food was amazing. I would definitely go back anytime. Although, I will say this: if you go, be prepared to dig deep into your pockets, Abe & Arthur's in not what you would call economical or cost-effective. It's definitely a treat!

Doughnuts - YUMMMMM

Smores in the restaurant... ummm, what?!?

Happy eating!!

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