mistress mix a lot

First, I’m a slacker for not posting in a while and apologize. Grad school has kept me busy! But I’ve made it through mid-terms and am moving tricity back up on the priority list.  Our classes meet from 1 -4pm, which is not ideal for a mid-day feeding. I’ve been trying to make things that travel well and could be eaten cold during lectures or class breaks. Since I think cold cut sandwiches are whack, I decided to experiment with some different salads.

The first was a Thai-style beef salad. I found a simple recipe from an America’s Test Kitchen 30-minute supper cookbooks you can get at the grocery store. I love that show and these quick dinners come in handy when you want to eat, but are almost too tired to cook. The salad dressing required me to purchase my first bottle of fish sauce and I was proud. My palette has evolved! I’m so cultured  🙂

Brown your meat. I used fajita-like strips because they were on sale and made for easier cutting to make the salad eating-in-class friendly.  Once the beef has cooked through, pour a bit of the dressing (scroll down) over it and let it rest.

Ingredients for the dressing/sauce: salt, brown sugar, lime, fish sauce, chili garlic sauce. Whisk them together and make adjustments to your liking. This simple dressing was kind of a big deal for me because it was the first time fish sauce entered my kitchen. Even though I order dishes like this all the time, I never attempted to make them myself. Thai was not a staple in my diet growing up in Salisbury. My mother (bless her heart!) is a bit scared of Thai food because it’s so foreign to her. She’s gotten more comfortable after going to a Thai/sushi restaurant that a family friend loves.  I know what you’re thinking…..Thai and sushi?!?! Yes. It exists. In Salisbury! It is pretty good food and, to add to the confusion, is operated by an incredibly nice Laotian family. I’ve actually had the sushi and been pleasantly surprised.  But I digress…..

My final product didn’t look much like the recipe or even the standard dish, but it was a random mix of goodness nonetheless.  The mushrooms, onions and green peppers hanging out in my frig needed to be put to use so I sautéed them together and added them to the beef.  I had seen another recipe for beef ramen and thought the noodles would be a nice addition.  To balance the soft noodles, I served the beef, veggies, and ramen over cabbage from one of those bagged coleslaw mixes. Add a bit more dressing to the coleslaw.  Final step: sprinkle some peanuts over the top. I know the ingredients might sound like a hot mess, but it worked for me. I kept the coleslaw separate from the saucy goodness overnight, but added everything together in the morning before I left for class.  This allowed for a nice blending of flavors, but kept the coleslaw crisp.

Round 2 of the grad school salad challenge: something Italian. I am a big fan of pasta salads because they can be eaten cold and you can put a lot of stuff in there.  I had some tortellini, prosciutto, sundried tomatoes and mushrooms to get me started.

Saute the mushrooms with a bit of olive oil, basil and garlic.

Getting the flavor right. Have y’all used these amazing Dorot frozen herb packets? They rock! You can get them at Trader Joe’s and there is a nice variety. The basil, garlic and cilantro packets are staples in my freezer. I like them better than those tubes of herbs you can find in the produce section.  The Dorot packs come in handy for last minute dinners.

Add the tomatoes, prosciutto and some peas into the mushroom mix.

Prepare the tortellini.

Get ready to combine all the goodness. I did a bit of arranging here to allow for the presentation. I love all these colors! You’ll notice that I added some pine nuts (sorry Jojo, but I love the texture they add) and parmesan.  The orange glob in the bottom left-center of the bowl is Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Tapenade and was a last minute touch. I tossed everything together and used the tapenade and sundried tomato oils as the dressing.

Isn’t this such a pretty sight against that white plate?!?! It even looked nice in my tupperware! The flavors get better as the salad sits longer so the Day #2 serving was tastier.

Both salads had nice flavors and met the demands of being able to travel well and be eaten at a desk.  My classmates were impressed and, I must say, my lunch looked much more exciting than those standard turkey sandwiches and Lean Cuisines! I think I’m representing my SF foodie peeps quite well here in Richmond  🙂

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Kimchi fried rice

I hadn’t had kimchi in my fridge for the past month or so which is a weird state to be in if you’re Korean. I finally made it to the K. market this weekend. Usually, I go for the quart sized jar because it’s usually plenty for me to live on for 3 months but when I got to the market late afternoon they only had the gallon jars left and I wasn’t gonna walk out of there sad and kimchi-less. So it looks like I’m gonna be eating kimchi for the next 6 months, 5 if I throw a couple kimchi parties maybe.

Kimchi is Korean style pickled vegetables, most widely known in napa cabbage, daikon raddish or cucumber forms. It’s a common misconception that kimchi is this spicy cabbage thing, but it’s more a general term like ‘curry’ and there are probably hundreds of different kinds of kimchi based on the regional style/ingredients and season.

My favorite time to eat kimchi is when it’s freshly made and still crunchy, preferably the kind my mom shoves into my mouth right off the mixing bucket to sample. Once you store kimchi, it starts to ferment and some people like it better that way – Jojo? The more fermented the kimchi, the more flavorful it gets in cooking with it. Some popular dishes are Kimchi Chigae (stew), Kimchi Jun (pancakes) and Kimchi Bokumbap (fried rice).

Since I have to try really hard to make a dent in this jar of kimchi I just bought… after picking at a few strips of cabbage straight out the jar, I decide to go for kimchi fried rice for dinner. Although not so fermented yet, it will still be good.

You absolutely cannot fuck up fried rice, it is that easy. It’s completely dummy proof. That’s why if you’re not sure about a Chinese restaurant, fried rice is always a safe bet. All you need is rice, oil and something else – any meat, any veggie, left-overs, whatever. I recommend keeping a bag or two of the frozen mixed (diced) veggie blend – usually got carrots, peas, green beans, and corn. Although I didn’t use it for my kimchi fried rice, it can come in very handy for fried rice or black eyes.

This is my version of kimchi fried rice but you can replace any other ingredient to suit your taste buds. I personally am a big fan of tuna in fried rice so…

My ingredients: rice, kimchi, 1 canned tuna, carrots, celery, green onions, and Korean red pepper paste (go chu jang).

I added the red pepper paste to complement and deepen the kimchi flavor since the kimchi’s not very ripe yet. If you like Korean food, red pepper paste is a good item to keep in your fridge. It’s like hot sauce but better for cooking and is very versatile.

Dice them veggies.

Sautée the kimchi in butter and olive oil then add the canned tuna – in a way butter makes this dish so I highly recommend.

Add the diced veggies and keep sautéing until the vegs are softer.

Add a spoonful of  red pepper paste and rice – the rice for making fried rice is better if it is a day old and/or cold and not so sticky anymore. The rice wants to almost break into all the ingredients and fluffily mix so it doesn’t become a giant mush.

Fry until the rice looks well mixed and clumpless. Garnish with green onion!

*If you have a good non-stick pan and you like crispy crunchy, you can heat a little bit of veg. oil and fry till the bottom gets crispy and a bit blackened.

Next lesson will be kimchi chigae. The kimchi will be more ripe when Johana’s here next week. Perfect.

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my lunch today

boobs fried chicken budweisers and kid rock.
fridays 12-2 at gold club sf

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foie gras + duck confit on gilt.com

almost wet my pants when i saw this… it was either the food photography or the bizarre state of internet consumerism. sale ends in 2 days. word.

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C.America Highlight

Hi y’alls!
So I’m back from the trip and about to do a 5.5 part upload so I hope you’re ready for it..
I have to honestly say though, that in general the food was good but less than impressive. Expectedly a lot of, A LOT OF rice and beans and “fried” meat stuff dominated our diet with very limited fresh vegetables and so occasional fish and fruits had to suffice. Nonetheless we did hit some highs in street food – probably based on my biased opinion towards street food, but seriously, who doesn’t like good tasting food that’s cheap?
I’m so glad to be back home though where we often take our beautiful, abundant Californian produce for granted. With everything seen, tasted and learned on the trip, I’m inspired and excited to make some food and hopefully experiment with methods and ingredients that are new to me – also good opportunity for group challenges!! 😉
The upload will go down in chronological order of the trip, food first, then drinks and markets to follow if applicable. Enjoy!

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C.America Part 5: Mexico

Being somewhat familiar with and appreciating the yumminess of the Mexican cuisine, we were excited to embark upon our final destination, Mexico. Except, we embarked upon Cancun.
I had never been to Cancun, but only heard of party tales and seen popular girls come back with stupid braids in their hair after spring break. Well, now that I’ve been there, I can actually have an opinion – I kind of loved it and and I kind of hated it.
I loved the white sand beach and swimming in the bluest blue of the Caribbean ocean. I loved having a nice hotel room with cable and AC looking over the ocean. I loved being able to flush toilet paper and having huge clean towels.
I hated the whole tourist aspect of “the strip”. I hated seeing the brands of suburban America. I hated seeing the luxury malls. I did not like the overpriced cocktails. Fat white people with bad tattoos and stupid braids in their swimsuits were not an enjoyable sight on the beach. At least keep your mouths shut. Ok, I don’t want to hate, I’m gonna stop my hate list here.
Cancun should just be called Cancun, Cancun and not be associated with Mexico. Because all that craving for Mexican food that I’ve built up in the last 2 weeks could hardly be satisfied. There were plenty beach vendors selling useless souvenir that you couldn’t bring home, e.g. hugh shell horn, and “cuban” cigars that have been carried around in 90 degree sun for the past month, but not a single street food vendor in sight.

Things weren’t looking so promising. We were contemplating taking a bus into downtown Cancun or going to Hooter’s when we came across a small taco shop called Caminero in a small alley. It seemed like another mediocre tourist trap at first, all the homies that worked there were working the alley, trying to attract customers. We decide to try it and sit down outside. Across the alley is a restaurant called ‘taco factory’, and at least we are not at Hooter’s.

Magic happens when you expect the least. First is a tray full of salsas which all make their way onto our table. All 8 bowls of stuff. I’m liking their style.clockwise from top: lime slices, roasted habanero salsa, creamy red chili salsa, diced onion and cilantro, avocado salsa, diced tomato, onion and jalapeño salsa, pickled onion slices, and chips in the center, duh!

Al pastor burrito.

Unlike what we’re used to here in SF or America in general… the burrito comes a bit deconstructed. The burrito itself only had the meat in it. It was a pure al pastor burrito. Then on the side were lettuce and guacamole. With 7 kinds of salsa on top, the cross section of my burrito could make the center fold.

The next day, we almost went to Hooter’s because we wanted to catch the Giant’s game somewhere. But thank god, they were only showing football, baseball is obviously too classy for Hooter’s. After catching the winning game at a sports betting place with reclining sofas and AC, we had back to Caminero, the best option on the strip known to us.

I had spotted an interesting item on the menu yesterday so I have to try it. Gizzard taco.Only familiar with pan fried chicken gizzard as a Korean drinking food of sort… I’m surprised by the very soft texture of gizzard in their taco. They must have simmered it first to achieve the tenderness, otherwise gizzard can be very chewy – which is also good in its own right.

I guess things could have been worse in Cancun, Cancun. But I can choose to remember only the things I love about it. And the magic that happens when you expect the least.

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C.America Part 4: Belize

Ok. We didn’t really explore Belize either but I wish we’d had more time to. We just stopped through Belize City on our way from Tikal, Guatamala to Cancun, Mexico. But since we did stop for a couple hours and had food I’d never had before for lunch… Belize gets a whole “part”.

We got to the bus station in Belize City to get on a bus that would take us to the Mexican border. We were hot and hungry from the bus we’d just gotten off of. We didn’t know what to expect… but Belize City was pretty interesting. A small but lively port city on the Caribbean coast, there was an undeniable presence of Black Caribbean culture, like in our lunch, coco(nut) rice with stewed chicken. I think it’s safe to say that this is considered a staple here and it was a must try.

Right outside of the bus station we found a stewed chicken cart. Dude had a huge pot of this stewed chicken and was fully in business.

You get coco rice, 2-3 pieces of stewed chicken, sauce drizzled over the rice, potato salad and a piece of fried banana. Then of course I had to find spicy things to pour on top of everything… I don’t know, some habanero chili sauce AND pickled habanero peppers and onions?

The old dude with the rasta hat watched me fuss with all the spicy stuff on the side of the cart and said to me all concerned, “ke-a ful! dis iz like Fye-ah!” So then I got scared that I overdid it… and had to pick up a drink to cool dat “Fye-ah!”. Belize’s Old Fashioned lemonade ginger ale. I’m still not sure if it was lemonade flavored ginger ale or ginger ale flavored lemonade. But man… what a perfect bus station meal. The chicken meat just fell off the bones as I picked up a piece and the coco rice all wet with that stewed chicken juice… wash down that habanero heat with a cold fizzy lemonade ginger ale lemonade. mmm.

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