Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Parents' 30th Anniversary



It isn't much, but my sister and I did what we could to commemorate our parents' milestone:

  1. Seared scallop salad with plums and toasted almonds over mixed herbs, light vinaigrette dressing.
  2. Brie and parsley stuffed mushrooms (thanks, Pioneer Woman!) 
  3. Roasted pork loin, yukon gold mashed potatoes, green bean and cherry tomato saute with toasted almonds (ok, yes, the same toasted almonds from the salad.  We let nothing go to waste.)
  4. Too pooped to whip out a dessert, so a cute cake instead.  

Fun fact: my sister bought everything from the local produce market and Trader Joe's, except for the scallops and the mini-Tiramisu.  I bought the dozen scallops and the cake at Whole Foods on my way home from work.  When we compared receipts, the damage was the same.

When I asked my dad what he learned in 30 years of marriage, he said:
I learned to be grateful-I have family, health, and wealth.
And I guess that's all that really matters.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Rice Porridge for a Sick Day

For the days you're feeling under the weather, a warm comforting bowl of rice porridge might be what you need.  This is probably ideal for afflictions of the digestive system, such as a stomach flu or food poisoning.

  • 1 cup of uncooked jasmine rice
  • salt
  • vegetable oil
  • water
  • (optional) dried abalone, or other dried seafood 
  • White or black pepper, your preference, to taste
  • (optional) sliced green onion, fried shallots, furikake, other porridge condiments, whatever you like!
  1. Wash the rice in a circular motion in a bowl.  Rinse several times until water runs clear.
  2. In the same bowl, season the rice with a generous pinch of salt, and a tablespoon of oil.  Mix.
  3. Pour enough water to submerge the rice; let stand for at least 30 minutes.  This process seasons the rice and softens it for easier cooking.
  4. Take a pot and fill with 5 cups of water, to start (5:1 ratio of water to rice).  Bring to a rolling boil.
  5. Once the water has boiled, put the rice mixture in, and the optional dried seafood.
  6. Bring stove temperature to medium-low to obtain a continuous simmer.  Leave the lid off the pot, there is a clear and present danger of the porridge boiling over (and the mess is definitely one you don't want to deal with when you're already sick).
  7. Stir occasionally to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom.  Let boil for at least half an hour, or until desired rice porridge consistency.  I happen to like mine thicker and creamier.  If it's too thick, add more water to thin it out, and bring to a simmer/boil before serving.
  8. At this point, you can serve the rice porridge with condiments, or eat it plain!  If you added the dried seafood, it should impart a nice umami flavor to the porridge (sans MSG).
I made a big pot to eat over the course of 2 days while I was recovering from my last ailment, and it helped a lot!  Hope you give this a try for yourself or for a loved one that isn't feeling well!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cooking Chronicles of UCLA's Most Eligible Bachelor

A person whom I'll now affectionately refer to as the Professor has recently taken up the domestic and frugal challenge of making lunch to take to work at his research lab everyday.  And because he knows I am a sucker for bento boxes and that Japanese cuisine is one of my all-time favorites, he sends me a picture of his lunch every morning to torture and delight me:




Some notables:

  • First Row, Right: Deconstructed Salmon Skin Roll.  Crispy salmon skin on top of vinegared rice, with strips of carrot and cucumber.
  • Second Row, Right: Sushi
  • Third Row, Left: Soba with Shrimp, and a beautiful fan of vegetables.
  • Fifth Row, Left: Costco Spinach and Cheese Ravioli, the best stuff ever.
  • Fifth Row, Right: Homemade chicken katsu, with onigiri (this simple rice ball is one of my favorite comfort foods).

He knows how to plan a party too:

Sakura Blossom Sushi (sushi with salmon wrapped around it)

Green tea, to finish.

Ladies, single file line.  This is a man that's brainy as hell, knows how to cook, clearly has taste (do you see his tea set?).  If that alone doesn't sell, he's good looking and a sweet guy too.  But requirements go both ways: smart, classy and beautiful women need only apply!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Garlic-Rosemary Lamb

A word about lamb: get the best and freshest quality you can get your hands on, it makes a big difference in tenderness and flavor.  This goes for just about any ingredient, actually--but this particularly holds true for lamb, since you don't want any of that game smell from the get-go.

Garlic-Rosemary Rack of Lamb


  • Fresh rack of lamb, approximately 8 bones, Frenched (trimmed).  If frozen, let thaw completely.
  • Garlic, 7 cloves
  • Rosemary (fresh or dried)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  1. In a mortar and pestle or a garlic grinder, grind the gloves of garlic into a paste.  Add a little of the olive oil for moisture, only as needed.
  2. Chop up the rosemary, and add to the paste.  
  3. To lamb rack, season generously with salt and pepper on both sides.  Rub the garlic/rosemary paste onto the rack.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let marinate for an hour to two hours.
  4. Take out lamb, and let it come to room temperature (maybe 30 minutes resting time).
  5. In a large pan, heat up a tablespoon of olive oil until just below smoking point; pan should be very hot.  Sear all sides of the lamb briefly, to create a brown crust.
  6. Set lamb on a broiling rack, and put under broiler at 525 degrees for 10 minutes, for medium-rare.  Cook 3 minutes longer at a time for more doneness.
  7. Take lamb out, let rest for 10 minutes under tent of foil.
  8. Slice between bones, and serve.
I served the lamb on top of a simple salad of arugula dressed in balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Cooking times might vary depending on the oven, but you can always cook it longer if under-done, but you can't salvage overcooked meat!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Potatoes Gratin with Herbed Goat Cheese

There is just no saying 'no' to any kind of cheese and starch recipe.  I very rarely stray from tradition if I can help it, but Trader Joe's herbed goat cheese was kind of screaming my name that day and I caved.


  • Russet Potatoes (2)
  • Heavy Cream
  • Butter
  • Herbed Goat Cheese (small log)
  • Salt
  • Peppter
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Slice potatoes crosswise as thinly as you can.  If you have a mandoline, use it.
  3. Butter an ovenproof casserole dish--here, I used a 9-inch glass pie plate.
  4. Arrange the first layer of potatoes - as flat as possible, maybe with some overlap to cover the entire bottom in a single layer.  Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper, and crumble the goat cheese all over it.
  5. Repeat step 4 until there is no more potato to layer.
  6. Slowly pour heavy cream into the dish until potatoes are practically submerged in the cream.
  7. If you're worried about spillage, which I was, put the casserole dish on top of an aluminum-foil protected baking pan, then slide the whole thing into the oven.*
  8. Bake approximately 40 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through and that cheese and cream turns bubbly brown.
  9. Carefully take it out of the oven, let it cool from lava stage.  Serve on the hotter side of warm.
*If you're worried about the top getting too brown, cover with aluminum foil first and remove for the last 10 minutes of baking for the bubbly brown crust.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Harry's at Home: Chicken Di Giorgio

UPDATE:  Harry's Deli closed until further notice--thoughts and prayers go out to them.

There's a little joint in the sunny OC city of Irvine a little ways from John Wayne Airport that's kind of dear to my heart.  Of course, I join legions of fans in this respect.  People love Harry's Deli, and people love Harry.  Harry loves us all back--we know this because that's his secret ingredient.


Harry's Deli is home to the Chicken Di Giorgio, a chicken sandwich with the greatest flavor profile known to existence, probably.  Behind every great sandwich is a great story-Harry named this sandwich after a former coworker he had a crush on.  I imagine Ms. Di Giorgio to be a lovely Italian woman comparable to Sophia Loren, but apparently she is nearly impossible to track down (even with the advent of Facebook.  Seriously now.)  But perhaps that's just as well, she remains the stuff of legend as the Chicken Di is the stuff of legend.  And besides, Harry is happily married to the sweetest woman ever: Mercy.  But Chicken Mercy just doesn't have the same ring to it.

As life would have it, I no longer live in close vicinity.  Harry's doesn't yet do overnight express nor do I have the disposable income to travel the 400 miles whenever I wish in order to get my fix, so here it is:

Chicken Di Giorgio, modified.  Disclaimer: Not the same.  Not nearly the same.  This is like a teaser trailer, while Harry's is the full-blown IMAX experience.  Biggest difference: Harry breads his chicken in panko crumbs, I do not.  

Ingredients (for one serving):
  • Roma tomato - 1
  • Basil (roughly 5 large leaves)
  • Mozzarella - the good kind that comes in a ball, if possible--if not, big deli slices.  1 or 2 slices of mozzarella.
  • Shallot-half, or the rough equivalent of red onion
  • Chicken breast
  • Flour
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bread of choice, 2 slices.  Harry's uses ciabatta bun, I used sourdough.
  • Mayo. I got mine from the store.  Harry hand whips his.  


  1. Rough dice the tomato, you want somewhat large chunks.  Set aside
  2. Stack basil leaves, roll it up into a tight lengthwise cigar, and slice across (chiffonade).  Set aside.
  3. Finely dice the shallot or red onion.  Set aside.
  4. Clean your cutting board or get a new one-it's time to get nasty with the chicken breast. Butterfly the breast (you might have to YouTube this portion), or at least slice off a filet of the breast so that it's got a large surface area of somewhat even thickness.  Pound it thin with the back of the knife, meat mallet, or other heavy blunt object.  Maybe clean fists.
  5. Season each side of the breast with salt and pepper.  Dust it in flour, shaking off the excess. Set aside.
  1. In a non-stick skillet or cast iron (yay!), drizzle some olive oil into the pan over medium heat.  And since I like to live dangerously and Paula Deen speaks truth, throw in bit of butter in there too.  This serves the dual purpose of browning the meat and raising the smoking point of the olive oil, keeping the cooking fats from scorching.  You definitely want the pan to be hot hot hot for this next part...
  2. Lay down the law.  I mean, the meat.  Should sizzle the moment it hits the pan.  Leave it alone.
  3. This is the right time to get that bread toasted.  Give it a light toast, just enough to give it holding power--it has to go back into the oven later on...
  4. Cook the other side of the chicken.  The flour coating and the olive oil+butter should keep the breast nice and moist.
  5. Once the chicken is just cooked through, set it aside under foil to keep warm and let it rest.
  6. Wipe off that pan, add a drizzle of olive oil.
  7. Add shallots and basil only.  Let it sweat a bit, until shallots are almost translucent.
  8. Once translucent, turn up the heat, and throw in the tomatoes.  Saute quickly over the high heat.  Season with a little salt and pepper, and a dash of balsamic vinegar.  Turn off the heat when tomatoes begin to soften, but have not lost their shape.
  9. Don't forget about your toast.
  1. Bottom toast, spread with mayo.
  2. Chicken next.
  3. Top with the tomato-shallot-basil mixture.
  4. Lay some slices of mozzarella on top of that, and broil until cheese has melted and is bubbly.
  5. Top with the other toast, also spread with mayo.
  6. Cut diagonally.
Festively Italian, classic Caprese components and flavors.  Probably not all that convenient to make just one, but this is a sandwich that can be scaled for more people. But as Harry's will attest, good food just can't be mass produced...

Double disclaimer: My sincerest thanks to the Deli for being so good to me during my college years!  I had a lot of fun working there.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Clif Family Wine

From the makers of the Clif Bar -- Clif Family Wine: THE CLIMBER!

Because the jump from nutrition+energy bars to wine is the next logical step.

But all joking aside, I get it.  Power up by day...mellow out by night.  Or whenever.  I heard drunk climbing can be fun (and also extremely dangerous, this is NOT an endorsement of such activity!)

No rocks around here, but a 'bon voyage/suck it you're a wage slave now' gift from the very best (or worst? If they insist on keeping your glass full?) of drinking buddies.

Cheers!  Ignore the random apple in the background.

Let me point out the truly wonderful design features of the wine-in-a-bag:
  1. The bag is made out of insulated material.  Keeps that wine nice and cold when you pull it from the fridge.  Especially for Chardonnay like this variety happens to be, that's a win.
  2. It's got handles.  AND COMES WITH A CARABINER...climbers know.  Clip it anywhere.  On your harness even (see note about drinking and climbing).
  3. FINALLY...the epic spout/stopper.  It's your own mini Igloo beverage jug.  Doesn't leak, push to pour, no drips.  
But wine in a bag?  Must be terrible. Best white wine I've had in a long, long time.  Seriously.  So good I won't even waste it by cooking with it.

And from now on, all wine should come in such a bag.  This stuff is gold.

Thanks pH!