Batter Licker

September 2, 2011

bibimbap (korean mixed vegetable and brown rice salad with spicy-sweet chili pepper paste)

A three-day weekend is upon (most of) us, and this time around, that means Jay and I will be attending no less than 5 different get-togethers with family and friends. We certainly get our socializing on.

For once, I don’t think I will be cooking for any one of them. (If I am, no one has told me yet, although they could very well be operating under the general assumption that, where meal-time events are involved, I tend to come bearing the fruits of my kitchen labor. I should probably hit the market tomorrow just in case.) But if I find out that someone would like me to contribute a dish, I would be delighted to throw together this version of bibimbap, mostly because it can be thrown together quite quickly while still delivering an unexpectedly flavorful result. Especially for something that is essentially a mixed veggies and rice salad.

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In my favorite Korean restaurants, bibimbap is served in an extremely hot stone bowl, coated with just a bit of sesame oil that causes the cooked rice to develop a delicious toasted crispiness around the edges. But the beauty of this dish is that everything can be prepared in advanced, and it will still function equally well at room temperature or slightly chilled, making it well-suited for potlucks and barbecues but more interesting than the starchy side dishes typical of those types of events.

This time around, I cooked up some brown rice, then tossed grated zucchini and carrots in toasted sesame oil for a 2-minute saute. Arrange the zucchini, carrots, cucumber, and kimchi (and meat, if you choose to use some – and it would be a wonderful use for leftovers from one of the inevitable barbecues happening this weekend) in colorful patches over the brown rice for a presentation that’s much more beautiful than the haphazard mess I threw down for an impromptu dinner. Plop a few fried eggs on top – one for each person.

But please, for the love of visual appeal, let guests individually douse their bibimbap in the spicy-sweet gochujang (Korean chili paste) for less of a bloody roadkill appearance than what I did here while under extreme duress due to threats coming from my growling tummy. (more…)

March 24, 2011

asian cabbage rolls with spicy lentils

When I saw Faith Durand’s recipe for Asian Cabbage Rolls with Spicy Pork, I immediately decided that I had to make it, but with lentils in lieu of pork. Lentils work very well with garlic and ginger in Indian food, so I expected them to do just as well with the same base flavors augmented by the quintessentially Asian combination of sesame, soy, green onion, and cilantro. And they did.

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These spicy lentil-stuffed cabbage rolls were so packed with flavor (not to mention nutrients and other healthful qualities) and so satisfying that I craved them for a few days afterwards. (more…)

November 16, 2010

mexican rice and fajita-spiced steak, poblano peppers, and onions

I grew up eating Mexican rice of the Rice-a-Roni quality. In other words, boxed rice and unknown spices + canned tomatoes + butter + water. It was delicious. But it was not Mexican. And I clearly didn’t know any better. But even if I had known better, I have forgiven the follies of my foodie-less youth.

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Fast forward a few years, and I’ve figured out that this Mexican rice wonder of my childhood can not only be made at home, but (not surprisingly) tastes way better than the romanticized Rice-a-Roni of yore. Plus, this rice can be made without any canned vegetables and with discernible spices that I always have on hand anyway, making it fresher and cheaper than the boxed stuff.

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Because rice was always the highlight of Mexican feasts growing up, whether in my super plain bean-cheese-rice burrito or as a side dish to any number of restaurant main courses, I like to say that I “know” Mexican rice. That may or may not be true, but I have been exposed to a wide variety served everywhere from fancy Mexican joints to chintzy taco shops. (more…)

October 19, 2010

farrotto with mushrooms, chard, garlic, and ginger

Cold weather is creeping back into San Francisco after a glorious month and a half of summer weather. To me, that means it’s time for warm, comforting dishes like risotto.

I especially love risotto because it tastes naughtier than it is. Although it looks and tastes incredibly creamy, risotto doesn’t contain any cream. Usually, the only high-fat ingredient I add is cheese, and even then, I don’t add much. Plus, without anyone noticing (ahem, Jay!), I can almost double the recipe’s output by adding tons of vegetables. As far as I see it, the only downside of risotto is the constant stirring.

But constant stirring is a double black diamond, super steep downside, probably covered with ice and moguls. It’s no gentle, downward sloping bunny hill. There’s no denying it: standing in your kitchen for 35+ minutes, stirring every minute or so, then adding broth every few minutes is downright laborious. And incredibly boring. It often makes me wish my rice cooker had a risotto-cooking mode.

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Enter my knight in shining armor: farro. (more…)

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