Friday, June 21, 2013

Fast Turkey Bolognese

Back with Bolognese

It's alright everyone, I still exist.

I didn't think blogging was the best idea these past two quarters.   I wasn't ready to spend two to three hours writing a post so that I could adequately express what was on my mind, but since being home for 2 weeks for summer break I've been able to delve into serious introspection without worrying about making the midnight deadline for a team research paper.

The thing about blogging is that like your most reliable friend, it's always there.  Sure, I do have a small handful of readers that keep me semi-accountable to keep consistently posting, but at the same time this little corner of the internet will always be here.  It is always there for me when I am finally ready for it, quietly waiting.  The last thing I wanted to do these past six months after spending 12 hours on campus was to then write on this blog at 10:00PM, right before I'm on the verge of passing out on my tempur-pedic mattress topper, and unfortunately, right before I have started any homework.

I'm taking steps towards embracing the idea of balance, and for once as I prepare for yet another school year (can you believe that I'm halfway done?!) at school, I can say with the utmost confidence that I feel like I have a modicum of control over my life.... Emphasis on modicum.  

Just because I haven't been blogging though doesn't mean I haven't been cooking...  In fact, you could say that based off of all of the pies, eclairs, dumplings, thai food, chowder, and other miscellaneous meals my modest apartment kitchen has been whipping out that being away from home has made me want to cook even more.  Having to painstakingly blog and write about those meals would have taken away from the magical epiphanies that happen when I'm in the kitchen, regardless of whether I am at college or at home.

One of these food revelations was the first time I watched and then made Anne Burrell's Bolognese sauce...  It wasn't so much the fact that I was instantly enamored by her stories, and how she recounted her adventure in learning how to make the dish in Italy dispersed amongst her primordial grunts about how much brown food tastes good (which it does, of course).  What made the dish so valuable to me was that after 5-6 hours I was left with a luxuriant, rich, and savory sauce, that didn't taste good just because it tasted good, but because it represented all of the time spent in my favorite place.... the kitchen. 

But on a college time budget, along with the difficult in procuring a decent bottle of red wine (only 2 months left until legal drinking age), I've resorted to a sort of dumb downed, but still very delicious version of a cherished culinary memory.  Ground turkey to keep it lighter (and most importantly because it's actually a few bucks cheaper then beef at where I shop), and a shortened simmering time using either water or beef stock.  After 40 minutes at the most, I'm somehow left with a a well balanced, relatively healthful meal for the week, especially when tossed with strands of nutty whole wheat spaghetti. 

Sure, it's half as much as what the original recipe is supposed to be, but in a fraction of the time I'm reminded of the pleasures of the all day affair that is tending to a pot of bolognese sauce.  It also helps that I'm left with a preposterous amount of food that the knuckleheads in charge of campus dining can only dream of producing.

One Year Ago: Macaroni and Cheese with Waffle Breadcrumbs
Two Years Ago: Green Tea Passionfruit Macarons

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Korova Cookies

Musings on the East Coast

I'm back from the East Coast.  I thought I would love the East Coast.  I hated the East Coast.

Well I can't really say hate- that is much too harsh of an adjective to describe my overall experience with both Boston and New York.  I will say though that I can with one hundred percent confidence proclaim that my heart prefers life on the West Coast, where I can careen along the highway in my car everyday while belting out Taylor Swift's latest teeny bopper hit.  I'm not too sure how well the locals of Manhattan would respond to an Asian Kid singing T-Swizzle on the subway during rush hour. 

Please don't get me wrong however.  While a large part of the pleasure I experienced did have to do with the fact I had the opportunity to volunteer at numerous organizations, some of the people in fact, were genuinely nice!  The diversity of a big city will forever enrapture my heart, and rarely (if at all) will you be able to strike up a two hour conversation with a seasoned world traveler at a coffee shop in Orange County like I was able to in Boston.  

But as a sheltered West Coast baby from Orange County, where it's considered winter when the mercury falls below the 60 degree mark, I definitely was out of my natural element.  The sad reality is that I arrived to the East Coast with the ubiquitous, candy-coated, and in all sense of the word fucked up version of what East Coast city life would be like.  I speak from experience- the Devil Wears Prada is not in any way, shape, or form an accurate portrayal of East Coast life.  Instead of taking my pre-envisioned, dazzling stroll down 5th Avenue where I would then leisurely ice skate amongst the twinkling glow of Rockefeller Center, I was instead met with and the smell of cigarettes, littered streets, and the constant struggle of navigating the sidewalk amongst the constant hoards of other pedestrians, frantically darting around like a paranoid schizophrenic. 

I heard stories about the fast paced lifestyle, but it was another thing to actually experience what I had heard about so much.  Never have I jay-walked with so much reckless abandon in my life, where instead of slowing down, taxis and wealthy drivers of the Mercedes S-Class instead sped up through intersections, causing people in the crosswalk to casually jump out of the way as if saving your life was as normal and involuntary as blinking your eye.  I was practically jogging in order to keep up with the normal walking pace of everyone else, and for someone with an absolutely horrid sense of direction, navigating the subway was like asking Honey Boo Boo to work a quantum physics problem.  What was an even harder obstacle to overcome was realizing how introverted people came off in day to day life.  Eye contact was met with a dart to the pavement, holding open a door is equivalent to becoming invisible, and a ride on the subway is 20 minutes of the most awkward silence possible.  But then again, who is a random kid from Southern California to paint an accurate portrayal of the East Coast?  While I loved expanding my horizons this winter break, I am more than happy to be back on my own couch.

Boston Common

Fenway Park

Boston Chowda Company, Quincy Market

Quincy Market

Quincy Market

Madison Square Park, New York

Eataly, Manhattan, New York

23rd Street Subway Station, New York

Eataly, Manhattan, New York

Eataly, Manhattan, New York

Chelsea Market, Manhattan, New York

Eataly, Manhattan, New York

Chelsea Market, Manhattan, New York

You've probably heard of these famous little gems.  Colloquially known as Dorie Greenspan's celebrated World Peace Cookies, I can say with confidence that these fall on my list of top ten cookies.  Just don't do what I did and forget the baking soda, or else you wind up with something that is thin, chewy, and crispy (which isn't bad at all) versus something thicker and substantial.

I have to admit, I felt like I was committing a mortal, sacrilegious sin of epic proportions by subtly changing what most would consider a perfect cookie, but I respectfully think you would like this winter variation.  A word to the weak though- this is a seriously chocolatey cookie.  With such a high ratio of cocoa that is consequently elevated by brown sugar, coffee, cinnamon, and chocolate chips, I don't think of World Peace when I eat these, but instead a chocolatey apocalypse, broken up by the tart zing of cranberries. 

One Year Ago: Peppermint Ice Blended Mocha, Eggs Benedict

Friday, December 7, 2012

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I think one of the most constant things I can rely upon is the fact that no matter how inconsistent I am with my blogging, there is always at least one stranger out there reading my posts.  So to that stranger today, thank you.

I don't have a recipe to post today (but I promise that I have at least two dozen waiting in the wings), because as you read I am on my way to Boston.  I'll be volunteering next week with a group of 12 other classmates who seem to be a lot more sincere than I am about helping others in need, and I have to admit it really is humbling.  However I can finally say that New England will finally be crossed off my bucket list. 

And on a side note, if you have as much time as I seemingly have to kill during finals week, then check out this little gem in development...  and it's not just because he happens to be my best friend.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Roast Pork & Apple Cider Reduction

A Stereotypical Thanksgiving Post

Yesterday was the first time I've ever spent Thanksgiving away from home.  It was a situation I never thought I'd ever be in, but after three months of 12+ hour school days, the only wish I wanted this year was to have a quiet weekend to myself, away from the stress of cooking for 25 people in a kitchen equipped with a single oven and five burners, and instead have a quiet retreat where I could catch up on all of the hobbies I never have time to do (and for once getting a head start on studying).

A low key Thanksgiving for three people was definitely a first for me, but having such a relaxed and intimate dinner in a college apartment was the exact thing I needed to make sure I wasn't going to burn out by the time the quarter is over.  This meal helped me remember that no matter how filled up my iCal is for the day, how empty my gas tank seems to constantly be, or how much sleep I lack throughout the week, I am truly a fortunate person.  I go to a school that I am extremely passionate about, participate in activities that give me a true sense of fulfillment, have a family who has an unwavering amount of support, and have the privilege to know a group of friends I truly adore.

Cooking for only three people also afforded me the luxury to go balls to the wall- quite frankly this might have been one of the best Thanksgiving meals I've ever had.

 Butternut Squash Soup with Croutons and Fried Sage
Herb Roasted Chicken
Roasted Potatoes
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Parmesan Asparagus
Classic Sage Stuffing
 Caramelized Apple Croissant Bread Pudding
Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Souffle

1) Yes, we had 3 rounds of dessert

2) As much as I was tempted to document this entire meal, for once I decided to forgo the status of food blog whore yesterday night in order to concentrate on the fact that I was spending time with some of my favorite people in the world, and getting the chance to cook for them.   Oh, the power of food.

This pork loin was another item from my daring meal this summer.  As much as I love a blistery, succulent hunk of roasted protein, the real hero of this entire carousel of fall ingredients was the reduction... oh the reduction.  Savory and sweet at the same time, with a splash of umami from a little dash of soy sauce, and maple syrup to round out the acrid burn of the vinegar, it was hard not to douse the plate in the glossy elixir.  

So while I am thankful that one of the things I am passionate about is an activity I get to do everyday (it's pretty awesome when you get a kick out of making a sandwich for lunch), I think that I'm more grateful for the fact that I have people so ready and willing to enjoy the results of said passion as much as I do.  I would have been happy eating ramen for Thanksgiving as long as I had my friends close by to slurp up some MSG laden broth alongside me.

One Year Ago: Crabcake Salad, Nectarine Frangipane Tart, Chocolate Blackout Cake

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bacon and Cremini Mushroom Tagliatelle

In Season
the happiest city in america

Yesterday I paid $1.25 for a soggy bag of red leaf lettuce from Food4Less.  After delicately trying to dry the leaves from the cascade of water misting from the sprinklers overhead, I stored it in the fridge only to find that the next day the lettuce had already wilted and turned into a soppy puddle.

It was a funny occurrence, especially because last week 75 cents at the farmers market bought me a positively massive head of crisp lettuce that made entree sized salads for dinner every night... Oh the price of conveniently going to a chain megamart. 

But if you somehow need convincing that shopping locally is exponentially better than browsing the produce section of your nearby value-chain supermarket, look no further than the weekly San Luis Obispo farmer's market.

 edible jewels

Aside from the stunning quality of the produce at grocery outlet prices, all of the downtown restaurants line up their booths next to all of the produce sellers and hawk whatever they specialize in, whether it be tri-tip sandwiches, homemade tamales, wood-fired pizza, or bowls of strawberry shortcake.  (Though by the time dinner rolls around you're positively stuffed from all of the samples you're allowed to have.)

avila valley barn apples (a.k.a. the only ones I eat now)
There's always some staples I get each week: a pound or two of crunchy apples, a vibrant head of said lettuce, and bunches of grapes that are guaranteed to snap with each bite.  Occasionally if I want to splurge I'll buy a bag of addictively salty garlic pistachios or garlic almonds.

The best part (as cliche as this sounds) is that when you go to the farmer's market you're part of a community... The vendors remember your name each week, strangers take the time to make eye contact and say good evening (something that never happens in L.A.), and for everyone it's just another Thursday night. 

I could get used to this

I finally chose to post this recipe from my daring dinner because to me it's such a cozy autumn dinner... No fuss, simple, and unpretentious (Not to mention the fact that there's some kick ass mushrooms at farmers).

I'm finally starting to get used to making a decent fresh pasta.  What has become one of the banes of my existence is now a fun past time (I'm a dork alright), and there's nothing more therapeutic then turning a powdery volcano of flour, eggs, and olive oil into satiny sheets of toothsome noodles.   

bacon roasted mushrooms