Tuesday, July 31, 2012

干煸四季豆 (aka Chinese Stir-Fried String Beans)


This is a favorite of mine, but you need some special ingredients. In Chinese it's called, Gan Bian Si Ji Dou, in English according to the internet it's Szechuan Fried String Beans.

Ingredients:

  • String Beans
  • Diced Salty Spicy Radish (~ 1Tb per lb of string beans)

  • Vegetarian Oyster Sauce

  • Minced Garlic (~1 clove per lb. of string beans)
  1. Wash your string beans and take off the ends (make sure none of it is mushy), I like floating them in salt water and letting any dirt sink to the bottom and then move them to a colander before giving them a final rinse.

  1. Put about 1Tb of oil in a saute pan over medium heat. I rarely cook in anything but olive oil, so I go EVOO here, but mom usually uses canola oil, so it doesn't really matter.
  2. Add the minced garlic and diced salty spicy radish to the oil and stir fry until fragrant.
  3. Add your string beans and move them around so they're coated. I cheat here and add about half a cup of water and let the beans get tender by cooking in the liquid. Traditionally, you should slowly saute your beans until they're tender, but I'm too impatient for that (Grandma would look down on me).
  4. Once the beans are almost tender add vegetarian oyster sauce to taste. I add about 1/2 tablespoon to start and then go from there. Turn the heat up to high to help the sauce soak into the beans and get a little (just a little!) bit of "burntness" on the beans. This step shouldn't take more than 30 seconds.
  5. Serve hot!


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rave: Lulu's Cupcakes


57 Salem Street, Boston, MA

The only thing sweeter than the cupcakes here is the owner herself. Lulu's has always been a favorite, and is somewhere we stop anytime we're in the North End. Joe claims that they make the best red velvet cupcakes, so for his birthday this past week, I made my way out to the North End to pick up some cupcakes for the birthday boy.

I've always wondered who Lulu was, but never took the time to ask. Thursday was my lucky day though, because Lulu was the person handing me my cupcakes. I like when a place really cares about their product and their customers and Lulu's is definitely one of them. She was very patient as I asked for recommendations (to supplement the usual red velvets) and I also learned that she still does a lot of the baking herself. When she was telling me about the time it took to make the cheesecakes they used to sell (sorry kids- those aren't carried anymore), I finally asked, "Are you Lulu?" She was (well it's not her name, but it's her shop). Then I proceeded to gush about how Joe loved her cupcakes and how it was his birthday and that was the reason I was there.

She let me take a picture of her and her daughter (nicknamed Lulu and just as cute!) to show Joe who Lulu was.

These are the moments I love. I love meeting owners and seeing the people behind the business. This is how I wish every store I bought my food from was like. I like knowing the people making it and I love good customer service. Since it was Joe's birthday, I'm pretty sure she gave me a discount (based on the total on my receipt). That is amazing customer service- that's the kind that makes me a customer for life (as if I wasn't already). That's the kind that get's an entire blog entry devoted to it. If you're going to be a small business owner you have to do it like Lulu's. To take an interest in your customers, to make them feel special, to genuinely love what you do and do it well- that makes for a successful business.

This one's for you Lulu's you truly do make an amazing red velvet cupcake.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Happy's Bar & Kitchen (Boston)

Happy's Bar + Kitchen
1363 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02215
(857) 753-4100

I've literally anticipated the opening of this restaurant for an entire month. Having heard rumor that the restaurant was set to open in April, I would walk by it on my way home and peek into the restaurant to see its progress. It seemed like tonight would never come, but it did.

The decor of this place is pretty awesome. It's a little bit random, but a ton of fun. I'm a fan of the way tables are set up, you don't feel like they tried to pack you into the place like sardines. I'm always a fan of the open kitchen concept and dream that one day I'll get invited to the special chef's table near the kitchen so I can watch the chef's cook and ignore my guests (sorry Joe, I realize I am the worst date ever).

There were a variety of appetizers on the menu, things that caught my eye (that I will try next time) include the soft shell crab with corn, bacon, and lime and the spicy mussels with tomato, garlic, white wine and grilled bread. Joe and I decided to go with the ceviche of the day from the raw bar, which happened to be a tuna ceviche. It's not the best or craziest ceviche I ever had, but it was fresh and had an appropriate amount of citrus.

Next came Petra's Super Mac-N-Cheese with bacon, peas, jalapenos and crunchy bread crumbs. I could have done without the peas, but Joe seemed to like them. I like the bites of jalapenos and especially enjoyed the bread crumb topping. I hate when places put too much or too little so it either over powers the creamy mac-n-cheese or you are kept longing for more. This was perfect though and gave the mac-n-cheese a wonderful textural element.


Then came the entrees. I ordered the Wowburger. I appreciated that the burger came medium-rare (per my order) and thought the sharp horseradish mayo, creamy cheddar, and crunchy onion strings paired perfectly with the juicy burger. The burger came with fries which were just perfectly crunchy and perfectly seasoned. This is something I would definitely order again (I believe this burger might be available at Schlow's restaurant Radius as well).

Joe got the pork chop with cherry peppers, sausage, and potatoes. The pork chop was cooked very well and was very tender and flavorful. I liked the cherry pepper and sausage sauce which enhanced the pork chop beautifully (pork on pork action is always good). I'm not a huge pork chop person, but Joe said this is something he would definitely go back for.

No dessert this time as we were stuffed from the entrees. I looked around and it seemed like while the appetizers were on the small side the entrees were pretty filling.

They have blue plate specials every day and never frozen TV dinners which rotate. I'll have to go back and try the 1lb meatball and eventually I'll have to try a TV dinner as well since that just seems like a fun concept!

Service wise, you could definitely tell it was opening night. The waiter didn't seem all that familiar with the menu and the wait for entrees was on the long side. But I had great Company so it wasn't a big deal. Plus it was opening night, so service errors are forgiven.

I've heard this place was supposed to be a cool brunch/lunch place as well so I can't wait to try out their brunch. I've heard rumor of a duck confit hash on the menu!



Rave: Mitsuwa's Santouka's Char Siu Rice

I know, I've already talked about Mitsuwa and yes, the ramen is good. But the real star there? The Char Siu Rice! The Yu family is obsessed with it. The pork is flavorful and tender and the sauce that they add to the rice is just perfect. Next time you're there, I highly recommend getting a set and getting some Char Siu Rice. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

And if you're crazy like me, bring a take home container so you can bring some home for lunch the next day!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sunday Night Dinners

It's been awhile, and this time I'm hoping to be a little more diligent in my posting. I'm not really a foodie, but more of a fatty. I just like to eat. Sometimes I still think about becoming a line cook in my spare time, but realized that the real enjoyment in cooking is sharing that experience with the people I love, whether it's learning new dishes from my mother, being a breakfast slave for my sister, and most recently, cooking Sunday night dinners with my fiance, Joe.

Two of my favorites over the past couple of weekends (and how to put them together!):

Chicken Parmesan and Wheat Noodles
Ok, this one requires special equipment, but ever since we discovered fresh homemade pasta, it's hard to justify not taking the time to make it!

I used this recipe to make the pasta: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/whole-wheat-pasta/
To it, I added about 1 Tbsp of Herb de Provence to the flour before I beat the eggs in. If you mix it in a stand-mixer, there's a chance that it won't come together right away. Once the egg seems to have been mixed into the flour, you'll have to knead it by hand to get it to come together. And don't skip the part where you let it rest, or else the gluten strands won't form correctly.

To make the chicken parmesan first pound out some chicken breast until it's about 1/2 an inch thick. As you pound it out, try to make it uniform so the chicken will cook evenly. Season the chicken with some salt and pepper. To coat, first dip it into some flour, then dip it into an egg wash (a beaten egg + 1 T water), and finally dip it into a mixture of regular bread crumbs, panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning (I'd go 2:2:1 on the bread crumbs to panko to parmesan mixture). Turn your oven to broil and then pre-heat an oven-safe pan with a little (2 T) olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, pan fry your coated chicken, flipping when each side gets golden brown. When the second side is almost done, top with some tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese (to your liking) and stick it in your oven to broil until the cheese gets bubbly and slightly brown.

If you want to go real intense, go ahead and make your own sauce, it tastes so much better than the jarred stuff, but that's a post for another day (or you can check out one of my earlier posts for a recipe).

Another favorite was...
Tapas Night

This is a great meal to make together because each person can make a different component!



Bacon wrapped Dates stuffed with Manchego Cheese: This is exactly what it sounds like. Slice open a dried date and stuff it with Manchego cheese. Then wrap a piece of bacon around it, secure it with a toothpick, and bake in the over at 350°F until the bacon  has rendered some of it's fat and is browned (to your liking!)

Patatas Bravas: After searching far and wide- this is recipe I ended up going with: http://www.spain-recipes.com/patatas-bravas.html

Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp): I have my own method for this, which is probably a bit non-traditional, but I like it. I line an oval ramekin with thin slices of garlic. I place my peeled shrimp on top so that they're touching, but no overlapping. Then I drizzle it with white wine and olive oil and sprinkle some more thinly sliced garlic on top. I let it bake in the oven at 350°F until they're just cooked (I start checking after about 10 minutes) and sprinkle them with some fresh lemon juice and paprika when they come out of the oven. They're super garlicky and super delicious!

Tapas are delicious, but sometimes it's kind of pain to make it for two people (because there are so many ingredients). So I put forth this idea: Tapas parties. We should have parties where everyone tries to make a Spanish tapas. Then we all get together and it's like we're at our favorite Spanish restaurant ordering a multitude of tapas. Everyone wins.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rant/Rave: Girl Scout Cookies

Damn those cute little kids and their cookies, they get me every year. They are horrible for you and I just can't seem to resist them. Nothing like spending an hour at the gym only to negate it all with one cookie. Except you can never really have just one, it's more like you negate and then some with four cookies. But look at that face, and more importantly he cookie beneath it, how can you resist?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

North End Fish Market & Oysters

North End Fish Market (Mercato del Mer)
99 Salem Street
North End, Boston, MA
http://www.northendfish.com/
For our 5-yr anniversary, we had to do something special, something new, so Joe shucked his first oyster, well his first dozen and half of oysters, which we picked up at the North End Fish Market. This is my first time  shopping here, and I must say that I really enjoyed it. The people are friendly and they seem to know their seafood. I always appreciate it when someone knows how to pack your seafood on ice or can suggest a fish that is close to the one you're looking for. Also, everyone seemed to know each other in the store, Liz (one of the co-owners) was saying "Happy Valentine's Day (insert name of customer)" left and right. I like that about a business, the personal touch is everything.

Also, the seafood selection looks awesome. Lots of variety and everything looks fresh. When you walk into a fish market, it really shouldn't smell fishy, that usually means things haven't been stored properly. This place was clean and did not stink. Sure you pay a premium, but I'm a fan and will definitely be back.

Look at those bad boys on ice: deliciousness. And to go with it, a simple Prosecco mignonette (basically shallots and vinegar) that I adapted from some recipes I saw online:

Prosecco Mignonette
  1. Mix 2 T minced shallots with 3T champagne vinegar, 1 t salt, 1 t fresh cracker pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Just before serving add 3T Prosecco.
It's a simple topping, but it's so much better than drowning your oysters in cocktail sauce. Horseradish is acceptable, but leave the cocktail sauce for the shrimp.

We also picked up some sushi from the market. It's not the best sushi I've had, but it's not bad either. Plus, the fish tastes pretty fresh, so the pieces were delicious. A table full of raw seafood is probably one of the best ways I could think of to celebrate a wonderful five years with this wonderful guy:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rave: Cocoa Roasted Almonds

This is a new obsession of mine born out of a trip to Sam's Club with my little sister. The dark chocolate powder makes it slightly sweet, but the star of the show remains the almond. My only issue with them is that they're slightly addicting, which makes my "diet" treat a little anti-diet.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

First Annual Fenway Chili Cookoff

Cook-offs and food festivals- awwwww yeahhhh.

I like myself a good cook-off or food festival especially when they're reasonably priced. $10 to try chili from 7 of the local hot spots sounds like a good time to me. Hurray for the first ever Fenway Chili Cook-off hosted by Church. I apologize in advance that some of the pictures are not as appetizing, but it's not easy to take a picture in a crowded bar with poor lighting.

Round 1: Church
This was their take on a "turducken", or at least that was how it was explained to me. The dark part was the duck and mole chili which was absolutely delicious. The cheddar crisp was good, too. Tasted nothing like a turducken and possibly not really like a chili, but this was by far my favorite.

Round 2: Fenway Park
Traditional chili served with cheese, scallions, sour cream and tortilla chips. They swear they serve it at the park, but I've never seen it. Pretty good for park food and I would get it.

Round 3: Sweet Cheeks BBQ

Smoked chicken chili with a cilantro and mint chutney. I love that the chicken was super smokey and I love that Tiffany Faison (from top chef and also owner of Sweet Cheeks Q) was there serving her chili. Welcome to the neighborhood! Love having a BBQ place right in Fenway!

Round 4: Thorton's
The new (old) bar in town dished out a traditional chili (which is served on their menu). Not bad, not great, but something I'd order at the bar on a cold day.

Round 5: Remy's Bar & Grill
This was Joe's favorite. Traditional chili, but done well. It had deep flavor and it was a little bit spicy. Joe says he would definitely order this at the Rem Dawg's.

Round 6: Sweet Caroline
Another traditional chili, but there wasn't anything special about it. Not sure if the cheese to chili ratio was off, or that I just had taste bud orgasm from the prior chilis, but it was a little thin and lacked a strong flavor.

Round 7: Tasty Burger/ Citizens
According to the chef behind the table, this chili was made from a whole roasted hog. It was topped with home made cheese whiz (cheese sauce in an aerator can) and fried pig ears (which really creeped out the girl in front of me). I loved the crunchiness of the fried pig ear, but the cheese sauce didn't impress me. I like the pork flavor, but as Joe and I have noticed, based on our last dining experience and our chili, the food at Citizens is really salty! 

A little crowded at Church, but a really good time and I'm happy I got to go. Can't wait for them to do it again next year, hopefully some other restaurants will participate! 

We made sure to get our votes in before we left:
 Hurray for chili on a cold day!

Also, as a side note: Rod Dee 2 in Fenway is finally open! I know what I'm having for dinner tonight!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fried Goat Cheese & Honey

On our most recent trip to Tapeo for $5 tapas at the bar, I asked the bartender what her favorite tapas was and she told me it was the Queso Con Miel (Goat cheese with honey and sweet onion). Since I asked after Joe and I had closed out our tab and it sounded easy enough, I decided to make some at home (despite the fact that I had not yet tried their version) and although it was simple, it was delicious.

Fried Goat Cheese & Honey (w/ Onions)
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 T butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 tsp white truffle oil (optional)
  • 1 baguette
  • Small log of goat cheese
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1 egg (slightly beaten)
  • 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs seasoned with 1t oregano
  • Honey
Recipe:
  1. Slice the onion into half moons about 1/4 in. thick. Set a pan over medium low heat and melt the butter in the pan. Then, add the sliced onions and cook slowly over low heat until it is caramelized and fragrant. This should take about 20 minutes if done correctly so let it sit on a low heat stirring them only every 5 minutes or so (it could take longer depending on the size of your onion). At the end, hit it with just a hint of truffle oil to enhance it further.
  2. While the onions are caramelizing, cut a small log of goat cheese into 1/2 in. thick rounds. Coat each in flour, dip it into the egg wash (the beaten egg) and then coat it with the panko bread crumbs. This should create a nice coating all around the cheese round. Set it on a parchment paper and finish coating the rest of the log. When complete set it in the fridge for 5 minutes to set up.
  3. Slice a baguette into 1/2 thick slices and toast until golden brown. You can spray it with a bit of Pam to help it along.
  4. When the onions are done, remove them from the pan and place them on your serving platter. In the same pan heat up some olive oil over medium heat and fry the coated goat cheese until they are golden brown on each side. 
  5. Place the goat cheese on top of the onions and drizzle about 2 T of honey on top of it. You can add more if you like things a bit sweeter. 
  6. Serve with the toasted baguette.
This is great as a snack or as an appetizer. It's simple but packed full of flavor and I can never resist anything that's both sweet and salty! I'm going to have to try it at Tapeo, but this version is a delicious snack as well!