chezpei.com

Trying to eat something delicious, each and every day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dinner, Pre-Plating

Last night's post got me in a "behind the scenes" mood. So today I whipped out the camera while I was cooking, instead of right before we ate.

Here's the soup of the evening. I simmered pork neck and leg bones, then added daikon, watercress, mushrooms, and a root vegetable that I actually have not officially identified. Maybe I'll post a picture tomorrow and see if anyone knows what it is.

We also had stir fried broccoli. Heat a little garlic and oil, throw in clean dry broccoli, toss until the broccoli browns a little around the edges, throw in a few tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt, and cover for two minutes to let the broccoli steam cook. Remove the lid, toss a few times to release excess liquid, and serve. Easy stir fried vegetables infused lightly with salt and garlic.

And finally, our filler: rice with sausage and green onions. I sliced Chinese sausages into thin pieces and charred them in a wok with some green onions, then added them to rice in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Note to other home cooks: I used the oil that the sausage gave off to cook the broccoli. Remember, Chinese moms say a real cook never needs to wash a wok until the end of a meal! Cook your dishes in the order that allows the dishes to build on each other, and save anything that might stick to the wok for last.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lotus Root Soup

I found myself trudging through Chinatown in the rain today (thank goodness for waterproof boots), so I bought a fish and some lotus root to round out our dinner.

Not a bad spread, even when raw, right? I wish we'd get some sunshine around here so my photos could stop looking so dreary.

Lotus root and pork soup is one of the easiest, tastiest combinations around. Simply simmer pork back bones for about two hours in enough water to submerge all the bones. Add a few big slices of ginger, and be sure to skim regularly. After the bone soup starts looking a little opaque, add thickly sliced lotus roots and a little salt. Simmer until the lotus root is cooked through, about half an hour to forty minutes. Salt to taste, remove any ginger pieces, and serve.

Sliced asparagus, no explanation needed.

And a giant bowl of colorful fruit for dessert. I bought a ton of fruit at Trader Joe's, but we've been doing a really good job of eating our way through it! This automatically adds three or four colors to any meal, depending how you're counting!

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Everything Gumbo

I do 99% of the cooking in our home, but when J decides to step up to the plate, he does not mess around. This weekend he decided it was time to revisit one of his favorite foods: gumbo.


The result was smashing, and we are not lenient judges around here. J achieved the perfect consistency for spooning over rice, and the gumbo had enough soup for sipping while still being full of Dungeness crab (two whole ones!), chicken, shrimp, sausage, okra, celery, onions, and green bell peppers. The only thing it lacked was a hint of smokiness from a smoked ham hock and/or a little blue crab flavor, but given what's easily available in SF it was a phenomenal showing. What a treat to come home to after an afternoon at the gym!

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bang San Thai

Today, I revisited what I consider an under appreciated local gem: Bang San Thai on Jones near O'Farrell. A lot of Tenderloin restaurants develop cult followings despite their seedy digs, but for some reason Bang San's never caught on. I suspect they might suffer a little from consistency (as in, they have one bad cook or occassionally suffer because a cook is sick or something). However, when they're on their game, they are really phenomenal. I hate mediocre, overly sugary Thai food, which there's a lot of. But good Thai food has really unique, dare I say zingy, flavors that my mouth isn't used to. Sweet, sour, salty, spicy, all working in balance with a variety of textures--what's not to like?

One of my favorite dishes, and one by which I judge Thai restaurants, is tom ka gai soup. A good version should be creamy but not thick or gloppy, have just a hint of heat and sugar, and have a nice tang to it. Chicken, mushrooms, and tofu should all be present in my perfect version. And the broth, like the one at Bang San, should have a savoriness and depth that comes from using a rich herbed chicken broth as its base. Poured voer some rice, it's one of my favorite comfort foods.

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Nothing from Nothing...

A lot of times, a pretty decent dinner can be made from nothing.

This looks like a lovely bowl of noodle soup with vegetables, fish balls, and duck innards. But in truth, it was a desparate attempt on my part to use up every last bit of fresh food in my refrigerator. I think I did okay.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Butterfish Soup

Simple, healthy, and delicious. I really love noodle soups.

I've also decided I'll be buying more butterfish in the future. It's also called sablefish or black cod, but let's face it: butterfish is the best name. In addition to being delicious, it's plentiful and reasonably priced. That's right, the Seafood Watch guide says I can eat it. More fish for me!

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup

Sorry, no bacon in this post.

It's been a week of comfort foods. First the oxtail soup, then the decadent doughnut, now chicken noodle soup. We've also been having a lot of fruits and fruit-vegetable juices. It's nice to eat some simple homemade food and raw seasonal produce after eating out for the better part of two weeks.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Bacon and Oxtail Soup

Mmmm...there's nothing like a plate of bacon on a Sunday morning.

We had to clear the fridge and fortify ourselves for a day of apartment hunting, so I fried up the better part of a pack of Niman Ranch bacon and the two of us went to town. Bacon really is a magical food.

We washed it down with leftover oxtail soup. Soup is always better the next day, and this was actually best almost a day and a half after I made it. Oxtail soup is high on my list of favorite soups because of the balance of sweet vegetables, fall-apart beef chunks, and the rich gelatinous soup. Here's a short recipe:
  • 1 oxtail, about 3 pounds. The butcher will slice it into chunks for you
  • 1/2 to 1 bulb garlic, peeled and slightly chopped
  • 1 very large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 3 stems celery, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1-12 oz. can tomatoes (you can pick sliced, diced, or crushed)
  • 1-6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, or a few sprigs fresh
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
Rinse off the oxtail and put in a gallon of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Stir and skim regularly, until no skum boils to the surface. Simmer for 2 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to stick with a fork but not yet falling off the bone. Add all the vegetables and herbs, bring back to a boil, add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for at least another hour. There's really no way to overcook this, and you can leave the cover on or off the pot depending if you want a more watery soup or a thicker stew. If you like, add pasta in the last ten minutes to make this a one pot meal.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Winter Melon Soup, and Steak

I've been working some jog-hike combinations into my workout routine, the better to take advantage of all the steep hills and great views in SF. After a four-mile loop today, I was starving all day.

Whole Foods meat department to the rescue! Grass-fed ribeyes are on sale for $10/lb today. This steak was just over a pound, and normally it would have been enough for me and J to share. Luckily, he was not very hungry today so I got to eat most of it.

On the lighter side, we also had stewed chicken with winter melon, mushrooms, and gojiberries. There was also a great romaine and cherry tomato salad, but J ate too much of it before I could snap a photo. The mustard dressing included fresh garlic from a friend's vegetable garden and chopped basil from our tiny balcony herb garden!

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pickled Celery and Noodle Soup

I pickled some not-so-fresh celery a few days ago and totally forgot about it! Luckily, the whole point of pickling is that it preserves vegetables.

The celery in this dish is stripped of its coarser fibers, sprinkled with salt, and left to sit for about an hour. The salt is then rinsed off and the celery is squeezed dry. Then it's put into a plastic container with a light coating of sesame oil, a sprinkling of salt, and left to sit overnight. It's best eaten the next day, but a couple of days in the refrigerator doesn't hurt too much. I tossed it with slivered carrots and pressed tofu and topped it with a light drizzle of sesame oil for a cold side dish.


And, ever popular around here, "Throw everything into the pot" noodle soup. Today's noodle soup was cooked in a base of chicken stock, ginger, green onions, anise, rice wine, and sesame oil. The meal itself was made up of shitake mushrooms, chrysanthemum leaves, tofu cubes, dried baby shrimp, green onions, and refrigerated noodles (not dry; refrigerated is more toothsome and flavorful).

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Savory Soy Milk

This is a weird one, and perhaps an acquired taste, but it's one of my childhood favorites. People who don't like it describe it as curdled soy milk, but if you think about it it's really just a variation on tofu soup.

For a big meal for one, or a side of soup each for two people:

  • 2 cups unsweetened soy milk (fresh if you can find it)
  • 1-2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Taiwanese black vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped green onions
  • 1 teaspoon dried shredded pork
  • a few drops chili oil
Head soy milk over medium heat until just below boil. Take it off the flame and whisk in one tablespoon of rice wine vinegar. Whisk well as the soy milk starts to curdle, then add salt and/or more vinegar to taste. Pour into a bowl or bowls, then top each bowl with black vinegar, cilantro, green onions, shredded pork, and several drops of chili oil.

To me, this soup has a tangy flavor akin to that of hot and sour soup in flavor, but much easier to make and lighter as well. And now that I think of it, it's a little like Greek avoglemono (lemon and pasta) soup as well. Some people don't like restaurant versions because they can be a mush of flavors swimming in an overly sour pool of soy sauce, but if you make it at home you can control that and make quite a tasty dish.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Fish Ball Soup

Delicious, easy, nutritious, and just right on a cold night: fish ball soup!

I'm lucky enough to have fishmongers in the city who sell the racks of large fish for about $2-3. For the price of a three foot long piece of sea bass bone, a few green onions, and a knob of ginger, I'm able to make about one and a half gallons of rich, flavorful fish stock. I vary what I do with the soup, but tonight I added daikon, tofu, cuttlefish balls, fish balls, fish tempura (with a surprise squid filling!) and spinach and taro vegan "fish" balls. The soup is great as a side, but if you add some napa and/or vermicelli it becomes a full meal.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Soft-Shell Turtle Soup

Well, it finally happened. J found a soft-shell turtle at a Chinese seafood market and we cooked it.


Heebie jeebies aside, soft-shell turtle really does have the texture of chicken, but with a lot more sharp little bones and a sweeter flavor. I'm not sure it's different enough to compell me to pay $11/lb for it on a regular basis, but it was a tasty soup.

J didn't remember exactly what his friend's grandfather put in his recipe, so we stopped by a Chinese herb shop and asked the saleswoman what people usually cook with soft-shell turtle. She made us a great herb packet for under $5, and it included two of my favorites: dried mountain yam and foxnuts. I don't know too much about the other herbs, their names, or their supposed healing qualities. But I do really like Chinese medicinal soups. I'm going to have to remember to cook them more regularly: with chicken or short ribs!

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