Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My week with Blue Apron

Thanks to a fellow dietitian, I got a free trial of Blue Apron! I know, I'm only years behind on the very successful recipe + ingredients delivery start up train, but hey, can't say no to a free box! 

For those of you who have never used Blue Apron before, it's a great service that provides all the necessary ingredients for a delicious meal that you typically wouldn't cook for yourself. I chose the one for 2 people (not trying to feed a small family right now) and got to choose 3 of the featured recipes of the week. Blue Apron caters to many different diets and allergies, so no problems there putting in food preferences. The ingredients all come in an insulated and highly ice packed box, that if you everything carefully, you can ship all the packaging back to Blue Apron for them to reuse!! That was a biggie for me, finding out how on earth this was somehow sustainable in the long run. 

Anyways, challenges. Sorting out all the ingredients for the 3 separate recipes was pretty pain staking. Just imagine getting a new toy only to realize that much assembly is required before you can actually play with it. Been there too many times. Following the instructions for any one of the recipes was also a struggle... they trick you by showing only 6 steps. However, each step easily contained 3 or more sub-steps. And you know how great I am at following directions... so I had to make up a lot of my own steps simply because I can't follow a list of instructions. Pro tip: don't use all the spices and seasonings they give you, I find it almost a third too much as what you would actually need to thoroughly flavor your food! 

Here are general thoughts of the recipes I received in this week's box:
  • BBQ Pork Burgers & Corn on the Cob: ain't nobody got time to fry onions at home. Great idea, though! Also, really glad my fridge is stocked with extra vegetables because pickles, onions, and corn is not my idea of a balancing a diet. Also, there's no burger without cheese! Wish I could've prepared myself better for that one. But overall delicious burger with great flavors (BBQ sauce + mustard). The best part of the meal: that herb butter, doe! 
  • Spicy Chicken & Korean Rice Cakes: You can't give a Korean inspired recipe without a side of kimchi. It's just not right. I also thought the amount of hoisin sauce provided would make the recipe way too sweet because corn and mushrooms already provide a lot of sweetness! I opted to marinate the chicken in a soy sauce/gochujang blend for more depth and of course liberally used some rice wine here or there. I love rice cakes / dduk / leen goh!!
  • Curried Catfish & Coconut Rice: Lots of flavors going on in this one. There's the raisin ginger chutney, the curry dusted catfish, and the coconut green bean herb rice. I must admit that catfish is a fishy choice. Even all the coconut spice and chutney couldn't mask its innate flavor. The star of the recipe was clearly the coconut rice. I'm going to start making rice like this all the time now! So addictive.  
Will I do it again and pay for it? Maybe. I already opted out on the next few deliveries because I don't see a combination of recipes that truly appeal to me. As someone that goes grocery shopping and cooks for myself regularly. there were many recipes that I thought were not worth the value (vegetarian options) or that I could easily procure for myself. 

So here you have it, my first attempts at Blue Apron. The following 3 recipes are my own rendition of what Blue Apron provided. I added quite a few of my own knick knacks that I hope you enjoy! 

BBQ Pork Burgers & Corn on the Cob (serves 2)

BBQ Pork Burgers
10 oz ground pork 
1 onion: 2/3 sliced in rings, 1/3 minced
1 tbs dijon mustard
3 tbs oil (olive, canola, peanut, avocado, up to you!) 
2 tbs cheese (I had parmesan, but wish I had Swiss) 
to season: 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp Cajun seasoning
optional: white wine 
to serve: 2 sesame seed buns (toasted), pickles, tomato slices 1/2 cup mixed greens, 1/4 cup BBQ sauce

1. In a small bowl, mix together ground pork, minced onion, dijon mustard and seasonings. Set aside,
2. In a small skillet, brown sliced onions in 1 tbs of oil. 
- Add a generous splash of white wine (or water).
- Turn heat down to low and allow to soften. 
- Mix once every few minutes. 
3. Pour remainder olive oil in a larger skillet on medium high heat. Add the patties and sear for several minutes on each side. 
- Add a generous splash of white wine (or water). Cover for a few minutes to ensure meat is cooked through. 
- Add cheese on top of patties, cover for another minutes
4. Serve on a toasted bun topped with softened onions and all desired garnishes and BBQ sauce

Corn on the Cob with Garlic -Herb Butter 
1 ear of corn 
1 tbsp butter, soft
1 clove garlic, minced
3 stems parsley, minced 

1. Boil half a small pot of water with a dash of salt. 
2. Insert corn and boil for about 3 minutes or until bright yellow and slightly softened
3. While preparing the corn, in a small bowl, mix together butter, garlic, and parsley. 
4. Slather on corn once corn is removed from the water

Spicy Chicken & Korean Rice Cakes (serves 2)
4 chicken thighs, sliced
1/2 lb rice cakes
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 sprigs scallion, sliced
1 ear of corn, kernels sliced off the cob
1 in knob ginger, slivered 
2 tbs rice vinegar
2 tbs rice wine
1 tbs gochujang
1 tbs hoisin sauce
1/4 oz dried shiitake mushrooms, pre-soaked and sliced
3 tbs oil (olive, canola, peanut, avocado, up to you!) 
marinade: 1 tbs soy sauce, 1 tbs rice wine, 1 tbs gochujang, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp sesame oil
to serve: kim chi

1. In a medium pot, boil a pot of water. 
- Once boiling, add the rice cakes and cook for about 3 minutes
- Drain and run under cold water, Set aside
2. In a large deep pan, heat oil. Sear chicken. 
3. Add garlic, scallion, ginger, shiitake mushroom, and brown.
4. Mix in gochu jang, rice vinegar, rice wine, and corn. 
5. Once thoroughly mixed and chicken cooked through, incorporate rice cakes. 
6. Serve with kimchi!

Curried Catfish & Coconut Rice (serves 2)

Coconut Green Bean Herb Rice
3/4 cup white basmati rice
4 oz green beans
1 in knob ginger, minced
3 tbs dried coconut flakes
4 sprigs cilantro, minced
2 sprigs mint, minced
2 tbs coconut oil
To flavor: salt

1. Heat 2 tbs coconut oil to brown the ginger and 2 tbs coconut flakes.
2. Lightly sautee green beans. Mix in rice.
3. Add 1 1/4 cup water with a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Turn heat on low and simmer with lid on for 12-15 minutes or until rice is cooked.
4. Remove rice from heat and fluff with remaining coconut flakes, cilantro, and mint.

Golden Raisin Chutney
2 tsp chutney spice (brown mustard seeds, yellow mustard seeds, nigella seeds)
3 tbs golden raisin
1 in knob ginger, minced
1/2 lime

1. In a medium pan, toast chutney spices.
2. Add raisins, ginger and brown.
3. Add 1/4 cup of water and boil down until it all evaporates.
4. Scoop out raisin chutney in a small bowl and mix with the juice of half a lime. Set pan aside

Curried Catfish
2 catfish fillets, patted dry
2 tbs curry spice blend (Madras curry powder, rice flour)
1 tbs oil (olive, canola, peanut, avocado, up to you!)

1. Coat the catfish generously in the curry spice blend
2. Using the same pan (less dishwashing!), heat oil.
3. Sear catfish for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through
4. Serve atop coconut rice with raisin chutney

Sunday, July 31, 2016

I left my heart in Italia

Classic Caprese celebrating the colors of Italia!

Every summer my posts are few and far between, but I promise it's with good reason. This time around I was a bit preoccupied being the happiest glutton in Italy. We took a family vacation to the magnificent Lake Como, marvelous Milan, and mysterious Venice. Every meal we drank about 3 bottles of San Pelligrino, had either a Caprese or proscuitto e melon, and my dad would most certainly order the linguini alle vongole. I ate a surprising amount of eggplant parmigiana and ordered zucchini blossoms and tiramisu whenever it was on the menu. My mother was all about the Adriatic seafood, wanting to try everything from the lake fish to sea snails. My brother developed an obsession with pappardelle Bolognese, and I with proscuitto di Parma and gelato, though that's not new. I love eating in Italy, and Italian cooking is clearly a big part of my life. It's all about the fresh ingredients used in simple ways to bring out the natural flavors of the food. Also, major shout out to everyone in the service industry. Every server was so professional and courteous! Oh, I reminisce sometime;  how I wish I were sipping a cappuccino in Milano right now!  

the most impressive crab pasta by Villa Olmo
a beautiful butter roll at Ristorante Raimondi

the original Bellagio

Como lakeside lunch
linguini alle vongole, the family favorite
zucchini flowers everywhere! (before)
zucchini flowers (after) by Giacomo Arengario
such a great strawberry tart, we had another one
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II by night

fresh on fresh at Antica Trattoria della Pesa
osso bucco with risotto Milanese in the back at Antica Trattoria della Pesa

my brother's favorite, the pappardelle Bolognese at Peck
figs and peaches for my morning proscuitto
the bustling city of Venice
mornings at the Rialto fish market
the perfect way to end a meal: ricotta cheesecake at Al Covo
the amuse bouche at Il Ridotto, watermelon tomato soup with fresh ricotta
the whimsical island of Burano
7 euro pitcher of house wine
the legendary seafood risotto at Trattoria da Romano
and but of course, gelato all day erryday

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Easy barbecue country style ribs

Just got back to New Orleans from New York and a family holiday to Italia (photos to come)! After some time away from the south, I was really missing barbecue. Lucky me, the first day back I went grocery shopping, there was a pack of country style ribs on sale. Got the pack, seasoned the ribs, slow baked them in my skillet, and had amazing tender barbecue all in less than 2 hours. So easy, so good, so can't believe I didn't try making my own ribs until now. 

Next time I'm going to try making my own char siu honey soy sauce! 

Barbecue country style ribs 
2 lb bone in country style ribs
1/2 tsp Cajun spice (Slap Ya Mama spicy) 
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup barbecue sauce * 

1. Mix together all spices and rub seasoning onto ribs 
2. Preheat oven to 315F 
3. Line ribs on roasting rack and bake for 90 minutes or until ribs are tender
4. Brush barbecue sauce on ribs and broil on high for 3-5 minutes
5. Remove from oven and serve! 

* For barbecue sauce, I used Jay D's hand crafted Louisiana small batch barbecue sauce that I got for free (best swag bag ever!) from a lecture I attended at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Pesto veggie flatbread

As I mentioned last post, my brother left me with a bit of homemade pesto when he stayed with me in New Orleans*. As much as I love pesto, there's only so many times I can eat it with eggs, in a sandwich, or as dressing. So to finish the remaining pesto before it went bad, I used it as the sauce for a veggie flatbread! (it's not pizza because I bought a pre-made crust. I'm a strong believer in it's only pizza if you toss the dough)

*Much shout out to the community garden at the Green School and its bountiful herb garden. 

Pesto veggie flatbread (serves 2-4) 
1 pizza crust (you can make your own or buy pre-made / frozen) 
1/3 cup mozzarella (I used pearls, shredded works too) 
2 tbs parmesan, grated or crumble 
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced 
1 bell pepper, sliced
2 shallots 
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
olive oil
2 tbs white wine 
1 tbs balsamic vinegar 
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning

1. In an iron skillet on high heat, brown shallots in olive oil. 
2. Add mushrooms. Sautee with white wine** and balsamic vinegar. 
3. Mix in peppers, galic powder, and Italian seasoning. Set aside. 
4. Preheat oven to 425F 
5. Brush pizza crust with olive oil, spread pesto generously. 
6. Top with sauteed vegetables. Evenly distribute mozzarella and parmesan.**  
7. Bake for 15-20 min or until cheese is browned and blistering. 
8. Top with fresh arugula and serve! 

**Rules of my fridge: always have 2+ cheeses and white wine stocked 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Case of the leftovers: Creole fried rice

Because my brother visited me for a week in New Orleans recently, we did a lot of fine dining out and ended up with surprisingly fewer leftovers than I expected considering how gluttonous we were. In addition to some delicious lemon herb roasted chicken from Emeril's (though sadly there's no more truffle fried chicken) and authentic Cajun shrimp and okra gumbo from Cafe de Amis in Beaux Bridge, I also brought home Shaya's roasted cabbage. It's been sitting in my fridge along with some rosemary roasted eggplant and sauteed garlic broccoli rabe, so I decided to heat it all up together with some of my leftover rice. And it'll all end with some leftover homemade blueberry and peach cobbler for dessert (I used leftover farmers market fruit from the trip before, recipe to come!). It's finally my weekend, and because I worked another six days in a row this week, I was in no shape to whip up a fresh hot meal. So thank goodness for leftovers! 

Because I still had tomatoes, scallions, and shallots to use, I decided to spruce up my rice and make it fried in the skillet! It's reminiscent of my chili lime fried rice, but boy has being in the south is seriously influencing my cooking style. 

Creole fried rice
2 cups leftover cooked brown rice, cooked with 1 dz dried shrimp 
2 eggs, beaten
1 Creole tomato, diced 
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 knob gingerm minced
1 shallot, minced 
3 sprigs scallion, diced
1/4 cup kimchi, chopped 
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp tumeric 
1/4 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp sesame oil, lightly coated in corn starch 
2 tbs peanut oil
1/2 tsp sesame seeds

1 link Andouille sausage, chopped 
1 dz medium - large shrimp, peeled and deveined 

1. Brown scallion, ginger, shallot, and garlic with 1 tbs peanut oil in skillet or wok on high heat. Sautee with chopped tomato, kimchi, and optional sausage. 
2. Once everything is slightly browned, add the rice and stir-fry until rice is fragrant. Rice should be slightly harder to the bite, yet still retain some degree of moisture. (This should take 5-10 minutes depending on the heat of your stove top.) 
3. Season on salt, garlic powder, tumeric. 
4. Mix in the two beaten eggs and keep the rice moving in the wok until the eggs are fully cooked and dispersed throughout. 
5. On a separate pan, sizzle shrimp in 1 tbs peanut oil on high heat until browned. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. 
5. Finally, add the sesame shrimp and make sure all ingredients are mixed evenly. 
6. Remove the fried rice from the heat and add the sesame oil. Mix well.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sweet basil orange iced tea

You can keep telling me it's spring, but the sun's screaming that it's summer time. And when it's summer in New Orleans, you have got to stay hydrated. All the festing, drinking, and dancing can take it out of you, so here's a simple refreshing recipe for a delicious iced tea brewed with fresh Thai basil and topped with a fresh orange slice. Trust me, the basil make it naturally sweet itself, but if you must, feel free to sweeten with a touch of honey. 

After a long day at French Quarter Fest, an iced tea was necessary!

Sweet basil orange iced tea (serves 2)
2-3 tbs Thai basil leaves, fresh
orange slice
2 cups water, boiled
1 cup ice 
honey, to taste (optional)

1. Seep basil leaves in fresh off the stove boiling water for 3-5 minutes. 
2. Pour into half a cup of ice.
3. Top and garnish with a squeeze of orange slice