Korean Short Ribs with Kimchi and Greens Namul

My husband is a sucker for grocery store samples, which is why last weekend after trying a bite of Mother-in-Law’s Napa Cabbage Kimchi, a big jar of it found its way into our cart. We’re no strangers to the spicy, pickled, fermented cabbage that bubbles as you open the jar, reminding you that it’s happily alive with probiotics. In fact, we were fortunate enough to have our first taste of the stuff in Korea, where it originated. It didn’t take long. We were hooked.

With the jar of kimchi now in our cart, we decided a Korean-inspired dinner was in order. What a coincidence that our butcher recently started carrying Korean short ribs! Also called the “flanken cut,” these beef ribs are cut straight through the bone and are about 1/2 an inch thick, making them ideal for quick cooking. The marinade is a tasty combination of puréed Asian pear, soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, sesame oil, and garlic, and the ribs get even more flavor from throwing them on a charcoal grill. White rice and our kimchi were obvious accompaniments, but we went in search of another Korean side dish, and found the perfect one – namul (or namuru in Japanese, which you often find as a Bento Box filler). You blanch greens, squeeze out the liquid, roughly chop and throw in a bowl with sesame oil, garlic, and salt. So simple.

Our recently married friends (congrats, M+T!) joined us for this Korean-inspired dinner, and we successfully got them hooked on kimchi as well. The jar boasted a good 16 servings, but the 4 of us polished it off in one evening.

Korean Short Ribs

(Slightly adapted from The Paupered Chef)

3 lbs. short ribs
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 Asian pear, peeled and diced
1/4 cup mirin
1 TBS. brown sugar
1 TBS. sesame oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped

  • Place the diced asian pear in a large bowl and purée with an immersion blender (alternatively, use a food processor or blender).
  • Add the soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, sesame oil, and garlic. Whisk until combined.
  • Put the short ribs in the bowl with the marinade.  Toss until coated evenly with the marinade.  Refrigerate for 3-5 hours.
  • Prepare a charcoal grill for high heat. Have a squirt bottle handy (I will explain in the next step).
  • Remove ribs from marinade and place on the grill. Cover. Because of the fat content, you might find that they flame up a little bit. That’s where our squirt bottle came in handy! But then they calmed down and cooked nicely, about 3-5 minutes per side. Serve with Greens Namul (recipe below), kimchi, and steamed white rice.

Greens Namul

(From Just Bento)

2 cups or so blanched greens (we used 1 large bunch of young, tender dandelion greens, and 2 bunches of spinach. Get more than you think you’ll need because they cook down a lot)
1 1/2 TBS. dark sesame oil
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 large garlic clove
1 TBS. toasted sesame seeds
Optional: pinch of sugar
Optional: chili oil

  • Before blanching your greens, first wash them very well to get all the grit off of them. If your greens have stalks, cut the tender part of the stalk thinly. Discard the tough part of the stalks, if any.
  • Bring a pot of water to boil. First put in the stalks, then the greens that take the longest to cook (we threw our dandelion greens in first). Boil for 1-2 minutes, then put in the spinach. Boil for another minute or less. You don’t want your greens to turn to mush.
  • Turn off the heat. Drain the greens well, then add cold water to refresh and cool them. Drain again and squeeze out the moisture well. Roughly chop. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Grate the garlic clove on a fine grater, or smash it to a pulp with a knife (we did the latter). Mix with the salt and oil. Use your hands to mix the garlic mixture into the well drained and squeezed out greens. Mix in the sesame seeds. Taste, and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary, or adding a little bit of sugar if the greens are too bitter. If you want it spicy, add a few drops of chili oil.

Frita Cubana Sliders (for Krystal’s Virtual Baby Shower!)

When I first started this blog back in 2007, I wanted to archive the recipes that we threw together on a weeknight in our little Japanese kitchen. I never gave much thought to the people actually reading it, except maybe close friends and family. But then something happened over the next year or two – I discovered a community of people who also love to take pictures of their food and write about it, and a handful have become good friends.

Although I’ve never met any of these ladies in person (yet!) I feel like I know them, which is a pretty cool thing. Take Krystal for example, of Mrs. Regueiro’s Plate. We were first “introduced” on a recipe board where we both are frequent posters. When I was assigned her thin-crust pizza for an Italian-themed recipe swap, we were able to talk more about our experiences in Italy. Through comments back and forth on our blogs, it’s pretty safe to say that this Santa Cruz girl and LA girl would get along quite well. Guess what? Krystal and her husband Eric are expecting their first child in May (gender is a surprise – I love that!)

To celebrate this exciting time in their lives, Joelen of What’s Cookin’ Chicago is hosting this virtual baby shower, and I’m so excited to be a part of it. In honor of Krystal’s Filipino background and Eric’s Cuban background, Joelen asked some of Krystal’s favorite bloggers to prepare either a Filipino or Cuban dish for a baby shower fiesta.

Excited to try a new type of cuisine, I spent an afternoon doing some research.  I found myself leaning towards a Cuban dish because I was intrigued by the flavors and knew the least about the culture. I came across several recipes for a Frita Cubana – or Cuban Hamburger – and was drawn to the concept. A beef & chorizo patty is topped with a liberal handful of fried shoestring potatoes, and a generous amount of sweet & vinegary spiced ketchup. Festive, flavorful, and undeniably Cuban, I decided this was going to be my shower offering! Krystal, these sliders are fun and will add a little spice to the party – just like you! I wish you the best as you get ready to welcome your little one into the world!

To accompany your frita cubana sliders, I made a refreshing salad of fresh, chopped romaine, crunchy jicama, sweet orange, and cool avocado.

Visit the full roundup here! Krystal & Eric’s Baby Shower Fiesta!

Frita Cubana Sliders

(makes 12-16 sliders – slightly adapted form Saveur)

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. Spanish chorizo, casings removed
1/2 cup crushed saltine crackers (about 10)
2 TBS. finely chopped yellow onion
1 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
Canola oil, for frying
2 large russet potatoes, peeled
soft slider rolls, split in half
Secret Sauce (recipe below)

  • In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, chorizo, crushed crackers, onions, paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper; Using your hands, mix everything together until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for 30 minutes. Form into slider-sized round, thin, patties.
  • Pour oil into a 4-qt. saucepan until it reaches a depth of 2 inches. Heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 330°. Meanwhile, working over a large bowl, grate potato using the large-holed side of a box grater. Soak grated potatoes in water for 1 minute and drain. Spread potatoes on a kitchen towel and pat dry. Working in batches, fry potatoes until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to paper towels and season lightly with salt; set aside.
  • Prepare a charcoal grill. Grill the patties until cooked through and nicely browned. Spread some secret sauce on each slider bun, and place the patties on top. Top with a generous mound of fried potatoes. Drizzle with more sauce.

Secret Sauce for a Frita Cubana

(from 3 Guys from Miami)

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

  • Mix all of the ingredients together in a two-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and let cool. Use generously on your frita cubana sliders!

Beef & Green Chile Chili

October in Santa Cruz: 70-80 degree weather engages in a battle with the coastal fog. Usually they settle this amicably and agree to take turns. In terms of dinner (because it’s all about the food), this means a week of barbecues followed by a week of chili and soup, or “earthquake weather,” as we call it, after the big quake of ’89.

On the evening of October 17th, the warmth had defeated the fog. It was 5:04 pm, and as my mom, brother (age 2 1/2), and I (age 5) were eating pasta with pesto, the house began to shake with a violent rumble, and everything in my vision became a blur.  I remember running to the door frame as my mom got my brother out of his high chair, and we heard glasses and dishes breaking in the kitchen. It seemed to last forever. My glass of milk that had accompanied the pesto pasta made its way out to the front yard with the rest of us, where it sat precariously on a white patio table. I remember trying to drink it an hour after the quake, but it tasted warm and wasn’t very appealing. To this day, whenever I taste milk that’s slightly warmer than fridge temp, I think “Earthquake!”

Here we find ourselves enjoying another warm week in October, 22 years later (I just dated myself) and we just so happened to have two small earthquakes in the Bay Area yesterday. I told you it’s earthquake weather! Even though weeks like this cry out for burgers and hot dogs, we crave chili, a symbol of the season, and we love the comfort that it brings, knowing that it’s only a matter of time before the fog returns.

You know what else brings comfort? A post-chili walk on the beach on one of those warm evenings, paired with a magnificent sunset. Moments like these make living on a fault line worth it.

This was the first bean-less chili recipe we’ve ever made, but now I understand why this type of chili is popular in Texas. Hearty ground beef and green chiles are the stars of this chili, which is seasoned with a homemade chili powder and thickened with pureed fried corn tortillas. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get our hands on Hatch chiles, the kind that chef Tim Love recommends, but we used Anaheim instead, one of the recommended substitutions.

Still looking for a chili recipe for Halloween? This might have to be the one. Who knows if it will be chilly or balmy; earthquake or no earthquake. Either way, October calls for chili. It’s not the prettiest dish in the world, but we thought that some minced jalapeño and crispy fried corn tortilla strips added some aesthetic appeal. You can make this chili up to 4 days ahead of time – store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator and gently reheat before serving. Serves 6.

Beef & Green Chile Chili

(From the Oct/Nov 2011 issue of Fine Cooking; by Tim Love)

For the Spice Mixture:

2 dried guajillo chiles
1-1/2 TBS. ground cumin
1 TBS. freshly ground black pepper
1 TBS. granulated sugar
2-1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1-1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

For the Chili:

8 large fresh Hatch chiles (or Anaheim or Cubanelle chiles)
1-1/2 lb. 85%- to 90%-lean ground beef
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 6-inch fresh corn tortillas, quartered
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, halved, cored, and coarsely chopped
2 to 3 medium jalapeños, finely chopped
2 small cloves garlic, minced
3 TBS. all-purpose flour
5 cups lower-salt chicken broth, heated
Kosher salt

  • Make the spice mixture – Stem, seed, and grind the chiles to a powder (we used a coffee grinder); you should have about 1 TBS. In a medium bowl, combine the chile powder with the remaining spice mixture ingredients.
  • Position an oven rack about 4 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Place the chiles on a large, heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet and broil, turning with tongs as needed, until charred on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the chiles to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until cool enough to handle. With gloved hands, peel, seed, and finely chop the chiles; set aside.
  • Put the ground beef in a large bowl. Mix in 3 TBS. of the spice mixture.
  • Line a plate with paper towels. Heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy-duty pot over high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring often, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to a medium bowl and set aside.
  • Put the tortillas in the hot oil and fry on both sides, turning occasionally with tongs, until golden-brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the tortillas to the paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
  • Reduce the heat to medium. Add 1 1/2 cups of the onions and the remaining spice mixture to the pot. Cook for 15 seconds, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. Add 1/2 cup of the roasted chiles, half of the bell peppers, and half the jalapeños. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the green peppers are softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
  • Stir the flour into the vegetable mixture and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add 1 cup of the broth, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan until no lumps remain. Add the remaining 4 cups of broth and 1 TBS. salt. Stir and bring to a boil.
  • While the mixture comes to a boil, transfer 1 cup of the broth mixture to a food processor. Crumble in the fried tortillas and process until the tortillas are finely chopped. Pour the tortilla-broth mixture back into the pot and stir in the remaining onions, bell peppers, and the meat.
  • Return the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low to low and simmer, stirring occasionally and skimming the surface as needed, until the chili is thick, about 50 minutes.
  • Stir in the remaining roasted chiles and jalapeños and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Skim off any oil that rises to the surface. Season to taste with salt. Garnish with crispy fried corn tortilla strips and minced jalapeno to taste, and serve warm corn tortillas on the side.

Flank Steak Tacos with Chipotle Sour Cream

It’s no coincidence that the last five post titles have the word grilled in them. We’ve been embracing warm evenings and hot coals while we can! A quick rub of cumin, paprika, and hot sauce gives this economical cut of steak lots of flavor. Then you slice it thinly and pile it on top of flour tortillas that have been heated up on the grill. A dollop of chipotle sour cream adds a cooling component with a little heat that sneaks up on you. Other taco toppings are optional, but we thought that guacamole, chopped red onion, and a little crumble of queso fresco were good additions. A pitcher of your favorite sangria wouldn’t hurt either.

While the man in your life ‘mans’ the grill (at least that’s how we roll around here), try this easy cilantro-lime rice to accompany your tacos. Combine 1 cup long grain rice with 1 3/4 cup chicken broth in a sauce pan with a lid. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pot sit (don’t uncover it!) for 10 more minutes. After those 10 minutes are up, stir in a generous handful of chopped cilantro and the juice of 1 small lime. Taste and season with salt. For a little hint of creaminess, try mixing in a spoonful or two of plain sour cream into the rice. Voilà!

Flank Steak Tacos with Chipotle Sour Cream

1 1/2 lbs. flank steak
Cholula (or other favorite hot sauce)
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
1 chipotle pepper (from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo) + 1 tsp. of the adobo sauce
1 cup sour cream
flour tortillas
Chopped red onion
Queso fresco, crumbled

  • Prepare a charcoal grill for medium-high heat.
  • Season both sides of the flank steak with cumin, paprika, Cholula, salt & pepper (you don’t really need to measure anything – just don’t go overboard on the salt because the Cholula contains salt as well).
  • Finely chop the chipotle pepper and add it to a small bowl with the sour cream. Add the adobo sauce and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste. If it’s too spicy for your taste, add more sour cream until it’s perfect. Set aside.
  • Grill the flank steak until a nice medium rare, about 6-8 minutes per side. Let rest for a few minutes, then slice thinly against the grain. Transfer slices to a serving bowl.
  • Right before eating, put the tortillas on the grill to warm them, just 1 minute or less per side. Transfer tortillas to your plates and pile on the sliced flank steak, a spoonful of the chipotle sour cream, guacamole, chopped red onion, and some queso fresco. Enjoy with cilantro-lime rice!

Stout & Cheddar Meatloaf

Everyone has their favorite meatloaf recipe. It’s one of those classic American comfort foods that doesn’t photograph particularly well, but definitely deserves a place in a food blog. Every family adds their own special touch, like this Asian Meatloaf with a Sweet & Spicy Glaze that Dustin and I came up with last year, inspired by our time in Japan. There are so many possible combinations of ground meats, add-ins, and glazes that this Create Your Own Meatloaf Tool on Fine Cooking’s website is pretty awesome if you’re looking for inspiration on how to add a twist to this comfort food classic.

Instead of the usual corned beef & cabbage this year, we ate this delicious meatloaf that was infused with Irish cheddar and Stout, and then wrapped in bacon. It was a little more time consuming than we thought it would be, but because it was a holiday, we felt it was worth the effort. Instead of beef & veal, we used a combination of beef & lamb (a nod to another comfort food favorite, lamb and Guinness stew). We also formed two smaller meatloaves, and baked them side by side, instead of one large one that the recipe suggests.

Stout & Cheddar Meatloaf

(Slightly adapted from Fine Cooking)

2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup small-diced carrots
1/2 cup small-diced celery
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup stout beer, such as Guinness (we used a local Stout called Dark Knight from Santa Cruz Ale Works)
4 oz. medium-coarse white bread, such as Italian or French, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 2-1/2 cups)
1 cup whole milk
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground lamb
2 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Irish White Cheddar (or regular domestic cheddar)
1/4 cup dried mushrooms, re-hydrated in hot water and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
10 oz. sliced bacon (about 9 strips)

  • Heat 2 TBS. of the oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic, stirring frequently, until softened and just beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Add the stout, and simmer briskly, until almost dry, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool until warm.
  • In a shallow dish that holds it in a single layer, soak the bread in the milk, flipping once, until soggy but not falling apart, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the coarseness and freshness of the bread. Lightly squeeze a handful of bread at a time to remove some of the milk (it should be wet but not drenched). Finely chop and add to the bowl with the vegetable mixture.
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
  • Add the beef, lamb and eggs to the onion mixture. Scatter the Cheddar, re-hydrated mushrooms, and parsley over the meat, and then sprinkle with the Worcestershire, 2-1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Use your hands to gently mix all the ingredients until just combined; try not to compact the mixture as you do this.
  • Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment. Form 2 rectangular blocks (it will become loaf-shaped as it cooks) with the meatloaf mixture and place side by side on the pan. Finish by draping each one with slightly overlapping strips of bacon, tucking the ends under the loaves.
  • Bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F in the center of the meatloaf, 40 to 55 minutes.
  • Broil the meatloaf about 6 inches from the broiler element until the bacon is brown and crisped, about 3 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board or serving platter with a large spatula and cut into 3/4- to 1-inch-thick slices.

While we were busy making the meatloaf, Levi was busy with his new hobby, opening kitchen drawers 🙂

Ultimate Sriracha Burger

If you go through the Rooster Sauce bottle as often as we do, then you probably know that they recently came out with a Sriracha Cookbook, and in it you will find a variety of recipes ranging from “Srirachili con carne” & bacon-Sriracha cornbread to peach-Sriracha sorbet. This stuff is versatile!  (Photo from Amazon.com)

They weren’t kidding about this Ultimate Sriracha Burger (don’t be turned off by the heart attack warning that prefaces the recipe in the book). This thing was intense. We planned a special “Sriracha dinner night” with our friends because this burger definitely warranted company! Let me break it down for you – a buttery broiche bun, grilled grass-fed beef patty seasoned with Sriracha and soy sauce, bacon, caramelized onions (caramelized in the bacon fat!! yum!), nutty swiss cheese, peppery arugula, tomato, and a (not so) secret (anymore) sauce of tangy blue cheese dressing mixed with Sriracha. Good luck getting your mouth around it, but when you do, the flavors come together brilliantly. The Sriracha really packs a punch, but not an overwhelming punch. The extra “secret sauce” just cries out for sweet potato fries to be dipped into it, which is just what we did!

I can’t believe the weather we had last weekend. Here we were in February, grilling burgers in the backyard on Superbowl Sunday, wearing shorts and flip flops, while so much of the country is blanketed in snow! It seems unfair, but we embraced it. Earlier in the day we picked up a growler of Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Amber – a refreshing match for these zesty burgers.

Ultimate Sriracha Burger

(Adapted from The Sriracha Cookbook; Makes 4 burgers with extra “special sauce”)

1 1/2 lbs. ground grass-fed chuck
2 TBS. soy sauce
5 TBS. Sriracha, divided
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 slices thick cut bacon
1 large sweet onion
3/4 cup blue cheese dressing
4 brioche buns
4 thick slices Swiss cheese
1 tomato, sliced
several handfuls of arugula

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, soy sauce, 2 1/2 TBS. of the Sriracha, and the pepper. Be careful not to overmix. Form the mixture into 4 patties, and set aside, on a parchment-lined plate, covered, in the refrigerator.
  • Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium high heat.In a medium frying pan over medium-low heat, cook the bacon, turning as necessary. While the bacon is cooking, peel and quarter the onions. Cut each section into 1/4-inch slices. Once the bacon is cooked through and slightly crispy, remove the slices from the pan, cut each in half crosswise, and drain onto paper towels, reserving the remaining bacon fat in the pan. Cook the sliced onions in the bacon fat over medium-low heat until they caramelize, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Grill the burgers, turning once, 4 to 41/2 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer registers 130° to 135°F for medium-rare.
  • While the burgers are cooking, combine the blue cheese dressing with the remaining 2 1/2 TBS. Sriracha in a small bowl.
  • Lightly toast the buns on the grill during the last minute of cooking time.
  • Assemble the ultimate burger! Spread the blue cheese mixture on both halves of each hamburger bun. Stack a burger patty, slice of swiss cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, slice of tomato, and a small handful of arugula between each hamburger bun. Devour (not saying it’s easy)!

Asian Meatloaf with a Sweet & Spicy Glaze

I have to admit I was more the souf chef for this one. Dustin comes up with the greatest recipes. I’m proud to have a husband who enjoys being in the kitchen! I had an idea a few weeks ago about making some sort of Asian flavored burger. He was thinking along the lines of meat loaf (which we’ve never made before). So we combined the two and the result was one of the best dinners we’ve had in a while (though the spicy pork tenderloin on Sunday was pretty hard to beat). You can change this recipe any way you like – try adding shredded carrot or chopped water chestnuts, or anything else you desire. We used ground pork and beef, but you could also sub turkey or chicken. Steamed rice seemed like the natural accompaniment, and since the oven was already on for the meatloaf, we roasted some asparagus that I tossed with sesame oil and chili flakes.

For the Meatloaf:

2 TBS. red miso, dissolved in a little water to form a paste, divided
1/2 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 egg
4 green onions, white & green parts chopped
1/2 cup chopped shitake mushrooms (we used baby shitake mushrooms)
a thumbnail-sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS. soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
a squeeze of honey
1 1/2 tsp. mirin
1 tsp. brown sugar

Simply Asparagus

For the Glaze:

1 TBS. chili paste (such as Sambal Oelek)
squeeze of honey
squeeze of hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha)
1/2 tsp. brown sugar

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a little bowl, combine the red miso and a little water to form a paste. Set aside.
    • In a large bowl, combine the ground meats, breadcrumbs, egg, green onion, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, and 1 TBS. of the miso paste. Mix with your hands until combined.
    • In the same little bowl as the remaining miso paste, add the soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, honey, mirin, and brown sugar. Mix well. Spoon this mixture a little at a time into the meat mixture, and use your hands to incorporate it in. Reserve about a spoonful of sauce in the bottom of the bowl to make the glaze.
    • Shape the meat-mixture into a loaf-shape on a greased baking sheet.
    • To the bowl with the reserved spoonful of sauce, add the chili paste, honey, hot chili sauce, and brown sugar. Stir to combine. Spoon on top of the meatloaf.
    • Bake the meatloaf for about 45 minutes or until done. If making a side of roasted asparagus, toss the asparagus on another baking sheet with a drizzle of sesame oil, a sprinkling of chili flakes, and some salt & pepper. Put in the oven for the last 10-12 minutes of baking time.
    • Serve with steamed rice. Serves 2.

    Egg-Noodles with Green Garlic, Chiles, Cilantro & Steak

    Dustin thought up this comforting dish using my leftover steak from dinner the night before at Cafe Cruz, where I conquered the delicious (and unwieldy) open-faced “Bistro Steak Sandwich” – a piece of garlic bread, topped with a perfectly medium rare steak, and finished off with a handful of thin, crispy onion rings. Well, I should say I conquered the garlic bread and the onion rings, because there was a lot of steak left over! Lucky for us, leftover steak is great for throwing into recipes! We also had some lovely green garlic to use from my family’s Two Small Farms CSA box. Green garlic looks like green onions, and you can chop it up as such and use in any recipe where you’d use regular garlic. It has a more subtle garlic flavor, which worked really well in this simple, olive oil-based pasta dish!

    Egg-Noodles with Green Garlic, Chiles, Cilantro & Steak :

    2 “nests” of egg noodles (about 1/2 lb. total)
    3 TBS. extra virgin olive oil
    1 TBS. butter
    1 stock of green garlic, white and green parts chopped (remove the outer layer of the stock if it seems too tough)
    2 canned or fresh mild green chiles, chopped
    a handful of cilantro, chopped
    salt & pepper
    leftover steak, cut into bite-sized pieces

    • Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet until butter melts.
    • Add the green garlic and saute for a few minutes until tender, about 3 minutes.
    • Add the green chiles and cilantro and saute for a few more minutes.
    • Meanwhile, in boiling salted water, cook the egg noodles according to package directions and drain.
    • Add the steak to the skillet and stir until heated through. Season with salt & pepper.
    • Pour the drained noodles into the skillet and stir to coat with oil and combine with the other ingredients. Divide between two bowls and enjoy!

    Flank Steak with Arugula Pesto & Roasted Fingering Potatoes

    On the eve of St. Patrick’s day I inadvertently made a lovely green pesto as an accompaniment for pan-fried flank steak, roasted fingerings, and a salad with avocado and mushrooms. Using arugula for the pesto gave it a nice spicy edge; so easy to make and delicious on many things! Dustin made a creamy lime dressing to go on our salad – he mixed a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise with the juice of a lime, a tiny splash of cream, and salt & pepper to taste. A great weeknight meal.

    Flank Steak with Arugula Pesto & Roasted Fingerling Potatoes:

    a few heaping handfuls of fingerling potatoes
    a couple handfuls of arugula
    a handful of pine nuts, toasted

    3 cloves of garlic

    a handful of grated Parmesan cheese

    juice from 1 small lime

    olive oil (a few Tablespoons)

    1 to 1 &
    1/2 pounds flank steak

    salt & pepper

    • Preheat oven to 375. Rinse any dirt off the potatoes, pat them dry, and place on a rimmed baking sheet with a couple drizzles of olive oil, salt & pepper. We threw some garlic cloves in there too for good measure. Who doesn’t love roasted garlic!? Roast until potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork, about 15-20 minutes.
    • Meanwhile, prepare the pesto by placing the arugula, pine nuts, 1 clove of the garlic, cheese, and lime juice in a food processor. Process for a few seconds until combined. While processor is running, pour in a light steady stream of olive oil until the consistency is how you like it. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Transfer pesto to a small bowl and set aside (or refrigerate) while you make the steak.
    • Season the flank steak on both sides with paprika and salt & pepper. Mince the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and press into the meat. Heat some olive oil in a skillet until hot. The steak should sizzle nicely when it meets the skillet. Cook until desired doneness, depending on the thickness of your steak (medium rare took about 7-9 minutes for us, flipping several times).

    • Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest for several minutes. Slice the steak and put onto 2 plates.

    • Place the roasted potatoes on the plate and spoon some pesto over the steak and/or the potatoes. Enjoy with a nice Syrah. We like to drink local:

      Piroshki — Yippee!

      Last weekend my family and I made piroshki–a recipe that’s been passed down from my Mom’s Russian side of the family. My brother and I have always loved making this meal. It generally takes 3 people. Mom was always the “roller,” rolling the dough to the perfect thin, oval shape. One of us was the “filler,” placing a few spoonfuls of meat-and-egg filling on the flattened dough, and the other was the “pincher,” making sure the piroshki was ready to hit the oil. Of course when we were small, our Mom handled the frying. Even today we still get really excited about making and eating piroshki. And there is no better accompaniment than slathering on some dijon mustard. We also made a simple roasted beet salad dressed with some olive oil, vinegar, and mustard.

      Last but not least, we enjoyed some of my brother Lars’ home-brewed beer with this meal! It was his first batch and it came out extraordinarily tasty – a medium bodied light amber ale, with a balanced, moderate hop bitterness. Scroll down for the picture if you’re thirsty now.

      For the Piroshki Dough:

      1 cup warm milk
      1/4 lb. melted butter
      2 eggs
      2 packages yeast
      1/2 tsp. salt

      Melt the butter. Add the milk and stir together. When the mixture has cooled down a bit, add the yeast. Next add the eggs and salt and combine. Lastly, add flour a cup at a time until the dough reaches a good consistency. Knead on floured surface, form into a ball, and place in a bowl. Cover with a towel. Let rise once.

      For the Filling:

      *The measurements aren’t particularly precise, just like any trusted family recipe that’s been passed down. Taste and adjust to your liking:

      ground beef
      garlic, minced
      dash of soy sauce
      dash of Worcestershire sauce
      hard boiled eggs, chopped
      green onion, chopped
      fresh parsley, chopped
      salt & pepper

      In a large skillet, brown the ground beef. Add the garlic, and the remaining ingredients and stir together. Allow to cool.

      When the dough has risen, grab a piece and roll it so it’s a thin oval like this.
      Spoon some of the filling down the center of the oval. (Don’t over-stuff or you won’t be able to pinch it closed).

      Bring both sides of the oval up and pinch together, enclosing the filling.

      Heat oil in fryer to 350 degrees.

      In batches, fry the piroshki. Tongs are needed to keep them from rolling around.

      Flip piroshki when they’re golden on one side, and do the same on the other side.

      Drain on paper towels.

      Serve with dijon mustard, beet salad, and a pint of cold beer.

      Mmm … gotta love those Russian roots …

      Open-faced Chipotle Cheese Steak Sandwiches w/ Avocado, Tomato and Red Onion

      Sometimes just a single store bought ingredient can inspire an entire meal. That was the case here. My parents sent us a jar of chipotle cheese dip in our last package, and I jumped right on it because I have a weakness for cheese — especially the kind in a jar that you eat warm with chips. This stuff looked a little too sophisticated for just chips, so we decided to smother steak sandwiches with it, and what a great idea it was, though extremely messy! And thanks to import produce from warmer countries, we found some really delicious avocados and tomatoes, even in February; perfect for this side salad, lightly dressed with lime juice. Next time a jar of cheese (preferably seasoned with chipotle) entices you, try this!

      1/2 a baguette, sliced lengthwise
      10 strips of sirloin steak, thinly sliced
      1 lime, juice + zest
      chilli powder, about 1 tsp.
      cumin, about 1/2 tsp.
      1 jar of chipotle cheese dip, such as Xochitl
      1 avocado, sliced
      1 large tomato, sliced
      1/2 a red onion, sliced
      salt pepper
      a drizzle of olive oil

      • Season the steak strips with the salt, pepper, cumin, chilli powder and the zest of a lime. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes.
      • Heat your pan or BBQ and cook the steak to your desired doneness.
      • Toast the baguette halves. Top them with the sizzling steak.
      • Heat up the cheese dip for about 1 minute in the microwave or in a small saucepan. Top the steak with the cheese.
      • Serve alongside the sliced avocado, tomato and red onion, seasoned with salt & pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and a few squeezes of fresh lime juice.

        Pan-Fried Steaks with Sautéed Mushrooms & Caramelized Cauliflower

        We sure miss having a BBQ available to us, but meals like this can tide us over until then. A note on steaks: The selection at our supermarket is a little sparse. We got lucky with these petite fillets on this day. There are only a few packages of them available, so you never know what you’re doing to get if you go shopping after 5pm. Use whatever floats your boat. On the topic of cauliflower, after reading about it in February’s Bon Appetit, I was inspired to take advantage of this nutritious, winter veggie by eating it with generous amounts of garlic and Parmesan cheese.

        For the Steaks with Mushrooms:

        2 steaks of your choice
        salt & pepper
        1 TBS. of olive oil
        a generous handful of button mushrooms, sliced
        1 clove of garlic, chopped

        • Season steaks with salt & pepper.
        • Put enough olive oil in pan to barely coat the bottom and heat over medium high heat. When hot, add the steaks and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for 3 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of your steaks, of course).
        • Remove steaks from pan and cover with foil to keep warm. Set aside.
        • Add the garlic to the same pan and saute for 1 minute.
        • Add the chopped mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally until they look beautiful to you. Season with salt & pepper. Top your steaks with the mushrooms and serve with cauliflower on the side.

          For the Cauliflower:

          1 head of cauliflower
          1 clove of garlic, chopped
          a pinch or more of crushed red pepper
          a drizzle of olive oil
          1 TBS. or less of butter

          a palmful of grated Parmesan cheese

          • Remove the leaves and stalk of the cauliflower, then cut the florets into similar-sized pieces.
          • Heat a drizzle of olive oil and a little butter in a pan over medium high heat. When the butter foams, add the garlic, crushed red pepper, and cauliflower and stir to combine.
          • Leave the cauliflower in a single layer in the pan for about 3-4 minutes or until the bottom of the cauliflower begins to caramelize. Stir again and let cook for another few minutes.
          • Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

            Feliz Navidad: Mexican Pizzas and Christmas Tree Decorating

            There’s nothing tricky about making these. Eating something far different from stuffing and mashed potatoes was the goal here. At home my Mom makes turkey enchiladas the day after Thanksgiving, and we eat them in the same room as our decorated Christmas tree that we’d cut down earlier that day. Since we couldn’t find a Thanksgiving turkey in Japan, I thought we should still eat something “Mexican,” so as not to completely break tradition. This recipe makes two Mexican pizzas, and they’re way better than the ones you get at Taco Bell (not to damn them with faint praise).

            The sauce we made for our Mexican pizzas was similar to our enchilada sauce recipe, but without the tomatoes.

            Mexican Pizzas

            Vegetable oil (2 TBS. + more for frying the tortillas)
            Chili powder
            Garlic Powder
            Onion Powder
            Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
            a couple splashes of chicken broth (or water)
            4 corn or flour tortillas
            1 lb. ground beef (or turkey)
            1 package taco seasoning (or your favorite seasoning blend)
            1 14-oz. can refried beans
            Toppings: Shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, diced onions, chopped lettuce,  sour cream

            • Heat about 2 TBS. of vegetable oil in a pan. Then add 1 TBS. of flour and a bunch of spices — lots of chili powder (add to taste), a few shakes of cumin, garlic powder, dried onion, salt and pepper — and whisk everything together until the sauce thickens and is fragrant. Add a little chicken broth (or you could use water) to lighten it up. Taste and adjust seasonings until it’s perfect for you. Set aside. (You can also use your favorite store-bought enchilada sauce if prefer to make this meal even easier!)
            • Preheat your broiler.
            • Fry corn or flour tortillas in vegetable oil on both sides until crispy. Drain on paper towels and place two of them on a baking sheet in a single layer.
            • Brown 1 lb. of ground beef in a pan and add water and taco seasoning (or your own blend) according to package directions. While it’s simmering, heat up a can of refried beans.
            • Spread a thin layer of beans on top of each tortilla on your baking sheet. Top with some taco meat (you won’t need all of it – save for another use). Cover with your remaining 2 tortillas and liberally spoon the enchilada sauce on top of the two Mexican pizzas. Sprinkle with lots of shredded cheese, fresh tomatoes and chopped onions.
            • Broil for a few minutes, until the cheese is melted and lovely. Slice your Mexican pizzas into quarters. Before serving, scatter some chopped lettuce on top, and a dollop of sour cream (if desired).

            Arius enjoyed the process of stringing lights on the tree.

            And here’s the finished product. Not too bad for a fake tree, huh?