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.

Green Bean Casserole, Revamped

Green bean casserole never made an appearance on our Thanksgiving table when I was growing up. It was as foreign to me as cranberry sauce out of a can. One night when I was in college (because I was curious what the fuss was all about), my roommate and I made green bean casserole, following the recipe on the french fried onions can. It tasted pretty good – but what doesn’t taste good when you’re a college student, you’re hungry, it’s late at night, and you need an excuse to take a break from studying macro-economics (which I never passed, sadly, but that’s a whole different story). Anyway, we thought that the best part of the casserole was the french fried onions on top, but other than that, it was nothing to write home about …

… until today, when I find myself writing about green bean casserole because it’s recipe swap time again.  The theme was Thanksgiving side dishes, and I just so happened to get a variation of green bean casserole from Nichole of The Cookaholic Wife! I did something a little different this time with the swap. Instead of following the recipe to a T, I was inspired by the recipe I was given, particularly the introduction where Nichole shared that she isn’t a huge fan of cream of mushroom soup in a green bean casserole, but might consider adding fresh mushrooms instead. What a great idea! Especially since we’re at the peak of wild mushroom season. I love the orange-y hue of chanterelles, as well as their earthy, umami flavor, and knew they would be the perfect thing to add to this casserole.

Instead of using regular green beans, we had these beautiful romano beans from a local farm that inspired me to take the casserole in a slightly different direction. These beans, a far cry from the canned or frozen beans that often end up in a casserole, didn’t want to compete with a {albeit delicious} mass of cheese. So, instead of using the cheddar & provolone in the original recipe, I decided that a sprinkling of grated Pecorino Romano cheese was a nice modest addition to the casserole, adding a little cheesy taste without making the dish too heavy, and allowing the green beans to really shine through in all their local, organic glory. And the french fried onions? Well, of course we had to keep those. How often do you have a good excuse to buy a can of french fried onions (unless you’re in college)? The crunchy, golden brown topping is a nod to the traditional casserole, while what’s underneath celebrates the bounty of the season.

I didn’t really measure anything while making this casserole, but wrote the recipe in such a way that you can easily adapt it, depending on how many green beans and chanterelles you have.

Green Bean Casserole, Revamped

(Adapted and inspired by The Cookaholic Wife)

Romano Beans (or regular green beans), washed, trimmed, and cut into bite-sized pieces
Chanterelle Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
minced garlic
dry white wine or sherry
heavy cream
fresh rosemary, chopped
fresh sage, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
Pecorino Romao cheese, grated
French fried onions

  • Blanch the cut green beans in boiling water for several minutes (romano beans are longer and wider than regular green beans so will take longer), until almost tender. Drain and set aside.
  • Add some butter and a drizzle of olive oil to a pan over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, add the sliced chanterelle mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to turn golden-brown and the mushroom liquid (if any) has evaporated, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add a couple splashes of white wine (or sherry) and cook, stirring, until it evaporates. Add a good amount of cream to the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until it has reduced slightly and has nicely coated the mushrooms. Stir in fresh sage and rosemary. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the blanched beans to the pan with the mushrooms and stir so that the beans are evenly coated with the cream sauce. Pour everything into a baking pan. Top with a thin layer of grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and then a nice generous layer of french fried onions. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until heated through and top is golden brown. Cover with foil for the last 10 minutes of baking if the top is browning too quickly.

Oven-Fried Onion Rings

If you know me well, you know that I can’t turn down an order of onion rings. If there is an option to substitute onion rings for fries on a menu, I’m there. So imagine how pleased I was when I came across this recipe for a baked version of my favorite fried-food guilty pleasure. What made me want to try these was the breading. I was really intrigued by the combination of kettle chips and saltine crackers. The kettle chips give the onion rings that distinct deep-fried taste, and the saltines absorb some of the oil so that you get a nice crispy coating with just the right amount of salt. I was in heaven. In fact, I didn’t even feel the need to dip these rings into ketchup because they tasted so good on their own.

Oven-Fried Onion Rings

(From Pink Parsley; Originally from Cook’s Illustrated, Summer Entertaining 2010)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
salt and black pepper
30 saltine crackers
4 cups kettle-cooked potato chips
2 large yellow onions
6 TBS. vegetable oil

  • Adjust your oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions, and preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Get out 3 shallow baking dishes. In the first one, spread 1/4 cup of the flour. In the second, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, remaining 1/4 cup flour, cayenne, paprika, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.
  • Pulse the chips and the saltines in a food processor until finely ground. Spread the crumbs in the third baking dish.
  • Slice the onions into 1/2-inch thick rounds.  Separate the rings. Set aside any rings smaller than 2 inches in diameter for another use.
  • Pour 3 TBS. of oil onto each of 2 rimmed baking sheets (I lined them with foil first, for easier clean-up later).  Place the sheets in the oven and heat until just smoking, about 8 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prep the onion rings. Working with 1 at a time, dredge in the flour, shaking off excess. Dip the rings in the buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into the dish (I took Josie of Pink Parsley’s advice and used a fork for this step). Drop the rings in the crumb mixture and turn them to coat evenly. Transfer rings to a large platter or baking sheet.
  • Carefully remove the baking sheets from the oven and tilt them to coat evenly with oil. Arrange the onions in a single layer on the baking sheets.  Bake, flipping the onion rings and switching and rotating the position of the baking sheets halfway through baking, until golden-brown on both sides, about 15 minutes.  Briefly drain the onion rings on paper towels before serving.

My love for onion rings has been exemplified in the fact that I’ve been focusing on them instead of the other things that were on the dinner table that evening. But that doesn’t mean that they were not worthy of mention. Quite the opposite! El Salchichero recently made these English pea sausages that we just had to try. They were delicious. We loved that the peas were left whole throughout the sausage. The addition of mint added a nice, bright flavor.

I also made an Asian-inspired slaw starring mei qing choi instead of the usual cabbage. Normally, we just halve mei qing choy and grill it (as we do with bok choy), but I wanted to do something a little different this time. I chopped it raw, added shavings of purple carrot, as well as slices of radish, chopped green garlic, and a little chopped fresh basil. I dressed it with rice vinegar, a tiny bit of sesame oil, a splash of soy sauce, and salt & pepper to taste.

It was nice having a colorful, flavorful, veggie-packed slaw to eat alongside the onion rings and grilled sausages. Even though the onion rings were baked, the slaw took away any remaining guilt 🙂

Spiced Roast Chicken Thighs & Browned Onion Kugel

I feel like I’ve been exposed to a variety of cuisines, from Ethiopian stew in Berkeley, California, to Sri Lankan fare in downtown Osaka, and a fiery Korean chicken dish straight from the source in Seoul. But it wasn’t until I was given browned onion Kugel as my side dish for the Recipe Swap this week that I realized I’d been missing out on the wide range of Jewish dishes out there! As I was researching Kugel (which seemed like a good place to start, since I didn’t even know how to pronounce it, let alone what was in it), I learned that there are both sweet and savory versions of this noodle pudding, and they involve egg noodles (or potatoes or Matzah), sour cream, cottage cheese, and eggs.  Even Smitten Kitchen has a Kugel recipe on her blog. Clearly, I’ve been out of the loop (or just not Jewish)! Once I did my research, I couldn’t stop thinking about my side dish. It sounded so comforting to me and I couldn’t wait to try it.

But what do you serve with Kugel? I had no idea (Jewish friends, please weigh in here!), although I was smart enough to know that pork was not the right answer, nor was something involving bacon. We decided on a simple roasted chicken dish (that I found it on Elly Says Opa, adapted from Gourmet), and some roasted broccoli. Not exactly kosher, so I hope it doesn’t offend someone’s Jewish Grandmother. Actually, what I really want now is for someone’s Jewish Grandmother to cook me a traditional Jewish meal. My first taste of Kugel was so good, I would love to experience more (including the sweet variety) and expand my cuisine repertoire to include that of the Jewish tradition.

This recipe, coincidentally, came from the same blog as my last Recipe Swap recipe, Happy Insides. The Kugel is baked in muffin tins, rather than the traditional casserole dish, and includes caramelized onions and poppy seeds. We’ll definitely be making this recipe again. The only changes we made were halving it (the recipe below makes 12 side-dish servings) and using ricotta cheese in place of cottage cheese. Thanks again, Cassie & Jason, for introducing us to something new!

Browned Onion Kugel

(From Happy Insides, originally from Epicurious)

6 oz. egg noodles
1 stick unsalted butter
3 cups chopped onions (2 large)
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 1/4 cups cottage cheese (or ricotta cheese)
1 TBS. poppy seeds
4 large eggs
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Cook egg noodles in boiling, salted water until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain in colander, rinse with cool water, and drain well.
  • Melt the butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat.  Brush the muffin cups with some of the butter.  Add the onions to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 20 minutes.
  • Transfer onions to a large bowl, and stir in noodles, sour cream, cottage cheese (or ricotta), and poppy seeds. Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the eggs to the noodle mixture as well. Stir to combine.
  • Divide mixture among muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, about 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 12 side-dish servings, or 6-8 main course servings.

Spiced Roast Chicken Thighs

(Adapted from the April 2000 issue of Gourmet)

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 TBS. canola oil, divided*
3 TBS. red wine (or broth)

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Pat the chicken dry. Mix together the spices and 1/2 TBS. of canola oil.  Rub all over the chicken.
  • Heat the remaining oil in a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over moderate heat until hot but not smoking.  Brown chicken on both sides, about 5 minutes.
  • Transfer skillet to oven and continue to cook, skin-side up, until done, about 12-18 minutes.
  • Remove chicken and place skillet on stove-top over high heat.  Deglaze pan with wine or broth, scraping up browned bits, and pour juices over chicken. Serves 2.

* So what made this chicken extra-delectable was that we browned the chicken thighs in duck fat. Yes, you read that right. Last weekend we made some amazing tea-smoked duck (to-be-blogged-about soon!) and the next day we fried some of the leftover skin to make duck cracklings. That rendered fat was was used in this chicken. Oh my gosh. So good.

Asparagus, Fried Eggs & Parmesan with Farro Pilaf

Spring is here!

I love it when bundles of thin, tender asparagus appear at the store, which sounds funny now because I didn’t care for asparagus until just a few years ago. Apparently I can’t get enough of it this week because just last Saturday we were eating at our favorite neighborhood restaurant La Posta, where I had the most intriguing salad: crisp asparagus spears with thinly sliced kumquats and watermelon radishes, pistachios, mint leaves, and a sherry-shallot vinaigrette; a combination I never would have put together in my own head, but was wonderful, especially with the mint – it brought little surprise bursts of freshness in each bite and I was reminded that it’s spring! Which means the baby will be here in like 4 weeks … ahhh!!  crazy!!

Anyway, what was I saying?  Oh yes, with asparagus still on the brain, we decided to enjoy it on Monday night as well, this time with one of my favorite accompaniments – fried eggs. A homegrown meyer lemon brought some additional brightness to this dish – half of which was squeezed over the plated asparagus, and the other half tossed with some arugula on the side. The farro, which I had recently discovered last Easter and raved about in this salad, made a nice pilaf, with its chewy texture and nutty flavor. We also had some garlic toast on the side – we buttered 2 slices of sourdough and added some chopped garlic, then broiled until bubbly and golden. We’re pretty sure if you make this for dinner sometime this week, you’ll be happy you did.

Asparagus, Fried Eggs & Parmesan with Farro Pilaf

1 cup farro
1 TBS. butter
1 1/2 cups broth
1 bunch of asparagus
2 eggs
a handful of grated Parmesan cheese
1 meyer lemon (or regular lemon)
a couple handfuls of arugula
olive oil
salt & pepper

  • In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, heat the butter over medium high heat until it foams. Add the farro and stir until coated with butter and just beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes. It will also smell nice and toasty. Add the broth. Cover, and simmer until farro is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 30-35 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, wash the asparagus and trim the ends: Hold the asparagus toward the tough end and bend. The place where the spear snaps will separate the tender part from the tough part.
  • Prepare a bowl of ice water and bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the asparagus in boiling water for just a minute or two. Immediately remove and place in ice water to stop the cooking. Remove asparagus from the water, dry, and divide between two plates. Squeeze half a meyer lemon over the plated asparagus and season with some salt & pepper.
  • In a frying pan, fry 2 eggs in some butter or olive oil so they’re just how you like them (but we’re partial to a runny yolk). Season the tops of eggs with some salt & pepper. Transfer fried eggs to the plates, on top of the asparagus. Sprinkle some Parmesan on top.
  • Toss some arugula with the other half of the meyer lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, and a little salt & pepper. Add the arugula salad and the farro pilaf to the plates and enjoy a nice, spring meal!

Happy Easter! Part 2: Lemony Couscous with Peas, Mint, and Pea Shoots

This may have been another Easter side dish, but my fork kept gravitating to it on my plate, as if it were the main dish. We dressed couscous up for spring with peas, cumin seeds (ground in a mortar and pestle), fresh mint from the garden, refreshing pea shoots (I love how much delicate pea flavor is concentrated in the shoot), and a scattering of crunchy almonds. It would be delicious on its own for lunch, with kabobs, salmon, or ham for dinner … ok, pretty much anything! The measurements aren’t specific because depending on how much couscous you make, you add the other ingredients in proportion to that, using your own judgment.

Lemony Couscous with Peas, Mint, and Pea Shoots:

1 package of couscous
olive oil
green onion
snow peas
ground cumin seed
fresh mint, chopped
1-2 lemons
fresh or frozen peas
salt & pepper
a splash of tangerine (or orange) juice
pea shoots
almonds, roughly chopped

  • Cook the couscous according to package directions, adding some olive oil or butter along with the hot water. When it’s ready, fluff with a fork and set aside.
  • In a large serving bowl, toss in some sliced green onion, snow peas that have been cut in half, some ground cumin seed, chopped fresh mint, and the juice of a lemon.
  • Add the couscous (it’s ok if it’s still warm) to the bowl, and a few handfuls of peas. Gently combine. Taste and add more lemon juice. Season with salt & pepper. (Can be refrigeratred overnight at this point, covered).
  • Just before serving, add a splash of tangerine juice to the couscous salad and gently stir. Arrange the pea shoots around the bowl. Sprinkle some chopped almonds on top.

Couscous making its debut next to the Easter ham.

Happy Easter! Part 1: Farro Salad with Marinated Baby Artichokes

May the freshness of spring remind you of new hope, new life, and new beginnings. This Easter felt extra special because it was the first one in 3 years where we were surrounded by family and friends back in our own country. We enjoyed a feast full of fresh spring produce, ham that came from a happy (and local) TLC Ranch pig, a few ping-pong games, and of course an egg hunt or two! I’ll be posting some recipes in a few separate posts, but in this one I’ll paint the general picture and share the first of two springy salads.

Farro Salad with Marinated Baby Artichokes:

Farro is my new favorite grain. I’m glad that I recently became aware of its existence. It takes longer to cook than other grains, but its sweet, nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture in the end is worth the wait, especially in this simple salad with baby artichokes, bell pepper, rosemary and lemon. When my mom and I went shopping for Easter dinner ingredients, we were immediately attracted to some cute little artichokes. When we got home, we boiled them, pulled off the leaves until the tender ones were exposed, trimmed the stems, cut them in half lengthwise and threw them into a bowl, where they mingled with the juice of a lemon, chopped fresh garlic, olive oil and parsley overnight … resulting in the perfect DIY marinated artichokes!

We toasted the farro in some olive oil in the bottom of a heavy pot until it was fragrant and nicely coated with oil, about 3 minutes. Then we added water to the pot, brought it to a boil, and cooked the farro until tender (according to package directions, about 20 minutes). After draining the farro, it cooled on a cookie sheet for a little while. Meanwhile, we cut bell peppers into strips, chopped some green onions, and some fresh rosemary. When the farro was cool enough to touch, we poured it into a large bowl, added the marinated baby artichokes from the day before, the bell pepper, green onion, rosemary, more lemon juice to taste, and seasoned with salt.

Colorful flower pots containing spring seeds, chocolate, and other springy surprises awaited each “kid” (though most of us have grown up):

Easter is that special day on which you can keep a bowl of pastel-colored candy on the counter and eat it all day.

My brother unveiled the 3rd batch of his beer – this time an Irish Porter. We enjoyed its refreshing, complex flavor while devouring a cheese plate. Then we piled as much of this menu as we could onto our plates and ate outdoors on the deck, taking in one of the first warm days of spring:

*recipe coming soon … these are the things that I helped make this year.

Thyme Honey Glazed Ham
Grilled Salmon
Grilled Asparagus with my brother’s homemade Green Garlic Aioli
Farro Salad with Baby Artichokes
Couscous with Peas, Lemon, Mint & Pea Shoots*
Roasted Beet Salad with Pine Nuts & Goat Cheese
Mixed Greens with Edible Flowers
Francese Bread

And of course something sweet:

Pashka (a traditional Russian Easter dessert)*
Chef Panisse Almond Cake
Rhubarb Tarts with Orange Glaze*

Faith takes a moment to rest. It takes a lot of energy to beg for Easter ham.

Mustard-Green Onion Potato Salad

Spring makes me think of eating outdoors and all the food that traditionally gets piled onto a paper plate at barbecues and picnics – potato salad is one of my favorites. This is a delicious mayo-based recipe, but the real focus is on my favorite condiment, the mustard – 3 kinds in fact. And you’ll always find chopped hard boiled eggs in my potato salad, just like my mom puts in hers. However, because this was Dustin’s request for his lunches this week, I had to leave out the chopped dill pickles, my other favorite addition. Add them if you’re a fan like I am!

Mustard-Green Onion Potato Salad
(Adapted from The Food Network.com)

2 pounds red new potatoes, boiled and sliced into rounds
2 hardboiled eggs, peeled and chopped
3 green onions, white and green parts, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 handful parsley, chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 TBS. Dijon mustard
2 TBS. whole grain mustard
1 TBS. honey mustard
2 TBS. red wine vinegar
a generous pinch (or more) of chili powder
salt & pepper to taste

  • Throw the warm sliced potatoes, hard boiled eggs, green onions, garlic, and parsley in a large bowl.
    • In a smaller bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustards, vinegar, and chili powder. Taste and season with salt & pepper.
    • Pour the dressing over the potatoes and carefully mix until combined. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered with saran wrap, until serving.

    Welsh Rarebit & Roasted Broccoli

    Whether you say welsh rarebit or welsh rabbit, when Guinness Stout meets melted extra-sharp cheddar cheese, an irresistible open-faced sandwich is born. You might need a knife and a fork, but even if you tackle it with your hands, it’s well worth it and might even become your new favorite comfort food. I served this sandwich with some roasted broccoli spiked with chili flakes, because broccoli is one of those vegetables that has a great relationship with cheese. Enjoy this meal with a glass of Guinness, of course!

    Welsh Rarebit (From the January 2009 issue of Food & Wine) and Roasted Broccoli

    1 cup Guinness Stout
    1 cup heavy cream
    9 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)
    4 large egg yolks
    1 1/2 TBS. Worcestershire sauce
    2 tsp. dry mustard
    salt & freshly ground pepper
    1 sweet baguette, halved lengthwise and cut into 8 pieces, toasted
    2 small heads of broccoli
    extra virgin olive oil
    chili flakes

    • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees for the broccoli
    • In a small saucepan, boil the Guinness over high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 4 minutes.
    • Add the cream and boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 4 minutes.
    • Scrape into a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
    • Meanwhile, cut the tough stems off of the broccoli and toss the florets with olive oil, salt, pepper and chili flakes on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir with a spatula and continue roasting for 5 more minutes or just until starting to brown on the edges. Take broccoli out of the oven and set aside.
    • Turn off the oven and preheat the broiler.
    • To the Guinness-cream mixture, add the cheddar, egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.
    • Arrange the toasted baguette pieces on a large rimmed baking sheet. Spread the toasts with a 1/4-inch-thick layer of the cheddar mixture. Broil 4 inches from the heat for about 2 minutes, until the topping is bubbling and browned around the edges. Serve right away with the roasted broccoli. Serves 3-4.

    Spicy Turkey & Chickpea Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries and Kale Chips

    We loved these burgers! First you make a hummus-like concoction in the food processor, then mix it into the ground turkey, creating a very moist and flavorful burger that’s reminiscent of falafel. It’s served on a soft french roll with baby spinach leaves, red onion, Dijon mustard, and a little mayo. The idea came from the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Clean Eating, but we made some changes (as we usually do): To the chickpea mixture we added a large clove of chopped garlic, some chili powder to spice them up, and a handful of chopped fresh parsley. We opted for the chewy french roll over the whole wheat bun they recommend, but use whatever buns you have on hand! We served our burgers with some baked sweet potato fries seasoned with salt, pepper, brown sugar, and chili powder, and some kale chips — crunchy, nutty in flavor, and definitely the coolest new way to eat this veggie!

    Spicy Turkey & Chickpea Burgers
    (Adapted from Clean Eating)
    Serves 4 (or 2 with leftover patties)

    1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
    1 clove garlic, chopped
    1 tsp. ground cumin
    1/4 tsp. chili powder
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
    2 TBS. Worcestershire sauce
    3/4 lb. ground turkey
    2 TBS. olive oil
    2 sweet french rolls
    a large handful of baby spinach leaves, washed
    1/2 a red onion, sliced
    mayo & Dijon mustard

    • In a food processor, combine the first 9 ingredients (through Worcestershire sauce). Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
    • Transfer chickpea mixture to a large bowl and add the ground turkey. Mix together until well combined, then form patties (we made a total of 7 patties, about 3 inches wide and 1-1/2 inch thick).
    • Add some olive oil to a frying pan (a few times around the pan). Heat over medium high heat. When hot, fry the patties, about 4-6 minutes on each side depending on thickness of patties. You may have to cook them in 2 batches.
    • While patties are cooking, toast your rolls.
    • Assemble burgers on rolls with the spinach leaves, red onion, mayo and/or mustard. Add tomato if in season!

    Sweet Potato Fries
    Serves 2

    1 large sweet potato (we used the ones with the white flesh)
    1 TBS. olive oil
    chili powder
    brown sugar

    • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
    • Wash sweet potato and pat dry. Cut in half, then place cut side down on the cutting board. Cut each half into slices. Cut those slices in half. Repeat until fries are the shape you want!
    • Toss fries in a bowl with about 1 TBS. of olive oil, and salt, pepper, chili powder, and brown sugar (no need to measure — just sprinkle and feel it out).
    • Spread onto a baking sheet in a single layer.
    • Bake for about 15 minutes. Flip fries over with tongs, then continue baking for another 10-15 minutes. When they start to look golden and caramelized on the ends, they’re ready!

    Kale Chips

    1 bunch of red kale, washed, and stems and center ribs removed (we used red curly kale)
    1 TBS extra virgin olive oil (1 TBS. coats about 12 leaves – if you have more kale, increase olive oil as needed)
    kosher salt

    • Toss the kale in a large bowl with the olive oil, making sure all the leaves are lightly coated. Sprinkle with salt.
    • Spread kale leaves on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sometimes I need to use 2 baking sheets, depending on how big my bunch of kale is.
    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place baking sheets in the oven. After about 7 minutes, gently toss the kale on the baking sheet with tongs (and rotate the pans, if using 2). Then bake for another 7 minutes or until crisp. In the last couple minutes, really keep an eye of them. The kale leaves will wilt and feel slightly crisp when you toss them with the tongs. Also, the edges of the leaves will turn a little brown. Like popcorn, kale chips are done when they smell kind of sweet and toasty.

    ( You can also bake at a low temp (250 degrees) for about 30 minutes, like this version in Bon Appetit, but we use the above method to save time!)

    Somehow Arius always finds a way to make it into my pictures … coincidence?

    Little Roasted Pumpkins

    They make cute decorations in your office or home, but have you thought to eat them? For this festive side dish that would be perfect for Halloween or Thanksgiving, we used “Jack Be Little” pumpkins grown at Mariquita Farm in Watsonville, CA. Their flesh was so sweet and flavorful. Dressed up with butter, maple syrup, cardamom, and orange juice, they were the perfect thing to eat after a day at the pumpkin patch.

    One of these things is not like the other
    … The pumpkin on the far left is a “Sugar Pie” pumpkin. We roasted one of these as well, but the flavor wasn’t as sweet as the four Jack Be Little pumpkins.

    Roasted Jack Be Little Pumpkins:

    1 Jack Be Little Pumpkin (or Sugar Pie Pumpkin) per person
    maple syrup

    orange juice

    coarse salt & pepper

    Cut the tops off the pumpkins as you would a jack-o-lantern. Using a metal spoon, remove the seeds and scrape out the fibers. Place the pumpkins on a baking sheet or in a pie pan.

    In the bottom of each pumpkin, place a small pad of butter. Then add some maple syrup, a splash of orange juice, a sprinkle of cardamom, and some coarse salt & pepper. Put the tops back on the pumpkins.

    The pumpkins can bake in a 350 to 400 degree oven (depending on the temperature of whatever is roasting with them). Just stick them in the oven alongside your main dish. We baked ours at 400 degrees next to a chicken. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the pumpkins slides through easily. Remove the pumpkin tops just before eating and scoop out the tasty flesh with a spoon!

    We enjoyed our Jack Be Little pumpkins with a roasted chicken, and sautéed brussel sprouts that we bought at the pumpkin patch in Davenport.

    Note: If you happen to have leftover pumpkins, scoop out the seasoned flesh and use it in your favorite fall baked goods in place of canned pumpkin (or you can freeze it for later).

    Impromptu Baked Beans for 4th of July

    Gaijin means “foreign person.” It’s not the most respectful term in Japanese, but it’s not degrading either. It simply means you are not Japanese, but for some reason you are here in Japan. So what do gaijin do on 4th of July? Well, we don’t have BBQs because people only do that during cherry blossom season. And we don’t go to parades or wear red, white, and blue (because we stand out enough already), but we do gather everything we can to make a meal that resembles the one that we share with friends and family back home. And we do light sparklers and other kinds of firecrackers (called hanabi) because unlike some counties in California, they’re perfectly legal and available everywhere.

    Playing with fire – what Japanese children (and gaijin) do during the summertime.

    Our main dish was hotdogs. Sounds easy enough. But Japanese hotdogs are usually cocktail sized, or taste more like breakfast sausages. The closest thing to an Oscar Meyer or a Ballpark are sold with sticks in them (this is how they’re sold at Japanese festivals with really spicy mustard). So we removed the sticks, heated them in a hot pan, and devoured them with lots of mustard, chopped onions, and tomatoes.

    I wanted to make some sweet, smoky baked beans to go with our hotdogs, so this is the recipe that I came up (minus the bacon, because for some reason they discontinued it in our supermarket recently, along with butter. There seems to be a shortage going on. WTF!?)

    Baked Beans

    1 can white cannellini beans, drained
    1 tsp. olive oil
    1 clove garlic, minced

    1/4 of a white onion, diced

    BBQ sauce (twice around the pan, if you’re Rachael Ray)

    Worcestershire sauce (once around the pan)

    2 TBS. molassas

    2 TBS. brown sugar

    2 squeezes of ketchup

    1 tsp. Dijon mustard

    salt & pepper to taste

    • Drain the beans and set aside.
    • Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until color just begins to change.
    • Add the beans, followed by all the other ingredients. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjusting seasonings if necessary.

      We also ate chips and habanero salsa, cornbread and watermelon! Usually we can’t find cornmeal here, but last week one of my students brought me a package of cornbread mix from Costco, so I happily accepted it!

      So that’s what these gaijin did on Independence Day! God Bless America, but God Bless Japan too!! 🙂

      Crispy, Crunchy, Garlic-Roasted Tomatoes

      So if you haven’t noticed, panko breadcrumbs are one of our favorite ingredients. In this recipe they are sautéed with garlic and parsley and make a lovely crispy topping for baked tomatoes. Yes please! Try this side dish with chicken, fish, whatever. It comes (once again) from the 12 Best Foods Cookbook, but we of course used panko breadcrumbs instead, and cut the serving size down a bit.

      2 TBS. olive oil, divided + more for greasing pan
      1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
      3 large plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
      1 clove garlic, finely chopped
      1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
      a handful of chopped parsley
      freshly ground black peppe

      • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (200 C). Brush a square baking dish with oil (or coat it with cooking spray).
      • Salt the cut sides of the tomatoes with half the salt. Set them aside.
      • Heat 1 TBS. olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange tomatoes in 1 layer, cut side down, in the pan and cook until lightly browned, 3 minutes. Put the tomatoes cut side up in the prepared baking dish. If the skillet is burnt, wipe it out.
      • Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 TBS. oil. Sauté the garlic until it starts to turn color, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix in the breadcrumbs, parsley, the remaining salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Sprinkle the seasoned breadcrumbs over the tomatoes.
      • Bake the tomatoes uncovered for 10 minutes, until the breadcrumb topping is browned. Cool 20 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

        Chipotle Tomato Rice

        Looking for the perfect side dish for tacos or other Mexican fare? So was I. So I found this recipe for Mexican Red Beans & Rice, but omitted the beans because I didn’t have them. I also added some more chipotle pepper than called for to make it extra smokin.’ Adapted from the 12 Best Foods Cookbook.

        1 cup cooked rice
        1 TBS. canola oil

        half a white onion, chopped
        1 clove of garlic, chopped

        1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (or 1/2 tsp. chipotle powder)

        1/2 tsp. dried oregano

        half of a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, with liquid

        salt & pepper to taste
        chopped cilantro, for garnish

        • Prepare the rice by combining 1/3 cup uncooked rice with 1 cup of water in a rice cooker or in a sauce pan (adjust ratio according to type of rice and/or directions for rice cooker). When done, set aside.
        • In a frying pan, heat the canola oil over medium high heat. Cook the onion until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
        • Stir in the chipotle and oregano.
        • Add the canned tomatoes with liquid, reduce heat, and simmer until some of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.
        • Add the cooked rice, and stir until combined and heated through. Season to taste with salt & pepper and serve. Garnish with some fresh chopped cilantro if you have some (In Japan I didn’t, but now I do! Hurray!)

        Parmesan Dijon Chicken, Mashed Satsumaimo & Balsamic Broccoli

        Brianna, meet satsumaimo. Satsumaimo, meet Brianna.

        It’s important to become acquainted with new vegetables in your produce section. I’d never cooked with a Japanese sweet potato before. Their skins are a beautiful light-purple color, and resemble a yam more than a sweet potato. When you bake them, their insides turn a beautiful light golden color, opposed to bright orange, and their taste is a little less sweet, reminiscent of a roasted chestnut. I baked them as I would a regular potato, carefully removed the skins while they were still hot, and made a side dish that tasted like fall; a little sneak preview of Thanksgiving. Then I remembered that it was a holiday in Japan — shubun no hi (more familiarly known as Fall Equinox Day). So not only did I get acquainted with a new veggie, but I turned it into something comforting and seasonal. The inspiration for this recipe came from The Food Network.

        Mashed Sweet Potatoes

        3 satsumaimo (or regular sweet potatoes)
        2 TBS. butter
        1 tsp. salt
        2 TBS. real maple syrup
        2 TBS. chicken broth, warmed
        2 TBS. fresh squeezed orange juice

        • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
        • Rinse any dirt off the potatoes, pat dry, and roast until easily pierced with a fork (about an hour).
        • Peel them while still hot (there was some profanity during this step. I suggest cutting one of the ends off, holding the other end with a kitchen towel and scooping out the insides with a spoon into the bowl).
        • Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl. Mash together with whatever tool you have handy. Serve hot!

          I was food-blog browsing, as I usually am, and came across a recipe for Parmesan Dijon chicken over at Two Novice Chefs, One Tiny Kitchen. It looked like a good comfort food recipe to go with my sweet potatoes.

          Parmesan Dijon Chicken

          4 chicken breast halves.
          1/2 cup bread crumbs (we used panko, as always)
          1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
          3 TBS. melted butter
          2 TBS. Dijon mustard

          • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
          • Mix melted butter and Dijon in a bowl. In a large Ziploc bag, combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese .
          • Dip the chicken into the butter/mustard mixture, then toss into the bag and coat with breadcrumb mixture. Place chicken in an ungreased rectangular pan.
          • Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, making sure to flip the chicken halfway through baking. Or you can pan fry it in oil, which is what we’ll probably do next time to get a crispier crust!

            And since our meal was lacking something green, we made some balsamic broccoli; the way I ate it as a kid. Couldn’t have been easier.

            Balsamic Broccoli

            • Add broccoli florets to a pot of salted boiling water, and cook until it’s beautifully verdant, just about 3 minutes. Drain, return to pan and drizzle with some good quality balsamic vinegar.

            Weeknight Rosemary-Lemon Chicken Breasts with Baked Tomatoes

            The rainy season has bombarded us in Osaka with humidity and 90 degree heat. It’s zapped the energy out of us, so our meals have been especially low maintenance lately. This dinner was really good, and we both made it up as we went along. We also made rice pilaf again with a few new additions to our original recipe: First, we sautéed half a diced onion in the oil before adding the rice. Second, we broke up about 10 uncooked spaghetti noodles and added them with the rice, and thirdly, we added half a shredded carrot before adding the chicken broth.

            Baked Tomatoes

            2 medium tomatoes, halved
            panko bread crumbs
            garlic powder
            salt & pepper
            Parmesan cheese, grated
            olive oil

            • Preheat the oven to around 400.
            • Place the 4 tomato halves in an oiled baking dish. Season the tops with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
            • Sprinkle them with the parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs (as much as you like).
            • Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, while you prepare the main component of your dinner.

            Pan Fried Rosemary Chicken Breast

            • Season 1 boneless chicken breast (with skin) with salt, pepper, minced garlic and rosemary.
            • Heat a frying pan with olive oil, and when it’s hot, add the chicken breast skin-side down.  Cook for about 5 minutes. Cover the pan and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through (flipping twice) about 10-15 minutes. Remove from pan and cover with foil to keep warm. When ready to serve, slice chicken breast and divide between 2 plates.

            Lemon Sauce

            2 tsp. flour
            1/2 cup chicken broth
            2 TBS. lemon juice
            splash of white wine

            • In a small bowl, whisk the flour and the chicken broth together. Add the lemon juice and chicken broth/flour mixture to the pan that you cooked the chicken in. Add the white wine. Whisk until the sauce thickens a little, making sure to scrape up the little bits from the bottom of the pan. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
            • Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve with rice pilaf and baked tomatoes.

            Lemon-Butter-Garlic Shrimp with Rice Pilaf

            I refuse to eat things that have eyes. The fish section in our grocery store is plentiful (as one would expect in a country that’s surrounded by water), but when everything is looking at me, it creeps me out!! When we were in Greece for our honeymoon, I was equally disturbed when I ordered grilled shrimp and they came whole! The shrimp for this dinner, luckily, didn’t have eyes when we bought them. This recipe is really quick, about 5 minutes for the shrimp and 15 for the rice pilaf. It’s a good weekday meal. Oh, and Dustin gets the credit for this one. He made it up. I just made the rice. We also made some spinach as our vegetable accompaniment: just sautéed with some olive oil, lemon juice, some raisins and a dash of nutmeg. (But we didn’t take a picture of it!)

            What we drank: From France, La Poule Blanche 2004 from Sacha Lichine Vins Sans Frontieres

            For the Rice Pilaf:

            3/4 cup rice, uncooked
            1 1/2 cups of chicken broth, heated to almost boiling
            1 TBS butter or olive oil
            1 bayleaf
            salt and pepper

            • Melt the butter in a pan that can be covered.
            • Add the rice and stir until coated with butter for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the bay leaf. Turn the heat down to low and add the hot chicken broth. Cover the pan.
            • Cook for about 15 minutes or until rice is tender and the broth is absorbed. Season again if needed and serve alongside the shrimp.

            For the Shrimp:

            18 medium-sized shrimp, shelled and devained
            1 1/2 TBS of butter
            juice of 1 lemon
            1 clove of garlic, chopped
            a splash of white wine
            chili pepper (to taste)
            salt & pepper (to taste)

            • In a frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the garlic. Cook until it’s fragrant and light brown. Add the shrimp, the lemon juice, the wine, and the chili powder and salt and pepper. Cook until shrimp turns pink.
            • Remove shrimp from pan. Return the pan to the stove and turn up the heat. Reduce the sauce, stirring continuously for 2-4 minutes. Poor over the shrimp.