Monthly Archives: May 2011

Laab

Every week I plan a menu. It helps me eat better, save money on groceries, and allows for me to try out new recipes without running to the store after work for last minute items. It makes cooking semi-complicated dishes on the weekdays possible and a lot more enjoyable.

Last night I decided upon Laab, a northeast Thai dish that is typically served as a part of a set, which makes me love it even more. There is something about compartmentalized meals that need assembly right before you eat them; it is the icing on the cake. A nice pairing for the Laab would be green papaya salad and sticky rice. In the case of last night’s dinner we had the Laab and the sticky rice but due to a lack of green papaya at the H mart the papaya salad will be another day.

Laab generally consists of lemongrass, shallots, garlic paste, fish sauce (3 crabs preferably), fresh lime juice, mint, cilantro, ground turkey (or pork,chicken, lamb, even liver)

and topped with chopped peanuts and fresh basil.

Cabbage leaves can also be served with the dish. You can roll the sticky rice and laab into the leaf like a summer roll or serve it like a salad atop the greens. Either way, the cabbage adds a cool, fresh crispiness to an otherwise spicy dish.

*Tonight we tried the same recipe, only with ground tempeh (pictured below) and I must say it tasted even better. I have had this recipe on file for quite some time from Use Real Butter.

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Happiness is at 20th and Market

I’ve walked by this cart countless times. Usually I am in a rush so all I can manage to do is to take in the delightfully smoky air as I pass it by. It is quite easily spotted as it has a constant billow of smoke churning out of the top. It is also hard to miss a cart adorned with hanging plants, garlic bulbs, giant containers of imported olive oil, bountiful piles of fresh bread. Did I mention the smells? What is this cart about?

Today I set out specifically to find out. Since I work only three blocks away and was in need of some fresh air I decided to go with my gut instinct and follow that smell. Had I just googled “20th and market food cart” i would have found countless posts, photos, even videos cataloguing ‘Christo’s Falafel Cart’. I’m glad I didn’t as the element of surprise is such a foreign concept to me these days.

And surprised I was. As I walked up there were five or six people standing around waiting to order, in the process of ordering or else peering into this somewhat mysterious food cart that at first glance appears to be a little out of its element. That’s the beauty of it though; once you walk up to it you begin to understand that the placement of the cart, the decor, the food, everything has been painstakingly strategized. Then you see (or hear) Constandinos.


First, let me say he is impeccably dressed in a black chef’s coat. He is a very loud talker and it is best that he doesn’t catch you off guard because his prideful boasts could very well be mistaken for anger. His bombastic rants mock you for even considering going somewhere else for lunch today.

He constantly tends to the marinated chunks of chicken sizzling on the grill using an antiquated copper pot filled with some special sauce. Each time the sauce hits the grill and smoke lifts the smell that originally beckoned me wafts into the air.

What I learned from the others in line is that he prepares one dish per day. Usually he gives you a taste of chicken and a taste of falafel along with bountiful sides du jour. Maybe it is because I told him it was my first time there or maybe it was just miscommunication but he decided to start me off with just the falafel. It’s sort of unspoken that you don’t question Constandinos. He asked me if I would rather have a sandwich or platter. I went with the platter. Price: 7$

The oregano encrusted falafel fried in such a way it was blackened but without being burnt. This gave it an even more interesting texture and flavor than other falafel I have tried. After splitting one of the crunchy little balls open it exposed a bright green center.The falafel themselves seemed to be missing a key component, the chickpeas. The filling looked and tasted like a mash of parsley and garlic. It was served with hummus and an even creamier tahini garlic sauce over noodles with garbanzo beans thrown in, all of which was served on top of crunchy (yes crunchy) romaine lettuce. It was a veritable pasta salad extravaganza. Oh! And the bread, the meal comes with not only pita but a fresh challah roll, for soaking up every last bit of the platter. Finally, red and green grapes for dessert, which acted as a perfect palette cleanser since my mouth was still tingling from all the garlic I had consumed. When I asked Constandino if is was okay if I photographed him and his cart he answered “you do whatever makes you happy”. Which appears to be exactly what he is doing and doing it well.

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A fine chop suey

What is the first thing one would crave after an uninspired veggie burger for lunch? Why this of course.

Not only did I choose the veggie burger because I really wanted a meatless lunch but I was attempting to make a healthy lunch selection. Why not a salad one would ask, and rightfully so. My lunch really turned out to be more a samosa on a bun rather than a patty made of vegetables. Keeping on my quest for a healthy lunch, I ate a grapefruit for dessert. That said, I decided on a tofu chop suey of sorts for my dinner tonight. Veggies, veggies, veggies- Grains, grains, grains! This shall be my new mantra.

Tofu selection is very important, the firmer the better. It makes it more of a versatile cooking ingredient and doesn’t turn whatever you are making into a tofu scramble. I was recently introduced to this tofu, Fresh Tofu, Inc. It’s local and obviously made with love. How can you not love that? It stays together better than any other tofu I have tried and the flavor is somehow richer. It’s tofu, is that really possible? Yes.

Always remember to press out the tofu.Use whatever method works best, just get as much water out as you can.

I had a few cremini mushrooms in my refrigerator (you may remember the previous post regarding the mushroom risotto that never materialized). Add some garlic (3 cloves) a thumb size of ginger (grated), some swiss chard, red pepper, and zucchini purchased yesterday on a whim.

Mix together a tablespoon of sherry, a tablespoon of soy sauce, pinch of salt, two teaspoons of sesame oil, some honey and a teeny bit of corn starch. Make some brown rice and voila, health in a bowl. Now I can take this for lunch tomorrow and samosa on a bun won’t even be an option. Oh, and as always don’t forget the hot sauce.

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How we begin the weekend

There is only thing that I love more than cooking and that is shopping for food. It is Saturday morning and the first thing on my mind? Breakfast. What am I going to eat? I head out to the co-op  and my favorite neighborhood bakery. Pick up some eggs, bread for the week, bagels, and apple and peach turnovers for later tonight.

The errand running is all me, I find such pleasure in it. During that time there is always a chance I may come across something I have never seen or tasted before and because of that it is always a treat.

Our morning really begins when I return home with our dog, Birdy, greeting me at the door. Eggs, bagels, fresh juice, coffee, and us.

There is nothing sweeter than this.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Happy eating.

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Breakfast for dinner or something like it.

The dish I prepared for dinner tonight is Libyan in origin. Some call it Israeli others Italian, I call it the dish I cook when I am too tired to cook mushroom risotto, which is exactly what happened this evening. Mushroom risotto seemed good in theory as I was riding the trolley home at 7:30 tonight. In reality, who wants to start a risotto at 8pm on a work night? So instead a replacement – eggs in purgatory, or eggs poached in tomato sauce, or shakshuka. Whichever name you prefer to call it, it is delicious, easy, and vegetarian (ova-lacto). It went very well with the under 10$ bottle of white I purchased for cooking wine. What can I say, a few ice cubes and you have a refreshing after work beverage. Serve it with bread, pasta, rice or polenta. We ate it with the heel of our weekly rosemary olive loaf.

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La Copine

Judging by their concept alone, this is going to be a hit. Viva la brunch(cart)! Viva la dinner party! Viva La Copine! Oh wait, it hasn’t even opened yet. Regardless, the two women that started La Copine (Nikki Hill and Claire Wadsworth) got a beautiful aesthetic going on.

find out more here


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Thomas Keller’s Roasted Chicken

Now that I have a little more time for writing I will go deeper into describing what makes this chicken so amazing. Let me start by saying I am not the biggest fan of chicken, but there is something about a roasted chicken that differentiates itself from being just chicken.

I am a late comer to this recipe. It is from Thomas Keller’s 2004 cookbook “Bouchon” and this is his “My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken”. Due to it only having six steps and along with it being the juiciest of any roasted chicken I have ever prepared, it could be my favorite as well. Don’t be afraid to put the chicken into the oven dry. The results will amaze you and delight your senses.

Preheat to 450
Rinse the chicken and dry it thoroughly
sprinkle salt into the cavity
truss the bird
liberally apply salt and pepper
place in a roasting pan
leave it alone for 60 min
remove it from the oven
transplant it to a butcher block
baste it with its juices
allow it to sit for 15 minutes
remove twine
serve it on the bone, seperate the wing joint, remove thighs and legs, and cut the breast bone down the center
slather in butter
serve with a side of dijon mustard for dipping

*Thomas Keller suggests serving with a side of salad greens. We served it with brussel sprouts.

Another reason to love roasting:

leftovers

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