Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Steamed Kale with Ginger and Garlic


Found this perfect recipe on one of the blogs I follow Serious Eats. It's a one skillet dish, I made a few modifications to end up with the nutritional facts I list below. I think constraining myself to 300 calories a box has been an interesting challenge in balancing flavor and textures and cutting corners on unnecessary calories.

Here's the original Recipe, I've so few modifications I'm only posting my notes. First I went with six ounce pieces of cod which really was fine for one portion

I cut the sesame oil in half to finish the dish rather and spritzed the pan with my misto olive oil sprayer to quickly sauté the garlic and ginger (I was using a non-stick pan too). Sesame oil seems to be too fragrant to compete with garlic and ginger.

I also opted to use Chinese Michu rather than the Japanese Mirin. Mirin tends to be a little sweeter, they didn't specify so I picked based on preference.

Finally a note: watch the cooking time 5-7 mins depends on the thickness of your fish, you can easily over do it.

Yes that is one portion and here's the calculated nutritional facts:
Calories 239, Total Fat 5g, Saturated Fat 1g, Monounsaturated Fat 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat 2g, Cholesterol 80g, Sodium 965mg,  Potassium 422mg, Total Carbs 9g, Dietary Fiber 2g, Sugar 4g, Protein 29g.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

NIAB: Fresh Uni at Xian


My wife and I found this great noodle house Xian. They hand make their noodles and have some of the best Red braised noodle soup. They happened to have fresh sea urchin (like open the shell and present it fresh). I've not had such delicious Uni before. Each piece was very "hydrated" (my best try at describing how they tasted) with a bit of sweetness and briny flavor of the sea. So good i had to post about it. Delicious!

Monday, June 16, 2014

A new kind of box: Paleo bento 3

So we've been doing this 21 day Challenge from Snap Kitchen. It's pretty simple, they have this 21 day menu depending on how many calories and diet you wish to keep to and you just show up every three days and they load you up and off you go. You can choose from various diets such as paleo, low carb, vegetarian, no dairy. It's all gluten free and pretty tasty (albeit it gets old after 21 days). Anyhow it's definitely convenient and takes the stress away from worrying about calories. You get five meals a day and you can do easy substations if there are items on the list you don't like. (they replace by calorie count). I'm doing the 1500 calorie challenge and after 21 days I did lose 10 pounds. Of course my problem is that I want to start cooking for myself and that meant re-inventing the box in "eating in a box".

So I present my first attempt at two boxes, I stayed on the gluten free side (not for any particular reason other than there was only one substitution) and dairy free. I got most of these recipes from magazines clippings and derived my calorie and nutritional counts by doing some portion addition/subtractions to stay in bounds. I tried to keep each box to within the 300 calorie boundary. Going forward I'll probably do one meal boxes (rather than two) And since i'm only doing one or two dishes into a box I'll more than likely link to or post the recipe I ended up with.

The first box is vegetarian, Crispy Glazed Tofu with Bok Choy. My wife really liked this dish, the sauce for the tofu was sweet and very much like a "sesame chicken".

To add some filler to the first box I paired the tofu with a thyme roasted radish and leeks. Total calorie count for the box was 293 per box, and gluten free.

For the second box, the vegetable was a roasted cabbage with chive vinaigrette. I cut the portion on the vinaigrette down to save on some calories.

To add some protein, I sous vide some flank steak in a miso marinade. I was at first afraid that cooking in the marinade may over power the meat, but even over night the steak came out perfectly seasoned. I sous vide the flank steak for 24 hours it came out very tender. Total calorie count for this box was 332 calories (just over)

Box(es) contents:

  • Miso marinaded flank steak
  • Roasted cabbage with chive vinniagrette
  • Crispy glazed tofu with bok choi
  • Thyme roasted radish and leeks

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Paleo Bento 3

Time really has gotten away from me so I've been trying to get my cooking in where I can. I have been seeing quite a few recipes calling for "kelp noodles" recently in my news reader so it's really this weird ingredient that managed to get me off my butt to cook.

I landed on this sesame almond butter kelp noodle. It's very similar to the thai peanut soba noodles I prepared in the past except for the use of kelp noodles. Kelp noodles are a very curious ingredient, they are made of (surprise!) kelp or seaweed and containing about 10 calories for 12 ounces. The noodles are clear and look somewhat like glass noodles used in Chap Che except not nearly as elastic, when eating them they have a distinct "snap" and crunch to them (like a rubber band at breaking point). There is no flavor so they take on the flavors of whatever dish you might prepare. They can be used right out of the package without any sort of cooking (I do rinse them just in case) but I do recommend cutting them into manageable segments as they come in a giant "tangle" making them very hard to toss. For this recipe I cooked the almond sauce and then tossed the noodles into the sauce.  I felt the sesame almond sauce was a bit too overwhelming, but my wife seemed to really like them. These noodles might be better in a noodle soup form like a vietnamese pho, I still have two more packages left so I might have to give it a shot but just from this experiment I prefer the shiratake noodles better.

I've had these "paleo lamb meatballs" on my list of "must try" for quite some time. Instead of using bread/breadcrumbs as a binder the recipe called for the use of plantain chips which was very interesting. I went with a course chop in the food processor but I think it would have been better if I had blitzed them into powder. The meatballs were served with a mushroom sauce thickened with coconut milk and tapioca starch. I think this one is a keeper, we gobbled up the whole batch over the week.

Roasted Mushrooms: The mushrooms were roasted with thyme garlic and oregano and finished with a bit of balsamic vinegar.

To round things out, I took a less successful attempt at a vegetable omelet and turned it into a vegetable egg scramble. Adding a lot more vegetables made this less of a breakfast item and more of a vegetable side dish. I have no real name for this other than rescue scramble.

I'm thankful for finally being able to post some cooking. We've been so busy recently we've opted to try out Snap Kitchen's 21 day challenge. It's prevented me from doing any cooking (since it's all done for us). I'll put up a post about my experience and results but I'm already thinking about how to adapt my cooking and create something sustainable.

Ok that's it for now!

Box Contents:

  • Sesame almond kelp noodles
  • Paleo Lamb Meatballs
  • Roasted Mushrooms
  • Rescue vegetable scramble

Saturday, April 26, 2014

NIB: Barley Swine

We recently took a weekend to explore south Austin and we had such a fabulous dinner that I couldn't help post it. Barley Swine is a small restaurant south of the river, it sits about 50 (my wife counted) and has been quite a hotspot over the past few years. The chef/owner started out with Odd Duck trailer and ultimately opened brick and mortar restaurants, first Barley Swine and later Odd Duck. It seems when Odd Duck opened Barley Swine converted to a nightly prix fixe menu. They offer a wine/beer pairing to accompany each course (which I highly recommend). Above is a picture of the amuse bouche of a sea urchin lettuce wrap with fried buckwheat groats. It was a lovely blend of textures (crunchy and creamy) it was paired with a sparkling wine which offset the richness of the uni.

Our favorite (and first) dish of the evening was this red snapper with strawberry ponzu with toasted quinoa. The pickled abalone mushroom with trout roe and green gaspacho was delicious, the fried kale gives a crunchy texture and the creme fraiche offset the sourness of the pickle of the mushrooms, the fresh mint made for a light and bright flavor. Next was the house made mozzarella with charred onion broth (a take of french onion soup).

Thirteen course is hard to keep in your head so I apologize for not remember all the details. We continued the meal with a smoked ham over mini biscuits over a orange marmalade. The colorful upper right photo is a "duck jerky" with pickled radish salad, we were asked to mix it all up and eat it together. Next was a cold peanut sauce pasta with cucumber and mustard greens. Finally a palate cleanser to get us to the middle of our meal, was a beet salad served with a beet and orange granita and creme fraiche.

We start the second half with a soft boiled tea egg with fried sweet potato. The egg was a beautiful creamy egg (I would guess 139F sous vide). The beautiful green is a sauteed swish chard over a very tender lamb loin. We get some of the surf from a halibut cheek with morel mushrooms and a foam (which I cannot remember what it was composed of).

Finishing things off: Rabbit terrine with fried chives. We head into the dessert with Chamomile panna cotta with pistachio crumble and fennel. Second dessert is a chocolate ice cream with foie gras french toast (it was more complex than I can recall, but my memory is failing me) and a finishing touch (I forgot what they called it) of a fruit jelly with a coconut cookie.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Tools of the Trade: Heat Gun

A few posts back I mentioned crisping up my duck breast using a heat gun. I was talking with CookingForEngineers and he mentioned that his wife bought him a heat gun for purposes of work around the house but he mentioned that he's used it for some alternate culinary uses. This compelled me of course to pick one up (I think I spent around $40 at the local big box hardware store).

There's a low and high setting, you can set the gun as low as 250F or as high as 1350F. It's like (ok it is) a variable heat blow dryer. Typically you use a heat gun for paint drying, pipe thawing, paint removal, shrink wrapping, the list is pretty long basically anything that requires hot dry air. And when we're talking 1350F that's hotter than I can get my green egg and for $40 bucks I was willing to give it a shot.

Here's what I figured out: you gotta hold the heat gun pretty close to the subject in order to achieve the desired heat concentration. As you can see it's a pretty small patch that you heat up, so it's not very practical if you're working on a large piece of meat. The other downside is that since you're holding it so close the splatter from the marinade and fat from the duck breast created a caramelized gunk on the nozzle of the heat gun. (not easy to clean off)

But for a small piece of duck breast (even 4) it worked out pretty good (I set it at 950 "high" power). It took a while to get to the entire surface of everything (a few mins, but it felt like a while) but still faster than hitting a broiler that has the potential for further cooking the duck breast since all sides would be subject to heat in the oven. Granted the broiler can let me do all for duck breasts at the same time. My wife was pretty happy with the results but next time I may try a slightly lower setting and longer heat treatment, at 950 the skin crisped nicely, but it could have used a bit more heat further into the fat layer.

As a multi functional tool I think Alton Brown would be proud, I just need to find some more culinary uses for it. A word of warning  since you are blowing hot air, I would not recommend this device for finishing a creme brûlée you'll end up with sugar all over the place.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Roasted Bento

Today's bento theme is: Roasting. The application of dry heat to meat and vegetables to prepare a dish. A lot of the time, roasting is associated with low heat longer cooking but it's not limited to low and slow, sometimes you can apply the technique in a high temperature setting (usually on tender cuts of meat). But for the most part low and slow gets you a lot of flavor without having to stand and watch over a dish. In vegetables you get the sugars to caramelize, root vegetables get nice and tender. For tough or large cuts of meat it gives it time to break down collagen and connective tissue so it becomes "fall apart" tender.

The key is retaining moisture. A lot of time you either sear (in the case of meat) or slather in fat or oil to help in that process. In this case, I did neither....  This recipe came from listening to NPR on my commute home, it was a "copy cat/fast food fakeout" recipe for a roasted chicken. The idea seemed sound, you put on a dry rub on the chicken and then you sit it in a slow cooker for seven hours (no liquid) and roast it. The chicken smelled absolutely delicious and the meat was fall off the bone tender. The only problem was the meat itself did not retain any moisture. There was a large amount of liquid at the bottom of the slow cooker, all of the fat had rendered out of the chicken! The chicken I selected was the prescribed pounds so I was at a loss to why the dish turned out to be such a failure. After a bit of digging it seems that slow cooker to slow cooker "low" can vary quite a bit. I'm use to throwing things into a slow cooker and it magically "working" but apparently chicken is more finicky, which makes sense since it's low on the connective tissue and fat (in the breast). To correct for this problem next time, I will insert a probe thermometer and go for target temperature rather than time. It seems stupid and elementary when I type it out and read it to myself but there you have it.

Roasted butternut squash with sriracha.

Roasted turnips, which came out nice a sweet, just a bit of salt and pepper. Usually turnips and radish are used in soups and stews in Chinese cooking, I think i prefer it to the roasted version which has a little bit of bitterness to it.

Apparently brussels sprouts are in season so I picked up a box at the farmers market. I've been trying to recreate a balsamic brussels sprout dish I had a restaurant. I roasted them in the oven with a bit of olive oil and salt and ten minutes before I tossed in a bit of balsamic vinaigrette, tasty but not quite right. I may try to fry them next time. The sprouts sweeten as they roast and the balsamic gives it just a bit of tang but there was a missing crunch texture to the exterior and loose leaves.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Valentines day bento


I know it's a few weeks late, but this was a pre-Valentines day bento that I made my for my wife. (duck breast blows the budget for my normal bento list of people)

I marinated a duck breast in a hoison, plum, ginger sauce and then sous vide-ed them for about two hours. I actually ran a test with a Anova immersion circulator head to head against my new Nomiku. (I'll post details later) Then I used a heat gun (thanks for the suggestion from CookingForEngineers) to broil the duck breast. Finally I topped it with a little pat of foie gras mousse.

To keep with the asian theme I put together a bit of sesame fried rice. I used sesame oil (a little goes a long way) and a bit of scallion for flavor and aroma.

Roasted broccoli and cauliflower with garlic and red chili

Finally I sautéed Chayote in a bit of butter.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Happy Chinese New Year!

It's the Year of the Horse. As tradition for Chinese New Year we had family over, and lots of food involved. No we didn't have the roasted pig above (we only got one pound), but if you're in of one we saw this one ready for delivery from First Chinese BBQ in the Chinatown plaza while picking up food for our own dinner.

New Years Eve, I hosted a hotpot at the house. Chinese New Year is a week long celebration of food and partying we managed to wedge it into a weekend.

New Years Day dinner featured a large banquet of food, including a fish dish which is a Chinese play on words representing plentiful excess for the year and a dessert of Nian Gao to represent yearly growth, prosperity and achievement.

We grabbed some dim sum for lunch. (sorry I only remembered to snap a pic after we ravaged the table.)

Our final family dinner was sushi to go from our favorite japanese restaurant in town: Soto, while watching the big game. I figured the fish to add to the blessing of excess for the year was appropriate. Thank you Chef Andy for designing a wonderful last min takeout.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

TRIP: Playa Del Carmen Day 4


Happy New Year! Sorry I didn't have anything interesting to post, we were kind of lame and stayed in this year. On the bright side I got to review some neat underwater photos as I continue my posts of our awesome Christmas vacation.

We took our first excursion on Day four. We went snorkeling out at Turtle Bay and a Cenote (fresh water cavern). I cannot take credit for the sea turtle picture, but I did pay for it as part of the photo package so I feel entitled to post it. The snorkeling at Turtle Bay was right off the beach so the visibility was pretty poor. 

The Cenote was a lot more fun. The Cenote (or Sacred Well) were entry points into an underground river where the natives were able to get freshwater. The freshwater was very clear and you could see a surprising amount under water. Since it was so dark I didn't get very many good shots, this was probably the best one (and still blurry), it was neat having natural openings that illuminated the cavern. 


For lunch we had fresh grouper, a very plentiful white fish in these parts (we saw many of them during our snorkeling adventure.) It was served with a "Crema De Ajo" cream of garlic described as a combination of oil, garlic, cream and egg. (sounds like a mayonnaise). It was originally on the table with the salsa and pico and we thought it was another dip for the chips. It was a simple sauce on a simply spiced grouper the combination was delicious it was accompanied with some steamed carrots and chayote and white rice.

For Christmas eve dinner we dined at El Mediterráneo it was the only reservation restaurant we could get into. Bummer that we couldn't get into Chef's Plate, but it turns out this was good find as well. My salad was the Tomato Custard (kinda like a quiche) it was accompanied by a Caprese Salad bite. My wife's salad was an Arugula salad with a fennel jam and spearmint vinaigrette. Maybe I'm too use to the excess' of American cuisine but these seemed pretty small for a salad course.

Soup course consisted of a Quail Consomme with a soft boiled quail egg. The Consomme was delicious with very rich flavors, clearly they had to have spent some time on it. My wife opted for the yummier Cream of Fennel au Tomato Soup. They served this course with what they called home made focaccia but it looked and tasted more like Indian naan served with Pesto. The fettuccini alfredo's pasta was homemade and had a nice bite, but the sauce was a little thin.

For our main course the top dish was the Calamari all Florentina, a stuffed calamari dish with a spinach sauce and the ever present mashed potatoes (this time with sundried tomatoes). I had the Pork Fillet Venetian Style, the pork was served with a red wine and wine mushroom sauce, my flavor of mashed potatoes was "pureed broccoli" which was actually pretty novel and actually worked pretty well.