Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Passaris Nikolaos

We began every morning in Santorini the same way - with pies. On the pedestrian walkway into the heart of Oia, there was a small bakery that we passed by every day, and every day, we got some pies. I think we had read somewhere in our research that the bakery was really good, so we figured that would be a good spot for breakfast, since this was the one hotel on the entire trip where breakfast was not included.

The bakery's name appeared to be Passaris Nikolaos (if I am converting correctly from the Greek letters), and they were certainly popular. We aren't early morning people, no matter what time zone we're in (maybe someday that'll change), and by the time we got to the bakery in the morning (and it was still morning), there was never that much left. We were able to get some pies every day, but there were always some unavailable because of the demand.

One of the pies that we really liked (and I only know this because I see that we have photos of this pie on multiple days) was this special cheese pie. It reminded us a little bit of the one from Ariston in Athens, but that one was a little better, if we remember correctly this many years later.

We got a bunch of different types of cheese pies from the bakery over the few days we were in Santorini, and couldn't tell you at this point the names of the different ones or how they differed, but we definitely liked them for breakfast.

We didn't only get cheese pies though. We tried other pies including some with vegetable fillings. Unfortunately we couldn't tell you which pies we got on which days or any details, and we really wish we had written something down, but we've learned for the future. All we really remember is that we liked the pies.

One of the things we liked a lot about Greece was all the savory pies that you could get as snacks, whether you were in the city or the islands. There were pies everywhere. That's not as easy to do at home, especially for savory snacks, which is part of the reason we treasure the Greek bakery in our neighborhood. We love Greek pies!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Meyer Lemon Pinkberry

A few days after making the Meyer lemon bars, A decided to redeem his free birthday treat at Pinkberry. When we walked in, we saw they had a new seasonal flavor - Meyer lemon. After trying it, he ordered a small Meyer lemon yogurt with mochi, shredded coconut, and cinnamon crumble (which was the recommended topping in their poster).

A's review: I was really happy with my choices for this because I wanted to turn this into something of a Meyer lemon pie. The cinnamon graham cracker crumble and coconut were the base flavors to pair with the Meyer lemon yogurt, and I added the mochi because I like mochi, and they would be a very loose interpretation of the meringue topping. The sweet and tart yogurt worked really well with the unsweetened coconut and cinnamony, sugary crumble. The mochi wasn't really a meringue substitute, but I still liked it just fine.

M's review: I thought the Meyer lemon yogurt itself was really good - sweet, tart, very bright. While I liked the combination that A put together, it was a little on the heavier, sweeter side. I think I probably would have paired the yogurt with raspberries and mochi, but I personally prefer fruit flavors when it comes to yogurt. I really liked the lightness of the yogurt flavor itself and would get it again.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Angkor Cambodian Bistro

NYC doesn't have a ton of Cambodian food, so when we first read a year or so ago about the opening of Angkor Cambodian Bistro on the Upper East Side, we knew we had to try it. It may have taken us longer than we would have liked to get there, but we were so happy that we finally made it.

We started out with two appetizers, the first of which was nem nuong, described as Khmer style barbecue pork hash. We had a similar type of pork preparation in summer rolls at a Vietnamese restaurant in Vegas which we absolutely loved, but here there were six meatballs grilled on skewers and served with a peanut dipping sauce. They were really good, soft, and full of pork and seasoning. The peanut sauce tasted good as well, but it wasn't fully necessary as the meatballs themselves had so much flavor.

The other appetizer we got were the Khmer fish cakes, deep fried cakes filled with fish, shrimp, string beans, and curry powder. These reminded us of tod mun pla, Thai fish cakes, except that compared with all the Thai fish cakes we've had in the past, these had so much more flavor, lots of herbs and spices. The slaw was a small batch of pickled radishes and carrots, and the sauce was a sweet chili sauce. As with the meatballs, the fish cakes were delicious with or without the sauce and slaw, but together the slaw added a freshness and crunch to match the soft fish cakes.

We decided to try some noodles, going with the "famous Cambodia noodle dish" of kuythiew, described as "rice stick noodles sautéed with shrimp, scallion, eggs, dried bean curd, crushed peanuts, and bean sprouts in tamarind sauce." Unlike similar noodle dishes put out by some Thai places, this one had sweetness to it from the tamarind sauce but it wasn't overly sweet which was nice. We've had similar dishes at other Southeast Asian restaurants, but this was an extremely tasty rendition.

The star of the night and the one thing that we knew without a doubt that we were going to order before we walked in the door (unless they were out of it) was the baked amok. Traditionally amok is a fish curry steamed in banana leaves, but the versions they offered here were baked or grilled. The baked seemed to be pretty close to the traditional steaming, and the amok had the mousse-like texture that it is known for. The flavors were amazing, and wrapped inside the creamy fish curry with its red curry sauce and coconut cream were prawns and scallops, as well as what seemed to be basil and kaffir lime. Texturally, we haven't really had anything quite like it and it was so good. It was rich and creamy tasting, and the fish was so soft. The kaffir lime leaves and basil added herbal freshness and a really clean element.

The baked amok came with a small portion of rice on the side (we chose brown) and some vegetables stewed in a similar red curry sauce (okra, zucchini, and ribbons of carrots). This was a really complete meal on its own, and we pondered how we could come here and try new things when we were going to want to get the baked amok every time.

There were some interesting sounding desserts, like a sticky rice and corn pudding or mango sticky rice, but we were so full and so happy with the baked amok that we didn't really even consider dessert. It was a successful first dinner at Angkor, and we would love to go back again sometime soon.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Fior Delle Alpi

The March cheese at Trader Joe's is Fior Delle Alpi, or "Flower of the Alps." A raw milk cheese from the Swiss Alps, Trader Joe's in their post called the flavor "intense" due to the herbs consumed by the cows, as well as rich and bold with "a fairly sweet finish with a smooth, slightly firm texture."

M's review: I didn't like this as much as some of the other recent cheeses, maybe because it was stronger in flavor than those. I, of course, don't have the words to describe in what way it was a stronger flavor, but it was noticeable. The texture was fine, pretty firm, but the taste was not my favorite.
Score: 5/10

A's review: I liked this cheese a lot. As previously noted I don't mind the stinkier cheeses that we've had in the past. This cheese had a bit more funk than the others we've had of late from Trader Joe's, and that was just fine with me. It was also relatively firm, and it was a good overall cheese.
Score: 7.5/10

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Red Rice

I have a "problem" where I often go to Costco with the intention of not buying grains (because we have a lot) and then walk out with something that was either a limited time special or on sale. That was the case with these Earthly Choice boxes of rice that we bought back in late 2015 with three different types of rice. We made about 2/3 of this box of red rice for a different dish, so I figured I would finish it off by following the recipe on the back of the box.

The recipe was for red rice with asparagus and goat cheese, and the ingredients (as adapted) were:

- 1 cup red rice ($1? It's been too long to know for sure)
- about 3 oz herb goat cheese ($1.80)
- 1 package of asparagus spears, blanched and sliced ($2.99)
- 2 small onions, chopped ($0.30)
- olive oil ($0.20)
- 2 cups water ($0)
- salt ($0.05)

The rice side cost about $6.34, which we added to some panko chicken tenders, so the total cost of dinner was probably around $10. Not too bad. 

The steps were basically to saute the onions, add rice and toast for a few minutes, and then add salt and water and simmer the rice for 20 minutes (or until water is absorbed). After fluffing the rice, you were supposed to add the goat cheese and the asparagus, gently stirring them in so that the goat cheese stayed in clumps. I tried to do that, but it was pretty much impossible. At some point I just gave up and stirred the whole thing together and all the goat cheese melted.

This recipe was fine, but I'm not sure I need to make it again. It was a good way to use up the rest of the red rice in the box but didn't have a ton of flavor, even after adding more seasoning, other than whatever herbs were in the goat cheese. I'm glad we tried it, but it's not going to get a spot in the rotation.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mull of Kintyre

Recently we saw what looked to us like a new cheddar cheese at Trader Joe's - Mull of Kintyre Scottish cheddar cheese. From some research, it seems like this used to be part of the Celtic cheddar trio, but now is sold on its own. (Not sure if the trio still exists; we've never bought it and don't remember seeing it.) According to the Fearless Flyer, this cheese is deep, round, and nutty in flavor and firm in body.

M's review: I'm not sure I got deep, round, and nutty from this cheese, but we've already established that I don't really even know what that would mean. I liked this cheese. It had a good firm texture similar to most cheddar cheeses, and a nice flavor that went well with our crackers. Mild but good.
M's rating: 8.5/10

A's review: This was a really tasty cheese. It was firm and had a good, mild flavor to it. As with most cheddar cheese varieties, this was a really good snacking cheese. We paired it with some crackers like always, and they went together perfectly. The only thing I can think of that would have made it better would have been some sliced salami.
A's rating: 8/10

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Meyer Lemon Bars

One day while M and I were walking around Trader Joe's, we happened across some bags of Meyer Lemons. I know they're used a lot in baking so I was instantly intrigued by them. M made me promise that if we bought them I had to already have an idea in mind to use them. I didn't, really, but I wanted them anyway. The only thing I knew was lemon bars, so I half-lied and said that I did have an idea.

I ended up deciding to actually make lemon bars so I started doing some research on recipes. I didn't find one that I liked, but I found some recipes from which I liked the separate components. I opted for the following two:

For the shortbread, the ingredients are as follows:
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt plus more
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 to 2 tsp ice water
You basically just pulse the dry ingredients to mix in a food processor before tossing in the cut up butter and pulsing until it becomes pebbly. The water is there in case the dough looks a little too dry. I didn't end up using any water, but I think I might put a little in if I make this again. The dough didn't seem too dry, but a touch of water might have made it a little easier to work with. I also think I'd put in less salt. Since I use coarse sea salt the flavor tends to be a little more intense so less should be needed.

Line a greased 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper, dump in the dough, and press it out to as close to the same thickness as you can all around while making sure to press it into the edges of the pan as well. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes until it's golden. Once done, remove the pan from the oven and set aside to allow it to cool while you make the topping.

The reason I picked this particular topping portion of the recipe is because the author mentions how the slightly higher sugar content makes it so that the top of the filling crystalizes a bit and gets a nice, sugary coating. Often lemon bars come topped with powdered sugar, and this recipe also does, but the crystalized sugar actually adds the right amount of sweetness in my opinion. The ingredients are as follows:
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ⅓ cup fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 heaping tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
I beat together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest together with our stand mixer using the whisk attachment. I then mixed in the flour and baking powder and let it go until completely incorporated. Pour the mixed topping over the now-cooled shortbread base. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until the topping has set, and the top looks like it's a harder, crystalized shell.

I ended up accidentally lowering the temperature to 300 because the recipe I used for the shortbread base said to do that for baking on the topping, and I baked it at 300 for 25 minutes before raising the temp back up to 350 and baking for another 5 minutes. I think it turned out well, but we'll see how it goes next time when cooked at the proper temperature the whole time.

After the lemon topping finishes baking remove the pan from the oven and let it cool completely before cutting. As you can see from the picture above, the topping isn't smooth like most lemon bars; it has that aforementioned crystalized finish to it that I thought was absolutely amazing. I ended up cutting them into smaller pieces since I wanted to bring them to the office to share. M and I loved them, but there's no way we should have eaten this whole tray.

In the end, everyone loved these lemon bars. The only things I might change in the future are less salt in the shortbread, a little water in the shortbread, and maybe a little more Meyer lemon juice in the topping for a touch more tartness and freshness. Other than that, these were great. The night I baked them the shortbread was a little hard, but after a night of sitting in the Tupperware they softened up and were easier to bite through. It's a shame that Meyer lemons have such a short season, but I'll definitely be on the lookout for these again in the future, and I might try using regular lemons as well as a test since they're more year-round.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Week 10 - Middle East

For the Middle East challenge, I made a three part meal. The first recipe I had stumbled on was from Saveur for makhlama lahm, Iraqi eggs with lamb and tomatoes. That sounded like it would be good over rice, so I searched Iraqi rice on Google and found a recipe for timman. Finally, to round it out, I was intrigued by a recipe for quinoa salad from a falafel restaurant upstate, so that sounded like the perfect side dish. All of these would, of course, be adapted for what we had/could find in our shopping.

Iraqi Eggs with Meat Sauce

The biggest difference between our version of this and the original recipe is that I substituted ground turkey for the lamb since I try not to cook red meat at home. The recipe also referred to "bahar asfar," yellow curry powder, and since I couldn't find any packages with that name (even at Kalustyan's!), I'm not sure if the curry powder we used had everything in it that was intended.

The ingredients we used were:

- olive oil ($0.20)
- 1 lb of ground turkey ($4.30)
- 1 onion, finely chopped ($0.50)
- 1/2 batch of parsley, finely chopped ($0.90)
- 2 vine ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped ($1.15)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)
- a few tsp of curry powder ($0.75)
- 4 eggs ($0.40)

The steps for making this portion of dinner were:

1. Heat olive oil in large skillet and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add ground turkey and cook until browned, breaking up the meat as it cooks.

2. Add onion and cook until soft.

3. Add tomatoes, half of the chopped parsley, curry powder, salt and pepper, and cook until tomatoes are soft. Season to taste.

4. Grease baking pan and move turkey mixture to baking pan. Create 4 wells in the pan and drop each egg into a well. Cook until eggs are set. (Recipe suggested 7 minutes, but they weren't quite done yet. We let them go too long after that though, so I'm not sure of the exact right time to get them to be soft baked.)

5. Garnish with remaining parsley.

This tasted really healthy and after having it, I thought that we probably didn't need the rice as it wasn't really greasy or full of liquid that a starch would need to soak up. It was fine with the eggs (although probably better if we hadn't baked it as long), but I think the turkey mixture on its own, maybe with more curry powder, would be good on top of rice as a complete meal, maybe also with some more vegetables mixed in. I'll have to try that soon.

Quinoa Salad

We stuck a little more closely to the recipe on this one, other than increasing the amounts of fresh vegetables and using canned chickpeas. There was only so much space on the stove and only so much time to make dinner (which still took the two of us two hours doing it together).

The ingredients for our version of the quinoa salad were:

- 1 cup of quinoa ($1.33)
- 2 vine ripened tomatoes, chopped ($1.14)
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped ($0.99)
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped ($0.89)
- 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed ($0.75)
- 5 green onions, chopped ($0.65)
- salt and pepper ($0.05)
- about 3 tsp sumac ($0.50)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 3 small lemons) ($0.64)
- 1/2 cup olive oil ($0.75)

The process for making the salad was pretty easy. The steps were:

1. Prepare quinoa according to package instructions.

2. Move quinoa to large bowl to cool. Add tomatoes, green pepper, red pepper, chickpeas, and green onions. Mix well together.

3. In separate bowl, mix the dressing - salt, pepper, sumac, lemon juice, olive oil.

4. Mix dressing into salad and season to taste.

This was probably my favorite part of dinner. It was so fresh and healthy, and the dressing was great with all that sumac and freshly squeezed lemon juice. I could definitely see us making this again. It was pretty simple to make and would have been even easier if we hadn't been doing so many other things at the same time.


This was really just basmati rice cooked in chicken stock, but I wanted to try following the original recipe here for the different method of preparing the rice. I was wondering if it would indeed produce different results from just cooking the rice according to the package instructions. I was originally going to leave out the pine nuts and probably could have, as they didn't add that much.

The method of making this rice was to heat some olive oil and butter in the pot, add the rice and stir it around for a few minutes over high heat, and then add a few cups of chicken stock (1:3 rice to stock ratio). The rice was then cooked over medium low, simmering for 15 minutes covered tightly. After fluffing the rice after those 15 minutes, we turned off the burner and just let the pot of rice sit near where the heat escapes the oven (since it was already on for the eggs). At this point, you're supposed to put paper towels over the top and around the rim of the pot, and then re-cover it tightly for at least 25 more minutes.

We had never really tried making the rice using this "towel method" before, but I imagined that it was supposed to result in fluffier, softer rice. It did, although I didn't think it was dramatically different from making the rice our regular way and skipping that step. It does seem to be a good thing to do though if you're making a bunch of other dishes and aren't sure how long the rice is going to be sitting around waiting, as it keeps the texture nice and fluffy.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, this was a tasty, healthy Middle Eastern meal, although we ate way too much of it late at night. The cost for the entire meal was about $16.94, which seems like a lot, but there was some salad leftover, as well as a bowl of rice with turkey topping for lunch. I was really glad that I had A's help to make this or otherwise it might have taken another hour as I went back and forth from recipe to recipe. It was a bit ambitious as far as amount of work for a Monday night, and I think if we were to incorporate any of these into our rotation, it would be the quinoa salad or the turkey skillet - separately.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Week 9 - One Pot

One pot was the challenge theme for one of the first challenge weeks I ever did back in 2014, so I wasn't sure what to make for the one pot theme this time around. While I was trying to figure it out, I unintentionally made a one pot meal, so task complete.

Since this was unplanned, unfortunately no ingredients photo, but I had originally been making a soup with Italian sausage and vegetables. I added some tiny pasta to it but it didn't seem like enough, so I added more tiny pasta. By the time the pasta finished absorbing all the water, it had pretty much become a one pot pasta dish. It looks a little like stew in these photos but it was really thick and there wasn't really much liquid in the end at all.

The dish combined a large onion, a pound of carrots, a box of mushrooms, one large zucchini, one package of Trader Joe's spicy Italian sausage (the pre-cooked ones), about 8 cups of water, 2 large scoops of chicken bouillon, salt and pepper, a lot of dried oregano, a few shakes of chili flakes, some dried rosemary, about 2 cups of tiny pasta, and a little bit of chopped parsley added at the end. I basically simmered it until the pasta had absorbed all the water, and A said it had a consistency like porridge. We have made this soup before and usually mix in some lentils or rice or some other grain, but this is the first time it turned into a one pot non-soup meal. Good combination in whatever form.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Week 8 - Spice Blends

There were so many possibilities for the spice blends theme. Ras el hanout? Curry powder? Pipelchuma? I couldn't decide. Technically I think you were supposed to make the spice blend yourself, but since I'm not officially participating anyway, I planned to just use one of the spice blends I already had in the pantry. Why make a new one when I already had so many spice blends sitting unused in the cabinet? That would just be wasteful. Once the spice blends week rolled around, I saw that someone else made Ethiopian food, and I knew I had to do the same. We had purchased a gigantic bag of berbere when we were in San Diego, and that would be perfect for the challenge.

Doro Wat

I could have gone with a vegetarian dish, but I decided to start with doro wat. We had had a great version of this in DC last year (at a place that is now sadly closed and not because of lack of quality or popularity), and while I knew I could never achieve that level of greatness on my first attempt (or maybe even any attempt), I hoped to at least come up with something decent. After some searching, I found a recipe on Daring Gourmet that seemed like it would work and went with that.

The ingredients for my version of doro wat were:

- 2 large yellow onions, finely minced in food processor (about 3-3.5 cups) ($1)
- 6 tbsp butter, divided ($0.60)
- 2 tbsp olive oil ($0.40)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced, plus more to taste ($0.20)
- 1 tbsp ginger paste, plus more to taste ($0.25)
- 1/4 cup berbere ($2.75)
- 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes ($4.20)
- juice of 2 lemons ($0.60)
- 1 cup chicken stock ($0.30)
- 1/2 cup white wine mixed with 1 tsp honey ($1)
(original recipe called for Tej, but could not find anywhere nearby so used a South African Chardonnay)
- 4 eggs ($0.40)
- rice (or some other side to eat with the doro wat) ($1)

The chicken and rice together cost about $12.70, which breaks the $10 goal I usually set, but considering it had more meat than we usually make in one meal, wine that wasn't leftover from our wedding, and a lot of spices, that wasn't entirely unexpected. That price is probably only a few dollars less than some of the Ethiopian restaurants, but in quantity, it probably made multiple times more than you would get there.

On the day that I was going to make doro wat, I knew it was going to take hours, so I made sure I didn't have to go out at all that afternoon. I stuck decently close to the original recipe since I didn't want to screw it up, but made some adaptations here and there. The steps were:

1. Finely mince the onions in a food processor. [It was basically a puree by the time it was done, and I was a bit of a mess, holding my ears since our food processor was ridiculously loud, louder than I thought, and tears streaming down my face from the onion chopping.]

2. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a Dutch oven and then add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Swirl together as you cover the surface with oil and butter.

3. Add onions to the Dutch oven. Cook covered over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add garlic and ginger paste and 1 tbsp butter to the onion mixture. Cook covered over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add berbere and 2 tbsp butter to the mixture. Stir well. Cook covered over low heat for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Put chicken cubes in bowl with lemon juice at room temperature and marinate for 30 minutes.

After the 30 minutes was up, that's when the chicken (post-marinating) was supposed to be added, but I had been thawing frozen chicken under running water in the sink and it didn't thaw as quickly as I had planned. I probably ended up delaying for 15-20 minutes, so the berbere mixture cooked longer. I added another tbsp of butter since the mixture was sticking to the bottom and turning black, and I was worried it was going to burn. It didn't do much. Every time I went to check on the mixture, it was sticking again, so I started adding water, about 1/4 cup at a time every time I stirred. By the time the chicken was ready to be added, I had probably added a cup of water just to keep the berbere mixture from sticking and burning.

7. Taste berbere mixture before adding chicken and adjust flavors if needed. [I added more garlic and ginger paste at this point, because I felt like the mixture had a good amount of heat but could use a little more flavor.]

8. Add to the mixture the chicken cubes, chicken stock, wine and honey mixture. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low again. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

9. While mixture is simmering, hard boil 4 eggs and peel when ready. Pierce eggs with fork in multiple places, about 1/4 inch deep.

[At this point, we also started making rice, because we needed something starchy to eat with dinner and there was no way I was also going to be able to pull off injera on the same night.]

10. After the 45 minutes are up, add the pierced eggs to the chicken. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.

11. Remove lid from Dutch oven and simmer uncovered until doro wat reaches desired thickness. [Probably because of the water I had to add earlier in the process, it was thinner than I wanted when it was done. We cooked it for another 5-10 minutes to thicken it up. A splatter screen over the pot was quite necessary.]

12. Remove from heat, adjust seasonings if needed (didn't do anything here), and serve over rice (or injera or whatever else).

This doro wat came out pretty well for my first time making it. Was it as good as our favorite one from DC? Not a chance. There was just something in the depth and nuance of those flavors that was missing here. Could be because I didn't actually use Ethiopian honey wine or because I didn't have Ethiopian butter or because they used other secret stuff or because they've been doing this for their entire lives and I will never be able to replicate that experience. But I was pretty happy with it. It reminded me more in flavor of some of the stuff we got at an Ethiopian fast casual place in the DC area, and if we could get that level out of our kitchen, that would be pretty satisfying. From start to finish, the entire process took 5 hours. That's a long time to make a dish for dinner, but it tasted really good. I think next time I'll try the berbere with lentils.

Gomen Wat

My original plan for dinner was just to make doro wat, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew I had to add something else. Otherwise, the only vegetables we'd be eating at dinner would be onions and that wasn't enough. So about an hour or two before I started making doro wat, I looked online for recipes for Ethiopian greens and found one on Allrecipes for gomen wat. That would be easy enough to adapt to what I had at home (since I couldn't go out to a store if I wanted to with the doro wat plan for the rest of the day). That meant spinach instead of collard greens and forgetting about the green pepper.

The ingredients for our version of gomen wat were:

- 1 bag of frozen chopped spinach ($1.49)
- olive oil for sautéing ($0.20)
- 1 small onion, chopped ($0.35)
- a couple spoonfuls of minced garlic ($0.20)
- lemon juice, about 1 tbsp ($0.10)
- salt ($0.02)
- ground turmeric ($0.10)
- paprika ($0.05)
- ground allspice ($0.10)
- ginger paste ($0.15)

I didn't measure any of the spices at the end of that list but just added what seemed about right, maybe a tsp or two, figuring I could adjust for taste later. The cost was about $2.76 for the entire dish, which is pretty great.

The process for making gomen wat was pretty easy. The steps were:

1. Heat olive oil in skillet and add onions. Once softened, add garlic.
2. After cooking garlic for about a minute, add frozen spinach. Cover and cook for a few minutes until spinach is almost done.
3. Add all other ingredients, adjust seasonings to taste, and cook until happy with the taste.

Super simple. Not exactly what we get for greens when we go out for Ethiopian food since it seems like they use collards, but this recipe would absolutely work for us for an everyday side dish. I really liked the combination of spices and would definitely make this again. It was nice to offset the strong, bold flavors of doro wat with these milder flavors. It was a good balance. What a tasty dinner experiment.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Week 7 - Black and White

It was difficult for me to figure out what to make for the black and white challenge, mostly because I love cooking with color and didn't want to make dessert. I had absolutely no idea what to do and was pondering just putting a simple white fish on top of black rice, when A had a good idea - cacio e pepe.  I thought that would work, but wasn't 100% into it because I would have to buy white pasta (try to avoid that for health reasons) and it would be predominantly white with just black pepper for the black side of the challenge. Before a visit to a Chinese grocery store, I mentioned to A that I was considering something different, a soup with black rice, tofu or fish balls, and maybe some white vegetables, like daikon. His response was, "Oh, you mean oden?" Yeah, oden would pretty much be the natural evolution of the soup I was considering. With that idea in mind, everything came together much more easily.

The ingredients for our version of oden were:

for the broth (we used a recipe from The Kitchn as the basis for the ratios):
- 8 cups of water ($0)
- Hondashi soup stock granules, to taste ($0.40)
- 8 tbsp soy sauce ($0.60)
- 2 tsp sugar ($0.20)
- 4 tbsp sake ($0.60)

the rest of the ingredients:
- lotus root (about 1.5 lbs) ($2.65)
- daikon radish (we had a 4 lb daikon (yes, seriously) and used about 2/3) ($1.64)
- a couple of handfuls of dried wood ear mushrooms ($0.76)
- 1 small winter bamboo root ($1.91)
- 1 block of firm tofu ($1.32)
- 1 package of pollock fish balls ($1.99)
- 2 small packages of enoki/seafood mushrooms ($1.98)
- olive oil for sautéing ($0.10)

on the side:
- 1 cup uncooked black rice ($1)

Not the cheapest meal, coming in at $15.15, but probably less expensive than most oden recipes since a lot of them include a lot of seafood or fish balls. We went for simple but hearty for a cold night, and it made enough that we had enough leftovers for another dinner.

The steps for making the oden were:

1. Soak wood ear mushrooms in warm water to rehydrate. (By the time I was ready to chop these, it was at least 20 minutes later.)

2. Start the broth with the water and the dashi in a large soup pot.

3. Prep work - peel and chop daikon, peel and chop lotus root, peel and chop bamboo root (this was our first time doing this and quite an adventure as we kept peeling and peeling and didn't know when to stop and ended up with very little bamboo shoots), press tofu to release water and then slice, chop wood ear mushrooms once rehydrated, chop mushrooms.

4. Boil water in small separate pot and cook bamboo shoot until tender. (We had no idea what to do with this root but one site we read mentioned that it could be bitter and the water might need to be changed, which we really couldn't do with the soup stock.)

5. Heat olive oil in small skillet, and begin searing the tofu in batches (just to make sure it doesn't break up in the soup pot).

[Since A and I were doing this together, a lot of these prep steps overlapped.]

6. Add the other broth ingredients to the stock.

7. Once the broth tastes right, start adding the vegetables, fish balls, and tofu to the pot. (We did it in order of how long we thought things would need to cook, like lotus root first.) Simmer for about an hour (or more).

8. At some point while the soup is cooking, make the black rice. (Took about 40 minutes.)

We were really happy with how the oden turned out. Was it perfectly authentic? No, probably not, but it made use of what we had and what looked good at the store, and it had to be within the confines of the challenge, so only ingredients that were black and white. The soy-based broth was really good, very clean and light and healthy, and the entire stew just felt right for winter. Although oden often has large pieces of vegetables, I think next time I would chop the daikon and the lotus root into pieces a little bit smaller so that they mesh better in size with the other ingredients, and we would leave out the bamboo shoots (at least the fresh kind) since they were barely in here anyway. We would definitely make this again, maybe with different/more ingredients when we have the flexibility to have color!