Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When do you add the barbecue sauce?

The last time Mom let me help her barbecue, I learned a valuable lesson that most people know already: Don't put barbecue sauce on the side that you're about to put directly over the flames. Maybe that's why my meat always turned out so burned until last night, when I did it the right way.

During the last 10-15 minutes or so of cooking, coat the top side of the meat with a thin layer of sauce, then close the lid and let it cook for about three to four minutes. Then turn the meat over, apply another thin coating of sauce to the top, and let that cook. Keep an eye on the meat to be sure the barbecue sauce on the bottom doesn't get singed. After another three to four minutes, turn the meat over again to let the second layer of sauce get a little browned, then it's eatin' time.

Do not, I repeat, do not coat the top then immediately turn it over, because it will just burn burn burn. Giving it some time to cook while it's not directly over the flames helps it meld with the meat a little better, too.

And that's my lesson for the day that most of you probably learned years ago. Live and learn.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Montreal Steak brings out the BBQ

If barbecuing when the barometer tops 70 in Seattle is obligatory, when it's over 90, it's a necessity.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining that the sun finally came out in Seattle (although I am glad it is supposed to rain and get rid of all this smog next weekend!), but without the air-conditioning that the rest of America has, we have to be a little more creative about how to keep our house cool. And that means no indoor cooking unless it's in the early morning or late at night when we can finally open the windows and let in the cool air.

So I've been a barbecuing machine all weekend, getting creative in the kitchen with just how I can barbecue absolutely everything.

And my new spice of choice for this culinary adventure? Montreal Steak Seasoning, which I started using on Nate's recommendation to replace my prior oft-used combination of salt and Mrs. Dash Garlic Seasoning, which I recently ran out of. And since the steak seasoning is basically made of salt and other spices that I frequently use, including garlic, black pepper and red pepper, it just kind of makes my work easier.

I used it on everything last night. First I sprinkled it on a couple of nice T-Bone steaks before marinating them in this sauce for 6 hours. I also sprinkled it on the corn, which I first coated with olive oil before wrapping it with foil. And I added it to cut-up potatoes tossed with olive oil and green onions, also wrapped in foil.

And here it all is on the grill before it ended up in our bellies.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mix it all together into Salmon Chow Mein

Bryan took some action shots last night while I was combining all of the food I made earlier this week into one dish. I made plenty of Asian-style Salmon because I knew the leftovers would be even tastier after soaking up the sauce overnight, and even better with some noodles. I planned even further ahead by barbecuing 1 large zucchini, tossed with olive oil and garlic salt, that I then had to hide from Bryan.

Ideally, I would have used the the thin, Chinese egg noodles Mom taught me how to stir-fry for Chow Mein, but all I had was Top Ramen, which proved a delicious substitute. Just be sure to break up the noodles before you cook them, otherwise they're way too long and will just get tangled when you try to stir-fry them.

Salmon Chow Mein
3 packages Top Ramen
3 T. sesame oil, divided
2 cups leftover Asian-style Salmon, broken up in chunks, with sauce
1 zucchini, cut in bite-size pieces
2 green onions, sliced
1 jalepeno, minced (optional)
3 T. soy sauce
1 T. sugar
1 T. rice vinegar

Break up the Top Ramen, then cook according to package directions and drain well.

Meanwhile, heat a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with 1 T. of sesame oil, then stir-fry a third of the Top Ramen, a third of the green onions, and a third of the jalepeno, if using. You'll want to move the noodles around the pan ever 30 seconds or so, being sure to turn them with a spatula a couple of times. Transfer noodles to large bowl when they start to dry out, then repeat with the remaining noodles. Each batch should take 3-5 minutes.

Mix together the soy sauce, sugar and rice vinegar, then add to the noodles and mix well.

Place the zucchini and salmon in the same pan until heated through, then add to the noodles and stir until mixed well.

Friday, August 13, 2010

No "Ruined" stamp for my Asian-style Salmon

It's no wonder I ruin all of Mom's recipes when I seem unable to ever adhere to them. In all honesty, though, I follow Mom's recipes about as closely as she does. I doubt she's ever made the same dish the exact same way twice - not only because she doesn't measure anything, but it also depends on what she has on hand as well as her constantly changing tastes.

Almost every time I go to her house, she's got a new way of making tea or some special dish that she suddenly is saying is the way they "always do it." In these cases, "always" usually means about two weeks, but her way of cooking is a constantly evolving cycle, so maybe she just doesn't notice the little additions and subtractions she makes here and there.

I still tried to kind-of follow her recipe for Asian-style Fish, although I immediately ruined it by 1) using a salmon fillet, 2) using powdered ginger instead of fresh ginger root 3) using a combination of green onions and baby fennel instead of leeks, and 4) grilling it for about 25 minutes wrapped in foil instead of (blech!) microwaving it.

In my defense, I was simply using what I had, and I did learn that trick from the best. I got the baby fennel from Full Circle Farm and really have no idea what else to do with it, and the green onions are the tops of some beautiful red onions that appeared in my fridge over the weekend (thank you James and Debbie!). Not to mention that it topped 70 in Seattle today, which means a barbecue is obligatory.

And you know what? The salmon turned out really, really tasty. Which makes me think I should have named this blog Improving Mom's Recipes instead of Ruining Mom's Recipes. Doesn't quite have the same ring, though, does it?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Only in L.A.: Korean BBQ Cook-Off

Before I get sidetracked by my real life, I thought I'd share some (cell phone!) photos from the Korean BBQ Cook-Off that we went to in Los Angeles' K-Town over the weekend. Talk about great timing. Entry was free, and food/drink tickets cost $5 each. It was a bargain: At the O Dae San booth, I got a dish of pork belly with rice and salad AND a Vietnamese iced coffee for one ticket.

But first we rushed into one of the lengthier lines for something none of us had ever seen before in Seattle: a Kalbi Burger, which looks just like a regular burger except that the meat is oh so much tastier.

I also was tempted by these unique Korean-style hot dogs from the Seoul Sausage Company, which puts Kalbi in a hot dog. Yum!

But besides the fact that it was enormous, it came with a huge dollop of kimchi on top. Unfortunately, I'm still trying to acquire a desire for kimchi, but it's probably just because I'm a spicy-hot wussy. But since I love sauerkraut, I'm hopeful that maybe someday I can can find it in my taste buds to love kimchi, too.

We also watched a Choco Pie eating contest, which grossed me out so much that I had to seek out and try one of the extremely dry Korean snacks, as well as a Soju drink contest that introduced us to the K-Town Cowboys.

And check out these crazy ice cream flavors from Scoops:

Yes, that says Kimchi and Roasted Corn. There also was Black Sesame and Bean Curd, but let's not forget Oreo (who's the target audience for that flavor?) and Chocolate Guinness. Random, for sure.

But still, I'm hoping some of these creations make their way into our neck of the woods, just maybe for Seattle's own Korean BBQ Cook-Off.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cheesy orzo gets a boost in health

One thing I love about attending conferences geared toward Asian Americans is that the organizers know they can't skimp on the food. Forgive me for stereotyping, but Asians like to eat, and since being a foodie is so trendy these days, Asian Americans want the best of both worlds: good food, and lots of it.

So I wasn't disappointed by the food at the conference I was at last week, and I even got some ideas from it, including the above orzo dish that was inspired by our last meal (sniff snifff).

Cheesy Orzo with Veggies
2 T. unsalted butter
1 carrot, peeled and cut in chunks
1 small summer squash, cut in chunks
1 c. orzo
1-1/4 c. chicken broth
1-1/4 c. water
1 bunch kale, cut in 1/2-inch ribbons and well rinsed
1/4 c. Asiago (or Parmesan) cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Saute carrot and squash in butter over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then add orzo and continue stirring for about 3 minutes. Add broth and water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes.

Stir in the kale in batches until the leaves are wilted, then add cheese, salt and pepper.

I served mine with this fabulous dish from Cooking Light that is a mainstay in our kitchen: Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Balsamic Vinegar Pan Sauce.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Top Ramen: It's not just for college students

There's nothing like coming home from an exhausting trip to a kitchen devoid of anything edible but nonperishable foods.

But at least I lucked out with the timing on this trip. Even though I'll be unable to pop over to the grocery store in the next few days, I just so happened to get a shipment of fruits and veggies from Full Circle Farm. All the better to make my favorite comfort foods yet still stay healthy.

A frequent dish at Mom's is Top Ramen, except it looks a lot more like the picture on the package than what you get when you follow the directions. And follow the directions she doesn't. Instead of using water and the flavor packet, Mom uses her homemade chicken broth and any other spices she's in the mood for, including sesame oil, spicy chili with garlic (or sliced jalapeno or other spicy peppers if you have them) and soy sauce.

While you're getting the noodles ready, simply slice up whatever fresh produce you'd like to add, such as lettuce, tomatoes and green onions. I used red lettuce and escarole that was delivered this morning, and I don't even know what escarole is. Tasted good in the ramen, though!

And the end result is a bowl full of belly-warming goodness.