With another new year ahead of us, I decided it’s finally time for this blog to get a makeover. I changed the theme so that the layout of the blog is more minimalistic and highlights the photos cause it’s all about the droolworthy photos after all, right? One of the changes I am most excited about is the Recipe Card at the end of the post that includes a Nutrition Facts panel! So check out the fancy, informative panel and in the meantime bear with me as I tweak some final changes to the layout of the blog.
Other than playing around with the blog, I’ve been at home happily relaxing and lounging, cooking and eating. I’ve also been reading a book I got for Christmas called The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (from Serious Eats). It’s a huge book (seriously like a textbook) full of Kenji’s wise knowledge about basic cooking skills/techniques and the food science behind it. He has searched for the best methods to cook things such as the fluffiest pancake or the juiciest burgers through scientific experiments. For example, in the pasta section, he found that adding some of the starchy pasta water back into the pasta and sauce mixture will help the sauce stick better to the pasta rather than using regular water.
This week, our friend Ernie (who you may remember from our Summer Peach Pie adventure), shared with us how to make a rich, meaty Italian bolognese sauce. I’ve made bolognese sauce by myself at school once but it was a way more simplified version that required less manpower and patience. This version is one of the more advanced recipes on this blog that you should courageously tackle with a friend or two or set aside a nice chunk of time for. Either way, it will be worth it!
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
- 3/4 cup white wine
- 1/2 small carrot
- 1/2 small onion
- 1/4 cup pancetta (Italian bacon)
- 1 can whole tomatoes
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 clove garlic
- 3/4 lb meat loaf mix (group beef + veal)
- 1 link Italian sausage (casing removed)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- Rigatoni pasta
- Microwave 1/4 cup of water and dried porcini for about 1 minute. Let the mushrooms soak for 5 minutes until soft. Drain and save mushroom water for later.
- In a saute pan, reduce 3/4 cups of dry white wine to about 1/3 cup. Save for later.
- Using a food processor, pulse carrot and onion together.
- Cut pancetta into 1 inch pieces and pulse in a food processor.
- Pulse the can of tomatoes in food processor until finely chopped.
- In a saute pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter. Add pancetta and cook for 2 minutes, until browned.
- Stir in vegetable mixture and mushrooms for 5 minutes, adding a clove of garlic.
- Add meat loaf mix and sausage with casing removed. Cook until meat mixture is well broken down.
- Add milk and cook until the liquid is gone and meat is sizzling (20 minutes).
- Add tomato paste, tomatoes, mushroom liquid, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
- After 15 minutes, add reduced wine and cook for a few more minutes.
- Serve with pasta.
One of the many reasons to look forward to weekends is the farmers’ markets. There is one every Saturday that is about a five minute walk from where I live. I got pretty excited when I recently found out that Baltimore has two bigger ones downtown so I routinely try to convince any friend with a car to bring me with them. There’s something special about waking up early and strolling over to the market on a brisk, Fall morning.
The markets are always bustling with people and there is usually someone playing music – everyone is cheerful and relaxed, unlike the stressed-out, in-a-hurry people you see at the supermarket. It truly is a shopping experience like no other, where you get to taste samples of fresh fruits, sip on stellar coffee, and swoon over delicious looking pies and pastries.
After recruiting some friends to join me at the markets, I always start by getting coffee and something to munch on, like biscuits. Then I’ll peruse the stands and get my vegetables and fruit for the week. It’s amazing to see the variety of produce that are available and I always end up buying something I wouldn’t typically buy at the grocery store. This past weekend, there was a notably larger amount of squash. Acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, of all shapes and sizes, were scattered around the market. There was even a mini pumpkin patch!
I’ve only bought and ate spaghetti squash once before but I impulsively decided to buy one that day. Spaghetti squash is a freak of a food and by the name, you can probably guess why. It’s technically a vegetable but when cooked, the inside resembles spaghetti. Although it doesn’t exactly taste like spaghetti and doesn’t have quite the same satisfaction as carbs, it is a fun vegetable worth trying. It can be baked or microwaved but I microwaved it for convenience.
SPAGHETTI SQUASH W/ CHUNKY TOMATO SAUCE
1/2 spaghetti squash
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Use a knife to cut into the squash 1/4 inch vertically from top to bottom and on the opposite side. Use a fork to poke some holes in the squash for ventilation. Place in a baking dish and microwave for 5 minutes.
Using a dish towel or oven mitt, take dish out of microwave. Use the knife to cut the stem off and then completely cut squash in half vertically. Place squash halves back in tray, skin-side up. Fill tray with 1 inch of water and then microwave for 5 minutes. (Caution: squash will be hot!)
To make the sauce, heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add garlic and onion and stir until tender.
Add tomatoes and oregano. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Use a fork to rake out the spaghetti strings from the squash. Keep the spaghetti in the squash or put on a plate. Top with tomato mixture. Sprinkle on freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Recipe adapted from Food.com
Sometimes All the time I crave Asian food. However, I don’t usually cook Asian dishes because they require ingredients specifically for Asian cuisine that can only be found in specialty Asian supermarkets. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the small grocery store across the street had ingredients like mirin (cooking rice wine). Mirin is an essential Japanese condiment that is used to bring out strong flavors. Besides using it in these noodles, I’ve also made salmon with it and am next going to try using it on chicken.
I adapted this recipe from Dennis the Prescott, one of my favorite food Instagrammers. His photos are all incredibly drool-worthy and I’ve wanted to make all of his dishes, especially this one. The recipe is just for the noodles but I also baked Honey soy sauce chicken thighs to go along with it.
These noodles are a quick and easy dish that are guaranteed to satisfy a craving for Asian food. Of course, they’re nothing compared to my mom’s homemade dumplings but they’ll have to do until I visit home in the summer!
ASIAN HONEY GARLIC NOODLES
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
4 cloves finely sliced garlic
1 tablespoon honey
500g chow mein noodles
1 bunch green onions (scallions) chopped
1 tbsp. finely diced ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
In a large bowl, combine soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, honey and sesame seeds. Whisk to combine.
Cook noodles for a couple minutes until firm, but slightly softened.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan or wok on high heat. Add noodles and ginger, and stirfry for a couple minutes. Add sauce, and cook for about 1 minute, making sure that the noodles are completely coated in sauce. Add scallions, juice of 1 lime, and toss to combine.
adapted from Dennis the Prescott