Cook.Bake.Eat.Write.

Archive for the ‘Main Dish’ Category

No work to do, so blog I shall.

I’ve been a legal assistant for all of 2 months. Before that, I was a writer and a teacher. Basically, I was my job—I thought about it on the way to work, from work, on the weekend, on holiday; even sleep offered no escape from it.

Now as an official 9-to-5er, my job no longer defines me. It does not follow me on my way home or on my errands, nor does it plague my dreams as I sleep.

I may be one of the few people who is actually OK (so far) with a 9-to-5 schedule. No, I don’t plan on being a legal aid for the rest of my life. I am wise enough, however, to be grateful for the work that I do have and also to realize that this job is a means to an end and is by no means an end.

You know what the best part of my job is? The walk home. Listening to my little iPod, eyes smiling, I bounce down the street and think about what I’m going to have for dinner. And now that it’s almost officially Fall, I’ve started craving warm, homey foods again.

One of my favorite dishes to make is one I grew up eating at home — Japanese-style Curry Rice (日本スタイルのカレーライス). It’s hearty, wholesome and tummy-warming. You can add whatever kind of vegetables and meat you like (I usually do ground beef or chicken to save time, which makes my version a mix between curry rice and hayashi rice—ハヤシライス.)—convenient when you  have veggies you’re trying to use up. After just 30 min., you can sit down with a big spoon and a side of red pickles (fukujin-zuke, 福神漬) and dig in!

Japanese-style Curry Rice (日本スタイルのカレーライス)

INGREDIENTS

1 carrot, peeled and chopped into large pieces

1 medium potato, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion

150 g ground chicken or beef

1/2 cup corn kernels

1 cup chinese greens

1/2 small pkg Japanese curry

1 1/4 cup water

oil for frying

For Rice

2/3 cups short-grain rice

5/6 cup water

DIRECTIONS

1. Prepare and cook rice. (I wash and drain it 3 times in water—because that’s what my mom always does—and then cook it in my rice cooker.)

2. Fry meat in a pan until no longer pink.

3. Add onion, potato and carrot and fry until lightly golden.

4. Add water and bring to a boil. Stir in curry until thoroughly combined. Reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

5. Once potatoes and carrots are completely cooked through and the curry has thickened, add corn and chinese greens. Stir in and allow to cook uncovered for about 5 minutes.

6. Serve over Japanese short-grain rice.

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This is one f*ing expensive city—and I earn barely above minimum wage. (I am not being ungrateful, God. I am grateful for the blessing of work in these economically harsh times—really I am!). Suffice to say, things are tight right now. I’m doing mental math with my salary all the time and wondering where I can cut back (even more) and still enjoy life.

So this is what I’ve come up with so far.

-Bag lunch it to work: WAS doing really good with this—lunching on wholesome fruit salad in a nearby park—but with SF’s temperamental weather moods, I end up buying. Actually, since I only ever order a single bagel+butter ($1.55), it feels more like I’m renting a table to sit and read at for 30 minutes.

-Go out less: I hate this one.

-$40 weekly grocery budget: I was even toying with cutting that to $30. I haven’t tested out $40 yet, but I think it’s going to be tough. Maybe I should go back to non-organic.

Why is eating organic so dang expensive? This is why I avoided all organic craziness for so long (I recently gave in after seeing Food, Inc.)—you can’t be a have-not if you want to enjoy non-genetically modified food. Nevertheless, I’m determined to try.

-Eat in and cook with what I have, not with what I want: Eating in is not the problem. Even if it’s just me, I really enjoy the effort that goes into making a warm, colorful, flavorful meal for myself. It’s the trips to the grocery store before cooking that are the problem. So, I’ve decided to try to be more resourceful with the food I have already at home.

Today I successfully avoided going to Trader Joe’s after work and came up with a pretty good go-to meal for myself.

Mushroom-Corn Frittata with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Served with a Tomato Salad with Balsamic-Olive Oil Vinaigrette

Sounds nice, right? It was!

I don’t have one of those oven-safe pans, so after pan-frying the veggies, I poured the whisked eggs/milk on top and covered the whole thing with a lid. A few minutes in, I sprinkled in the goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes and let it finish cooking. And when I removed the lid, I had a light, fluffy frittata—steamed on top and golden on the bottom.

Organic Mushroom-Corn Frittata with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Served with a Tomato Salad with Balsamic-Olive Oil Vinaigrette

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS

Frittata:

olive oil, for frying

1/2 small onion, sliced thinly

1 clove garlic, minced finely

3 mushrooms, sliced (I used brown cremini)

1/4 cup frozen corn kernels

2 large eggs

splash of milk (I used non-fat)

1 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in oil, sliced

1 tbsp soft goat cheese, crumbled

salt & pepper

Tomato Salad

2 Roma Tomatoes, sliced

extra virgin olive oil

balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper

1 tbsp goat cheese, crumbled

DIRECTIONS

Tomato Salad:

1. Slice the tomatoes and layer them on a plate.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Then, pour over the tomatoes. (Didn’t bother with the bowl and poured the individual ingredients directly over the tomatoes.)

3. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Set aside (to marinate) while you prepare the frittata.

Frittata:

1. Pre-heat a small (I think mine is 5″) non-stick pan on medium-high. In a little olive oil, fry the onion, garlic and mushrooms until softened and browned. (The higher heat is necessary because of the high water-content in mushrooms.) Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper to taste. (I always add salt later in the cooking process, as salt draws out water.)

2. While the mushrooms, onions and garlic are frying, whisk together 2 eggs, a splash of milk and salt & pepper in a small bowl.

3. Into the pan, stir in the corn, allowing to just heat through. Then, distribute the vegetables in the pan, so that the entire bottom is covered.

4. Pour in the egg/milk mixture, making sure to cover all the vegetables. Place a lid on top and allow to steam for 2 minutes.

5. Remove the lid. Sprinkle the sliced sun-dried tomates and crumbled goat cheese on top. Replace the cover and steam for another 3-4 minutes.

6. Fold the frittata onto the plate with your tomato salad and ENJOY!

One of the best parts of having lived in Singapore was its proximity to everywhere else! Southeast Asian metropolises, ancient cultural sites and exotic holiday destination are a mere 1 1/2-hour plane ride away–and thanks to budget airlines like Tiger Airwats, Air Asia and Jetstar, more than affordable.

A favorite destination for hubby and me is Thailand. On our most recent trip, we were on an island called Koh Phi Phi Don, where for 5 straight days we gorged on, sipped, nibbled and devoured some of the best culinary dishes the island had to offer. One such dish was Gai Pad Ga Prao. Though consisting of only a few ingredients, the mingling of flavors from the ground chicken, basil and fish sauce make for a tasty and tangy combination.

Gai Pad Ga Prao (Thai-style Stir-Fried Chicken and Basil)

recipe from realthairecipes.com

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic

2-30 small Thai chilies, to taste

200 g ground chicken

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp dark black soy sauce

1/4 tsp white sugar

2 handfuls holy basil leaves

DIRECTIONS

1. Smash chilies with a stone mortar and pestle  if you have one, or use the side or back of a knife. Smash garlic, and set aside with the chilies.

2. Clean basil by picking off the leaves and flowers, and discarding the stems. Rinse and set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a pan until very hot on high heat. Throw in the chilies & garlic, and stir until browned. You should sneeze from the chili. (You may want to open a window.)

4. 5When the garlic is ready, add the pork. Break it up in the pan with your spatula, to make sure it cooks evenly. Fry until no longer red.

5. Add sugar, soy sauce & fish sauce. Stir and let absorb.

6. When dry, add the water and the basil leaves. Stir until basil is wilted, and serve on rice.

7. If you want to top with a fried egg, add a bit more oil in the pan, and allow the oil to get very hot. Crack an egg in the middle. If it’s hot enough the egg will bubble up and sizzle. When browned on the edges, flip and wait until browned on the other side.

8. Remove and place on top of the rice.

These are awesome! I was watching an episode of Jamie Oliver At Home when he started preparing this dish. The original recipe calls for lamb and is served in a spicy veggie wrap of sorts. Though this sounds lovely, it was really the Mediterranean meatballs which caught my attention. 

The kofta are juicy and oh so flavorful, the the cumin, thyme and lemon zest adding an herby kick. And the pistachios–my favorite ingredient used here–give such a pleasing texture and really make this recipe unique.

When I prepare this, I use ground beef (because that’s what I usually have) and make only the meatballs. For the sake of convenience, I also usually just pan-fry the kofta.

Actually, this was the main that went along with the feta yogurt dip for my indoor anniversary picnic. I served it with homemade flatbread (using Jamie’s pizza dough recipe) and a Mediterranean-themed salad. 

Pistachio Kofta Kebabs (adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe)

Serves 2.

Ingredients

250 g extra lean ground beef (the original calls for lamb)

1 heaping tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)

1 tsp chile powder

1 tsp ground cumin

grated zest of 1/2 a lemon

sea salt and pepper

1 handful pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

Directions

1. Mix the lamb with most of the thyme, chile, cumin and sumac (reserving a little of each for sprinkling over later), a little salt and pepper and all the pistachios. Combine well.

2. Divide the meat into four equal pieces and get yourself four skewers. With damp hands, push and shape the meat around and along each skewer. Press little indents in the meat with your fingers as you go – this will give it a better texture when cooked. 

3. In a hot pan, fry the meatballs in a little olive oil. Turn every minute to get color on each side. 

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover to allow the cooking process to complete.

5. Serve with warm flatbread, lemon slices and a mixed salad.

IMG_2647

I made this for hubby and my first Christmas away from family and…as husband and wife. (I know–it’s May, almost June. But it’s such a nice recipe, how can I not post it?) D.’s family eats “Fleisch im Teig” every Christmas and since it’s just the two of last year, I thought I would treat him to a little piece of Switzerland here in far away Singapore.

Naturally, I scoured the internet for a decent recipe and came across this one from Gordon Ramsay. It’s such a classic dish and recipe, but had to adjust the original to fit D.’s tastes. So, instead of the traditional “duxelle” mushroom filling, I used caramelized onions and peas. Tasty, but the pea flavor was a bit strong. Next time, I think I’ll try spinach or maybe even wild rice.

Though preparation can be a bit time consuming, it was well worth it! It turned out great and really made my Christmas day! Hubby also really enjoyed it. The meat was tender, the puff pastry crust, flaky and the filling savory/sweet. I ended up baking for 40 minutes and letting it rest for 25, while we waited for the side dishes to finish. 

Serves 4

Beef Wellington (adapted from Gordon Ramsay ’s recipe)

Ingredients

1/2 red onion, sliced thinly

2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

1/2 cup green peas (originally mushrooms)

salt and pepper, to taste

olive oil, for frying

English mustard

4 slices Parma ham

200 g pkg frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, plus a splash of milk, for egg wash

 

Directions

1. Over a low flame, fry the onions and garlic in olive oil. Allow to caramelize slowly, about 30 minutes.

2. After the onions have caramelized, add the peas and sauté for another 5-10 minutes. The mixture should not be wet or liquidy at all. Allow to cool.

3. Purée pea-onion mixture in the food processor. It should easily stick together. Set aside.

4. Prepare the meat: Season the fillet with salt, pepper and olive oil. In a very hot pan, sear each side of the meat, about 1 min. per side. 

5. Slather the fillet generously with mustard (I used dijon because that is what I had). Set aside.

6. In the middle of a long piece of plastic wrap, line up the parma ham to about the width of the fillet (or little wider). Spread the pea-onion duxelle onto the ham.

7. Place the fillet onto the middle of the parma ham and begin rolling. Use the plastic wrap to help you roll and tighten as much as you can. Tuck the ham in if hanging and twist the ends of the plastic wrap. Refrigerate seam down for 10-15 minutes. This will help the meat set into shape properly.

8. Roll out the puff pastry; brush the edges with egg wash.

9. Removing the plastic wrap, place the fillet in the middle of the pastry dough. Roll the dough over the meat as tightly as you can.

10. Cut off excess dough (not too much that you can’t tuck the ends under). Tuck the ends underneath.

11. Brush the bottom of the dough with the egg wash.

12. With the excess dough, you can make decorative shapes to top the roulade with. Star-shaped cookie cutters work well. Place on top of roll.

13. Finish brushing the entire roll with the egg wash. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

14. Brush the roll one more time with egg wash. Place in the oven (center) for 40 minutes. Cover with tin foil for the first 20 minutes.

15. Remove the roulade and allow to rest for about 10 or so minutes before serving.

This recipe is the inspiration for the name of this blog. Though I can no longer remember where I found the recipe (I have a feeling it is a Swiss recipe from the Canton of Tessin), I believe the original used zucchini blossoms instead of basil. 

More than just a simple cream sauce, this sauce is made unique through the additions of saffron and generous amounts of fresh basil. It’s rich and warming, yet at the same time aromatic and fresh. One of the first dishes I ever adapted, it remains one of my all time favorites to make!

Serves 4.

Enjoy!

Creamy Saffron and Basil Pasta

Ingredients

1 cup water

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

olive oil, for frying

1-2 large handfuls basil, sliced chiffonade

a pinch of saffron

1 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper, to taste

16 oz pasta of your choice

grated parmesan cheese, to serve

 

Directions

1. Boil the water for the pasta.

2. Fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until lightly browned.

3. Pour in the water and allow to come to a simmer and reduce by one-third.

4. Add the basil and let cook down for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

5. Stir in the saffron. 

6. Pour in the cream and then add a little salt and pepper to taste. 

7. Allow to simmer slowly and thicken. (Tip: add a little grated parmesan to speed up the thickening process.)

8. Serve over pasta cooked al dente, and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

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