Oh miso hungry, me love you long time

You ever get a song stuck in your head that just doesn’t really quite belong there?  For me it’s either “Baby got Back” by Sir Mix a Lot, any number of songs from the Lion King (MUFASA!!!!!!), the theme music from Tetris or “Me So Horny” by 2 Live Crew.  Toss in a smattering of Glee songs, a few Ani DeFranco and Twenty One Pilots and I’m pretty sure that my internal musical soundtrack would be enough to have me committed to an acute psychiatric facility for a very very very long time *twitch*.  That and my random Snapchat videos of me chasing my husband around the apartment with giant wooden nipple clamps.  I like to keep it exciting and slightly scary at times ^.^

The only thing I think which is more bipolar than my greatest hits is the weather in St. Louis.  I’m pretty sure that we are one of the few cities that in a single day can experience every single season in the matter of 45 minutes. If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes it will change.  That held true this weekend considering it snowed on Saturday and yesterday and today is going to be low to mid 30’s when last week we were pushing 80 degrees.  And they say that humans have no direct impact on global warming and CO2 emissions are myth and legend..BAH! But the great thing about the weather here being so flippant and as unpredictable as me is that it can prolong my most favorite food season.  Soup season.  Yes we have a soup season.  It goes, spring, soup, summer, cold soup, fall, cold & warm soup, winter, all the soup.  There really isn’t a wrong time of the year to have soup.  Hot creamy tomato soup during the rainy days of spring, cold gazpacho during the 2k305f273b30hot dog days of summer, roasted potato soup in winter.  Soup is good all the time.  And if you don’t think it’s good it’s a sure sign and indicator that you either are a communist, a member of a secret society hellbent on systematically eliminating all things soup based or just an asshole!  Soup is wonderful and because of its existence has created several lovable characters and been the focal point on some of our most iconic pieces of art.  So yes if you’re anti soup you’re a horrible, horrible individual and you don’t deserve any sort of happiness in your bleak soupless lives!

For those of us who do enjoy soup we have our personal favorites which are our standard go to’s.  When it’s rainy and gray outside I like to wrap myself up in a hot bowl of tomato soup with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich.  When the weather calls for below freezing temps which hey that is probably going to happen at like noon today with it being sunny and hot by 3 then I like a bowl of my father’s potato soup with a slice of foccacia bread.  When I go out for sushi I ALWAYS have to have a bowl of miso soup.  My standard order at Panera is broccoli cheddar with a piece of crusty french bread.  Now I have had to experience the bitterness of a bad bowl of soup.  Just last week I ordered lunch and was eager to have a bowl of broccoli cheddar from a local sandwich shop and had to be an unwilling participant in some nasty chalky garbage.  It was horrible and like cole slaw found its rightful place in the trash next to my empty coffee cup and a tear-stained receipt from said sandwich shop.  But one bad bowl of soup does not a soup hater make.  You have to have something deeply wrong with you to not be able to let yourself f4hg0uenjoy a bowl full of goodness.  Pretty sure soup haters weren’t hugged enough in their childhood.  That seems to be the most appropriate answer right?  But yes meals aren’t really a meal without a bowl of soup for me either as a starter or even as the entire meal.  Mmmmm souuuuuup.

This weekend with the onset of winter FINALLY and with a previous date night to get sushi, I had miso on the brain and of course every time I hear the word miso I am automatically transported back to that magical age of music known as the 90’s and the sultry song styles of Miami, Florida’s own 2 Live Crew and how they’ve got an appetite..an appetite for……..okay I’m trying to work on not making this blog have an NC17 rating.  Let’s just say that they’ve got an appetite for some good adult wholesome fun.  I was never a huge fan of miso soup primarily because I had this preconceived notion that tofu was a bland horrid cube of boredom.  But as I’ve matured in my old age, so to have my taste buds and I find that while I still don’t really care for tofu, my love for miso has grown and I find myself using it in all sorts of different applications from marinades for flanksteak and chicken, adding it to onions for burgers, salad dressings and of course soup.

I like miso soup just by using a hot water and mixing in the paste, tossing in a few slices of scallions, tofu cubes and some nori but this week I wanted to work on something that

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its the fungus among us

would be a little more substantial and not just a flavorful broth.  During my weekly outing to the international grocery stores (I like them way more than normal grocery stores) I pondered the notion of making a broth to go with the miso and I wanted to do a dashi.  My favorite dashi is from shiitake mushrooms.  I have always enjoyed the rich meaty taste of mushrooms and feel that if I were to go back to being primary vegetarian (I could never be a vegan.  I love cheese too damn much!) that I’d be fine because I can live off of mushrooms.  My favorite way to eat beef stroganoff is to cook Portobello mushrooms with the flank steak and then let Kyle have all the beef and I just eat the mushrooms.  They are the little fungus flanksteaks of the vegetable world.  I love them.  All the mushrooms.   I pondered the idea of spending $35.00 on a huge bag of already dried shiitake mushrooms but I wasn’t ready to make that sort of commitment in the off-chance that neither Kyle or I would like the dashi. Because then I’d have to figure out wtf I was going to do with a 10 pound bag of dried shrooms and I’m pretty sure my circle of friends would not want those kinds of shrooms.  So instead I opted for the small pre-packaged fresh mushrooms and took it upon myself to dry them in IMG_20170311_173240.jpgmy oven.  And if you’ve never dried mushrooms in the oven of on a food dehydrator I strongly recommend that you try it at least once. Even if you aren’t a huge mushroom fan the smell that emanated from my kitchen over the course of 3 hours was unbelievable.  And I don’t mean like some seriously funky smell.  It was this meaty earthy smell that at the time and now I wished was a scent in shampoo or body soap because If it were possible and I’d not run the risk of experiencing second degree burns I would have rubbed it all over my body!  It was just that damn good!!!!  I tried drying the mushrooms in two different ways.  One was by slicing them up and one by leaving the mushrooms whole.  The sliced took about an hour and a half while whole took nearly 3 hours.  Both ways resulted in an amazing dashi once all things were said and done.

 

The dashi is a pretty easy recipe to make.  It simply required 2 ingredients and about 2-3 hours of patience.  If you are wanting a stronger, more umami flavored dashi, try to be patient and wait at least 24 hours.  It will be a matter of personal preference so don’t feel like you have to wait a full day to enjoy some good soup.  In a stock pan you will want to take 8 cups of water and around 75-100 grams of dried shiitake mushrooms.  I used sliced for this because I didn’t have dried whole mushrooms at the time.  If you don’t have a food

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soaking up the liquids getting our hydration on

scale at home, 100 grams is roughly 1 1/2 cups of dried sliced mushrooms.    If you want a food scale you can find them relatively cheap at Target.  That’s where I got mine.

 

Before you start the next step you need to ask yourself a very important question.  Do you want to keep as much mushroom awesomeness in the actual mushroom or do you want it to be in the broth.  Go ahead..I’ll wait while you ask yourself that question.  It’s my day off and I’m not working overtime at my primary job this weekend so I got time.  Do you want mushroomie flavored mushrooms or do you want mushroomie flavored broth?  Have you decided?  No? need another minute or two?  Okay the reason I ask that question is depending on where you want the flavor to linger determines if you use hot water and let them simmer for 20 minutes before allowing to steep or do you just use room temperature water and allow time to run its course.

IMG_20170311_214015.jpgUsing room temperature water without any additional heat allows your mushrooms to maintain their wonderful mushroom flavor but produces a light-colored broth.  By heating the water and allowing it to simmer before cooling your mushrooms will not have as deep of a mushroom taste; however your broth will be infused more and be of a darker color and richer taste.  So it really is a matter of personal preference.  I preferred heating my water and allowing it to simmer because I like that dark meaty broth and I don’t throw the mushrooms away afterwards and they can become a part of the dish or used in other applications where I don’t want a rich mushroom taste but want the mushroom present.  Does that make sense?  In your stock pan bring your water up to a high simmer but don’t allow it to boil.  Let it simmer for 20 minutes before killing the heat and walking away for a while.  We want to let it sit and soak for a minimum of 2 hours to re-hydrate the release all their goodness into the broth.  I found an amazing way to distract me from the kitchen by assembling Ikea furniture and blaming my husband (who was pass out cold from his overnight shift) for the fact I kept misplacing the stupid allen key either on the couch or underneath it or hiding in plain sight.  They say a relationship can be tested in many ways.  Float trip, road trip, assembling Ikea furniture.  So far we’ve managed to not kill each other on any of these adventures and our marriage still remains as dysfunctional

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uh……*blinks & sighs*

as it was on the day we said “I do” which Kyle?  If you are reading this blog it’s not October 26..It’s October 23rd on the day of my true love Ryan Reynold’s birthday *sigh*

 

Once you’ve waited at least 3 hours, take a coffee filter if you have one, if not a paper towel works fine as well and you will want to strain your broth through a sieve.  the reason being is that mushrooms can be gritty and you don’t really want to have any little bits of dirt or grit in your lovely broth do you?  You do? Then um, yeah you need to close this page right now and never ever ever E..V..E..R check back for update. That’s like saying that it’s totally fine to prepare scallops without cleaning them first.  It’s just a big ole bucket of W.R.O.N.G WRONG…so yeah strain your mushrooms with a coffee filter you’ve either bought or stolen from work or a paper towel.  Now we can get down to the best part of this blog.  Making the soup.

Once you’ve gotten your dashi made, miso soup can come together in a matter of 10 IMG_20170313_180547minutes if you don’t have a lot of add ins.  If using noodles you will want to allow up to 20 minutes for your noodles to cook.  And by noodles I don’t mean silly spaghetti noodles.  I mean alkaline noodles that don’t lose their shape or dissolve in broth.  Alkaline noodles are used heavily in Asian cuisine and while I’ve n0t tried my hands at making them, they are on my list of things to do in the course of the next few weeks so keep your eyes peeled for that blog post.  🙂  Just a quick note, when buying miso paste make sure you look at the ingredients on the back of the container.  I ignorantly thought that miso paste would be a vegetarian paste considering its made from soybeans but there are a few brands out there apparently that contain bonito fish so if you are wanting to make sure that you don’t inadvertently serve the vegetarian or vegan in your life animal products check the back.  I recommend Miko Brand Shiro Miso Paste because it does not contain any animal products.

Another great thing I love about making miso soup is you aren’t really stuck with making a whole pot of soup.  You know how sometimes you make homemade soup and before you know it you’ve got 8 quarts of this jacked up mutant potato soup that you kind of like but after the 4th day of eating it you kind of want to send those bastard potatoes back to the mother land where they belong?  With miso soup if you want to make a single serving and be selfish and not share because the dashi broth can keep up to at least a week in the fridge and can be frozen for later use.  Miso paste once open and kept in the fridge can keep for at least a few months if kept closed so it doesn’t dry out.  The only thing that has any sort of limited shelf life after you open it would be the tofu but that can last in a Tupperware container with water that’s closed for at least 4 days.  So depending on how

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funky, fermented and oh so fabulous.  Like me!!!

hungry or generous you are you can make as little or as much as you want.  Because we were going to be having this as our meal with nothing else, I opted to use 4 cups of the dashi broth to start my base.

 

I don’t think it really matters if you put the miso paste in a warm broth or if you put cold broth over it and let it heat up together.  Some recipes will say to use hot broth but I’m like “uh..why?”..So in a sauce pan I put 4 tablespoons of mild yellow miso paste and about a tablespoon of fermented red pepper paste.  The pepper paste is totally optional, I just like to have a bit of a spicy soup on cold days and I absolutely love the taste of gochujang its wonderfully funky with a lovely little Jackie Chan kick to the back of the throat.  To that I added around 4 cups of dashi and allowed that to come up to a simmer over medium heat.  Since we were going to be having this as the only aspect of our meal, Kyle decided to cook up some udon noodles to make it sort of like this odd bastard mutant miso ramen soup, which hey I’m down for

While the miso broth is warming through I set my eyes on the block of firm tofu on the counter.  Tofu is made from the same stuff miso paste is which is soybeans, but it’s not actually made from the bean itself.  If you look up tofu it’s also called bean curd which is made from soymilk (no not the vanilla or chocolate flavored crap you get next to the IMG_20170313_183416yogurt at the grocery store).  Tofu is made from the liquid given off after you soak and blitz the beans and then a coagulant is added to cause it to sort of seize up and form curds.  Depending on how hard you press those curds determines what type of tofu you get.  So if you think about it, tofu is really just a vegetarian type of cheese :)..ITS HEALTHY FOR YOU!!!! I do enjoy using tofu in various applications but it’s one of those things that it doesn’t really have much of a taste on its own.  You need to help it along the road to flavor town.  If you haven’t made tofu before don’t feel bad.  I haven’t either so I just go out and by a package of firm tofu for miso or silken for smoothies.  I’m not about taking that adventure yet..I will but not yet.  I need to commit more to this whole tofu way of thinking before I go out and buy tofu making soybeans.

Cut off a slice of tofu and make it in to whatever size cubes you want.  You like large pieces of tofu? Cut a large piece?  You like small pieces in your soup? Cut a small slice.  No right or wrong.  Don’t like tofu? Leave it out.  It’s not called tofu soup, its called miso soup!  Next

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oh dashi-san you so awesome

you’ll want to take your green onions (scallions) and slice them rather fine, and whatever else you want to toss in,  the soaking mushrooms from the dashi broth project, some sea weed, kimchi? It’s up to you to decide what you want.  We added some hijiki seaweed and some kimchi and mushrooms to ours along with an ample squirt of sriracha to give it a little more oomph.  Your soup, your filling, you do you boo boo..Traditional miso soup is simply green onions, some seaweed, tofu and broth.  Simple and easy lemon squeezy.

 

Once you’ve made the decision about what you are going to use, get your bowls and start building your soup.  We laid our udon noodles in first and then sort of build this baracade of flavors around it with a little tofu, some green onions, chopped rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, and hijiki seaweed.  Then you ladle your broth over all of the inside and enjoy dinner.  I was worried that Kyle would not like the soup as the only aspect of his meal and had set aside a viable alternative of roast chicken and squash but he seemed content withIMG_20170313_184402 his vegetarian/vegan meal.  All in all the whole process took about 4 hours from start to finish but if you’ve got nothing really going on during the weekend it helps make mid-week meals a breeze to get done in less than 30 minutes (10 if you’re not doing noodles).  It’s insanely healthy for you and quite filling.  I was able to make up another batch of it for my buddy JJ who is a tattoo artist at Top Shelf Tattoo in St Louis and I’m hoping he liked it since he’s new to the whole vegan lifestyle.  Now since I’ve made it with the homemade dried shiitake mushrooms I know from here on out I’ll feel validated about the $35.00 bag of dried shiitake I am going to be buying as soon as I decide if I’m going to put on a bra and an actual pair of pants.  So that being said?  Go to the store, buy a container of miso and some add ins and go to town.  You don’t need to be at a sushi restaurant to enjoy this but I do still recommend you go to a sushi restaurant at least once a month because you need that kind of positivity in your life 🙂

お楽しみください

Enjoy!

Miso Soup with Shiitake Dashi

Serving Size: 2 as an entrée/4 as an appetizer

Shiitake Dashi

  • 75-100 grams dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 8 cups of filtered water

Bring to a high simmer (slightly under boiling temperature) and allow to simmer for 20 minutes before turning off the heat and letting the mushrooms rehydrate for a minimum of 2-3 hours. Strain through a coffee filter or paper towel and refrigerate until ready to use.  Store mushrooms in a ziplock bag for later use.  Do no throw these away they are wonderful. You will 8 cups of shiitake dashi once finished

Miso Soup

  • 4 cups of reserved shiitake dashi
  • 4 tablespoons of miso paste (you can use any type, white, yellow, red)
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang/fermented red pepper paste (optional)
  • 4oz cubed firm tofu
  • 4 green onions sliced fine
  • 4tablespoons chopped reserved shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons soaked hijiki seaweed
  • 2 tablespoons spicy kimchi
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha (optional)
  • noodles (optional add in)

In a sauce pan add miso paste, gochujang paste, and dashi  and simmer at a medium heat until hot, stirring occasionally.  If using noodles cook per instruction on package.  Take your bowls and equally divide your filling between either 2 bowls or 4 depending on if using it as an entrée or an appetizer or depending on who wants this and who wants that.  Ladle your hot broth over and serve with sriracha on the side to allow each person to season to their own personal preference.

 

Please feel free to leave comments, likes, share this with your friends. I would love to know what you all thought as well as get your impressions on how I can better my technique.   If in the St Louis Area and you are looking for a tattoo I strongly recommend Top Shelf Tattoo on The Landing.  All the guys there are amazing artists and I wouldn’t trust my skin to any other person now.

 

I’ve made your favorite. Spaghetti. With lots of oregano….VERONICA DINNER!!!!!

One of the movies that seemed to be a staple of my angsty adolescent years was the cult classic “Heathers”.  Veronica Sawyer played by the somewhat neurotic Winona Rider was desperately trying to escape her fate of becoming a plastic Heather by succumbing to her bad boy lust and dating a rather ummm misguided youth named J.D. played by the always luscious Christian Slater *sighs*.  In this movie a love struck Veronica goes on a tumultuous world wind love affair which results in mayhem, bombs, a murder or two and a mantra that still holds true to today.  Teenage suicide. Don’t do it.  It’s fucking brilliant and apparently a new musical hitting the stage in 2017.  There is a rather amazing dream sequence that happens in the first hour of the movie where the heroine of the movie is faced with the harsh reality of innocence lost due to suicide..or in this instance a cup full of Draino where she is faced with the Heather she unknowingly killed7-heathers-quotes. The deceased debutante pulls back the cover of the holy water to reveal a bowl full of spaghetti, extra oregano and says “I’ve made your favorite.  Spaghetti.  With lots of oregano.  VERONICA DINNER!!!” and slams Winona’s face into the bowl of complex carbohydrates covered with the simmered saucy goodness.   This phrase had become a permanent part of my culinary lexicon and every time I make spaghetti now I can’t help but reminisce back to the good old days of 1992 when I first saw the movie and how I truly related to J.D and his angsty desire to blow up the school during a pep assembly by strapping a bomb to the boiler room….>.>…..<.<….um..anyways….

I’ve recently become the proud owner of the Kitchenaid pasta attachment set.20170216_181413_11  It’s been one I’ve been holding on out getting until it either went on sale or went on sale and I had a surplus of Kohl’s cash and gift cards to warrant me spending absolutely nothing on it.  It finally happened.  Last week I busted out the remnants of the wedding gift cards with expressed consent from my loving husband *who lets face it, he would pretty much let me buy anything kitchen wise as long as it didn’t cost me a grand* and set forth to purchase my long-awaited Kitchenaid accessory.  It’s pretty much the only one I wanted with the exception of maybe a second Kitchenaid which I will some day own.  I want two..for multitasking.  STOP JUDGING ME!!!! So I decided today would be the day I would crack open that box and bust a pasta cherry.  I’ve made homemade pasta before.  My mom has a hand cranked pasta maker which I enjoy using but sometimes you just want something that isn’t going to require you vicegripping something to your countertop that you can use with one hand while you drink a glass of wine with the other.  Don’t think that you need to drop a few hundred $$ to make pasta.  People have been making it for centuries without the aid of an electronic gadget and when I’m in the mood and need to vent some frustrations because my job is driving me absolutely bonkers I relish the idea of knowing that I am going to beat the ever-loving shit out of some dough and roll away the tension.  But I normally end up pretty bruised on my forearms from pressing hard on my rolling-pin aka wizard staff and I’d rather not be bombarded with questions about whether or not I feel safe in my own home…It’s happened…I bruise like a Georgia peach.

I’ve tried many different recipes for pasta dough.  Some which use only AP flour some which use a mixture of AP and semolina.  Some which call for eggs and others which call for vegetable oil.  While I’m sure they are okay I found them somewhat lacking, so I found this awesome recipe that has since become my standard go to pasta recipe. It calls for no egg which means its vegan and also means that you don’t run the risk of salmonella setting in from letting it dry for later use.  It also only has 4 ingredients to it and most of them everyone already has in their house.  AP flour (all img_20170218_132111purpose), semolina flour, water & olive oil.  That’s it.  Plus  I have a quick go to pasta sauce that I’m going to share that helps out in a pinch when you don’t have access to nice vine ripened tomatoes because it’s still technically winter and you live in the midwest.

First off, this pasta dries up amazingly and will keep in a ziplock bag for a few months.  I normally don’t keep dried pasta for longer than a month because I normally only make enough for a meal. Unless I’m making ravioli then I make tons and freeze them for quick meals during the week for myself or Kyle.  So don’t feel like you MUST use this the day you make it.  You’ll want to get your materials together so you aren’t running all over creation and back. Taking equal weights of AP flour and semolina you will want to pour them into a large mound on your countertop. I recommend doing this by hand instead of by using a machine because you can get some pretty gnarly pasta if you over mix it.  Plus it’s always more fun to be interactive with your food.  Taking the bottom of a bowl you will want to make a deep well in the center of your flour.  I’ve made some pretty shallow ones only to have water and oil spill over and go everywhere.  Take your warm water and your olive oil and using a fork you want to slowly start to mix in the flour into the water.  Go slow,  you don’t want to build up a lot of gluten in your pasta dough because that can make for tough chewy pasta which aint good eats.  Once you’ve got the inside of your flour volcano pretty much mixed in you’ll want to exchange your fork for img_20170218_132326a dough scraper to start folding in the outside walls of Mt Semolina in on itself.  If you don’t have a dough scraper simply collapse the mound in with your fingers and continue folding and kneading until it forms a rough ball of dough which kinda looks like the moon.  Okay it doesn’t but it’s not smooth.  Transfer the ball of dough to a ziplock bag and walk away.  Yes that’s right.  Walk away from it for about an hour.  Go take a shower, run to the store, have a quick make out session with your significant other or perfect stranger.  We want to give the dough time to relax due to the fact that during the kneading process, gluten was created and we need for it to take a break and relax to create a soft supple dough that will be easy to either roll out for hand cutting or be fed through a machine without causing too much strain on the machine, your nerves and the dough itself.  Plus the additional time allows the flour to thoroughly hydrate.

When you’re ready to start rolling out pasta make sure your sauce or whatever you are dressing it with is almost finished.  Fresh pasta only takes about 5 minutes or so to roll out and only needs 2 minutes to cook so you don’t want your pasta sitting in water getting soggy while you toss in a jar of Prego to warm up.  I’ll share my quick and easy pasta sauceimg_20170218_140923 at the end.  Taking your dough you are going to want to cut it in half and place the unused portion back in the bag to keep it from drying out.  Knead a few times back into a ball and taking your rolling-pin you’re going to want to gently roll it out so that it can feed through the pasta attachment easier.  For the Kitchenaid the largest setting is 1.  Turn your mixer to speed 2 and slowly start to feed your dough in.  It will struggle at first but after the second or third time you’ve passed it through it won’t sound like it’s a 1982 bright orange Volvo going up a steep hill and about to die.  This is just my own personal preference but after I feed the dough through for the first few times I fold it in half and give it a second pass.  I crank the dial up to 2 and give it two-three passes. Set it to 3 and then 4.  You may need to cut your dough into sheets if it gets to long to manage on your own.  I ended up doing that for mine and did it in two sheets before swapping out to the spaghetti attachment.  I wish I had gotten pics of what it looked like coming out but I had originally meant for this post to be about sweet potato ravioli with brown butter sauce but decided to forgo that idea for now and save it for later. I.e I ate the raviolis before I got pictures of them..DAMN MY TUMMY!!!!  Anyways you only really get one shot once you put it through the spaghetti attachment.  After that it’s decision time.  Do you use it now or save it for later?  If saving for later you can lie it flat on a flour dusted cookie sheet or if you’re creative and kookie like me you can drape it over a new coat hanger you bought specifically for this and put it in your pantry to dry out

 

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Ancient Italian drying technique

 

Now I’m pretty sure all of you have made some sort of pasta before so it should go without saying that you need to have a large pot of water that it salted like the sea at a boil before you toss it in.  If not um, fill a large pot up with water, add salt and bring to a boil.  It’s not rocket science people,  its complex carbohydrates.  Once at a boil add your pasta and put on a timer for 2 minutes.  Fresh pasta cooks insanely quick and you don’t want it to become soggy and mushy because well then you’ve wasted time and energy and you might as well have used store-bought and I will shame you endlessly.  ENDLESSLY.  Once cooked strain and toss with your pasta sauce.  If using a thick ragu type sauce don’t mix because I’m pretty sure that’s a cardinal rule and will result in you getting capped by an angry Sicilian woman.  You never mix your pasta and sauce because you want to be able to add meatballs..I personally don’t like mine mixed all together because it makes reheating difficult and I sometimes like to only eat the pasta sauce and not the actual pasta.  Bariatric patient..It happens.  Serve up with some fresh herbs and a little grated parmesan cheese and you’ve got a nice bowl of love ready for devouring.  Now don’t limit yourself to just spaghetti with this pasta dough recipe.  Make lasagna, tortellini, ravioli, parpadelli pasta.  It’s just a pretty basic pasta dough which you can modify and tweak to your liking.  Not a fan of sauce but just a little olive oil with some minced garlic and grated egg yolk? Knock yourself out.  You do with this what you want and share with me what worked for you and what didn’t.  I like feedback 🙂 So go out, find Heathers on Netflix or Hulu, Kodi or where it’s hiding these days.  Make up a huge bowl of spaghetti and embrace your inner angry teen.  You won’t regret it.  I promise 🙂

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Pasta Dough Recipe

  • 500 g AP flour (all-purpose)
  • 500 g Semolina Flour
  • 75 g olive oil
  • 450 g warm water

Pour both flours onto a clean countertop into a large mound.  Take a bowl and create a deep well.  Add water and oil and slowly start to incorporate the flour into the liquid using a fork, slowly adding the sides of the well until no runny liquid is left.  Scrap dough together and gently knead for up to 8 minutes until a rough ball forms.  Wrap in plastic and let rest for a minimum of 30 minutes but up to an hour to allow the gluten to relax and the dough to fully hydrate.  Either roll out and cut by hand or feed through your pasta attachment until you get to your desired thickness.  Cut using either a knife or spaghetti attachment and add to salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain and dress in sauce preference.  If eating later, lay in single layer on a floured baking sheet and allow to dry fully for up to 12 hours.  Store in a zip lock bag until ready to eat.  Bring water to boil and cook till al dente and dress in sauce preference.

Quick and easy 15 minute Tomato Sauce

  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning or 2 pounds fresh tomatoes diced
  • salt/pepper to taste (omit if using canned tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons crushed oregano

Heat a saute pan on medium heat and add olive oil.  Sweat out onions and garlic for 3 minutes and then add tomatoes with juices to pan along with the oregano.  Salt/pepper to taste and let cook for 10 minutes, breaking up large pieces of tomato with your wooden spoon.  Toss to cooked spaghetti and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

The kind of rolls you wanna see in the summer

Well, I personally want to thank everyone out there who this winter wished for summer weather.  God has answered your prayers and parked Satan’s backside right here over the Gateway city.  It has been insanely hot.  So hot in fact that the idea of eating anything remotely warm is enough to make me toss down my towel, walk away from the kitchen and refuse to cook.  I loathe being in the kitchen during the summer.  It’s just not right to stand over a pot of boiling water when it’s almost hot enough to fry an egg on the asphalt.  So how I battle the heat is I eat things that require minimum cooking time or if at all possible no cooking time.  I fear for Kyle’s meat eating ways as he is in for a sore surprise when he realizes that any possibility of a roast chicken or lasagna dish will not happen until fall in my house.

With that being said there are plenty of quick dishes that you can prepare and prepare ahead of time that will allow you to enjoy your dark cool living room or if you are truly one of those summer masochists that feel the urge to go outside these are a light yet filling snack or meal that will satisfy you on your journeys into hell and back.  Fresh spring/summer rolls.

Wait.  Isn’t a spring roll fried?  Yes it is but these are the non fried variety commonly called fresh spring rolls or fresh summer rolls.  What’s the difference?  It’s not fried….oh wait you meant between the spring and summer.  A spring roll can be either fresh or fried and can be found in many different varieties in many different countries (egg rolls, lumpia).  A summer roll is a specific Vietnamese wrapped in fresh rice paper.  Spring rolls also often contain meat where as the summer roll is primarily vegetarian but can be served with shrimp and even sometimes pork.  Spring rolls are also made with a wheat flour skin made with egg in the base and summer rolls made with a translucent rice flour skin.  Either way both are good eats and I enjoy them frequently either by themselves or as an accompany to another dish.

You are only going to be limited with this recipe if you don’t care for fresh vegetables.  That isn’t an issue in my home so the fillings are only limited by what we might have in the crisper drawers.  But for the sake of this entry I’ll just post the standard typical fillings as well as a fun dipping sauce made out with peanut butter.  The majority of all the ingredients if not all of them in fact can be found at your local international grocery store.

Ingredients: Rolls

  • Rice Paper Skins (Circle/Square)-1 per roll
  • Rice Vermicelli Noodles (2 oz)-Can be omitted ****
  • 1/2 cup julienne carrots
  •  1/2 cup julienne cucumbers (seedless variety)
  • mixed greens or romaine lettuce leaves torn in half
  • cilantro
  • basil (i prefer Thai basil but regular basil will work in a pinch)
  • 6 poached shrimp cut in half (3 halves per roll depending on size) (leave the shell on but de-vein prior to poaching)

Ingredients: Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon/lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water

 

 

In a medium sized stock pot heat water to boiling and drop in your shrimp, shell on.  You can choose to season the water with some salt, peppercorns and bay leaf if you feel like it. Turn off the heat and place a lid on and let poach for 5 minute or until they turn pink.  Remove from the water and let chill in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and set to the side.  Refill the same stock pot and bring your water to a boil for your noodles.  Once at a boil, submerge your noodles, turn off the heat and lid the pot and let it sit for 3-7 minutes (vague i know but hey i don’t make the noodles).  We are just wanting the noodles to become soft.  Remove from the hot water and since in cold water for 30 seconds and let sit to the side to drain.  I normally will separate out my noodles into little bundles and let them sit on a paper towel while I finish my prep.

On a clean cutting board place down a piece of parchment paper or if you have it a silicone pad.  This will help the rice paper skin to not adhere to your work surface, potentially causing it to rip when filling.  In a large saute pan fill with warm water, not hot.  The reason we dont want hot water is we dont want to cause the sheet of rice paper to buckle and curl.  Just warm.  Submerge your rice paper and move around for 20 seconds until soft and pliable,  once the rice paper starts to soften time is against you as it will keep on absorbing any moisture left on the skin.  Gently dab with a paper towel and start filling with your choice stuffings. Be careful not to over stuff as it can potentially cause it to break and you will have to start all over.

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So sadly with these photos I overstuffed my summer roll because I was being impatient but it’s just for a point of reference.  You don’t have to follow this method for putting your items on in any sense of the word.  In fact they recommend you stack it side to side instead of on top of each other but meh to each his/her/their own.

So lay a small bundle of rice noodles down spreading out evenly (love how mine is even?!).  Next you’ll place next, on it your other vegetables (lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, peppers.  I recommend if doing avocado put your avocado slices UNDER your noodles.  Lay your shrimp or protein of choice at the top.  If using shrimp make sure the pink side is face down on the rice paper so it can show through for the finished product .   I prefer having a green background against the pink of the shrimp as its more visually appealing and as everyone knows, we eat visually before we actually eat.

image000001 When you’ve got you’re desired fillings on the skin you have a few different methods of folding this bad boy shut.  You can either choose to fold in the side’s first and then roll it up ala burrito style.  You can start to roll from the bottom and then fold in the sides.  It’s whatever is easy for you and best suits you.  You do however want to make sure you roll it tight enough to keep the contents together. I do a three roll roll image000003.  Once over the noodles, once over the veggies and the last one to seal it up and show off the protein (again if using one.  It’s totally optional).  If making more then one be sure to cover with a damp towel to avoid the skin from drying out and breaking.

 

 

These are commonly considered appetizers but with the hot weather hellbent on destroying my desire to cook a warm dish these have been a fantastic meal replacement.  Give me two with some peanut sauce on the side and I am a happy camper!.  By all means swap out and put zucchini in, some jicama.  Not feeling veggies make this with fruit!  Just nothing to liquidy or you’re gonna get a soggy mess.  Don’t want noodles?  Keep em out.  Nothing is set in stone with this recipe which makes it a versatile meal.  Slice in half, plate it up and enjoy with a nice glass of iced tea or a cold iced Vietnamese coffee 🙂

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***if not wanting to use rice vermicelli noodles you can always substitute them for cellophane noodles instead.  Or even omit them entirely.

 

 

 

 

I’m gonna gnocchi you out

I seem to be on a veritable roll this week with keeping this blog updated.  Go me for being either productive or not productive enough.  Das macht nichts (go on..you know you wanna look it up.  It means neither this/that doesn’t matter..My papa says it TONS!!!).  Whilst registering for the upcoming wedding I had made a mental reminder to ask for a gnocchi board because its insanely tedious to roll those little buggers out and then get the ridges with the back of a fork. And it reminded me that crap it’s Wednesday.  My normal dining partner had other plans and I had nothing to make for dinner.  Thank the Gods that the little corner store by my house has probably the most random things for sale.  Gustine’s Market.  If you’re a St. Louis resident that lives in South City I recommend you stop in and get a sample of wine and a Serendipity drumstick from the freezer section.  It’s amazing.  Plus the people are rather friendly so that’s a perk.

I never normally know ahead of time what I want for dinner when it’s just me cooking for myself. I’m perfectly content with cutting open an avocado and eating that for dinner; however my husband Kyle gets rather miffed if he realizes that I didn’t eat something that had some form of protein.  So when I got home I made a quick detour to Gustine’s Market and wandered the small tiny store and stumbled across the frozen gnocchi.  Now normally I make my own but with it being already 6 pm and me having not really the motivation to make homemade pasta I opted to go with one at least made locally.  Maria & Son’s.  I’m not ashamed.  Hey I’m pretty sure Gordan Ramsey at one point in his career has opted for something made by someone else in the name of saving time.  Don’t you shame me!

So off I go home with my tiny bag of perfectly rolled, frozen potato dumplings when I catch a whiff of what the neighbors were cooking.  I love my neighborhood.  It’s so…aromatic.  Coconut, cumin, curry powder.  Mmmmm Thai food and as we all know I am a sucker for a good Thai dish. And if you didn’t know, you know now.  Curry, gnocchi, I knew damn well I had sugar snap peas in my garden as well as some mushrooms and a ton of fresh basil.  The only question was, did I have all the ingredients to make my own curry slurry.  More then likely yes but did I want to take the time to make one from scratch?  Eeeeeeh Wednesday night, worked 12 hours at my primary job the answer to that was a no so this was a quick no fuss no muss idea.  And the results were awesome.

image000001Now I’ll never be one of this individuals that just use a pre made mix as is.  I always feel that it can be more of a “homemade” dish if you doctor it up some and while I was going to use a pre made curry paste the aromatics would be all me.  Now when a recipe calls for say 2 cloves of garlic minced I take that as a “suggestion” and always double it.  Never be stingy on the garlic as it is your friend.  So to my pre made paste I added my own aromatics.  Sweated the paste off with some onion till fragrant and then added the curry paste (red) and toasting it off.  I find toasting the paste adds an additional depth of flavor.  Kind of like when you toast tomato paste.  It helps deepen and concentrate the flavors, plus as I’ve gotten older I find I need bolder flavors in order to really appreciate my food.  More spice to counter balance the fact my taste buds over the course of the years have committed ritual seppuku to the God of Time.  Toss in some coconut milk and whatever vegetables you want and let them bubble away on low till your pasta/rice/chicken/whatever else you’re pairing it is with is cooked.  If you are going to use root vegetables I recommend parboiling them first or you will be waiting for a while for them to get soft and nothing says “this is….tasty o.0” like biting into a hard chunk of potato..Mmmmmm starchy..yeah no.  Sadly though albeit normal for me, by the time dinner was done cooking I wasn’t hungry but hey at least I have lunch for tomorrow (now today cause I’m a Time Lord and I can bend space

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Now for the meat…or rather meatless portion of the post.  The actual recipe.  I kind of made it up as I went along but here’s the gist of it.  You will need the following for a serving for two individuals.

  • 5 cloves garlic crushed and rough chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemon grass
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thai chili powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed coriender
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 white/yellow onion sliced thin and diced\
  • 2 tablespoons pre made curry paste (I use Mai Ploy-Massaman Curry Paste)
  • 12 oz coconut milk (milk not cream..dont make the same mistake I’ve made…before)
  • vegetable add ins:  I used baby bellas and peas 
  • pasta/gnocchi/whatever you are doing this with
  • chopped fresh basil

Take all ingredients and place into a mortar and pestle and pound away whilst thinking about that person who spurned you back when you were younger.  Or the fact that you’re favorite sportsball team isn’t doing well this season.  Goooo Sportsball!.  If you do not have a mortar and pestle whirl it away in a food processor/magic bullet/ninja/etc. Place in a small dish and put it to the side to allow it to rest.

In a medium sauce pan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and saute onions.  We want to achieve a little bit of the Maillard reaction (browning) to allow the inherent sweetness of the vegetable to show up.  This also allows the enzymes and amino acids found in the onion to change at the molecular level as to help stave off any potential threat of turning the garlic in the aromatics a blue green.  This occurs because of a chemical reaction between the enzymes/amino acids and the acidity in the garlic when the two items meet and mingle.  FOR SCIENCE!!!!.  Once you’ve achieved the desired level of browning add your aromatics and let them mingle until they become fragrant.  This should take only about 1 minute.  Any longer and you run the risk of burning your garlic and that can provide a rather acrid note to the dish.

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This is listed as a spicy curry paste so if your tastes are more mellow and calm you can by all means use the green curry paste or yellow.  This is all based off your personal preference.  I like spicy food but I am not biased in any sense of the word.  Add in your curry paste and allow it to toast.  How do you know if it’s toasting?  It will take on a deeper darker hue of red.  This only takes about a minute and a half max and you want to watch it to ensure it doesn’t burn.  Switch your spatula for a whisk and incorporate your coconut milk into your paste.  Add your mushrooms and let simmer on a medium low while you prepare your pasta/rice.  If it becomes to thin by all means thin with a little vegetable stock or even some white wine, water, a little more coconut milk or some half and half.  Add your peas at the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Nothing worse then mushy peas.  Top with fresh chopped basil and serve in warmed bowls

There ya go.  Total time depending on what you’re having with it no more then an hour if doing chicken or less then 25 if doing pasta with shrimp.  I opted to keep this a vegetarian dish but did have poached shrimp on the side for my protein.  Not to shabby for a Wednesday and goes to show that premade doesn’t always have to be boring as long as you add your own little twist to it.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

ba ba ba ba ba Ramen

Like most college kids…hey..I work at a University…it still applies, we find ourselves living off of what seems to be an endless supply of ramen noodles; however have you ever looked at the back of that little celophane package of instant noodle soup?  If you haven’t then don’t because you will be mortified at what it shows you.  But when it comes to convenience it’s a staple to many of us both here in the states as well as across the globe be it college student, single parent, lazy gamer who doesn’t know how to cook.  Plus at times it can be pretty tasty.  But why not try it a little healthier.  Cut out all the sodium and save your heart and kidneys from having to do some unnecessary work.  How?  By doing it this way.

You can opt to use a pack of instant ramen noodles and just throw away the flavorings or you can go purchase some ramen noodles at a local distributor or asian market.  This recipe calls for the package we all have in our pantries, cupboards or possibly in the trunk of our cars.  It also features one of my most favorite fermented things to eat.  Can you guess what it is?  😀

You will need the following ingredients/tools

  • 3 cups of H2O
  • 1/2 cups of funky kimchi (you can use whatever brand you like at whatever level of heat)
  • 1/4 cup of bean sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon white rice wine
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (i like to toast mine before adding it. personal preference and will not take away from your experience)
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (if you don’t have smoked paprika try toasting it in a dry pan to bring out the flavor but be careful as it can burn quickly)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 crushed black peppercorns (if you have Szechuan use those)
  • 2 packages of organic ramen noodles.   Or if using instant 1 package sans seasoning packages

Garnish:

  • 1 green onion chopped on the bias (green portion only)
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped kimchi

Now comes the easy part.  Like no joke its seriously simple.  Add all the ingredients to a medium sized sauce pan.  No seriously this is one of those kinds of dishes.  Toss the lot in.  Bring to a boil and cover and continue to boil for 8-10 minutes for organic noodles and about 4-5 for the instant noodles (this allows the kimchi to soften a bit).  Divide into bowls and top with the chopped green onions and kimchi and eat.

 

easy peasy lemon squeezy 🙂

Inside the pages of the Gastronomicon-Warm Mushroom Salad

With spring upon us and the ebbing cold weather our grocery stores are seeing the arrivals of the first spring harvest of vegetables.  This is an opportune time to indulge in a post winter fat gaining cleanse and clean out our stomachs, our arteries and our bowels.  I myself am extremely excited at the notion that this year is my first year at attempting urban farming.  Living in the heart of the St Louis it is difficult to locate a space large enough to plant a small vegetable garden.  I am lucky enough to live next to my parents who have a back yard that is just perfect for a small garden bed.  Plus with the abundant excess of milk crates found at local gas stations, grocery stores and flea markets I also am able to do small scale container planting on my own back porch.

It seems that every spring I have a tendency to shake off the shackles of MEAT!!! and don the garbs of vegetarianism.  I dont know exactly what it is about spring that just makes me want to enjoy a plate of greens over a burger.  More then likely its the impending onset of summer and having  lived in a non AC apartment for the majority of my adult life the idea of a hot kitchen is not appealing.  This year will be no different even though I now have central air and an apartment that keeps cool I still wont want to spend any extended amounts of time in the kitchen.  So to the veggies I go with the gusto and reverberant joy of a squirrel to horde away for the next six to seven months the bounty of my garden and the local farmers markets.

One of the things about eating vegetarian is having enough of a variety to ensure that you are maintaining your nutritional needs each day.  That means vitamins, proteins and minerals OH MY!!!!  One thing I struggled with initially during my 3 year stint as a vegetarian following my bariatric surgery was protein.  I never seemed to get enough protein.  I also wasn’t as adventurous with my cooking so my diet was rather limited.  Now, the second time around I have read up and resourced more in depth what is need to one ensure i don’t become malnourished and 2 that I don’t hit any stalls with weight loss due to protein deficiency.  So before venturing into the world of vegetarianism please consult a registered dietician to ensure that you are not causing harm to yourself as you start your path to a healthier meat free/reduced meat diet.

Warm Mushroom Salad with mixed Greens 

This is a simple herbaceous salad that offers amazing mouth feel to those who are just starting out on the veggie brick road.  Mushrooms are often called the steaks of the fungus world because they offer enough of textural difference and “meaty” taste that they can often be subbed out in many of your meat recipes like stroganoff, sloppy joes, meatloaf, burgers.  The one thing I enjoy most about mushrooms are the fact that they are high in minerals.  One such important nutrient is selenium. While meat, seafood, grains, and nuts have excellent levels of the mineral, mushrooms are the only produce that have high levels of it, so they are especially important to include in your diet if you are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. I.e they are good eats and should be considered a stable in your diet plan. Now to the recipe which hey is the main reason why you are here right?

  • 8-10 oz your choice mushrooms {with the exception of white button mushrooms.  Think shiitake, portobello, oyster.  The meatier the better)
  • 1/2 diced white/yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic minced to a paste
  • greens: can be any lettuce, dark green, leafy green you want!
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
  • coarse sea salt (to taste)
  • fresh cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • 4 tablespoons favorite crumbled cheese (feta, goat, bleu, etc.) or shaved Parmesan 
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice 
  • croustini (optional)
  • prosciutto (optional)

In a medium sized fry skillet heat on medium heat 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  We are going to dismiss the myth that the addition of olive oil will help increase the smoke factor of butter.  Rubbish.  Regardless of the addition of oil at 375 degrees evaporation of water in the butter occurs causing the release of butter fats and milk proteins which can cause smoking.  The addition of oil personally just imparts an additional depth of flavor.  You can choose to omit this if necessary.  Once butter is melted and foaming add your mushrooms and onion and toss to coat.  Allow this to sweat for around 5 minutes until onions start to become translucent in color and then add 1 teaspoon of salt.  We don’t necessarily want to saute the vegetables as we dont want to impart any additional coloring. Then add the garlic paste and gently fold in.  Once you begin to smell garlic allow to sweat for an additional minute while you make your dressing.

In a medium non-reactive bowl (preferably glass) add your lemon juice (fresh squeezed preferably-juice those yellow orbs of love!!!!) and your salt and pepper and then slowly whisk in your olive oil to create an emulsion, or you can place it all in a jar, seal and shake the fuck out of it!!!! Work out those frustrations plus your biceps at the same time 🙂  In a separate bowl add your greens, micro greens, dandelion leaves and slowly pour the dressing along the circumference of the bowl.  This allows the ability to allow the dressing to go to the bottom of the bowl giving you the opportunity to gently coat your greens.  We don’t want them swimming in dressing so be gentle with this.  Once dressed sprinkle with another teaspoon of sea salt and cracked black pepper before transferring to serving dishes.

Divide your greens into two bowls and top with your mushrooms.  At this point you will add whatever cheese you like or if you are wanting to add an additional protein, thin slices of prosciutto.  I enjoy a chèvre (goat cheese) with mine but it’s your personal preference.  Pair it up with a couple slices of toasted croustini rubbed with raw garlic and enjoy.  This dish can be served as the salad course or the main entree and can be paired with your choice of white wine either dry or sweet or paired with a rose.

One of the interesting experiences I had with this salad was that before I was able to enjoy it I smelled beef stroganoff.  It was the most surreal thing and the meatiness of the oyster mushrooms satisfied the craving I had for beef.  I hope you enjoy making this and eating it with your family as I did 🙂