Pasta Pomodoro

Feeling a bit amorous this weekend, I thought to try out a few recipes inspired by the country of love, Italy.  Or is it France that’s the country of love?  I don’t know, we Americans generally equate anything Western European to that of romance.  Except for Germany, of course.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it’s the accent.

Can I interest you in two whipped eggs in a delicious, unbleached flour bowl?

While I may not know which country best represents love, I sure as heck know that my wrists are extremely sore.  Why?  Well, for that question I have only one answer: KNEADING.

Continue reading

Here Comes the Pasta Parade!

Feeling a bit amorous this weekend, I thought to try out a few recipes inspired by the country of love, Italy.  Or is it France that’s the country of love?  I don’t know, we Americans generally equate anything Western European to that of romance.  Except for Germany, of course.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it’s the accent.

Can I interest you in two whipped eggs in a delicious, unbleached flour bowl?

While I may not know which country best represents love, I sure as heck know that my wrists are extremely sore.  Why?  Well, for that question I have only one answer: KNEADING.

I thoroughly enjoy pastas and breads.  You could say carbs are the apple of my eye, my sweetheart, and quite literally, the bread to my butter.  Every time I get the smart idea to make it from scratch, I start out extremely ambitious and end with the vow that I will never again do it because of the amount of effort I have to exert.

Knead, fold, knead, fold aaaaaand repeat.

But like any excellent lover (and I mean excellent), it beckoned me.  It fed me promises that momentarily lapsed my judgment, telling me that this time things will be different, and somehow made me to forget how much those seductive wheat-filled hand-breakers have hurt me so.  And much like any fool who’s ever been in love, I trusted these empty words and fell for Carb’s old tricks.  Hook, line, and sinker.

I’d like to say I learned my lesson this time, but in every bit of honesty I probably haven’t.  I mean, have you HAD homemade bread?

Ball of pasta

Delicious ball of pasta.

For this post I’m going to focus completely on the pasta dishes made and share with you the other delectable treats on ensuing posts throughout the week.

To start our Italian marathon, I made my very first batch of farfalle pasta ever, which was a momentous occasion for this pasta-loving man.  While a lot of people call this type of pasta “bow tie” pasta, the word farfalle actually means butterfly in Italian.  Neither fancy neck wear nor mutant caterpillars bring about an appetite in me, so I just call it farfalle.

They see me rollin, they hatin.

The homemade farfalle was tossed it into a light but satisfying — and ultra Italian — pasta pomodoro that is comprised of Roma tomatoes, garlic, white wine, basil Parmesan cheese, and other tasties.

The best part is that this dish is served with all fresh, organic produce filled with nutrients and essential vitamins, and it is incredibly easy and quick to make.  If you’re not interested in having sore hands, you can open up a box of farfalle from the supermarket.  I know not everyone has the time or energy to make their own pasta from scratch, but I promise nobody will judge you, you big, fat cheater.

Next up on the list was spinach pasta, which was made the exact same way as I had made the original pasta, only this time *SPOILER ALERT* I added spinach.  Surprise!

Big ol' sheet of spinach pasta.

With this pasta I added used a very basic chunky tomato basil sauce and threw in the remaining spinach I had on hand.  Like most comfort food, it was simple and satisfying on various levels.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned my sore hands yet, but they very, very sore.  And raw.  And achy.  Although I’m most assuredly going to find out I have carpal tunnel any day now, I have to say that the entire pasta-making experience was an overall enjoyable one.  So enjoyable, I may actually make it again sometime not so very soon!  Carbs, you may not be perfect, but I’m glad to see that you’re not quite as heinous as I’d remembered.

Spinach pasta waterfalls.

So dear reader, if you see me in the grocery store shopping for more pasta-based ingredients, please feel free to wave and I too will lift my writhing, wrinkled club of a hand up and bid you a hello.  Who knows, maybe I’ll invite you over for some homemade pasta!

But don’t count on it.

PASTA POMODORO

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, diced
  • 4 green onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb box or homemade noodles (farfalle, orecchiette or angel hair work best)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Boil noodles in a large pot of salted water with 4 tbsp of olive oil, drain and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a deep skillet over high heat and add garlic until slightly brown and aromatic.  Reduce heat to medium-high and add diced tomatoes, wine, stock and green onions and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the tomatoes have given off their juice.
  3. Add basil and noodles to the skillet and toss until well-mixed, allow to simmer on medium heat for five minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

HOMEMADE NOODLES

Difficulty: Medium

Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of flour to start with
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp of salt

Directions:

  1. Pour flour into a mound on a clean work surface and make a well in the flour with your fingers.  Be sure to the walls of the well are very high, and about 1/2 thick (refer to above photo).
  2. Crack open two eggs and pour into the well and add salt to eggs.  Whisk the eggs together with a fork until well mixed, minding not to break the walls as you want the egg enclosed until thick enough to mix with the rest of the flour.  Continue to whisk while adding a bit of flour from the top of the walls until the eggs become thickened.
  3. Remove excess flour leaving only enough flour to keep the walls sturdy and the eggs in their confinement.
  4. With the remaining flour, mix in the egg with your hands until the dough is completely mixed and dry enough to roll out, but not so dry that it is crumbly and difficult to work with.
  5. Dust the counter with flour and use your hands to knead the dough by pushing the flour down with your fists and fold over.  Continue doing this for 5 minutes until the dough becomes difficult to knead.
  6. Re-dust the counter and begin to roll out with the rolling pin.  You will notice that when rolling the dough out, it will expand and contract.  This process will take about 10 minutes as it will take the dough about this much time to lose its elasticity and roll out to paper thinness.
  7. Once the dough has been rolled, you can cut out the dough in whatever shape you please.  Place pasta in rapidly boiling, salted water and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.

From Failure to Fritters.

GUYS.

Remember when I tried to relay my pain from failed kimchi to you via whiny words on yesterday’s post?

Well, after a fairly rough week, I came home and really just wanted some comfort food.  Something sweet, maybe with a side of something salty, and eat it with a sort of non-nutritional carelessness that gives an acknowledging nod to nourishment while flipping it the bird, because tonight I’m eating what I want, dammit.

I opened up the fridge to begin my junk food pillage, when there they were.  Two of the biggest bottles of failure I’d ever laid my eyes on.

Sighing deeply, I grabbed them by their necks and almost chucked them in the trash when I got an idea.  Sure, they suck really bad now, but what if I could make them better somehow?

I put the bottles down on the counter and whipped out my thinking cap.  Within a few minutes I came to my conclusion: I was going to make kimchi latkes, because nothing can go wrong with fried potatoes, regardless of what’s in them.

The general makeup of the recipe was that of potato latkes, so I figured I was allowing two foods from different backgrounds that otherwise would never be.  A sort of culinary Romeo and Juliette, if you will.  Only this story has a more delicious ending.  A FRIED ending.

I was pretty nervous about how they’d turn out, but to my surprise these bad boys were incredible.  They were so crispy on the outside with a creamy center, and had just the right amount of spice from the chopped kimchi.  Not only did I succeed in  finding a use for my failure, I also got a moderately healthy fried dish in return.

Upon further investigation, it seems that kimchi potato latkes are actually a real Korean dish called “kimchi fritters.”  So I may not be the culinary master I thought I was at the beginning of my experiment, but I’m still happy with the result.  Which makes me think, if I can turn such a horrifying mess of a mistake into something so delicious, then surely something can be done with this mess of a week.

After eating my third kimchi “latke”, I realized this week isn’t so bad after all.  And neither is my failure.

KIMCHI FRITTERS

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 45 minutes, start to finish

Serves: One

Ingredients:

  • One potato, cooked and mashed
  • 3/4 cup chopped kimchi – gently squeeze excess juice from kimchi
  • 1/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice (or finely chopped chicken/tofu or anything to give texture and flavor)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  • 1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat oil on frying pan over medium heat
  2. Combine chopped kimchi, mashed potato, flour, brown rice, egg, garlic, and salt and pepper and beat with an electric beater until well-combined.
  3. Spoon batter onto hot pan and flatten so they look like pancakes.  When browned, flip and cook on opposite side until equally browned.
Serve with soy sauce, wasabi mayo, or just eat them plain and by the fistful.

How I Disgraced an Asian Grocery Owner with Failed Kimchi.

Cabbage Kimchi

Napa Cabbage Kimchi

When I was a little guy my dad lived on the other side of the world in a distant land called South Korea, otherwise referred to as, “I don’t know, somewhere,” by my mom.  During this time my mom told me a story about his Korean girlfriend and how, after a heated argument, she chased him with a shiv and threatened to stab him.  I was never told the details of why she came after my dad, so I was lead to believe this woman was dangerously unhinged.  My mom also never filled me in that he and lady shank had split, so when I heard news that he was coming to visit I was naturally terrified.  For years later I was interested to see if all Korean women had such short and violent tempers, but I’ve yet to develop the nerve to test out that theory.

On his arrival, he and my mom went to the grocery store to pick up some of his brand of beer, favorite snacks, and other things to make his stay a little more comfortable.  When they returned, he pulled out a bottle with the word KIMCHI sprawled across the front, and I was very curious.

When he first opened the bottle of kimchi, the smell creeped up and slapped me square in the face.  I shot back about a foot and asked him if he farted.  Kimchi has that effect on people, but you shouldn’t ever let that dissuade you from trying it, because in spite of it’s putrid smell, it’s really, really tasty stuff.

For anyone who’s questioning what it is at this point, kimchi is more or less fermented and pickled vegetables.  It’s generally made with cabbage or white radishes (if you’re going for the basic, traditional kind), and ingredients usually include ginger, Korean red pepper powder, paprika, garlic, onion, salt and fish sauce.

Are you turned off yet?  Don’t be.  You wouldn’t think it, but kimchi is actually very good for you.  I won’t geek out too much about this, but the fermentation of the vegetables makes it chock-full of lactic acid bacteria (probiotics — similar to what is in yogurt, which is the stuff you want in you).  It helps with digestion and can even alleviate issues with gastrointestinal issues such as IBS, IBD and other incredibly appetizing acronyms.

When my dad introduced that smelly, delicious dish into my life, I was changed forever.  Up until this point I had only bought the store-made brand, but figured that making spicy, fermented cabbage really couldn’t be all that difficult.  Could it?

Over the weekend I went to gather supplies for my kimchi and visited a small Asian market that was conveniently placed less than a mile from my house.  I’d never really noticed it before since it was tucked in the corner of an empty-looking strip mall and looked closed from the outside, except for a small note on the door that read OPEN.

I walked inside and heard a shout from the back of the store almost immediately, “HELLO!? Who there?”

A short Japanese woman with a cropped bob and an oversized cat t-shirt stepped into view and grinned at me like she was in on some sort of secret that I wasn’t allowed to know.   I asked her if she had any Korean red pepper powder, and she led me to a freezer filled with mochi, frozen fish heads and a purple liquid I didn’t even think to ask about.  The bottle was huge and only $5, so I’m thinking, SCORE!  I took out my cards and she called over to me in a sing-song tone, “fifteen dollaaaaars, need fifteeeeen to pay with card!”

I told the clerk I would be back after I pulled out cash, which was really my cover to leave in an amicable way to search the regular grocery store for my supplies. No matter how much I tried to justify it, I couldn’t bring myself to buy that much Pocky.  I couldn’t!

After 2 hours and a highly unsuccessful venture to two different grocery stores, I returned to the Asian market with $5 in cash and the smell of shame radiating off of me.

The same cute clerk looked up from her paper with her toothy grin and said with as much excitement as anyone has ever greeted me before, “you’ve come back!!”

Without missing a beat, her expression immediately dropped into a suspicious glare and, as though she knew where I had been, she whispered over her thin-rimmed glasses, “it took you so, so long….”

I grabbed my large bottle of cooled red pepper powder and wondered how, exactly, am I going to pull this off.  I always tend to mess up a recipe the first time I try it, and I can sense that this time will be no different.

While ringing me out, she looked up at me , grinned slyly, and asked, “you make kimchi, huh?”

I asked her if it was really that obvious.

She said yes, it really was.

And like a mind reading savior, she started spouting off tons of golden, unsolicited kimchi-making advice!  Our conversation went a little something like this:

  • Her: You soak the napa [cabbage] yet?
  • Me: It’s soaking at home right now, actually.
  • Her: Good, do that.
  • Me: Um, I will do that!  Then I just have to salt them again.

*WRONG.*

  • Her: What? Why?  TOO SALT.  Much too salt if you do that.  After you soak, taste the nappa and if it too salt, add less fish sauce.
  • Me: Really? I didn’t know that!  I would’ve just added a whole bunch not even knowing what I was doing!
  • Her: Hahahahahaha yeah, no.  Don’t do that.

Traditionally kimchi is left on the counter for a few hours to a few days to let it ferment and brew, but in spite of this tradition, the clerk advised against it.

“It make kimchi too sour.  You like sour?  Do it.  You want fresh with big crunch, put it in the cooler and let it sit.”

My savior.

So I took my loot home and began what was to be my VERY FIRST batch of homemade kimchi, and I had huge expectations.

Maybe my expectations were too large, because…well, let me explain.

Kimchi ingredients

Kimchi ingredients from L to R: Red pepper powder, ginger, chives, half an Asian pear, garlic, scallions, and fish sauce (absent from picture day).

While reading the various directions on how to make kimchi, I saw one constant through each recipe, and that was to leave the kimchi sitting out on the counter between 5 to 48 hours and then refrigerating it for another day or two before digging in.  Every. Single. Recipe.  I decided at that point that 10 different recipes were right and my “savior” didn’t have a clue as to what she was talking about.

After I let it sit in the fridge for two days, I excitedly opened up my bottle of kimchi, dug in, and immediately gagged before it even hit my tongue.

The fishy taste surprisingly overpowering and not the least bit appetizing.

Now, granted I’ve only ever had American-made, store-bought kimchi, so my kimchi may actually be authentic and my taste buds are just spoiled, though I doubt that’s the case.  Maybe it’s because I’ve let it ferment on the counter too long?  Or maybe it’s because I’ve never taken solid advice and put it to practical use.  When will I learn?!  WHENNN?

So here I sit with two large Mott’s Applesauce jars full of kimchi that are practically inedible, and in my mind I can see the Japanese clerk shaking her head in an I-told-you-so disapproving manner.  And since I can’t very well share with you my kimchi recipe until I’ve perfected it (or, at the very least, have made it edible),  I will include another Korean recipe I made over the weekend that was a success: Beef Bulgogi.

Luckily, I can’t be defeated that easily.  Once I’ve finished crying over my disgraceful kimchi, I’ll try again.  And this time, I will heed the words of – and do right by – that cat-shirt-wearing, boy-cut-sporting goddess.

BEEF BULGOGI

Beef bulgogi

Bulgogi consists of two Korean words: Bul, which means fire, and Gogi, which means meat.  Put them together you get Fire Meat, which sounds both sexy and alarming.  Bulgogi, in short, is basically Korean marinated and barbecued beef that’s been thinly sliced and tastes spicy, with a little bit of tanginess, but only if you enjoy Asian pear in your recipe and using run-on sentences.

Difficult: Easy

Time: 3 hours, including marinating time.

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds of flank steak
  • 3 scallions (and one extra for presentation)
  • 1 Asian pear (or Bosc pear if unavailable)
  • 4 tbsp of good quality soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice

Directions

  1. Before prepping your marinade, put your flank steak in the freezer for a couple of hours so it gets solid, but not too frozen that it’s difficult to cut through.  The idea is to freeze it enough so you can shave off strips of steak, as you want to make sure the strips are as paper-thin as possible.
  2. For the marinade, finely slice the scallions and pear and combine with the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, black pepper, garlic and lemon juice.
  3. After you’ve thinly sliced the flank steak, add the slices to the marinade, mix well, and put in the fridge to marinate for around two hours.
  4. Grill or pan cook the beef to desired doneness.

Normally you will want to grill your bulgogi, as that is the idea behind “fire meat.” However, since I live in an apartment complex that forbids the use of a grill, I just add a tablespoon of sesame or canola oil to a frying pan and sauté the beef until it’s good and browned on both sides.

Once complete, serve over rice and share with friends.  Or do what I did and horde it.

Impromptu Dinner and an Empty Fridge, Chicken Piccata Style

The other night, as I’m struggling to finish up my duties at work, I feel my desk vibrate violently and I reach over to pick up my phone.  Splashed across the screen is:

What’s for dinner?

I honestly intend on replying to texts immediately as I receive them, but really, I never do.  This text suffers the same fate as many before it and goes unanswered for the time being.  Sucked into work and desperately trying to finish up, I chug ahead and feel my desk vibrate again about 10 minutes later from the same number as before:

I don’t know what your plans r but I ain’t doin jack tonight

Wednesdays nights are generally reserved for going home, picking up my cat Connor and nuzzling his sometimes usually kitty litter-smelling face forcing myself to go run, and then eating whatever is leftover from my typical previous weekend binge-cooking session while watching Netflix with Brandon.  Without fail, in that order.

Continue reading

Impromptu Dinner and an Empty Fridge, Chicken Piccata Style – OR – Say “Hell No” to Capers.

The other night, as I’m struggling to finish up my duties at work, I feel my desk vibrate violently and I reach over to pick up my phone.  Splashed across the screen is:

What’s for dinner?

I honestly intend on replying to texts immediately as I receive them, but really, I never do.  This text suffers the same fate as many before it and goes unanswered for the time being.  Sucked into work and desperately trying to finish up, I chug ahead and feel my desk vibrate again about 10 minutes later from the same number as before:

I don’t know what your plans r but I ain’t doin jack tonight

Wednesdays nights are generally reserved for going home, picking up my cat Connor and nuzzling his sometimes usually kitty litter-smelling face forcing myself to go run, and then eating whatever is leftover from my typical previous weekend binge-cooking session while watching Netflix with Brandon.  Without fail, in that order.

Sensing my texting-friend’s subtle hints and realizing how sad my weeknight rituals have become, I called a disappointed Connor to let him know I was breaking our nightly cuddling plans and invited the texter, a lovely lady named Jamie Claire, over for a rare mid-week dinner.

When I get home I realize my fridge is uncharacteristically bare.  BUT!  as Cher Horowitz would say (if she knew the first thing about cooking), if you just get in the kitchen, rearrange some things, then even with a few measly ingredients you can easily pull off a decent meal.

Cher Horowitz is a terrible cook.

I wonder if Kerry will ever invite ME over for some Chicken Piccata...

How right you are, Cher.  For this particular meal I ended up whipping together a fairly basic ensemble of eats: corn on the cob, mashed garlic cauliflower with buttermilk and the star of this post: chicken piccata over brown rice.

The great thing about chicken piccata is that it looks and tastes fancy schmancy, but it’s stupidly easy to make, and almost impossible to ruin.  I dare you to try and ruin this dish, because it can’t be done!

CHICKEN PICCATA


Difficulty: Easy

Time: 45 minutes, start to finish

Serves: Four.  But realistically, two.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breast halves, butterflied and cut in half length-wise
  • 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons of quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of fresh or squeeze bottle lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of low-sodium chicken broth (or 1 cup if you want to yield more sauce)
  • Flour for dredging
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Parsley (preferably fresh) and lemon slices for garnish
  • Capers (optional)

Directions

  1. In a frying pan over medium heat, combine three tablespoons of oil and two tablespoons of butter and wait until the butter melts.
  2. While your butter and oil are heating up, salt and pepper your now butterflied and halved and then dredge the chicken pieces in the flour and toss them into the now hot oil to fry in two batches.  Make sure you don’t crowd the chicken, otherwise they won’t brown properly.
  3. Once the chicken has browned on one side (about 4-7 minutes), flip over and allow to brown.  Remove first batch to a hot plate and keep them warm.
  4. Add two more tablespoons each of oil and butter and cook remaining pieces of chicken.
  5. Once the chicken has been all cooked and removed to the warming plate, add the lemon juice and chicken broth to the oil/butter leftover and whisk well.  Once it starts to boil, lower the temperature to medium low and  add the chicken back into the sauce pan.  Allow to simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce has reduced by 1/4 to 1/3 the original amount.
  6. Remove the chicken to a warm plate and add the last tablespoon of butter to the sauce and whisk vigorously for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Serve immediately by placing chicken over rice, quinoa or noodles, spooning the sauce over the chicken and adding the parsley and lemon wedge garnish.

And that’s it!

Side note: Capers are traditionally added to this dish, but my tastes have yet to evolve enough to appreciate their pungency, so I’ve decided to leave them out.

———————————————————————————————

And just like that, the impromptu dinner was a success, even with minimal ingredients to work with.  If you’re entertaining, or even just cooking for yourself, it’s important to know how to Macgyver a meal with whatever is in your cabinets and make it work to your advantage.

DID YOU KNOW: Chicken piccata isn’t even Italian by origin.  Seriously!  It is an Italian-inspired dish that originated in the good ol’ US of A and was given an Italian name to make it sound super pretentious.  Some say the term piccata stems from the word piquance, which to describe the flavor of the dish as zesty or pungent, which draws us back to the capers.  To be honest, I really wouldn’t care if it originated in the sewers, because though this dish may deceitfully un-Italian, it is 100% crazy good.

If you try this recipe, or if you have your own special way of preparing this dish, please be sure to let me know in the comments!

Yum and Yummer: Origins

My name is Kerry Patrick.  Welcome!

 

That's me!

 

If there’s one thing most people know about me, it’s that I love food, and I love to cook.

Like, a lot.

In terms of cooking, I used to be bad at it.  Horrible, in fact.  I used to think I hated cooking, but it turns out I just hated the dishes that came with cooking.  My days of creating inedible abominations have long passed, and I’ve since learned a thing or two about kitchen wizardry.

To take things a little further, I would say I have near-sexual inclinations toward good eats.  Nothing vulgar, really, but some tastes and smells just really know how to push my buttons.

It’s no secret that food has a way of seducing the devourer almost immediately and entirely.  There’s a perfectly valid reason why it’s claimed that the way to snag a mate is to get in the kitchen and fill his or her belly: because it’s all true!

Food has transcended from being solely meant for sustenance, to developing into a full-fledged source of entertainment and pleasure by cultures everywhere.  And this isn’t a new development that happened within the last few centuries, either.  Do you remember a little slice of history dating back to Ancient Rome, and certain extracurricular activities the rich Roman folk partook in?  I’ll give you a hint: it involved lots of prostitutes and massive banquets, and was fantastic.

The point of this intro is to express to you, dear reader, that I truly love food.  Perhaps not with as much fervor as our Ancient Roman friends, but I have enough gusto for gastronomy to almost get down with those laurel crown donning party monsters.

Through this blog i hope to share with you my culinary adventures, nutrition-based facts, food-centric anecdotes and a little bit of humor to boot.

Please say you’ll stay a while, and I hope you enjoy this adventure as much as I’ll enjoy sharing it with you!