Tagged: food

When you have crabs…

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Me with crabs in 2013

I love seafood. I love crabs. Dungeness, Alaskan Snow, soft-shell, King- you name it, I’ll eat it.

Sure I love a good crab cake (thank you Maryland), I love soft-shell crab battered and fried, and for sure I’ll take my crab in any gumbo, étouffée, soup or stew there is. But my favorite way to prepare and eat crab- simple steam or boil in salty like the ocean water. This method works best with Dungeness crab.

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Off The Grid

Dolores Park

Long time no update! A lot has happened since my last post, one of the main things being that I moved to San Francisco. It’s been a crazy few months settling down and trying to find a job. One of the greatest things about this city is it’s diversity; the people, culture, and most importantly food…this city has everything.

I had the opportunity to visit Off The Grid on a Friday night recently and was really able to experience the melting pot that is San Francisco. To give a little bit of background, Off The Grid is a group that operates weekly public markets all throughout San Francisco. The markets are made up of various food trucks and local businesses. On Friday nights, Off The Grid can be found in Fort Mason with a ton of food trucks, great drinks, and live music.

Off The Grid @ Fort Mason

Off The Grid @ Fort Mason

Walking down the line of food trucks and vendors, I was excited to see so much variety. From Ethiopian to Vietnamese, there were so many different trucks and cuisines to choose from. My friends and I thought the best plan of action would be to share things from multiple trucks so we could really try everything.

One of my favorite trucks was The Chairman Truck. They specialized in one of my favorite foods; Taiwanese pork belly buns. I’m a sucker for the traditional soft, sweet outer steamed bun with fatty braised pork belly and crispy pickled turnip greens. I’ve even written about them before, in case you haven’t read.

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The Chairman Truck offered their version of the traditional pork belly bun and also had a few great creative spins of their own. On the left is their traditional bun. One of their special creations was the Coca-Cola Braised Pork with Savoy Cabbage and Preserved Yellow Mustard Seeds, pictured on the right above. Both pork buns were pretty amazing. The traditional pork belly bun came with pickled daikon radish and green shiso, a light herb that is often used in Japanese cooking.

I was definitely a fan of the contrast in textures between the succulent pork belly and the crunch of the crisp radishes. The Coca-Cola braised pork bun was also phenomenal. The preserved mustard seeds really added an interested level of flavor and complimented the sweet and savory Coca-Cola braised pork. The pork itself had was nice and crisp on the outside which would immediately melt in your mouth once you take a bite. Paired with the watery crunch of the savoy cabbage which was slightly pickled, the whole pork bun was truly incredible. Follow The Chairman Truck on Twitter to get updates on where they’ll be throughout the week!

Before I had even made a dent on the countless great food vendors at Off The Grid I was already full from only visiting 3. I will definitely be back and am hoping to share that experience with you guys as well. Be sure to check it out if you’re ever in the San Francisco Bay Area- you can visit Off The Grid’s website and follow them on Twitter or Facebook for more information.

Alternative Pasta Cooking Method

Photo credit: Google, http://www.kidspot.com.au

In terms of pasta cooking methodology, all I’ve ever known was to add dried pasta to boiling salted water. But have you ever considered a different, and debatably faster, method?

I first heard about this method on an episode of Alton Brown’s podcast, The Alton Browncast. He suggested adding noodles to salted water BEFORE bringing the water to the boil. While the concept might seem ridiculous or weird to you, I really recommend using this cooking method the next time you want to make pasta.

I think this technique works the best with small pastas like macaroni or penne, and quite frankly, those are usually the ones I have trouble cooking properly. Not only does this method cut down cooking time, it also makes it easier to get pasta cooked perfectly al dente….if you do it right.

My tips for trying this out:

1. Use a ratio of 4:1 in terms of water to pasta- too little water can really make a difference in the texture of the pasta.

2. Try not to keep the pot covered after five minutes or else it might boil over.

3. Stir the pasta occasionally, or add some oil to the pasta water. I found that this method results in less pasta sticking to each other, but it doesn’t hurt to stir every once in a while.

4. This cooking method is perfect for whole wheat pasta. Have you guys found that whole wheat pasta is really hard to cook properly? Mine used to always turn out soft on the outside and almost raw on the inside. Bringing whole wheat pasta to a boil with the water ensures that the inside is cooked through and takes away from the frustration that can be whole wheat pasta.

5. If you want to cook angel hair or spaghetti or any other long pasta like this, make sure you have enough water to cover, or just break the noodles in half so that they can fit in the pot. I used to never believe in breaking pasta in half, but it’s really not that different!

 

If you’ve never used this method before, give it a try and let me know your thoughts! Comment below or Tweet me, I appreciate all of your feedback!

Josh

Flavor Your Salt

Garlic, rosemary, lemon zest salt

It might seem tedious to suggest flavoring an ingredient that is already used to flavor food, flavored salts can be an easy alternative for bringing maximum taste to otherwise boring dishes. The idea of flavoring salt isn’t anything new; seasoning salts and spice rubs with salt have been on grocery store shelves for years. I’m a fan of brands like Old Bay and Adobo seasoning, I’m not a fan of all of the additives like MSG. Making your own flavored salt allows you to control and create whatever flavor combinations you want, without all of the extra added ingredients.

Another reason why I like flavored salts is that it’s really good way to take care of some loose ends around the kitchen. Is your garlic starting to sprout? Did you buy a whole bunch of rosemary or thyme when you only needed a few sprigs? Don’t let those go to waste, flavor your salt with it! The salt and the fact that it will dry out for a bit will help preserve it for at least a few months. photo 3

The key to flavoring salt is pretty simple and basically comes down to 3 steps:

1. Chop everything up with kosher salt. Aim for a 3:1 flavor-salt ratio.

2. Spread the salt out to dry for a day or so.

3. Store the salt in a clean container in a cool area.

To bring us back to the garlic that is two days from becoming a full grown plant or the rest of those herbs you have no idea what to do with (or both!), get those as dry as you can and with about a third of it’s amount in salt, chop them all up together. There must be a lot more flavoring than salt. It will sound weird and it might kind of damp at first, but just keep chopping until everything is the size that you want. Transfer the salt mixture to a sheet or pan. I would suggest putting a layer or parchment paper on top, but it’s not necessary. Leave the salt in a dry place, either on your countertop or even the oven with the light turned on, and let it dry out for at least 6 hours, best overnight. After it’s all dried out, you’ll have your own flavored salt that can really be used as a substitute for salt in anything.

I recently made one with rosemary, and lemon zest. I’ll marinate meat with it, roast vegetables with it, or add it to popcorn or salads. I even substituted it for regular salt when I made sugar cookies. The possibilities are endless for both what you can flavor the salt with and what you can add the salt on.

Some suggestions for flavoring:

1. Thai chiles (seeded), Thai basil, and ginger – Southeast Asian salt

2. Thyme, rosemary, tarragon – Provencal salt

3. Cilantro, cumin, and garlic or shallots

There are so many combinations of cool ingredients, try some out and let me know how they go!

Harvest 18 Restaurant

 

Red Pea Hummus

I should really work on my food picture taking skills…

Recently checked out a relatively new restaurant in Durham, Harvest 18. It’s actually very close to Rise Biscuits and Donuts, the last place I wrote a review about. I’m always up for trying new things and eating at new places so I figured I’d give this place a shot.

Harvest 18 is a pretty cool farm to table restaurant that offers a daily menu that features Southern food made with really fresh ingredients.  It’s always interesting to me when restaurants here in North Carolina self promote being “locally sourced” or “farm to table”. This state has some of the freshest and best produce around…shouldn’t restaurants automatically source locally?

Anyways, the overall layout of the restaurant was pretty nice. I was really impressed with the outdoor seating, which had a really classic Southern feel to it with lights hanging across beams, wooden tables, and metal chairs. All of the light posts were mounted in boxes with herbs like rosemary and mint which I thought was pretty cool. Even though the restaurant is in the middle of a shopping center with Target and Michaels, the outdoor seating was a nice implant of another world. I liked it.

The menu, which was dated to prove that they’re changed daily, had a lot of great choices. As an appetizer, we ordered the red pea hummus, which was pretty amazing. The hummus was garnished with some pickled vegetables so there was a nice contrast between tangy and creamy, crunchy and smooth, and salty and sweet. The whole wheat pita bread they used is also from one of my favorite places so that was a huge plus. (shoutout to Neomonde!)

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Mahi Mahi with mustard greens, sweet potato, and farro

I got the pan seared mahi mahi which was served with sautéed sweet potatoes and mustard greens all on top of some farro with a kind of balsamic sauce. You can never really go wrong with me with a dish like this. It was truly a simple but yet powerful dish; each element really spoke out on it’s own and was nicely balanced with each other. There was no heavy sauce or onslaught of herbs and spices which allows for the fresh components to be truly enjoyed. The most “complex” flavor on that plate was probably the balsamic…dressing? It was actually a pretty weird sauce that seemed a little out of balance with the rest of the dish BUT I do see why that it was meant to be a nice acidic contrast to everything else. Overall, the dish was pretty nicely done. I’ve always been a fan of fresh, local produce so I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed my dish.

All in all, I really enjoyed my lunch experience at Harvest 18. I am definitely a fan of their concept and hope to go back for dinner one day.

Check out their Twitter! They post their daily menu on their Facebook page too so check it out!

Mastering the Art of Fried Rice

I think it’s safe to say that everybody loves fried rice. It’s one of the most popular items on Chinese menus from both Chinese and non-Chinese people alike. It’s versatile, hearty, and can be so delicious…if made the right way.

Oftentimes friends of mine will tell me that they really love Chinese fried rice but can’t seem to recreate their restaurant favorite in their own kitchen. While I wouldn’t dare self-proclaim myself as the supreme king of fried rice, I do think my credentials of having eaten and cooked the dish almost all of my life make me a somewhat expert on the matter. With that being said, I want to offer up some tips on how to make some great fried rice and hopefully debunk some rumors that you might have otherwise heard.

1. Never used freshly cooked rice. I understand why this might be difficult for some people to stick to because usually you cook what you want, when you want. People don’t usually associate making fried rice as an elaborate event that you need to prepare for days ahead. But, if you don’t have any rice that’s been cooked already on hand, cook your plain rice and save making the fried rice for the next day. Freshly cooked rice is warm and soft. Stir frying it with eggs and vegetables and soy sauce will make it even more soft and oftentimes really mushy. No one likes a mushy fried rice. The best fried rice is made with refrigerated rice that had been cooked a day or two ahead of time. If you’re looking for that restaurant quality, separate grains and great textured fried rice, take your freshly cooked rice and spread it out on a pan. Let that pan air dry and when the rice has cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for the next day. The rice will be perfect and ready to soak up all of the flavors of the other components to make a perfect fried rice.

Tip: if you are really craving fried rice but don’t have any rice on hand, try getting some precooked rice or “quick rice” bags from the grocery store. They’re inexpensive and really convenient. Don’t preheat the rice, just add it in like you would normally and mix it well so that any clumps will break apart. When it comes to brown rice (which I don’t even know how to cook in a rice cooker), this shortcut is perfect.

2. Cook your eggs first, and separately. So technically you don’t have to cook your eggs first, but it’s just easier on you so you don’t have to wash your pan between cooking the rice and the egg. Cooking your eggs separately is extremely key. People often say that they don’t like that the egg in their fried rice gets dry or overcooked. To ensure fluffy and tasty eggs in your fried rice, cook and scramble your eggs in the wok or pan first. Let the egg get slightly golden or at least solidify, and then set them aside in a separate bowl. You can sauté your meat and then your vegetables in the same pan. Then add soy sauce and whatever other seasonings you’d like and then the rice. The last step should be to add your egg and mix. Not only will the eggs retain their moisture from not being overcooked, they’ll also retain their golden yellow color, which will add color and presentation points, if you are planning on making this for guests.

Tip: People are oftentimes confused about the egg to rice ratio. I personally like bigger chunks of egg and a hearty ratio with the rice so I usually follow 1-2 eggs per 1 cup of cooked rice. If the eggs are larger, it’ll be 1:1. I’ve found that this ratio works really well for most fried rice lovers.

3. The basic steps to making fried rice are: scramble eggs, cook meat, then vegetables, then rice. All of you recipe followers should  already have this down but in case you don’t, remember this. Getting the steps mixed up could result in some disastrous end products. If you are using raw meat, make sure your meat is mostly cooked through before adding your vegetables and definitely before adding in your rice.

4.  Be careful of over salting your fried rice. It surprises me how common this problem is for people. I think people get mixed up with the soy sauce, what I consider to be the only ingredient that should add salt to the dish. As a rule of thumb for those who don’t use soy sauce often, don’t add salt to your fried rice. I think people tend to over salt because they add salt to their eggs and then add some salt to their meat and or vegetables. The salt content in everything ends up compounding and things just get way too salty. If you’re not following a recipe, be aware of over salting. Add a bit of the total dishes’ soy sauce when sautéing the meat and or vegetables and then the rest after adding in the rice. It’s hard to correct and over salted fried rice, so be careful.

And there you have it folks. Some of my basic tips for making some bomb fried rice. Hope you enjoy and let me know your thoughts on Twitter or email me!

Rise Biscuits and Donuts

Yesterday I had breakfast with my mom at Rise Biscuits and Donuts in Durham, NC. I heard this place had really good biscuits so I thought I’d give it a try. Love for food runs in the family so my mom was happy to try the place out as well.

Walking in, the small store actually had a really cool vibe to it. The layout is similar to any other bakery, clerks at the front and a window display of some beautiful donuts. I should have taken a picture of them but I also didn’t anticipate blogging about the place. There was a small bar type seating area to the side along with a beverage station that had a really cool bookshelf next to it complete with what looked like vintage cookbooks.

The menu at Rise is pretty simple, the name says it all; biscuits and donuts are their specialty. I decided to go with a bacon and egg biscuit while my mom went with a plain biscuit.

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Alright I know I don’t have the best photography skills and I have to say, my picture really does the biscuit no justice. My bacon and egg biscuit was one of the best biscuits I have ever had. The bacon was great. As a bacon connoisseur, I love bacon that isn’t crispy like a cracker but also isn’t too soft either. This bacon had a perfect balance between salty and sweet and had was really cooked perfectly. The egg was also great and matched well with the bacon.

The biscuit itself was also amazing. I am not a fan of doughy biscuits. You know the kind that seem to not be cooked enough and are really mushy in the center so you end up with swallowing a huge ball of buttery dough..well the biscuits at Rise are far from that. They’re nice and fluffy and not so oily that your hands end up with a layer of grease on them. Our biscuits were baked perfectly, a light crust on the outside that was a nice contrast to the soft inside. I really have no complaints about the biscuits at Rise.

If you’re ever in the Raleigh/Durham area, make sure you check out Rise! I know I’ll be going back sometime to check out their donuts and have some more of their amazing biscuits. Also be sure to follow them on Twitter!

Have a great day guys!