While we were browsing the aisles at our local Trader Joe's this past Sunday, Jen excitedly suggested we pick up some tofu. I haven't actually made tofu in months, but we were eating it pretty frequently for a while there, and just kind of fell out of the habit. Jen tried tofu for the first time a little over a year ago at Thai Blue Ginger in Greenfield, Massachusetts, near Northampton, where we were living at the time. To her surprise (and mine!), she instantly became of fan of tofu after trying their vegetarian Pad Thai. Since then, we've eaten tofu at restaurants a little, but mostly at home--we've especially enjoyed tofu lettuce wraps and spring rolls, and we've found that the extra-firm is our preferred variety.
(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's risotto master Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column whose title says it all. Enjoy! -Max)
by Jason Hissong
26 October 2009
Yesterday I spent a few hours over at my friend Andy's house. He doesn't cook much, and so we spent part of our afternoon in the kitchen with me showing him how to cook a couple of dishes. Our main dish? Risotto.
I'm a big fan of Serious Eats' hamburger-centric site A Hamburger Today, especially the posts on that site that really get down into the actual process of making a burger. One of their writers, burger genius J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, recently debuted a column called The Burger Lab, where he breaks down the components of various burgers and rebuilds them from scratch. Inspired by Mr. Lopez-Alt's ambitious creations, I wanted to try and make a pork-based burger that riffs off of Umami Burger's Triple-Pork burger, a chorizo-bacon-ground pork affair that I haven't tried, but did sound pretty delicious to me from their menu. So, with the burger-making tips I've picked up from AHT and other sites firmly in mind, I set out to make a Patty Melt using a homemade pork-based patty.
Some nights, you just want something simple that you can whip up in ten minutes or less. A good salad can be a cheap, easy solution to this problem. Or, if you feel like eating a big bowl of lettuce doesn't appeal to you, lettuce wraps can sometimes be a little more fun to eat. For this salad recipe, and for any other, really, you can turn the dish into lettuce wraps just by getting big leaves of lettuce, using those as lettuce wraps, mixing up the remaining salad ingredients as you see fit, and spooning those into the lettuce leaves as you go. Whether you make salad or lettuce wraps, either is a good dinner to veg out in front of the TV with. No pun intended, of course!
(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's cookbook fan Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column whose title says it all. Enjoy! -Max)
The Cook's Bookshelf
by Jason Hissong
19 October 2009
My friend Kate is an amazing woman. Gorgeous. Intelligent. Funny. Well read. She sings and plays guitar. And, she's one hell of a cook. Every time I visit her home there is one item that draws me in over and over again: her food bookshelf. I envy her food bookshelf. It's full of cookbooks and books about food, old and new alike. I want most of the books Kate has on her shelf. They look good. They smell good. I'm sure the recipes in them taste incredible with proper execution. And while her shelf is far more extensive than mine I find myself dipping again and again into my own food bookshelf.
We're on Week 8 of this Bento madness, and for the time being, I'm still feeling pretty psyched about filling the Bento containers with all kinds of early-morning deliciousness. When I first started making these Bento lunches, I was usually preparing them the night beforehand, which was a bad idea for a couple of reasons: (1) that led to me staying up extra-late, and (2) as long as I was staying up, I was being a little overly-ambitious with these lunches, which led to me staying up even later. At this point, though, I feel like I'm in a pretty decent groove with the Bento-making. I've been getting up at 6:45 to make them (and usually get some thing going for breakfast for Jen, too--as simple as cereal or, at worst, pancakes with batter made the night before to save time), and I'm usually left with plenty of time before Jen leaves for work at 7:30.
In last week's Shrimp and Corn Burger post, I mentioned that if you're a real glutton for punishment, you can bake fresh rolls for your crustacean-based creation. Personally, though, if I have the time and energy for it, I always try to opt for the path of most resistance when cooking. If there's a pre-made ingredient in a recipe, like the wonton wrappers you could use for today's potstickers, I'll usually see if I can make that ingredient at home. This just provides a little extra experience with making a new and different ingredient for me, and usually allows me to whip up recipes more cheaply, too. Because a package of wonton wrappers is definitely more expensive than twice as many freshly made ones. So with this recipe, feel free to follow along and make your own wonton wrappers, or feel free to just buy some and join the pictorial below partway through. Either option will yield delicious results.
I'm not a big pasta fan. I tend to find pasta dishes pretty heavy, especially when they're in a rich sauce. After one or two bites, food fatigue begins to set in, and then it's a race to the finish line, if by race I mean a slow, dull crawl and by finish line I mean eating a third of the dish. However, I've always found ravioli really appealing, and feelings about pasta aside, I'm always trying to test out new dishes I haven't tried to make before, and I'd never made pasta from scratch before.
(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's risotto champion Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column whose title says it all. Enjoy! -Max)
The Most Important Meal
By Jason Hissong
12 October 2009
The most important meal I ever cooked I cooked for a girl in college that told me it was too complicated for me to make. It was a simple chicken and pasta dish with a white sauce and a salad of some sort. I have forgotten the exact details. She enjoyed it, or told me she did, and at the time nothing mattered more.
Jen's got her biweekly day off today, so this was a smaller week for Bentos--I only ended up making two different varieties this week, with each showing up twice in this week's lunches. Regardless, one of the lunches this week felt like a little bit of a Bento breakthrough, and we'll take a look at that in a sec. Without further ado, the Bentos.
Every so often, when I'm not sure what dish I'd like to make next, I open up the Image Browser program on my computer and start scrolling through all the photos I've taken of meals I've made over the last year and a half or so. This can be a fun activity, as it brings back fond memories of good foods eaten (and in some cases, memories of kitchen disasters that I can thankfully laugh about now), and provides good fuel for my imagination when I'm trying to decide what to make for dinner. So, when I was looking at old food photos the other day, I came across these burgers and was instantly reminded how delicious they were.
(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday (or, on occasion, Tuesday morning), Chicago's cheerful chum Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column about eating and preparing food in Chicagoland. Enjoy! -Max)
By Jason Hissong
5 October 2009
Last Sunday I made tomato bisque. It’s a super simple dish, really. I started with rendering some bacon in my big saucepot and then removing the bacon for later. I then drained some, but not all, of the bacon grease and left a little to sweat my aromatics- in this case a simple onion, garlic, celery, and carrot. To this I added my whole, peeled tomatoes and let simmer for half an hour. I then added my bacon, a cup of milk, and blended with my stick blender and added some shredded cheddar cheese. I cracked the black pepper after ladling into a bowl, and served with a buttered, farmhouse roll. Delicious, satisfying, and comforting on cold autumnal evenings in Chicago.
Welcome back to another Bento Round-Up. From this past week, I have three different lunches to share, one of which I'll go into a little more detail than usual about, as it again uses the roasted garlic I made last week. We got a lot of mileage out of that one head of garlic (and even more bad breath, I'm sure). Without further ado, let's take a look at these Bentos.
A few days ago, I mentioned that Jason, who writes the Windy City Cooking column, had sent me a copy of Tom Colicchio's book, Think Like a Chef. I'm about halfway through so far, and it's a pleasure to read. Colicchio's writing style is friendly and laid-back, and his instructions are easy to follow. Although I didn't use his recipe when I made roasted garlic the other night, I have been really enjoying the book. The most interesting section so far is called Studies, and in it Colicchio shows how he selects one vegetable and then thinks about all the different directions it could go in. With a single tomato comes a roasted tomato, which becomes a key part of a number of dishes that follow. The way in which he thinks about food is useful and worthwhile, and so for today's post, and a future post, I'm going to attempt to carry out the same kind of thinking, in this case applied to garlic. We already have roasted garlic, which was the subject of last night's Midnight Snack post, and today we're going to tackle aioli.