Thursday, 9 September 2010

Braised Goat with Red Wine Portabella Sauce

My dad thinks just because it resembles a steak, it'll cook like a steak. It doesn't work like that. Especially not when you're talking about goat meat, and it's cut straight out of an adult thigh. He bought a whole goat leg to make "mutton" curry and saved two cuts from the shank to grill. Obviously not a preparation conducive to goat meat--it's lean and it's leg meat, so when he asked me to prepare it for my mom and himself, I decided to braise it.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Beer Camp Columbus 2010

Beer Camp is an event the Wild Goose Creative [Collective] is putting on, and they're having a cooking contest--food made with beer. I'm going to enter, but I need ideas for something other than, you know, beer-battered onion rings or cheese and beer soup. More people should read this blog and help me come up with ideas. Maybe I'll ask my friends at dinner tonight. Ian lived in Germany for a while--that must mean beer in food, right?

Anyway, come out if you can. There's a beer tasting from Columbus Brewing Company (I don't think it's only their beers, I think they're just 'presenting' it), and some other contests--label design and beer crafts (I'm not really certain what this means, but it reminds me of Luna's butterbeer cork necklace--um, you can make fun of me for saying that, I don't mind).

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

"Did the discovery of cooking make us human?"

A BBC article about research that asserts that our learning to cook food, as a species, was central to our evolution.

Without cooking, an average person would have to eat around five kilos of raw food to get enough calories to survive. "Cooking made our guts smaller," he says. "Once we cooked our food, we didn't need big guts."

Cooking food breaks down its cells, meaning that our stomachs need to do less work to liberate the nutrients our bodies need. This, says Wheeler, "freed up energy which could then be used to power a larger brain. The increase in brain-size mirrors the reduction in the size of the gut."

I don't know. I've seen some pretty big guts...

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Mussels in a White Wine, Garlic and Tomato-Parmesan Broth

I'm fine with just eating mussels, and full for the night, but since my parents invited some of their friends for our weekly family dinner, we had to make the meal a bit more substantial. This involved me creating a sort of hearty-bruschetta (chorizo, portabella and white button mushrooms on toasted baguette slices), an anchovy-laden Caesar salad, and the addition of some extra-large (on-sale) shrimp to the mussels. (No pictures of the salad, because besides chopping the romaine, then adding anchovies and olive oil, I didn't do anything--dressing, croutons, etc.)

The mussels used a similar broth to the sauce for the Zucchini Cappellini I made the night before--I once again used both grape and those Heirloom tomatoes, but in the broth I added about half a bottle of white wine and dried herbs (both grocery stores I went to were out of thyme and parsley--who knew that Valentine's day called for eating in?). Generally, I use fresh herbs, but dried work just as well--or perhaps better, depending on the herbs you're using. Fresh thyme is my favourite, but there is something overpowering and all-too-leafy and grassy about fresh parsley, and I found using dried parsley was much more to my liking.

If you've never made mussels before, don't worry. Mussels cook in about 5 minutes. The hardest part is the cleaning (not hard) and the prep of the ingredients for the broth (well, that's every recipe). To clean mussels, I always 'soak' them for about 20 minutes. This doesn't kill them, because you don't do it long. The reason to soak them, if you have the time, is so that they naturally filter out the sand/grit inside them. Some people say that the ones that float are alive, the ones that sink to the bottom are dead--I've also found this to be pretty untrue--a lot of the ones that sink are still alive. I always check every mussel after I've soaked them. Don't ever used cracked ones or opened ones--discard immediately!

What it means to clean mussels is to scrub them gently to remove the barnacles and also to remove what's called the "beard." I'm just going to link to a video for the removal, because I think it's easier to pick up if you see it rather than me just telling you. Regardless, always remember to pull towards the hinge of the mussel, or else you'll kill it--you want it alive until you cook it (I know, cruel--also, remember, I'm not vegan anymore, so, sorry). Also, I'm sorry about the video, but I think it's hilarious--and it's exactly what I do. (Seriously, what is with her voice?) Etc.

Mussels in a White Wine, Garlic, and Tomato-Parmesan Broth
(serves 4, by itself--8 as part of a meal;
takes about an hour to an hour and a half, including prep)

4 lbs medium-sized mussels
(Whole Foods sells them in 2 lb bags, Giant Eagle carries them loose)
2 1lb containers of grape tomatoes, halved
1 1lb container of "Gourmet Heirloom Tomatoes", quartered (optional)
(substitute cherry tomatoes if you can't find these)
10 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 white onion, finely chopped
1-2 c vegetable or chicken stock
2 c white wine
(so, I was incredibly liberal with the wine, as I tend not to measure it--just pour, and used half a bottle or so--probably you don't want to do that)
6 oz grated Parmesan
2 oz shredded Parmesan, optional
2 baguettes or 2 loaves of ciabatta, sliced and toasted
(we like ciabatta better for the purposes of slopping up the broth, plus I used baguette for the bruschetta)

*alternative ingredients I don't normally add, but that were used for the photographed version of this recipe (per dad's request to make it spicy/to add more seafood, etc):
3 tbsp hot sauce (Sriracha)
2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 lbs extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 package of whole wheat linguine
(yes, half a package was enough for 7 people, because this is not a pasta recipe)

  1. Soak the mussels in a bucket of cold water for 20 minutes.
  2. Add the 4 tbsp of olive oil to medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add all of the grape tomatoes. When the skins loosen a bit, turn to medium-low heat and add the garlic and onion. After about 5 minutes, turn to low, add the herbs and broth and simmer for 20 minutes. (Cook pasta, if using, drain, and set aside.)
  3. Once you have prepped all the ingredients (you can also do this before hand). Rinse, scrub, debeard and then rinse the mussels again. I usually just do this with the water running.
  4. Add the quartered tomatoes and the white wine, turn up to medium heat until the broth begins to boil, about 5 minutes. (This is where I added the hot sauce and red pepper flakes) Add the grated Parmesan, the mussels (and the shrimp). Cover and cook for two minutes, then uncover, and gently stir the mussels so that the mussels on the bottom are on the top and vice versa. Cook for two more minutes.
  5. Remove mussels to a serving dish and top with Parmesan and red pepper flakes (optional).
The end!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


The mussels are coming--I've just been up to my knees in school work (okay, I took a break on Friday and Saturday--I admit it). The recipe is done, and the pictures are edited, just have to format it and put it up. BRB.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

A quick note on butter*

Don't ever use margarine. That is gross.

*Ok, being previously vegan/vegetarian, I feel should add that vegan alternatives are fine by me (I'm not like a 'butter-purist'), and sometimes its even preferred (I still cook vegan food a lot). My favourite butter substitute has always been Earth Balance, probably because it was the first one I ever found/used, but you can make them too, or omit them/substitute other ingredients for butter. But "margarine" is not vegan, and I'm so against it I could puke.

Going along with that, when I say to 'make something vegan--replace the butter with Earth Balance,' that just means any butter substitute, but often, you don't even need to. Butter, I've found (with the food I've made) is indicative of French or other European influence (but nowhere as much as France), and even in recipes that require dairy based substances in Indian cooking, Sri Lankan cooking does without (we don't even use ghee that often!).

So as long as you're vegan, count out a lot of hearty (I just realized I've been spelling that 'hardy'--as in the Hardy Boys, and need to fix that) French/peasant/Provencal food. Hopefully, if you're vegan (or even vegetarian) you are not nearly as interested in that (i.e. soufflé and croissants) as you are in clean, delicious Japanese soup-broths laden with deep-green vegetables and tofu.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Zucchini Cappellini w/ Baby Heirloom Tomatoes

Whole Foods has been stocking a variety of "baby" (WF calls them "Gourmet") Heirloom Tomatoes. They look identical to their 'adult' counterparts, but they are about four times smaller. They are so cute! I don't know if thy're actually "babies" (I don't think they are), or if that's just how big they get based on the season/cultivation. They're so gorgeous and delicious that I needed to get them--twice (I use them in the mussels recipe too). I didn't have time to make the vegan wontons, but will be making them soon for my Skylab third-floor-friendies, so that recipe is still forthcoming--no worries.

I used a mandoline to julienne the zucchini--julienning the zucchini is a key part of this recipe. In fact, to julienne zucchini is one of the main reasons I bought a mandoline, as it's the easiest, most uniform way to do it. (I've never used a julienne peeler before, so I guess saying that is only correct with lack of experience in that realm, I just meant--julienning vegetables yourself, i.e. with a chopping knife--sucks.) I had to do this by hand (without the safety guard that keeps you from slicing your little fingertips off, and is totally inadvisable by all authorities on the subject), but I was really careful, and it was the only way I could do it, as the zucchini wouldn't fit in the guard!
Now that i think about it, I ended up splitting the zucchini in half most of the time while I was doing it anyway, so it might have fit in the guard--but I digress (imagine that). Most probably, a good remedy for this would be a julienne peeler, but I don't have one, so!

Also, please note at the bottom (after the recipe and all the photographs) I have given the vegan ingredients I altered for this recipe, as I generally make this vegan, and so can you!

Zucchini Cappellini w/ Baby Heirloom Tomatoes
(serves 4-6, or 10-12 as a side dish; takes about an hour, including prep)

5-6 small-medium zucchini, julienned*
1 1lb container of grape tomatoes, halved
1 1lb container of "Gourmet Heirloom Tomatoes", quartered
(substitute another container of grape tomatoes here if you can't find these)
8 medium garlic cloves
1 package whole wheat cappellini
(also called angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti, or at least, those would also both work)
6 tbsp olive oil, divided (2 tbsp, 2 tbsp, 2 tbsp, and extra for adding to the pasta water)
4 tbsp butter, divided (2 tbsp, 2 tbsp)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
shaved Parmesan (optional, at end)

  1. Add the 2 tbsp olive oil to a large saucepan on medium-high heat (you’ll see mine at the end, so that should give you a pretty good idea of how much room you need if you don’t scale down the recipe), and add the grape tomatoes. Once the tomato skins loosen a bit, turn this down to medium-low then low. Stew the tomatoes for up about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (This is normally when I do the prep for the rest of the ingredients.)
  2. Season with some salt and pepper. Add the garlic to the tomatoes once you’ve minced the cloves. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter.
  3. Add a bit of olive oil and sea salt to a large pot of water (optional), and cook the spaghetti until al dente (this takes about 6-7 minutes, but read the package)—or 1 minute before al dente, if you like the bite of al dente, because you’re going to add it to the sauce on low heat, which will cook it through. (Since the pasta is whole wheat, I cook it until al dente.) Drain. Rinse with cold water or add more olive oil to keep from sticking (also optional).
  4. On medium-low heat, add the quartered Heirloom tomatoes, simmer for 3 minutes at most.
  5. On low heat, add the julienned zucchini, let cook for 2 minutes, then add the pasta, and let cook for about a minute more. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. If using, before serving, add shaved Parmesan on top. (I added some mixed in the pasta, and then some on top, because I didn’t use a lot of salt.)
*when you julienne the zucchini, you don't want the seeds--so do one 'side' at a time, around the center section (the seeds).

Potluck Ready!

Note: to make this vegan, replace all the butter with Earth Balance, or just use olive oil. To make this with an herb-infused olive oil and garlic 'sauce' instead of a tomato sauce, use the same amount of olive oil (or olive oil and Earth Balance), and on extremely low heat, add the garlic and the herbs (I use thyme and oregano or basil, normally) until fragrant. Steam the zucchini, or gently cook for 3 minutes on low heat. Add both the olive oil and the zucchini to the pasta at the same time. If you want to add the Heirloom tomatoes, but not have the stewed tomato sauce, add the tomatoes into the pan with the zucchini. The vegan version is also good with wilted spinach!

Somewhat Unrelated Side Note: Also, I know that sounds like a shitload of butter and olive oil (about 10 tbsp total!), and really fattening--what you have to remember is that in this recipe, I made a LOT of pasta, so it's actually much more on the conservative side. If you are making this for two, everything needs to be super scaled down, or you're going to have a lot of leftovers. Also, my recipe portions are guesses. I mean, I eat a lot less in one sitting that most people, so I'm guessing what "you" would eat--if everyone ate my portion size, the amount I made could probably feed 20 or 30 people--seriously. Everyone makes fun of me--but I think it's because I have a really slow metabolism, so I get full quickly, don't eat much, and then hungry again quickly. Normally when I make food, I am always tasting everything as I go along, also, and am never cooking just for myself--so I'm normally full by the time everything is ready for "you" to eat. OKAY, NOW YOU KNOW ALL THAT ABOUT ME.

A sneak peek until I get some homework done

So, I couldn't eat all day (bad side-effect of broken hearts), but lucky for you, that means I've been working over time to get two of those promised recipes done today! Just editing down the photos I want to use, and they'll be up in a bit! Here's a taste:

Zucchini Cappellini w/ Baby Heirloom Tomatoes

Mussels in a Garlic, White Wine and Tomato-Parmesan Broth

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A note on the Recipes I provide

The recipes I 'create' are not created from scratch. That's to say--as much as possible, the ingredients are raw, real, natural ingredients--but the recipes themselves are hybrids and personal takes on numerous other recipe sites. I don't imagine, or want, this to be a referential recipe site such as the ones that I may get ideas or advice from (my recipes are never word for word, or mostly, never that close to a specific recipe site's, or I will mention it), I want this to be a catalogue of the recipes that I want to include in my recipe zines (hence the name, guys).

That said, I'll reveal the the first zine: it's called Usan + Manipay. Usan is the town where my mother grew up, my father in Manipay, both in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. This zine will be a small sampling of the best recipes my parents have made for us since we were growing up. This is NOT Indian food, and it is not all vegetarian recipes (though all the vegetarian ones are vegan). To give you a brief overview before I post about them/publish them (in the zine), I'm doing muttai uppam, chutney, puttu (which I don't even like!), biriyani, kadalai curry (our equivalent of channa masala), coor, thairysadtham, etc. Hopefully it'll be ready for the zine fest in Chi-town, but the pictures (line-drawn) aren't going so well, so far, so we'll see. (Don't worry, I'll explain all the names and how to pronounce them and why I loved or hated them in the zine.)

-Lux (update this + more soon)

P.S. To leave you with--a lamb-bone stew I'm fixing (as in, fixing what he started) for my dad. Onions, leg bone, milk, chiles, who else knows what... (he over-salted it... incredibly).

This is one of those, 'throw-what-you-have-into-it pot', I added in collard green stems, nearly rotting tomatoes, remnants of homemade chicken broth, tons more green chiles, and some red chile flakes, etc. We'll see how it is!

P.S. x2: The vegan zine will be called "Sweet Corn Kernal + Sugar Snap Pea". Hopyfully with illustrations by Sara Drake. It should be called Baby Portabella + Broccolini, as I barely ever use either corn or peas--but the former sounds so cute! We'll see. xxo,

Monday, 8 February 2010

Coming soon!

Hot and Sour Cabbage Soup with Tofu and Chinese Broccoli (vegan)
Zucchini Cappellini w/ Baby Heirloom Tomatoes (vegan/vegetarian)
Mussels in a Garlic, White Wine and Tomato-Parmesan Broth
Spicy Wonton Soup with Bok Choy (vegan)

Steamed Asparagus, how I love you!

Greeny goodies. I can't believe there are kids that hate vegetables, even though I was one of them.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Wild Mushroom and Brie Risotto

I've perfected my mushroom and brie risotto.

Yummm. This risotto is really rich--real winter food. I used real Parmesan, which is more crumbly and has a nuttier flavor than other "Parmesans". I don't really know how the labeling works, but I know the difference in the taste--I was under the assumption that Parmesan can only be called Parmesan if it is actually "Parmesan," (like that whole Champagne thing). This can't always be the case in America, or at least cheese producers can get away with selling different products under the same name here, because there is a definite difference in taste. Regardless, I also used chunks of Fromage d'Affinois, which, technically speaking is not a Brie. I just like it, and it works the same way. It's fucking delicious.

The recipe only calls for baby portabella (cremini) mushrooms and white button mushrooms. My photographs include trumpet mushrooms, because they were on sale, and I like the varying textures. I've also used shiitake and oyster mushrooms before, but I liked this combination best.

Wild Mushroom and Brie Risotto
(serves 4-8 depending on if you want it as a main meal or a side dish;
takes about an hour to an hour an a half, including prep)

4-6 c of vegetable (or chicken) broth
2-4 tbsp olive oil
10 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
10 oz white or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 c Arborio rice
1/2 c white wine
1-2 tbsp minced thyme (fresh)
3 tbsp butter, divided--2 tbsp cut into chunks
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 6oz wedge of Brie, cut into small chunks
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Warm about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic and a tablespoon of butter. Once the mushrooms start to wilt, add the thyme, a generous amount of pepper, a tsp or so of sea salt, and cook about three to five minutes. Remove the mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.
  2. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and stir in the onion, cooking for one minute (do not let brown). Add rice, stirring to completely coat with oil. When the rice has just turned golden and pale, add the wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed.
  3. Continue this with the broth by adding ½ c at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed and adding ½ c of broth. Do this until all the broth has been used, tasting at intervals, to make sure you don’t over cook the rice. It shouldn’t be crunchy, but shouldn’t be mushy either (i.e. al dente). This should take anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat, and immediately add mushrooms, chunks of butter, parmesan, and chives. Add salt and pepper to taste only after adding the parmesan. Fold in the chunks of brie.
It's really hard to chop this stuff, because the cheese is so soft, so your fingers will get messy. If it bothers you, you can always forgo the soft cheese and replace it with steamed asparagus. I mean, I'm not making a joke--that would be good too.

Also, I did this...

Haha. Cool. I'm a nerd.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Salmon with Cremini Mushroom Sauce and Sautéed Spinach

So, I've got a brand new love, and it's a brand new knife. Calphalon knives are seriously not expensive at all (I got this three-piece set including this chef's knife and a decent paring knife for $50). I don't really need an expensive knife-set right now--I'm not formally trained, so I'd probably fuck them up (I'm still trying to teach myself how to sharpen my knives, using old paring and chef knives that my parents don't use). That said, I still love these knives. I've never had such sharp, efficient, lovely knives to handle while in the kitchen. It's awesome. As my best friend Anne might say, you could gut some shit with this stuff.

Recently, I've also had another new love. Growing up with Sri Lankan food (i.e. Indian, for this purpose) thyme was never an ingredient in any of my parents' cooking. Ever. I had never used it it until one day I stopped being vegan (cheese pizza), and then decided I would make Thanksgiving dinner for my family. Thyme has become, in the past year and a half or so, a staple of my winter/holiday cooking. It's delicious with mushrooms and spinach--both of which I adore. Hence the following recipe, which I've made in a variety of ways, so feel free to experiment/omit/add to any of the ingredients depending on your likes and dislikes (I often forget/don't use the bacon, depending on my guests or just forgetting it). This is a dish with basic flavors to be used at your own discretion. (For example, I used an extremely similar recipe with boneless pork chops.)

So I decided to use thinly sliced baby portabellas for the sauce and an entire bunch of spinach to accompany the fish. The sauce is a thin sauce, with, if you slice the mushrooms thin enough (thanks mandoline), really tender, non-rubbery mushrooms, flavored with thyme, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. I use the spinach as a sort of "bed" for the salmon to rest on, so that the mushroom sauce seeps down through the salmon and spinach.

I also add thyme and garlic powder to the spinach while sautéing it, because it ties it nicely with the sauce, and adds a little flavor to the spinach.

The mushroom sauce is thinned out with white wine (think deglazing the pan after cooking the bacon and the salmon in it) and gets salty and fatty when you add the bacon. It's good, even if I forget the bacon (which I do almost always).

I didn't purchase the salmon, and I think it was previously frozen, or near-frozen, then thawed and sold as "fresh." That would explain the degradation of the texture of the pieces--as fresh, never frozen fillets don't generally flake away before they've even been cooked, but hold firm. Also, I was cooking at night, therefore using artificial light: so don't mind the creepish glowing-salmon.

Wild Salmon with Cremini Mushroom Sauce and Sautéed Spinach
(serves 4, takes about 1hr 30min, including marinade, prep and cook time)

4 4-oz to 6-oz fillets of salmon, at least 1" thick (no less than 1/2" at the thinnest part)
1 lemon
About 20 individual thyme sprigs, leaves finely chopped
8-oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 slices of bacon (optional)
1/2 c dry white wine
2 tbsp unsalted butter (you may substitute olive oil)
1 tbsp olive oil to sauté spinach
1/3 c olive oil (enough to coat salmon fillets) to marinate
1 bunch of spinach, washed and stems removed
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Marinate the salmon with the juice of ½ a lemon, ¼ c of olive oil, coarse salt, and freshly ground pepper on both sides. Leave covered in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. While the fish marinates, cook the bacon in a large enough pan to also accommodate the salmon filets. Don’t burn the bacon, but cook until just crisp. Drain on paper towels. Use a paper towel and skim off most of the extra oil. (Don’t pour it off, because you want the bacon bits to stay adhered to the pan).*
  3. In a separate pan, heat a tbsp of olive oil, then add spinach in batches, add the dried thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper, until all the spinach wilted. Remove from heat.
  4. In the pan with the residual bacon grease, add 1 tbsp butter (or olive oil if you prefer). Add the fish, flesh side down (skin side up), and sear (pan-fry) the fillets for 4 minutes. Gently flip over, and cook for another 4 minutes.
  5. Remove the fish from the pan (let rest skin side up and keep warm), add the white wine and let evaporate a bit. Then add the remaining butter, garlic and mushrooms. After a minute, add thyme and bacon and stir to coat everything. Add salt and pepper to taste, cook no more than 5 minutes. You will know when the mushrooms are done when they turn a golden, limp and release their juices.

* skip this step if you’re not using bacon, duh.