Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flavor Profile: Chimichurri

My cousin John makes the best chimichurri.  When my family and I were in Hawaii, we all begged him to make it for us on steak night.  As usual, it was delicious -- we couldn't get enough of it, and we put it on everything we ate until it was gone.  It took an awful lot of willpower not to eat it by the spoonful.  After observing John carefully while he was making his chimichurri, I decided to try it out myself at home.  With the memory of the sauce still lingering in my mind (and invading my dreams), I gathered the ingredients.

Chimichurri is made up of four main components: parsley, garlic, oil, and vinegar.  While other ingredients are often added to create different variations of the sauce, these four components are almost always present in chimichurri.  Used as a marinade, a spread, or a topping, chimichurri is at once tangy, salty, and herby, with a kick delivered by the raw garlic.  Not quite as creamy or thick as pesto, but definitely more substantial than a vinaigrette or dressing, it is extremely versatile and imparts a fresh and bright flavor to whatever it's paired with.  I used a balsamic vinegar because, well, that's what John used in Hawaii.  But the balsamic actually added a subtle sweetness to my chimichurri that I found quite pleasant.  I think the recipe below will work just as well with a red wine vinegar, if you prefer.


1 bunch flat leaf parsley, washed and stems removed
4 cloves garlic
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 a small onion
salt, to taste

Finely chop parsley, mince garlic, and finely dice onion.  Combine with oregano and vinegar.  Add olive oil and mix well.  Alternatively, combine ingredients in a small food processor and blend until everything is just minced (don't overdo it!).  Salt to taste, and serve with grilled meat or fish, or roasted veggies, or whatever your little heart desires.  I served mine with some oven roasted potatoes, red snapper, baked tofu, and roasted zucchini, with the bowl of chimichurri right in the middle of the table.

Some possible fun additions would be: finely diced bell pepper, cilantro, dried thyme, finely diced red onions, red pepper flakes... The possibilities are endless -- get creative!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Brooklyn Beefsteak

On Sunday, March 21st, 2010, two of my friends and I attended Brooklyn Beefsteak, an all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink, gluttonous beef-fest at the Bell House in Brooklyn.  A modern foodie take on the Tammany Hall vote buying days (without the corruption, of course), the Brooklyn Beefsteak was quite a debaucherous event.  Needless to say, I had been looking forward to it for weeks.

The event lived up to all of my expectations.  It wasn't really all-you-can-eat, but I definitely had at least one sizable steak's worth of meat.  The beef came in the form of small, perfectly cooked, Pat La Frieda steak slices served on baguette rounds.  While we waited for our drunk-off-his-ass waiter to deliver the juicy meat, we busied ourselves with shelling and eating the peanuts sitting in front of us.  When the waiter would finally arrive with a fresh platter full of beef, we reached our grubby, greedy little hands out and grabbed as many pieces as we could manage.  All bets were off; chivalry, manners, respect, civility, and anything of the sort had been left at the door.  There were no utensils, the beer flowed endlessly, and the pickles... oh, the pickles!  The highlight of the meal were the sliders, which also came atop baguette rounds, but I only saw one of those.  After the first hour, the crowd got rowdy.  We were dancing on the benches, others were partaking in an eating contest, while still others were building towers out of beer cups and the orphaned slices of baguette, all to the sweet tunes of the Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Company.  At one point, we all broke into communal song, led by the band, chanting "Beef, beef, beef, beef -- Beef, beef, beef, beef," and slurring the words to the Song of the Beefsteak, whose lyrics had been printed and placed all along the tables.  As we sang, 

The Beefsteak is here -- and you've got a seat
It's all-you-can-drink -- it's all-you-can-eat
So loosen your belt -- and stuff yourself sore
The Beefsteak is here, let out a cheer, gimmee some more!

with our arms around one another, feeling slightly nauseous, but with greasy, wobbly grins on our faces, I knew that I had found some sort of holy grail.

To all my fellow beefsteakers, thank you.  I will never forget you or the amazing night we shared.  See you next year.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Breaded Pork Chops with Butternut Squash and Broccolini

A couple of weeks ago, I found these amazing pork chops at my local greenmarket.  And some fresh eggs. Which I actually ended up dropping on the kitchen floor, creating just a teensy little mess.  But my roommate got me some more.  Then I found some freshly made breadcrumbs at my local Italian deli.  And so I made these yummy breaded pork chops, along with butternut squash, which I also found at the greenmarket.  The broccolini came from my local natural foods market.  All in all, it was a pretty local meal.  Which brings me to...

...My Two Cents On Eating Local Food: I know locavorism is all the rage right now, and I'm definitely not the first one to jump on the bandwagon.  Being a locavore is the trendiest kind of eater you can be these days.  But seriously, how can you argue against knowing exactly where your food comes from, buying it directly from the person that grows it, and reducing the distance from creation to digestion? This, to me, is locavorism.  And just as "vegan" and "vegetarian" can mean vastly different things to different people, so can locavorism.

And now, on to the food (which is, after all, what it's really all about)!

Broccolini with Red Pepper Flakes

2 bunches broccolini
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
olive oil

Heat a bit of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add red pepper flakes and heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add broccolini and toss gently to coat.  Cook until broccolini is tender and bright green, covering the pan to steam it a bit, if necessary.  Turn off heat, season with salt, and finish with lemon juice.

Roasted Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Season squash with salt and pepper and toss with olive oil.  Place on a baking sheet and cook in oven until tender, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Breaded Pork Chops

1 large egg
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
2 thin pork chops (about 7 ounces each and 3/4 inch thick)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Start by setting up your breading assembly line with three shallow bowls.  Lightly beat the egg in the first bowl, spread the flour in the second, and the breadcrumbs in the third.  Coat a skillet with oil and heat over medium-high heat.  While the oil heats up, season the pork chops with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour.  Dip the pork chops in the egg, and finish by pressing them into the breadcrumbs.  Fry on one side until crispy and golden brown, then flip to the other side and fry until cooked through, flipping again if necessary.  Serve with butternut squash and broccolini.

But wait!  There's more!  Got leftovers?  I did!  So for lunch the next day, I made this glorious sandwich,

by spreading some good mustard on a slice of bread, piling on a pork chop, followed by some broccolini, and topped by another slice of bread.  Mmmmm nom nom nommy noms!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Back to Reality

Hi friends!  Sorry I haven't posted in so long!  I was away on vacation in paradise...

Now, it's back to reality.  But first, some highlights from Hawaii...  My cousins and I stayed in a place with our own kitchen, and we cooked almost all of our own meals.  Like me, my cousins are all foodies, so we had some fun in the kitchen together and made some amazing feasts.  For example, on steak night, my cousin Ted wanted to marinate the tri-tip in beer, claiming that it would tenderize the beef.  So he marinated half of the steak in beer, and my other cousin Nick used a salt rub on the other half of the steak.  The verdict?  Well, we were a bit too eager for tri-tip, and so lost track of which steak was which, but most of us could not tell which steaks had been marinated and which had not.  Bottom line?  Tri-tip is good.  Real good.

Tri-tip, marinating in beer.

Salt rubbed tri-tip.

Other good eats included:

Brussels sprouts, seasoned and wrapped in foil, then thrown on the grill.  They turned out lovely, sweet and meltingly tender.

My cousin Karen's mushroom rice, which we served with barbecued chicken.

Salt and pepper fish plate, at a local food shack - one of our few meals out.

Shaved ice, from the same food shack.

That's all from my vacation... Stay tuned for pork chops, and my experience at the Brooklyn Beefsteak!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pork and Vegetable Dumplings for the Oscars

I love dumplings.  I love them in all shapes in sizes, from all different countries, filled with all kinds of delicious fillings.  Soup dumplings, pot stickers, samosas, pierogi, chicken and dumplings - I love them all!  This love inspired me to make these beautiful babies for a party for the Oscars that my roommate and I went to on Sunday.  And it was pretty obvious that I was not alone in my love for dumplings at that party, since they disappeared pretty quickly.

Aren't they adorable?

I know this is practically the same photo... but I couldn't resist.  How cute are they??

Pork Dumplings
Makes enough filling for approximately one package of dumpling wrappers
1 pound ground pork
1/2 head napa cabbage, trimmed and finely chopped
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
2 inch piece ginger, peeled (with a spoon or the back of a small knife) and minced
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix well to incorporate, and continue to mix for a couple of minutes until mixture is smooth.  Mix some more for good measure - you really want it to be extra smooth.  Follow the instructions at the end of this post for folding and cooking the dumplings.

Vegetable Dumpings
Makes enough filling for approximately one package of dumpling wrappers
1/2 pound pressed tofu*, finely diced
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, washed** and finely diced
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled, trimmed, and finely diced
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and incorporate well.  Follow the instructions below for folding and cooking the dumplings.

* "Dofu gan" - tofu that's been totally pressed and then simmered in soy sauce, giving it the characteristic brown color
** Yes, washed - I was taught that you should wash mushrooms, since they grow in the dirt, after all, and they really won't absorb any excess water.  Feel free to gently wipe them with a towel, though, if that makes you more comfortable.

Filling, Folding, and Cooking the Dumplings
Fill each dumpling wrapper with a small spoonful of filling (this amount will depend on the size of the wrapper - see photo for approximate ratio).  Moisten the edges of the dumpling with a dab of water so that it'll stick better.  Fold the dumpling in half, pleat the wrapper, and press to seal.  The trick to pleating is to only pleat the edge of the side of the wrapper that is facing you.  Start on one side of the center and make pleats towards the center.  Then pleat the other side towards the center as well, so the pleats on either side are facing each other.  Don't forget to press to seal it up.

See how it's only pleated on one side?  And all the pleats are facing the center?

Boil dumplings for about 5 minutes, until the dumplings float, or pan fry them in oil, adding a bit of water to the pan and covering to steam them a bit, so they cook all the way through.  Serve the dumplings hot, with the dipping sauce of your choice (a combination of soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and a pinch of sugar usually does the trick).  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


As my roommate informed me via GChat today:

Roommate: you have 14 followerssssss

Hooray!  Thanks to everyone who is following my blog and supporting my blogging efforts!  It really means so much to me.  My little blog just dreams of making it here one day!  For now, though, I would love to hear what you guys, my followers and readers, have to say!  If you have any suggestions or ideas for Kat is Cooking, please leave them in the Comments below.  I would especially love to hear if you've tried out any of my recipes and how they turned out.

Thanks again for stopping by and reading!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sake, and Soju, and Whiskey! Oh, my!

This weekend, I didn't have any time to cook.  My cousins from California visited and we had some tasty adventures in New York City.  They are food-obsessed, like yours truly and the rest of our family, so naturally we dedicated the weekend to eating and drinking.  On Saturday, we went to Congee Village for brunch, WineBar for a midday bottle of wine, Sake Bar Hagi for dinner and sake, Terroir for a bottle of Riesling, 2A for drinks, and Two Boots to finish it all off.  Then, on Sunday, we went to Grape and Grain for brunch, Arirang for dinner and soju, and Whiskey Blue for a nightcap.  Needless to say, I was exhausted at work today and will be taking the next few nights off.  But, oh MAN, was it worth it!

Brunch at Grape and Grain

The Arturo, and Lychee Bellini

Dinner at Arirang. Don't know what this was called. We just pointed to the table next to us. Basically a hot-pot like spicy soup with handmade noodles, beef, octopus, and vegetables.

Homemade chicken noodle soup and chicken and dumpling soup at Arirang