The first time I ever had charred shishito peppers was at Umi Sake House in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, and it blew my mind. A friend had ordered it to share, and when it arrived, I definitely looked at the small pile of peppers with a great deal of skepticism.
Peppers? As an appetizer? Wouldn’t that, you know, hurt to eat? But you guys, it… well, it does hurt. Sometimes. I wouldn’t lie to you. This is a place of honesty and trust, after all. But mostly, the peppers are an insanely addictive combination of sweet and bitter, with just a small dose of heat. Except for sometimes, like I mentioned, when it is a large dose of heat. But they always seem to be the minority, and in any case I think it just heightens the experience when you have no idea if you’ll come across a “surprise pepper” that lays on the napalm inside your mouth. Does that not sound great to you?
No? Just me?
I am into corn in a big way. I eat little Del Monte cans of whole kernel sweet corn straight from the tin with a spoon. If I weren’t so keenly aware that it’d be very weird, I would even offer it to guests as a dessert. (“Annnnd to cleanse your palate, a can of corn with a spoon in it! Wait, where are you going?”)
Luckily, there are more socially acceptable ways of feeding your guests (and yourself) corn instead of just eating it from a can like some kind of animal that has access to a can opener.
What better time to partake in corn than in the summer, when sweet corn is at its golden peak and ahem, really, really cheap?
Turnips. No one gets excited about them. Whenever someone says they’re bringing turnips to the company potluck, no one shouts “AWESOME!”, and approximately zero spontaneous rounds of high-fives break out. Turnips just don’t elicit the kind of yearning that vegetables like potatoes do. Turnips don’t even grace pre-packaged vegetable platters like carrots and celery, nor are they used as ornamental garnishes in fancy salads like radishes. Poor turnips.
But why? Why is it neglected and so often overlooked? Turnips, after all, are packed with vitamins, are entirely edible from bulb to leafy greens, and may I say, they’re even a little bit sexy.
So shapely, oh myyyyy.
But most importantly, they are tasty. That is, as long as you stick with wee, tender little bebbeh turnips.
I’m back! It turns out that I’m like a cat; I need to lie out and charge in a sunbeam if I’m expected to do anything at all for the remainder of the day. And well, the sun skidattles from the sky by 4pm this time of the year here, so I haven’t been doing much cooking for the past few months. Yikes. But now that it’s somewhat bright when I leave the office — even if it instantly becomes pitch black by the time I reach my front door — I can feel the desire to throw down in the kitchen returning to the frozen cockles of my heart. Hooray!
This weekend’s dinner gathering hosted by my friends Sara and Adrian was the perfect push to fire up the stove again. And what better on a cold Sunday night than something green and spicy?
Growing up, one of the staple weekend activities in our house was to go to the Asian market to replenish our fridge with bittermelons, salted eggs, Thai basil, and all that other stuff that we could never get from the local suburban supermarket. My mom loved to frequent one in Houston’s Chinatown called Hong Kong Market, and after an hour or so of grocery shopping (at the time, we had several aunts, uncles, and cousins living with us, so there were a lot of mouths to feed), we’d stop at the tiny Chinese bakery across the shopping plaza.
One of the things my mom would always get would be Hokkaido milk bread, though I always just knew it as “Chinese sweet bread.” It’s soft, fluffy, and a little sweet, and we always just ate it toasted with a thin layer of butter or completely plain. I guess the name “milk bread” comes from the use of milk powder or condensed milk, and some versions of the milk bread we’d get would also have swirls of grainy sweet milk mixture rolled in. It’s not as strange as it sounds, I promise!
This particular rendition of Asian milk bread doesn’t have anything swirled in, but I imagine you can easily roll in a cinnamon-sugar-raisin mix if you so please, or even the traditional milk mix (future recipe, perhaps?). The possibilities!
This past weekend was blazingly hot, like the departing summer sun was leaning in to give Seattle a big ol’ hug before it inevitably ignores us for the fall and winter. As a result, the ambient temperature of my apartment reached levels that were previously only recorded inside of active volcanoes.
And that’s where I ran into this little dilemma — the last thing I wanted to do was turn on my stove, but the only thing in the world I wanted to eat was pasta. That’s how my mind works, folks, like the time I decided to walk in a blizzard because I wanted ice cream. Sigh. Simmering a nice red sauce on the stove was out of the question, but what can be done instead? This can be done instead.
I found this recipe on Epicurious years ago, and it’s something I find myself making over and over again. It’s so simple and easy, and best of all, requires minimal stove time. Just long enough to boil whatever pasta suits your fancy plus a minute more for the broccoli to get all nice and soft, et voilà — dinner is served.
Labor Day weekend has come and gone, and you know, I honestly have no idea what people usually do on Labor Day weekend (buy mattresses at low, low prices, maybe?). I went hiking to Wallace Falls outside of Seattle, and it was beautiful. And also crowded. So I guess what people usually do on Labor Day weekend is hike Wallace Falls. Hmmm…
After the hike, I was completely drained of all energy, and what I could have used was a biscuit. An outrageously buttery biscuit full of carbs and energy and how was that for a segue?
Now, I’m pretty sure it’s a legal requirement to be way into buttermilk biscuits if you were born and raised in the South. But in my two-plus decades in Texas, I had never met anyone who made biscuits from scratch. It seemed like everyone I knew just bought the canned Pillsbury version instead, claiming that proper biscuits are too difficult to make. They talked about having to freeze the dough at random points, or brush layers with butter, or keep the mixing bowls and whatnot in the fridge so it’d all stay cold — what?
I know plenty of people who find tofu terrifying. It’s this weird, beige, jiggly block of something that smells vaguely like stale water — what are you supposed to do with it? I’ll tell you what you’re not supposed to do: eat it plain, straight from the packaging. I know a few traumatized folks who have done just that, the fools. They’re now convinced that tofu is a culinary abomination, but dear reader, this does not have to be your fate.
So what are you supposed to do? I propose that you fry it. And then dust it in a delectable concoction of salt, peppers, and ginger powder so you end up with a tasty, fluffy nugget of goodness. It will make a tofu believer out of you and it will take less than 30 minutes to put together.
But why tofu at all, instead of chicken or pork, or anything else? Because tofu is an excellent vehicle for showcasing rather subtle flavors instead of overpowering them with its own tofu-ness, is super fast to cook, is vegetarian-friendly in case you’re ever going meatless, and the texture just sings with this particular dish — slightly crisp on the outside, and pillowy on the inside. Oh yes.