24 February 2017

Goes well with hangovers

When I was a graduate student at Indiana University, my Korean friend would take me to the only Korean restaurant in town (no doubt one of very few in the entire state) and, while pointing out all of the inauthenticities, treat me to Pa Jun, the lovely, comforting savory pancake filled with bits of vegetables and meats and served with a fun dipping sauce.  It was meant to soak up all the leftover alcohol in our systems after overindulging (I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues at the IU School of Music for teaching me just how much I could drink without puking), and I still have fond memories of hazy Saturdays slowly downing Pa Jun and trying to recall embarrassing things I said to cool string players and composers the night before.  Now, in my much more boring (but also more stable and happy) life as a 40-something musician who cooks a lot, I adore Pa Jun as a fun way to use up leftover bits of veggies, meat scraps, and yes, even tiny bits of tofu littering the fridge. 

Pa Jun

Serevs 4

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons sugar, optional
Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour or rice flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup very finely chopped vegetables asparagus, broccoli, green beans, scallions or chopped cooked leftover meat chicken, beef, pork or both

For dipping sauce: In a small bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, sugar (if using) and red pepper flakes. Mix well and set aside.

For pancakes:  Place a small (6- to 8-inch) nonstick or well-seasoned skillet over medium-low heat. Coat bottom with vegetable oil and allow to heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs just until frothy. Add flour and salt and whisk to combine. Add vegetables or meat and stir to blend. Add 1 cup cold water and mix again to blend.

Fill a 1/2-cup measuring cup with batter; pour into hot pan. Allow to sit until browned and crispy on bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip pancake and cook another 2 minutes. Place on a serving plate and keep warm (or set aside to serve at room temperature). Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with dipping sauce, tearing or cutting off pieces of pancake to dip in sauce with fingers or chopsticks.

Also goes great with drinking: shinjaga shouyu bataa!  Think of this as the Japanese version of Spanish/Cuban patatas bravas--just a simple dish of potato chunks with a little seasoning.  These are traditionally new potatoes dressed only with soy sauce and butter (a remarkably wonderful combination you can use on any and all cooked vegetables, by the way), but I like the addition of cilantro and peanuts, and of course, lime juice is fantastic over just about everything. You can easily whip these up after a night out, offer to friends with their beers, or just treat them as a respectable app or side in the light of day. There they are with Pa Jun, above!

Potatoes with butter and soy sauce

Serves 4 as a side

3-4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Coarsely ground black pepper 
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped peanuts
lime wedges for serving

Put the potatoes in a pot with water to cover; add salt (the water should taste almost as salty as sea water). Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and keep int the pot. Add the butter and soy sauce and mix. Once the butter is melted, stir in the cilantro and peanuts and serve with lime wedges to squeeze over the top. 

23 February 2017

Cocktails for These Political Times, part 3

There is so much news every week, most of it bad or crazy, coming out of the White House, and I feel like we all need a little break (from news, but not from drinking). I think it's time for a little positivity. So, this week I've decided to feature some of the fights one of my favorite (sadly, not mine) senators has been picking. This week's Cocktails for These Political Times salutes Minnesota Senator Al Franken, because he kicks ass. And a congratulations to you Minnesotans on your good taste. Check out his formerly awesome hair here.

Hot topics:

Net Neutrality

Overturning Citizens United (here's the petition if you want to sign)

Putting an end to LGBT Bullying (watch the interview here)

Supporting refugees against the Muslim band

There, do you have a crush on Al Franken yet?

It says that the Minnesota state drink is milk (of course), so here we go...

Red Wine Hot Chocolate

Serves 2, if you want to share

1 1/2 cup milk (non-dairy is fine, but keep it plain)
1 cup cheap, fruity/dry red wine (like a South American Shiraz or Merlot)
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine milk and chocolate chips. Whisk constantly until chocolate is melted into milk and you have a thick and creamy chocolate milk. Pour in red wine and heat until everything is hot. Pour into 2 mugs or 6-8 smaller glasses if you think you can't handle it. I totally think Franni would be able to pound this, though.

Goes with: whatever the fuck you want, because Al Franken thinks you are beautiful and he would never tell you what you can and can't eat. 

17 February 2017

Red lentils with roasted vegetables

I love red lentils because they thrive on neglect--throw them in a pot with some water, start the heat and walk away, and eventually (pretty quickly, actually) they become a satisfyingly thick, chunky sauce. This recipe is an alteration from a New York Times recipe that works equally well as a stew or as a sauce poured over rice or pasta of any kind.  I also like it with a squeeze of lemon on top, but you do what you want. 

Roasted Vegetable and Red Lentil Stew

Serves 8

1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
black pepper to taste
1 ½ cup red lentils
5 cups water
lemon wedges for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lay the carrots in a roasting pan and toss with 3 tablespoons oil. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the carrots, add the onion and pepper, cover again and roast 15 minutes, until the carrots are brown and tender. When carrots are cool enough, cut them in 1/4-inch dice.

Warm 1 tablespoons oil in a saucepan. Add the carrot-and-onion mixture, the paprika, garlic and chili powders, and the cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the lentils. Add the water and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are falling apart. Season with remaining salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice, or as a thick soup, with optional lemon squeezed on top.

16 February 2017

Cocktails for These Political Times, part 2

Well well well!  So much exciting stuff happened this week!  Michael Flynn quit, Andrew Puzder withdrew his name as Labor Secretary, and despite the DeVos confirmation, the literacy rate still seems to be the same (not great, but still...).  We've got so much to celebrate!  We are still in Russia's back pocket, but we'll save that for another time.

One topic that has become near and dear to me is that of the town hall meetings.  You may recall (or maybe not--who can keep up with all of the drama?) that several GOP senators returned home in the last week to some rather hostile crowds demanding answers to a wide variety of basic questions regarding healthcare, Russian hacking, business conflicts, and the like.  Here in my home state of Colorado, we have yet to hear any news of prodigal first-time senator Cory Gardner's return, although some of my clever fellow Greeley residents sent him a heartfelt Valentine this week to tantalize him. Many of us have also signed this helpful petition reminding him of our existence.

Perhaps he's afraid to see a repeat of what happened in Salt Lake City when Jason Chaffetz, chair of the oversight committee, got solidly slammed for sucking at his job, which is actually to represent his constituents' desires. Those desires apparently include investigating corruption in the White House. Who knew?

Chaffetz was a brave boy for facing the angry townspeople (braver, so far, than Gardner), but he did imply that those were paid protesters afterward, continuing a tired theme started by Trump himself. So, this week, TWO drinks: one for the great people of SLC for their righteous indignation (I know you probably don't drink, but Jello is your state food, right?), and one for keeping your strength up as you troll your senators on Facebook late into the night.

Fancy Jello Shots for SLC (non-alcoholic)

Makes about 12 double shots

1/2 cup boiling water
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 1/2 cups sparkling juice or cider (chilled)*
optional: berries, cherries, or gummies

Sprinkle the 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin over the boiling water and let soften for a few minutes. Whisk to dissolve completely and to get rid of clumps.

Pour the sparkling juice or cider gently into a mixing bowl or large measuring cup with a spout (try to pour onto the inside of the bowl to minimize carbonation loss). Pour the gelatin mixture into the sparkling juice and gently stir to combine.

Pour the liquid into stemmed glasses or other containers you wish to use for serving. Add berries or gummies to each glass.

Refrigerate for an hour before serving or until jello is firm enough to eat.

* Trade the cider for sparkling wine/ champagne if you want.


Makes 1 drink

1/3 cup tomato juice
2 ounces tequila
juice of half a lime
Hot pepper sauce, (I like Tabasco or Tapatio)

In a large glass, combine tomato juice, tequila, and lime juice. Add ice and several dashes hot-pepper sauce, and get to work demanding revolution!

10 February 2017

Ode to Mollie, in casserole form

This is a veggie-loaded and otherwise altered version of Mollie Katzen's good old rice and spinach casserole from her original Moosewood cookbook.  It was one of my first standby recipes in grad school and has morphed many times over the years, but it still hits the spot on a cold winter night. It's also a great way to use leftover cooked rice and lentils or any other kind of beans you have laying around! 

Important: Please note from the title that the casserole itself is not dirty, though the hippies eating it may be.

Dirty Hippie Rice Casserole

Serves 6-8

4 cups cooked rice (any kind but Minute!)
1-1.5 cups cooked lentils or small beans
2 lbs. raw, chopped spinach or other greens (amount doesn't have to be exact)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 eggs beaten with 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 cup milk (any)
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I like Parmesan)
4-5 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, shredded or cut into matchsticks
2 cups chopped broccoli
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
a few dashes each - nutmeg, cayenne (I like a little more than a dash of cayenne)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds or pepitas

Saute onions and garlic with the salt in oil. When onions are soft, add greens, broccoli, and carrot. Cook 2 minutes.

Combine the veggies with the rice, lentils, eggs, milk, cheese, soy sauce, nutmeg, cayenne, and sunflower seeds/pepitas. Spread into buttered casserole and sprinkle some paprika on top.

Bake, uncovered, 35 minutes at 350 degrees F. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes. 

09 February 2017

Announcing: cocktails for these political times

This is a food and travel blog, and with the exception of this plea to donate to your favorite artistic endeavors, I have avoided sharing my political opinions thus far since the apocalypse slowly began. But whether you voted for Hillary or Trump, you've got to admit our shiny new President is breaking a lot of the valuable china right now, and our elected officials are either rendered powerless or too dumbstruck to act. Well, you don't have to admit that, but if you don't see it, please tell me what particular brand of powerful mind-numbing drugs you are taking, because I would very much like in on that. And also, goodbye and thank you for following this blog until today (I'm assuming).

Because drinking has definitely increased at my house and many of my friends' houses since inauguration day, I have decided to start a new Thursday night series called "Cocktails for These Political Times". Every week until the madness ends, I will touch upon some of the spectacular shittiness of the week with links to helpful resources for fighting back, and will dedicate a cocktail to someone on The Hill who really needs it. I hope this series doesn't run for very long, but I have a feeling I'm going to have to start getting a whole lot more creative with gin this year.

This week's biggest disappointments as an American include:
the appointment of Betsy DeVos as the country's last Secretary of Education, the appointment of KKK-loving Jeff Sessions to the incredibly important position of Attorney General, and poor Senator Elizabeth Warren's silencing by the Republicans for trying to read a letter by Coretta Scott King during the Dem's filibuster (a letter which, by the way, was then read by four different male senators without punishment).

While it's over for this round of fights, there are so many coming up, including

So, I invite you to watch these issues closely, contact your representative (maybe we can wear them down if we annoy them with our pesky opinions enough?) and read this article on making necessary political harassment a daily part of your schedule.

This cocktail goes to Senator Warren, whose treatment by Republicans reminds us that it sucks to be a woman senator at all, let alone a (gasp) liberal one. Liz, I don't know if you drink, but Imma have an extra one of these for you. Every damn day.

The Monkey Wrench

Serves 1, but honey, just double it if you want...

2 ounces light rum
4 ounces grapefruit juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry, to garnish

In an ice filled old-fashioned glass, combine the light rum, grapefruit juice and Angostura bitters.
Garnish with the maraschino cherry, and serve.

Goes with: the salty tears of your enemies. Also salt and vinegar chips.

03 February 2017

Recipe review: Thug Kitchen's Pasta Piselli

This recipe sounded  little weird, so of course I had to try it.  The result is, as promised, very fast and easy when you're starving and considering take-out. It's nothing you're going to make for guests when you have time (unless you're a lazy friend), but the flavor is a little earthy, a little bitter in a nice way.  If you wanted to be even lazier, you could replace the shallot with 1 teaspoon of dried onion and toss it in with the peas. I added the crushed red pepper, too, because that's how I roll.

Thug Kitchen's Pasta Piselli

Serves 4

1 pound short pasta shape, like elbows or shells
3 1/2 cups frozen peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
pinch salt
3 cups chopped spinach or kale
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
dash crushed red pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.  In the last minute, add the peas.  Drain all but 1/4 cup of the pasta water and set aside.

Heat the olive oil and cook the shallot with salt until tender. Toss in the spinach or kale and cook until wilted. Add pasta and all other ingredients and stir to coat thoroughly.