March 25, 2010

The Best Fish Crostini with Tomato-Olive Salsa

This is probably the best fish dish that we've had for a long time. I adapted several different recipes to utilize the products I had at hand. The dish came out really awesome! You can use any fish, like halibut, cod, red snapper or sole and can serve it with grilled crusty bread, sandwich bread or tacos. Sauteing the fish along with the bell peppers made a big  difference by adding a crispy fresh flavour to it.

Ingredients for the fish:
  • 4 ( 6-once) fish fillets
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 tbsp Tamari
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Passila pepper
  • 4 small sweet yellow peppers ( you can use what ever peppers you have or like )
First, I marinated the fish with the salt, pepper, tamari, olive oil and the juice from 1/2 lemon for 15-20 minutes.

At the time when the fish was marinating, I chopped the peppers and started working on the salsa.

Ingredients for the salsa:
  • 1 pint small cherry, or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup pitted olives, chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers, run the knife through them
  • 1 stalk fresh garlic or 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • handful of basil and cilantro
  •  juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and 1 tsp olive oil
Then I combined the chopped ingredients for the salsa.

I preheated a cast iron pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Added the fish and cooked for three minutes. Turned the fish on the other side and added the peppers. Cooked for 4 more minutes, gently turning the peppers, to make sure they cooked evenly. Don't worry if the fish breaks, it can still be topped on the bread, or served in tacos.

Meanwhile till the fish was cooking, I lightly brushed bread slices with olive oil and toasted them. Topped each slice with a piece of fish, peppers, and a spoon of salsa.

March 23, 2010

Crunchy and Spicy Chickpea Tacos

If you are in a mood for something spicy, and crunchy, try this and you won't be disappointed. I saw the recipe  on The Happy Herbivore blog, and it did not take long till we had tacos for dinner. This is also  a great way to cook chickpeas. It takes about 20-30 minutes to prep and cook.

  • 15 ounces chickpeas, cooked
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 2 tsp lemon juice 
  • 2-3 tbsp taco seasoning 
  • 8 whole taco shells

Preheat oven to 400F. Whisk tamari, juice, and spices together. Toss the chickpeas until well and evenly coated. Place chickpeas on tray, spray with oil and bake 20-25 minutes, until crunchy. Put the chickpeas, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa in the tacos. You can add avocado and sour cream, cheese, etc. The possibilities are endless :)


March 19, 2010

Breakfast: Green Monster

Happy Friday, everybody! What a beautiful day! It is 75F already in California :)! After a priceless hour in the gym this morning, I was craving a long smoothie. What better than the green monster?   
Here is my version:
  • 3-4 kale leaves
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1 kiwi
  • 1/ 2 lemon
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup ice

In the blender for few seconds and voila!

March 18, 2010

Coconut Split Pea / Chana Dal Soup

When I saw this simple recipe on 101 cookbooks, I knew that I had to make it right away. However... some recent not so pleasant experiences with cooking dal were still looming large. I tend to over-spice this traditional Indian dish (too much ginger, too much curry, too much of everything) and was a bit reluctant to get started.

Guess what...this turned out to be a milder and comforting soup, perfect with brown basmati rice, moistened with a touch of butter, on the side. Some modifications to the recipe included reducing the ginger by half and adding red chili pepper flakes. I also used reduced fat coconut milk (instead of the full fat version), white onions (instead of green) and coconut butter instead of ghee. Lastly, the legumes that I used were green split peas (instead of red) and yellow split chana dal instead of red masoor dal.

What's for Dinner: Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes, a.k.a. Aloo Gobi

I got the inspiration for this dish from a posting on smitten kitchen. Her recipe employs a fairly quick way to cook Indian food. I diligently followed her instructions and did only very few adjustments in suit with my taste.
First I tossed the potatoes and the cauliflower with oil, cumin seeds and salt and then roasted them at 475F for 20 minutes. My veggies were about 3 - 3 1/2 pounds.

Meanwhile I sauteed onions,  garlic, jalapeño, and ginger.
Added some Indian spices:
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

and 1 cup water.  

Then added the roasted veggies and cooked for 5 minutes. 

Finally, I served it with basmati rice, cooked in my Zojirushi rice cooker.  The result was delightful!!!
As a side note, if you are in a need for a rice cooker, invest and buy Zojirushi. You can cook not only rice, but any kind of beans, chickpeas, and oatmeal in it. Very sleek design and extremely easy to use! No, that is not a commercial and I'm not getting paid to advertise :)

March 17, 2010

Simple but good: Breakfast yogurt parfait with golden granola and burnt caramel sauce

This simple breakfast did not disappoint. The fantastic burnt caramel sauce by Recchiuti that I picked up at the Ferry Building yesterday was just the right topping over a crunchy apple and 1/3 cup of plain Straus Creamery yogurt.


March 16, 2010

Birthday Cooking: Aftermath thoughts ...

I know, it's been a while since my last post, but I have a good excuse for my silence. It was my XYZ Birthday last week :). Usually, I don't cook on my birthdays, my family takes me out to a nice restaurant and we have decent food and plenty of drinks, talks, laughs, etc.
This year was an exception, I bravely decided ( What was I thinking !?!?!) to celebrate my coming to this world and my passion for cooking simultaneously, with cooking a four-course meal dinner for my family. Sounds crazy, doesn't it?

It took me some time to decide on the menu and plan accordingly. I browsed through thousands of recipes and menus. At the end, the Cook's Illustrated "An Upscale Surf and Turf" menu won. The execution wasn't as easy as planned, but I'll get to that later :)

So here is what we had:
  • Crab Towers with Avocado & Gazpacho Salsas
  • Arugula Salad with Grapes, Fennel, Gorgonzola, and Pecans
  • Roast Beef Tenderloin with Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Stuffing
  • Potato Roesti
  • Coconut Layer Cake
  • Parker House Dinner Rolls ( not pictured )
I appologize for the pictures quality. They did not come that good this time :(

Crab Towers with Avocado & Gazpacho Salsas

I would say that was the star in the menu. I prepared the crab meat salad and gazpacho salsa ahead of time. The avocado salsa though, had to be prepared close to the time of serving, otherwise the avocado gets darker. This appetizer was spectacular, the combination of crab meat and the creaminess of the avocado and the freshness of the gazpacho salsa were perfect. The dish was not very labor intensive, easy to prepare and serve! I'd make it again! 

Arugula Salad with Grapes, Fennel, Gorgonzola, and Pecans

Nice salad, I sliced the fennel and prepared the dressing a few hours ahead, and just put everything together before I served it.

Roast Beef Tenderloin with Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Stuffing with Potato Roesti on a Side

I stuffed, rolled and tied the beef the day before and only seared and roasted it before serving. It came out nicely and my family liked it but...I didn't think it was that spectacular. There were a few pieces left and I tried it again last night.. I think I like it cold better. Next time, I would cook this in advance and just warm it before serving to avoid all the commotion from doing all the prep and cooking at the last moment.
Another point, I bought a high-grade meat for this dish, and probably cooking Filet Mignon would've showed the meat better.

Until this point everything was pretty much in control and served on time. But there was Potato Roesti in my menu, and that was way too ambitious. The recipe called for shredding the potatoes with food processor and then squeezing them as dry as possible. I did the shredding in advance and squeezing and drying just before cooking. I made two pancakes, and each took about 20 minutes to cook, a bit longer then I could afford at that time. By the time the roesti was ready the beef was not that hot, not to mention the fire alarm that got activated from the smoke :) ... So next time I would opt for potato pure, for sure. 

Coconut Layer Cake


I made the cake the day before. The recipe was good, the cake was moist and tender, the coconut flavor was deep yet subtle at the same time, overall not very sweet. My only objection was the amount of butter used in the traditional butter cake and the buttercream icing. Next time I'd look for a different filling and icing. Busy with last minute cooking, I forgot to take out the cake from the fridge and at the time of the serving it was quite cold.

So generally speaking, the cooking adventure went well, good experience, with few surprises here and there. My big struggle was the timing and my main mistake was, that I chose dishes I never cooked before. I did not dare to adjust, or shortcut the processes that could jeopardize the quality.

Will I recommend doing it or will I do it again? - NOOOOOO, nope, never, ever! Too much stress, and it was on my own Birthday :)

Thanks god I have this loving, supportive, and appreciative family. They were with me through the whole endeavor and made it fun and pleasure!

March 15, 2010

Korean breaded cod filets ("daegujeon") and potato salad with soy sauce (“gamja jorim”)

This potato salad was so delicious and almost addictive with great depth of flavor and most importantly even better the next day (warm or cold, you decide)

The cod fish was the perfect accompaniment...that's right to me potatoes are always more than just a side, rather they are the star of the show, hm I mean meal :)

Gamja jorim:

Recipe adapted from Maangchi ( with a couple of exclusions / additions - excl. corn syrup and inc. chili flakes for an extra kick)
2-3 medium sized potatoes, onion, 2 cloves garlic, soy sauce, 1 tbs sugar, half cup of water, chili flakes

  1. Peel the potatoes, wash, and cut them into 1 inch dice and make 2 cups.
  2. Rinse the potato using colander in running water to remove starch.
  3. Cut half onion into bite sized pieces.
  4. Heat the pan and add 1-2 tbs olive oil and pour the potato into the pan.
  5. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and sauté it until the potato look a little translucent, then add the onion and keep stirring it.
  6. Add half cup of water into the pan, 2 tbs – 2½ tbs soy sauce (depends on your taste), 1 tbs of sugar, 1 tbs of corn syrup and mix it and simmer it over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the liquid is evaporated.Tip: Keep checking and stirring not to burn it and to cook evenly, if it needs more water, add some.
  7. When the potato is cooked, turn off the stove and add 1 tbs of sesame oil and sprinkle a pinch of sesame seeds.


Recipe courtesy of Maangchi

Cod filets (400 grams), flour, olive oil, garlic, salt, ground black pepper, eggs, a red chili pepper, soy sauce, vinegar
  1. You can use fresh or frozen cod. If it’s frozen, thaw it out in the refrigerator.
  2. Rinse the filets in cold water and gently dry them using a paper towel or cotton cloth
  3. Slice it thinly and put it in a bowl.
  4. Sprinkle 1 ts of salt, 2 cloves of minced garlic, and 1 pinch of black pepper into the bowl of cod slices and gently mix it up by hand.
  5. Pour 1 cup of flour into the bowl with the cod, and mix it quickly  with your hand so that the cod is lightly breaded. [ I recommend following Maangchi's video and dipping each cod piece in flour individually or "piece by piece")
  6. Beat 2 eggs in a small bowl and add a pinch of salt.
  7. Add 1 chopped green onion and red chili pepper into the beaten eggs.
  8. Heat a pan on the stove over medium high heat.
  9. Add 1 tbs of olive oil or vegetable oil to the pan.
  10. Piece by piece, dip your breaded cod into the beaten eggs, and then place the pieces onto the heated pan.
  11. Lower the heat to medium and cook it.
  12. Turn it over using a spatula or spoon.
  13. Add more oil if needed.
  14. * Dipping sauce: Mix 2 tbs of soy sauce and 1 or 2 tbs of vinegar

March 09, 2010

Faux Trahana - Happy Birthday Sweet Lokuma!

I am celebrating Lokuma's birthday with a breakfast inspired by a dish her grandmother used to cook for her.

Since I didn't have any trahana on hand, I quickly reheated 1/2 a cup of emmer farro and topped it with 1/3 tbsp of melted butter + sweet paprika and 1 oz feta cheese (French feta from Costco).

Oh my...!

More on trahana after the jump...

March 05, 2010

Breakfast Porridge with Apples and Toasted Cranberry-Walnut Breadcrumbs (double cooked!)

As most of you know my love affair with porridge has transcended the mere infatuation phase and grown into a long-lasting, caring and enduring relationship with no fatigue or boredom in sight.


To find out about how it all began, read more after the jump...

- 3/4 cup Bob's Redmill steel cut oats
- 2/3 tbsp turbinado raw cane suggar
- 1/2 cup of Straus Creamery 2% milk
- 1 peeled and chopped apple (best to use your food processor or grate it)
- vanilla powder
- cinnamon

I cooked the oats in my rice cooker yesterday with a bit of salt and water. This morning I cooked them again (they had thickened quite a bit overnight) with the milk, sugar, apple. The aroma was amazing! I topped the creamy and sweet oats, which resembled a rice pudding, with some leftover toasted cranberry walnut breadcrumbs. This was a wonderful idea - they added texture, a bit of tartness and chewiness!

March 04, 2010

More Live Blogging: Astounding Pizza Bianca

Just out of the oven - SM and I devoured a couple of pieces right away! It's amazing.

Muhlio, Slaninka, come by and get some while it's warm!

Mystery Live Blogging: Guess what's cooking!!!

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with the muffin tin inside. Measure 1/3 cup polenta in a medium bowl.

Separate smaller bowl with 1/3 cup polenta and 1/3 cup cornmeal and all of the dry ingredients

Mix the polenta in the larger bowl with boiling water, then add 1/3 cup corn kernels

Add the buttermilk or thinned yogurt to the polenta mush

Whisk in the beaten egg

Add in the dry ingredients

Brush the muffin tin with melted butter

Divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups

Damn, our scientist Slaninka can spot, or should I say, smell a good thing from a 5 mile distance:)

Enjoy the pics below and I am going to dig into my lunch. Stay tuned for the full post later today.