Saturday, September 12, 2009

deliciousness fast and cheap

Partly due to some mislabeled chicken thighs at Ralphs, I was able to buy our groceries this week for 12 dollars. Awesome. This also allowed me to finally try the Rick Bayless creamy salsa chicken recipe I first saw over at Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations.

The dish is as simple as it gets to make. Brush the bottom of a 9x13ish baking pan with oil and line with one layer of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs, in this case). Mix your choice of chunky salsa and heavy whipping cream and spoon mixture over the chicken. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes on the bottom shelf.

The original recipe calls for one 16oz jar of salsa and 1/2 cup cream to make the salsa mixture, but this resulted in quite a bit of extra sauce. Next time I make it, I'll probably make only two-thirds or one half of the suggested amount.

I used about half Pace spicy chunky salsa and half Trader Joe's chipotle salsa. I loved the smokiness and complexity of the end result, but my husband found the chipotle a bit overpowering. Next time I'll likely use a more traditional salsa, but add jalapeƱos for kick.

For sides, I sauteed some zucchini with garlic and tomatoes, then topped with a little mozzarella cheese. We also had some mushrooms left over so I cooked them, also with garlic, in a little white wine. Finally, we still had some of that corn salad hanging around, and it was a refreshing and colorful addition to the plate.

My favorite thing about this meal is that it took only about 35 minutes to prepare. Yet it was flavorful and balanced. Yum. I am really starting to like this cooking thing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Various [Seattle]

I was supposed to write about my trip to Seattle in April when it happened, but much to Vivian's dismay, I waited until I could develop my film and then...forgot about it.

And yet five months later, I am still thinking about the food I had on that trip. I figure that's enough reason to finally finish this half-written entry.

By far the most memorable restaurant was
Thai Tom in the U District. It's a small place set up somewhat like a diner, so you can watch the chef make each dish as you wait for your order. Watching him juggle various curries, noodle, and meat dishes without burning himself was mesmerizing. I ordered the spicy noodles, "very spicy" as I stupidly told my waitress. I forgot that Thai spicy and regular spicy are different things. I also got the fried tofu, because seriously, who likes being healthy?

The tofu was good, but didn't quite have that crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside property of amazing fried tofu. I did however enjoy the peanut sauce that accompanied it, a slight variation from the usual. The spicy noodles, which came second, were fantastic. Every time I have ordered drunken or spicy noodles since then, I half-expect it to taste as this did. It never does. Everywhere else, the sauce provides the flavor, but at Thai Tom, the noodles seemed to carry all the flavors of the dish sans sauce. The only drawback was that I had ordered it "very spicy," and it was physically painful to eat towards the end. My tongue was numb for the next half day, but it was worth it!

The day I flew home, I went back to try another dish and take a terrible picture of it (success!). Based on a recommendation, I ordered the green curry off-menu, this time "medium spicy."And even though I'd had such a good meal there a few days earlier, I was surprised to be served with pretty much the best restaurant meal of my life. The flavors were bold, yet balanced, with a lot of spice and hints of creaminess. The chicken and veggies were delicious on their own; combined with the curry, they were amazing.

I've been on the lookout for a Thai restaurant that good in California with limited success. I'm hesitant to order curries in particular because they have tended to be either too mild or lacking in depth or both. I'm hopeful that I'll find one, or at least a good enough substitute to tide me over until my next trip.

I also stopped by
Ivar's, with its delicious fried seafood and terrifying resident seagulls. My cousin and I ordered fish and chips, fried clams, and clam chowder.

The fish was good and the clams excellent. The fries and clam chowder were just alright. I am all about those clams though. Mmm.

For breakfast, I went to
The Crumpet Shop, directly across from Pike's Place. What the eff is a crumpet, you ask? It's similar to a biscuit, but less fluffy, and topped with an assortment of sweet or savory toppings.

My crumpet was topped with just Nutella and ricotta cheese. Along with an Earl Grey tea, it made a very delicious breakfast. I would definitely recommend a visit to try one of the many variations of this treat.

Finally, my half sister Christine treated me to a wonderful lunch at
Matt's in the Market, of which I have no pictures. I ordered a braised beef brisket sandwich on a brioche bun with arugula and horseradish aioli (weirdly specific ingredient description taken from the website). The beef was tender and flavorful, the bread rich, the aioli perfectly seasoned. It's a bit pricey, but the quality of ingredients and preparation explain the extra cost.

The fact that my few meals in Seattle are among the better ones I have had anywhere says a lot about the food in that city. I barely scraped the surface of what is available and still came away with some amazing finds. It's the kind of place that demands to be visited again and fully explored.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

hold on guys i have to tape up the bridge in my glasses

Graduate school in economics begins with two to three weeks of at the end of summer called "math camp." Yeah. Attending it seems like enough to reserve my seat at the nerd table in the cafeteria, but by bringing my kinda-adorable-but-mostly-dorky bento box lunches, I also stand out as the kid with the most unwieldy rolly backpack of them all.

That said, I can't afford a trip to the dining hall or Ernie's taco truck (post forthcoming!) every day. So I will continue to make my dorky yet affordable and healthy lunches at home.

The bottom tier contains green grapes and cubes of extra sharp cheddar cheese. The top tier holds a corn salad made with red bell pepper, tomato, onion, cilantro, lime, and a lot of salt and pepper. I didn't have any cumin on hand but it would have been a great addition.

We have a lot of that corn salad because for some reason, Jacob and I thought buying twelve ears of corn for two people was a good idea. Another miscalculation turned delicious...the salad is great by itself, as a pizza topping, or as a filling for quesadillas.