Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sovereign State: Burma

Burma

The Menu:
Ngapi Kyeik (Shrimp paste condiment with fried garlic, scallion, and green chilies)
Thanhat (Cold cucumber salad with sesame and lime)
Ohn-No Khao Swè (Spicy coconut chicken curry over egg noodles)
Jet-U Jhet (Blistered hard-cooked eggs with chilies, tomato, and fish sauce)



Okay I'm skipping quite a few countries on my super fancy, new and improved Sovereign State tour fun time show for this one here. It was time sensitive and we'll be returning to your regularly scheduled program shortly (aka don't get your undies in a bunch). As a wise man named Frankie once said: "Relax". See this: Sovereign States

My best friend Lucille is Burmese. Her parents were Burmese rebels who along with many other students, scholars, and free thinkers fought back against the tyranny of the military dictatorship that has ruled the country for decades. Long story short, they fled being captured and killed by walking through the mountains and escaped into Thailand. (Flash forward 20+ years later.) A few years back, my wife and I met the charming little creep called Lucille at her work while shopping for spooky monster dresses. She was sad but cheerful at the same time and apparently surviving off of undercooked lentils and Batman cartoons. She realized that I made tasty food and had a steady supply of vodka and before we knew it she was at our flat everyday, just in time for dinner. Not long after that she brought over everything she owned and happily formed a nest in our dining room. We've all become a very close little family. Her mother always says "Without Violet, you dead." Life can be very strange sometimes.

Sadly, when you say the word Burma, most people have no clue what or where it is. It's a whole country. In South-East Asia. Between India and Thailand. People need to look at a map once in a while. It's a big world we live in. There's more than "Merica and that country below us with the tasty tacos and that country above us with all the hockey.  Burma has officially changed it's name to The Republic of Myanmar to escape the ill thoughts of bloodshed that people associate with Burma. The government may have changed the name but most of it's people haven't.

Anyways, this year on the 8th of August we decided to celebrate Burma and to pay homage the brave people fighting for freedom in the infamous 8888 Uprising and still today. I researched as much as possible on Burmese cuisine and racked Lucille's brain for her mothers recipes. I cooked a feast and made her a t-shirt based off the 8888 protest flags and then we watched the amazing film The Lady (2011) based on the story of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the Burmese National League for Democracy. I cooked all day in the sweltering summer heat and we ate until our stomachs nearly exploded. After dinner Lucille got teary eyed and said "It tasted like my mom's cooking." I was so glad everything turned out delicious. Not that I enjoy making Burmese girls cry (well, maybe sometimes) but I was excited to help her connect to the country that runs through her blood. Okay enough with the sentimentality. Let talk food, shall we?

I always cook with a martini in hand. Just in case.

Ngapi Kyeik (Shrimp paste condiment with fried garlic, scallion, and green chilies)
I was seriously surprised how much I like this condiment. It's salty and sour and not fishy at all. Hell, I'd put it on everything. Pizza, cheeseburgers, ice cream. Everything.

Thanhat (Cold cucumber salad with sesame and lime)
This salad was probably my least favorite dish I made. It was tasty but a little too sweet for my palate. Plus I hate when sesame seeds get stuck between my teeth. Then I spend the rest the night picking my at my mouth with a steak knife. It's dangerous. It was nice to have a cold refreshing bite while eating the other hot salty foods though. 



Ohn-No Khao Swè (Spicy coconut chicken curry over egg noodles)

My favorite dish of the night. It was super velvety and savory like a cozy poultry blanket. I kept calling it coco-sghetti (coconut spaghetti, get it?) because it was comfortable and familiar like a bowl of spaghetti but with Burmese flavors. Sourness from the lime and fresh coriander, salty from the fish sauce and chicken stock, spicy from the paprika and chili flakes, chickeny from the yummy chicken thighs, and a hint of sweetness from the coconut milk. I wanted to eat it forever until I die. So good.



Jet-U Jhet (Blistered hard-cooked eggs with chilies, tomato, and fish sauce)
Hardboiled eggs deep fried until the whites get all blistery and then simmered in a salty spicy tomato sauce. Hell yes. Sign me up. This was a perfect accompaniment for the Ohn-No Khao Swè. I loved the crackly skin of the eggs soaking up all the salty goodness. Yum.


So yeah, Burma is freaking delicious. I have a feeling I'll be cooking a lot more of it in my future.


Ohn-No Khao Swè (Coconut Chicken Noodle)
1 large white onion, halved and sliced
1 inch chunk of ginger, peeled & minced
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 shallots, minced
2 spring onions, sliced
16oz package egg noodles (I used these)
2lbs de-boned chicken thighs, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chickpea flour
14oz coconut milk
3 tablespoons chili flakes
3 tablespoons paprika
1 lime, sliced into wedges
2 eggs (I just used the eggs from the Jet-U Jhet)
2 cups chicken stock (or bouillon)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 bunch fresh coriander (cilantro)
crushed peanuts
peanut oil

Heat a 1 Tbsp peanut oil to a large saute pan over medium high heat,.

Add the white onion, garlic, ginger, and spring onions to the oil and cook until translucent (5 mins or so).

Transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse until it forms a paste.

Add another Tbsp of peanut oil to the hot pan and saute the chicken thighs (season with a little salt) until cooked through and slightly browned.

Stir in the chili flake and paprika and stir until fragrant (1 minute).

Add the onion paste and stir.

Whisk the chickpea flour with the chicken stock and then add to the pan. 

Add the fish sauce and coconut milk. 

Bring to a simmer and turn down the heat to medium. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour uncovered. Add water if it thickens too much. Season with more fish sauce if needed.

Meanwhile in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the noodles until soft. Drain.

Thinly slice the shallots and soak in a little cold water. Drain.

To serve place the egg noodles in bowl, then ladle the coconut chicken over. 

Top with the sliced shallots, Hard cooked eggs (cut in half), crushed peanuts, fresh coriander and lime wedges. 

Kan kaung ba zay! Good luck. xoxo



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

She's Chopping Broccoli.



When I was little all I ever wanted to eat was meat. I had no time for vegetables. I was like a wild little wolf cub gnawing on cold hot dogs and lunch meat. It's not that I disliked vegetables but I just craved carrion. Sometimes I would walk on all fours and growl at my mother. "I need more meat!" I'd say in my raspy little voice. She would just give me that motherly "what the hell is wrong with my child?" sort of look and pull out some more ham slices from the fridge. I'd snatch it from her hands and run laughing out of the room. She knew that it was better to indulge me rather than stir up even more insanity on my end. I truly am amazed that she didn't smother me lifeless or drop me off in the middle of the Georgian Blue Ridge mountains and leave me to be the crazy little beast that I was. Though I must admit that it was my dream to live in the wilderness and live off the land like a wildling. I would make friends with wolves and bears and we'd hunt together. It would've been great.

I'm not going to lie. I still eat the occasional raw hot dog though I rarely scurry around on all fours while growling anymore. Now I eat my cold meat products all sophisticated and lady-like (delicately with pinkie in the air). Speaking of sentient creatures I also eat the occasional cold plant/vegetable (do pickles count?). I mostly prefer cooked veggies to raw ones (except for tomatoes and radishes). Every two weeks I get a New Roots delivery of small farm, organic vegetables delivered right to my door. I love it. It challenges me to cook with things I don't normally go out of my way to purchase. I try to have the same principals with vegetables as I do with meat. Nose to tail or tip to stem. Use it all. Waste not and all that. We hit broccoli season a little early this year so we started getting it in our bin. Most people just use the end little florets but the stems are so delicious it's a shame to waste them. Peel them, slice them, and cook them. Yummy.

So the other day I was standing in the kitchen, eating a slice of ham wrapped around a pickle while staring at my abundance of broccoli and I thought "I'm going to make something super fucking delicious out of you". And I did so. I made Yakisoba with Broccoli Pesto and Steamed Broccoli Florets with Pickled Egg. It's pretty easy and super tasty. Your vegan (if you leave off the egg) friends will be impressed and your meat eater friends with look at you sadly but then be pleasantly surprised that broccoli can be so delicious.



Yakisoba with Broccoli Pesto and Steamed Broccoli Florets with Pickled Egg

8oz package of dried yakisoba noodles
1 lb. broccoli, florets and stems separated, stems trimmed and peeled
1/2 c fresh basil
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp fermented chili bean curd (if you can find it don't worry about it)
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 1 Tbsp
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
pickled eggs (or thousand year eggs or basic hard cooked eggs)


In a large pot of boiling salted water add the yakisoba and boil until tender (5 mins or so). Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

While the noodles are boiling saute the broccoli stems in 1 Tbsp olive oil until tender Add the whole garlic cloves and saute a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Steam the broccoli florets until just cooked and tender. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a food processor pulse the cooked broccoli stems, garlic, basil, lemon juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, fermented bean curd, and 1/2 cup olive oil and pulse until pureed. Pour through a fine meshed sieve (use a spoon or spatula to push it through) to strain out the fibrous bits. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Toss the yakisoba with the pesto. Top with steamed broccoli and chopped pickled egg.

Enjoy. FYI: This dish may taste even better if paired with a raw hot dog eaten in the forest. xoxox







Friday, May 2, 2014

Summer is Coming


I got the summertime, summertime sadness. S-s-s-summertime, summertime sadness. Yesterday was nearly 90F degrees here in Seattle. It's barely May. As I sat in the Chateau de Batcave (our apartment) with the worst migraine ever had, the blinds and curtains shut, crying and stewing in a puddle of my sweat I realized that I wasn't going to cook a single frickin' thing for dinner. Hell, the idea of even eating food in that kind of heat my me wanna barf and barf again. I tried to picture myself floating in a nice cool heart-shaped pool under the shade of palm trees, wearing a cute pink bathing suit and drinking a nice cold Tom Collins. Sadly the daydream would quickly skew into me sitting in a boiling hot tub while wearing a sad wool snuggie and drinking warm sandy salt water. There is no escape from that kind of ickiness. Sunny days are all fun and games until you start trying to remove your skin just to get a little bit cooler.

In the heat of Summer, salad is your friend. Fruit salad, Cobb salad, chopped salad, fried meat salad, any kind of salad that has minimal cookery and maximum tastiness. Okay, yes I cook during the normal not-trying-to-kill-you-with-hot Summer days. If you can, become one with the bats and cook nocturnally in the dark when it's cooler. You can prep for your meals so that when the sun is out full blast you don't even have to look at your oven. That infernal devil machine wants to make your living space even hotter than the nine hells. "Cook something in me." it says. "I want you to die." I hate that awful oven. I know it's plotting my demise along with the sun. They hate me and want me dead.



So anyways here's a lovely salad you can make with a little cooking (nocturnally).
Pan Seared Za'atar Lemon Chicken and Roasted Romanesco Salad

For the salad use my recipe for my Roasted Cauliflower and White Bean Salad with Truffle Parmesan Dressing but replace the cauliflower with romanesco (or use broccoli or cauliflower).

For the chicken breasts (or thighs) make sure you brine them overnight (equal parts salt and sugar about 1tbsp ea. dissolved in 2L water). Wipe them off. Dust them with za'atar (or you can go another route with curry powder), cayenne, cumin, & fresh cracked pepper (they should already be nice and seasoned with salt from the brine so no need for extra). Olive oil, hot saute pan, 3-4 minutes each side. Finish with fresh lemon juice. Let rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve with the salad. Yum!!!

Share some salad with your new nocturnal bat friends. Be safe. Survive the Summer. xoxoxo

P.S. I know I am the princess of run-on sentences and comma misuse. Shut up. I don't come to your house while you're sleeping and point out your faults. Well, actually I do. But at least I have the courtesy to stay in the shadows and do it quietly. xo

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fried Rice is Twice as Nice as Regular Rice.


I don't know about you but I always have leftover rice in my fridge. I love rice. Sometimes I'll just make a simple gravy or sauce and throw it over a microwaved bowl of leftover rice and top it with a fried egg. I hate brown rice though. Never liked it. No, I'm not a racist. I just hate the flavor and texture and existence of brown rice. You gots to mill that coat off. It's like eating a banana with the peel on. Ick. My favorite rices are jasmine, basmati, sticky, calrose, and good ole plain whitey white long grain rice. Although never buy that pre-boiled crap that smiley Uncle Ben tries to pass off as rice. Mushy maggots. That's what I think of when I eat minute rice.

Wanna make perfect rice? Of course you do. Here's how you do. In a pot cover the rice with running cold water and scrub with clean hands until the water gets cloudy. Drain in a colander. Repeat 3-4 times until the water is not longer cloudy. In a heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid cover the rice by 1/2" with cold water. Place on stove over high heat. Add salt if you like. Bring to a boil. Cover and turn heat to very low. Leave it alone for 17 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. That's it. You are now one with the rice gods.

So I had some leftover calrose rice the other day and decided to make South-East Asian style fried rice. I sauteed up some celery, scallions, garlic, and ginger in peanut oil. Then I added some sliced lap cheong (spicy sweet Chinese sausage) and cooked until the fat was rendered out. Tossed in the rice. Added soy sauce, chili garlic sambal, fish sauce, lime, sesame oil, and black palm vinegar. Cooked for a few more minutes and dumped it in a bowl. Topped it off with sliced avocado, pickled egg, scallions, and cilantro. It was freaking delicious and pretty easy. So the next time you have leftover rice, don't just let it sit there and make your fridge seem sad. My mother used to say "There are people starving in China." when we were kids and didn't clean our plates (although I pretty much always cleaned my plate and the plates of those around me). To which I would reply "Even though they have all that rice?". I didn't know any better. Anyways, there are people starving everywhere so use up your leftovers. Be creative. Don't be a lazy wasteful jerk. You can make delicious things out of almost everything that's slowly rotting in your fridge! Yum! xoxox

Thursday, April 10, 2014

All Aboard The Gravy Boat!


I love ugly food. Beige plates of beige food swimming in beige gravy. That's my jam. Comfort food rarely looks pretty. Even after you put a sprig of parsley on top it usually still looks like crap, just a little fancier. You know the saying "Never read a book by it's cover". Well, I never judge a plate of ugly food until I know what's hiding under the gravy. A bunch of the "chefs" on television turn their noses up at comfort food. "Oh wow, that sure looks comforting." they say fully meaning "What the hell is this pile of unsophisticated shit doing in my presence. I only eat farro and monkfish fermented with lemur urine presented in a hollowed out coconut." I hate those people. Yeah, I like fancy food too but I'm no snob. I'll happily eat a funeral casserole any day of the week.

But Violet, gravy is fattening you say. Yeah, it is. I'm not telling you to drink gravy for every meal. Use some common sense. Learn how to find balance in your damn life. Drank a boat of gravy for breakfast? Eat a salad for dinner. Easy peasy. I can't hold your hand your whole life. Life's too short to never eat anything fattening. You can diet when you're dead. Okay, maybe you're dead because you ate nothing but gravy your whole short life but who's fault is that? Like I said, common sense.

Everyone has their own version of a sandwich that is open-faced and dosed with some form of gravy. In Kentucky it's the Hot Brown. In St. Louis it's the Prosperity Sandwich. France has the Croque-Madame. When I was young my dad taught me a sandwich from his Marines/Nam days called Shit on a Shingle which is essentially chipped beef on toast covered in gravy. I was so obsessed with it I wanted it for every meal. However, my mother did not share my excitement so it was a rare treat when my dad would cook for me and my brother. I would yell "shit on a shingle!" and my dreams were often made true.


Here's my version of an open-faced turkey sandwich, hot brown, prosperity sandwich, croque-madame, and shit on a shingle all rolled up into one sandwich.

To make it. Layer these things in order on the plate. Eat. Be happy.
white toast
sliced Cajun turkey
Swiss cheese
brown gravy (1Tbsp butter + 1 Tbsp flour in a hot pan. Make a roux. Cook 3 minutes. Slowly add 2 cups beef stock. Add salt, lots of fresh pepper. hot sauce. Cook until gravy)
fried egg
parsley (for pretty)

xoxo

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hey There my Little Chickpea.


When I was little I'd invite my friends to come over to my house to play D&D, video games, throw rocks at each other, and watch horror movies until my mom yelled at us to go to bed. "Normal American kids" pretty much, whatever that means. I lived outside of Atlanta, Georgia at the time and the few friends I had, had deep Southern drawls. But I remember it always being a little strange the first time a new friend would come over and hear my mothers hardcore New York (where I was born) accent and my grandparents Cuban accents. "Are you a Mexican?" they would ask with confusion and a hint of displeasure. "No asshole. I'm Cuban." would usually be my reply and then we'd awkwardly play by ourselves until their parents picked them up and we'd never hang out again. It wasn't the fact that they though I was Mexican. Or even the fact that they were young racists in the making. I was just proud to be Cuban (among other things). I wasn't going to let anyone make me feel bad about who I was. I had one or two friends that didn't care where I came from though.

I had one friend named Brian who came from a stingy, fat-shaming Baptist family. We became really good friends. I hated going to his house to play though. He was a bit husky and I remember his parents making him drink diet soda and they would order a medium pizza for the whole family of four plus me to share. Fuck that. One slice of sad cheese pizza and diet coke. What is this, prison? I told my mom how terrible it was over there and now whenever I'd go she would pack my backpack full of snacks. However the majority of the time he came to my house to play. I think he especially liked coming over because he could eat as much as he wanted. My family always shoved food on anyone who came over. It was kind and giving. Always trying to make everyone feel taken care of and included. A trait I still try to uphold.

I recall one of our favorite things that my grandmother would make us was the garbanzo and potato omelette (called omeletta). There were no eggs involved, just mashed chickpeas and potatoes with garlic and lots of spices. We would eat like three of them and drink regular cokes and eat bags of chips and candy and watch R-rated movies and life was good. Anyways, the last time I saw the guy we had all grown up (well he did I guess) and it was awkward and kind of unpleasant. He smoked a pipe and thought my mohawk looked "childish". After dropping him off I went out and bought some whiskey and cranked Minor Threat in the car. If growing up means getting all judgmental and boring then you can count me out. All I know is that I'm happy and I will never again be starved by Baptists.


Omeletta (Garbanzo Bean and Potato Omelette)

1 19oz can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and small diced (1/4"x1/4")
1 bunch scallions, sliced on the bias (separate the white from green)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp pimentón (smoke paprika)
1 tsp (Goya) adobo seasoning (you can just use a little seasoning salt if you don't have)
1/4 cup Spanish olive oil (plus an extra Tbsp)
kosher salt and fresh cracked clack pepper tt
parsley for garnish

sour cream (leave it out to keep it vegan)
hot sauce (I use Tapatio)

In a large non stick pan over medium high heat. Add 1/4 c. olive oil. Add the white parts of the scallions, garlic, and diced potatoes to the pan.
Saute until the potatoes are mostly tender (about 5 minutes).
Toss in the garbanzo beans, spices, and 1/2 cup water (or chicken stock/veg stock to make it even yummier). Cook for 5 more minutes until the liquid is mostly dissolved and the veggies are fully tender.
Pour half of the mixture into a large bowl and mash it until it become a chunky paste. Pour in the rest of the mixture into the bowl and gently stir to combine it.
Wipe the pan clean and add a Tbsp of olive oil. Spread the garbanzo and potato mixture into the pan so that it even and flush against the sides of the pan. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 6 minutes until the bottom becomes golden brown.
Lay a large plate over the top of the pan and carefully flip the omeletta onto the plate. Then slide the omeletta back into the pan to brown the other side. After 5 minutes flip it back onto the plate.
Mix a few dashes of hot sauce into some sour cream.
Slice the omeletta into quarters. Garnish with the hot sauce/sour cream, green scallion and parsley.
Eat as much as you want. Enjoy life. Don't be a jerk. xoxo

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Show Me The Green.


Winter salad. The words just sound wrong together. Like mortal enemies being forced to paint each others' nails. Salad may not sound like something you want to stuff your hibernating belly during winter but Spring is upon us my dears (well in Seattle the weather's been so screwed up this year that Spring started last October and skipped right over winter. ie: the apocalypse). It's time to start filling your mouth with green leaves that don't start with K and end in ALE. Screw kale. I'm frickin tired of kale. I swear if my small farm CSA sends me one more box of kale i'll seriously lose it. I just need a few months of a kale free life and perhaps I can come to love it again come next winter.

So yes, winter salad. We've started to get some really nice heads of lettuce (butter, red leaf, romaine) in our veggie box and I decided that it was time for a salad. My belly is full of cheesy warm casseroles and my blood has been replaced by soup. I need something light and not 100% beige in color. My body had officially shut down and it refused to function until I put some fresh vegetables in there. The circles under my eyes reverted back to the usual lovely greenish black color versus the sunken-in weird yellow grey they had become. My over bloated stomach went back to it's usual slightly pudgy but happy self. My teeth felt a little less loose in my mouth and my gums stopped crying tears of blood. This salad made me feel alive again. It was either that or the massive amounts of PCP I smoked prior to eating dinner. I think it was the salad though. I really do

Roasted Cauliflower and White Bean Salad with Truffle Parmesan Dressing

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 19oz can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 head romaine lettuce (or what ever greens you want), washed, dried, chopped
1/2 English cucumber, peeled, halved longways, seeded, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, peeled, thinly sliced

1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp Syrian za'atar (if you don't have it you can sub a mix of cumin, coriander and a tiny bit of cinnamon)

(the dressing)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp white truffle oil
2 tbsps white wine vinegar
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper tt

Preheat the over to 375F. Chop up a head of cauliflower and spread it out on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and Syrian za'atar. Toss to coat and roast the cauliflower in the over for about 30 minutes or until tender (toss them once or twice while cooking so they don't burn). Set aside to come to room temp. 

In a bowl whisk all of the dressing ingredients until emulsified.

In a large salad bowl toss the beans, lettuce, cucumber, and red onion and enough dressing to coat until combined. Add roasted cauliflower and gently toss one more time. Add more dressing if needed and season with salt and pepper. Eat it as a meal or serve with some roasted fish or chicken. 

Side note. I don't smoke PCP. Especially not when I'm eating a healthy salad. That just seems counter-productive. xoxo