Thursday, April 10, 2014

Curried Eggplant and Lentil "Lasagna"

I'm trying to eat healthier...which may seem incongruent with my recent behavior, since last weekend I just made a beef and bacon pie and ate a lottt of it. But that's because I let myself cheat a little (maybe a lot...) on weekends. Recently, I'm trying to eat more at home and less at Wendy's between class, and also eat less carbs and more whole foods. 

I found this recipe for a lasagna that substitutes noodles for eggplant. I was inspired by something I saw on Instragram with very vague instructions, so I took many liberties with modified it. The original version was supposed to be vegan and grain-free, but I'm a carnivore and needed to throw some ground beef in there. It came out surprisingly delicious, as I've been eating it for the past couple of days and I'm not sick of it yet. Give it a try :)

  1. "Noodles": Slice one large eggplant thinly and steam - I used the steaming rack in my rice cooker.
  2. Lentils: Boil a handful in water according to package directions and drain. 
  3. Sauce: Add a bit of oil or butter to your pan, and stir fry 1 diced onion with 6-7 cloves of chopped garlic until lightly browned. Add 1/2 lb ground beef, break up the pieces, and cook until browned. Add your drained lentils, 1/2 a jar of marinara sauce, a dash of oregano, a dash of curry powder, and salt+pepper to taste. Add a little bit of water or beef broth to thin the sauce a bit.
  4. Assemble: Cover the bottom of your baking dish with sauce. Layer on eggplant, sauce, and cheese (I used Monterey Jack) repeatedly, stopping your last layer on top with just eggplant and sauce (without cheese).
  5. Bake for 30 min at 350F, add more cheese on top (I used romano, you can stick with your original or use parmesan) and bake for an additional 10-15 min. For pizzazz, you can even broil the the top for a little until the cheese is golden but my oven isn't that fancy :(
Modifications - my version is simply grain-free, but! If you feel like you wanna be even healthier, here's some tips:
  • Vegetarian modification: cut out ground beef - the original instructions was for a vegetarian grain-free lasagna, but I couldn't resist. Meat so good...
  • Vegan modification: cut out ground beef and use soy cheese
  • Primal modification: cut out lentils

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Beef and Bacon Pie for Game of Thrones Premiere

Last Sunday, we had a Game of Thrones premiere party. Because we're nerds, there was themed food from the Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook. Everything was great, but the beef and bacon pie that Khoi and I brought was over the top. I need to start eating healthier...

Recipe from A Feast of Ice and Fire

  • 12 strips of bacon - I used an 8" cake tin for my pie, so if you're going to use a larger tin then I recommend more strips
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 medium potato, cubed
  • 1 1/2 lb chuck steak or stew meat, cut small
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Large pinch of dried rosemary or other savory herbs
  • 1 pie crust (I used half a box of frozen Pillsbury refrigerated crust)

Preheat oven to 400F. Weave bacon strips into a tight lattice on a foil-lined cookie sheet with an edge to catch the grease. Bake for 15-20 minutes until bacon is crispy. When ready, remove bacon from oven to cool but leave the oven on to bake the pie later.

While bacon is cooking, make your filling. Melt butter in a pan over medium heat, then add onion, carrot, and potato. Cook until onion is softened.

Toss beef with flour until each piece is coated. Add beef to the veggies and stir over low heat until brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in any extra flour and cook for a minute longer.

Add broth, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes until a gravy forms. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool. At this point I did a bit of taste testing and the only word I can use to describe how it tasted is...medieval.

At this point, hopefully your bacon lattice is done baking and has cooled slightly. Using your pie tin (in my case, cake tin) as a guide, use a sharp knife to cut around the pan until you have a circle of bacon lattice.

I wanted to snack on the bacon edges that I cut off in the previous step, but instead I cut it into smaller pieces and added it to the pie filling. What great self control I have.

Line pie tin with dough, and add filling. Since I used the full recipe for the filling but my tin was smaller, I had lots of leftover beef filling to snack on later. Trim your crust to leave a 1 cm edge.

Flute your pie crust, directions here! Bake until you can see the filling bubbling around the edges, and the pastry is cooked, about 40 minutes.

Ta da!

My mulled wine! Like a warm, spicier Sangria.

Karen made Sansa's lemon cakes.

Yang's Tyroshi Honeyfingers

My plate, with our pie and Sister's Stew by John. Don't worry, I had seconds plus plenty of wine and desserts ^^. We couldn't get our HBO Go to work until 10:30pm, so lots of pigging out happened in the hour and a half we waited...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lamb Sugo

During the Chicago trip, I tasted some delicious things. One of my favorite dishes was the Sugo at Girl and the Goat, which featured pappardelle pasta, and I knew that I had to try making something similar myself in Columbus. Before we left the city, I made sure to stop by Eataly to pick up some of that pasta. The version here doesn't taste anything like what I was trying to replicate (I didn't know where to acquire goat, so I found a sugo recipe using lamb instead, and I didn't even try to find gooseberries), but it's still delicious in its own right.

Slightly adapted from Fine Cooking

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbps extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and cut into small dice (about 1-1/4 cups), plus 1 to 2 Tbs. chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 small onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 3/4 cup tomato juice
  • 1/3 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 lb. fresh pasta -- I used dried parappardelle instead of fresh, cooked according to package directions and drained
  • Pecorino romano cheese for garnish

Heat olive oil to medium-high heat. Add fennel, onion, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook until onions start to brown, which should take about 4 minutes. 

Add the lamb, 1/2 tsp pepper, and another 1/2 tsp salt. Stir to break up the meat and cook until lightly browned and cooked thoroughly, which should take about another 4 minutes.

Move all your meat to one side of the pan, add tomato paste to the other side, and let it cook for a little bit before stirring into the meat. 

Add wine, then cook until most of liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add tomato juice and cook until sauce thickens and clings to the meat, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add fennel fronds.

 Add cooked drained pasta to the sauce and cook for an additional minute, then remove from heat. 

I garnished with more fennel fronds, but forgot to add cheese. Still good :)

Happy Belated Pi Day

I'm way late with this post, but about a month ago I was in desperate need of a study break in the midst of finals. It just happened to be Pi Day and studying was not going to get done until I got some baking in, so this happened. Yum.

Adapted from this recipe by Saveur
**Note: I'm pretty sure the instructions were written for a deep dish pie. I don't have such a pie tin, so I used an 8" cake pan and cut the ingredients in half. Also, I subbed store-bought refrigerated pie crush instead of making it myself, and I also used cornstarch instead of instant tapioca.

  • 2 lbs. fresh peaches
  • 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp peeled, minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 package of refrigerated pie crust (each package should have 2 crusts), or you can use the recipe link above to make it from scratch...I'm a lazy bum so I went with the easier option
  • 1 egg white

 Preheat oven to 375F. Peel and slice your peaches.

 In a bowl, mix together all remaining ingredients except for the egg white and the pie crust. Add sliced peaches and mix just to coat.

Roll out one of your pie crusts and use it to line the pan. 

 Add filling to pie crust. Snack on extra peaches slices mmm.

 Here's me making the pie lattice top using the second pie crust. Lattice weaving instructions can be found here.

Lattice-in-progress. After the weaving showing here, I trimmed the crust to leave a 1cm margin, and then folded it up and pressed a fork to make the edge.

Brush lattice of pie with egg white, then bake for an hour said the instructions. Since I cut the recipe in half, I was afraid I would overbake it, so I just checked up on it occasionally until the crust was golden brown (I think I took it out of the oven around 40 minutes). Serve warm.

 We cut into it right away, my tongue burned a little bit with the first bite. Worth it

 I had extra pie filling and crust left over (from trimming the edges) I made this.

Turned out tasty and so darn cute! I had a mini pie as a breakfast on-the-go the next day :)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Spring Break Chicago: Girl and the Goat

Girl and the Goat has been one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago for a long time, and it's also crazy popular. I went once during senior year of college with some friends (after weeks of waiting on reservations), and it was so amazing that we went back the next day at 11pm and still had to wait an hour to get seated. I really wanted to return here during our trip, and was lucky enough to snipe a spot at a decent time for our large group :) 

Cool ass decor. Photo cred goes to my friend Mimi who snapped this with her phone. I was too preoccupied by the food to notice the wall art.

Bread - we ordered two but only one is pictured here. The bread is not complimentary, but I always order it since it's not just plain bread. The variety is interesting and it's accompanied by great spreads, plus it's one of the more affordable items on the menu.

Duck tongues with tuna and black bean poke, crispy wontons, and piri piri. I really liked this dish, despite having no idea what black bean poke and piri piri are...

The famous wood-oven roasted pig face with sunny-side egg, tamarind, cilantro, red wine-maple, and potato stix. This was a crowd pleaser.

Roasted cauliflower with pickled peppers, pine nuts, and mint. This was my favorite -- since while a lot of the other dishes were delicious, they were pretty heavy. This was perfect. Pine nuts and mint go so well with cauliflower, who knew.

Sugo and pappardelle with rosemary and cape gooseberries. During my last visit, this was my favorite, and it was just as I remembered. The ribbon-y pasta is just incredible.

Lamb ribs with marcona almond, chopped salad, and yogurt jus. The lamb meat was falling off the bone tender.

Confit goat belly with bourbon butter, lobster, crab, and fennel. Goat and lobster are a crazy combo, and the bourbon butter brought this dish over the top.

Sauteed green beans with fish sauce vinaigrette and cashews. This was very solid and I liked this way more than expected, considering how simple it is.

Plantain cake with cream cheese-chocolate chip gelato, passion fruit, and left hand milk stout. I couldn't taste the plantain, but I'm a passion fruit fiend and this was incredible. Passion fruit anything is good.

Miso-butterscotch budino with bacon toffee, glazed pineapple, and candied cashews. I learned that budino is a type of pudding. I couldn't detect any miso flavor, but still tasty.

I'm smiling in here, but deep down I'm sad to leave :(

809 W. Randolph St.
Chicago IL, 60607
(312) 492-6262

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Break Chicago: Four Belly

Takoyaki are fried octopus balls that are a common Japanese street food snack. They're relatively rare to come across, and while I've tried them twice before, the craving for more always comes back. I convinced our group to stop by for a quick meal at Four Belly during our trip since it's one of the few restaurants that carries this stuff. They carry a wide assortment of Asian street food (including fried catepillars if you're feeling adventurous...I wasn't) and it's all pretty yums. The restaurant was pretty empty when we went, which is a shame because I believe they deserve more business.

 The takoyaki that I've been craving for years really hit the spot

Skewers: octopus, yakitori, and beef rib eye. The octopus was my favorite, but the meat ones were still flavorful and tender.

Korean corn ice cream with unsweetened condensed milk and lychee gelee, crazy good. I ordered this on a whim since it's hard for me to skip an interesting-sounding dessert and I'm so glad that I tried it. After getting back, I made a batch of sweet corn ice cream and it's crazy addictive.

3227 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 661-6182

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring Break Chicago: Slurping Turtle

I love Takashi in Chicago. Unfortunately, I can't afford to eat at Takashi whenever I'm in Chicago (or I could, but then I'd have to starve during other portions of the trip). Ergo compromise. One of our first food stops during our trip was at Slurping Turtle, which is also one of Takashi Yagihashi's more affordable restaurants. It's not quite the same, but still delish.

Fried brussel sprouts, these were pretty good for brussels sprouts (blargh) but on par with other fried veggies. It's hard to dislike anything fried really.

Duck fat fried chicken ermahgerd, so tasties. They served these at Takashi when I went previously, and they were just as I recalled them in my dreams.

Tonkotsu ramen with pork chashu, bok choy, pickled mustard greens, and braised woodear mushrooms. Noodles were a little different than normal, like more soup noodle-y than ramen-y. Wished there was more protein but I always wish for such things. Would return for another bowl.

116 W Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 464-0466