Ginger Scallion Sauce and Taking a Fast from Fast Food

Ginger Scallion Sauce
It’s Ash Wednesday and for many, that means a time of choosing to fast from one vice or another in order to devote the time previously taken by the vice to thinking about God or praying for focus or simply remembering Christ’s sacrifice.  It doesn’t even have to be a vice, necessarily, but something that you do or perhaps over indulge on a daily or weekly basis, that if you gave it up, it would create a bit of a hole or an inconvenience in your day and force you to remember why you are fasting from it in the first place.  Many give up certain foods: sugar, coffee, sodas, fried foods.  Some give up distractions like apps on their cell phones or Facebook or watching tv.

Matt suggested that we give up eating out at restaurants for Lent this year.  This obviously involves my participation more than his, as I will be doing the majority of the cooking.  But I know that for both of us, we lean on the ability to go get something fast and easy too often.  I cook a LOT, but I use dining out as a “break” or a “reward” for cooking all week.  I use it when I just “don’t wanna” and sometimes when I just feel plain burned out on thinking up another meal to cook at home. I thought it was a good thing to give up, though, and so I agreed.  He will no doubt cook more often during this time, too.  Today is the first day of Lent and today’s recipe is from our lunch today.

I don’t believe you have to be Catholic to participate in the season of Lent.  I believe any tradition that helps us refocus on the sacrifice and life of Christ is a worthwhile endeavor.  Borrowing from other religious cultures can enhance our own or refresh the way we see things and shed new light on old habits.  Someone questioned how we “do” Lent regarding what we give up and asked if it’s just “another resolution” or if we really pray or do what we’re supposed to do in the absence of the thing we’re giving up.  I have never thought of Lent as “just another resolution” and fully intend on dining out at restaurants once the 40 days are over.  But for these next six weeks, I plan on remembering a few things in the absence of the convenience of dining out and every time I feel tempted:

1. It’s a privilege to eat out – even fast food, not just nice restaurants.
2. Not everyone has the joy of owning a house or a kitchen to cook in.  We do.
3. When I don’t feel like cooking over the next 40 days, I will think of my new friends at Carpenter’s Church who only WISH they had a nice kitchen, but instead have to rely on the kindness of soup kitchens downtown to get a hot meal.
4. Not everyone can afford good produce at the grocery store.  We can and I plan on utilizing that honor.
5. Dining out is a break from reality.  So many people in the world never get a break from their harsh realities.  They have no choice.

This morning I taught my little cooking class at Carpenter’s and our class ended and we finished cleaning up about 10 till noon.  Typically, I would have called up Matt and said, “We’ll just come pick you up, I don’t feel like cooking again.”  But I called him up instead and said, “I gotta run home and cook – lunch will be a little later today.”  I had been to the store yesterday and bought all the items needed (a privilege)  for one of our favorite garnishes for Asian type dishes, Ginger Scallion Sauce.  We love to put it on just about anything, and today, I tossed it along with some sticky rice and leftover pork we cooked on Sunday, and some pineapple (and a fried egg, of course).  A really fresh, tasty meal and it only took me 30 minutes, start to finish.

You don’t have to give up something for Lent in order to be “good” or “right.”  It’s not about that.  However, in order to be more disciplined in life, there really is no other way than to TRY.  Think you’re not disciplined enough to give something up for 40 days?  Well… have you tried?

Sticky Rice with Broiled Pork and Pineapple

 

Ginger Scallion Sauce
makes about 3 cups

Momofuku Ginger Scallion Sauce
Look how lazy I am.  But there you have it – we don’t alter it so I figured I’d just show you the page out of the book!  Everything in the Momofuku cookbook is good, from what we’ve tried, so far.  David Chang is one of our biggest celebrity chef crushes and we think he can do no wrong.  Pick up this book today! And the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook while you’re at it!

 

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Corn Cookies

momofuku corn cookies

momofuku corn cookies 3

This is one of the best cookies I’ve ever had in my entire life.  Crispy on the outside, chewy and soft in the middle.  Sweet, salty, and incredibly buttery.  It uses a mystery ingredient: corn powder. All you do (and believe me, slackers, this ingredient is worth whatever effort you don’t want to put forth) is buy a bag of freeze dried corn off Amazon and pulse it in your blender or food processor till it looks like powder.  Then, you’ll have enough for a few batches of these amazing cookies.  The corn powder adds to the incredible butter flavor and if you don’t tell anyone, they won’t be able to pick out the secret ingredient.  They’ll just sit and marvel that they are enjoying the greatest cookie (that doesn’t include chocolate) of their life.

This recipe is from the wonderful Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  Matt made Olive’s first birth-day (made it when we came home from the hospital with her) cake from this book, my birthday cake and the Crack Pie that we’ve made a few times and won a smallish award (in a contest created by us) for best non-fruit pie at our Pie Bake-Off.  Christina Tosi is undoubtedly a genius, as Momofuku  Milk Bar’s creative pastry chef.  It’s only her hummingbird-like brain that could come up with such nostalgic, creative, sugar-rush kind of desserts.  She is a child at heart, which shows so evidently throughout this cookbook.

Word of caution: if you like to get in and out of the kitchen quick, this book isn’t for you.  (the cookies were easy enough but the rest…) My birthday cake had Matt in the kitchen for two days and involved around 5 different recipes for one cake alone.  However, it was the best cake ever.  I don’t need to reiterate that good things are worth the hard work, but I will.  To quote Bob Kelso, “Nothing in this world worth having comes easy.”

And every recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar is worth having.

momofuku corn cookies 2

Corn Cookies
yield: 13-15 cookies

*225 g butter, at room temp (2 sticks)
300 g sugar (1.5 cups)
1 egg
225 g flour (1 1/3 cups)
45 g corn flour (1/4 cup – if you don’t have corn flour, which I didn’t, mix 1/4 flour and 4 tsp corn powder)
65 g freeze dried corn powder (2/3 cup)
3 g baking powder (3/4 tsp
1.5 g baking soda (1/4 tsp)
6 g kosher salt (1.5 tsp)

1. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium for 2 to 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes (this is important.  This long mixing process is what gives the cookies their amazing texture)

2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, corn flour, corn powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

3. Using a 1/3 cup measuring scoop, portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.  Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat.  Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Do NOT baking your cookies from room temp – they WILL NOT bake properly.

4. Heat oven to 350F.

5. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment or silpat-lined sheet pans.  Bake for 18 minutes (Mine looked perfect in exactly 18 min. They know their stuff) The cookies will puff, crackle, and spread.  After 18 minutes, they should be faintly browned on the edges yet still bright yellow in the center; give them an extra minute if not.

6. Cool the cookies completely ON the sheet pans before transferring to a plate or your mouth (yeah right, you know you’ll eat a warm one and you SHOULD).  At room temp, the cookies will keep fresh in an air-tight container for 5 days.  But I really doubt they’ll last that long.

*I think measuring your flour, corn flour and corn powder by weight is really important.  Reason:  I first did it by volume and measured out 1 1/3 cups.  Then, to double check, I weighed the flour I’d measured and it was only something like 210 grams.  That’s enough of a difference to matter in the final result.  Just FYI!

momofuku corn cookies 5

Confession Time and a Side Dish You Never Thought You’d Love

roasted broccoli

I said I’d be honest on this blog and today is just such a post.  Last week, a sweet friend of mine said, ” You are officially one of those moms that makes me question my ability to fully parent and live well/completely.” I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with that comment, but I think I know, now.  It’s time to be honest!  Last week wasn’t good.  Olive got sick on Tuesday with her first stomach bug in her little year on this earth.  It wrecked her appetite, needless to say, and she subsisted for the rest of the week on mostly bananas, bits of bread, small bites of chicken and forced bites of a few benign vegetables like carrots and…carrots.  My little super-eater turned into the “picky eater” kid and even today, isn’t back at full steam.  She plays fine, acts fine, but when it comes to eating – it’s a fight.

I tried my best to stay the course; don’t force her, don’t get stressed, if she doesn’t eat much at lunch, she’ll catch up at dinner – but I was fearful all week that this stomach bug would make her afraid of food, of eating, of trying new things and in one week, all would be lost.  You think I’m exaggerating for the sake of this blog.  I wish I was.  I guess, today, my confession is that I try too dadgum hard to make things go perfectly, and when they don’t, I feel like an utter failure.  Perhaps this isn’t the day to write because last night I slept maybe three hours (my inability to turn my brain off and relax) but I thought about my friend’s comment on my status, and I just wanted to tell her that we only show our best online.  We only write statuses we are either proud of or find ironically funny.  So no one heard all week how scared I was that Olive was sick, or how miserable I felt when she wouldn’t eat a bite all day for a couple days in a row.  And of course I didn’t write statuses about how I got angry with her and made her cry because she kept dropping food off the side of the high chair.  I don’t like writing about that part of life.  The hard part.  The part that makes you question if you’re doing everything wrong and will, inevitably, scar your child when it’s all said and done.  I thought, “How much would everyone love if Olive ended up hating a variety of food just because I want her to love food so much?”  And it’s sad, but I really do feel that most of the people I know would secretly laugh if that happened.  And I can’t say that I blame them.  I’m very passionate about cooking and food and banning “kid-food” and teaching children to eat well and have manners at the table.  I wouldn’t say that I have much camaraderie in that area, at least not locally.  Or maybe I just don’t feel it because I’m not admitting to the hard parts that happen, as well.  I’m only telling you that she ate baby bok choy with fish sauce vinaigrette last week and loved it.  Not that she cried big, fat tears today because I wouldn’t let her hold a fork while she ate (she’d just throw it or poke herself in the face).  Sigh.

Our hard week came to a head this morning as Olive had her one year check up and got 5 shots in her little legs.  So, I made a soup for her for lunch.  Cream of celery, and I pureed the heck out of it so that there’d be no chunks.  I just didn’t feel like challenging her today. She ate fine.  Not as much as last week, but enough.  And I will continue to do what I know in my heart to be best.  Let her be a person with feelings and a new found opinion on things, and try not to force her to like something just because I do.  She’ll come around.  And if today, she only wants the texture of soups and yogurt, then that’s fine.  Maybe tomorrow she’ll eat something more challenging.  The point, I think, is to get back to the heart of what makes food and cooking beautiful: it’s something to be shared.  Eating, first, should be enjoyable.  Not nutritious, not organic – but delicious.  Good for the soul.  Shared with family and friends.  Happy.  Stress-free.  Not another lesson to pass or fail.  I vow to back off in my intensity for success at having a “good eater” a bit and get back to what makes food so amazing.  It’s good.

An incredible way to enjoy a couple of vegetables that might not be everyone’s favorite is first: roast them till they’re a little crispy.  And second: toss them in a vinaigrette!  In today’s recipe, that vinaigrette is one that contains fish sauce and it’s incredible.  I know you wouldn’t typically put “fish sauce” and “incredible” in the same sentence, but you’ll start to once you try this.  Also, it’s from David Chang’s genius book, Momofuku, and I’m pretty sure he’s never made anything bad in his life.  It’s so simple and the vinaigrette recipe makes a lot, so you can save it in your fridge to toss with pretty much any roasted vegetable.  The original recipe called to toss it with roasted brussels sprouts, which is a vegetable most think they don’t like.  But I’m pretty convinced you’re always just one recipe away from liking something you thought you never would.  So!  Try this today and let me know what you think.  Fish sauce can be found in most Asian sections of supermarkets near all the soy sauce, but if you have trouble, you can definitely find it at any Asian mart in town.

roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts

 

Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vinagrette

1 medium head broccoli
1/2 head cauliflower
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tbs Fish Sauce Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut up the broccoli and cauliflower into small, bite sized pieces.  I trim the “trees” in half so that they roast better.  You want to aim to make the size of your vegetables all nearly the same so they cook at the same rate.  Toss in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Don’t crowd the pan.  Put it on two pans if you need to.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for about 20 minutes, or until they start to get kinda crispy and browned on the edges like in the photo above.  When they’re done, toss in a large bowl with the vinaigrette and serve immediately.  For some reason, broccoli gets cold faster than any other vegetable known to man.

Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 3 red bird’s-eye chilies, thinly sliced

Combine everything in a large mason jar with a tight fitting lid.  Or any container with a tight fitting lid that won’t leak.  Shake it all around until the sugar dissolves.  Keep in the fridge for up to a week.