As frustrating as dealing with my landlord can be (“I’ll maybe fix the peeling ceiling after the holidays,” oh and there might be mice as evidenced by the large trap placed right by a hole in the back stairway, and one running through the bedroom, that trap seems super helpful), one of the things I love about where I live is the neighborhood. And specifically, the middle eastern bakery/grocery that’s a ten minute walk up the street. They do amazing, cheap hand pies that are great for lunch or breakfast, wonderful sides (dolma! baba ghanoush! pita!), they have a small fuckton of spices, and they have a lot of reasonably priced staples. Like say, the black lentils that are central to this recipe.

This is a simple, cheap, low energy, but amazingly filling recipe. I’ve been perfecting it over the last few months to my and boything’s taste, and the recipe as I have it currently is beyond perfect. My spices are a bit more haphazard than the ingredients list below suggests in terms of amounts, but I promise you you can adjust this to your own taste, easy. Throw this on the stove while a Destiny 2 or Overwatch session is going on, and voila.

Punjabi-Style Black Lentils
Makes enough for two and then a little meals for two

Ingredients

  • 2 T ghee (regular butter or oil also acceptable)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • .5 T ground cumin (original says seeds, I went with what I have on hand for simplicity)
  • 1 in piece of ginger, grated (original says finely chopped, I go with the ginger grating trick mentioned earlier in the blog these days
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 T ground coriander
  • 1 t ground tumeric
  • 1 T garam masala (usually more)
  • pinch ground chile powder
  • 1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 t sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 c dried black lentils
  • 3.5 c water (reduced from original recipe bc now I just use a whole can of diced fire roasted tomatoes, which is an extra cup up from the original recommended amount
  • 4 t salted butter
  • 2 T heavy cream (can be omitted if people don’t like it)

Over medium heat, melt your ghee. Once warm, add the onion and cumin, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned in places (pic 1). Add in the ginger and garlic, cook 1 minute more until fragrant, and then add the remaining spices (pic 2) and can of tomatoes (pic 3), and cook 3 more minutes, scraping up any bits that may be stuck to the pot. Add the salt, water, and then the lentils. Bring to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot. Cook 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender (see pic 5). If you want a looser dal, add more water. Adjust the spices and seasoning to taste.

To finish, ladle the dal into the bowl, add 1 t butter and .5 T heavy cream, and stir in to melt (see pic 6).

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The version I made of this was severely parred down, as the boything doesn’t like mushrooms, I wasn’t sure about the beets in this, and honestly the pomegranate arils seemed more decorative than anything else. I’m probably going to try this again with the beets and maybe the mushrooms, not real sure about the pomegranate arils. (If anyone has insight on this, please feel free to chime in!)

The resulting pasta was, and is, still pretty amazing, and definitely something I want to try again. Please note below – parentheses used in this recipe will be used to indicate omitted ingredients, or instructions for the omitted ingredients.

Caramelized Balsamic Goat Cheese Pasta
Makes: pasta. However much you want. Look, it’s been forever since I made this.

Ingredients

  • 4 T olive oil (2 T if omitting the beets)
  • (4 medium red beets, quartered – omitted)
  • ((1 T chopped fresh thyme (substitute dry if you don’t have fresh), omitted bc not using beets)
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 lb long thin pasta (like spaghetti)
  • (8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced – omitted)
  • 2 T butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 c balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 T honey
  • .5 t crushed red pepper flakes
  • .5 c crumbled goat cheese
  • (pomegranate arils for serving – omitted)

(If using the beets – preheat your oven to 350, toss together the olive oil, beets, thyme, sea salt and pepper, put on a baking sheet, and roast for 25 to 30 mins, till tender and lightly charred.)

Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring salted water for the pasta to a boil. Add your pasta, and cook according to package instructions until al dente, and then drain. Just before draining, reserve 1 c of pasta cooking water.

While you wait for the water to boil, melt the butter, and add 2 T olive oil in a pot over high heat. (If using the mushrooms, add them here and cook until just barely caramelizing on the edges, appx 5 mins.) Add the garlic slices like in pic 1, and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant. Remove the (mushrooms) and garlic. To the same pot, add the balsamic vinegar, honey, and red pepper flakes, like in pic 2. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, and then cook for 5-8 mins until the balsamic has reduced by about a third and is sticky to the touch – see pic 3 for the example of this in progress, and pic 4 for what this looks like towards the end. Then, reduce the heat to low and stir in the pasta and garlic(/mushrooms). Toss to coat. If the sauce seems too thick, thin it out with a bit of the pasta cooking water. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

Serve the pasta immediately, topped with crumbled goat cheese, (roasted beets, and pomegranate arils).

So, earlier in 2015, I received a large amount of frozen steaks from my mom and her boyfriend, as a result of an auction they won. They mostly lived in the freezer for a good long time, and I was trying to figure out what the hell to make with them, as the amount of steak I had was, shall we say, slightly excessive to my norms.

And then I came across this recipe, and given that I was on a kalbi kick at the time, decided to give it a try. It was the right choice.

Simple, quick, and a good meat preparation. You can’t get too much better than that.

Korean Style Steak
Makes however much steak you want it to. 

Ingredients

  • 3 T sugar
  • 6 T soy sauce
  • 2 T vegetable oil (or other mild cooking oil), plus more for the grill pan
  • 2 T sesame oil
  • 1 T fresh ginger, grated
  • 5 cloves garlic, grated or minced (whichever you prefer, I went crushed)
  • 1 small shallot, minced (I think I skipped this, it was long enough ago that I honestly don’t remember)
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • (recipe recommends 2 lbs hangar, skirt, or flap steak, I used whatever steak this was that I had in the freezer)
  • (scallions, sliced, and sesame seeds for serving, again, pretty sure I skipped this and just put it over a bowl of white rice)

In a large shallow bowl (large enough to fit your steak eventually), stir together the sugar, soy sauce, vegetable oil, sesame oil, grated ginger, garlic, shallot, sea salt, and pepper together until the sugar has dissolved. Add the steak, turn to coat with the marinade, and let sit at room temperature for about fifteen minutes. I marinated mine in the fridge overnight, I’m pretty sure.

If it’s not the dead of winter and you have access to a grill, heat up your grill. If not, heat up a grill pan on the stove. Either way, heat till medium-hot.

Lightly brush a paper towel with vegetable oil, and then rub that over the rack or pan using tongs. Transfer the steak to the grill area, and discard the leftover marinade. Grill it on each side until done to your liking (five minutes or so a side gets you medium rare, depending on how thick the steak is – adjust over or under according to your tastes). Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for five minutes.

Slice the steak thin, at an angle against the grain, and top with the sesame seeds and sliced scallion if you so choose, or put it over a bowl of rice from the rice cooker for a kinda donburi, do whatever you want!

This is a pretty straight forward, budget friendly soup. Not my favorite I’ve ever had from the site it’s originally from, but solid enough. The spices on this are super light, and I would recommend experimenting with them significantly. As is, this didn’t make too much of an impression on me.

Curried Red Lentil and Pumpkin Soup
Makes enough soup for a quart container and a little more

Ingredients

  • 1 T olive oil
  • half of an onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minimum, minced
  • 1 T fresh ginger, grated (tip in recipe)
  • 15 oz can pumpkin
  • 1 c dry red lentils
  • 6 c vegetable stock
  • 1 T curry powder
  • sea salt

Heat your olive oil over medium heat, and add the diced onion, minced garlic, and grated ginger. To make it as easy as possible to grate the ginger (and what I’ve found gets the best flavor in recipes) is to freeze the whole root, and whenever you need it, take it out and grate it straight into the pot. Still fresh (even though the root’s been frozen, the grated ginger will warm up in the cooking process), and has even made recipes taste better. Saute until the onion is soft and transparent.

Then, add the pumpkin, lentils, veggie stock, and curry powder. Stir to combine, cover with a lid, and bring the heat to medium-high to bring the soup to a boil. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to low and bring the soup down to a simmer, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring here and there. After 20 minutes, the lentils should be soft, and the soup should have thickened a bit.

Taste it and add sea salt and more curry powder to your personal taste, and enjoy!

This is one of the best, weirdest, and cheapest dishes I made this year. As it turns out, when you live near Asian markets, you can get thick slices of pork belly (sliced a la bacon), heads of napa cabbage, and most of the other stuff you need for this recipe for incredibly cheap. The resulting hotpot (aka nabe) is hearty, filling, and keeps forfuckingever. (Yay depression proof food!) I’ve made this twice, and still have leftovers in my fridge from the last time. A+, can and will recommend.

It’s technically supposed to be real pretty cooking, but I’ll be real honest with you, I gave up on that pretty damn quickly. The assembly can be complicated, but it is doable. There are detailed pictoral directions at the linked recipe, too. If you can do it better than I can, bless and go forth.

Mille-Feuille Nabe
Makes: hella. You’re gonna have nabe for a while and then some.

Ingredients

  • 1 head napa cabbage (no really, I promise, whatever size you get WILL be enough)
  • 1.5 lbs sliced pork belly (go to your local Asian market for this, you’ll get it sliced just to the right thickness and way cheaper; feel free to increase this if you really like meat)
  • 5 c dashi (honestly, I had instant packets of dashi for this, and I used it; linked version will give you the normal way to make it)
  • 1 in ginger
  • 2 T sake
  • 1 t soy sauce
  • .5 t sea salt
  • shimeji/enoki mushrooms (optional)
  • ponzu and shichimi togarashi to dip in (green onion if you want to too, but I skipped it)

To start, thiny slice your ginger, and set to the side.

Cut your cabbage into quarters, lengthwise (pic 1), and wash the leaves carefully and drain well, taking care not to cut the edge as you do so. Keep a hold of any leaves that may come off; you will use them later. Take your pork belly slices, and put them between each leaf of the napa cabbage (pic 2). Use kitchen shears to cut the pork belly to the appropriate length for the leaves.

Once that’s done, cut the stuffed cabbage into three to four pieces, depending on the size of the leaf, usually about two inches or so long. Start packing the pot from the outer edge with the pieces, working your way in. The layers will loosen as they cook, so pack it as tight as possible. Stuff the center with leaves that fell off while washing, and, if you so choose, shimeji/enoki mushrooms. Pics 3 and 4 are what this looks like when I do it. Click the original recipe for a way better looking example of this.

Combine the soup ingredients (dashi through sea salt and the ginger slices), and add to the pot, pouring over the packed cabbage and pork belly and mushrooms. Don’t cut down on the salt, as the cabbage will release liquid when it cooks and dilute down the soup.

Cook on high heat, and skim the foam and fat on the surface once it starts boiling, if you so choose (I chose not to). Then, reduce the heat to medium high, and cook until the cabbage is tender, and the pork belly is cooked through. Pics 5 through 7 are what this process looks like, with pic 7 being from my second try at this.

When you’re ready, scoop it from the pot and serve hot, with the ponzu and shichimi togarashi to dip into (pic 8). And seriously, enjoy the wonderfully simple flavors in this.

 

So, Nintendo posted this recipe a while ago on Twitter for Twilight Princess’ HD rerelease, and I decided to give this a try. Besides being a recipe from a video game, this combines two of my favorite flavors – pumpkin and goat cheese. The resulting soup is pretty damn awesome, and definitely a thing I would recommend making. (This version leaves out the fish, but tbh, I’m pretty okay with that, as I’m really not sure what that would’ve done to this.) (I also held back the celery in my version, as I’m not that big of a fan of it.)

Yeto’s Pumpkin and Cheese Soup
Makes a lot. That’s two containers’ worth of soup up there.

Ingredients

  • 2 T butter
  • 1 medium sized onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 qt vegetable stock
  • 29 oz pumpkin puree
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
  • .25 c milk plus .25 c heavy whipping cream
  • 4 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled (I used closer to 5, last of the TJ’s chevre I mentioned in the previous post)
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • dash sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

In a large pot (dutch oven, or just a bigass covered pot), melt the butter over medium heat. Add the diced onion and carrots, and saute for about five minutes, and then add your minced garlic, and saute another five minutes, until fragrant and the vegetables are soft.

Pour in your quart of vegetable stock, and bring it to a boil, stirring the soup here and there. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, and keep simmering for another ten minutes, still stirring here and there. Add in the pumpkin and cinnamon, stir well to combine, and bring back to a simmer, simmering another fifteen minutes.

If you have an immersion blender (seriously, those things are a godsends for recipes like this), just stick it in the pot and blend until you’ve got a nice smooth soup. If you don’t, stick it in a blender or food processor in batches, and do the same.  Keep the heat of the soup on low.

Stir in the milk/whipping cream combo, evaporated milk, goat cheese, and brown sugar, slowly, until the goat cheese and brown sugar has melted into the soup. Season with a bit of sea salt and fresh ground pepper, taste it, and then sit down for a long ass gaming marathon with your nice hearty bowl of soup.

 

So, hey kids. I’m back. Kinda. Just getting back into the swing of this, and I miiight have a not insignificant amount of recipes I should finally write up.

Basically: unemployment and depression are rough, and getting yourself stabilized after all of the above is even more fun. For now, I appear to be settled enough that I finally feel comfortable getting back to this blog. So. Sorry for kinda disappearing since September, and thank you for sticking with me.

Pork belly is becoming a thing right now, and luckily for me, I have several Asian markets in the Chicago area that do cheap as shit (and well cut) slabs of pork belly. I came across this recipe on Lucky Peach, and decided to give it a shot. One major note – the original recipe calls for you to brown it on top of the time it spends in the oven, but to be very honest, it’s perfect as is after it comes out of the oven.

Momofuku Pork Belly
Makes however much pork belly you want; above was appx 2.5 lbs

Ingredients

  • Desired amount of pork belly (again, above was in one package from their meat counter, about 2.5 lbs I would guess; original recipe said skinless, I got mine with the skin on, didn’t make any large difference)
  • 1 T plus 1 t/lb sea salt
  • 1 T plus 1 t/lb sugar
  • a dash of fresh ground black pepper

The night before you want to make your pork belly, season it with salt and sugar, and a few twists of black pepper from the grinder. Cover it (I used one of the many many containers I have lying around) and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

Day of, preheat your oven to 450. Put your belly in a pan, and then sear at 450 for about a half hour. Turn it down to 275, and let it roast slowly another hour or two (I want to say mine sat for closer to the two hour mark at 275), until it’s nice and tender (but not mushy. ew).

Let it cool to room temperature, wrap it up/put it in a container in the fridge to store, and then warm it and nom as you desire!