Tuesday, June 30, 2009

the best mexican dinner ever

This is one of my favorite dinners to make EVER. Everything is so tasty and fresh. This dinner includes guacamole and chips, steak tacos, and Mexican corn. It can't get better than that.

Like most people I'm a huge fan of tacos- soft tacos, hard tacos, steak tacos, fish tacos, any tacos on your mind! When I discovered this version on the Food Network, it showed signs of greatness. It has chili-rubbed steak, crunchy shredded cabbage, and an amazing salsa with cucumbers and avocados. Am I making your mouth salivate?

Tonight, seemed like the perfect night to make them. I just happen to have fajita meat and flour tortillas.

To make the steak (and feed four), you will 1 1/4 pound fajita meat, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 4-5 garlic minced, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 ground cinnamon, and oil.

Combine the chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic, and salt in a bowl.

Spread the spice mixture on both sides of the meat. Baste with oil to help spread the spice mixture evenly.

Grill the meat about 8 minutes on each side. Then take it off the heat and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

Slice the meat thinly.

Now comes the avocado lime salsa. Once you've made this, you want it all the time. Not only is it great on the steak tacos, it's also perfect dip for tortilla chips.

To make the avocado lime salsa, you will need an avocado cubed, half of a cucumber peeled and diced, 1/4 red onion diced, 1 lime, salt, a small bunch of cilantro chopped, and 1 jalapeno chopped.

In a bowl, mix the cucumber, avocado, and onion. Then mix in the lime juice, salt, cilantro, and jalapeno. (As you can see, I forgot the jalapeno.)

Okay... almost done. You also need to shred a quarter of red cabbage.

This is a great meal to allow everyone to self-serve. I line up the meat, flour tortillas, salsa, and red cabbage. Just add as much as you want on top of your tortilla.

When you're done, you'll have this delicious and tasty taco. Be warned- this is pretty much a guaranteed hit for all.

Now, I bet you want to learn how to make the Mexican corn and quite possibly, my guacamole. Well... let the first picture be a teaser. Recipes are to be continued...

Friday, June 26, 2009

get your indian on

One of my favorite Indian pastries are samosas. I think I could eat them everyday. With some tamarind or mint chutney, I'm in food heaven. They're flaky, filling, and delicious. Plus, you can't go wrong with potatoes.

My love for them got me thinking- I should learn how to make them. When I started to do an internet search, I found some YouTube demonstrations of how to make them by Manjula and a whole new can of worms was opened.

Manjula is this awesome woman who's decided to share her knowledge of Indian cuisine. Her husband is her food critic and her camera man. If he deems the food worthy, then they share it with us. I'm very excited about all the different recipes (and about sharing her with you).

Okay... so back to samosas. Watch these videos and get inspired. Let's learn how to cook Indian together.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

meatloaf with mashed potatoes and broccoli PART 2

This should almost be titled cooking 101 because I'm going to sure you how to make amazing mashed potatoes. It's something simple to make but also easy to mess up.

Back in Christmas 2004 (I think), my family had a reunion in California for my grandfather's book opening. On one of those nights, my uncle, who is also a chef, hosted a dinner of some amazing food. One of the foods I found mesmerizing was the mashed potatoes. They were perfectly seasoned, light, and oh so creamy. I have since requested his recipe and now I'm going to share it with you.

To serve four, you will need 2 big potatoes baked and mashed, 1/2 stick butter, 1 cup half and half, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and white pepper.

Bake the potatoes in 450 degree oven for a minimum of 30 minutes. While the potatoes are in the oven, you can combine the butter, half and half, salt, and pepper in a sauce pan over low heat.

When the potatoes are ready, mash them and put them in the food processor.

Add the half and half and butter mix to the potatoes and blend until smooth.

You'll end up with divine mashed potatoes.

Monday, June 22, 2009

cosmic cup

Cosmic Cup has been a favorite dining spot for me for many years. Actually, they call themselves Cosmic Cafe now but I like to keep it old school. It's a vegetarian restaurant with an Indian influence. They also offer various activities including yoga, meditation, and poetry readings. I haven't partaken in any of these activities but I was quite surprised how many people were there for poetry tonight.

An interesting fact about the restaurant is that everything on the menu equals nine. For example, my chai tea was $3.06. Until dining here, I never realized there were so many meanings for the number nine- one of them being completion.

There's seating inside and out but I'm always sitting on the porch.

I always start with pappadam. I love that their's is a bit spicy. It comes with mint and tamarind chutney.

I LOVE samosas. I'm going to have to do a separate posts about them but for now, here is a picture of their samosas... so delicious.

I always have to get a cup of chai when I'm here. I buy the teabags but it's not the same as the real thing.

I ordered a Fold in Thyme. It's a nan sandwich with cheddar, avocado, sprouts, onions, tomato, zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms, and honey mustard. I have tried many things here and I always come back to a fold in thyme. It used to be served with tortilla chips and pico de gallo but they've since ditched the chips and replaced it with some pappadam. I kind of prefer it that way.

He always order the Buddha's Special (now called Buddha's Delight). Instead of getting dahl, he asks for a second samosa. The Buddha's Special comes with curried vegetables (today, it was spinach and artichoke), dahl, samosa, pappadam, rice, and nan. The curried vegetables is usually potatoes, peas, and cauliflower. The artichoke was a nice change of pace.

This place makes dining vegetarian style doable. Everything is delicious.

spices are good

It took long enough but I discovered the best way to buy my spices and herbs. Instead of buying a bottle of spices that I will only use a handful of times before they start to lose their taste, I should just go to Central Market or Whole Foods. They have a great selection of spices and herbs in their bulk bins. I buy just what I need and it's fresh every time. But there has to be something a little bit nicer to store them in besides the little plastic baggy that you buy them in.

... So I have been wanting a spice rack for some time. While checking out Design Sponge, I saw the ideal spice rack. It's made up of test tubes. I love the fact that they hold a small amount, they don't take up much space, and have a clean presentation.

This Design Sponge post led to the search for something similar and then I found The Tubular Spice Company. They have the exact spice rack here. It comes with a metal stand and 40 spices and is $141. That's more than the spices I need, I want to be able to pick the spices I want, but most importantly, that's too much money.

Then they also have this. It holds 20 spices which is more like it but it's still $91 and comes with spices.

Finally, I saw this. It comes with 20 empty glass tubes in a wooden rack. I kind of like the wooden rack a little bit more. The best part of it is that it's $47.

All I have to do now is buy it!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

meatloaf with mashed potatoes and broccoli PART 1

Tonight, I decided to make meatloaf with mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli. The recipes are going to come to you in three parts. Let's start with the main course- meatloaf.

This is the BEST meatloaf in the entire world. It's a strong statement but I'm ready to back it up. The flavors are so unique and untraditional. The cloves and allspice are the perfect companions for the tomato sauce. The lemon gives the meat a nice kick. I've made it a ton of times and it's divine every time.

You will need 1 1/2 pound ground beef, 4 slices of dried bread cubed, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup onion finely chopped, 1 egg beaten, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.

Today, I used Italian white bread because I got it free from Central Market. Any bread will do though. I also used more onion than directed. There are a few things I believe never hurts to have a little more. That includes onions, garlic, and cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the ground beef, bread cubes, lemon juice, onion, egg and salt in a large bowl.

Mix well.

Put the meat mixture in a loaf pan. I'm using a meatloaf pan but any loaf pan will work. The meatloaf pan gives you the convenience of allowing the fat to drip. Bake for 15 minutes.

While the meatloaf is in the oven, prepare the tomato sauce. Combine the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, allspice, and cloves.

Mix well making sure to break up the brown sugar as best you can. Don't worry if you still have lumps. It will melt perfectly once in the oven.

Here is the meatloaf after it's been in the oven for 15 minutes.

Cover the loaf with the sauce.

Bake it for 30 minutes longer.

Here it is done and out of the oven. Give the loaf a few minutes to cool so it can hold its shape.

Try it and tell me what you think. Would you agree that it's the best meatloaf?

adapted from The Junior League Centennial Cookbook

Friday, June 19, 2009


One of my favorite places to eat is Awshucks. It's laidback and casual. There's no pretentiousness here. It's just plain good seafood.

You go to the counter to order and you find a table. They have a counter for indoor seating but most of the people sit at the outside tables. Then, you just wait for your name to pick up your food. Here, they practice the honor system so before you leave, you let the cashier know what you've ordered and pay.

Be warned if you try to come here on the weekends. The place gets über packed. It's every man for himself when finding a table. You're like a lion on the hunt. You see people start leaving and you jump. Luckily, the staff is watching, too, and they are right behind you to clean the table.

I'm addicted to the summer platter, fish tacos, and fries. Next time, I'm going to order their hot wings (has nothing to do with seafood but I've been told they are amazing).

Since we arrived during happy hour, oysters were half price. We ordered a dozen. I don't usually partake but I enjoyed a couple. An oyster atop a cracker with hot sauce, lemon, and ketchup is not half bad.

Here's the summer platter. YUM! YUM! Don't be mislead by the name because it's available year round. It's a mix of crab legs, shrimp, and sausage. We usually ask for more crab legs for the sausage. They put the perfect amount of seasonings and spices. If you share this with me, don't be mad if I hog the crab legs.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

bo luc lac

This is one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes growing up- bo luc lac. It's literal translation is shaking beef. You can say it's a kind of comfort food for me. Luckily, it's also very easy to make.

I've looked online and found many recipes for it. Each one has been very different from the next. This one comes from my mom. I consider her a reliable resource.

The recipe comes in two parts: a marinade and a dressing. To feed about four, you will need a pound of beef cubed (the cut is your choice; I used top sirloin) and one bunch of watercress. For the marinade, you will need Maggi, 4-6 garlic crushed, and cracked pepper. Maggi is a type of seasoning. It's very similar to soy sauce but, in my opinion, much better. This bottle is imported from Europe.

Since this recipe comes from my mom, I don't have exact measurements for the ingredients. I just shake enough Maggi on the beef so that it's covered. Then, I mix in the garlic and lots of cracked pepper. I prepared it early so that the marinade has time to be soaked in by the beef.

With about two tablespoons of olive oil, I saute the beef for about 5-8 minutes over medium heat.

For the dressing, you will need about 1 part olive oil and 1 part vinegar to about 1/2 to 1/3 part Maggi. The Maggi pictured below is what is readily available in the States. You will also need crushed garlic, sugar, cracked pepper, and yellow onion sliced thin.

You'll add the sugar and garlic as needed to balance the dressing. You can also add water to make it suit your taste. At the last minute, add the slices of onion. It will look something like this.

When it's ready to serve, place the beef on top of the watercress and pour some of the dressing on top. It's also great with sliced tomatoes. Like every other Asian dish, I like to compliment it with some steamed rice, too. Enjoy!