Zucchini Blossoms & Other Recent Obsessions

27 07 2009

I have been slacking on the posts big time. No excuse other than it’s summertime & I’ve been slacking on everything . . . except cooking! I realized that I need to overcome my fear of my new digital camera (THANKS JOHNNY!) and just start snapping. In fact, with the bi-weekly CSA pick-ups I’m so friggin busy washing vegetables  that I have little time for anything else! Although me & Johnny made a cooking video that will soon be posted if I can make a foray into the world of techNOlogy. In any case . . . BEHOLD THE ZUCCHINI BLOSSOM!

I'm beautiful & delicious!

I'm beautiful & delicious!

I bought a box of these at the farmer’s market because they were so beautiful PLUS they had been on the menu at my new fave Korean restaurant (more on that later) listed as “ho bak kkot twi kim:” stuffed & fried zucchini blossoms, but we did not order them b/c some among us were suspicious of Korean food they’d never heard of.  I wasn’t totally sure what to do with these when I brought them home but I had plans to make “daegu jeon” which are Korean-style mini fish cutlets (I used flounder, they came out GREAT!). This involves dipping the fish in flour & egg. I figured, hell, let’s put a couple of the flowers in & fry ’em up that way to test them out. I did nothing but dip them first in flour & then in egg & fry them in canola oil. They came out pretty good! Crispy but with a little softness to them and with a subtle, delicate squash flavor. I was scheming on how I would prepare the rest of them.

I came across a recipe in this book someone gave on cuisine from Rome. It involved stuffing the flowers with fresh mozz & 1/2 an anchovy and breading them in a flour & water batter. I happened to have fresh mozz in the fridge but figured, ‘why not beer batter the suckers?’ since the bubbles actually make for a flakier, lighter batter (you can actually use seltzer too). Here goes the recipe I came up with:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup beer

pinch of salt

16 or so zucchini blossoms

1/4 lb. fresh mozzarella, grated

olive oil

Okie doke. So I sifted the flour through a strainer & added the salt. Then mixed in the beer to form a batter. It was relatively thick. Then, with help from the lovely Rebekah, stuffed the grated cheese into the flowers just up until where the petals separated, and gently twisted the petals together to close off the blossom.  I poured about a 1/2 inch of oil into a hot pan (most recipes recommend more but I don’t think it’s necessary) and tested the heat by sprinkling in a pinch of flour- when the flour sizzles, your ready to fry. Then I gently dipped the blossoms in batter- if any of the flowers were torn, I simply rubbed some batter over the tear to seal it up. It worked quite well. I fried them,  letting them get a little brown then flipped them, gave them a few more minutes and put them on a plate with a paper towel to drain. They required no more than 5 min in the pan. They looked like this when they were done.

This is a random internet picture. Mine looked better!

This is a random internet picture. Mine looked better!

Wow. These knocked us out. I can’t say enough about how tasty they were. It might be tasty to include something salty inside to contrast with the cheese, like in the Roman recipe. I can’t say I’d jump at the chance to add anchovies, but next time I make these I might include half an olive or a caper inside for a little extra “somethin’ something'” if you know what I mean. These would go great with a very cold beer, crisp beer: Sapporo would be good, Pacifico or Sol would work too. A (freezing) cold Budweiser or Bud Light wouldn’t be the worst think you could drink with these either (but I wouldn’t recmommend tapping the Rockies). I might consider stuffing these with a tiny bit of jalapeno for kick, in fact simply using pepper jack instead of mozz could take the recipe in a whole different direction. They can also be stuffed with ricotta or goat cheese. So much room for creativity with these pretty little flowers.

These bad boys will only be in season for a few more weeks so if you see these in your farmer’s market, snap ’em up while you can!





Cooking with Dog

26 03 2009
Cook with me!

Cook with me!

This post is coming straight out of computer hell as my computer is chock loaded with trojans and other lovelies. I think someone is breaking into my office at night to download porn. In fact, the word trojan is vaguely porn-y no? In any case . . . I’ve been lapsing in the posting but partly because of the realization that I need to get my digital camera up & running again so I took it to the shop. More fun stuff to come . . .

I’m a big fan of youtube for learning how to do stuff. Ever since I discovered Maangchi, which I mentioned in a previous post, I realized that youtube user generated content is a great way to learn things because you can seek out exactly what you want and find out how to do it. Also, since these videos tend to be amateur, there is little to no editing so you get to view the process from beginning to end. It’s funny because while I’ve never found cooking shows particularly helpful (although I still love ’em . . . BRING BACK JAPANESE IRON CHEF!), youtube cooking videos have changed my whole repertoire. You can watch them as many times as you need to and there’s nothing like running out of the kitchen with sauce all over you hands to replay a step you’re not quite sure about. That is if you can handle flour on your keyboard. If someone had told me I’d be making kimchi 6 months ago, I’d never have believed it but man, I’ve been churning it out! My Korean friends were floored because they weren’t sure ol’ round eye could pull it off, but I have more than one surprise up my sleeve when it comes to da kitchen. Check out Maangchi’s kimchi video here The kakdugi is slammin btw:

In a similar vein and as some of you may know, the East Village has been recently invaded with a slew of ramen restaurants. The real, honest to goodness stuff they eat in Japan. Many of them are delicious, but most of them can get crowded. We’ve decided that the best as far as quality of noodles is Ippudo on 4th avenue. But try getting a seat there man: Asians of all types come from far and wide for this junk. As a result of the crowding the service is bad, the food takes a long time, you’re awkwardly close to strangers and you risk having your orders confused (ours were when we went). So while the goods are good, the dining experience is subpar.  Check them out on Menupages here since their wesbite is fancy & takes a while to load. There has been a bit of explosion in Ramen Setagayas as they’ve opened branches in addition to the OG one on 2nd ave btw. 8th & 9th. There’s one on St. Mark’s and now one on University Place. Guess students like all types of Ramen, not just the ones called “Top.” We were excited about the opening of a ramen place on 14th & 1st ave (I thought it was called Kombu but can’t find anything online about it) nice and close to home. It’s good! However, it reminded us of our fave place Minca on 5th btw. A & B but with out any of it’s charm: the weird art, cute waitresses and yelly Japanese cooks. If you go to Minca get the spicy basic. Man, yumtown. Some people may be wondering why I have  not mentioned Momofuko. This is because I’m a hater. There are just way too many yuppies packed inside and with all the great restaurants in NYC I am always loathe to wait on lines. Waiting on lines is for tourists . . . and suckas.

Having said all of this, I’d like to share with you my latest discovery and inspiration for this post. In cruising youtube in search of underage girls, I mean cooking videos, I thought it’d be interesting to see one on making real-deal ramen. I got a little more than I bargained for in Cooking with Dog

Luckily the dog is not literally involved in the cooking process in any sense of the word, although I worry for him as he’s seated kind of close to the burner. The recipes are excellent, a touch on the complicated side since it’s real deal J-cooking and you’d really need to have access to a good Asian food store (M2M baby, they got it all! Although for this level of J-ness, Sunrise Mart may be in order) but it’s good stuff. And bizarre. I only wonder how they were able to travel back in time to the 70s to shoot those videos.





The K-Taco Truck Phenomenon Grows

25 02 2009
If you're drunk and in LA you may as well eat well!

If you're drunk and in LA you may as well eat well!

I’d actually already heard about this Korean taco truck because I’m obsessed with Korean food. I’m glad the NY Times picked up on this story but at the same time, I can’t help but totally disagree with the opinion they are pushing about K-cuisine:

Korean food has blipped on the radar of culinary trend watchers before, but it never seems to gain momentum. In part, Mr. Benson said: “It is because there is a misconception about Korean food. Japanese food is high protein, low in fat and is this very clean cuisine, where Korean food has reputation as being not healthy. So it has not taken off like it should, but I think it is going to.

Jennifer Steinhauer, the writer of this piece needs to get her mind right. Korean food is an up-and-coming cuisine. It is gaining momentum rather than being “so a few minutes ago” as she’s implying. K food is healthy and flavorful. I think its strength is the way that flavors are balanced: spicy and mild like kimchi and tofu or rich and crisp like meat and lettuce. I expect to see it taking off even more in the next few years.

I do love hearing about phenomena such as the taco truck. Living in New York we know the “melting pot” metaphor is a big lie. It’s more of a “stir fry” in that we pick up on each other’s flavors: we all got the same New York-y sauce going on, but most people stick in their carrot or pepper-like-ness. Also, “fusion” food is so terribly hit or miss as anyone who has had Shrimp Parmesan can attest. However, once in a while cultures come together and just knock it out of the park. What better place than LA for Korean & Mexican cuisine to come together & make sweet love?





Meet my mentor Maangchi

18 01 2009

How’s that for alliteration?! (Whattup Brooklyn Technical High School English!  I learned a fancy word!)

Having lived in Seoul, Korea for three years, I lovez me some Korean food. In fact, I think it’s very much an up and coming cuisine here in American and certainly in New York City. In the East Village where I live there are around 5 or 6 decent Korean restaurants in the 10-block radius around my house. Thing is, in addition to being on the pricey side, I still struggle to find really authentic stuff. I find that K-food in the city is generally a little sweeter and not quite as spicy as it should be. It’s hard for me to drop $15 on bibimbap when it goes for around $5 in Seoul and is essentially rice and vegetables. However, when I tried to create Korean food at home, even in Seoul where all of the ingredients were readily available, I just couldn’t get it right. Also, there are really no great cookbooks in English out there that I was able to find on Korea food.

I came across Maangchi by accident when searching da innanet for a recipe for “dwenjang jjigae” (or doenjang jjigae): soy bean paste stew. With over 40 videos she covers a wide range of the staples of K-cuisine. I have surprised myself and astounded Korean friends with coming damn close to the real thing. I got a lot of incredulous looks from my Korean friends when I told them I made two kinds of kimchi from scratch (which I still pat myself on the back for).  Although the cabbage kimchi was just a’ight, the radish kimchi tasted like the real deal! I’ve made over 10 of her recipes and there have been no duds yet. She even has a recipe for black bean noodles (Korean drama fans will recognize this dish) which many Ks know as take-out food only and not as something that can be made at home. Tonight I’m going back to basics with the first recipe I made (and have made many times). Like most good cooks Maangchi espouses improvisation so I’ll be using beef instead of shrimp.

People who cook will notice that the stew is built totally differently from Western-style cooking which is why watching a video really helped me. I was taught to saute vegetables in oil first and letting them release their juices to create the base for a broth but since Koreans add their soup base, in this case in the form of soybean paste, all vegetables should be brought to a boil without any prior cooking. This is one of the main reasons that my K-cooking was falling flat.

So if you like K-food or cooking in general, Maangchi is your girl. Plus she’s really great about feedback and every time I’ve commented on her blog or asked a question she’s always gotten back to me. Also, her name means “hammer” which is just plain awesome.

Big up to Korean market M2M AKA the “Asian Convient Store” on 3rd ave. & 11th street for having EVERYTHING a girl needs to get her K-grub on. If you don’t know, now you know.

http://nymag.com/listings/stores/m2m01/