11 May 2009

One-Pan Wonder

It was a good fluke. I had four medium-sized potatoes, a head of cabbage, thin-sliced porkchops, and a red onion. In my head I ran through the possible cooking methods pairing these ingredients together. Whatever it was going to be, it was going to be Eastern European. I don't want to claim that I can cook German food, or Polish for that matter, because I can't. Like I said, it was a fluke.

I sliced the cabbage, potatoes, and onion all into thin strips (a little bigger for the cabbage, smaller for the onion, so everything cooked evenly). I also diced four cloves of garlic, because garlic = love.

Turner browned the chops in a frying pan over high heat and then removed them and moved aside so I could cook the vegetables. I first sauteed the onion over low heat until it softened, then added the garlic and fried together for a bit. In went the potato to soften a bit along with a cup of chicken stock and some fennel. After spreading that evenly over the pan, I dumped in the cabbage and placed the pork chops on top of that. The layers were covered with a lid and the heat turned down to low for everything to simmer. The cabbage cooks down and the pork chops cook through in about 20-30 minutes. (I forgot to time it.) Everything gets salt and pepper at its appropriate cooking stage (when it is the focus of the pan).

What came out at the end were tender chops and soft cabbage and potatoes in a sauce that, were there more, would make a fabulous soup. This was a great meal to finish out a long rainy da
y, and I would definitely make it again as it is a one-pan wonder.

10 May 2009

A Bite in Time

Just a brief post tonight because I'm tired. We went out to dinner with Turner's co-worker/Frisbee partner Ying. She's a very sweet girl and fun to talk with. We went to a Western restaurant near their office called Lisa's. Decor-wise it was very modern and un-Chinese. We went mainly for the hamburgers, which Turner claims are the best in Qingdao. I had to see if they lived up to their reputation.

We all ordered burgers, creative right? I also had a glass of white wine, which was surprisingly drinkable. A plus for the restaurant, the burgers all arrived at about the same time. At other establishments, there has been a 30 minute lag time between entrees. Everything looked appropriate but something in the flavor bothered me until I figured out that it tasted like Italian sausage! They must have added pork to the beef and used oregano and/or fennel.

Overall, I would give the restaurant one thumb up. To bestow the second thumb would require me sampling more of their food.

09 May 2009

This Little Piggy

It feels like summer in Qingdao. With the sun high in the sky by 8am and the temperature nearing 80 degrees by midmorning, I have less desire to cook than when the weather is cold and dreary. I don't want to spend hours in the kitchen when it's perfect weather to be outside. Nor do I want to stand over a hot wok or leave the oven on for hours.

I knew it was time to cook something though. It had been a few days since I had blogged about food, and I was tired of eating out at restaurants. Yesterday, I went grocery shopping for the first time in over a week. With no plan in mind, I just wandered the store trying to find something to spark my interest. I bought a chicken to cook this weekend, but knew I wouldn't have time for that yesterday because Turner wanted to play frisbee when he got home from work. Glancing over the meat case, I spied some pork ribs that looks perfect for a quick bake in the oven with barbecue sauce. We gave away our little Weber grill when we moved apartments last year, otherwise I would have grilled them outside for that extra flavor only charcoal can impart.

I made some brownies when I got home from shopping because it's always good to have something chocolatey on hand.

Then I made a quick barbecue sauce with soy sauce, ketchup, molasses, honey, a little rice vinegar, cumin, salt, and chili powder. Any combination of flavors like these, be it tomato paste and brown sugar also, make a wonderful sauce, and much healthier than anything out of a bottle.

I poured half the sauce on the ribs in the baking dish and put them in a 400 degree oven covered in foil for 30 minutes. After that, the foil came off and the rest of the sauce poured over the top to bake for another 30 minutes. The ribs are done when they have a nice dark crust and the meat has shrunk a little on the bone. We had Mexican rice (which I now love, maybe because of the MSG in the chicken boullion) and green beans alongside. The ribs were sticky and dee-licious.

On another note, I bought a container of dried peach chunks and this morning was craving some scones to go with my coffee. What to do when you crave scones? Make scones of course! I quickly threw the ingrediants together and started to cut the dough into triangles when I remembered that I forgot the sugar! It had already been a long morning because I went for a run before having coffee--what a really, really bad idea. I dumped the unbaked scones back in the mixing bowl and quickly mixed in the sugar, reformed them into triangles, and put them in the oven. The cardinal rule of scones is not to overmix, so I thought these might be too tough due to the extra mixing.

They weren't photogenic by any means, but man did they hit the spot. They actually came out pretty well!

This is a good morning for me... coffee, scone, and food blogging. Now I just have to get off the couch.

Here's the recipe should you want to whip up a batch yourself. It's super easy.

Buttermilk Scones with Dried Fruit

2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons basking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, cut into small cubes
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup chopped dried fruit (apricots, peaches, craisins, raisins...)
1 large egg
1/2 buttermilk (I cheat and use 1/2 cup of milk and a bit of lemon juice or white vinegar)
1 tablespoon lemon zest (optional but really nice)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare "buttermilk" so acid can react while you get everything else ready.

2. Mix flour, baking powder, and baking soda in mixing bowl. Add the butter and mix with hands, pastry cutter, or mixer until it's in small pieces. Add fruit and sugar (and zest). Beat egg into milk and then add to dry ingredients. Mix quickly until just combined into a rouch dough and turn out onto floured surface. Pat into 9-inch circle and cut into wedges. (I usually make about six, but they're big so adjust for your preference.)

3. Bake 12-15 minutes until tops are golden brown. Enjoy warm from the oven (with jam if you prefer).

04 May 2009

You Say Tomato...

My apologies, loyal readers (the few out there), my blog postings have gone amiss due to too much fun. If there was ever any excuse, this has to be the best because who can argue with too much fun? Either I have not been home enough in the past few days to cook, or I just had too much else to do, so I have had nothing worthy to write about.

Today, however, the tides turned. Today I made a loaf of bread, lemon yogurt cake, salsa, tortillas, Mexican rice, and burritos. And I taught this morning, ran four miles, and tried to grade grammar exams. A full day despite only two hours of real, paid work. (On a side note, today is China Youth Day, so my students got the afternoon off to do whatever youth do. I wouldn't know; I'm not one of them.)

I was supposed to grade exams today. I got through ten. I made a cake instead. Which do you think is better?

This morning I intended to make spaghetti for dinner. Then the temperature neared seventy degrees and I did not feel like making sauce, so I shifted to omelets--easy, quick--until Turner sent a text saying he had eggs for lunch. Third time's a charm, right? I thought about the two cans of refried beans in the fridge and half bottle of Patron tequila--and our two months left in China--and decided to make burritos.

Yesterday I saw beautiful orange tomatoes still on their vine sitting outside our local fruit stall. I needed something to use them in, so I decided on an orange tomato salsa to go in the rice and bean burritos. I diced the tomatoes along with some hot Hungarian pepper, onion, and garlic. Salt and cumin rounded out the spices, and lime juice brightened everything. After the fresh salsa sat for awhile, I cooked it briefly in a frying pan: one, to save us from getting sick; two, to bring the flavors together a bit; and three, to take the bite out of the garlic and onion. The salsa added a note of freshness to the burritos.

For the rice, I made a cup of plain white rice in our microwave rice cooker. Once finished, I put it in a sauce pan and added a cup of onion and a bit of garlic I had browned in a frying pan, a cup of fresh diced tomatoes (tomatoes are rockin' this time of year), cumin, oregano, chili powder, and salt. The rice turned out moist and sticky, robust with flavors of sun-baked Mexico.

Turner and I whipped up a batch of burrit
o sized tortillas, made more difficult by the white russian I was drinking and Turner's beer-in-a-bag that he brought home (yes, it does exist).

We had grated cheese, cilantro, hot sauce, refried beans (re-refried by Turner in lard that he keeps in the fridge), and the Mexican rice to build into burritos.

The only thing that could possibly make the burritos better would be avocado. It's not too shabby when the only thing missing from our Mexican repast is a difficult-to-ship, expensive, finnacky fruit. The Patron made up for it, I suppose.

I ate two burritos. They were amazing.