Thursday, April 30, 2015

Migas with Jasmine Rice

2015, for me, has been filled with lots of high highs and low lows. I'm not sure if I'm just getting better at handling the lows or maybe I'm riding a pretty good high streak, but here it is almost May and I'm finally getting my shit together and organized. That's life, right? (I can't be the only one, so someone please agree!) Despite this roller coaster start to 2015, there is one thing that's consistent and that is my love for Saturday morning. It's one of two mornings in a week that I get to wake up, forget the makeup, not feel the instant stress that comes with my day job, and head straight to my happy place- the kitchen. Don't get me wrong, life ain't that bad, but anytime I'm about to lose my cool, Saturday mornings is usually the time that helps me  relax and remember how lucky I actually am. It's difficult to be grumpy with a tasty breakfast in front of you.

Breakfast food is everything that's good in the world-French toast, hash browns, waffles, breakfast tacos, doughnuts, all of it! It's hard to say what my favorite breakfast dish is, but migas is what I eat most often at home. It's also a meal I never order out since I can be pretty picky about it.  I like mine simple with the occasional diced tomato and/or avocado making an appearance...sometimes. I prefer finely diced spring onion but yellow onions are a favorite. The only fresh herb I wanna see is cilantro. I opt for hot sauce to bring the heat rather than adding a fresh pepper to the mix. But the big one is the crisp tortilla strips. Please don't come at me with bagged tortilla chips. That's all wrong! You need corn tortillas torn, fried and salted to perfection on your stove top. Trust me, there's a ton of terrible, overly-salted bagged chips. Frying those tortillas yourself is what makes the dish! And my last rule is how and when these chips are added back to the dish. Some people, including myself because it's just easier, do not remove the tortillas from the pan once they've crisped up and just add the eggs to it. That's good and fine as long as you crisp those tortillas up! You don't want to add eggs to semi-crisp tortilla chunks or you'll just make a soggy mess. My preferred method is removing the chips once they're done and adding them back to the eggs as they cook. But don't add them in too late 'cause then you've made egg nachos. I like my chips to still have some crunch but a little bit of a bite from mingling with the eggs while they finish cooking.

It may sound like I'm set in my ways and there's no room for additions in my perfectly planned miga preparation but there is one addition that I welcome with open arms... day old jasmine rice. Maybe it's just my absolute love for jasmine rice that I can tolerate it in just about anything, but there is something about that extra bite the rice gives that goes along perfectly with the crunch from the chips and the fluffy, creamy eggs. 

This is something I showed Billy how to make and now he makes it better than anyone I know! He put me to shame and I'm okay with that. There's just something so great about lounging in my pjs on a Saturday morning while my man makes me the best migas in town.

Notes: I usually stick with springs onions for my migas but when I'm adding jasmine rice, I prefer green onions/scallions. 
For the hot sauce, I like to add sriracha to the eggs and then top the finished dish with a drizzle of cholula. Like I said... I can be pretty picky about migas.

Migas with Jasmine Rice

3 tbsp veggie oil
3 tbsp butter
4 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
4 eggs
1 tbsp milk
hot sauce (I prefer sriracha or cholula)
2 green onion stalks, diced
1 cup day old jasmine rice
fresh chopped cilantro
dices tomato, cheese or avocado (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and desired amount of hot sauce. Set aside. Heat butter and oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add tortilla chunks. Lightly salt and fry til crispy and golden. Remove from heat and set aside on paper towel lined plate. Add a few teaspoons to the pan if needed, add the onions. Cook until softened- just a few minutes, then add the rice. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the eggs and then tortillas chips back to the pan and scramble your eggs to your desired liking. I like mine fluffy with most of the moisture cooked out. I still like a little creaminess to it. Stir in chopped cilantro. Top with cheese, avocado, and more hot sauce!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lunchtime: Sweet Potato Noodle Bowl

At this current moment I should be baking cookies. This weekend is the busiest baking weekend of the year. It's my absolute favorite. I make over 500 cookies for the ones I love most. After years of trial and error, I've narrowed down my Christmas Cookie box to the most requested favorites, while also throwing in a few new ones. 

But right now I'm waiting for this headache to go away. I woke up not feeing well, but powered through it and made it to the store bright and early. My kitchen is stocked to the max with butter & flour. I can't wait to get to work but I need this pain reliever to kick in first. 

So instead of being done with my third batch of cookies like I had hoped by now, it's 11am and I'm riding out this pain on the couch. There's no point in anxiously looking at the clock and back at my cookie list, I thought why not post about my delicious lunch from yesterday. 

I'm particular about the kitchen gadgets I buy. Before getting a spiralizer for my birthday, I used a julienne peeler to make my veggie noodles. I went back and forth on whether I wanted to make room in my small kitchen for something I could essentially make already. But honestly even the best looking noodle I could pull from a peeler looks pretty pathetic compared to all the beautifully bouncy noodles I would see online. Sure it's all about the taste, but a visually appealing plate doesn't hurt. And after playing with the spiralizer a few times, I really do like this thing. Even more so because it's compact. Any effect on taste? I'm able to achieve thinner, more pliable noodles that work much better in the pan. Maybe the spiralizer and I are still in our honeymoon phase, but I'd say those bonuses do attribute to taste. 

But I also had a pretty crappy peeler. So what do I know? Maybe we can just chalk this rambling up to a spoiled home cook  taking a moment to go on about her new kitchen toy for no reason. I tend to ramble.

Regardless, it's pretty cool little gadget.

This isn't really much of a recipe, just an easy idea that's light and yummy.

Note: I've only experimented with veggie noodles this thin a few times and I'm still learning about the fine line between mushy veggie noodles and delicious ones. If you have a better way of prepping these sweet potato noodles, please do so. This is what has worked for me so far...

Sweet Potato Noodle Bowl
serves 2
                                        1-2 sweet potatoes, spiraled *you get a lot from one potato
1 block tofu
1tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 cup black rice
3 collard green leaves, julienned
pomegranate seeds

Press tofu while preparing other ingredients. Bring 2 1/4 cup water to a boil. Rinse black rice under cool running water. Add the rice to the boiling water. Boil for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. You can use this time to spiralize the sweet potato, chop cilantro & greens, deseed pomegranate, etc. Using a strainer, let rice drain well over the sink for about 5 minutes. Return to pot, off the heat, and cover. Let the rice steam for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Season lightly with salt.
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Cut tofu into 1" cubes and add to bowl. Toss to evenly coat. Spread tofu evenly on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-40 minutes, depending on preference. I was going for quick & since I don't mind tofu at any stage, I went for about 25 minutes which got me very light brown edges.
Lightly oil a large pan over medium heat with 2 tsp oil. Pan fry noodles, stirring one or two times, for about 5-8 minutes. season with salt.  

To plate: divide collard greens into two bowls. lightly oil your fingers with olive oil and message greens in the bowl. wash hands and lightly season with salt & pepper. Add a scope of rice, pushing the greens to the side. Divide noodles amongst bowls. Top with tofu, cilantro, and pomegranate seeds. Pour sauce on top.

Sauce/glaze/something mixed in  bowl
 1 tbsp sambal chili paste
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp maple

mix above ingredients. pour over noodle bowls.

I intended to make a vinaigrette and even had different ingredients on the counter, but because I was trying to do a million things at once and didn't even realize the error of my mistake until after I poured it atop of the noodle bowls, I made more of a glaze/marinade of sorts. not much to it, but it worked! adding fresh garlic and a bit of oil won't hurt.
Note: Sambal chili paste is not vegan or vegetarian, but I've found some vegan homemade versions that seem worthy of a try.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Thoughts on turning 30 with
Tres Leches {Momofuku} Cake

Oh Heeeey...Hello! I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving. I've got the blankets out and Christmas decorations up. I know I haven't been posting as much as I'd hoped this year, but I just turned thirty a few weeks ago and guess what I got that will help with this dilemma.... A laptop!!! I was saving for one since the summer (when my old laptop died) and my parent's helped me out with the last couple of bucks for my birthday. I'm so excited!!! I'm sure any blogger out there can appreciate my excitement. It's pretty inconvenient trying to blog without a laptop. But I'm up & running again! 

Now back to this turning thirty business...

It happened. I exited my twenties with style and now I'm entering my thirties with a little bit of grace and knowledge. 

Turning 30 is a little different than I imagined. It's actually not a big deal whatsoever. I use to think that there would be all kinds of differences between preteen Melissa and thirty year old Melissa, but aside from a few things like learning to balance a checkbook and putting washer and dryer on my  Christmas wish list, some things just stay the same.  

For instance, I thought the foods I enjoyed, like Goldfish, frozen Totino's Party Pizza, and Kraft Mac & Cheese, were because my refined 9 year old palate knew how to enjoy the good things in life.  Surely, as I got older these things would no longer appeal to me... Wrong. I'm confident that I will buy a Totino's Party Pizza for myself in my thirties, and while I don't buy the blue box as much, I still crave mac & cheese, like a five year old. For the Thanksgiving pot luck last week, my workplace had a few of the sides catered. While we all gathered around to pile food on our plates, a coworker, referring to the generous offering of mac & cheese, asked, "Who invited my kids?" Without missing a beat,  someone responded, "It's for Melissa." 

have switched from regular Goldfish to the whole wheat kind, so there's that.

When I was too young to know any better, I assumed that by this time, I would be rich, married, have a big house and a kickass job. I'm not at all upset, but none of these things would describe my current situation.  For instance, I'm not making boatloads of money at a super cool job. But hey, it's a paying job!   It's a job with health insurance and I am grateful everyday to have it. While the people at Chase Bank never seem very impressed with my paychecks, I'm so incredibly thankful. Those checks are not be paying off a big, fancy house, but they are helping me pay for my cute townhouse, complete with working kitchen appliances and a balcony big enough to grow some veggies. They make working towards my goal a heck of a lot easier.  Also, I'm not married, but I am in a healthy, happy 6 year relationship with a man who treats me with more respect than I've seen most husbands treat their wives. Just about anytime we go out, I think to myself, "I'm really lucky to have this guy."  

I guess in all this rambling, I'm saying that as I grew up, so did my thoughts on what signified a successful thirty year old, or adult for that matter. It may have taken me longer than some to figure out my goal in life (have you seen Master Chef Jr.?), but I know it now and I'm confident in my path. While I will never describe myself as someone who has their shit together, because really, who does?  There is an episode from Mind of a Chef season 2 where I think Chef Sean Brock says it best... 

    "What’s important is what you’re born with. What’s inside of you. The journey of life is amazing and it’s easier if you know what the end point is and my end point is sitting on a front porch, on a rocking chair, in overalls, fat as hell with a huge beard drinking moonshine telling stories in the Appalachian Mountains- cooking these dishes passing them down. As a kid you want to run as far away from it as you can, but the older you get the more you realize enjoying life is sitting on the porch."

I enjoy making my own birthday cake. Some may find this sad, but whatever. I know what I want.  This year I decided to make a Momofuku style cake. It's a tres leches layer cake with hojarascas crumbles, fresh whipped cream, mexican chocolate shavings, and gold flakes. 

I highly recommend the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. The first time I read it, I was in Portland, sitting on the floor in the aisle of Powell's, reading every word of that cookbook until my neck couldn't take it anymore, and my bony butt was killing me. Christina Tosi is such an inspiration. She is one of the few bakers to admit that her baking experiments don't always involve measuring. A lot of my favorite chefs have a certain disposition against bakers. They feel that baking is too precise and there is no room to stretch their creative legs. A few days ago someone told me that exact thing, and to be honest, I think it may have been a personal jab at me.  At least that's how it felt. I thought to myself, "Okay, let me guess you're a "really good cook" and you read about (insert famous chef's name) enthusiasm for bakers and now you regurgitate their pseudo life lessons, from atop your high horse." (hehe can you tell I took offense?) Christina Tosi makes me feel normal, in that I'm not always an accurate baker. When I have a new cake idea, I love nothing more than to experiment, no measuring required. Baking is as creative as cooking, just more daring. Mistakes are not as easy (but still possible!) to fix. Just like a cook knows about how much salt to start off with, even if working on a new recipe, I know about how much baking powder to add to the appropriate amount of flour when experimenting with a new dessert recipe. If you think that given the same recipe for carrot cake, we'd both walk out of the kitchen with the same carrot cake, your creativity is not taking you far enough, and you are underestimating MINE. HOLD ME BACK!!

Damn...apparently attitude came along with turning thirty. ;-)

Tres Leches Momofuku Cake
For my birthday cake, I wanted to use some tried and true recipes so I could spend the rest of my day outdoors. If you have a favorite tres leches cake recipe, I'm sure you can adapt it to work for this recipe.

For the Hojarascas crumbles I used my recipe. This will make more cookies than you need. You can either cut the recipe in half or freeze the unused raw cookie dough.

For the sponge cake layers I used the Pioneer Woman's recipe. I've made this recipe many times and it never disappoints. 

For the Tres Leches Mixture: 1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream

Fresh Whipped Cream: 3 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp sifted powdered sugar

Mexican Chocolate Shavings

Special Equipment:
6 inch cake ring
2 strips acetate, 3 inches wide and 20 inches long

Bake the sponge cake and set aside to cool. You can use this time to make Hojarascas. Turn cake out onto a parchment lined surface.  Using a 6" cake ring or using a cake pan or board as a guide, cut out two 6" cake rounds and two half circles from the 9x13 cake. The two complete 6" cakes will be your top two layers and the two half circles, along with remaining crumbs, will make up your bottom layer. Clean the cake ring and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Line the cake ring with one piece of acetate. Place the two half circles inside and use the cake scraps to fill in any gaps. Press down to make a flat even layer. Using a fork or toothpick, poke several holes into the half circle cakes. Mix together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. Slowly drizzle about 1/2 cup of the mixture over the bottom cake layer. Be careful not to cause a build up around the edges. Let the cake sit and soak up the milk mixture while you prepare the fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Beat together heavy cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Using a pairing knife or box grater, prepare Mexican Chocolate Shavings. Spread one-third of the whipped cream on top of the bottom layer. Grab a few handfuls of hojarascas and crumble them on top of the whipped cream. Using the back of a spoon, press the crumbles into the whipped cream. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes. *I was being extra cautious since I was turning a delicate cake into a layered one. I felt that freezing in between layers helped stabilize and help keep the fresh cream from running or getting weird from the milk mixture* Take the cake out and tuck the second strip of acetate in between the cake ring and the top 1/4" of  first acetate. Before placing the next cake layer inside, poke several holes. Place cake inside cake ring and slowly pour milk mixture. Just repeat the process from layer one. Spread fresh whipped cream, cookie crumbles, and sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Freeze for 20 minutes. Repeat.
Freeze cake overnight or 10 hours minimum. Let it sit out for about 20-30 minutes before serving.

Notes: I went easy on the milk mixture because I didn't want a soggy mess on my hands. This sponge cake can handle it so if you think that your layer can handle more than 1/2 cup, just slowly drizzle more in, remembering to keep the sides from flooding.