Hamburgers! You guys must be thinking that I finally got a grill, right? After all that time at the apartment coveting our neighbor’s grill, smelling the sweet smoky aromas that wafted up to our second floor windows, but knowing that we were not renewing our lease, so getting one would be a pain.
And now we have a house, so there’s no excuse to not have one, so of course we do have one…it’s just that it’s still in the box. Yeah, I know, for shame. Hear me out though, the assembly instructions are as thick as a science textbook, and I might be good at Ikea assembly, but there are no gas lines and fire and heat running through my Ikea furniture.
I’m just afraid to mess it up, and so is Luke, but getting a father person over to our house to help set it up has proven difficult. So in the box it will stay, probably until after the wedding.
I cooked these burgers in a pan on the stovetop, setting off the smoke detector no less than twice, even though the hood fan was on. Of course I made my own buns (they were huge, I had no idea they’d rise so much…and many large “bun” jokes ensued).
I doctored mine up with some sautéed mushroom, cheddar cheese, and a caramelized pineapple ring, in addition to some parsley for greenery because for some reason I had forgotten to buy lettuce.
Neither of the boys (Diego and Luke) complained since I’m pretty sure they are both allergic to all green, leafy foods. I also made some oven fries to accompany our burgers. Definitely a good meal for our first entertaining stint in the new house.
Homemade Hamburger Buns
Adapted from Foodie Bride
Makes 8-12 buns
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp oil (vegetable, canola, or olive) plus more for greasing the rising bowl
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp sugar
3 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp salt
In a large bowl, add warm water and sprinkle the yeast over top. Let sit 10 minutes, until frothy. Add the, oil, 1 egg, and sugar to the bowl. Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough holds together, about 2 minutes. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl. If not, add additional flour by the Tbsp. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been lightly greased with oil.
Cover it with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1-1 ½ hours. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat. Turn out the dough back out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half and each half into 4-6 pieces (make them smaller than you might think for a bun, they will rise). Roll into rounds and flatten with the palm of your hand onto the baking sheet; placing buns about ½ -1 inch apart. Cover with a damp towel and let them rise for 20 minutes + oven preheating time. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk the remaining egg with 1 Tbsp water. Brush the buns with the egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
A Bashful Bao Original
Makes 4 patties
1 ½ lb 80/20 ground beef*
salt and pepper
8 oz button mushrooms
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 pineapple rings
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp butter
slices of cheddar cheese
condiments of your choosing
Season the ground beef with salt and pepper and form it lightly into 4 patties. Be careful not to handle the beef too much, the more you handle it, the tougher your burgers will be. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Once the skillet is hot, place the patties in the skillet. Cook until the meat is fully cooked on the underside, about 3-5 minutes, then flip them over and continue cooking to your desired level of doneness. Remove from skillet, place on sesame buns and top with your favorite accoutrements.
For these burgers, I sautéed the mushrooms until soft in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt, pepper and smoked paprika. I also sautéed the pineapple rings in butter and brown sugar until brown on both sides. And of course, a nice slice of sharp cheddar.
*For hamburgers, you really want to use an 80/20 mix of ground beef. You need that fat to ensure that it retains moisture. Anything leaner and you will have a very dry hamburger.
As you can tell, I stuck to using up my fruit by baking them into sweet things. I’m not saying I wouldn’t try fruit in a savory dish (I once made a pear & cheese quesadilla) but there were just so many tasties calling out to me. Maybe next year I’ll branch out a little bit more.
For now, let’s take a quick break and talk about noodles. Yes, I know I could fill a book talking about my love of noodles. So let’s narrow it down a bit, shall we?
Pad thai. That quintessential dish with its lightly sweetened sauce, soft rice noodles, crunchy bean sprouts and chopped peanuts. There is a wonderful Thai restaurant in my hometown whose pad thai I have unequivocally endorsed as the best pad thai ever. And I order pad thai every time I go to a place where it’s on the menu. None have been better. Not even my own rendition sadly. But! This is the closest I’ve come to recreating it, and believe me, there have been multiple attempts.
The key to pad thai’s sweetness lies in using tamarind paste, as well as sugar. I would never trust any pad thai recipe that includes ketchup. Pad thai is not red. There is definitely no ketchup in a thai kitchen. If you can’t find tamarind paste at your local Asian grocer, try Amazon. It is truly a key ingredient in getting your pad thai to taste like it came from a restaurant. I didn’t have bean sprouts on hand, so I only used scallions for garnish. I wasn’t going to drive for 30 mins just to get bean sprouts.
Even without their iconic crunch, I loved every bite of this pad thai. I can’t wait to make it again.
Adapted from Cook Like a Champion
Makes 4 servings
2 Tbsp tamarind concentrate
2/3 cup hot water
3 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
¾ tsp cayenne pepper
4 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
8 ounces dried rice noodles about 1/8-inch wide
2 large eggs
¼ tsp salt
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
6 Tbsp chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
3 cups fresh bean sprouts
5 green onions, green parts only, sliced thinly
In a small bowl, dissolve tamarind concentrate in hot water. Stir in fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne and 2 Tbsp of oil and set aside. Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Soak until softened and pliable but not completely tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Whisk together eggs and 1/8 tsp of salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large skillet over high heat for about 2 minutes, or until it’s just beginning to smoke. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3-5 minutes or until cooked through and pink. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Off heat, add the remaining Tbsp of oil to skillet and swirl to coat. Add garlic and shallot and return pan to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes or until light golden brown. Add eggs and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula until scrambled, about 20 seconds. Add noodles and toss to combine. Pour the tamarind mixture over the noodles and increase heat to high. Cook, tossing constantly, until the noodles are evenly coated with the sauce. Add 1/4 cup of peanuts, bean sprouts, shrimp and all but ¼ cup of the green onions to the noodles. Continue tossing until well combined and noodles are tender, 2-3 minutes. If noodles are not yet tender, add 2 Tbsp of water to skillet and continue cooking.
Transfer to serving dishes and sprinkle with remaining green onions and peanuts.
Luke and I are still adjusting to living in a house. So far it hasn’t been that much different than living in an apartment, but some changes are natural I suppose. I stand on the porch and stare at the lawn, wondering how long it’ll take before the grass is so high I need to try out (read: hopefully not break) the electric lawn mower the previous owners left us. I also think about where I can possibly plant a vegetable garden among the tightly landscaped flowers and how I will ever manage to get usable compost out of the bin out back.
There are changes indoors as well. Obviously the one most worth mentioning is our house bunny. Without the precarious, steep steps of a second floor apartment, our little bun is running free and loving it.
I am terrified of our basement and all the creepy crawlers that live down there. I brave it nearly everyday to use the elliptical (where my head comes oh so close to the cobwebby ceiling) and to access stored goods and the chest freezer we just bought. Still, I dread going down there.
Since Luke’s office is on the second floor, I have begun to receive texts from him…while we’re in the same house.
Oh pasta! So we’re back to carbs now; I knew I couldn’t stay away too long, though this one is much more of a balanced meal. This chicken mushroom marsala is light and flavorful, and could easily be served over rice or polenta. It’s also incredibly easy to make, so pick your carb and have at it!
Chicken Mushroom Marsala Pasta
Adapted from Meals in Heels
Makes 4-6 servings
2 lb boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into thin strips
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 large shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
16 oz white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup Marsala
14 oz beef or chicken stock
thyme leaves and parmesan cheese for garnish
Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat half the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the chicken, in batches, for 1–2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove and set aside.
Add the remaining oil, shallot, garlic and rosemary to the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5–6 minutes or until the shallot is softened. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more or until browned. Add the tomato paste, Marsala, stock and chicken, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Garnish with thyme and cheese and serve.
Ohh, Wednesday already! Check out my cute kitchen bunny! She seemed to enjoy lying against the oven…until I turned it on. Then back in the litter box she hopped.
I must say that I am very much enjoying her new house bunny-ness. Girlfriend has an exact internal clock, and it brings me so much joy to feel the dainty brushings of bunny feet on mine while I prepare a little plate of veggies for her. Sometimes she even follows me around when she thinks I have food for her. Now if I could only train her to respond to her name…a task for another day I suppose. Today, we’re making dumplings.
I should back up a second. These dumplings are a fabulous fusion of Korean and Chinese cuisine. You might have read the title and wondered to yourself, ‘Hmmm…what is bulgogi?’ (bull-gah-gee) Well, I’m glad you asked. I was first introduced to this dish by a Korean friend of mine who said he’d only give the recipe to the girl he would marry. So I never got that recipe.
That being said, I’ve found some pretty good recipes on the Internet. Bulgogi is a beef dish characterized by super thin slices of flank steak (or a similar cut) marinated in a sweet, yet savory sauce. You have to try it to understand the true flavor of bulgogi.
I would absolutely recommend searching out a Korean restaurant if you want to give it a try. Bulgogi is amazing. Seriously. Amazing. And when you stuff the flavors of bulgogi inside a dumpling wrapper, things get even more amazing.
Added to the mix are also chopped scallions (of course) and chopped up bits of cooked vermicelli noodles (thin bean thread noodles). The end result is umm…amazing. I have made these twice now, and have been incredibly happy with the results both times. Dust off those dumpling crimping skills and get to it!
Adapted from The Cooking of Joy
Makes 4-6 servings, about 4-5 dozen dumplings
1 bundle bean thread vermicelli (available at your local Asian market)
1 lb ground beef
3 scallions, roughly chopped
½ cup bulgogi marinade (also available at Asian markets or online)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 package dumpling wrappers
Soak the bean thread vermicelli in a bowl filled with hot water for 15 minutes. While the vermicelli is soaking, use a food processor to mince the scallions. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Squeeze the excess water out of the vermicelli and use the food processor to chop into about 1/2″ pieces. Add to the mixing bowl.
Add the ground beef, marinade, and sesame oil and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Get your dumpling wrappers and a small bowl of water out. Wet your finger and trace the edges of a wrapper. Put a spoonful of the filling in the middle and fold in half. Seal center portion of the joined edges. Pleat the edges together from right to left, making sure that the whole thing is totally sealed and place on the tray. Repeat this process until the filling is gone.
To pan-fry the dumplings, heat a frying pan on high and add a Tbsp of vegetable oil once it is hot. Once the oil is hot, add the dumplings one at a time so that they are sitting upright. Once the bottoms are browned, add about a cup of water to the pan and cover it. Let cook for a few minutes until the water is almost all gone. Remove the lid and let the rest of the water cook off. Transfer the dumplings to a serving plate using tongs, and serve alongside soy sauce.
One more day. One more day until this apartment ceases to be my home. To me, moving is bittersweet. You say goodbye to the old place you’ve grown accustomed to and felt comfortable in, and go onward to the new strange place that is home, but doesn’t feel like it yet.
When I went off to college, my mom sold the house I had grown up in and moved as well. I was sad to leave that house, filled with countless memories, because it was the only home I had ever really known.
This will be the first house I can call my home since then. Right now, it doesn’t feel much like home, littered with half-unpacked boxes and kitchen supplies stacked in various corners. Maybe it’s because none of our furniture is there yet. I mean, how can you have a home without a bed or sofa, or any chairs? Or a cute little bunny to greet you when you get home?
So I suppose time is needed. Time to acclimate to my new surroundings. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I want noodles. Noodles are my all-time comfort food. I ate them practically non-stop in Taiwan (in between sips of bubble tea) and I pretty much eat them whenever possible.
This recipe is kind of an Asian mash-up, featuring Chinese five-spice powder aka my own personal MSG and udon noodles, which are Japanese. I suppose I could have used lo-mein noodles. Oh well. This noodle bowl contains sautéed mushrooms and chicken rubbed thoroughly with five-spice powder. Plus a classic sauce and of course, scallions. Ah yes, comfort food at its finest. Now back to packing.
Five Spice Chicken & Mushroom Noodle Bowl
Adapted from Better Recipes
Makes about 3-4 servings
8oz udon, lo-mein or other medium sized noodle
1 lb thinly sliced chicken breasts or boneless thighs
2 Tbsp Chinese five-spice powder
8oz button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup veggie or peanut oil
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
¼ cup chopped scallions for garnish
Prepare your noodles according to the instructions on their packaging. While the noodles are cooking, make the sauce and prep the chicken.
Whisk the soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar together in a small bowl; set aside.
Sprinkle both sides of the chicken pieces with the five-spice powder, and rub it in well. Heat half the oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the chicken and cook over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside, leaving the drippings in the pan.
Heat the remaining half of the oil and add in the mushrooms. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until lightly browned and tender, about 5-8 minutes.
Add the noodles into the pan, then pour the sauce over the noodles, stirring to coat. Add the chicken back in and toss the mixture until the sauce thickens a bit, about 3-5 minutes.
Transfer the noodles to bowls and garnish with chopped scallions and sesame seeds. Enjoy your comfort noodles!
I have a confession to make. It’s really quite scandalous, but I feel like you all need to know this about me. I can’t eat plain white rice. Wow, I know, It’s like I’ve rocked the very foundation of all you thought you knew about me. What? The girl who loves all things Asian doesn’t even like to eat rice?
I hang my head in shame, believe me. I tried to shake the habit in Taiwan, attempting to enjoy many bowls of the stuff, but to no avail. If you serve a meal that is accompanied by rice, there’s an incredibly high chance that those tiny grains will never see my plate.
The reason I’m bringing up my strange aversion for this one carb is…well I’m not quite sure. One thing I do know, is that this aversion does not extend to pasta, or bread for that matter. I eat plain bread all the time, and have been known to start my meal of pasta directly from the steaming hot colander. Something about pasta (and noodles!) are so appealing to me. Perhaps it’s their length, allowing me to slurp and suck in mouthfuls at a time, twirling them around my fork like yarn wrapped in a skein.
And you can’t forget the sauce. You should have seen the look on Luke’s face when I announced the completion of a “beef bolognese” dinner. “What’s the orange stuff?” he asked. “Um…that’s carrot,” I replied happily. “Oh.” 10 minutes later I was staring at a plate empty of everything except for the carrot bits. Oh well, more Vitamin A for me!
I liked the addition of vegetables in this recipe, as I like my sauces to have more body and flavor. Luke thought it was great too, even if his arch nemesis, carrot, was involved. Feel free to take out some of the veggies, in which case, decrease the amount of crushed tomatoes so the meat flavor can still shine.
Beef & Veggie Bolognese
Adapted from Kitchen Trial & Error
Makes 4-6 servings
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 medium carrots, diced
1/2 pound ground beef or 1 pound quartered mushrooms
28 oz crushed tomatoes
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
In a dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the carrots and cook until the vegetables are soft, about another 5 minutes. Add the meat or mushrooms, and cook until meat is no longer pink or the mushrooms are soft, 6 to 8 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cheese. Serve over pasta, and garnish with extra cheese!
I wish I could recount for you the first time I ever ate a dumpling. It’s not that I fear it’s a boring story; no, quite sadly, I cannot recall my first experience with the little bundles of joy.
I can, however, remember the first time I ate dumplings that I made with my own hands. Except for the skin of course…I’ve never been brave enough to make my own dumpling skins, not when I can buy them so cheaply at the local Asian supermarket.
Anyway, back to homemade dumplings. Of course, I was in Taiwan, where my love for authentic Chinese food began. I lived in an apartment with two other girls from my study abroad program, and each of us had a Taiwanese roommate. Mine was named Alice.
Alice was a sweet, soft-spoken woman, who was always very patient with me, despite my constant questions about my new surroundings. Since I was the only person in the without extended family living in the country (the other girls from the US were Asian-American), Alice and my other Taiwanese apartment-mates were amazing at making me feel welcome and eventually, at home.
One night, we decided to have an apartment bonding activity: dumpling making. It was great fun, but let’s just say my first dumplings were not pretty, nor were they really edible, since I couldn’t get the pleats to stay together at first. I managed to get a few to come out looking halfway decent, and I like to think they tasted better because I made them myself. I am now a dumpling pleating pro, even though I turned these dumplings into little bundles. They look so cute that way! Plus pleating a wonton wrapper is difficult.
These dumplings remind me of the curry dumplings I had in Taiwan. I toned down the curry paste that the original recipe called for so that the shrimp wasn’t overpowered. If you really want a bold curry taste, feel free to use more, up to 4 tsp.
Curried Shrimp Dumplings
Adapted from Everyday Food
Makes about 24 dumplings
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 scallions, thinly sliced
¾ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tsp red curry paste
1 tsp fish sauce
24 or so wonton wrappers
In a small skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of oil over medium-high heat. Add ginger and scallions and cook, stirring, until scallions are slightly softened and mixture is fragrant, 2 minutes and remove from heat. In a food processor, pulse shrimp until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and add ginger mixture, curry paste and fish sauce; stir to combine.
Working with one wonton wrapper at a time, place a heaping teaspoon of the shrimp mixture in the center. With a wet finger, moisten all edges of the wrapper, then bring all four corners together, pinching at the top to seal. Repeat with remaining filling and wrappers. Cover your completed dumplings with a kitchen towel while you work so they won’t dry out.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat the other Tbsp of oil over medium-high heat. Add as many dumplings as you want to cook/will fit in the skillet, seam side up, and cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 1 minute. Add about ½ cup of water to the pan, cover, and let it cook until the water is almost completely evaporated and the dumplings are tender, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium if the dumplings are browning too quickly. Once they are cooked through, transfer the dumplings to a serving plate and serve with your favorite dumpling sauces. I like to make a dipping sauce that’s 3 parts soy sauce to 1 part sesame oil. Luke prefers plain soy sauce.