Addictive sautéed mushrooms

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As fall begins to kiss the air with its crispness in southern California, I find myself craving earthy rich flavors, soups, stews, and overall more sumptuous hearty food. Tonight for dinner we are having some marinated beef ribs to change things up from our typical steak dinner on Fridays. Fridays have become date night, a small tradition we’ve started to dangle a carrot in front of us throughout the workweek. The daily grind often feels so repetitive and unending that we need to see that light at the end of the tunnel. On date nights, we sometimes choose to eat out, but there is an unparalleled satisfaction that comes from preparing food with your own hands and watching other people consume and enjoy it. Michael Pollen spoke about this on his documentary entitled “Cooked.” He described the primal instinct to hunt, gather, and interact with food on a very intimate level. Anyway, as the prepared meals for the week have been almost completely devoured, I was prompted to cook a nice home-made meal for our first date night of the fall season.

When I think steak, the usual suspects include creamed corn, creamed spinach, and some kind of mashed or baked potato dish. As I’ve described previously, we are still in the midst of making lifestyle changes to our diet, so that essentially negates most of the usual side dishes that come with a proper steak dinner. Thinking outside the box using fresh healthy vegetable-based ingredients, I was struck by the earthiness of beef and thought that mushrooms would be a lovely pairing. When treated properly, mushrooms are the meat of the ground. They bind onto our umami receptors and create a delightful sensation that can only be described as “yum.” Paired with some butter, aromatics, and a splash of white wine and you have a delicious side-dish that bursts with flavor and deserves a spot on your dinner table in its own right!

Cooking Tips
Browning of mushrooms requires a good amount of oil, changing the heat and patience. If you have a lot of mushrooms that will crowd the pan, all you need to do is add some more oil, let the mushrooms cook down and release their juices, and then turn up the fire to let those liquids evaporate and leave behind their concentrated umami goodness.

Controlling heat and flames is such an important part of cooking. Mastering control of temperature and heat will help you to sauté to perfection every time. I was taught to cook Chinese food first and foremost. For stir-fries, you want your pan to be literally smoking hot before you place your oil and food to be cooked. For all other sautéing, I do not allow my pan to smoke. I place my hand above the surface of the pan to check for temperature. If I can sense the heat and it makes it uncomfortable for my hand to remain there for more than a second, I know that the pan is ready. Another check is that your cooking oil should become shimmery and start to disperse (becoming looser) if your pan is hot enough. This is when you can place your meats, veggies, and other foods for browning or sautéing. For veggies or meats that require longer cooking time due to thickness or the type of protein that needs to be cooked down, it is imperative to lower your flame to either medium or medium-low to prevent burning. At times, it may be necessary to add a liquid (e.g., water, broth, wine) to de-glaze your pan and prevent food from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. This is also a great opportunity to imbue your food with delicious flavors.

Servings: 3-4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
3 large king trumpet mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
½ tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp black pepper
splash dry white wine
2 sprigs of scallion
optional: splash of truffle oil or pinch of truffle salt

 

Thinly slice mushrooms, shallots, and scallion.

Heat a skillet on high heat and add 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil. Once butter is melted and well incorporated with olive oil, add mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes on high heat and place a lid on the skillet. Cooked covered for 5 minutes.

Uncover lid and continue cooking until mushroom juices evaporate. When almost all liquid is gone, lower fire to medium and allow mushrooms to sauté until browned, stirring occasionally.

When most mushroom pieces have become golden brown, add shallots and scallion stems. Turn fire lower to medium-low. Sauté until shallots are translucent, stirring occasionally.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Then pour a splash of white wine into mushrooms. Turn fire to high to allow wine to evaporate, then back to medium once liquid has evaporated. Again, sauté to allow mushrooms to brown and caramelize. Add in scallion tips (the green tender parts) and the other tbsp of butter and sauté for another minute.

Taste for flavor and add additional pinches of salt, pepper, or even red pepper flake for additional flavor. If you are feeling fancy, go ahead and add some truffle salt. Sere and enjoy! If you are feeling even fancier, drizzle some truffle oil upon serving. Never heat up your truffle oil because that will destroy its delicate flavor.

 

 

Chickpea Quinoa Salad with Avocado

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My fiancée and I recently started working out at a fitness boot camp that provided a clean eating meal plan. As we were getting tired of open-faced turkey avocado sandwiches and salads without dressing, I thought I would venture out and try different ways to eat light and healthy, while incorporating lots of yummy and fiberful veggies and enough protein to keep us energized and strong throughout the day. So I thought quinoa and chickpeas would be the perfect power couple for the job. In my fight against the summer heat, I shield myself with lots of sunscreen and eat lots of cold dishes that are full of hydrating veggies. I hope that you enjoy this summer salad as part of your backyard BBQ spread or as part of a healthy eating routine!

Cooking tips:

My problem with clean and healthy eating is that it can be extreme and bland. I don’t enjoy foods that contain zero salt and zero fat. They are incredibly unsatisfying and leave me with almost irresistible cravings for fat, salt, AND sugar (salted caramel ice cream anyone?). So to trick my mind into eating healthier, I often have to disguise my healthful foods and dress them up so that they feel more gourmet and not like I’m eating “grass,” in the words of Paula Dean. The solution: lots of fresh herbs, spices, moderate amounts of salt, and even, dare I say, some sugar and fat! Asian cuisine uses a balance of these flavors and it seems to satisfy palates enough so that dessert is not needed on day-to-day basis. Fruit after a meal usually satisfies any lingering sweet tooth.

This recipes uses Persian cucumbers, which are especially crispy and delicious. One quick tip when making a cucumber dish is to remove the fleshy seeded part in the middle to prevent excess fluid from entering your dish. The crunchy outer flesh is the more enjoyable part of the cucumber in my opinion. So I usually just  remove the seeds and snack on the middle parts or use them as skin food for my face. =)

Recipe
Serves 10-12
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Marinade time: 2 hours-overnight

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 shallot, finely diced
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
5 Persian cucumbers, diced
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 tsp Goya Adobo all-purpose seasoning
pepper to taste
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp Modena white vinegar
6 small avocados (add upon serving)

Directions

Add quinoa and water into a pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low heat. Allow to cook for ~20 minutes until quinoa is translucent and its spirals begin to separate from the grain. Set aside to cool after it is done.

In the meantime, finely dice bell pepper, onion, shallot, and parsley and mix together.

When cutting cucumbers, slice in half length-wise and remove seedy flesh in the middle. Save seedy flesh for skincare or for separate snacking.

Mix chopped up vegetables with lime juice, vinegar, and Goya seasoning. When juicing the lime, try to get some of the oils from the skin out-it intensifies the lemon flavor.

Add garbanzo beans and cooled quinoa and mix well with diced vegetables. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Let it sit for at least 2 hours. For best results, let sit overnight.

Serve with fresh avocado. Do not pre-mix avocado into the salad as it will brown.

 

 

Truffle Skillet Potatoes

 

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There is almost nothing more comforting than a good old-fashioned fried potato dish. I love the crispy crunchy exterior which enfolds a pillowy soft interior. I am definitely a meat and potatoes girl, so I feel like I am on a constant quest for the perfect potato side dish. Boiled, fried, baked, the versatility of the potato is boundless! I try my best to avoid deep frying in my everyday cooking because it makes a mess, wastes oil, and creates oily unhealthy foods. That being said, everyone needs a splurge now and then. Who can resist the umami goodness of a perfectly crisp potato? So skillet fried potatoes it is! Cubed potatoes caramelized on a pan with a delicious blend of herbaceous salts and spices.

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Crispy home fries make me reminisce about the delicious brunch spots that I frequented during the years I lived in San Diego. Sunday Brunch was a way of life in San Diego, especially after a long night out. But nothing compares to the delicious home fries I would order from Ann’s Soup Kitchen during my school days in the Bay Area. Fried to a firm crisp but fork tender and moist in its center, Ann’s Soup Kitchen delivered the best home fries I have eaten in my life. They were seasoned simply with salt and pepper, then topped with green onions. Despite its humble sounding name, this restaurant was a popular breakfast and brunch spot that boasted of long lines and even longer wait times. I was heartbroken when I went back to visit only to learn that this favorite had been turned into an Italian café. I attempted to recreate this dish and found many delicious ways to prepare skillet potatoes in the process.

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If you are anything like me, then patience is a rare resource that is exceedingly difficult to access. One of the main lessons I learned from experimenting with food, and remains an important philosophy to follow when cooking: LEAVE THE FOOD ALONE when it is sizzling on your pan. The surface area of the food that kisses the pan is working diligently to caramelize and develop flavor and texture. That being said, once you drop your potatoes in the pan, set your timer for ~10 minutes and walk away. Do. Not. Touch. I’m serious. Drop the spatula (or in my case, chopsticks), and just stand back and watch while the pan and the fire bless your potatoes with their magic. Do not touch your potatoes until they’ve formed a firm crispy golden brown layer on the bottom. Then, check each cube and flip to the next side so that the same miracle can happen again. Making this dish takes time and patience, but trust me: your taste buds and dining companions will thank you for your efforts!

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Using the same logic of maximizing surface area of the potato that makes contact with your pan, it is important to remember to add your seasonings at the very end, once your potatoes are fully armored with their delectable golden brown coats. Be generous with seasoning, but do not over-salt. Salt can always be added when it is lacking, but it is hard to take away once you’ve gone a bit heavy-handed.

I love this potato recipe because there are so many different variations. I chose to season mine with truffle salt, garlic salt, paprika, and black pepper. You can coat yours with some melted butter and add rosemary, use this as a base for a delicious hash, splash lemon juice, garlic, and parsley for a Greek/Mediterranean twist.

Recipe

Servings: 2-3
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
2 Russet potatoes
6 tbsp oil for frying
½ tsp truffle salt
½ tsp garlic salt
½ tsp paprika

Peel potatoes and cut into 2-inch cubes. Use paper towels to absorb extra moisture on potatoes.

Place oil in frying pan and heat until oil begins to glisten.

Place potatoes into frying pan and fry on medium low heat for approximately 10 minutes each side, or until golden brown. Turn potatoes to allow all other sides to brown.

When potatoes are golden brown on all four sides, remove from oil and sprinkle with truffle salt, garlic salt, and paprika. Toss to coat evenly.