Recipe #22: Popcorn

Ok, so I know this recipe isn't going to impress anyone. And I know you're probably in disbelief that I've never made stovetop popcorn. Yes, pick up your jaw off the ground. I guess I've never bothered to think about making it on the stove when I could just pop a bag into the microwave. And I always thought you needed a special popcorn pan - like the kind that has a handle. Turns out you just need an ordinary pot. Damn marketers.

Recently, I read that there are all sorts of nasty chemicals in popcorn bags, so I wanted to make popcorn the old-fashioned way, without any chemicals or additives. Plus, I got some amazing porcini-infused olive oil in Sonoma last weekend that I really wanted to try, in addition to some gorgeous crimson corn kernels (never seen them before).

Of course, I've already forgotten where I got the recipe, but it's basically 3 TB of oil for a 1/2 cup of kernels.

I only used 1 TB of the porcini oil with 2 TB of olive oil, so the flavor was very mellow - perhaps a bit too mellow. Next time, I might try 2 TB of the porcini oil and 1 TB of olive oil. The crimson kernels actually popped up into a beautiful, snowy white.

Gorgeous, right? Food is so beautiful. Why didn't I do this earlier?! Absolutely no point in buying chemical-laden junk popcorn. 5 ladles for ease, health and taste.


More of Dubai

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had a few great meals during my most recent trip to Dubai.

Here are some more pictures. This one is of a hot pot (aka Chinese fondue) restaurant that my family enjoys. Here, half of the pot is a light broth, while the other half is a very spicy broth. In Chinese cooking, the concept of yin and yang is ever present. This hot pot presents a beautiful balance of flavors, both taste-wise and aesthetically. The spicy part is incredibly spicy (the red stuff you see floating on top is chili paste -- believe it or not, it was spicy, even for a hard core chili head like me!).

So, you dip a number of things into either side. We chose noodles and super thin slices of lamb. Because of how hot the broths get (there's a tableside burner underneath the pot), both cook very quickly:

They also had a cart with a variety of dipping sauces, ranging from Thai peanut sauce to more hot chili pastes, and a variety of fresh herbs, like cilantro.

To finish it off, we had these incredible "donuts." My family insisted that they were golden nuggets from heaven. And I totally agree. The dipping sauce was an incredibly thick mixture, which I venture to guess was made of sweetened condensed milk. 'Nuf said.


Birthday cupcakes

A few girlfriends came over for brunch and surprised me with flowers and cupcakes for my (early) birthday. Such great friends!


Recipe #21: Scones

On a high from finding such an amazing country bread recipe from King Arthur Flour, I decided to try one of their "guaranteed" recipes for scones. They guarantee that these scones "will have a dark-gold outer crust, and a light-gold, moist inner crumb. They'll taste mildly of butter and vanilla." 

Hm...can't say that I agree, unfortunately. In order to get the dark-gold outer crust, I had to bake them for a bit longer than the recipe called for (even though I made each scone smaller than the recipe called for). But that made them too dry on the inside and a bit too crunchy on the outside. The taste was pretty good, but I probably wouldn't make this recipe again. Frankly, I'm surprised (and disappointed) that this is one of their "guaranteed" recipes! Oh well. At the very least, it gave me a good excuse to use the gorgeous cake plate that my MIL gave me for Christmas.

(If you're wondering why the currants are so prominent on top...it's because I forgot to incorporate them into the mixture and ended up having to place them on top prior to baking. And if you're curious about what happens to the currants when you do that...well, they taste burnt and bitter. Whoops.) 3 ladles.



In-n-Out is a revered west coast institution. I first had my taste a few years ago when I was living in Seattle and flying down to the Bay Area for fun.

It's fast food, and if fast food could actually be quality, In-n-Out would actually qualify. For instance, take their french fries: they actually just push a whole potato through a cutter and dump them into the fryer. No mixing with weird fillers, no weird chemicals, no nothing. Just potatoes, fried in oil - the way real french fries should be.

You can get your burger in any number of ways - with their special sauce, "Animal Style," or even a "grilled cheese" (the burger without the burger). They used to have a secret menu, where those in the know would order certain additions to their burger, but it's definitely not secret any more. 

I used to get my burger animal style, but it was always such a messy experience! So I switched to getting my fries animal style, which...if I can actually say this with a straight face...is a slightly more civilized experience because you can eat it with a fork.

Here it is. East coast friends, you're missing out: 


Dubai, take 2

Oh, Dubai. I'm not sure what there is to say about this place. You've all probably heard that it's like "Vegas on steroids." I'll sum it up with these words: if you don't enjoy massive malls or excessive consumption, it ain't for you. Luckily, I have one very compelling reason to visit Dubai often -- my adorable nephew. Oh - and, amazingly delicious food. I wrote about Dubai from my previous trip, and this time around, I visited some new restaurants.

Here's what I ate on day one:

In many Middle Eastern restaurants, you'll be served a variety of olives and pickles. There's something so delicious about these pickles, and I haven't been able to find any quite like them in the U.S. I still crave the ones I had in Dubai as well as in Israel - they're perfectly tart, with a good amount of crunch, and mouth-puckeringly salty - but I just love them.

Next, fattoush - a simple salad of veggies sprinkled with sumac and lemon and fried pita chips (great way to use up old pitas):

And of course, what meal would be complete with hummus - just look at those gorgeous stewed chickpeas sitting in that pool of golden olive oil:

We shared this mixed grill of meats - so delicious! In the lower right-hand corner of this picture, you'll notice a creamy white dip. It's a garlic dip that I could literally slather over myself - it's that good. It's a lot like skordalia, and it's impossible to find in the U.S. Needless to say, I load up on it anytime I'm in the Middle East (enough to scare away any vampire for miles).

Seafood is incredibly fresh and plentiful in Dubai. Though we didn't have any at this meal, I couldn't help take a few pictures:

 Great start to the trip. More to come.


Mile-high snack

So the title may be a bit misleading, as this photo wasn't actually taken in the plane. Rather, it was a quick shot of my snack at the Lufthansa Lounge at Frankfurt airport, en route to Dubai. The selection wasn't bad.

So in the right hand corner, you see a little sandwich made with a pretzel bun (yes, this is Germany after all - the bun tasted exactly like a pretzel and was actually quite delicious), with some herb neufchatel spread and a big slice of tomato. To the right of that is a little yogurt with fresh fruit mixed in. The cute little ball is a doughnut hole, albeit rather large.


Recipe #20: French style country bread

WOW. I've found what may be the most perfect bread recipe. It's just as easy as the No-Knead Bread recipe featured in the New York Times a few years ago, that was all the rage. I never understood why, other than the fact that it was really pretty easy. I made it twice and decided I hated the overwhelmingly yeasty taste. Plus, the bread tasted horrible the next day.

I don't know why I don't make bread more often -- it's probably because it requires a lot of advance scheduling. The actual effort involved is pretty minimal, but timing the rising sessions requires you to keep your schedule pretty flexible, which is a luxury I don't really have.

Anyway, I was browsing the website for King Arthur Flour,which makes exceptional flours. I try, whenever possible, to only use their flours. They have terrific recipes on their website, too (one of their recipes makes the most insanely delicious brownies - it's my go-to recipe). I came across one for French-style country bread, which I had to try - namely because it looked easy and required very few ingredients and no special equipment.

It was incredible! Here's the end result. Just look at that gorgeous crust!

And the real test - how it appears inside:

Perfection! I thought it was too good to be true, so I sliced through the thickest part of the bread, expecting an undercooked mess. But much to my surprise, the middle was just as perfectly cooked as the rest of the loaf.

This loaf is soft and chewy on the inside, and crusty on the outside - without a trace of that yeasty taste I dislike so much. Honestly, it tastes so much like the loaf of bread I pay at least $4.00+ at Whole Foods (for a much smaller loaf). It was a time-consuming process, but the effort was so minimal - it's really just about waiting for the bread to rise in stages, though you can go do work, laundry, or whatever else in between the rising sessions.

Outrageously good - 5+ stars!


Recipe #19: Sausage egg casserole

This recipe is from the same book I made the croissant egg casserole from (recipe # 18). It's amazing to me that you can create an entire cookbook of casseroles (or at least an entire section) with essentially the same ingredients. Hey, can't fault the author for having an amazing editor and an amazing publisher, clearly. Anyway, the concept is the same, obviously - eggs, some kind of bread and in this case -- leeks again (I'm still obsessed with them) and breakfast sausage.

You can't see the bread, but it provides the bottom layer and really helps make this casserole quite hearty. Again, it was easy, quick to assemble, and since I made it the night before, all I had to do was pop it into the oven in the morning. 4 stars.


Treasures from Frankfurt and Dubai

I just got back from Dubai via Frankfurt. And I've got plenty of food photos to share with you, but until I get myself organized and recover from jet lag, these will have to do for now.

Here are a few treats and fun finds I picked up on my trip:

First up, KitKats with fun flavors, usually not found in the US (white chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut):

Next up, date syrup (love dates, never seen it in syrup form before (probably good for anything you'd pour maple syrup over?) and coconut oil (I've been reading a lot about the benefits of coconut oil, so I thought I'd try experimenting with it - it's so much cheaper in Dubai):

And finally, Oreos in different flavors (caramel and chocolate creme):