Archive | July 2014

Loco for Loco Moco

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Every now and then I eat something where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Do I like rice, ground beef, egg, and gravy? Of course, but I can’t ever imagine going crazy over them individually, or a combination of some kind.

The first time I heard about loco moco (a mound of rice, topped with a ground beef patty and fried egg, which is smothered in gravy) I was rather underwhelmed. It sounded okay, but nothing I would go out of the way to try and something I didn’t see myself make. Then someone I went to brunch with ordered it and I fell head over heels in love with the dish. Runny egg yolk, rich beef gravy, starchy rice, and a seared beef patty are the perfect marriage. And it’s something that can be enjoyed any time of the day at either breakfast, lunch, brunch, or dinner.

When it comes to Loco Moco there are so many variations. One of my favorite local restaurants makes an exceptional version with the addition of Portuguese sausage, grits, and pineapple. Other establishments use fried rice instead of white rice and every now and then I come across a chunky, creamy sausage gravy instead of a broth based beef gravy. Are these variations all delicious? Yes, but there’s something about the original that I prefer, which is why I like to make mine as basic as possible.

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Loco Moco

Serves 2, recipe can easily be doubled or tripled

  • 1/2 cup white rice (brown rice is an alternative, but it’s just not the same)
  • 2/3 lb ground beef
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cups beef stock or broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Scallions

Cook rice per package instructions.

Approximately 15 minutes before rice is done, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat (a cast iron skillet is perfect for this). Form ground beef into two patties. Season the outside liberally with salt and pepper. Once the pan is very, very hot, add the beef patties and cook 3-4 minutes then flip and cook another 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan. Turn down the burner heat to medium. Add butter to the same skillet and add finely minced shallot and cook for a few minutes just until softened. Add flour and cook for 2 more minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add broth, stir, and continue to cook until thickened.

Meanwhile in another pan, fry eggs (you could poach them if you were so inclined). I like my eggs nice and runny.

To assemble dish, place a scoop of rice in a wide bowl, top with a beef patty, fried egg, and pour in gravy. Garnish with chopped scallions.

Enjoy!

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Zucchini, Garbonzo Bean, and Couscous Salad

Chickpea salad

While “rut” can mean an annually recurrent state of sexual excitement in the male deer (thanks, Merriam-Webster, I had no idea), it is more commonly defined as a usual or fixed practice.

I’ve definitely been in a bit of a rut (as in a usual, predictable practice) with the lunches I make for my workweek. Most Sundays I’ll cook up a grain of some kind, add some roasted vegetables, and occasionally some ricotta salata, feta cheese, or crumbled goat cheese. And I’ll eat this concoction for a few days for lunch. Some may think being in a cooking rut is a bad thing, but I don’t see it that way when I am eating so much delicious, easy to prepare food.

The sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to these dishes. I tend to use whatever vegetable is in season and bulgur, faro, brown rice, or couscous. Some coworkers have commented that my lunches look similar, but they all taste unique as I always switch up the ingredients.

One of the better salads I’ve made recently has followed this rather predictable basis (roasted veggies and a grain), but extra spice has enhanced the flavor and the addition of chickpeas has added protein for a bit more substance. 

Zucchini, Garbonzo Bean, and Couscous Salad

Adapted from Bon Appetit; serves 4-6

  • 1 1/2 pounds medium zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup pearled couscous
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice zucchini crosswise into ½ inch pieces. Place on sheet pan, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes, tossing half way through cooking. You’ll want the zucchini to be slightly browned and tender but not mushy.

Combine garbanzo beans, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and garlic in a large bowl. Set aside and let marinate while roasting zucchini.

Cook couscous according to package instructions with one exception: add cumin, paprika and turmeric to cooking liquid.

Add couscous and zucchini (along with all the roasting juices from the zucchini) to the large bowl with chickpeas. Toss with remaining olive oil and let cool slightly. Add in green onions and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

 

Chocolate and Red Wine Cake

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I spent St. Patrick’s Day this past year in Las Vegas. On a day where bars color their beer green, shots of Irish whiskey are in abundance, and everyone drinks a bit too much (because being 1/180th Irish is a great excuse to party), it just seemed fitting that I was in Sin City… a city where everything is in excess and there is never a shortage of alcohol.

Since I’m not a big gambler I spent most of my time eating (Wicked Spoon and Border Grill were the highlights of this past trip) and occasionally enjoying a refreshing cocktail, glass of wine, or beer (Vesper Bar is life changing). At one point I stumbled across a special for Bottomless Guinness at one of the countless bars on The Strip and decided why not? It seemed fitting for St. Patrick’s Day.

In case anyone wants to know, going to a buffet before sitting down at a bar to drink as much Guinness as you can consume is definitely not something I recommend. While what transpired that night is a secret—because, ya know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas (kidding, it was a mellow night, my party days are over), I drank plenty of Guinness to last me a while… the thought of consuming any more is a bit nauseating.

My aversion to Guinness has sadly started to impact my baking. I’ve made an incredible Chocolate Stout cake a few times and thought how perfect it would be to bring to a potluck. I immediately began to think of good alternatives to stout. As destiny would have it I had opened up a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon a few nights prior and it didn’t quite get finished (I guess that’s a sign of getting old, one glass is enough) so I figured using that in place of beer would be perfect.

Chocolate and red wine is a match made in heaven and the red wine taste in this cake, while incredibly subtle, was very pleasant. If you’re looking for a really bold, heavy, wine flavor this cake may not be for you. The wine just enhances the chocolate taste and adds a little bit of something special.

Chocolate and Red Wine Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 cup red wine (I used a berry forward Cabernet Sauvignon, but most red wines would work—I would stay away from an excessively sweet red though)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for the pan
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heavily and thoroughly grease and flour a 10 cup bundt pan, tap out extra flour, and place in freezer for a few minutes to set.

Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, add wine and butter. Bring to a simmer and cook until butter is melted. Add cocoa powder and stir until mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

In a stand mixer (or using a large bowl and a hand mixer), mix together eggs and sour cream. In a slow stream, mix in wine/butter/chocolate mixture until it’s just combined. Add flour mixture in three additions and mix just until blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 35-45 minutes (check at 35 minutes by inserting a toothpick—when it’s done you’ll want to see a few moist crumbs but no batter). Let cool completely in pan, remove, and dust with powdered sugar.

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