Washington DC!

January 2015.  I'm still in shock Oklahoma is still dreary and cloudy as when I left it last week.  I know I know, it was a beautiful weekend while I was gone and its suppose to be beautiful again this weekend.  A perfect Sunday for a picnic.  Wait. Did I just say it was January 2015?  Hmmm, maybe the POTUS was right about climate change in his State of the Union speech.  I didn't see Boehner clapping about that, but he was probably drunk and cried himself to sleep after that speech.  I just got back from Washington DC and had a wonderful time there with my sister and her closest friends a.k.a, her DC family.  We ate a lot of foods with our fingers.  We went to a Laotion, N.Eastern Thai place called Little Serow, an Ethiopian Restaurant, a Tapas brunch, Shake Shack burgers, hot wings, and made Ethiopian lentils.  I don't recall using utensils on this trip. Maybe once or twice.  Washington DC is a city you have to really know someone that lives there to really enjoy the city.  My sister took me to all her local spots that she's been frequenting for years and they had that Cheers vibe to them.  Neighborly, friendly, warm, and inviting with a lot of character.  There's a lot of energy that surrounds that city and I LOVE how they just have a huge park, I believe called Rock Creek Park in the middle.  It feels more like a national forest than it does a manicured park.  Happy to get back there one last time before she moves to the west coast.  

For my belated birthday we went to a place called Little Serow. They are a north eastern Thai restaurant with a rotating set menu.  It was adventurous, spicy and delicious.  Here's the menu just to give you an idea.  It came with a basket of shiso, basil, cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon radishes, cabbage and daikon root that would continue to refill.  Definitely not boring food!

We had leftover duck that I sautéed up with some mushrooms, onions, and carrots.  Then I stuffed it  inside of a roasted poblano chili that we ate with broken rice.  The magic of leftovers!

One night we went to a restaurant that didn't leave us feeling satisfied.  So we went to Popeye's to get some spicy chicken strips. There were some strips leftover, so we had a childhood favorite. Fried chicken with rice.  I sautéed up some scallions and cilantro, put it on top of broken rice with some soy sauce and sriracha.  Leftover heaven strikes again.

Tina and I went to the grocery store near her place and I saw some handmade looking tortillas in the refrigerator section, so grabbed a bag to try it out.  For breakfast I grilled the tortillas on the flame of the stove top, sautéed onions, garlic, tomatoes and tomatillo salsa together and poured it on top of the tortilla.  Next came the poached egg and topped with cilantro and more salsa.    I love Mexican breakfasts.

Tina, my sister, LOVES Ethiopian food.  We both love anything wat.  There's a stewed chicken dish called doro wat that I really like and the other dish I like is masr wat, Ethiopian lentils.  Tina cooks Ethiopian food more than anyone I know.  Actually, I don't know anyone that cooks it.  She specializes in the lentil dish.  Its actually very easy to make, prepping is the only thing time consuming.  

1 cup lentils, soaked for about 30 minutes
equal parts onions and tomatoes, so depending on sizes use 8 large tomatoes finely chopped or processed and 5 large onions, finely chopped or processed
1/2 head of garlic, minced
1 1/2 inch of ginger, minced fine
1 cup vegetable broth
4 tablespoons - 1/8 cup of  berbere, depending how much of the spice mixture you'd like in it.  I like a lot.  

In a large pot, saute the onions until they have cooked down and are translucent, about 15 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger and let that cook in there for another 5 minutes.  Add the berbers and heat that through for about a minute. Then add the rest of the ingredients.  If it seems dry add more vegetable broth. Simmer on medium low, stirring frequently to now burn the bottom.  Should cook in about 35-45 minutes.  Add salt and maybe a little more berbere if you find it necessary.  I love the stuff, so I think we used a ton of it.  Berbere is a spice blend that you can buy which contains about 15 ingredients in it, which is why I prefer to just buy it.  It contains things that most people don't keep in their homes.  Such as, black cardamom seeds and fenugreek seeds.  I have all the spices on the list, but I'm WAY too lazy and bought a bucket of it at the Ethiopian store.  

Its 2015, What the Hell? What the Hell

"Where the hell have you been What the Hell?"  your probably asking. 2015 is here as we look back and move forward.  As we are in January with the two faced god Janus who looks to the future and to the past.  He closes doors and opens doors.  But because its January, the new year, he focuses on the opening of doors and new beginnings.  

The year ended with this breakfast.  Jalapeño cheese grits with a poached egg, bacon, and scallions.  One of my favorite breakfasts.  The grits are creamy and savory, the poached egg acts like a sauce with its runny yolk, and the crunchy salty bits of bacon is a nice contrast to all the softer flavors and texture.  The scallions balance it out with a little freshness.  I'm telling you, it truly is a perfect little breakfast.

My first breakfast I make for 2015 is a potato cake.  Nice and simple with a dollop of thick Greek yogurt, hot sauce, and scallions.  Its crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  The baking soda supposedly does something to keep it fluffy.  Adding a little butter with the olive oil crisps it right up. Simple and delicious.

A lot of leftover eating has been heavily worked on from the fridge.  Also a lot of dining out.  Due to the 20 degree weather outside and the need to rid the house of goods, I decided to make pizza.  I got the pizza dough recipe from New York Times, and I really like it. Its thin, chewy, yet crisps up really well.  In Oklahoma City there are SO many pizza joints around town.  Its hard to go out for pizza when we make a pie just as good or usually better!  So the only point of going to one would be just to get out of the house and enjoy the environment.  

This is a pizza that I always love.  It has spinach, onions, tomato, garlic, and cheese.  I LOVE spinach on a pizza.  Not the leaves, the sautéed or frozen stuff.  It reminds me of getting a slice in New York.

This pizza, I had Matt in mind.  Spanish chorizo sliced and also diced like those little Bagel Bites have their pepperoni.  Brussel sprout leaves, onion, garlic, tomato, and sliced pepperoncini were also on it. Of course there's red sauce and cheese.

You've really got to preheat that oven for about an hour to get it nice and hot and get those nicely charred parts of the dough and the crisp.  These pizzas may be some of my best ones yet.  I love the dough and all the topping really worked.  

Happy 2015 to all! Keep in mind, if you feel like you already screwed it up or feel jipped on your start of the new year, your fresh start, the Lunar New Year is in February. January could just simply be the month you prep to start your new year.  That's what I'm going for.  My new year starts on February 19th.  Looking forward to it.  

Happy Belated Christmas!!! Its an All American Feast this Year!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and memorable holiday!  Leading up to Christmas it was friends, and then Christmas eve and day arrived and it was ALL family.  For eve, Matt and I hosted at our home.  We had a kick ass Seikel and Duong Christmas Eve party. Last year we went with an Italian themed meal.  This year is American.  The apps are a little melting pot action and dinner is pretty straight forward American. 

Its traditional to have egg rolls for a special occasion in Vietnamese culture.  Tina, my sister, and I rolled 50 appetizer sized egg rolls.  They were stuffed with pork, black fungus, bean thread noodle, onion, carrot, cabbage, egg, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and TONS of black pepper.  Its served with a lettuce and fish sauce.  I LOVE Vietnamese egg rolls served like this.  Even better is when it there's   mint and other herbs.  Its such a nice balance of fresh with the fried.  Viet food, we're good at that balance thing!

Our second appetizer is a Matt Seikel invention and its definitely a keeper.
How can we incorporate the French escargot buttery herby dish with something all American?  Voila!   
Escargot Spinach Artichoke Dip.  
1 can large escargot, chopped
1 package cream cheese
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1-14 oz can of artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mayo
1/2 teaspoon truffle oil
a good squeeze of lemon 
salt and pepper

Bake in a 400 degree oven until nice and bubbly and serve.  We served ours in an old school crock pot to keep it warm, and also I've seen it done before at my cousin Trayc's house!  

Looking back at this meal, I'm starting to think we got inspired by Yo Momma's Cookbook.  A compilation of recipes from Momma Seikel.  Its all contained in a nice black binder.  We did spend a few hours over at their house drinking wine and coming up with a menu.  Our first thoughts were to have a little fun with "The Interview" movie debacle that was going on with North Korea.  We thought about doing Korean food, but found that we just couldn't come up with a menu that would make it Christmasy and Holiday festive enough.  My favorite Korean is bulgogli. I love wrapping it in the lettuce with the kimchi and condiments, which seemed a little too casual.  So instead, I guess we went with the all American freedom of expression supporter.  

Twice Baked Potatoes with cheddar cheese, scallions, sour cream, cottage cheese, and bacon.  I got pointers from two people on this one.  Our cousin, Steven, told us his grandmother use to put batons of cheese on the bottom so that its all gooey with cheese stuck to the skin.  Then on Yo Momma's, Momma Seikel puts cottage cheese.  The potatoes were scrubbed, oiled and baked in a 400 degree oven for about an hour.  All 15 potatoes were halved and scooped out by our lovely assistant, Tina Duong.  I added ingredients and tasted as I went to add more of whatever.  I forgot the butter so put dollops on top and I think it worked out just fine. 

Second side dish is caramelized cipollini onions, French green beans with crimini mushrooms.  I got this recipe from Serious Eats.  I don't follow recipes really well, that's why I suck as a pastry or dessert baker.  The onions were cooked on low with butter until all caramelized, which took about 40 minutes.  The mushrooms were sautéed with garlic and dressed with some soy sauce.  The beans were blanched and then sautéed right before serving with some soy and lemon juice.  Instead of mixing all the ingredients together I poured the onions and mushrooms on top.  I thought it looked much more dramatic and impressive.  

This is the dish that inspired the Korean theme.  An all time favorite recipe that Matt grew up with and Guess what?  Its a Yo Momma's recipe!  I'm telling ya, this was a Yo Momma Christmas! Matt's dad use to make this while he was growing up and always raved about how good it was, and to my surprise, I had never had it!!  Its a beef tenderloin with soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic, scallions, sesame seeds, and chili flakes.  He marinaded it for about 7 hours before putting it on the grill.

Crazy flavorful and juicy.  A lovely crust on the outside and super tender.

Then you got the big daddy.  A boneless rib roast.  Simply roped and covered with coriander, salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil.  It marinaded over night and then grilled on low for about an hour and half.

Now is this a festive holiday meal or what?  Perfectly seasoned and cooked.  

My sister asked me what we were planning on cooking.  I said, I think we are keeping it simple this year.  Although everything was very simple, prepping was very time consuming.  But its all good and fun when you've got good company in the kitchen. It was a perfect meal with wonderful company.  Now we continue on this holiday spree and ring in the new year.  2015! Time to reflect on the past and get ready to move forward!  What kind of meals will dominate the new year??  

Happy National Hamburger Day!!!

Happy National Hamburger Day World!

Many parts of the world today have a version of the hamburger.  Traveling through Europe this past summer, it was very apparent that they had embraced the hamburger craze!  It seemed like every little alley way and street had a burger special with exclamation marks all over it.  Although tempting sometimes, I never have a burger outside of the great United States of America.  I'm sure if the opportunity arose where I was only eating blobs of the same thing for days, I would swoop a burger up in a second.  What was the best burger you have ever had that you didn't make?  My top burger picks are Burger and Barrel, the bacon onion jam and blue cheese were great with the rosemary tator tots in New York City. Then you have Apple Pan in Los Angeles which is super old school with iceberg lettuce and thick fries.  Green Chili burgers from Blake's Lota Burger in New Mexico, and I use to go to Nic's and get their super greasy onion burger in Oklahoma City. Lastly, Ray's Hell Burger in Washington DC with free delicious toppings you can choose from.  Key in those situations is don't over do it.  

Although very complicated looking, its a very simple American burger.  Jalapeño Cheddar bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, cheddar cheese and blue cheese combo, and sauced with mustard and ketchup.  Well hello hamburger.  You are delicious!!!

There are two types of burgers.  Complicated and simple.  I love the simplicity of an In and Out burger, but I love the complicated burgers of a steakhouse.  Here is our complicated burger. Well, not really just another step added.  Grilled eggplant blue cheese burgers.

On a ciabatta roll with dijon mustard, arugula, and onions.

Eating a burger like this is like winning the Olympics in eating.  You feel great while eating it and feel accomplished after finishing it.   

The burgers were served with a side of cauliflower salad.  The checker gal said that this was the largest cauliflower she has ever checked out.  When I saw it I asked Matt, "There's no way this is the same price as the others." It was.

Warm Cauliflower Salad

1 head of cauliflower (half of the size I got) cut into florets tossed in olive oil

1/8 packed cup of chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
6 cornichons
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1/2 lemon juiced
1 anchovy
3 tablespoon sliced almonds
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Roast cauliflower in a 400 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes.  Toss everything for the dressing in a food processor.  Toss together and serve.  Its truly a terrific dish! I didn't miss fries at all.  I recommend this side.  It was inspired by Lidia Bastianich's show on PBS.  I LOVE PBS!

Enjoy and have a burger! Its the American thing to do!