Hodge Podge Kitchen

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Quick Zucchini Pasta

Really, really quick pasta dish.
2 zucchini, cut into small pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1 cup cottage cheese (I used fat-free)
1/2 lb dried pasta

Cook pasta until almost tender. While pasta is cooking, saute zucchini with garlic in olive oil. When the squash is tender, transfer to a blender and blend with cottage cheese until smooth. Mix the sauce with pasta and sun-dried tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Dutch Baby

Easiest breakfast to make when you're still half-awake. The edge of the pancake comes up quite a bit, but it's a pretty flat pancake overall. I think traditionally it's serve with powder sugar and lemon juice.

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400F. Blend everything else together except for the butter. Melt the butter in a 10" cast iron pan, pour the batter in the pan after the butter melted. Bake for 20 minutes. While the pancake bakes, I made a cherry syrup with frozen cherries, a little sugar, and a little water. Cook that over medium heat until thicken (or thicken with cornstarch/water mixture if in a hurry).

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Agua Fresca

Watermelon Agua Fresca

After a big party, there are always a bunch of food left over. While they were great the first time and probably still delicious the second or third time around, the adventurous in me is always looking for new ways to handle leftovers. The chicken made great quesadillas for lunch, and I decided that the watermelon hogging room in my fridge would turn into Agua Fresca. I was actually asked to make it for the party, but I never got a chance to. With the warm weather, it seemed like a great idea to keep some on hand as a sweet refreshment.

If you have never had Agua Fresca before (from your local taqueria), you are missing out. It's fruity, it's refreshing, and now I know it's easy to make. I saw a few recipes in last week's food section of the SF Chronicle, but it's really easier than that. Basically you cut up the watermelon (or whatever fruit you are using) and add to a blender with some cold water and sugar. Blend until smooth and pour through a mesh to strain out the fruit fiber (you will have to press a little to squeeze all the juice out). Then add a little more water and sugar to taste. For an authentic look, add some extra chunks into the mix and chill....I think I will try Horchatas next time...


Luau BBQ!

I decided to make my wife's birthday the occasion for our big summer BBQ (All those other ones were rehearsals...Good eating yummy rehearsals). I decided to go with a luau theme and we all made our contributions to add to the atmoshpere.

Roast Pig Head

First, the decor. I got some tiki torches and tropical color streamers, but who says the food can't add to the island theme? I had originally podered the idea of roasting a pig for the occasion, but my wife was against digging a big ditch in our yard. So I decided to just have my parents buy some roast pork, and ask the butcher to throw in the head. I like the grapes added so the eye socket and nostril wouldn't look so gross. Did anyone tell them it's a decapitated pig's head? The Mary Kay lady can't make that good...

Hawaiian Chicken

Anyway the menu was similar to our usual BBQs with some island flair (well, pineapples made numerous appearances). There was sweet and sour pork from my parents in addition to their usual contribution of...meat. I decided to grill some salmon marinated with a soy sauce and maple mix. My sister made a great summer chilled noodle salad to balance out all the meat (You will have to ask her to post if you want the recipe). My friend Michelle made Hawaiian chicken drumette with pine nuts(seen above) that was really good as well. We even had a last minute decision to mix up some Mojitos to keep cool on a blistering summer day.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Of course, we can't have BBQs without dessert, and the baking member of our team Chris contributed with a delicious pineapple upside-down cake (Again, convince him to join our Hodge Podge circle if you want his secrets). We sat out in the yard until late into the evening, and I think Britt enjoyed her birthday celebration. All of our stomachs certainly had nothing to complain about.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Green Chicken Soup

This is really good when you're a little under the weather and crave a chicken soup with more flavors. It's also good for those cold, foggy summer nights around here right now.

Meat from 1 chicken (about 3-3 1/2 lb), cut into chunks and marinate with salt, pepper, sugar and a little rice wine
1 can of hominy (28 oz), drained and rinse well
1 small can of roasted green chili
1 med onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tomatillo, remove the husk and diced
1/2 cup frozen corn
4 cups chicken stock
1 tbs ground cumin
1 tbs chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste
lime wedges, to serve
sliced/diced avocado, for topping
chopped tomato, for topping
minced cilantro, for topping

In a large pot (I use a chicken fryer), saute the onion, tomatillo, ground cumin, and chili powder over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil until the onion is cooked through. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chicken and saute until the chicken is cook about half way through. Add the hominy, green chili, chicken stock and frozen corn to the pot. Increase the heat to bring mixture to a boil and then turn down to a simmer, cook for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into individual bowls and top with a squeeze of lime, avocado, tomato, and minced cilantro.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Blueberry ... surprise.

My sister told me that I should write about the good and the bad about my cooking, and I certainly have lots of bad ones. I had a less than satisfactory experience with some ribs that I meant to write about but didn't. Here, is a beginner's tale that I think many might relate to at one time or another....

So I had a co-worker leaving on maternity leave, so I thought maybe I would make something for the occasion. I can't exactly make a turkey and bring it to work so I thought I would give baking a try. I haven't really baked in a while and decided recently that it really isn't for me at this point of my cooking career. Baking is so precise and exact that I think I like the flexibility of everyday cooking. For this occasion though I cracked open my cookbook and decided that blueberry shortcakes would be simple enough...


The newest trick for me with making shortcakes is the whole rubbing of the butter into the flour. After I massaged the butter all over the flour I added the cream and egg...This is where it gets tricky...I added the blueberry mixture into the mix, missing the part in the recipe where it said the blueberry was supposed to be a topping to the shortcake. Oops. I suddenly found myself staring at a gooey mess that will never harden enough to make shortcakes. I was pretty bummed but I really didn't want to waste the fresh blueberries that I bought so I went ahead and put the batter in a pan and baked it. To say it was...moist can be an understatement, but it was actually pretty good. Sara seem to like it, she woke up early one morning and got into it...


So a lesson for you all: read the recipe all the way through and make sure you understand it first.

Monday, July 11, 2005


I got these pink peppercorn chocolate last week at Tower Market in SF (which I guess now it's technically a Mollie Stone) and I'm totally hooked. The pink peppercorn definitely added a nice spicy, floral flavor to it. The chocolate itself was favorful but not over powering or bitter. I went back on Saturday to get the Earl Grey version of it but I haven't got a chance to try it out yet. (I've been feeling a bit sick the last couple of days.) I'll post updates when I try that one.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Fourth of July

Is there anything more American than a little barbecuing on Independence Day? I've been pretty much firing up the grill for every occasion this summer so I always want to try something new each time. I know I can experiment because my sister will back me up with good food in case I fail. (and yeah, if you have attended my bbq's, you know my parents do most of the feeding. I have to support my blog-mates though) She made some baby back ribs the Good Eats way and it was great, if a little fatty (not her fault Costco sells Oprah pigs).

Me, I wanted to try some seafood (lots of grilling lately, a little overload on meat). I wanted to keep it easy so I decided clams and shrimps would be a good start. The clams I kept easy, place on the grill until they open up. Serve with a wedge of lemons and I was ready to go. The shrimp I was going to keep simple as well with a quick brine, but at the last minute I decided to toss some flavors in. I minced a large clove of garlic and stirred a tablespoon of olive oil. I than added a tablespoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of paprika, and a half teaspoon of cayenne peppers. I tossed the shrimps in the oil mixture skewered them up.

The seafood was definitely a nice mix with all the meat. I'm having a luau bbq next, think I'll look into roasting a pig.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Weeknight Dinners

Most of my weeknight dinners are one-pot meal affairs. Work this past month was pretty demanding. I'm surprise that I manage to cook after work at all. I still need to keep things rather simple and quick since I don't get back until 5-5:30 afterall and we usually eat before 7. But since I discover that concentrating on something totally different after work helps to relax me a lot, I make an extra effort to cook something. And on some nights, I don't just want a homecook meal, I need something nicer. The first dinner, I made pan fried spring rolls with a curry tofu vegetable filling. They're wrap in rice paper (ones used in vietnamese spring rolls), and then lightly pan fry until crispy. We had the spring rolls with a chinese tamales and a soup made with chicken broth and bok choy. All I really have to do is make the spring rolls and pan fry them. The tameles just needs to be heated through and the soup was made over the weekend. We felt like we had a 3 course meal with very little efforts.

The second dinner take a little more time since it's risotto. I made a coconut seafood risotto a year ago that I've been meaning to make again. Since I rarely make the same dish twice, this time I made a curry version. I start the risotto with half of a minced small onion saute in olive oil until soft over medium heat. Add about a cup of japanese short grain rice to the onion mixture and cook for about 2-3 minutes until rice absorb the oil a bit. Before adding the chicken broth, add about 1/2 cup of dry white wine and cook that until evaporate before starting the chicken broth. Add the simmering chicken broth a ladle at a time, stirring each time and add only when the rice mixture is dried. Continue with the addition of chicken broth until the rice is cooked but not mushy. Turn the heat off and add 1 tbs of red curry paste (you could more or less) with 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Stir everything until combine and let it sit with the cover for about 5 minutes before serving. I topped the risotto with a little saute shrimps and scallops. Add a little side spinach salad with sesame dressing and you have a complete meal.