Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cooking on a weekday

Sometimes, oddly, I get too busy to cook on weekends. Such was the case last weekend and the weekend before that. When that happens...I'm oddly forced to cook on weekdays. Lucky for me I've still not returned to the gym (it's been four weeks now) since I've been recovering from my weird continual pain (only ended a week ago) and then I was too busy with the EPIC conference (this last week). So, strangely, I had time to cook after work, rather than no time. I've actually been savoring this time. More so than I thought I would. It's been more relaxing than I can say. And I've oddly not been worrying about getting flabby or the weird effects it could be having on my health. I guess winter hibernation is really coming.

After this hiatus from the gym I've decided to reprioritize things in my life, as I know I've mentioned many times before but have clearly failed to do in reality. The gym and exercise should have a smaller percentage of my time and mental space, my effort and priority. Who cares about having the perfect body when the rest of your life isn't what you want it to be? So when I do go back to the gym (which should be today for the first time in those four weeks), it'll be only to continue a once or twice a week regimen. I want it to be something I do for fun and to have fun with. Not that I wasn't having fun before, but...it was taking too much of my time when I could have been doing other things which I enjoy so much more...like spending time with friends. Or cooking. Or reading. Or having new experiences (whatever those may be).

My convalescence has taught me all of this. Sometimes you really do need to just sit down, and stop for a minute (or four weeks, as was my case).

Anyway, the point of this post was not that, but rather to talk about my midweek creations. So what did I get up to, you ask? These beauties:

Pretty real pico de gallo

Last time I made pico de gallo I have to admit: although it was fairly legit and I ate the entire thing in one sitting (huge mistake), it wasn't as tasty as it could have been.

I didn't have lemon juice, I didn't let it set, I didn't bother chopping things up into smaller pieces. All in all it could have been higher quality in all shapes and forms. My fault. I was too excited because I'd finally found cilantro/coriander.

Well I found coriander again (in the largest bunch this world has ever seen): and at the farmers market! It was last weekend when I was hunting around for beer beef stew ingredients (did I even blog about this? I don't think I did!) and I found it, in amongst some unlabeled other herbs (mostly parsley...which the English love). I smelled it because I wasn't 100% sure and low and behold...my dearest love. Cilantro.

So now I had a huge bunch of cilantro on my hands and well, the stuff doesn't last long in the fridge. And I'm terrified of putting herbs into cups to make them last longer...because I'll never use those cups for drinking ever again. Blame the plant phobia. It's stupid, I know.

Anyway, so I devised some great plans to use this cilantro to its fullest: pico de gallo was one of these plans.

But this time I had lemon juice (procured from some previous shopping trip to Lidl in some great foresight) and the patience to make it right (e.g. letting it sit at least overnight...or in this case...3 days...whatever).

BOOM!


Admittedly I went the lazy man's route with this one and did it all in the food processor. Onion, cilantro (which I roughly chopped), garlic, all my cherry tomatoes. Threw in some cumin, salt, pepper, and the prized lemon juice. Stirred it up a bit and let it stew in its own juices (literally), for three days.

What was it like? Pretty glorious actually. I used the cherry tomatoes because they're incredibly sweet. I think this is one of those few times where slightly less sweet tomatoes would be better. I know, it's ridiculous.

I didn't eat the entire thing in one sitting this time (it'll be more like three sittings), but I did polish off an entire bag and then some in my first day of cracking open the stuff. I need to stop making myself cracky dips. Just get myself into indigestional trouble. I'm simply getting too old for this. Or I should invite friends over to be fat with me. The second is a better idea, I think.

What next?

Korean beef

Nothing claiming to be bulgolgi this time, just simple Korean beef. I also went lazy man on this one as well (see a trend for midweek recipes?).

I actually started marinating this one on Tuesday when I had time but didn't get around to making it until Thursday, since there was a surprise plan of going out for Nerd Nite on Wednesday that wasn't confirmed until that day. Oh well, I just figured it was more time for the flavor to get into the meat. And oh the flavor.


This time I did something different with the sauce. Two packets of that weird soy vinegar (still got some in the ole ziploc too, for my next batch I imagine), my last singular pack of red sweet and sour sauce, regular dark soy, and a crap ton of sesame oil and honey. Boom, instant cracky Korean bbq sauce.

I used the beef stew meat I had from the farmers market this time, since I didn't have rump meat. This means slightly tougher meat but it was nicely cut up into bite-sized chunks so it's sort of a give and take. If I ever made this for other people I'd get a better cut of meat. Still pretty tender considering I barely cooked this and it wasn't even remotely stewed.

Just added a chopped red onion (pretty large), two days of marinating, high heat, and it was perfection. Pretty tasty, I'm quite happy. I even cooked the rest of the marinade in the microwave to kill off any raw meat germs and saucify my cooked meat. Rather pleased with the result.

Cilantro fried rice

I know this recipe just sounds sort of dumb but I had a hell of a lot of cilantro to go through and I love the taste of it everywhere. The question is how to make the most of it when you have a lot of it.

This, surprisingly, was an actual recipe on allrecipes.com. No, I didn't follow that recipe, but it did give me the idea to add cilantro to my family's normal fried rice recipe, so that's what I did.


I even blended white rice with brown rice to make a bit healthier. And a crapton of veggies (cabbage, carrots, onion, and the hearty bunch of cilantro).

Sesame oil, garlic salt, dark soy, and yep, pretty nice flavor. This was one of my more plain fried rice recipes, actually. I still enjoyed it. Especially with the saucy Korean beef on top. Good combination.

And since I forgot to mention it earlier...

Beer beef stew

According to allrecipes.com, this should have been a pretty simple and delicious recipe. I'd read about it before, thinking about what to do with all the extra beer in my fridge (I know, stupid problem to have but I've actually pretty much stopped drinking beer in favor of wine, and unfortunately I have pretty much none of the latter in my apartment...and I don't drink almost at all at home), and in thinking about it, had looked up recipes of what to do with beer. This was one of those recipes.

Get a bunch of meat and veggies and stew it in beer. Seemed simple enough.

My only problem? I forgot the most important part: you're supposed to cook specifically sausages in this beer, not just any meat. And I bought beef stew meat (it was a cold morning, my mind was apparently elsewhere).

But to hell with it. I was going to do it anyway as I had no beef bouillon in which to make real beef stew, so I prepped everything more or less to the recipe anyhow:



Except I added in about twice as much beer.

I don't care what anyone says, but if there isn't enough liquid to basically get your stuff covered and cooked, you're not going to be making a stew...you're going to basically be steaming your stuff and after awhile...be burning your stuff. This recipe was supposed to take a solid 45 minutes. Mine definitely took considerably longer (again, I realize I was supposed to use sausages).

I also needed to salt the thing to no end in order to make it semi-presentable in the taste department. The beer I had was rather hoppy so the bitter taste lingered most unfortunately. Well, at least I put to good use my massive jar of garlic award mix I picked up during a drive through Gilroy once. Always wondered how I could possibly go through such a large container of the stuff. I used nearly a fourth this time.


The end result was this. Beautiful, but still too hoppy. The beer did boil down quite nicely and had nice flavors of veggies and beef. The beef was gorgeous.

At the end of the day though...not my favorite. Would have been way better with sausages and considerably less spices/herbs. Too many dry herbs just means lots of stuff in the broth at the end, which makes it difficult to drink and enjoy. It would probably be a hit with some. Le sigh.

And that was my weekday madness (minus the beer beef stew, which was made last weekend).

All practice for my first linner party (yes, linner, that meal between lunch and dinner), which has now been set in the calendar. Hoohoo!

Bon appetit!

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