Rainbow Pepper Steak – stir-fry!

This is from one of my earliest obtained cookbooks – 365 Ways to Wok, which is apparently out of print now? what. I thought the 365 series just kinda … stayed in print.

Anyway, it was one of those books I picked up in my first year of learning to cook and the thought process went something like “Need to do a style that let me walk away from the stove, forget everything, and stuff burns… oh, stir-fry! 365 recipes! I’ve got to be able to do something from this!” This recipe fits that bill, plus it’s week-night fast, especially if you dice thing quickly and mix up the sauce before starting the stir-frying. The main thing about this one though is that it’s pretty. Using 3 different colors of bell peppers is just visually interesting – the taste will probably be pretty similar if you use 3 of the same type though. What can I say, red and yellow peppers tend to run twice the per pound cost of green bell peppers. Oh, also, pay attention to how long the peppers are cooking and get them off of the heat while everything is still bright and crisp looking, rather than waiting for things to get tender. Visually and taste-wise, dinner will be better for it.

It’s not a great recipe (yet) but entirely serviceable and tasty. Plus Adam and I have some ideas to punch it up we’ve noted down, so you know, I’ll eventually get back to them. 1 year? 2? Any bets?

Stir-fried Steak with Rainbow Peppers

serves 4-6

  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 medium leek, the white part only, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb beef, cut crosswise on the diagonal into thin strips
  • 2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
  1. Mix together the beef broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a wok until hot and swirl to coat the sides. Add the peppers, leek, and garlic. Stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes and remove to a plate.
    Vegetables
  3. If needed, add a bit of oil. Add the steak and stir-fry until it just loses its red color, about 2-3 minutes.
    The Meat
  4. Return the vegetables to the wok. Stir in the beef broth mixture to coat the meat and vegetables. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the dissolved cornstarch and water mixture; cook over high heat, stirring until sauce boils and thickens, 1-2 minutes. Serve with rice.

Finished

Experiments on this recipe to try:
1. Instead of thickening the sauce in the wok with the meat and vegetables, cook the rice in the un-thickened sauce. Either toss the stir-fried portion with the rice, or just serve on top of the rice.
2. Instead of returning the vegetable to the wok in step 3, remove the meat and cook down/thicken the sauce on its own in the wok. Then pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables in a serving bowl and serve with rice.

If anyone has more ideas for this one or try one the experiments above, drop us a line and let us know how it went. Comments to share with everyone or by email (kitchenchemi.cook at gmail.com) for just us.

Another one from the deep archives – Cuban Picadillo

So, this one comes from my senior year flatmate – who also happens to be the guys who introduced Adam and I as well as an ex-boyfriend. To be clear, he and I broke up sophomore year, lived together senior year, and he introduced Adam and I that year. At Dragon*Con. Oh, and he and Adam has known each other since 3rd grade Sunday school. Annnnd we’ll be his kid’s god-parents.

None of which is actually relevant to the recipe, now is it? Well, the senior year of college bit is – see I graduated undergrad in 2006 and it turns out that this is the first time I’ve made this recipe such that Adam could eat it. Yikes. Adam is a mite peeved about this, seeing as he rather liked it. Me, I think I was subconsciously avoiding it for the cup of dry red wine and psychosomatic headache I associate with that. Look brain-me, the alcohol cooks off. No headaches, see?

This one can work as both a weeknight recipe and make-a-big-batch-ahead-of-time on the weekend recipe. The current scale of the recipe is noted as serving “6 guys” – 6 college-age, 6 ft. tall, broad shouldered, ‘I used to play football/compete in martial arts’, metabolism is working on overdrive, guys. And, you know, me. Who at the time (and usually still does) eat like a 17 year-old teenage boy in the middle of puberty. I am going to be sad when my metabolism slows down. It’s not like I’m good about exercising regularly. Especially not in the winter with the holidays and weather too cold to bike in.

I’d like to mention that I also habitually forgot to eat in college – “Why am I so hungry? Oh right, it’s 2pm and I haven’t eaten since breakfast”. Might explain why I ate so much at dinner. I still forget to eat you know, my body is just better about getting my brain’s attention – now I have forgotten to eat every two hours (I’m doing the numerous small meals throughout the day to try and keep the stomach acid down and the brain energy/decision making abilities up with protein).

So, Cuban Picadillo – apparently there’s a big taste difference between Mexican oregano and Italian oregano: 1) oregano is not one I can taste and 2) Adam didn’t complain. I’m betting that unless you’ve grown up with or eat lots of Cuban and/or Caribbean and/or Creole dishes, either one will work for you – but the Mexican oregano will be better.

Cuban Picadillo

serves Lots

  • Rice
  • Turmeric
  • pinch of Saffron
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 large onion, sliced finely
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2x 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes with green chilli
  • 6 oz/1 can tomato paste
  • generous cup of dry red wine, or to taste
  • 2 tsp fresh or 2 1/2 tsp bottled oregano, Mexican oregano if you’ve got it. Also to taste.
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat enough water for your type of rice to a boil. Add the rice, turmeric, and saffron; simmer until rice is cooked and water is absorbed. Fluff; set aside. You can substitute store bought yellow rice packages for this, but Adam and I couldn’t find one without chemical additives and other nasties we thought worth it when we could just make our own yellow rice. The color of home-made yellow rice will be lighter than store bought.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the beef, onions, and garlic; brown the meat. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook without a lid. Cook for 15-20 minutes, letting everything thicken.
  3. Serve over the rice.

Adam suggested variation: eliminate the olive oil and very lightly brown chorizo in the pan – the oil from the chorizo will grease the pan. Stew on a very low simmer for about 2 hours.

Cuban Picadillo

In which a slow cooker does not successfully substitute for a fondue pot

Happy New Year everybody! Adam and I will be in Charleston, with his family for a late Christmas celebration, until the evening of January 6th. So, there will be some photo fillers instead of posts for our next two (on the 2nd and 7th). But in the meantime, my adventures with Mongolian Hot Pot.

I’ve mentioned before how Adam and my cooking styles compliment each other, in that he turns the leftover ingredients from my recipes into amazing things? Well, sometimes he has to step in and improvise like that in the middle of my recipes.

So, this little adventure came to us via the 75th anniversary edition of the Joy of Cooking – the Mongolian Hot Pot recipe. Just to be clear, I own neither a hot pot, nor a fondue pot, nor an electric skillet as recommended by the recipe. My thinking when marking this one out to copy was something along the lines of “Oh, Mongolian, I don’t have anything from that cuisine yet!” I would just like to note, that the Joy of Cooking, as venerable and useful and generally amazing as it is, is probably not the best place to dip a toe into a non-American cuisine’s waters. It’s too broad and basic skills level a cookbook to really be the best place to find exemplars of a cuisine.

But I copied it out anyway. Back on 10th August this year. Which is pretty good for me – it only sat in my blue binder for four months. Part of that is that this one is really a dinner party recipe, to have a whole bunch of friends sitting around the pot, cooking their bites of meat/tofu/vegetables and talking. BUT, I have to test it out first, right? Shouldn’t spring un-tested recipes on friends as the main entree, right?

So, the recipe calls for getting your broth boiling on the stove and then keeping it hot on the table in a hot pot, fondue port, or electric skillet. You know, something you can keep putting heat into in a regulated way. So a slow cooker should be able to pinch hit, right? Well, apparently not if you only just get the broth to boiling (needed more thermal inertia) and keep the slow cooker on low. The meat … cooked … as we dunked it. Just, not enough that we were really comfortable that the risk of food poisoning was low enough. So, Adam grabbed the beef slices, a little of the sauce, some of the broth, a bag of frozen veggies from the freezer, and stir-fried them all together. He also dumped the rice noodles that are supposed to soak in hot water near the end of the meal, get drained, and then sop up the remnants of the sauce and broth into the slow cooker of broth. And there-in we learned that the generic branded rice noodles available at Wegmans are not so great and in the future, we will be making a pilgrimage to a local Asian food store. If they give us permission, we’ll see about getting some pictures too. The Wegmans available rice noodles were just really, really, really bland. Even for rice noodles.

By the way, the sauce from this is awesome. Totally usable in more recipes.

Mongolian Hot Pot (ish)

Recipe count: 36 left
Section count: Entrees, beef: 0 left (I’m free! I’m free!)
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking
Serves 6

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tbsp red miso
  • 1/4 cup toasted fiery sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • chopped chives
  • 1 lb beef top round, sliced very thinly
  • 1 bag of frozen vegetables, your choice
  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage
  • 14 oz (i.e. 1 package) extra firm tofu
  • 8 oz spinach, trimmed, washed & dried
  • 32 oz carton of beef broth
  • 1 package dried rice noodles
  • 4 cups hot water
  1. In a blender, purèe the rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce, miso, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. Pour into individual serving bowls and garnish with the scallions and chives.
    Sauce Bowl
  2. Slice the cabbage and tofu into bit-sized pieces. Arrange the cabbage, tofu, and spinach on a platter. Stir fry the beef slices and frozen vegetables in a little bit of oil, sauce, and broth, until browned and vegetables cooked through.
  3. Soak the rice noodles in enough hot water to cover for about 10 minutes; drain. Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil. Once broth is boiling and noodles have soaked, transfer the noodles to the broth, remove from heat, and bring the broth, individual sauce bowls, and the platter to the table.

Suggested eating implements: chopsticks.

Served

In which a recipe is more like … guidelines (Meatloaf the First)

I do actually reuse recipes – not everything I make is new to me. It’s just … infrequent.

Case in point, this recipe is one I managed to snag from my friend, Rob, in college, before he left for graduate school back in 2005. As he put it, its less a recipe and more a guideline on ratios – every member of his family a) makes this meatloaf and b) does it a bit differently. With that in mind, I rather mind less that I completely misremembered what the [expletive] it was while staring at the meat case in Wegmans.

Bit of back story – Adam does contract work, so some months we have two paychecks coming in and some months we don’t. For that reason we tend to do things like buy a bulk sized amount of meat/protein and stick it in the freezer. Also, because I’m a wee bit neurotic (lay-person’s sense of that term, not medical) about not spending money and less packaging please (combo of cheapness and wannabe environmentally friendly). So, we buy some cheap cuts (i.e. the things we don’t feel bad about degrading in quality in the freezer), separate them out into family sized portions (about 1 pound), and freeze. See what I mean about wannabe? I buy less packaged stuff and then put it all in ziploc bags. Which we don’t reuse because they’ve touched raw meat. Warg. Anyone know a dishwasher safe way to do this? Rigid containers don’t work for us… Can’t squeeze air out of them.

So, there I am in Wegmans, staring at the meat case full of various cuts of meat – which I totally cannot relate to actual parts of a cow and/or tenderness. I mean, I get that fillet mingon is a) the good stuff and b) really, really expensive. And stew beef is tougher and less expensive. But those are just a few of the one’s I’ve learned by rote. ::sighs:: More things to keep studying. Any rate, this week I just cannot seem to find any cuts for less than $6 a pound. Weeee. And then I find the ground beef. 90/10. $4/lb. Okay, I can work with this.

Ground beef was the basic go-to meat in my parents house, but since I started teaching myself to cook, it hasn’t really come up in recipes – one of those things I’d have to seek out. I don’t know if it’s just the 2000s after decades of ground being an American standard or something, but yeah, other than hamburgers and meatloaf, I don’t really know what to do with ground beef. Wait, there’s spaghetti sauce. And I think one of my stir-fry recipes uses it… Any way, my point stands – when I saw ground beef and figured it was coming home with me, my mind went to meatloaf. Now I’ve got three meatloaf recipes in ze entrée binder – Rob’s, a death by cheese, and a southwest-inspired version. Those last two are semi-complicated in the ingredient list but I keep the basic proportion of Rob’s in my head – it’s simple enough. Two pounds ground beef, one pound …. something else. [Expletive]. Apparently I can’t remember anything. So I bought a pound of ground veal. It’s ground, it’ll go in meatloaf just fine, right?

Note, I wasn’t planning on making meatloaf that night. In fact, wasn’t even planning on it that coming week. I’d already made my meal plan, I was just buying meat for, like, the month. But I might as well get the other meat I know I need for a now-planned recipe at the same time, right?

Having checked the recipe? Spicy sausage. The recipe called for spicy sausage.

Use that guys. It’s much better in this recipe than ground veal. Veal is a bit of a lean meat, and combined with 90/10 ground beef, this meatloaf would have been better with more fat. Oh well, we still devoured the entire long loaf pan within 4 days.

Rob’s Family Meatloaf

the right way
serves 8

  • 2 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb spicy ground sausage – protein type in the sausage doesn’t matter, use pork, beef, chicken, whatever you like
  • 1 cup your favorite type of breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp basil, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp oregano, or to taste
  • whatever spices/herbs you like – experiment!
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Mix all the ingredients together. Once well mixed, transfer to a loaf pan and smooth to roughly level loaf.
  3. Bake for one hour.

Alternatively, peel and quarter the onion. Do not mix into the meat. Place peeled off pieces of the onion on top of the loaf in the pan, until no more easily fit and then bake.