meat and potatoes.

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In memory, one of the first “American” foods I came to love was frozen, microwaveable salisbury steak, of course eaten with rice and kimchi. And, shortly following that discovery, I also came to love a similar meat mound food – meatloaf. Being an immigrant kid, eating foods like salisbury steak, meatloaf, and pizza made me feel more American (read: normal). I’ve obviously come to love ethnic foods of all kinds, especially Korean, but something about meat and potatoes is comforting. And, perhaps that makes me an American (read: American).

Here is an adapted recipe from Smitten Kitchen’s physical cookbook. She turns the meatloaf into large meatballs.

Tomato-glazed Meatloaves with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes 

Tomato Glaze

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil 
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar (I found the glaze a little too vinegary, so you can opt for less)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

combine glaze ingredients in a small saucepan, and simmer, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. set aside.

Meatloaves

  • 2 slices sandwich bread
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • olive oil for cooking the vegetables
  • 1 teaspoon table salt, plus more for the vegetables
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1 jalapeño (optional) – I added this to the recipe because I always prefer a little kick.

preheat your oven to 350 degrees. tear the bread into chunks and then blend in a food processor into breadcrumbs. place the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. add onion, garlic, celery, and carrot to the food processor, and pulse until finely chopped.

heat large skillet over medium heat. once the skillet is hot, coat the bottom with olive oil, and heat the oil for a minute. add the vegetables. season with S&P and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown – about 10-15 minutes.

add cooked vegetables to the large bowl with breadcrumbs, then add remaining ingredients. stir the ingredients with a fork. with wet hands, from the mixture into twelve 3 inch meatballs, each will weigh about 4 ounces.

in a baking dish, space meatballs so they are not touching. brush each meatball with the tomato glaze and bake for about 20 minutes.

Brown Butter Mashed Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes – about 4 medium potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick – the recipe calls for one stick of butter)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I found my mashed potatoes a bit thinner than I would like, feel free to add less)
  • 1-2 teaspoons table salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

place potatoes in a medium saucepan, and cover with cold water. bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce to a simmer. cook for 20-30 minutes; potatoes are ready when a paring knife can be inserted into the center with little resistance. drain potatoes, and wipe pot dry.

peel the potatoes – hold a potato with a pot holder in hand and use a paring knife in the other hand. the potato should easily slip out of the sweet potato skin. place potatoes in the pot and mash. add butter, buttermilk, salt, and pepper to taste.

white chocolate

Recently, I had my first pizza in San Francisco at Beretta, where their Margherita Pizza with buratta was pure simple bliss. What left me ruminating about that meal, though, was their panna gelato with olive oil and sea salt. I was reminded of a dessert in Bilbao, Spain where olive oil, salt, and dark chocolate gelato were combined in a surprising, almost sinfully decadent way. I decided I needed to make a dessert with olive oil. I’ve seen recipes for olive oil loaves, but I wanted to combine it with chocolate. Again, I adapted a recipe from the SK cookbook. The tartness of blackberry/grapefruit with the cold creamy white chocolate and a hint of olive oil was exactly what I was craving.

White Chocolate Pudding with Blackberry-Grapefruit-Honey-Olive Oil Puree

White Chocolate Pudding

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk (I used part half&half and part almond milk)
  • 4 1/2 ounces white chocolate (do yourself a favor and get a high quality bar of white chocolate, not the cheap nestle chips stuff)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

combine the cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. before turning on heat, slowly whisk in the milk, and incorporate the dry ingredients. turn on heat low-medium, stirring as necessary. use a whisk as necessary to get rid of lumps. after 15-20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. continue stirring for about 2-4 minutes, until the pudding is smooth and thickened. remove from heat and stir in vanilla. chill in fridge for at least an hour.

Blackberry Puree 

  • 1/2 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 small grapefruit squeezed (1/2 large grapefruit)
  • 1 tablespoon of honey (heat in microwave to make it easier to incorporate)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until all the ingredients are incorporated. chill in the fridge with the pudding. when serving, put a couple spoonfuls of the puree on top of the pudding.

simple steak salads.

My preferred solo meal is a steak salad. The decadence of a slab of high-quality medium-rare meat coupled with fresh, healthy veggies makes for a perfectly balanced and filling meal fit for a queen. I cook my steak simply with salt and lots of pepper on a cast-iron pan, a la Alton Brown. Then, add whatever produce in my fridge I need to consume sooner than later.

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Recently, I made a salad dressing I would casually take shots of if gross disregard of social norms wasn’t a sign of being a sociopath. I add the following ingredients to taste: high quality red miso, sesame oil, dashi, ponzu sauce, and furikake. Red miso adds salt, sesame oil adds aromatic fat, dashi adds fishy-tang, ponzu sauce adds citrusy-sweet, and the furikake adds texture. I also throw fresh green onion on dishes that would benefit, which is often. Green onion is super easy to grow at home.

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Today, I ate my steak with leftovers from my new favorite Smitten Kitchen dish (adapted from the cookbook A Girl and Her Pig – currently in my Amazon cart) – lentil and chickpea salad with feta and tahini. The above photograph is a version I made with pickled red onion (because I had leftovers), and since, I’ve made it with plain red onion as the recipe calls for. The latter tastes better.

Also, throwing steak on salad means steak is acceptable for lunch!

hummus is home.

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Growing up in Southeast Michigan, Middle-Eastern food was ubiquitous. In Ann Arbor there was this random diner with standard diner fare – western omelettes, burgers, reubens, and pie. And, without any pomp and circumstance, in their appetizer section, they also had one of my favorite things in the world – saganaki – basically, fried cheese. Nowadays, eating Middle-Eastern food is like eating Korean food – it tastes like home. And, hummus is like the kimchi of the Middle-Eastern world… or something.

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I’ve got lots of love for Smitten Kitchen, and she has a great recipe for basic hummus. The key to silky smooth hummus is to take the skin off of each little chickpea. It’s a little labor intensive, but so very worth it. Another Middle-Eastern staple sauce is toum. If you’ve ever had authentic chicken shawarma, you’ve had toum. It’s kind of like a garlic aioli, but way more intensely garlicky.

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With a lot neutral oil, garlic, lemon, salt, and quite a bit of time next to a food processor, you see science-magic unfold before your eyes. I cut the recipe in half and had plenty of toum to last me for weeks. I put it in future batches of hummus, guacamole, and any recipe that calls for fresh garlic and some fat. I roasted a chicken and made a sauteed kale Mediterranean salad to eat with the sauces.

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One of the most decadently simple things to make for dinner is roast chicken. I like to splay my chicken and roast it in a cast-iron pan as the New York Times told me to.  Go for a small bird  (3-4lbs) – easier to cook and tastes better. As for the salad, I pickled some red onion, sauteed chopped kale, and added feta, quinoa, and mint. We cut up the chicken and ate the meat, salad, hummus, and toum all together in flatbread. It was nice to go home for a moment.