missing the miso

miso soup is easy to make, high in protein, and high in naturally occuring msg. this means it is fast, nutritious, and delicious. you will need, from left to right, katsobushi, miso paste (any color you like), kombu, tofu (silken or soft), and green scallions (not shown).

first things first, the dashi. place a few strips of the kombu in 2 quarts of cold water in a large pot to rehydrate it. after 30 min, turn the heat up until you start to see bubbles. kombu gives up most of its flavor at lower temperatures so you don’t want to boil it. extract the kombu but hold onto it because you can make another batch of dashi using it. before:

after:

next, add the katsobushi to the warm water and raise the heat until the liquid boils. turn off the heat and let the flakes steep for 10 minutes.

strain out the katsobushi and you have dashi!

next take 8 tablespoons of miso paste and whisk into your 2 quart of dashi. keep the heat up and put in the cubed tofu. let the tofu sit in the soup for 10-20 minutes so it soakes up flavors. serve with some thiny sliced scallions and enjoy!

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January 19, 2011 at 12:44 am 1 comment

scabs

im pretty sure it is hardwired into our DNA to pick at our scabs. i can think of few things as satisfying as getting your fingernail underneath a thick, scaly, brown scab and flicking it off your knee in one complete piece. and who doesnt like feeling the surface of a scab? i even know a few people who enjoy eating their own scabs.

but why are we so fascinated with scabs?

underneath each scab is something quite special. what once was damaged skin and ruptured blood vessels is now returning to what it was before the injury, before the bleeding, before the pain. the scab hides this miraculous biological process and protects it from infection, and when it is ready, when the skin underneath is fully healed, the scab will fall off by itself.

when i pick at a scab on my knee, it is because i am itching to see what’s going on underneath. my curiosity as to whether my injury has healed tempts me to pick at my scab, to expose the incomplete process underneath, and ironically, this delays the regeneration process. deep down inside, i want to see healing, i want to see renewal, i want to see how my knee is supposed to look.

picking at the scab might cause you to bleed again. but its okay, your body will form another clot and another scab will take the place of the one you impulsively separated from your body.

but wouldnt it be better to wait?

January 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm Leave a comment

swiss steak

beef bottom round was on sale so i bought a 2 pounds and decided to make some swiss steak (recipe adapted from my hero). cut your meat into 1/2 inch thick slices and tenderize using a meat hammer tenderizer thing. i didnt have one so i used a can of soup to bash my meat covered in plastic wrap. after you tenderize, rub both side with salt and pepper and dredge with flour. set the meat aside for a little while to allow the flour to absorb some moisture from the meat.

in the meantime, slice up a sweet onion, mince 4 gloves of garlic, and dice two stalks of celery. heat up some vegetable oil in a large pot and fry your beef a few minutes on each side until it browns. don’t overcrowd your pot or else you’ll drop the oil temperature and have a sucky fry.

doesn’t this look good?

well, its not because bottom round is a pretty tough cut of meat to chew. that’s why its pretty cheap! we’ll need to braise the meat for a few hours before eating. while the oil is still hot, add in your celery, onion, and garlic. saute for a few minutes and then add a can of diced tomatoes, a few tablespoons of tomato sauce, one teaspoon of dried oregano, one teaspoon of paprika, and one teaspoon of worcestershire sauce. stir it all up and then add 1 1/2 cups of some sort of stock. beef stock should work the best, but i used the duck broth i made a few months ago. bring to almost a boil and submerge all your meat in your braising liquid.

braise for 2 hours or until the meat can be cut with your fork. i had it over rice with some broccoli and a nice glass of wine. enjoy!

December 20, 2010 at 1:52 am Leave a comment

a manly afternoon

after 5 years of hard work, my headlamps have become scratched and foggy from wear and tear. at nighttime, it feels like i don’t have headlamps at all, but instead candles inside jam jars. take a look:

i’m not really a DIY type of guy, but hoping to impress my girlfriend with a clever display of manliness, i decided to DIM (do it myself).

ingredients:

  • 1000, 2000, 3000 grit sandpaper
  • blue painters tape
  • any car plastic polish (i used Meguiars PlastX)
  • water in a spray bottle
  • microfiber cloth

first, clean any dirty and bird feces from the surface of your headlamps. next, use the painters tape to protect your car’s paint around the headlamps. this will prevent the sandpaper and polish from scratching your car’s paint. next, spray the headlamp and the 1000 grit sandpaper with the water and begin sanding. you want to sand straight up and down and straight left to right, at right angles. sand at least 3 passes. you can do it put your back into it! clean off any plastic dust and repeat with the 2000 grit sandpaper at 45 degree angles to the original sanding direction. repeat again with the 3000 grit sandpaper in the same direction as the 1000 grit. lastly, apply the plastic polish to the microfiber cloth and rub firmly in a circular motion. this was probably the toughest part. you really have to apply the polish firmly (or with a rotary pad that i dont have) to make it work. my right arm feels like it will fall off any second now but my final result made it well worth it:

November 28, 2010 at 8:37 pm 2 comments

red bean buns, autolysed!

i last made red bean buns in philadelphia and since i found this at the chinese grocery store in raleigh yesterday, i decided to give it another go using new techniques that i’ve learned recently.

recipe (makes 7-10 buns):
2 cups flour
2.5 teaspoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted.
0.5 cup warmed water
0.5 cup whole milk, warmed
2 eggs, beaten
1 pack of yeast

new technique: AUTOLYSE! combine flour and warmed water and let sit for 20 minutes. according to wikipedia, “This rest period allows for better absorption of water and helps the gluten and starches to align. Breads made with autolysed dough are easier to form into shapes and have more volume and improved structure.”

after autolysing, add the other ingredients except the butter and start to knead. the fat in the butter can prevent good gluten formation so add that in last after kneading for 3-5 minutes. it is going to be hard to get the butter to incorporate, but with enough work, the starch gluten matrix should absorb the fats happily. expect to get your hands pretty messy though.

after the dough starts to feel nice and smooth, put it in a bowl and cover with a moist cloth in a warm place (ideally 75-85F) for the first rise.

during the first rise, i toasted sesame seeds:

there we go:

after the dough doubles in size, deflate the dough and divide the dough into little balls. flatten the balls into small pancake shapes and add the red bean paste to the center. form the buns as such:

5 knife slit method! allows for quicker air expansion during baking and prevents any gas bubbles from bursting the dough:

finish for the rest of the buns and let sit covered (somehow) for 30 minutes or so. the 2nd rise goes faster because the yeast have doubled in population by now. i like to cover the buns with a cup because plastic wrap always sticks to the buns and ruins the surface when i remove it.

after the buns double in size, wash with the egg glaze, sprinkle the sesame seeds on top, and bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

and then enjoy with friends!

September 6, 2010 at 8:00 pm 1 comment

a man, a plan, how banal

how much do you plan?

personally, i hate planning. attempting to anticipate the events of the future seems a bit futile to me, even bordering on hubris, and we all know what happened to icarus. ive heard it said that there’s no use in building the biggest boat when you can’t raise the tide, and that’s so true, it hurts.

but how about my decision making? don’t all my decisions point in a certain direction that i want to take my life in? for example, the choices i make at work affect my positive or negative standing at work, which determine which city i live in. and that has somehow led me to durham, north carolina, of all places.

i’ve learned that the harder you try to grip the control joystick of life, the more you realize that nearly everything is out of your control. when you learn this, you will look down and realize that what you thought was the control joystick of life is actually a slimy, wet trout. and the harder you grip it, the more it will squirm out of your hands.

so man the rudders, but have faith in the current.

September 5, 2010 at 6:17 pm Leave a comment

hot with a chance of chastity

the weatherman announced record breaking temperatures so i went to the mall.

i usually avoid malls like the plague. i see them as opulent shrines to capitalism where teenagers go to share venereal diseases and where pensioners go very early in the morning to eat bran muffins. however, the recent heatwave here in NC forced me to begrudgingly drive to the mall to buy a pair of shorts.

i’ve complained before about how buying toothpaste overwhelms me with too many choices, but it is nothing compared to buying a pair of shorts. you can get them in a million different shades of grey, khaki, and blue. they can be very short and tight, if you’re thin and stylish, or very baggy and long, if you’re a murderer concealing guns and knives. they can have extra pockets on the side to carry extra cargo, have a belt sewn  into the waistline, or if you’re feeling macguyver-ish, you can even buy shorts that have snap on attachments to convert them regular pants when it is nippy outside. inundated with options, i consulted my fashion-savvy sister who told me to stay away from poorly made pants with many pockets that showed a nasty logo – the sort scalawags wear. thus began my pursuit for a pair of shorts.

the first store i went to, and i kid you not, was actually selling shorts that not only contained numerous holes in them but also were splattered with paint. i assume the clothing company distributed a bunch of shorts to painters and builders in the area and told them to wear them on the job and return them once the shorts were completely ruined. what’s next – stores selling used hemorrhoid cream?

i went into to the next store. actually, i’m rather sure that it wasn’t so much a store as it was a male pornography studio. every wall had a ceiling-to-floor photographs of nearly naked men with tanned bodies of sinew and reps. i am not sure why a store that presumably sold clothing would choose not to put clothing on their models. doubting the business competence of this establishment, i left and continued on.

i saw a shop with a respectable looking store front and a very conservative anglo-saxon name and went in, hoping to find traditional, normal clothing. instead, i stepped into some sort of odd rave night club. it was about as dark as a coal mine and loud repetitive-sounding music blasted from gigantic speakers. the entire shop smelled of bad cologne which i assumed was caused by a customer knocking over the cologne display as a result of the darkness. not being able to shout loudly enough to the store attendant to ask where the shorts were kept because of the music and wanting to rid my nose of the terrible smells, i hurried onto the next store.

by then, my patience was waning and i had decided that any pair of shorts that adequately covered my genitals would suffice. the ones i ended up with are actually pretty normal – un-ruined, khaki shorts with normal pockets, and reasonably priced as well. my only issue with them is that instead of a zip, they have four extremely unwieldy buttons. so what i really bought was a chastity belt camouflaged as a pair of shorts.

however, i am already foreseeing situations in which these four buttons will be not undone quickly enough to meet the needs of a very full bladder. i will therefore eventually ruin these shorts with my own urine and will need a replacement pair.

after all my trouble, maybe i should have purchased a spare?

June 23, 2010 at 11:17 am 6 comments

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