Udon with Ponzu and Brown Butter Sauce

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These udon noodles with ponzu and brown butter sauce are one of my favorite recent creations. It’s amazingly simple and takes almost no effort to throw together. There are certain words that I really don’t like to use to describe food; they’re overused and cliche. But sometimes, there’s just no other appropriate way to describe something. So I’m going to break one of my own unwritten rules and come out and say it – unctuous. That’s the only way that I can describe these fat, slippery noodles that are lightly coated in a buttery, citrusy sauce. The ponzu and brown butter sauce is incredibly rich and fills your mouth with a rounded flavor. Red peppers and green onions add color to the dish as well as pierce through the richness of the sauce to make the dish seem light on the palate. The noodles themselves are so rich that you don’t need much steak in this dish, but it does deserve a special mention. A quick marinade of sesame oil, ponzu, and ginger imparts tons of flavor. A quick kiss by a hot pan will cook the steak perfectly, making it so tender that you barely need to chew it. [....]

Mini Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

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Life has been insane lately and I haven’t had the time or energy to post, but I couldn’t wait any longer to post these.

I hadn’t had pineapple upside down cake in forever. I actually kind of forgot that it existed! But a few months ago, a little pineapple upside down bundt cake at Panera caught my eye. i bought one and was happily surprised when the cakes were fully of crunchy little poppy seeds. I loved the texture that they gave the cake! I immediately knew that I wanted to recreate them at home.

These came out great! The pineapple reminds me of summer and makes even the dreariest winter day seem immediately tropical. The pineapple and brown sugar almost melts into the cake, which is moist and doughy with the great crunch. [....]

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Around the World in Six Soups

January is National Soup Month. January 24th is about the time when most people start losing focus on their New Year’s resolutions to eat better. I love soups and find that they provide a tasty and nutritious meal without a lot of work. So when Foodbuzz sent out a call for proposals for the January 24, 24, 24 event, I knew exactly what I wanted to do – a world tour of soups. (A soup Olympics, if you’re eagerly anticipating the games next month.)

That’s right: I’m presenting you with six soups, one representing each (populated) continent. Each soup is hearty enough to be a meal and can be made quickly and easily as long as you have stock on hand. And to keep everyone happy, two of them are vegan. They also all freeze well, which is good considering I now have enough soup to feed a small country.

(Six recipes with photos makes the just about the longest blog post ever, so I’m cutting it off here. Please click through to read more!)

Maple-Glazed Root Vegetables

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I’ve never been a vegetable person. I have my favorites (ahem… brussels sprouts), but in general they aren’t something that I get excited about. Especially when it comes to vegetable side dishes, where they don’t get to hide behind other flavors. But these maple-glazed root vegetables are another story: they can be enjoyed just as much by the veggie-hater as the veggie-lover. I made these to go along with steak and french fries – at the end of dinner, my plate still had steak and french fries on it, but there were no vegetables left. I was so excited about them that I made them again right away, to bring for lunch the next day. It’s amazing what a little bit of maple syrup can do.

That’s not to say that these vegetables are super sticky sweet – the syrup really only forms a light glaze that imparts a hint of maple flavor while keeping the vegetables from drying out while they roast. You also want to be sure to use real maple syrup on these, rather than “maple flavored syrup” (like Aunt Jemima and the other popular brands) that have corn syrup as their first ingredient. Real maple syrup has a lot less sugar, and a slightly bitter taste that takes some getting used to on your pancakes, but it a perfect foil to the natural sweetness of the root vegetables and to the peppery flavor of the parsnip and turnip.

You can use whatever winter root vegetables are available, and whatever you like. I used sweet potato, carrots, parsnip, and turnip – but you can feel free to leave any one of those out or add another vegetable of your choice. When I make these again I want to try adding fennel, which I think will be fabulous. I also want to play around with adding some beets (probably not with the carrots and sweet potato though). It’s all about figuring out which vegetables you like best and going with it. [....]

Daring Cooks: Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce

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It seems like on the 13th of every month you can find me scrambling around in the kitchen rushing to finish the Daring Cooks challenge. I don’t know why I always procrastinate! I was especially excited for this month’s challenge too, so I really had no reason to put it off. You see, this month we made satay. Pork satay. Pork satay with Peanut Sauce. Yeah.

I love peanut sauce. Although I rarely order satay when we go out, I always consider it. All because I want that peanut sauce! Unfortunately, the chicken that they pair it with never seems worth it, and I wind up getting something else. But now, thanks to Daring Cooks, I can have peanut sauce whenever I want! I’ve tried to make it at home before, but it never came out right – it was always too sweet, and too thick. Apparently the trick is using coconut milk, lemon juice, and some random spices. The sauce is light and smooth, with a slightly sweet flavor and a little bit of spice at the end. Perfect. And the pork? So much better than chicken. Although if you don’t eat pork, I’m sure chicken would work just as well in this recipe. [....]

Review: Michael Symon's Live to Cook

I thought would try something different today – a cookbook review! If you’re anything like me, you plan to use some money that you got for Christmas for a new cookbook or two, but with so many out there it can be a bit daunting to figure out which ones are worth the money.

Before I received a copy to review, I don’t think I would have ever thought about buying Michael Symon’s book. I love iron Chef, but I’m always slightly disappointed when he’s the one picked. We joke that the challenger picks him when they want someone who will take it easy on them. This book changed my opinion of him though, and I have a new respect for Michael Symon.

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First though, let’s talk about the book itself: as you can probably tell from the blog, I’m a very visual person. I like pictures. And I most likely won’t look at a recipe in a cookbook twice if there isn’t a picture to go along with it. I was very happy to see that this book is full color and loaded with mouth-watering photographs. Not all together in a little section in the middle either- the photo is right there with the recipe. And a lot of recipes even have multiple photos! That’s my kind of cookbook.

The second thing that I noticed about this book were the chapters – in addition to standards like “meat,” “soups and sandwiches,” and “salads” there are categories for things like “charcuterie” and “pickles.” Fun! But it also demonstrates that this isn’t your everyday cookbook. Certainly some of the recipes can be made easily on a weeknight, but others – like cuing your own bacon and pancetta – are pretty involved and not for those of you who are easily intimidates in the kitchen. other recipes looks awesome, but are pretty impractical for the home-cook – I’m not sure where I would find ingredients like beef cheeks or suckling pig head.

That aside, this cookbook is pretty awesome. I tried a few recipes from it, and they were huge hits. First I made braised pork belly, which took a long time but was very easy to make (95% of it was inactive time that it spent in the oven). The pork belly was great on it’s own, but even bette when used to make pork belly croutons to go on a salad with an egg and Symon’s Sherry Vinaigrette! This was a really fun play on bacon and eggs and we loved it. The flavors went beautifully together. I’ll be making the vinaigrette a lot.

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The next recipe I tried knocked it out of the park though, and is what really changed my opinion about Symon. The recipe for Crispy Gnocchi with Morels and Spring Peas is easily worth the price of the book. Love, love, love! I had to use porcini mushrooms and frozen peas, and it was still awesome – I can only imagine how great it would be with the right ingredients! the gnocchi was light and fluffy, with a crispy exterior and a bright lemon flavor. The brown butter sauce was amazing with the mushrooms and peas. AND it was easy enough to make on a weeknight. I can’t say enough about this dish. Seriously buy this book and make it ASAP.

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The verdict: This isn’t a book for the casual home-cook, but if you’re a little more adventurous in the kitchen it’s a great addition to your cookbook collection. None of the recipes are particularly difficult, but some are pretty involved and have multiple steps or use hard-to-find ingredients. You likely won’t be able to (or want to) make every recipe in it, but its a beautiful collection of solid recipes that will inspire you to try new combinations of ingredients and think a little differently about some old standards.  

Would I buy this book? While I never would have given it a second look before, I would definitely buy this book for myself or for a food-loving friend.

Michael Symon’s Live to Cook is available at Amazon.com for $23.10.