Sunday, October 11, 2009


So this post is only tangentially related to food, but this was just so ridiculous that I had to post it.

Guess what I saw at Target today....

No, my crappy camera phone resolution is not playing tricks on your eyes. This here, ladies and gentlemen, is A HOT DOG COSTUME FOR A DOG! This Halloween, if you don't have small children to dress up in costume - you can dress up your dog! I am particularly amused by the fact that they had to specify that this costume was for pets only. I guess if you wanted to you could dress your cat too.

Here's another favorite - dress your dog as a banana...

Or a turtle....

They had a rooster too, but I didn't take a picture of it. Now here's what I can't figure out - why would anyone want to dress their dog as another animal?! I mean, she's already an animal - why does she need to dress up like another animal?! People dress up as animals for Halloween, so maybe you should be dressing your dog as a person?

A Disclaimer: Don't get me wrong, I am not an animal hater. I have a dog, and I love my dog... which is why I am not dressing her up in costume this Halloween.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cooking with Rosann!

Rosann and I were roommates when we studied abroad together in Seville, Spain. So of course, when she came to my house this past weekend, we had to have a Spanish-style meal complete with tortilla espanola and manchego cheese!

I've blogged about tortilla before, and if you recall, I made a big gloopy mess on my stove. I have made tortilla several times since then because its easy, economical, and I frequently have all the ingredients on hand. Since then, I've learned a new trick from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, that is much neater and runs less of a risk of making a mess. I've shared this "new" trick below.

The tortilla right after it had been flipped

Tortilla Espanola (Revisited)

2 medium potatoes, or one large potato
3 large eggs (I used 2 whole eggs and the white of one egg)
Lots of oil, enough to cover the pan, and preferably olive oil because it is the signature oil of Spain.
Several pinches of salt

8-inch frying pan
Two large plates that are the same size for flipping

1. Peel and slice the potatoes into very thin slices, between an 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. I quarter the potatoes lengthwise to get nice bite pieces. Beat the eggs in a bowl.
2. Fry the potatoes in a large pan with a very generous coat of oil (several tablespoons). You need a lot of oil or it will stick and burn. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook until potatoes are soft and slightly browned. They will look like slightly undercooked home fries.
3. Drain the potatoes on paper towels. Scramble the eggs with another pinch of salt.
4. Heat oil (yes, more oil - or you can use the leftover oil from cooking the potatoes) in an 8-inch pan. Transfer the potatoes to the pan. Pour egg mixture evenly over the potatoes. Allow it to cook until the bottom is golden brown.
5. **The NEW trick** To flip the tortilla, gently slide the tortilla on to a plate with your spatula. Then, place the other plate over it, and quickly flip the plates. Slide the tortilla back onto the pan and cook for a few minutes until the bottom is golden brown.
7. Serve and enjoy!
8. If you did not do the trick right, clean your stove.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cheesecake-swirled Brownies

As promised, this was the dessert from our "Cooking with Suvarna" adventure. We used the recipe from the Smitten Kitchen, with a few minor uhh... let's call them "adjustments." Now, this recipe provides that you prepare the brownie batter, and then the cheesecake batter, and then swirl the cheesecake batter on top of the brownie batter. Easy, right?

Well, the brownie batter whisked up perfectly...

But when we made the cheesecake batter was when the cooking wheels started to fall off. First, we didn't use "well-softened" (i.e. room temperature) cream cheese as the recipe calls for. Apparently, nuking it in the microwave for 10 seconds did not cut it. Then, instead of just using the egg yolk, we accidentally cracked the whole egg, white and yolk, into the batter (oops!). The end result was cream cheese batter that had little lumps of cream cheese in it that looked like this.

But we were not discouraged - we are, after all, soon-to-be attorneys, here! First we tried using an electric mixer to smooth out the batter. When that didn't work, we tried using the masher thingy that you see in the picture here, but to no avail. So then we tried letting the mixture sit at room temperature to see if the lumps would just "melt" away. Wishful thinking. That's when we contemplated just trashing this batch and whip up a new batch of cream cheese mixture. But, since I am not one to waste perfectly good ingredients, I insisted on trying to use the lumpy cream cheese goo and poured it right on top of the brownie batter in the pan and swirled it around. (Which became a little harder to do since the brownie batter started to congeal a bit from sitting at room temperature for so long). Nonetheless, the brownies still came out wonderfully gooey and chocolatey, the way brownies are meant to be, cold cream cheese and egg white be damned.

See, I'm eating one right here!

Click here for the recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cooking with Suvarna!

This post is to prove that lawyers are not just soulless, money-grubbing, ambulance chasers. Some of us can cook too! Suvarna was gracious enough to let me raid her kitchen for a day (Thanks, Suvarna!) Hence, the much classier table setting here, rather than my usual ugly brown wooden table. On the menu was baked macaroni and cheese, fresh spinach salad (pictured above), and cheesecake-swirled brownies. The mac and cheese turned our rich, creamy, and delicious because we followed the recipe (more or less). The cheesecake-swirled brownies came out soft and chewy and well, chocolatey - despite a minor scare of what we thought would doom the brownies (more on that in another post).

Baked Macaroni and Cheese fresh and bubbly in the oven

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from Everyday Food (original recipe here)

1 pound elbow pasta
5 Tbs butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven at 375 degrees.

2. Boil pasta in salted water for about two minutes less than instructed on the box. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. (It will cook more in the oven). Return to the cooking pot.

3. While the pasta is cooking, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan. Once melted, whisk in flour and cook for about one minute. Add milk, about two teaspoons of salt and a good pinch of pepper and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for about two to three minutes (when mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon). Whisk in cheese until smooth. Pour cheese mixture over the cooked and drained pasta, and mix together until the pasta is evenly coated.

4. Melt remaining tablespoon of butter and toss with breadcrumbs.

5. Pour pasta mixture in a large baking dish. Sprinkle buttered breadcrumbs on top. Cover with foil and place in the preheated oven for about 55-60 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until golden.

Serves 6.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Simple Ratatouille

Now I will try to write this post without discussing the Disney animated film involving cartoon rats. (Even though it is an awesome movie for kids and foodies). After my post on stir-fried asparagus, which was a recipe that I pulled from a cookbook I borrowed from the library, I decided a new project is to "test-run" cookbooks that that I find at the public library. Economical, tasty, and a good way to try new recipes and cooking techniques. Today's recipe is brought to you by Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything", a helpful reference book, that starts each section with the most basic techniques and recipe and then adds on variations. And at 1044 pages, it really DOES show you how to cook just about everything.

Simple Ratatouille (Sauteed Eggplant with Tomatoes)
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

1 long Japanese eggplant, chopped into 1/2 in cubes (recipe called for regular eggplant, but I live in an Asian household, so all we had was Japanese eggplant. I actually prefer Japanese eggplants because the skin is thinner, so no need to peel them)
About 1/3 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried basil (Again, here I substituted dried basil for fresh because that is all I had)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Put oil and all but one teaspoon of garlic in non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent (about two minutes).
2. Add eggplant - stir and toss enough to coat the eggplant in oil. Allow it to cook until soft (about ten minutes), stirring occasionally.
3. Add tomatoes and cook for about another five minutes, stirring to break up the tomatoes.
4. Stir in remaining garlic and basil and cook for another five minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

On Food Blogging: A Disclaimer, an outlet, a rant

Yesterday, I finally saw Julie and Julia, a movie that has been getting mixed reviews in the food blogging scene. This is because Julie Powell, the author of the book and blog upon which the movie was based, has been largely criticized for her rise to fame as a food guru, when really, she doesn’t know how to cook. But from reading this article in Newsweek, I was reminded that Julie Powell, like most bloggers, didn’t claim to be a great cook. Cooking was a simply an escape.

Quite frankly, I enjoyed the movie because I like to watch cooking and see how ingredients are chopped, julienned, parboiled, baked, or what have you, into a final, edible, and with any luck, delicious product. I never met the real Julie Powell, so I have no idea whether Amy Adams’ rendition was true to character. I’ll even admit that my claims to be a foodie, I’ve never really watched Julia Child’s show, “The French Chef,” except for the clips shown on the Food Network in tribute to her life after she died in 2004. But I did find Meryl Streep’s interpretation to be funny and entertaining.

But what I really want to point out is that food blogging for me, as it was for Julie Powell, is really just a creative outlet for me. I don’t claim to be a great cook, I just enjoy cooking. I started cooking on my own in my sophomore year of college, when I had no meal plan, a borrowed copy of The College Cookbook, and a television that was almost always set to the Food Network. While in law school, I started reading food blogs to escape from the doldrums of reading stuffy Supreme Court decisions and memorizing the elements of intentional torts. I started this blog because it just looked like fun. I named it “Food Judicata” because I thought I was being clever by using a play on words with a legal term, even though this blog is more about food than the law. In fact, I’ve thought about changing the name because I really don’t want to write about the law. I’ve spent the last three years briefing, analyzing, and dissecting the law. This is my space to get away from the law. In fact, the law so far has done very little for me as I type this in my pajamas at 11 AM on a Monday morning.

Food blogging, or any blog for that matter, is really just a creative outlet for most people. It is a place for ordinary people to get “published” by a simple click of the mouse.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Zucchini Fritters

See these zucchini fritters? Notice how there are only six left on this plate? That's because I ate most of them while this batch was still cooking. Foods that need to be cooked in batches are dangerous for me because I tend to eat them while cooking, leaving very little left at the end. This was also an easy way to get your serving of vegetables - I almost ate two zucchini in one meal! (In fact, I would have if my mom hadn't eaten some of them). Although not pictured here, these are best served with sour cream.

Find the recipe here at Simply Recipes.
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Friday, July 3, 2009

Stir-Fried Asparagus with Almonds

A few weeks ago when I was leaving the public library, this book on the display, Best American Side Dishes, caught my eye. After flipping through the pages, I was instantly sold, (or rather "borrowed"). It's a great book compiled by the editors of Cook's Illustrated devoted entirely to side dishes, such as appetizers, pasta salads, and a wide variety of vegetables. I took it out primarily to find ways to make vegetables more exciting* but found that the book is full of handy tips, such as how to cut broccoli properly (I didn't even know there was a "right" way to do it!) and recommendations on the best brands of foods and cooking equipment. In fact, I am a little sad that I have to return the book today, that I may actually buy it from the bookstore one of these days.

* I never liked veggies as a kid. Mostly because my mom's idea of cooking them was as my sister called it, "boil until dead." Or in some cases, "Fry, until dead." So I am always looking for new ways to cook vegetables and would be happy to hear suggestions!

And of course, here's a recipe adapted from Best American Side Dishes:

Stir-Fried Asparagus with Almonds

½ cup low-sodium chicken broth (I dissolved 1 teaspoon of no sodium chicken bouillon in ¾ cup of boiling water)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of oil + ½ tablespoon reserved (recipe called for peanut oil, I used light olive oil)
1 ½ lbs asparagus, tough ends snapped off and cut into 1 to 1 ½ inch pieces
3 medium minced garlic cloves, minced
Sliced almonds (optional - I threw these in at the end because I thought it would look pretty)

1. Heat two tablespoons of oil. Add the asparagus and cook until browed (about five minutes). Add seasonings.

2. This is Cook’s Illustrated method for avoiding burnt garlic: Clear a space in the center of the pan, add garlic and the remaining ½ tablespoon oil. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth mixture and toss to coat the asparagus. Cook until the sauce is syrupy, about 30 seconds. Top with almonds for garnish. Serve immediately

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Tea: The Truly International Beverage

I just found this to be amusing... I know it's hard to see in the picture, but this bag of green tea has brewing instructions in FIVE languages (English, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese). And if that weren't enough for you, (I mean, what if you didn't speak any of those five languages or were illiterate?), there are PICTURES demonstrating how to brew the tea. I mean, don't get me wrong, I am all for multiculturalism and equal access by use of multiple languages. But come on, do you even NEED instructions on how to brew tea, let alone in five languages (and pictures)?
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Heavenly" Pancakes

Ricotta cheese makes an encore appearance in this recipe! (Well, I had to use up the ricotta cheese from last week somehow)

The inspiration from this recipe actually came from the ricotta cheese container. It called for complete pancake mix. But since I didn't have any, I made my own pancake mix using this recipe, which has appeared before on this blog.*

At first blush, I was not impressed by these pancakes. In sampling my first "test pancake" (you know, the first one you make that never comes out right because the pan hasn't had a chance to heat completely), the pancake tasted salty and not impressive. Something was missing... it needed sweetness... CRAP! I forgot to add the sugar to the batter! Fortunately, the batter was saved and I was able to add 1 tablespoon of sugar without overmixing the batter.** The sugar makes a HUGE difference. Somehow it brings out the sweet creaminess of the ricotta, and the pancake comes together, nice and fluffy. ***

*The recipe on the ricotta cheese container called it "Heavenly Pancakes" - for some reason a lot of recipes that include ricotta are called "Heavenly" Take the ricotta cheese cake from last week for example.
** Overmixing batter tends to make pancakes tough and gluey.

***Food photography tip: Whipped cream melts VERY quickly. So be sure to have everything set up and add the cream just before taking the picture. I had to learn this the hard way.

Heavenly Pancakes


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 well-beaten egg
1 cup ricotta cheese
Optional: fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and syrup for topping

1. Combine dry ingredients and mix with a wire whisk. (Don't forget the sugar!)
2. Add wet ingredients, and mix until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.
3. Most pancakes recipes say that you should let the batter sit for a while - at least 30 minutes. I usually don't have time for this and just skip this step.
4. Preheat nonstick pan - I flick a drop of water on the pan to tell if it is hot enough. If it sizzles immediately, then it's ready.
5. Cook pancakes until golden brown on each side.
6. Garnish with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and/or syrup.
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Friday, May 29, 2009

My First Cheesecake (Ricotta Cheesecake)

Last week was my week of freedom between my last final and before bar review began. So I had many ambitions to cook and bake things that I've had bookmarked such as, Paula Deen's Cheesecake cookies, and Penne with cherry tomatoes, asparagus, and goat cheese. So at the beginning of the week, I went to the supermarket, and bought, among other things, cream cheese for the cheesecake cookies, and ricotta cheese for the penne and goat cheese dish. Ricotta cheese, you ask? Well, I couldn't find goat cheese at the supermarket, so I thought ricotta cheese would be a good substitute.

Needless to say, neither of these dishes materialized between running errands, seeing friends I wouldn't get to see during the summer, and graduating from law school. Many of the other ingredients, such as the cherry tomatoes and asparagus, got eaten up by my parents, leaving me with a lot of ricotta and cream cheese. One google search later, and I had a recipe for "Heavenly Cheesecake" - which calls for both ricotta and cream cheese.

Now, this was the first cheesecake I have ever baked, so it's not so pretty. But don't be fooled by its appearance. This cake turned out to be a light and fluffy custard, like eating a cloud in a crust. The topping adds a sweet tangy flavor, but it's good even without it. I used a store-bought crust since I was pressed for time, but making your own as the recipe describes seems easy enough. Plus, it's low-fat! All in all, I would call this a success and I would make this cake again. Except next time, I will work on folding the egg whites into the batter better, which I believe is what caused the brown blotches.

For the recipe, click here.
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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Baked Sesame Chicken

This was one of my favorite ways to make chicken back in college. The recipe can be found here. The veggies next to it are simply red and green peppers and carrots stir-fried in garlic with sesame seeds for garnish. And of course, rice. (I did the neat bowl trick, found in the post on fried rice.)
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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fried Rice

This is one of the few Asian-inspired dishes that I can make without too many mishaps. It’s also a great way to get rid of leftovers. Everyone has their own way of making it and there tons of variations.* Here are a few general tips that I picked up over the years.

- Use day-old rice. The best is to use leftover Chinese take-out rice if you have it because it tends to get dry the next day. I didn’t today so I just used the leftover rice we had in my house.** It also helps to break up the rice before you add it to the pan.

- Don’t be afraid to use a lot of oil and garlic. Start off by using enough to coat the bottom of the pan. You may need to add more oil as you go along.

- Make sure you get the pan nice and hot – I judge it by how the oil makes wavy lines when you *gently* swish it around the pan. Some people like to flick a drop of oil to the pan, and if it sizzles that means it’s ready. I find that way a little scary.

1 garlic clove, smashed with the side of a knife
Leftover ham (I used Canadian bacon here), chicken, pork, beef or whatever you have lying around, chopped into bite size pieces
About 1.5 cups of cooked rice
1 well- beaten egg
Handful of frozen peas
2-3 teaspoons of soy sauce (You may need more depending on how salty you like it)

1. Heat the pan on medium-high with the garlic until the garlic starts to sizzle. (Be sure to remove the garlic when it starts to get brown or it will get bitter)

2. Add the meat and gently brown it – about 2-3 minutes. Set aside

3. Heat the pan again. Add egg and cook until solid (about a minute or two if the pan is hot enough). Break the egg up into pieces using the spatula as you are cooking. Set aside.

4 . Heat the pan again. Add rice and toss it lightly so that it browns evenly. Add cooked eggs and drizzle the soy sauce. The order here is important because you don’t want to put too much soy sauce on the meat or it will get too salty.

5. Stir in frozen peas and meat and cook until heated through. (About another minute or two).

6. To get the cool bowl shape, pack the mixture into a rice bowl, place a plate over it and flip the bowl over.

* My grandma used to make a version with ketchup. As disgusting as it sounds, it tasted pretty good and came out a cool orange color. I’ve tried to make it myself a few times, but never quite the same as Grandma’s.** I could write a whole other blog about the superiority of rice generally found in Asian households as opposed to Chinese restaurant rice. In fact, maybe one day I will. But I admit that fried rice is one thing that Chinese restaurant rice may have over the rice in my house.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Marinated Portobello Mushroom with Cheesy Orzo and Honey Glazed Carrots

It's snowing during my "spring break." Inclement weather means I have time to cook and blog about it. People have asked me if I have stopped cooking because I haven't blogged in a while. Which isn't really true - I have been cooking, but photographing in my house is a process. First, it means clearing the table. Then taking a dozen or so pictures with my amateur photography skills, while my food gets cold. And lately I've just been too hungry to do all that!

Above is a Rachael Ray inspired menu from this book:

And here is a link to the recipes!
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