Thursday, July 29, 2010

Microwave Corn on the Cob, and Dollar Store Trip

I constantly delight in adding to my list of things that cook better in the microwave. It's pretty much just fruit & veg, but still. There's another category of things that cook more quickly and easily in the microwave, like eggs or frozen dumplings or puddings, but that's a story for another post.

Tonight, for my 'midnight meal' (I'm a night owl), I made corn-on-the-cob in the microwave. It's in season here in Ontario and selling 5 cobs for $2, which calculates to about 40c/cob. Cheap and delicious!

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I have to ask, though, am I that much of a plebe or is there really something wrong with our household's butter? It always tastes and smells sweet in a baking kind of way. My mum's sodium paranoia means that we don't have salted butter, so I'll get that variety in college and test. We take a long time to get around to using butter (Mum is also paranoid of fat or frying) in my house, so it may be that the quality has deteriorated? I may be too used to margarine at this point, although I'm wondering if I should switch back.

Maybe I'm strange, but there's so much variation in recipes for any given dish that I like to survey a lot of them and follow the most common methods, or average thereof. I guess it's ingrained on me from writing research papers for university to use multiple sources, LOL. I find the strangest school habits stay with you over the years.

Microwave Corn-on-the-Cob
1 cob of corn, husked; butter; pepper

  1. Wash the cob - some recipes suggested seasoning/buttering it at this point, will try that some time - and wrap it in wax paper and twist the ends like a candy wrapper. Set it on a dinner plate.
  2. Microwave (times given for 700W power) for 2 minutes. Watch out for steam when you open the microwave door!
  3. Rotate the corn and microwave another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Unwrap corn carefully, preferably with a utensil. Don't count on this paper if you like reusing stuff, it'll be soggy and tear easily.
  5. Cut thin slices of butter onto the plate you used for the corn (it should melt on its own).
  6. Affix pronged utensils on either side of the cob, roll on your buttery plate, and enjoy!
Cooking the corn within its husk is probably better; I just didn't have enough husk to work with, so I removed it and began afresh. Tasted like regular corn-on-the-cob in the end, which is to say scrumptious.

I just figured out this method of corn-buttering today, and I'm definitely a fan. My old, shameful method was rolling the corn directly in the butter. I'd cut the top off and dump it on my last cob... I can never eat just 1! I'd say this is an improvement, if not as satisfactory to that part of me that wants to chomp into massive turkey legs, lick fruit juices off my fingers, smell a barbecue sizzling, or spit out bones & seeds.

C'mon, everyone has that part of them, right? Well, they do in Asia at least, where molluscs and crustaceans are served within the shell. Ostensibly for flavour, but mainly because everyone has a hell of a time with all the cracking and sucking and wrenching. I 'fess up to being a little more fastidious than that, but that's just because I wasn't as skilled and am too lazy to deal with the seafood that way sometimes. Plus, I had a hard time finding things to clean my dirty, fishy-smelling hands with. Came across a pack of paper soap (like the Listerine tongue-papers, but hopefully more foamy) in Dollarama today that promises to be a Godsend.

[PTA: remember, sanitising your hands doesn't remove the dirt on them. You need to scrub that away with soap and warm water for at least 20s. Sing 'Happy Birthday' twice, or play a ringtone in your head.]

There were a lot of great finds in the dollar store. I would recommend going there as a first rather than last resort for a lot of household items. For example, I'd bought a nesting set of microwaveable glass bowls, plus lids, at a Chinese houseware shop for $6. I found it today at the dollar store for $2! Certain clothespins my mum bought at the aforementioned store were also at the dollar store. So much for our 'finds' from that 2h trip to Toronto.

I decided that I'd better wait until I'm in the apartment to see what I needed before going all-out on a dollar store spree, fun as they are. I was sad not to find another $1.25 iPod Touch case, since I wanted to stock up. Cooking-wise, I just got a silicon 6-muffin pan, the perfect size for my toaster oven. I'm considering some of the bakeware, too, but I'm anxious. Of all the things I don't want shattering on me, it's glass. Hot glass with hot food in it. One time at my grandmother's, we made a dish that ended up being known as "Exploding Chicken" because the casserole dish shattered when placed on the stovetop counter. Hence my possibly-abnormal trepidation. I think I'll stick with low-end stuff not meant to stand up to rigorous activity. That, and their grinders.

Also went to Bulk Barn and drooled at all the grains and spices they had. Most of the spices were around $1/100g. It seems like it would be pretty easy to get a nice collection of spices there. Grains were mostly around 45c-60c/100g... I may stick with rice, at half the price.

I'm going to the States this long weekend. I'm excited to see what wacky finds they have there... especially at their dollar stores.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rice with Sambal

Sambal is a chili-shrimp paste that is used in a lot of Malaysian dishes. It also has ginger, garlic, shallots (green onion to me), and tamarind (assam to me) in it, the last of which provides the nice sour taste that is prevalent in Malaysian cooking. I'm using a canned version that simply says "Singapore Sambal", so no idea if it's sambal oelek or what.

Rice is probably one of the best ingredients that can be part of bizarre rangeless experiments due to its absorption factor. Plus, living in a partly-Asian household, I always have leftover rice around ready to be rehydrated and abused. Some people say rice doesn't reheat well, at least not without steaming. I find as long as you don't reheat it naked - it needs liquid or covering of some sort - it's fine. In fact, some of my best discoveries came from reheating it with different fluids involved.

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I also like Minute Rice for this factor, as well as budget. A large box of Minute Rice only costs around $6, if that, but it provides many meals that are easy to prepare. I like to get the brown rice kind, since my rice cooker is very slow so regular brown rice takes way too long for me.

If I manage to keep up with my blog, I'll be rolling out a lot of my rice dishes.

It occurs to me that maybe I should do pictures, but that would inspire no one since my food tends to look like amorphous upchucked masses. If I take the plunge and get free picture messaging, I guess I can send pix from my cellphone. I don't take my camera to the table with me; I rarely even have a bra with me. Anyway.

This dish was inspired by the amazing Malaysian dish known as nasi lemak ('creamy/fatty rice'). I'm working my way up to that one - it involves coconut rice, dried anchovies, and sambal paste that doesn't come out of a can.

So here is my first so-called recipe, which is really more a description of what I did with leftovers using a numerical list.

Rice With Sambal (nasi sambal?)
4 oz diced tomatoes, 1-1.5c cooked rice, milk, 1-2T oil, 3T sambal, peanuts (to taste) and 1 egg

Rice:
1) unfroze leftover diced tomatoes and zapped it (~4min full power on 700W)
2) spooned leftover, already-cooked rice into the container, which was half-full, until it was full
3) covered container and heated for 2 minutes
4) stirred, poured in milk (skim) until the container was almost full
5) recovered and heated for 2 minutes

Meanwhile... sambal:
I followed the instructions on the can (ish) to let the sambal heat in oil, though I think I'd skip the oil next time. So during step 3-5 of the rice -
1) poured ~1-2T canola oil into bowl, heated for 2 minutes
2) added 3T sambal
3) heated for 2 minutes
At this point I tried to sample the sambal. I can still feel the scalded bit of my tongue.

Bringing it all together:
I scooped the container of rice mixture into the bowl with the sambal mixture and stirred it all up. It was still too liquidy, so I added more rice. Then, I added one of the typical nasi lemak ingredients, peanuts (mine were BBQ). I considered adding dry shrimp, but it was pretty tasty already. Other considerations were Chinese 5-Spice, coconut flakes (though that would've worked best at the beginning) or minced garlic.

Since everyone else in the house is kind of wary of my concoctions, there were leftovers. I cracked an egg over what was left, covered the bowl (except for one little vent) with plastic wrap, and cooked it in 30s intervals for 2mins in the microwave. Then I popped the yolk and mixed it up. Awesome.

Household verdict
Mum - refused to try
sister - good, but spicy (it wasn't really, but she's not so used to spiciness)
Dad - "Not bad."
me - I liked it. It wasn't nasi lemak, but I may be on a sambal kick for the next little while... I wonder how pasta will taste with it?

I *do* make weird food.

Well, here I am starting yet another attempt at blogging. This time, however, it will be a subject near and dear to my heart as opposed to rambling whines about my life (what? the two are different things, I swear):

FOOD EXPERIMENTATION

I should let it be known now that "mang" is a Newfoundland term for a weird food mixture, or at least it is when my mother refers to what I'm cooking at the time.

I make food in as lazy a way as possible; the less chopping, prep, or washing up there is, the better. This leads to a lot of cooking in the microwave, based on the cunning realisation that there is no pot to wash if you make your food directly in the bowl.

Any food purist or gourmand has fainted by now. What can I say? I eat and like food from Tim Hortons, Pizza Pizza and sometimes even McDonalds. If I didn't enjoy crappy food, which is what most of my life consists of, then my existence would be joyless. Also I wouldn't be such a tub.

I'm moving into residence in the fall, where I'll have a kitchenette with microwave and bring along my toaster oven and rice cooker. Also aiming for a food processor (told you I hate food prep) and slow cooker. Am taking this chance to experiment before I'm bogged down with school once more.

If it helps anyone's nausea, I did work at a caf part-time for a few years, so I do know food safety rules and try to follow them (this made it very hard to find food to eat in Taiwanese street markets). I'll probably do a post on it at some point.