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Takeout at Home

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guys, i think i’m really on an asian kick. like, i might need to take a trip to asia sometime soon (except that i hear things are cramped and crowded and hot and potentially smelly and just the thought of a place like that makes my OCD-ness kick into high gear…oh wait, i just described most of new york city).

i came across this recipe for general tsp’s tofu on pinterest last week, and figured i might as well try it while i was on my whole “mix sesame oil and soy sauce and ginger and good things will happen” kick. what do you know? this stuff is GOOOD. and would be even better on some deep fried chicken pieces. no offense, tofu, you know i really like you a lot, but i think it’s better that we just be friends. chicken and i are in a serious relationship, and it ain’t complicated.

if you’re a vegetarian, you’re gonna looove this dish. if you’re not, you’ll love it too – just make it with shrimp or chicken. the sauce is made separately, so you can throw it onto whatever you want.

note: the original recipe calls for a good amount of sriracha, and i can’t handle spice – so i cut it down substantially, and just threw in a little squirt to my sauce. if you’re into spice, go for it, but buyer beware! that ish is on FIRE.

The Recipe

tofu:

12 oz extra firm tofu, cut into cubes (i buy mine at trader joe’s)

1 tbsp corn starch2 tsp vegetable oil (i use canola)

sauce:

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp grated ginger

2 tsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp hoisin sauce (warning: this stuff is like crack)

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp sriracha (i used just a squirt, remember)

additionally:

1 tbsp corn starch + 2 tbsp water

veggies of your choice

1 cup white or brown rice

to make the tofu, preheat your oven to 400 and toss tofu cubes with 1 tbsp of corn starch in a bowl. make sure they’re evenly coated on all sides. cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spritz with a layer of nonstick spray. spread your tofu cubes out on the baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and slightly crispy to the touch.  

meanwhile, cook your rice. white rice is generally a 2:1 ratio (two cups water to one cup rice). brown rice is too, but it takes longer to cook (usually around 40 minutes), so i prefer white in a pinch.

while you’re baking the tofu, make your sauce. cook your diced ginger and garlic in a medium saucepan for a few minutes, then add the other ingredients listed under “sauce” above and cook for another few minutes. mix the remaining water and corn starch in a tiny bowl, and pour it into the sauce mixture slowly. stir until it’s evenly integrated and your sauce is thick and slightly chunky. i know that’s gross, but that’s what it should look like. see picture. 

take out your tofu from the oven and toss it with your sauce. serve it over rice and top with a bunch of sauteed veggies. i chose zucchini and purple cabbage (i just sauteed them in a few teaspoons of soy sauce and sesame oil). throw some  sesame seeds on top and dig in.

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as my friend bruce so kindly pointed out last week, i’ve been really into all things asian lately (when it comes to food, at least). this is sort of funny, because asian food used to be the one food i didn’t dare cook at home. i assumed the sauces were so complicated that i’d inevitably mess them up, that sesame chicken was better left to the folks at my local chinese restaurant. but then i made orange sesame chicken at home, and it looked just like it did in the restaurant, but tasted even better because i’d made it myself. i was so proud in that moment, sprinkling my toasted sesame seeds atop chicken that was practically perfect in every way (and loaded with calories, i’m sure – but let’s forget about that for a moment). 

making sesame chicken gave me the much needed confidence to attempt other takeout at home classics – like this recipe for sesame shrimp and broccoli, which i stumbled upon whilst doing my daily perusal of pinterest. the sauce isn’t perfect (in fact, i think next time i make this, i may use my original orange sesame chicken sauce instead of this one) – but it was fast, easy, and pretty darn good the next day when i ate it at my desk for lunch. Image

i only happened to have teeny tiny baby shrimp on hand at home, but i’d recommend you make this recipe with bigger shrimp for a bit more bite. also, i ended up having a ton of extra sauce, which is currently sitting in my fridge waiting for something new to smother. i’m thinking tofu might work.

The Recipe (found at I want a nap)

  • 1 ½ cup water
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

to make, set a pot of water on to boil for your white rice (if you don’t have any made already). generally, the ratio for rice is 2 to 1, ie, 2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice. while it boils, chop up a head of broccoli and lightly toast some sesame seeds (about 2 teaspoons worth) in a skillet. keep an eye on them, these babies burn quickly! your water should be boiling by now – add your rice and turn the heat down to low. cook, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is fluffy.

next, make the sauce. mix 1 1/4 cup water, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, bouillon cube, 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and 2 minced garlic cloves in a medium sauce pan. whisk to combine. in a small bowl, mix the corn starch and remaining 1/4 cup water, then stir cornstarch mixture into the saucepan mixture. whisk until smooth.

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cornstarch is a thickening agent, and one i’m learning is used in a lot of chinese dishes. sometimes, it’ll be added to the dough of a frying recipe (giving those crunchy bits on the outside that we’re all used to eating at our favorite restaurants), sometimes, it’ll be used to thicken up the sauce. in this case, it’s the latter. mixing it with water ensures that it enables an equal level of thickening power; if you were to just dump the cornstarch (which looks similar to confectioners sugar) straight in, you’d just get little lumps of starch that you wouldn’t be able to mix out. 

heat your sauce on medium heat, stirring often, until it thickens. this should be about seven minutes. remove from heat and set aside. check on your rice. it should be about halfway done by now.

now it’s time for the goodies. heat sesame oil and olive oil in a skillet. once it’s hot (test by throwing a drop of cold water on the oil – if it reacts, you’re good to go!), add your broccoli and saute for a few minutes, stirring frequently to make sure the broccoli is equally cooked on all sides. now, add your shrimp, as well as the remaining diced garlic. saute until cooked through and pink, about 3-4 minutes. 

remove shrimp and broccoli from heat and toss with the sauce – don’t pour it all on, because you’ll likely have extra! your rice should be done by now, so spoon a bit of it into a big bowl (like the one pictured above) and top with the shrimp and broccoli mixture. sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top, et voila! a delicious takeout meal at home, in about 20 minutes. 

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as a writer, i’m well accustomed to writer’s blocks – those days when i sit down at the computer and stare at a blank word document with seemingly paralyzed fingers (sidenote: on how i wish it were the early 1900s and instead i was sitting down at my writing desk with parchment and a quill). as a cook, and more importantly, an avid eater, i’m also well accustomed to chef’s block. you know, that whole ‘water everywhere but not a drop to drink’ syndrome.

i’ve got a fully stocked kitchen, thanks to a mother that believed that “fully stocked” meant there was at least one or two extra of everything down in the basement pantry. as a new york city apartment dweller, i don’t have access to fancy things such as “basement pantries” or extra refrigerators – but i make sure i’ve got enough food to feed myself for at least a week at a time, at all times. what can i say? i like to eat. that being said, even i have those days where i rifle through my bountiful fridge and my overflowing cabinets and think, “this is it? really? but i don’t WANNA eat this!” and yes, i do this in my internal cranky voice. if penny (my cat), is around, i say it aloud to her instead of to myself.

BUT! i have a solution. you see, when i’m in a ‘food everywhere but nothing to eat’ situation, i often default to takeout, mostly because it means more exotic food than i can manage to make myself. i’m not the type to order italian or a cheeseburger, but give me some chicken tikka masala or thai curry and i’m a happy camper. but what if i could make these exotic foods myself? newsflash, ladies and gents, i can – and so can you. there’s no need to go running to the telephone when you’re feeling uninspired when you’ve got a kickass chicken curry recipe up your sleeve. this is mine.


The Recipe (adapted from Scott Drewno’s Red Curry Chicken)*

Serves 4

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

3 tablespoons canola oil (canola oil is good with high heats)

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 2-inch cubes

1½ tablespoons Thai red-curry paste (I use the Thai Market brand)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika (you can use regular paprika if you don’t have smoked)

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips

½ cup sliced red onion

½ mushrooms, sliced (I used brown button)

½ of a beefsteak tomato, cut into bite size pieces

½ cup scallions cut into 1-inch pieces (use both white and green parts)

14 oz unsweetened coconut milk (I use reduced fat coconut milk from Trader Joe’s)

¼ cup fresh lime juice (the juice of about 3 limes)

¼ cup cilantro, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

heat the oil in a large skillet and add the chicken. cook evenly on both sides, about two to four minutes. add the curry paste and the paprika, cook until fragrant. add the veggies – carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, scallions, onion, red pepper – and cook for another three to five minutes. add your coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the milk thickens slightly, eight to ten minutes. add the lime juice, season with salt and pepper, and stir in half the cilantro.

serve over white rice, and garnish with remaining cilantro. this dish reheats well, and tastes even better the next day, once the flavors have had a chance to sink in.

*the recipe i adapted features a few things i don’t like, like fish sauce – but you can find it here. 

the other night, after working my little (okay, big) tush off at bar method, i passed by a pizza shop in soho. the smell of fresh basil and mozarella wafted out onto spring street, and i thought to myself, PIZZA. THAT IS WHAT I WANT TO EAT FOR DINNER. then i thought, no, sarah. you just burned a shit ton of calories in class and now you’re going to ruin it with an oversized slice o’ pizza? no, girl. no you are not. so i kept walking, all the way over to the A train, and from there to the L train, and from there up first avenue. and all the while, i kept thinking, “pizza. i could order from posto. i could stop and get the cheap $1 slice in the east village.” i should mention here that i’m not really a pizza kind of girl. i mean, if the line at pomme frite is too long and ray’s is closed (that’s a lie, ray’s is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week) and it’s 2am and i need something greasy, i’ll get a slice of pizza. but it’s never really my first choice. i don’t know what came over me the other night, i really don’t. but after deciding i really didn’t want to eat anything BUT pizza for dinner, i realized there was really no reason to spend $16 on an overpriced (and undersized) pie from posto. especially when i could make my own! so, make my own i did. i used this recipe for the dough, and then threw on a hodge podge of stuff i had in the fridge: marinara sauce, homemade pesto, grated romano cheese, mushrooms and spring mix lettuce. and you know what? it was pretty darn good! in fact, it’s still good right now, as i sit here eating it for a late breakfast.

is there anything better than a 10 minute meal that doesn’t involve the words “microwave” “lean cuisine” or “frozen food”? i think not. this meal falls into that category, coming together in under 10 minutes if you’re a fast food chopper. pineapple fried rice is one of my favorite things to order when i go out for thai food, but until recently, it was another one of those “i don’t dare attempt at home” sort of meals. that is, until i stumbled upon this recipe. 

there’s something about the smell of soy sauce, curry, and sautéed garlic that makes a kitchen feel warm and cozy, isn’t there? it’s like the spicy, takeout version of a freshly baked batch of chocolate chip cookies.

i followed brooke’s recipe pretty much to a tee - but i used chicken broth instead of vegetable, and added way more curry powder than her recipe called for. i also omitted the coconut (i hate coconut). other than that, her recipe is pretty much foolproof. you can’t go wrong. 

you know how sometimes you just feel really damn cranky? like you can’t win no matter how hard you try, like life woke up this morning and decided it was going to beat you over the head with the shit stick?

this is what you eat when you feel like that. it’s also what you eat when you’re feeling under the weather, when you’re hungover, when your nose is snotty and your sinuses are swollen (gross), and when you feel like you can’t lift your head off the pillow.

matzoh ball soup. the jewish cure. miracle in a matzoh ball. it doesn’t really matter what you call it - this stuff works magic. on the plus side, it’s really easy to make, so when you wake up with a class A hangover, the kind where your brain feels like it’s too big for your skull and there’s a pounding that just won’t stop and you feel like you just might vomit everywhere if you take another step…you can still whip this up in under an hour. 

i have no real recipe for matzoh ball soup. the stuff is just in my veins, i guess. but basically, you’re going to need a box of matzoh meal.* follow the directions on the box to make your balls (essentially, you mix the matzoh meal with eggs and oil and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes, then shape the balls with your hands). in the meantime, prepare your broth. if you’re the type of guy or gal that makes homemade stock, more power to you. i’m a big fan of bouillon cubes. fast, easy, delish. so, you’ll need the chicken stock of your choice (don’t use veggie!). then slice and dice up what the french so classily call your “mirepoix”  ( chopped onions, carrots and celery). Mirepoix is the base of pretty much every great soup out there, so get familiar. 

another must have for real matzoh ball: fresh dill. slice it up as well. 

now that you’ve got it all assembled, throw your mirepoix in the pan to cook down with a little butter or oil. salt the veggies a little bit to let the liquids out. next, add your stock. then your dill. then your balls. a well-made ball with float straight to the top. let the balls hang in there for a little bit until they’re light, fluffy, and enlarged (that sounds dirty) - this can take anywhere from 20-40 mins depending on the size of your matzoh balls. 

season to your liking with salt and pepper, and serve. 

*can’t find matzoh meal? pulse a bit of matzoh in your food processor or blender. can’t find matzoh? what are you, a gentile?

chinese food is one of those cuisines that i never dared to attempt at home. living in new york city, where you can get literally anything you’d like (food, drugs, sex, drinks, amazon.com deliveries) at any hour of the day, it always seemed easier to just pick up the phone and call j.east (my local chinese delivery resto) than to make chinese food myself. that is, until i tried this recipe for orange sesame chicken. holy amazing party in my mouth. YOU GUYS, i made CHINESE FOOD. FROM SCRATCH. AND IT LOOKS JUST LIKE THE REAL THING. i even have photographic evidence! seriously, though, this recipe is DELICIOUS and so easy to make. sure, it takes a little time - but basically, you chop up some chicken breasts, dip them in batter, fry those babies up, and then coat them in sauce. 

the aforementioned sauce isn’t at all difficult to make, and contains cabinet must-haves like ketchup and honey, sugar and sesame oil. i swear, this meal is magic. i like to serve it with some freshly steamed broccoli and top it all off with chopped scallions.