updated pad thai

last week i made atk’s simplified pad thai again with some additions that everyone liked.

pad thai

added some chicken, shredded carrots, cilantro, and chopped red cabbage. added a lot more visual appeal plus more textures. it was significantly better than before, when we just stuck straight to the atk recipe. actually recently we have noticed that we’ve improved a lot as cooks. new recipes are easier now and turn out better the first time, and old recipes taste better and better. it’s nice reaping tasty rewards :)

spaghetti with onion and tomato sauce

this is the first recipe we tried from our new cookbook two meatballs in the italian kitchen by pino luongo and mark strausman. so far we really like the book. every chapter begins with some useful tips/background info and really interesting and insightful discussions between pino and mark. they’re funny and always disagreeing with each other because pino grew up in italy and is very traditional while mark grew up in queens and has a more american take on italian food. i think their great care for the food and that tension between their cooking styles must have helped them put together this great book of recipes.

spaghetti with onion and tomato sauce
(spaghetti al rustico di cipolle) from pino luongo and mark strausman

spaghetti with onion and tomato sauce

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 cups canned italian plum tomatoes, preferably san marzano, with their juice, pureed in a food precessor or food mill
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp kosher salt
1 lb. spaghetti or linguine
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1. place the butter in a 10-12″ skillet over medium heat. add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes. add the tomatoes and 1 tsp of the salt. when the mixture starts to bubble, reduce the heat to very low and cook at a bare simmer for 5 minutes. remove from the heat and set aside.

2. while the sauce is cooking, fill a 10-quart stockpot with 7 quarts of water and bring to a boil over high heat. add the remaining 2 tbsp kosher salt. add the pasta, stir, and cook until al dente.

3. reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, and drain the pasta. add the pasta to the skillet with the sauce. if the pasta looks dry, add the reserved cooking 1 tbsp at a time, tossing to combine between additions. while still tossing the pasta and sauce, slowly sprinkle on the cheese, and toss until all the cheese is incorporated. the dish should look creamy and moist. serve immediately, drizzling each portion with a little bit of olive oil.

comments: this is a great recipe. kind of amazing how such simple ingredients make such a great dish. this recipe totally makes me want to try all the other recipes in the book too. make this delicious spaghetti. make it now. this one is definitely going to be something we make regularly.

new knife

here’s our new knife that we ordered on amazon. right now it’s only $20 (list price is $41)!


no offense to our other knife, but i think this is my new favorite knife. it’s so easy to cut everything! makes chopping things fun :D these forschner knives have been really good and are really reasonably priced.

banana leaf pasta cafe

we saw this new italian restaurant called banana leaf pasta cafe at mccully shopping center, and the menu sounded pretty good, so we tried it out.

the restaurant has a nice casual modern decor. they play concert dvd’s in the background. andrea bocelli and sting were on when we went there. cameron said he used to think sting the singer and sting the wrestler were the same person. anyway, it’s very nice.

so we got the calamari as an appetizer, plus they give everyone tasty bread:


good bread is always a good sign. it was nice and hot when we got it. the calamari had a small salad too, which was nice.

cameron got the spaghetti and meatballs, and i got the chicken pasta:

chicken pasta

both were really good! we both really liked their tomato sauce. the vegetables were also good, and the chicken had a nice texture and flavor – maybe they fried it first? cameron is like mr. meatball, and he really liked the ones here. there was like a strong cheese taste or something that i didn’t like as much, but that’s just me.

anyway, we went there again the other day and got the $15 special – soup or salad, choice of main dish, and ice cream for dessert. we both got it, so we had the minestrone and cream of tomato soups, vegetable lasagna and chicken alfredo, and vanilla ice cream. all really good! especially the two soups. i’m a big soup person, and i thought both were great. lots of summery veggies in the minestrone with a nice light soup and nice creamy balance of flavors in the cream of tomato. the vegetable lasagna was kind of like a more dainty lasagna – usually lasagna is like super rich and cheesy and cut from a big casserole of lasagna. this one was individually made, didn’t have much cheese, the tomato sauce was not thick like it sometimes is, and the flavors weren’t so in your face – different than how i expected, but still very good. cameron liked the chicken alfredo a lot, esp the chicken (like the chicken i had the other time) and the strong garlic flavor in the sauce. and the dessert was good too – some ice cream with chocolate syrup and whipped cream.

so we’ll definitely be eating here again. nothing has disappointed so far! also, they have a bistro restaurant at market city shopping center, so next time we’ll have to try that out. YUM.

banana leaf pasta cafe
1960 kapiolani blvd. #103
honolulu, hi 96813

pot roast – first appearance of le creuset!

my brother and his wife got us the GORGEOUS and awesome “kiwi” le creuset as our early wedding present. they are so nice :)

so for the first recipe, we made a pot roast to help feed nice friends who were helping us with wedding stuff. we got the recipe from the nice atk best slow and easy recipes book that cameron’s parents got for us.

DISCLAIMER: cameron says the picture below doesn’t look appetizing at all, but really, it looks good in real life and it tastes good. next time i’ll try to take better pictures.

pot roast with root vegetables

pot roast

1 (3.5 – 4 lb.) boneless beef chuck eye roast, pulled apart into 2 pieces, trimmed, and tied
salt and pepper
2 tbsp veggie oil
1 medium onion, diced medium
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced medium
1.5 lb. carrots, pelled and sliced 1/2″ thick
1 celery rib, diced medium
1 lb. parsnips, peeled and slice 1/2″thick
1.5 lb. small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1″ pieces
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp fresh minced thyme leaves or 1/4 tsp dried
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 cup water
1/4 cup dry red wine (atk recommends a $7 to $10 bottle of medium-bodied red table wine made from a blend of grapes, such at cotes du rhone)

1. adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. pat the roasts dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. brown the roasts on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes, reducing the heat if the pot begins to scorch. transfer the roasts to a large plate.

pot roast

2. add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil to the pot and place over medium heat until shimmering. add the onion, diced carrot, celery, and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until softened, 8-10 minutes. stir in the garlic, sugar, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. stir in the broths and water, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to a simmer.

3. nestle the roasts, along with any accumulated juices, into the pot and bring to a simmer. cover, place the pot in the oven, and cook until the meat is very ttender and a fork poked into it meets little resistance, 3-3.5 hours, turning the roasts every hour.

4. remove the pot from the oven. transfer the roasts to a cutting board and tent loosely with foil while finishing the sauce. defat the braising liquid.

5. add the sliced carrots and parsnips + red potatoes to the defatted liquid in the pot.

add veggies

cover and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. transfer the vegetables to a large bowl with a slotted spoon and cover to keep warm. add the wine to the liquid left in the pot and continue to simmer until the sauce measures about 1.5 cups. slice the meat against the grain into 1/4″ slices and transfer to a serving platter. spoon the sauce over the mean and vegetables and serve.

comments: yum yum yum, this was good! the meat was really tender and it all tasted good. we used bone-in roast because that’s what we found at the grocery store and forgot to tie it, but that didn’t seem to be a problem. this is the first time we’ve eaten parsnips. actually we only could find them at star market in cam shopping center. they taste kinda like carrots, but a little sweeter and the taste is a little stronger. tasted really good in the pot roast, along with the carrots and potatoes.

i thought it was interesting that they add just a little wine at the very end to make the sauce. in the book they said cooking the meat in the red wine made it taste too strong. anyway, i liked the sauce a lot.