Holiday Beef and Peppers

…because it’s red and green. This is a quick one pan and one pot or oven/toaster oven recipe that would work well in a tiny house or micro apartment or anywhere. I wish I had thought of this in my first apartment.

Make rice. I used short grain brown rice. Get the oven going at 375º. Bring 2 1/3 cups of water to a boil. I use a measuring cup in the microwave. In a covered baking dish or use foil, combine 1 1/2 cups rice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and the boiling water. Stir. Cover. Bake for 50 minutes.

Make sauce. In a measuring cup add a tablespoon of cornstarch. Mix in 1/3 cup soy sauce slowly. Add 1 tablespoon grated ginger, 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped or put through the press, 1 teaspoon curry powder. I use plain old McCormick.

Brown around one pound ground beef. I freeze ground beef for dishes like this. I use 90% lean grass-fed. In a large frying pan, add frozen ground beef. On medium high heat, turn and break up with spatula. Meanwhile, back at the cutting board, slice one yellow onion into strips. Add onion when beef is browned. While onion is browning cut red and green pepper into strips. Add peppers to the pan and about a half cup of water. Cover and steam until peppers are how you like them. Work in the sauce for a minute or so, adding water if wanted.

Done.

I’m thinking about trying this with a butter, worcestershire sauce, and curry over mashed potatoes.

Copyright © 2017 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

A Christmas Table

Years of after holiday sales and a little hot glue make for a festive table! Plaid table cloth, 12 Days of Christmas napkins, and napkin rings from Williams Sonoma. Leaf plate from Martha Stewart for Macy’s. Votive candle holders from Pottery Barn. Wine glasses from Waterford Crystal. Candle shades from Harrod’s London. Centerpiece by Debbie Van Lunen. Pine cones from around the neighborhood.

Copyright © 2017 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Salmon and Vegetables Bentosh

The same dish they have for takeaway at Whole Foods with better salmon and less sweet teriyaki.

Sushi rice (in the rice cooker or heat rice with 1 teaspoon canola oil and a teaspoon of salt and then for every  1 cup of rice  add 1 1/2 cup water).

Carrots, red pepper, and broccoli steamed (start carrots first, then red pepper, then broccoli).

Pan sear salmon however done you like (remove pin bones if needed). I have been using Silver Coho Salmon I found at Trader Joe’s and it has been very tender and delicious.

Mix teriyaki sauce: in a measuring cup add a heaping spoon of cornstarch, then stir in soy sauce until you have a smooth slurry. Then equal parts soy sauce, mirin rice wine or sake, brown sugar. Add a teaspoon of grated ginger and fresh ground pepper to taste. Microwave a minute at a time until thickened or bring to a boil on stove.

Garnish with toasted sesame seeds. Maybe some thinly sliced scallions too.

Done.

Copyright © 2017 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Tabboulah

The first time I had this was in a Persian restaurant in Washington DC. What an incredible idea: a salad of parsley. It’s a bit of a pain to make, especially since I don’t like parsley stems, but foolproof.

For this version you’ll need:
• 1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat (medium or course)
• 2 big bunches of parsley
• 1 red onion
• 2 large tomatoes
• 1 cup lemon juice (4-5 lemons)
• 1/2 cup olive oil (I use Nunez)
• 2 tablespoons fresh or dried mint
• Salt and pepper to taste (I use Maldon sea salt and freshly ground Tellicherry pepper)

Equipment I used:
• 
Large mixing bowl
• 
2 cup measuring cup
• 
Mesh strainer
• 2 quart sauce pan
• Lemon squeezer
• Cutting board
• 8 inch chefs knife

Start proofing the Bulgur wheat. There are many ways to do this. I’ve settled on putting it into a mesh strainer fitted into a saucepan—shown above—and running hot water over it to wet the grains until the water reaches the top. I sit it by the sink and about 45 minutes later it’s all puffed up and you can just pick the strainer up and let the water run out.

While this is going on, get out a large bowl, the biggest one you have. Finely dice the tomatoes and put them in your bowl and sprinkle with the Maldon sea salt. Set aside.

In a 2 cup measuring cup, add a half cup of olive oil and stir in the mint; finely minced if using fresh. Squeeze the lemons and add to the olive oil.

Now finely dice the red onion and add it to the olive oil and lemon juice mixture.

Now the parsley. I don’t like stems so I painstakingly pluck the leaves and then coarsely chop them. But you can do this however you want.

Once the bulgur is drained and ready, add everything to the bowl with the tomatoes. Add freshly ground pepper to taste or not.

Watch it disappear in less time than it took to make.

Copyright © 2017 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Japanese Loo

I have been eyeing the basket weave tiles I was seeing everywhere, but it didn’t seem like they would work for a large bathroom— I thought they would be too busy. I have wanted to update this ‘builders special’ half bathroom for ages and I knew the tile would work well and it wouldn’t really be at risk for stains from hair dye, nail polish, and whatever else my kids get into, because they never use this bathroom. It wasn’t until I got these reproduction woodblock prints in Tokyo that I had that magic flash of inspiration and it all came together!

Copyright © 2017 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Oh, Christmas Tree

When I was little, I thought our Christmas tree was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. I would just gaze at the shimmer and light. It had garlands of silver and gold tinsel, lights that looked like icicles, metal flowers, snowflakes, little churches, musical instruments… and a lighted tinsel star on the top. I never thought about it being fake; it was way too exciting. When my Nana got a tree made entirely of silver tinsel, I thought it looked so pretty at night with its blinking multi-colored lights. It was so futuristic looking.

When I got older, we stopped putting it up and I didn’t bother until I had kids. I don’t know if they were as besotted as I was, our tree wasn’t quite as over the top as the one I had as a kid. I had more of a woodland theme. But we had a train to go around ours, an O gauge version of the Polar Express.

That’s when the thinking started. The supposed reason for never having a real tree had been my allergies. A lot of inconvenient things got pinned on that. But every year I would look at it and my inner voice would always say, “why do you have that plastic thing that looks like a tree with stuff stuck all over it in your living room?” Sometimes I would imagine explaining the whole thing to a visiting alien and realizing none of it made sense. “Yeah, well, it represents a tree.” The solution, I was sure, was a real tree. To be really real you would have to chop it down on Christmas Eve and decorate it with real candles, but that seemed like a fire hazard even I wasn’t willing to go for. And we don’t live in a forest. So there it was, the real tree. It took a few days for my inner voice to gather its wits. “Why did you allow a perfectly happy tree, living its perfectly happy tree life in the forest where it belongs, to be cut down, put up in your living room and covered in all this ridiculous ornamentation so that it can slowly die before being tossed to the curb.” What? The voice worked this point until the whole thing was over. Fine, I’ll get a potted pine and then plant it after Christmas where it can grow and be admired for years to come. It took the Voice a little longer this time. I thought Ha! Never mock the Voice. “So you’ve brought this dear tree into your home and hung ornaments all over it? Yes, it’s true you are feeding it and using spring water, but how would you feel if I put you outside for a month and stuck stuff all over you? Hmmm? You no more belong outside than this poor tree belongs inside.” Do you have nothing positive to say? She hasn’t said anything about the snow globes or the nutcrackers yet. Maybe they’re safe. A German feather tree maybe? A fallen branch?

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

Thai Beef and Basil Bentosh

thai-basil-lime

I keep a few well-wrapped packages of ground beef in the freezer for quick recipes like this. You could use any ground meat or tofu. I’ve tried it with both Italian and Thai basil. I like them both; the Thai basil is a little stronger. I have also used brown, Basmati, and Jasmine rice and I think I like the Jasmine best. Again, this would have been another good recipe for when I first lived in New York and had nothing but a two burner hot plate and a toaster oven.

For this four person version you’ll need:
• Around a pound to a pound and a third of ground beef
• Two cups Jasmine rice
• Around six cloves of garlic
• A half cup beef broth or water
• Two cups basil leaves
• Two to three carrots julienned or shredded (I use this Japanese julienne tool)
• Tablespoon of Canola oil (if cooking rice in pot)
• Half cup rice wine (optional)
• Salt and pepper
• Two red chiles or add chili garlic sauce at end
For the sauce:
• A quarter cup of soy sauce
• A quarter cup of fish sauce or oyster sauce or hoisin
• Tablespoon of sugar
To finish:
• One cup basil leaves (torn if big)
• Two to three carrots julienned or shredded (I use this Japanese julienne tool)
• Four to six scallions
• One lime cut into four wedges
• Chili garlic sauce
Cooking equipment I used:
• Ten inch frying pan for beef
• Pot for rice—I used a 3 quart saucepan, or rice cooker

If using frozen beef, get that started in the pan, breaking it up as it browns. Then make the rice how you want. I usually heat the rice up in a tablespoon of canola oil, stirring to coat, and then add a cup and a half of water for every cup of rice. Here, I used two cups of rice and three cups of water. Add salt to water if desired. Bring to a boil and cover for 15 minutes before fluffing. Put your bowls on the stove to warm up.

While the beef is browning, julienne the carrots, remove stems from basil, finelly slice the scallions, and take skins off garlic cloves. Stir the soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar together. When the beef is browned, add the garlic. You can slice, finely mince, or put the garlic through a press and add to the beef. Let this work together for a minute. Deglaze the pan with a half cup of rice wine and let that almost burn off. Then add the beef broth and two cups of basil. When the basil is wilted and the sauce is bubbling, it’s ready! Put some rice in the bowls, top with the beef and basil, then divide the the basil and carrots, then drizzle over the sauce, and finally, sprinkle the scallions. Serve with lime wedges and chili garlic sauce.

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved

The Rolex

When I was in my early twenties and working in New York, a friend was promoted, after reading a million scripts and fetching a million cups of coffee, to producer. Her reaction was the sudden urge for pearl earrings—real pearl earrings—and so she invited me to come with her to pick them out. I said, “Sure, why not.” We went to what was the hugest jewelry store I had ever seen somewhere in midtown. It was like Aphrodite’s temple with marble columns and chandeliers and everyone speaking in hushed tones one usually associates with something illegal. Way too much padding in the carpets.

We found the pearl area and help arrived instantaneously. We sat down on the plush chairs and the salesperson began to ask her questions about what kind of pearls she wanted; she explained that she wanted ‘classic’ pearl earrings. “Ahhh, I see,” he nodded his head. He then opened up some sort of suede folio and began speaking, slowly and softly to her like she was made of the same glass those bastard Christmas balls are made from. Did she want Japanese pearls or Indian pearls or Tahitian, and going into detail about the different origins, the latinate names of the oysters, the tragic stories of divers who lost their lives seeking their beauty… I’m starting to glaze over, so I get up and wander around; she is so hypnotized she doesn’t even notice. Anyways, I see they have a room that has a plaque with ‘Estate Collections’ engraved in gold curlicue lettering. I didn’t know this meant ‘used,’ but I started to kind of figure that out because everything was mixed together. I saw this watch and I thought it looked really—I don’t know, sturdy maybe—and it wasn’t flashy; flashier than my Timex to be sure, but not blinding like some of them. Bling wasn’t a yet word. Magically, a salesperson appeared before me. Is there a secret door in the floor? Where did he come from? “Yes, isn’t that a classic watch? We just got that one in yesterday, let me show it to you.” If your gaze falls on something for even a small fraction of a second they see it. They also make you feel like it would be really rude if you said, “No thanks, I’m just looking around.”

So he takes it out and he asks me if I’ve ever owned a Rolex before. I said no. I didn’t even know what a Rolex was. His eyes widen. “This watch is a tremendous value, the previous owners took great care of it; we have all of the papers concerning its authenticity from Rolex and if you purchase the watch the registration will of course be transferred to your name.” I was going to ask why it needed to be registered, but I didn’t want to sound, you know, ignorant. Shit. I’m trapped. “Can we see what it looks like on your wrist?” he said optimistically. “No, I’m fine, I’m just here with a friend who’s getting earrings and I was just wandering around, just looking, you know, around.” Will you shut up. “Oh that is perfectly fine, there is nothing wrong with looking but you are also perfectly welcome to try it on, there is no charge for dreaming.” Did he just tell me I can’t afford it?

When he puts it on my wrist, I catch a quick look at the price: $2,100. Dollars. I feel slightly faint. I didn’t pay that much for my car, plus the insurance, plus gas, plus a year of food. I have a car on my wrist. What could they possibly put in a watch that would make it more expensive than a car, a used car to be sure, but a whole car! The watch is heavy. He starts telling me the legend of Rolex, he explains that it is the Lady Datejust and, yes, that it is stainless steel and 18k gold and the lens is sapphire and it is kept in perpetual motion by the movement of my body. I really wanted to say, “Are you insane? There’s no fucking way I’m spending $2,100 dollars on a watch,” but then I remember he’s just trying to do his job, he probably has a family to support and a timeshare somewhere so I say, “Thank you so much for showing me the watch, but I’ll have to think about it.” With a teasing smile he replies: “Very well, my name is Lucien and it has been a pleasure talking with you today and if you have any interest in anything, I would be more than happy to show you, even if you are just looking.” He had a slight accent of some kind and he drew out every syllable. I thanked him again and said I needed to get back to my friend since I promised to help her. I backed out of the room.

She, meanwhile, had narrowed it down to two choices: “Should I go with the 4 millimeter or the 5?” I’m looking back and forth at them and for the life of me I couldn’t tell them apart, so I said the five. “That’s what I thought too!” While she’s in the throes of affirmation, out of the corner of my eye, I see Lucian coming towards me, he has the manager with him. Don’t ask me how I knew it was the manager. Lucian introduces the manager to me and tells him how the watch is perfect for me. Oy. And he, the manager, proceeds to tell me that they just got the watch in, it’s in excellent condition and they would like to extend a very special offer to me since I have never owned a Rolex before. It would be $1800 and they would pay for any servicing it would need for a year and this would be Rolex factory servicing, just in case I had any idea what they were talking about. They form a triangle with me. Why can’t I just say that it is an absolutely outrageous amount of money to spend when you can buy a Timex for ten dollars that does the same thing? And then Lucian hits the mark: “This timepiece will last you a lifetime.” He must have caught some micro expression on my face because he looked like he took a hit. So that is how I got my Rolex. Plus, I got another $100 dollars off for being a loyal customer.

Copyright © 2016 MRStrauss • All rights reserved