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It may come as a shock to some of you, but I do not cook. I mean, I do but I don’t. Everyday, I mean. Wait. Let’s go back. I love to make food. From the first step of washing and peeling, through chopping, then sautéing and seasoning, to stirring and tasting I engage as if I were watching a season finale of Grey’s Anatomy. There are times when I bury myself in the kitchen for days and cook my heart out. I strip, mix, whip, bag, massage and flip until my legs shake and I lose my breath… for a moment.

Alas, however satisfying the experience, I must step aside for a day or two to recover, recuperate, and relax. On those days Jason (and myself, who am I kidding) has a chance to go out and take care of the culinary sentiments Agi doesn’t necessarily tend to – good sushi, authentic Mexican cuisine, or a good ol’ American burger. And I tag along for a chance to try something new, cleanse my palette, and even to get inspired.

Last week I reached one of those culinary climaxes, and I was COOKED OUT. I had nothing left in me to power through another dinner in the house. I needed a breather. Jason very generously offered to take care of dinner and whipped out his wallet. Neither one of us wanted to be responsible for choosing a restaurant in case it turned out a total failure. We decided to write down potential eateries on pieces of paper, fold them up, and throw them into a hat.

Chantel's Hat

I shoved my whole arm inside, stirred around the votes, tried to FEEL the answer with my fingers, and finally pulled out our vote. It read: SUSHI. I liked what I saw as it was MY handwriting. Jason didn’t oppose, however he still wanted his vote to be considered. I dove in once again and searched all around the bottom of the hat for another strip of paper. I got it at last, unfolded it and read out loud: SUSHI.

That’s it. All Jason wanted was to show how unanimous we are in our thinking. So cute!

It was getting really late, and certainly past our mealtime. Our stomachs started growling at each other and I knew that any minute they would jump at each other’s throats. With no further ado, we hurried to a nearby Japanese restaurant called Shintaro – a staple in the neighborhood, but a new joint for us, since we’re relatively new to the hood. Thank god, the sushi was stupendous and calmed down the CRANKY HUNGRY BITCHES within us just in time before disaster struck.

The next day we got caught in Santa Monica running errands. It was close to 6pm when we realized we never had real breakfast or lunch. After a quick debate, we arrived at this earthy new restaurant called Kreation Kafe where they serve fresh organic produce from a local Farmers’ Market, organic beef, free range chicken, wholesome teas…you get the idea. The food was EXCELLENT and well worth fasting a whole day before feasting on this full and healthy meal.

Sunday rolled in, and became JUST ANOTHER MANIC PRE-MONDAY, filled with running around with no time to breathe. Come dinner hour, we looked at each other and I couldn’t believe the words that came out of my mouth:

“Do you want pizza?”

“YEAH!” Jason exclaimed with the expression of utmost shock mixed with a hint of adoration painted on his face.

And just like that, we ended our weekend of dining out with an artificial blob of pizza from a street-corner burger joint. It was stomach-wrenching and disappointing on every level possible. Not only did the pizza guy take our money upfront, then didn’t RECALL us paying for it, and refused to release our dinner in a box, but the pizza was ABSOLUTELY TASTELESS. Furthermore, it then made itself at home in my intestines for an unmentionable amount of time, making me feel not only constipated, but PREGNANT CONSTIPATED.

I missed my cooking toys. I missed spending time with my knives and chopping boards. The weekend seemed longer than it really was, and I needed to start the new week with something healthy and delicious. And even though it took a whole three days, I eventually reached our kitchen, and upon arrival I scrutinized the pantry to establish a dinner potential. I quickly devised a plan: SEARED TUNA OVER FORBIDDEN RICE WITH AN ORIENTAL FLARE.

I’ll walk you through the steps should you decide to flatter me by copying thy menu one night.

Forbidden Rice, aka Thai Rice is black, and as such presents itself with glamour and style on a plate. Cook it accordingly to the directions on its package. For extra flavor, add a couple of dry bay leaves to the pot and obviously season the water with salt. Chicken or vegetable stock are excellent substitutes for water, and certainly bring an extra layer of flavor to the whole dish.

For the fish, you want Sashimi Grade Tuna Fillets. Wash them in cool water and pat them dry-ish using a paper towel. Place the guys in a plastic zip-lock bag or a shallow glass/ceramic container, add enough low sodium soy sauce to cover the flesh, and close it up. Store your fish in a refrigerator for 1-2 hours, and let it marinate and soak up all those salty flavors. Clearly, you should prep the fish first, followed by the rice, and not the other way around. Are you confused yet?

When the rice is perky and bubbly in the boiling liquid on your stove, and the fillets are done marinating, heat a grilling pan (or any non-stick frying pan really) and get the tuna out and onto the pan. Violent sizzling is the music you want to hear. Sear the fish for 2 minutes on both sides, and the edges – for about 30 seconds each. Use a pair of clasping tongs to help stand your tuna on its sides.

Don’t forget about your vitamins and enzymes stored in everything that’s green, leafy AND EDIBLE. A little salad on the side of your plate will serve as a nutritious smiley face to your dinner.

Tuna

I’m afraid this is it. I wish I could say something more to make the dish sound more complicated. It’s just not. I keep saying – this is COOKING FOR IDIOTS with an IDIOT (me) COOKING.

Bon Appetit!

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Due to current state of our economy, traveling is a privilege few can afford these days. While it’s certainly not the same as plane hopping and visiting foreign countries, living in a metropolis that is Los Angeles allows us to sample and taste exotic flavors and thus explore various cultures in just a few BITES. Sort of.

Agi on Brooklyn Bridge '02For the nearly five years that I lived in NYC, surrounded by thousands of top restaurants that the city is famed for, sadly (and for all the wrong reasons) I lived on baby carrots, bananas and watermelon. (Oh, Agi, you fool!…) Hence, it is Los Angeles where I discovered Green Curries, good sushi, Alu Gobi Masala, Pad-Thai, et al.

Since I started messing around in the kitchen, which in my mind translates into COOKING, I’ve been drawing ideas from our various culinary expeditions in the city. Jason has the natural curiosity and drive to taste the new and exotic, while I get to be a hitchhiker on his sampling trips.

Now, I am no expert on THAI cuisine, however my embarrassing love affair with Pad-Thai precisely makes me a frequent visitor to Thai restaurants around town. Hence, when I look for an exotic note in a homemade meal, my first thought travels across the ocean to Southeast Asia.

Today I want to share with you my Thai- inspired dinner experiments, starting with…

COCONUT RICE

–       2 cups of brown basmanti rice

–       2 cups of light coconut milk

–       2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock

–       4 cloves of garlic

–       1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes

–       1 tbsp of coconut oil

–       1/3 cup of sun dried raisins

–       kosher salt + black pepper to taste.

Peel your garlic and then smash it. Yes, go ahead – give it a healthy whack! Heat the coconut oil in a pot, throw in the red pepper flakes and the garlic, and reduce the heat to medium. Toast the two troublemakers for 1-2 minutes and let the oil soak up those flavors, but watch not to burn them. Next, add your rinsed basmanti rice, salt it, mix it, coat in the oil and let everything get merry for about 2 minutes. When you hear the rice kernels pop – the party has begun!

Now it’s time for the liquids – first coconut milk, then the chicken stock. Mix it, stir it, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cover with a lid. Let the rice simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, for 20-30 minutes. When done, fluff it up with your wooden spoon, or what have you, and toss in the handful of raisins that have been sitting on the counter and resting before their turn, and stir those guys in. The heat from the rice will help soften those sweet little bites of sun and welcome them into the family.

Coconut Rice with Roasted Chick

I am proud to say the Coconut Rice made an astounding impression on the three Chicken Thighs that I had roasted just for the occasion. (Thus dressed up, the chick rested its tender legs on the scoop of the rice delight, sipped on its own juices, closed its eyes, and daydreamed about exotic vacation on the silky beaches of Thailand… Sunglasses – check, coconut drink – check, sunscreen – check!… The chicken sighed.)

Chick and Salad

Two cups of dry rice makes a lot, and I mean A LOT of cooked rice, even if you have my appetite. I’m talking about an appetite of a teenager in puberty, whose body is an inexhaustible power plant. I’m talking a-never-ending-yearning-for-food-of-a-pup (see Cosmo). In other words, Agi’s appetite after a two-hour work out with her boyfriend-slash-trainer who is totally and positively immune to her huffing, puffing, flirting and joking, followed by threats and other verbal abuse.

Frankly, it’s a wild mystery to me how he does it. All I know, he just stands there and – with stoical patience – commands me to do a series of exercises despite my above mentioned forms of protesting and rebellion. Jason simply waits me out. And when it finally dawns on me I am not winning this battle, I suddenly find myself strangely aroused … by his power over me.  Authority once again proves itself the most powerful and natural aphrodisiac.

Serendipitously a poem comes to mind, written by the very father of my mate-slash-coach. Dr. Jimmy Harkins spoke in rhyme once again, and his words I shall recite for you in the ADDENDUM…

https://agablack.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/where-the-coconuts-fall-adendum/

You think about it while I’ll tend to the second batch of the leftover rice. For dinner #2 I propose:

CHAI CHICKEN WITH PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE

–       Coconut Rice from the previous day

–       1/2 to 1 cup of diced pineapple with its juice (depending on how much rice you’re left with)

–       2 – 3 cloves of garlic

–       1 tbsp of coconut oil

–       1 tsp of curry powder

–       1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes

–       1/3 cup of chopped scallions

–       2 chicken breasts (organic and free range if available) for the Chai Chicken (see FRIKKIN’ CHAI CHICKEN for the recipe https://agablack.wordpress.com/2009/08/20/frikkin’-chai-chicken-freekeh/)

While the chicken is cut in strips and mixed with red curry powder, curry, garam masala, salt, pepper, crushed garlic and coconut milk, and all is cheerfully cooking in one pot, you grab a deep skillet and heat it on the stove. Add the coconut oil. Peel and smash garlic cloves and throw into the oil. Let it toast along with red pepper flakes for a minute over medium heat (watch not to burn) and slowly add your leftover Coconut Rice. Mix it well with the infused oil. Slowly add the pineapple chunks with its juice, sprinkle with curry powder and mix well. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and let it all get happy for about 5 minutes. About a minute to the end throw in the scallions and mix together. Serve along with your Chai Chicken, its sauce poured over the rice, and simply FORGET WHERE YOU ARE AND IMAGINE YOU’RE ON THE COAST OF THAILAND.

Pineapple Fried Rice

This dish is to die for. If it weren’t for the ridiculously large dining table that separated me from Jason, we would have been stealing bites off of each other’s plates the night I made it.

BE ADVENTUROUS IN YOUR KITCHEN!

HAPPY EXOTIC TRAVELS EVERYBODY.

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