Saturday, April 24, 2010

Blogger Photos Not Sharp? Here's What I've Learned

"Typical" by flickr member trazomfreak

For reasons I've been unable to figure out until recently, the photos I've been posting on this blog have been lacking sharpness. When I look back at all of the photos I've posted, all of them have a certain "graininess" to them. Is it the camera? The lenses? The fact that I wasn't shooting in RAW format, which I recently switched to? Nope.

So, I did some online research and came across
this in the Blogger Help Forum. And it worked.

emoving the /s200, /s320, or /s400 from the HTML depending on the size of your photo (small, medium, or large) should help enhance the sharpness of your photos on Blogger. For example, here is the photo of the somen with dipping sauce I posted last week, without having removed the /s400:

And here is the same photo after having removed the /s400:

Notice how sharper the image of the noodles is in the second photo. Definitely tastier looking!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cold Somen Noodles With Vegan Dipping Sauce

Seriously, if there is one dish I could probably eat daily, it's this one.

When I was living in living in San Diego, I would drive home from my office for lunch several times a week during the summer, cook up some somen or soba noodles, quickly chow them down, and then drive back to the office, all in about 30 minutes.

It's been rather warm lately here in the DC metro area. So, I recently stocked up on somen and soba noodles at Super H in Fairfax, VA, and have begun transitioning our regular Monday night meal from hot udon noodle soup to cold somen or soba noodles with dipping sauce.

Somen noodles are thin white noodles made from wheat flour. Most Asian markets carry both somen and soba (buckwheat) noodles. I have not seen somen noodles sold in any regular supermarket, at least not here in Northern Virginia. Whole Foods does carry soba, but not somen, noodles.

Once the dipping sauce is prepared and chilled, the rest of the dish takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.

Vegan Dipping Sauce for Cold Somen or Soba Noodles

3 1/4 cups boiling water
3-inch piece of kombu

1/2 cup (small handful) sliced dried shitake mushrooms

1/2 soy sauce
1/4 mirin

In a small saucepan, bring 3 1/4 cups of water to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat, add the kombu and dried mushroom (see photo below) and set aside for 10-15 minutes.

Add the soy sauce and mirin to the pot and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking on low heat to boil off the alcohol (in the mirin). Remove the pot from the heat, strain the liquid into another container (e.g., a large pyrex measuring cup), and discard the kelp and mushrooms. Set aside until it is cool enough to be placed in the refrigerator, and chill.

Cook the somen noodles according the directions on the package. Somen noodles cook very fast in boiling water, from 3-5 minutes, so be sure to keep a close eye on them.

Drain and rise the somen noodles thoroughly in cold tap water. Place the somen noodles on individual plates. Serve with a small bowl of the chilled dipping sauce and a small plate of scallions and wasabi paste. When ready to eat, add the scallions and stir in some of the wasabi paste into the dipping sauce and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Portobello Tacos with Green Salsa

I'm finally back home in Alexandria full-time. I'm trying to get back into a routine of cooking dinners. When I was in NY full-time beginning in late February to help care for my partner's mother, who passed away on March 10 as a result of a brain tumor diagnosed late last year, we were ordering take-out from an Italian restaurant almost every night. Any cooking I did was very basic, as I described in a previous post.

The first thing I did when I returned home from NY was to go to the post office and pick up a huge pile of mail that I had withheld from delivery. In this huge pile was the latest issue of Vegetarian Times. The cover of the magazine promised "32 fresh & easy recipes under 350 calories." I thought, cool. I did gain approximately 10 pounds while in NY, so this issue could not have come at a better time.

On Sunday, I chose to make the portobello tacos that were featured in the magazine, mainly because the ingredients were inexpensive. Also, I wanted to make a meal that didn't have to be served piping hot, because the weather outside was very warm that day.

The salsa verde is the star here. This is the first time I've made a green salsa. To date, I've yet to find tomatillos in any of the grocery stores, including the Latin markets, near where I live. I ended up using canned tomatillos, which I found only at a Latin market. This basic green salsa beats the crap out of any of the jarred green salsas I've had.

Note: although the VT recipe calls for 6 6-inch corn tortillas, I found that the recipe, as written, will make more than 10 tacos. I used 5 portobello mushroom caps and was able to assemble 11 tacos. Lastly, I served these tacos with yellow rice.

Grilled Portobello Tacos with Salsa Verde
Makes approximately 12 tacos

  • 1/3 cups canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 6 large portobello caps
  • 12 6-inch soft corn tortillas (I used flour tortillas)
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded, and diced
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • Sour cream
Salsa Verde
  • 1 28 oz can tomatillos, drained
  • 1 large green bell pepper or poblano chile, roughly chopped (I used a green bell)
  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro (leaves only)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 large cloves garlic
  • 3 tsp organic sugar or agave nectar (I omitted this ingredient)
  • 1 1/4 tsp canola oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat your grill or grill pan to high heat.

For the salsa verde, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Next, whisk together 1/3 cup of canola oil and the balsamic vinegar. Brush this marinade over the portobello caps. Set the caps on the grill and cook for about 3-5 minutes per side until they soften slightly. Remove the caps from the grill and set them aside. The caps will continue to cook. When the caps become cool enough to handle, slice them into strips.

To assemble the tacos, lightly warm the tortillas on a grill for about 15 seconds per side. Fill each tortilla with the sliced mushrooms (approximately 2 slices), avocado (approximately 1 slice), salsa verde, cabbage, tomatoes, and a dollop of sour cream.