Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Yummy For My Tummy!

I made this recipe a few nights ago on a whim because my fasting husband lacks all creativity when he is hungry. It's odd, someone who loves food and eating as much as he does, draws a complete blank when I ask him so kindly, "What would you like to eat for dinner babe?" (Yes, as my brother so appropriately teased us about, "babe" has replaced first names in our house...sometimes when I actually call him by his name, and vice versa, we both pause and let the name linger in the air nostalgically and awkwardly before moving on). He'll look at me with this blank stare, as if I just asked him why the cost of tomatoes at the grocery store cost 20 cents less this week than they did last week. One time, when I asked him on the phone, he was so silent I hung up thinking it was a dropped call. Ramadan has dulled his cravings, oddly enough, and has made 30 days of coming up with creative and satisfying meals a very tough feat!

But, I know he loves Korean food. He just salivates at the thought of Bulgogi beef. Kimchi makes his eyes glassy. The other day we drove past a Korean restaurant, and the car slowed as he gazed up at it in fascination, as though it was the Statue of Liberty, shining her light down on him. This visceral reaction to Korean food is endearing, I must admit. I know you're probably thinking why don't I indulge him and just go eat at the restaurant, let the blood flow through  his veins in excitement? Well, I will admit that my reasons are a little those restaurants with open grills like Korean restaurants commonly have, you leave smelling like cooked spicy beef. The smell intoxicates your clothes and sticks in your hair, so on the drive home the fumes coming off smell like you're still in the restaurant. Not a big deal? Yeah, well, tell that to all the women who straighten their hair...the last thing you want to happen is your recently pressed hair to get frizzy from the humidity of the food being in front of you releasing beefy steam, and your previously glossy hair to smell like cooked cow. So there.

But I digress…Glancing through Food Network magazine during my workout, I came across a recipe for Korean beef noodles and thought of my pale, thirsty husband counting down the minutes to when he can break fast (it was 8:41pm that night), and I said, "Bingo!" In hopes of bringing some life into those fasting cheeks, a Korean-inspired meal seemed like the golden ticket. 

While shopping, I couldn't find a few of the ingredients, like the cellophane noodles and the skirt steak that the original recipe called for.  So I got spaghetti instead, and bought a package of thinly sliced sirloin steaks (this particular package had 3 thin steaks. I used 2 of them for this recipe. But you can buy any cut of meat you like, just make sure you slice it into very thin strips against the grain). I didn't use shiitake mushrooms either, because my grocery store doesn't have a bulk mushroom bin and I wasn't going to drive 20 minutes to Whole Foods to spend $15 on 5 mushrooms! So if you want to, you can use shiitake mushrooms—if not, then just use a package of the pre-sliced mushrooms and save yourself the money and the headache. I added green onions just because I happened to have an absurd amount of green onions in my fridge when I bought some one day, forgetting that I already had some chillin’ at home. So I threw some into this dish.

 Oh, and one more thing: because there is more pasta in a box of spaghetti than the recipe requested, I doubled the sauce mixture and tweaked it with a few extras.

Needless to say, my "babe" loved it. I don't know if it was the hunger talking, but he had a second helping later, so I think it's a winner. And a bonus: these noodles are really good cold, too. 


1lb spaghetti 
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced 
I bunch green onions, thinly sliced to the green 
1 hot pepper (your choice) thinly sliced 
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb sirloin steak, thinly sliced against the grain (can also use flank or skirt steak, whatever you like)
1 package sliced mushrooms 
1 cup shredded carrots 
3 large handfuls of baby spinach (about 6 cups)
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup soy sauce 
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar
5 dashes hot sauce, optional
10 tablespoons sesame oil (honestly, I didn’t really measure my oil, but I added a good amount. Just make sure your pan is coated when you start adding the veggies. If they start to look dry add more. If I had to guess, I'd say total was 10TB)
2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons flour 

Combine sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce and half of the minced garlic, and 3 tablespoons oil in a bowl.

Put the sliced meat in a bowl and add a couple tablespoons of the mixture to the meat while you chop your veggies. 

Cook pasta and drain when it's about a minute shy of being fully done. 

In a big wok or pot (needs to be big enough to add in the pasta later), add 3 tablespoons oil and sauté the onions with other half of the garlic, red pepper flakes, and sliced hot peppers. Let cook and get soft, about 3-5 min. Then add the meat, and cook until just cooked through. Don't overbook the meat. Because it is sliced thin, it doesn't need long...Maybe 5-7 minutes in a really hot pan. Once cooked and the onions are soft, remove all and place in a bowl to the side.

Add the other 2 tablespoons oil and add mushrooms and carrots. Season with salt & pepper. Once the mushrooms get browned and carrots soft, add the flour. This will thicken the sauce a little so it's not too runny. Cook it out for about 2 min, moving all the veggies around until you can't see any more white of the flour. Add the meat back in with all the juice. Then add the cooked pasta, and then pour the sauce all over. Be sure to mix  the sauce well before pouring, the sugar settles at bottom.
Using tongs, toss the pasta so all the goodness at the bottom gets mixed in. Let cook together for about 3 min, so that the pasta gets warm again. Then serve and enjoy! 

P.S. For those of you who don’t eat meat, you could very easily substitute chicken or shrimp in for the beef. Or just don’t eat the beef…I’m just saying…

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

'Chew' On This!

Often, one comes up with an idea, and a passion ignites behind it. Then it becomes something one just can't shake, and it shouldn't be shaken off, for that matter. That passion fuels perserverance and inspires tenacity, and it soothes the sting of rejection. Passion instills and rekindles the hope that "it" could happen. 

If you have read my previous posts, I like to use this blog space as a way to share my stories, my opinions, my issues...but I will not use this blog to brag. To do so goes against my nature, and I tend to turn my cheek in a huff to people who do brag--those individuals who always seem to one up you, although perhaps they do so unintentionally or without realizing it. But we all know those people who brag about how they ran 15 miles after you shared with them you ran 10...or, those who have a better way to make the dish you served them at dinner, which you were pretty proud of and everyone else seemed to love. Or how about the friend who can "relate" because they went through the same experience (but upped to the 100th degree) in effort to appear supportive but are really implying that you have their approval only because you share the experience. But of course, their experience is better because they did it first! Ha! 

I mention that only because I was faced with a lot of that behavior after my recent dreamlike experience on the daytime talk show, abc's The Chew. Please don't interpret this blog post as me bragging, or as me saying, " Look at me, I was on TV! Let me tell you alllll about it!" Of course I was excited about getting on the show, who wouldn't be? What would have otherwise been an average week in Columbus turned into a sudden midweek holiday to NYC for 2 days where my husband and I got to meet people we watch on TV everyday, cooking and sharing their recipes. Of course that rocks! But with this blog, I just wanted to share how my faith in having an idea and a dream and never giving up paid off, and to inspire any one who reads this to do the same.  As I had written about in my very first blog (Jan 2012), I wanted to see Ramadan finally represented on television. I've already talked about how it is extremely underrepresented on TV (in fact, not at all), and fortunately for me and all of those who share my religion, through the miracle of Facebook, my idea was accepted and pushed forward by Clinton Kelly from The Chew (and TLC's What Not To Wear). Amazingly, despite thousands of posts on his public page, Clinton noticed my suggestions and comments. I admit, I posted unabashedly on not only his page, but on the other co-hosts from the show. Although I was sometimes embarrassed that my friends could see on their page the Facebook evidence  "Mais Khourdaji posted on Clinton Kelly's (Official) page..." and could read my silly posts on his page,  I did get encouraging comments and thumbs up from them too. But Clinton actually took the idea to the producers. He pushed for me. He put the idea of featuring Ramadan on the show in the right hands, then wished me luck. That alone more than I ever hoped for, and I am so very thankful to Clinton Kelly for it. 

And it took! I got a phone call from the producer, and one week later I was on the show representing Ramadan for the first time on national television. Finally meeting Clinton after 6 months of Facebooking back and forth (and years watching him on TV!), that hug we shared on the set was so warm and poignant for me because I felt like he knew what it is to struggle, listened to his loyal fans, and he took a chance on one...and I was so grateful and appreciative. I tried not to squeeze him too hard, and if I did, I apologize! But it was just...surreal. It still brings tears to my eyes.

Am I proud of it? Absolutely! After all, Islam is the world's second largest religion after Christianity, and we are just now getting on TV? It is shocking isn't it? I only hope it's the start of Ramadan being represented every year, as Christmas, Hanukah and Easter are. I think we made a breakthrough, and I am still thrilled by how progressive the abc producers were to finally allow the country to see a glimpse of the Muslim culture that is not often seen, and in such a positive way! One word for it: Inspiring!

What made it so inspiring is that I have been working on Operation Ramadan for over a year. I had been contacting other shows nonstop since then-emailing, messaging on Facebook, making phone calls. Not a peep; that is, until Clinton and The Chew. And what was even more refreshing was that Ramadan wasn't downplayed. The producers and co-hosts were so supportive and encouraging..and better yet, they were interested. Ramadan was not muted down on the show as just a segment on middle-eastern food. Although I was cooking middle-eastern food, Ramadan is observed in non-Arab countries too. It's in China, Indonesia and throughout Southeast Asia, Africa, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and all of the MidEast, Western Europe...the list goes on. I am still glowing from the happiness in giving Ramadan a chance to shine and say hello to the country. Those of you who do celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Kwanza, etc., and get to regularly see your traditions represented, please don't take it for granted. Enjoy it and appreciate it, because now that Muslims were finally able to turn on the TV and feel like we are an acknowledged part of the US population, I think I speak for all those Muslims who watched, or those who have friends who observe Ramadan, it felt pretty damn cool.

In case you missed it, and you're curious to see this Ramadan debut, please click on the link below. And watch the segments Eggplant Casserole, Celebrating Ramadan, and Last Bites!