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delicious experiments are the best kind

My mom seems to have been inspired lately.

I don’t know whether it’s from the hours of watching Food Network with me, my Food for Thought cooking sessions, or a recent dinner she had at a friend’s house, but recently she’s been getting more and more into Western food (i.e. non-Korean food). And not just eating it either, but actually MAKING the stuff.

Now, my family’s always liked European cuisine, especially the kind with Mediterranean flavors – we adore Greek food, and we’ve enjoyed our fair share of Italian and Spanish fare as well. These foods are generally clean and light in flavor, and are usually more refreshing than the heavier dishes of France and England. Plus, we love seafood – it’s definitely the Choi family’s protein of choice. And Mediterranean cuisine is just bursting with amazing seafood, from fish to mollusks.

Asian food will always be the closest to Chois’ hearts, but during the past week, my mom’s been looking up recipes for small, tapas-style dishes with an Italian/Spanish flair. And then making them. Lots of them. And then serving them to us until we’re so stuffed we can barely move.

This kind of food might be out of my mom’s comfort zone (hence the “experimenting”), but that doesn’t make it any less delicious than the traditional food she serves us.

The first meal my mom made started out with this eggplant dish:

grilled eggplants rolled around basil, mozzarella, and sun-dried tomatoes

INNARDS

I actually made the majority of this dish, but that doesn’t have to do anything with the fact that this was one of my favorite bites – the meaty eggplant and creamy mozzarella was really yummy with the basil and dried tomato.

baked stuffed mushrooms. look at the roasty-toasty goodness!

Mushroom caps stuffed with a mix of their own mushroom stems, as well as some spinach, parsley, and breadcrumbs with some grated Parmesan for good measure. Also very scrumpalicious :D

tomato bruschetta!

Toasted multi-grain bread rounds topped with a mix of tomato, onion, basil, and garlic. So simple, but SO GOOD.

seafood and spinach sauteed in white wine

For this dish, my mom took scallops, shrimp, clams, and spinach then sauteed them really quickly with white wine. There wasn’t any alcohol-y taste since it had all cooked out, leaving a yummy, briny, broth for us to sop up at the end.

rosemary-roasted potato wedges. TIS CRISPY. AND GOLDEN.

Potatoes, flavored with rosemary and baked until toasted on the outside – need I say more? I just wish there was more crispy on the bottom potatoes. BECAUSE EVERYONE KNOWS THAT THE BROWN BITS ARE THE BESTEST.

FINALLY, THE BIG KAHUNA: FLANK STEAK

Really, at this point I was just about bursting – but how can you resist that juicy, lean steak, cooked a perfect medium-rare? Look at how it’s still pink in the middle… I managed to eat about 3 slices before I called it a day and rolled around the house trying to digest my dinner.

The next time my mom experimented with Western flavors was a week later (this Monday actually) for my dad’s birthday.

We started off with:

lettuce cups filled with seafood salsa

OMG THIS WAS SO GOOD. SO CLEAN. SO REFRESHING. SO YUMMMY. Without doubt, my favorite dish of the night. I love my mom’s salsa is, but the shrimp and the creamy avocado just made it that much better.

baked tortilla triangles topped with an avocado and crab mix

Are you seeing the seafood-centric theme here? If the previous dish was a shrimp salsa, then this was like a crab guacamole – bright and clean-tasting at the same time, this kind of stuff is definitely suited to my family’s tastes and we just gobbled this up.

seared scallops in a roasted red pepper sauce

If any of you guys watch cooking shows, you know it’s really hard to cook scallops correctly – they’re just so easy to overcook. But these were perfect, with caramelized ends but still tender in the middle. The sauce was salty, so that was kind of a :( moment in the meal, but I think the scallops made up for it.

chorizo and potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce

My dad’s a real meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, so he really enjoyed this. Come to think of it, we all really enjoyed this. Like, REALLY enjoyed this. Pork sausages and taters – sounds heavy, right? But the sauce was tomatoey and spicy, making a dish that usually would’ve been really dense into something perfectly balanced.

gotta get your veggies in - blanched and sauteed asparagus (asparagi?)

I don’t get why so many people dislike asparagus; I mean, sure they’re green and cruciferous-y, but I love them for it. They’re like vegetable pencils :D. These ones in particular were tossed with roasted almonds that gave a nice crunch to the soft asparagus.

NEW. YORK. STEAAKKK.

You guys are probably full just looking at all these pictures of food. SO IMAGINE WHAT I FELT LIKE. Gahh. It was so good… but painful… but so good… You can see the dilemma. But it was my dad’s birthday, and birthday’s are meant to indulge – so I ate the steak. It was delicious and you can see how juicy it is from the picture, but I think at this point I was so close to lapsing into a food coma that I wasn’t able to enjoy it fully.

But if it’s a birthday, you gotta have…

sweet potato cake, green tea mousse, red bean cake, and tiramisu

CAKE! We got these from Gateaux, which is a local Korean bakery specializing in all things sweet and fluffy and delicious. I haven’t had their cakes in a while, but they’re just as good as I remember them – delicate and light with good flavor.

So, those was our recent non-Korean feasts. Looking back through the post, this was a lot of food… Regardless, I hope you guys enjoyed all the food porn :).

But more importantly…

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY DAD!!!

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