Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Usually dumplings are filled with raw filling, and then either steamed or fried long enough to cook the meat through. I find that using cooked filling instead of raw, while slightly messier when filling, reduces cooking time greatly and allows the first batches to stay hot while the last are cooking, enabling everyone to eat at once and letting me sit down through the meal.
The odd ingredients:
Dumpling wrappers are available in all Asian supermarkets and in many grocery stores, usually frozen; you can also make your own, but I find the process unnecessarily laborious and prefer the convenience of inexpensive frozen wrappers. Galangal is a root popular in Thai cooking, and is similar to ginger; ginger can be substituted if none is available, but the flavor and aroma are noticeably different. I use a jarred variety of galangal that keeps well in the fridge for a long time, since I use it infrequently. Shrimp paste is a hideous smelling pinkish-grey Thai paste made of shrimp and salt, and is available in jars in Asian supermarkets.
1 rounded tsp shrimp paste
1T sesame oil
2 cups diced red cabbage
1/2 cup water
1T packed brown sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 scant tsp galangal
1T mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)
1T komezu (rice vinegar)
1/2 pound ground pork
1T shoyu (Japanese soy sauce), plus additional for dipping
1 package round dumpling wrappers
Wrap the lump of shrimp paste well in aluminum foil and cook in a heated skillet over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Add the sesame oil to the skillet and heat until just smoking; add cabbage and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add water, sugar, garlic, galangal, and mirin to the skillet, stirring well to combine, and simmer cabbage until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer cabbage to a mixing bowl and add the pork, shoyu, and cooked (unwrapped) shrimp paste to the skillet. Fry over medium heat until well-cooked. Add pork mixture to the cabbage, mix thoroughly, and allow to cool to room temperature.
Get some water boiling, or have very hot tap water available. Now, get ready to fill the dumplings. Set out your dumpling wrappers, the filling, and a small bowl half full of lukewarm water. To make the dumplings, dip a finger in the water and wet the edge of one wrapper. Spoon a scant tablespoon of filling into the center, and fold roughly in half, making little pleats along the top edge. When you have 20 or so made, heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat and arrange as many dumplings as will fit, flat (unpleated) side down. Fry them until the bottoms are browned and crispy. Add boiling or very hot water to come about 1/3 of the way up the dumplings; cover immediately and steam about 3 minutes, or until dumplings become shiny and darker in color. Remove lid and continue steaming until water has evaporated; dump into a large covered serving dish and start cooking the next batch in the same way (more oil will have to be added with each batch). Serve hot with shoyu for dipping.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Continuing with my love of Japanese food, one of my favorite Japanese dishes is a good curry and rice (karee raisu). It's something that's quick to fix, nutritious, warm and comforting, and the family loves it. The ingredients are very basic and I always have them on hand. When I have no idea what to make for dinner, I whip up a quick curry and rice and everyone's happy.
Japanese curry has an interesting history. S&B Foods, the first company to produce a Japanese-made curry powder, has a lovely page on their website dedicated to the Japanese curry story. Do read it; it's an interesting bit of cultural and culinary history, and will help you to better understand this wonderful dish.
I'm not providing an actual recipe here - sometimes I use S&B's packaged curry mix, which you can find in Asian supermarkets and many grocery stores, but when I do make curry from scratch I never know exactly how much of what I put in it. The first time I made curry and rice, about 8 or 9 years ago in an electric skillet in my college dorm room, I didn't use a recipe, and I still don't to this day. The basic ingredients are listed below; experiment and taste until you come up with something you like.
- Beef, chicken, or pork (beef is the most traditional and tastiest)
- a few carrots and potatoes
- an onion
- beef or chicken boullion
- yellow curry powder, mild or hot, to taste
- cornstarch or other thickening agent
Monday, September 1, 2008
Right now, however, he's sick. Since sick men are worse to be around than colicky babies, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make some chicken soup. Miso chicken soup, to be exact. There are those that don't believe in the power of chicken soup when you're sick, but it's a simple fact that salty liquids help keep you well-hydrated, and being hydrated plays an important part in getting better - just ask my mother. Miso is not only salty, but it is also made from soybeans and brown rice, the general health benefits of which cannot be touted enough.* It is also tasty and adds a lovely layer of complexity to the flavor of any dish, which never hurts. Combine it with other delicious and nutritious ingredients, and you have a soup that's sure to perk you up any day.
Fix-you-up chicken soup
2 tsp sesame oil
1 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and cut in half
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 small onion, diced, preferably a sweet variety
1 cup carrots, sliced or julienned
1 cup potatoes, diced
a generous splash of sake, preferably Gekkeikan
2 cups chicken broth or boullion
4 cups water
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large handful of brown rice
1/4 cup brown miso (akamiso) paste**
Heat oil on medium-high in a large pan. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring briskly, about 30 seconds. Add onion, carots, and potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with sake and cook an additional minute before adding broth, water, chicken, and rice. Simmer soup about 20 minutes, or until chicken is well-cooked and vegetables and rice are tender. Remove chicken and dice; return to pot and add miso, stirring well to dissolve. Serve in a big bowl with a warm blankie and box of tissues.
* I am not a health professional, and make no claims about the health benefits of eating the above soup. It just makes me feel better when I eat it. But while you're online, why not Google the health benefits of garlic, soybeans, ginger, brown rice, and the other ingredients in this soup?
** White miso makes a good substitution if brown is not available. Miso paste can be found in Asian or Japanese grocery stores, many health food stores, and some grocery stores. Real miso is completely gluten-free.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Homemade truffles. I used Epi's recipe for caramel-dark chocolate truffles. I am now inspired to create all kinds of delicious handmade chocolate treats, now that I've got the basics down. They were pleasantly easy (though time-consuming), and unbelievably delicious. The fleur de sel adds a lovely note of complexity to what would otherwise be a very flat-tasting candy. Try some for yourself, and look for future truffle experimentation here. I'm thinking lime/white chocolate with a very very bittersweet coating (something like Cote d'Or's Noir Brut).
^ Truffles in the making - cocoa coated before chocolate dipping.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
2 tsp superfine sugar
2 oz cachaca
ice (preferably in fun shapes)
Put 4 lime wedges in a rocks glass. Top with sugar and muddle for about 15 seconds. Toss in ice cubes, pour in cachaca, and stir. Serve (and drink) immediately. Best enjoyed after the kids are in bed. But then again, isn't everything?
Weight Watchers POINTS: 3
Friday, July 4, 2008
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Orange chicken has always been my hands-down favorite at any Chinese takeout place. It's sweet, it's spicy, it's sticky and just plain yummy. This version (much lighter, using white meat chicken and skipping the usual breading and deep-frying) is absolutely delicious, mildly spicy, easy to make, and tastes just like the American Chinese food I'm used to.
Orange chicken with broccoli and steamed rice (serves 3)
Weight Watchers Points per serving: 8
3/4 cup uncooked white rice, such as jasmine or basmati
3 cups broccoli
1 tsp sesame oil
350g boneless, skinless chicken breast (2 breasts), cubed
1 Tbsp soy sauce (or tamari)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sambal oelek (chili paste; found in most supermarkets)
2 tsp vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp cornstarch or 2 Tbsp flour
Cook rice according to package or rice cooker directions. Steam broccoli.
Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until browned. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly. Add to chicken mixture, stir well, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 6 minutes, or until chicken is well-cooked and no longer pink inside, and sauce is thick.
Serve over steamed rice, with broccoli on the side.
NOTE: For the non-spicy version, omit pepper and chili paste.
Friday, November 23, 2007
I've never been big on leftover turkey - always dry and boring, right? Well, since I started braising my Thanksgiving turkey I've discovered that turkey leftovers can, in fact, be a good thing. A very good thing, even. But turkey salad sandwiches get dull about halfway through the first sandwich, and there are still only so many things to do with the leftover meat. Here, however, are a few of my favorites.
Turkey, bacon, and guaccamole sandwich. A delicious twist on the classic club. Layer thick slices of juicy white meat with a couple strips of bacon and a healthy schmear of guaccamole. Not the store-bought fluffy green stuff, mind you. Please be kind to your tastebuds and make your own. It's incredibly simple. Just mash up 3 medium avocados with the juice of a lime, 3 cloves of minced garlic, a diced roma tomato, and salt and pepper to taste. Make sure to let it stand in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before eating (overnight is best, though). Your tortilla chips will thank you, too.
Stuffing. Leftover stuffing makes the best sandwiches, especially if it's homemade. Give it a try - spread on some cranberry sauce (sauce, not the jelly stuff). Turkey is optional.
Roasted garlic turkey salad. Use a puree of roasted garlic and olive oil instead of mayo in a basic turkey salad recipe. Stir in some diced pear and a dash of cumin and you've got one heck of a sandwich.
Cranberry wasabi. Blend a touch of wasabi paste with cranberry sauce and add turkey. The 'cool' spice of wasabi adds a nice zing and will even help clear out stuffy sinuses if you find yourself, like so many others, afflicted with a cold this holiday season.
Enjoy something a little different for leftovers this year, and look for Thanksgiving leftovers - part two (soups), coming soon.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Great easy dish for a cold day or great homemade lunch without having to run to the grocery store. This soup needs no sandwich accompaniment, and is hearty and filling as-is.
Note: I don't recommend using oil instead of butter or margarine. The butter greatly affects the rich taste of the soup, and would be drastically changed if using oil instead. If you're concerned about cholesterol, use a good quality margarine instead. Also, don't try reducing the amount of fat. The onions will be dry, burn easier, and will not become as soft. It's fatty, yes, and it's just one of those dishes that needs to be that way.
Classic French Onion Soup
2 average-sized yellow onions (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter)
1/2 c margarine or 1/3 c salted butter
6 cups hot water
7 1/2 t beef boullion granules (or 7 1/2 cubes or sachets)
sliced 3 day-old baguette
sliced Emmenthal, Jarlsberg, or other Swiss cheese
Slice onions no more than 1/4 inch thick (a mandoline makes quick work of it); melt butter in a very large saucepan and add onions. Saute on low heat for about half an hour, stirring every 5 minutes. Onions will be very limp, slightly browned, and have no crunch left when done. Add water and boullion; bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Serve into bowls, top with baguette slices (about 3 per bowl) and sliced cheese, enough to generously cover baguette. Broil or microwave bowls (make sure your dishes are oven safe if broiling) until cheese is melted. Serve, and don't forget to warn diners to be careful of very hot dishes!
Note for celiacs: substitute gluten-free baguette and make sure the boullion is gluten-free. If you cannot eat dairy use a non-dairy margarine, but I do not recommend non-dairy cheese. Instead skip the cheese and turn your baguette into buttery toasted croutons instead.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I never thought I'd say this, but shame on you, Epicurious.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Gunpowder is a lovely smoky loose tea; the leaves are rolled into little balls before processing (the Chinese call it pearl tea). This supposedly helps it retain better flavor than regular tea. Uncle Lee's brand of gunpowder comes in a vaccuum-sealed brick, inside a can, inside a box - an awful lot of packaging for a small bag of tea, but it makes a difference. When you open the bag it smells really fresh, almost grassy, much the way I imagine fresh tea leaves smell before processing. I've rarely come across teas this fresh, except some brought over by Chinese friends. When brewed it produces a rich golden-colored tea with delicate toasty-smoky flavors and a pleasant strong aftertaste that's not at all bitter. This is just what green tea should be, and Uncle Lee's Tea delivers a beautiful cup of mid-to-high-grade tea at a price that is very reasonable (a little over $7).
But why is green tea called green? All teas come from the leaves of the same plant (the tea plant) - but the 'color' of the tea (white, green, black) denotes the age of the leaves when picked for processing. White are the young, tender leaf buds, and their brew has a very delicate, aromatic, and never bitter flavor; green are still young and have a delicate flavor but can become bitter easily if brewed too long (low-grade greens always brew bitter teas no matter the timing); black are fully matured leaves with rich, full flavor, and make up the characteristic English and European teas such as Earl Grey. Each stage of tea leaf and type of tea is also processed differently. There is a leaf sometimes called red tea, but this is in fact not from the tea plant. It comes from an African bush called rooibos; the leaves produce a sweeter, rich tea and contain no caffiene. The more mature the tea leaf, the higher the caffiene content.
Note: White and green teas should produce golden-hued brews, so be wary of any green tea that makes green-colored tea.
Monday, October 8, 2007
I really, really, really like soup. Any kind of soup. Even when I'm not pregnant. I think God, Siddhartha, and Mohammed all got together one day and decided to create the perfect food. And on the sixth day, there was soup, and they saw that it was good.
But what is pho? A rich beef soup with chewy rice noodles of the sort often used in Thai soups. Tasty toppings abound and include sliced beef, Thai basil, chiles, and scallions. It's traditionally eaten for breakfast or lunch, but is good hearty fare any time of day. If you've never tried Vietnamese food, this is the dish to start with. The ingredients are available pretty much anywhere, and it is not spicy and contains no really exotic or potentially offensive flavors. The traditionally Asian flavors of ginger, fish sauce, and star anise in the broth are very mild and take a backseat to rich, hearty beef. It is said that good pho broth needs to simmer at least 24 hours; Mai Pham's recipe takes only about 2 hours, and is very, very tasty. I do make it her way often enough, but if you have considerably less than 2-3 hours to put on a filling, delicious, and fairly impressive meal, try it this way:
serves about 6
This recipe is gluten-free, but I know you celiacs know to check your stock and fish sauce labels just to be safe.
3 quarts good quality beef stock, broth, or boullion
2 3-inch pieces of ginger root, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1-inch chunks
8 star anise pods, toasted
5 whole cloves, toasted
1 pound of top sirloin, frozen
1 16-ounce package of rice stick noodles (the narrow, linguine-sized variety)
TOPPINGS (use any or all, more is better):
4-6 baby bok choy, leafy parts only, sliced
6 whole Thai chiles, sliced into thin rings
8-10 sprigs of Thai basil, leaves torn
3 scallions, finely sliced
1 pound bean sprouts
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
hoisin or plum sauce
Sriracha (hot chile sauce)
Combine broth, ginger, and half of the sirloin (in one whole piece) in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Boil 5 minutes, skimming off any foam or impurities from the beef. Tie the star anise and cloves into a spice bag (or cheesecloth or muslin) and add to the stock. Simmer 40 minutes, covered, occasionally skimming if needed. Place noodles in lukewarm water and soak for 30 minutes. Slice the other half of the frozen sirloin into paper-thin slices with a very sharp knife and set aside to thaw. Other toppings can be prepared while noodles soak and broth simmers. Arrange toppings for serving; they look very pretty in piles on a large serving platter (except for the sauces).
When noodles are done soaking, heat your soup bowls by filling them with boiling water left in until serving time. Keep broth simmering through the last steps. Remove sirloin from simmering broth and cut into paper-thin slices and set aside with the raw beef. Bring 2-3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, enough to immerse noodles in. Once boiling, toss noodles in and cook very quickly, usually only 30 seconds or so, until cooked but still chewy. Drain noodles and empty water from bowls; divide steaming noodles into bowls and top with cooked and raw beef slices. Ladle on simmering broth and serve. Add any desired toppings at the table.
How to (traditionally) eat pho: Toppings, as many as you like, go anywhere on top, but sauces go to one side or the other of the bowl. Use chopsticks for the noodles and a Chinese spoon for the broth. Alternate between bites of noodles and toppings, and sips of soup. If you're totally hopeless with chopsticks you can use a fork, but don't twirl your noodles up like an Italian. In Viet Nam, good manners dictate that you slurp them from the bowl.
A note on chiles and basil: If you can't find fresh Thai (or 'bird') chiles, the dried ones will do. To use these, trim off both ends, rinse the inside to remove as many seeds as possible, and then soak in warm water for 30-45 minutes. For the basil, don't substitute common sweet basil for Thai (also called holy basil). You can substitute mint instead, or leave it out altogether.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Don't get me wrong, I think the electric ones are a total crock. But what I'm talking about are the stainless steel, clamp-on-the-counter, hand-cranked variety that turn out beautiful fresh dough with slightly less effort and slightly more consistent results than doing it by hand. I immediately found one online and made my partner order it for me. However, since it will take about a week to arrive by standard ground shipping, I will be forced to hand-roll a small batch of dough to get me through until then.
So for this week, I am making homemade tomato sauce from fresh roma tomatoes, ratatouille (the recipe I found was in fact adapted from the one that was created for the adorable movie of the same name, which is in my opinion the best movie Disney or Pixar has ever made), butternut squash ravioli in a lemon cream sauce (MMM!), cheese tortellini, and something with fresh green chile (probably chili and maybe a nice tortilla soup) to commemorate my last chile season in New Mexico.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Lately, since my accidental butter making session one day (the cream didn't whip, it just turned solid!), I've had an odd interest in making fresh dairy products at home. Sure, I've always made the occasional batch of homemade ice cream, but nothing more. So when I recently came across instructions for making homemade yogurt, I was impressed by how easy it seemed. Fresh yogurt, without all the thickeners and preservatives and nasty things I don't want to feed my children, born or unborn - it can't get much better than this!
Truly, it does not get much better. My first batch of yogurt finished incubating a couple of hours ago, and I was absolutely delighted with the results. While not as thick as commercial yogurts, it is smooth, velvety, and CREAMY. Really creamy. The creamiest yogurt I have ever tasted. Seriously, I can't emphasize the creaminess enough. Even my partner, who is incredibly picky about anything dairy (it's not good enough unless it's Dutch, apparently) was impressed and proclaimed it far superior to any American store-bought yogurt he'd ever tasted. Go me! Homemade yogurt also gives you the ability to control the tartness of the finished product. The longer it incubates, the tangier it becomes. Personally, I like a medium yogurt, not quite as tart as some commercial brands (like Brown Cow). And not only does it taste great, but it's unbelievably economical as well. All it takes is milk (whole, lowfat, or skim, whichever you prefer) and a little yogurt to use as a starter culture, about a quarter cup per quart of milk. The whole batch I made (a whopping 2 quarts) cost less then $2.50, and is totally free from gelatin, food starch, and other icky fillers. Great way to save on organic yogurt as well - just use organic milk.
But what to do with your homemade cheese? There are the traditional Indian dishes, but I know enough people who really don't care for Indian food (two of them live in my house). So for the less Asian-inclined, here are a few creative uses I've discovered myself:
- Use in place of fresh, whole-milk mozzarella in lasagna and other recipes. Just keep in mind that paneer does not melt, so if it's gooeyness you're after, stick with the mozzarella.
- Slice and layer with fresh sliced tomatoes, basil, and a little olive oil, salt and pepper for a delicious first course, light lunch, or summertime snack.
- Chunk up on a salad. Goes great with baby field greens, cucumber, avocado, and even a few shrimp if you like, tossed with a light vinaigrette (balsamic is a bit strong - try something with red wine vinegar instead). Avoid creamy and/or strong dressings, which overpower the delicate flavors of the cheese and avocado.
- Cube and add to a homemade tomato bisque. The light, creamy taste perfectly complements tomatoes, and the nonmeltingness (is that a word?) is ideal for hot dishes that need a little more texture.
- Grilled cheese sandwiches. Brush bread with olive oil and stack with sliced paneer. Grill on an actual grill for best flavor, or in a heavy skillet til golden. Particularly good with Jewish rye or another strong-tasting bread, as the cheese lets the flavor of the bread shine through while adding a marvelous note of sweetness. Slip in a couple fresh basil leaves before serving if desired.
- Just eat it. My three year-old's favorite way to enjoy paneer; chunk it up and enjoy.
I'm sure there are a thousand more things you could do with it, but I'm out of ideas for now. Come up with a few yourself, and let me know what they are!
Now the Thai tea - that's a whole other story. Thai iced tea has been my favorite iced drink ever since my first sip at Lemongrass in Las Cruces over 8 years ago (yeah, I actually remember when and where. It's that freaking good). I couldn't get enough. The tea is lightly and sweetly spiced with cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, and most notably (but not noticeably) star anise. It's rather heavily sweetened and usually tinted with a touch of red food coloring to give that signature reddish orange hue. Then it is poured over ice and topped with a generous amount of either half and half or evaporated milk, and is usually a rich sunset of pale peach to deep, burnt brown-orange when served (the trick is pouring in the milk very slowly so it stays mostly on top, tea on bottom. Sadly, you stir up this work of art before drinking). I once saw a beautiful glass of fresh Thai tea sitting on the shelf of a small Buddhist altar in my favorite Thai restaurant, Dodge City's little-known Thai Angel (no idea if it's still around, but they serve the best Thai food I have ever eaten. Two words: Angel Wings). My only gripe with Thai tea is that no cokbook I've ever come across will tell me how to brew the tea itself; they all simply give instructions for assembling the finished beverage. The closest I ever came was in Victor Sodsook's True Thai, which gave a vague mention of it being spiced mainly with star anise. This is, to this day, the only reason that spice resides in my kitchen.
Anyway, while surfing CHOW during a random bout of insomnia and yogurt-making tonight, I came across a recipe for Thai- and Vietnamese-style iced coffee, and it got me to wondering if they had a recipe for Thai tea. They did, and I immediately rushed to the kitchen and made some in my spiffy Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker. I don't actually use this appliance for iced tea all that often - generally I just brew hot in it, as it makes a really lovely pot of strong hot tea without my needing to attend to anything. Anyway, I brewed it hot and stuck the pitcher in the fridge to chill, but not before I thoroughly spoiled myself with a fresh glass over ice, topped with that customary rich, creamy swirl of half and half. It was better than I could have imagined. The black teas I had on hand worked perfectly with the blend of spices, and I was immediatey transported to another galaxy. Fellow Thai tea lovers, you know what I'm talking about. This is not the kind of beverage you can enjoy halfheartedly. For those of you who have never had the pleasure, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! Make some now. You can thank me later.
NOTE: All recipes linked to in this post are gluten-free. If making the Creole jambalaya or red beans linked above, be sure to check your sausage and ham labels for gluten!
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Pregnancy is tough business. There's nothing normal about a pregnant woman. Right now I have more pimples than I did in high school (ok, not quite, but pretty close) in places where I didn't even know you could get them. Between the morning sickness and the heartburn I have too much trouble getting a decent night's sleep. Most mornings all I can choke down are some dry saltines, sometimes with peanut butter, and we won't even go into what's happened to my sex life the last couple months (horrible first trimester, when will you be over?!). But the worst part? I can honestly say it's the cravings. With my daughter I craved Big Macs and Spaghetti O's. That I could deal with. They're easy to come by and require no effort on my part. After all, that's what the man is able to help out with during pregnancy. They fetch, and though they complain, they're good at it and more than obliging. Mine even brings me things that I've previously craved without me even asking, like McDonalds double cheeseburgers (but I need to explain to him at some point that hese cravings are kind of a one-time thing right now).
This time around, however, I crave the weirdest, most varied foods that are usually impossible or difficult to purchase ready-made and require hours of effort on my part to prepare. And the cravings do not just go away if I don't eat whatever my hormones demand. Oh no, they linger until I manage to find the time and energy to make, say, Eggs Benedict in the middle of the night. Or they stick around til I finally fire up the grill and make just the right burger with bacon, cheddar, sliced tomato, grilled sweet onion slices, ketchup, relish, and mustard (yes, I really do demand tomato AND ketchup on a burger. Don't judge me).
What is it today, you might wonder? Matar paneer (Indian curried peas and 'cottage' cheese).