Saturday, February 27, 2010
One night I decided (after hearing my husband complain for too long about how he wished he could be eating Chinese food instead of whatever American/Italian/Japanese/Austrian/Mexican concoction that I had made that night for dinner) to attempt making something vaguely Chinese. I found a recipe for Kung Pao chicken online, but my husband being the super picky type, does not like "nuts" in his food. Sigh. So I decided to use the basics of that recipe to create something similar, that did not include nuts, and would incorporate the ingredients that I did have on hand. Feel free to leave the orange zest out if you do not care for the flavor of orange peel.
Orange Peel Chicken:
2 small chicken breasts
1 c. shitake mushrooms
1/2 c. snow pea pods
1 large stalk green garlic
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. Mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
zest of 1 orange
2 tsp. sugar
2 T. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sesame oil
4 T. soy sauce
1 T. Mirin (sweet cooking wine)
1 tsp. korean red pepper
1/3 c. chicken broth
1. Cut the chicken breasts (or about 5-6 chicken tenders) into small bite-sized pieces. Mix the chicken with the marinade ingredients and set aside.
2. Zest one orange. Mix the zest with all orange sauce ingredients and set aside. Korean red pepper is flaked red chili pepper. You could substitute with regular red pepper flakes, but I prefer the Korean kind. Now, if you don't have Mirin in your kitchen, you could substitute with something like sherry, or a really sweet Moscato. You could also substitute apple cider vinegar (or even regular white vinegar in a pinch) for the rice vinegar.
3. Slice the green garlic stalks. You can substitute with 2-3 stalks of green onion if you can't find green garlic.
4. Wash the shitake mushrooms, discarding the stems as you go. Cut each mushroom into quarters. If you can't find fresh shitake mushrooms, you can substitute with regular fresh mushrooms.
6. Heat 1 T. canola oil in a large wok, on high. Add the white part of the green garlic, and the chicken. Stir fry until chicken is cooked.
7. Add the mushroom, and stir fry 30 seconds. Then, add the Orange Sauce.
9. When sauce is thickened and bubbly, add the snow peas and cook for about 30 seconds longer.
10. Serve with steamed calrose rice.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Similarly, I like lemon bars to be tart and sweet at the same time - almost like I'm still sitting in my old kitchen eating lemons dipped in sugar. Unfortunately, most lemon bar recipes that I've tried just don't seem "lemony tart" enough for me. So finally, after many unsuccessful lemon bar baking ventures, I developed my own recipe for them, incorporating both lemon zest and lemon juice to give it a little extra kick.
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 c. flour
2 T. water
1 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. lemon juice
1/2 T. lemon zest
1/3 c. flour
1/4 tsp. sea salt
3 T. powdered sugar (for dusting)
2. Zest and juice several lemons. I used about 5 lemons to get 3/4 c. of juice. (Make sure you don't get any bitter white pith into your zest - use only the yellow surface peel.)
3. Pulse butter, sugar, 1 tsp. lemon zest, salt, and flour in a food processor, until coarse crumbs form. If needed, add up to 2 T. water to bring the mixture together.
5. Mix eggs and sugar in a bowl with a fork.
6. Add lemon juice, 1/2 T. lemon zest, salt, and flour and combine with a whisk, and set aside.
8. Pour the lemon filling over the hot crust, and return to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
9. Remove from the oven and cool. Once cool, sprinkle with approximately 3 T. powdered sugar and cut into squares.
Friday, February 19, 2010
I don't know what it is about spam that arouses so much passion. Amongst Americans, spam is kind of like a folk hero - people love to wear spam T-shirts, make jokes about spam, talk about spam... but when it comes to actually eating it... "No, thank you!" (unless you are in Hawaii). In Asia, however, spam is a culinary delight - and in Asian circles, spam is not a joke ingredient... but serious yumminess. So the night before the shower, I embarked on my spam wonton journey - and the results were surprisingly good!
At the bridal shower, after sampling the various offerings, I realized my main competition for the win was my friend Christina's delicious Thai chicken curry (for which she substituted plain yogurt for coconut milk to add creaminess and reduce fat content). Another possible competitor... fried glass noodles with beef. Hmmm. I wasn't sure how she was going to judge, but when my friend announced that my Spam Gyoza was her favorite - I was glad that I had followed my instincts and used spam to add flavor to the dish.
So here it is, my prize-winning recipe:
1 can of Spam Lite
9 oz raw pork loin (2 small pork loin chops, fat trimmed off)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks green garlic (or green onion), chopped
8 shitake mushrooms, stems discarded, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
1 pkg. won ton skins
This recipe will make approximately 48 wontons. You may substitute green onion stalks for the green garlic - but if you can find it, green garlic imparts a better flavor. The Spam gives the gyoza a little extra something - I know it sounds weird, but it's really good. According to the spam can label, it's "crazy tasty" - and I agree.
2. Roughly chop the pork loin and Spam. Dump the meat into the work bowl of a food processor, and pulse until ground into a rough paste. Add the garlic and pulse a few more times to combine.
3. Put the meat mixture into a mixing bowl, and add the green garlic, shitake mushrooms, egg, panko breadcrumbs, and all seasonings. Mix thoroughly.
5. Lay a square won ton skin in the palm of your hand, and moisten all edges with a little water, using your fingertips.
7. Fold each square over horizontally, forming a long rectangle. Pinch the edges closed, sealing out any air, and haphazardly forming pleats at the top as shown.
8. Stack the gyoza side by side on a parchment lined baking sheet until you finish. This recipe will approximately fill about 1 package of wonton skins (48 gyoza).
10. Heat a large wok with 1 tsp oil on medium. Place 12 gyoza into the wok and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown on one side. Make sure you have a large lid that will fit the pan or wok.
12. Add 1/4 cup of water to the center, and as the water sizzles, place the lid on top, trapping the steam in the wok. Steam the gyoza for about 1-2 minutes, until all the water has evaporated.
If you prefer to deep fry them: Heat about 3 inches of canola oil in a small pot, and when the oil is hot, drop 3-4 gyoza in at a time. Deep fry on medium heat until golden brown.
Monday, February 15, 2010
With 2 bottles of red food coloring in the batter, these cupcakes are guaranteed to be a bright rich red.
Red Velvet Cupcakes:
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
10 oz. cake flour (or 2 1/2 c. + 5 T.)
2 T. cocoa powder
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 T. white vinegar
2 oz (two 1 oz. bottles) red food coloring
2. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, beat well.
3. Mix in the cocoa powder and salt.
4. Weigh 10 oz. of cake flour on a kitchen scale. Or, measure 2 1/2 c. + 5 T. cake flour. If you must use all-purpose flour, only use 2 1/2 cups.
5. Slowly add the flour and buttermilk into the butter mixture, blending on low speed with a hand mixer.
7. Dump the two 1 oz. bottles of red food coloring into the batter, and slowly mix until combined.
8. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full with batter.
10. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. When completely cool to the touch, frost with cream cheese frosting, adding decorative sprinkles if desired.
1 stick unsalted butter
1 box cream cheese (8 oz)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. powdered sugar
1. Cream the butter and cream cheese. Mix in the vanilla.
2. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, mixing on low speed.
3. Put a star tip into a plastic pastry bag, or use a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off. Fill with frosting.
4. When cupcakes are cool, pipe frosting in a circular pattern starting from the outer edge.
5. Sprinkle cupcakes with red decorating sugar if desired.
Friday, February 12, 2010
I had always been a fan of Chili Cheese fries at the mall, and even though I had never made it before, I thought maybe now was the time to try making Chili? Somehow I convinced my mom to purchase a small plastic bottle of Gebhardt Chili powder one day at the market. She probably only agreed to buy it because it was less than $1.00, I think.
A few nights later, I decided to attempt making chili. We had ground beef in the freezer, onions in the pantry, and now... chili powder. But what about the beans? Sadly, I hadn't been successful getting my mom to agree to buy beans along with the chili powder. What was a chili-craving 12 year old to do? I searched high and low in the pantry... and found half a bag of dried Azuki beans (small red Japanese beans).
I'm not sure how long this bag of beans had been sitting there in the cupboard behind stacks of ramen packages and the year-old G.I. Joe cereal that my brother had never finished. We ate Azuki beans all the time... in seki-han (a Japanese bean and sticky rice dish), as a sweetened filling in mochi, as a topping on snow cones... but these treats were bought at restaurants or Japanese markets, and were never home-made in our house. I never saw my mother actually cook Azuki beans before.... and frankly, I don't think she knew how.
I took the Azuki beans and boiled them for several hours until they were finally soft. (I didn't know you were supposed to soak dried beans before cooking them.) And I made my chili. Everyone loved it, except my little brother, who had sworn to hate everything that I cooked. Across the dinner table, my dad said to me, "Hey, this chili is good! But where did you get the beans?" I happily declared, "Oh these are the Azuki beans from the cupboard!"
Have you ever seen the scene from the Exorcist, where the little girl's head spins 360 degrees, and she has a demonic look on her face? My mom slowly turned her head toward me, and from the look on her face, I thought her head might start spinning around like that, and we might need to call for a priest. Umm... I guess I didn't know any better, but apparently those were some really expensive Azuki beans imported from Japan. Oops. I thought my mom was going to kill me - and in the end, I was grounded for a week. What a price to pay for a chili craving!
However, I did learn some valuable lessons that day:
1. Homemade chili is way better than canned, and easy to make.
2. Maybe it's not a good idea to let your little kid watch "the Exorcist" on HBO re-runs?
3. Definitely don't make chili with your mom's secret stash of $30 Azuki beans.**
(**Not sure if $30 was the actual price, but I'm trying to reconstruct the value of the beans from the horrified image of my mother's face that still lingers in my head to this day.)
This chili recipe is earthy and hearty. It pairs perfectly with a nice warm slice of cornbread, on a chilly winter day:
Azuki Bean Chili
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3 c. peeled, diced tomato plus juices
2 c. chicken or beef broth
1 c. water
2 - 3 T. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. ground sage
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt)
2 tsp. sea salt
2-3 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp soy sauce
2 T. ketchup
2. Brown the ground beef in a large pot. Drain off all grease by soaking up with several paper towels.
4. Add tomatoes, cayenne, chili powder, sage, cumin, oregano, sugar, ketchup, soy sauce, and chicken broth. Simmer for 30 minutes. Taste for seasonings, and add more salt, sugar, or chili powder if needed.
5. Add cooked beans, and simmer, covered, 30-45 more minutes, adding extra water if needed.
The chili is done when it has a "saucy" consistency - thick, and rich and no longer watery or soupy. If you want to eat it Asian style, serve it on top of a scoop of steamed Calrose rice.
But in America, what is chili without cornbread? Here's the recipe for cornbread that I have developed over the years. I like my cornbread on the slightly sweet side, with just a little kick of cayenne. You can omit the cayenne pepper if you're not a fan of spice.
1 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1 c. flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1 T. baking powder
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil
1 1/2 c. lowfat milk
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 T. unsalted butter
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Place your iron skillet into the preheating oven.
3. Combine the sugar, eggs, oil, and milk in another bowl and whisk to combine.
4. At this point, put the unsalted butter into the heated iron skillet to melt.
5. Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry, and whisk to combine.
7. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown. Lightly touch the top with a clean finger to test for doneness. The edges of the cornbread should have pulled away from the sides of the pan.
8. Cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cutting board.
9. Cut into wedges, and serve.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Secret #1 lies in the type of "pumpkin." Instead of regular American sugar pumpkin (or the nasty orange slime from a can) - I use the Japanese winter squash called Kabocha. "Oh, well, that's just great," you might be mumbling to yourself, "Where am I supposed to get that????" Pretty much any Asian grocery store will have it. I've also seen it, for a slightly higher price, at health food stores (like Whole Foods, Henry's, Sprouts, etc.), and sometimes even at the local supermarket chain.
Secret # 2 involves allowing the Kabocha to mature after harvest (or in my case, picking it up from the market). Usually, I will leave a Kabocha on the kitchen counter top for at least a month before roasting it. This step helps to develop the flavor of the kabocha, and enhances the sweetness. But you don't really have to wait this long... most of the grocery store Kabochas have probably been sitting around for awhile anyway.
Be careful when cutting open a Kabocha - it's really hard and very tough to cut through. Use your sharpest, biggest knife, and proceed with caution. Cut it in half, vertically, then scoop out the seeds from the inside. Bake the kabocha halves for 1 hour in a 350 degree oven, cut side down on a baking sheet lined with foil. Let it cool for several hours before scooping the pulp into a plastic storage container.
An averaged sized kabocha will give you enough pulp to make this recipe 2-3 times. If you have extra kabocha, you can put it in a Ziploc freezer bag, squeezing out all the air, and freeze for several months until you want to make it again.
Now for the recipe:
Kabocha Pumpkin Bread
1 c. canola oil
2/3 c. water
3 c. sugar
3 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt (use regular salt if you must)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 c. walnuts, chopped
decorative sugar crystals, or raw pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C, or 448 K).
2. Grease 5 mini-loaf pans (or 2 regular sized loaf pans) with butter (or non stick spray), then dust with flour. (The flour will help keep the pumpkin bread from sticking to the pan after baking.) To do this just dump a few tablespoons of flour into a greased pan, tap it all around until the sides, corners, and bottoms of the pan are covered with a thin layer of flour. Shake the excess flour into the next pan and continue. As a final step, I liked to hold each pan upside-down over the sink and tap the bottom a few times to remove any extra flour.
4. Mix together the kabocha, eggs, oil, water, and sugar until you have a uniform orange mixture.
5. Dump the kabocha mixture on top of the dry ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold it all together. Be careful not to over mix, or the texture of your pumpkin bread will be tough and chewy instead of tender and delicate.
7. If you are using 5 mini-loaf pans, pour approximately 1 1/2 c. of batter into each prepared pan. If using 2 regular loaf pans, pour a little more than 3 1/2 c. batter into each pan. You can also make muffins with this recipe - just make sure to fill each muffin tin only 2/3 full (no more).
Or you can decorate the tops with raw pepitas. Pepitas are shelled pumpkin seeds, and you can find them in the bulk grain/spice section of a health food store.
You can skip the decorating step and leave the tops of the batter plain, if you like.
9. Bake the mini-loaves at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes. If baking 2 larger loaves, then bake for 50-60 minutes. Muffins will take about 20-22 minutes. Don't forget to do the touch test to make sure the loaves are done: gently press the top of the bread with your clean finger, and if it gently springs back (without feeling too soft or mushy), then it is done.
When the loaves are completely cool to the touch, wrap with waxed paper and an outer layer of plastic wrap. This will keep for a little over a week in the refrigerator. Or you can wrap each loaf in several more layers of plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months. You can leave it out on the counter if you finish the pumpkin bread within a few days - just make sure it stays tightly wrapped in plastic to keep it from drying out.
I discovered the benefits of the kabocha-for-pumpkin substitution one day by accident... I was craving Pumpkin Bread, but to my dismay, didn't have any pumpkin! (Plus, I'm lazy, and didn't feel like driving to the market.) However, I did have a Kabocha sitting on the counter, staring at me. "Why not?" I thought, "It's not that different." I mean, I've heard of people making "pumpkin pies" with cooked carrots instead... and kabocha and sugar pumpkin are both squashes... The end result was pure serendipity. Since then, there has also been Kabocha pie, Kabocha cookies, Kabocha soup... you get the idea.
Well, I guess that means my dark green secret is out of the bag. I hope my confession inspires you to try kabocha next time you make pumpkin bread!