Sunday, December 28, 2008

MaPo Tofu

This recipe will knock your socks off and clear your sinuses out! It requires a couple of special ingredients, but once you have them you can make this all the time. No need for a trip to Tea House when you can make Ma Po Tofu at home!

You can see the chili black bean sauce in the upper left. Please excuse the lack of a Delft chafing tureen.

1/2 c. ground pork (or chicken or beef)
2 packs soft tofu, drained and cut into 3/4" cubes
1 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. Chili Black Bean Sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. hot water
1 Tbsp. rice wine or sherry
4 green onions, finely sliced into rounds
1/4 c. corn or tapioca starch + 1/4 c. cold water
1 Tbsp. ground Szechuan pepper

In a large saucepan or wok, heat up the oil until it begins to shimmer. Add the pork and cook, breaking up chunks into small bits, until there is no pink left. Add the red pepper flakes and Chili Black Bean Sauce and stir for one minute. Add the cooking wine and put the lid on and cook for one minute.

Add the garlic, tofu, and one cup water. Stir gently to combine, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and add the green onions and starch + water mixture. Simmer and stir gently for one more minute until it thickens. Remove from heat and sprinkle with Szechuan pepper. Serve with white rice and perhaps a side of steamed veggies.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dill butter chicken thighs, parsely roasted potatoes

This is an extremely simple roast chicken dish that was orgasmic. I made some dill butter and put it under the skin of $.79/lb chicken quarters, then salted and peppered the exterior. I browned the chicken briefly in a pan, and roasted it on 475 until crispy and delicious. For the potatoes, I diced small red spuds and microwaved them in a covered bowl for about 5 minutes, until fork tender. They went in the oven with the chicken, and because of the pre-cooking, finished at about the same time. I simply tossed them with butter, salt, pepper, and chopped parsley. The couscous with smoked paprika was almost superfluous.

Living the good life, $0.65 at a time

Middle Eastern Vegetable Ragout

Melanie got this recipe from an Arabic cookbook, and upon testing, results indicated delicious. We ate it with flatbread, but it'd be good on rice as well. I've translated it from the cookbook.:

3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, cut into slivers
2 cloves crushed garlic
4 small zucchini, cut into circles (remember these are theoretically the lighter green, almost grey middle eastern ones)
2 tomatoes, diced
1 can chickpeas
1 c. water (or less if you want to eat it with bread)
Salt, cumin and cinnamon to taste

1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil.
2. When onion is transparent(in the Arabic: 'when the onion becomes blond'. Go figure.), add zucchini, and cook for a short while.
3. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, water, spices and cook, covered, on medium for around 20 minutes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Peace Like a River Fish Chowder

One of my favorite books is Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. It's a story about a crime, the road, the trials a family faces, and miracles. It takes place in Minnesota and South Dakota in the wintertime--the perfect setting for chowder. My recipe was inspired by this line:

"Supper that night was Swede's favorite, a red-potato chowder Dad mixed up with hunks of northern pike. Seasoned with vinegar and pepper this was our king of soups; a person didn't even want to put crackers in it."

I've kept the recipe humble and hearty, as would befit the story. You can doctor it up as you like (though I've probably included too many herbs as it is), but believe me when I tell you that it is irresistibly good even in its simplest form.

2 lbs red potatoes, skin-on and scrubbed
1 lb white fish
4 Tbsp. butter or bacon fat
1 small onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1-2 qts water or fish or chicken broth
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp dill or dill seed (optional)
lots of black pepper
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley (optional but encouraged)

To speed this up you can pre-cook your potatoes or use leftover ones, but starting from raw is fine.

In a heavy soup pot, cook the onions and celery in the fat until they are soft and browning on the edges. Add the thyme, dill, and some black pepper and stir. Add the potatoes and cover with water or broth to the level you want your soup at, and salt. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are very soft and falling apart.

Using a blender or masher, whomp the potatoes until they are at your desired combination of puree and chunks. Add the fish and simmer for ~5 minutes, or until the fish is cooked and flaky. Break it apart with your stirring spoon and a fork. Add the vinegar, parsley, more black pepper, and salt, and cook for 2 more minutes. Delicious with bread and butter.

Some tips:
  • You can substitute the brine from some dill pickles for the vinegar.
  • This is a great way to use canned fish. The recipe is best if at least some of the fish is fresh, though. Most recently I made it with 10 oz fresh cod and a small can of salmon.
  • The vinegar is essential. Before you add it the chowder tastes ho-hum, but after you add it, it's world-class.
  • Amounts are approximate. You can make this as potatoey, brothy, or fishy as you like.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Easy bread pudding

This is actually an egg custard with some bread in it, but boy o boy, is it delicious. I use up all the old dry bread I can find:

Butter baking pan (any kind will do - I use a round glass casserole pan)

1 1/2 cups dry bread
1 cup milk
1 handful golden raisins

Soak bread and raisins in milk; add more milk to cover if necessary. Now go do something so you don't obsess over whether it has soaked enough.

Preheat oven to 350

3 cups milk (you should have a total of 4)
6 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
(garam masala is also good here)

Whip eggs, milk, and dry ingredients until eggs are fully beaten. Pour over the soaked bread. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until it has puffed up and is completely cooked in the center.

You should probably refrigerate the leftovers if there are any. This makes a great substitute for your usual breakfast.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Turkey Pot Pie

So, I was looking for a way to get rid of some Thanksgiving leftovers (including some pie crust), and I hit on the idea of a pot pie. I made it in a slapdash way since I didn't have too much time for cooking, so given more time it'd be more delicious:

Leftover turkey drumstick and wing
Leftover pie crust
Bay leaves
3ish garlic cloves
Wine or beer

I cooked the turkey pieces in water with celery and onions (I saved the carrots for later so they wouldn't be too mushy, but still add flavor), whole garlic cloves and spices on a fairly high light till the liquid reduced and was reasonably flavorful (i.e. a halfhearted stock - approx. 1 hr). I removed the bones, retaining the meat. Then I made a roux with the flour, mixed in both milk and the broth, including all the veggies and meat, and added frozen peas. I added a bit of wine, though frankly dark beer (guiness) probably would have been better, and simmered until a bit thicker.

During this time, I preheated the oven to 400. I rolled out the pie crust and put it into a pyrex bowl. I didn't have enough dough to make a tight fighting lid, so I sort of floated the extra top part on the filling. It looked a bit like the crust was melting into the pie at first, but it was fine in the end. I then baked it until the top crust was golden brown. The bottom crust was flaky and golden brown, and the filling was delicious.

If you wanted to do this properly, you're supposed to actually make a stock, and then redo the veggies in a stew format. You'd probably want to just make pie crust from scratch.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Brining Basics

This topic keeps coming up and it can be hard to find a definitive guide when you're in the heat of the kitchen moment. I'll try to sum up the most important facts about brining.

Brining is a great way to tenderize and add flavor to meat. It is more effective than marinating, which can backfire when the acid in the marinade starts denaturing the outer layer of protein on your meat, thus degrading its final texture. The 'magic' of brining was described to me this way (though I am omitting the more scienc-ey terms): Because the meat contains far less salt than the brine, the salt from the brine is inclined to more into the meat to even out the overall salinity of the brine + meat system. As the salt moves into the meat, it brings other flavors from the brine with it, such as aromatics, herbs, sugar. It also hydrates the meat so that even as liquid is lost during the cooking process, there's more liquid in the meat in the first place and the liquid is attracted to the salt, so it stays more moist.

Brining need not be complicated or even that time-consuming, depending on what you're making. The final saltiness of your meat is a function of: the density/composition of the meat, the strength of the brine, the amount of time spent in the brine, and how much you rinse it before cooking. That might seem like a lot of factors, but I'll discuss them individually and it shouldn't seem too complicated.

Density/Composition of the Meat
  • Any kind of fillet should not be brined for more than an hour.
  • Poultry generally requires longer brining than pork or beef.
  • A roast of meat with bones will require longer brining than a boneless cut.
  • Any kind of whole bird requires a fairly long brining, which will be greater the larger the bird.
Strength of the Brine and Length of Brining
  • These two factors are inversely related, so the longer the brining, the weaker the brine needed. This is important depending on if plan to brine overnight or the same day as cooking.
  • See below for actual recipes and time recommendations.
Rinsing the Meat
  • You should always rinse the meat before cooking to avoid excess saltiness.
  • If you accidentally brine something for too long or in too strong a brine, you can rinse or soak the meat more. You will probably still retain most of the benefits of the brining.
  • Remember to pat meat dry before cooking so that you can get proper browning.
Recipe Guidelines

At its simplest, a brine is merely salt and water. One step up from that is adding sugar equal to the amount of salt. Then come adding spices such as peppercorns and allspice, and herbs such as thyme and bay. To take it further you can add aromatics like garlic and celery, add wine, or even use a meat broth as the brine base. Sugar should be reduced to 2-3 Tbsp./gallon if you are cooking the meat over high heat, such as on the grill.

Here are two basic types of brine. Feel free to customize the amount of time you're going to brine and the strength of your solution according to your meat type and schedule. I think that if you stay between 1/2 to 1 cup salt per gallon water you can't go wrong. I've heard of brines as strong as 2 c. salt/gallon, but I would be careful not to brine too long or only use it for something like a large turkey.

NOTE: The recipes below are ratios only and the total amount of brine you need will depend on how much meat you are brining and how large your vessel is. For something large like a turkey you will probably need 2 gallons or more of brine, whereas for a few porkchops you will only need 2 quarts. Remember to calculate up or down accordingly.

Basic Strong Brine

This is suitable for short brinings for large items, like roasts or whole birds, (4 - 6 hrs).
  • 1 c. salt
  • 1 c. sugar (optional)
  • 1 gallon water
  • Seasonings
Basic Weak Brine

This is suitable for long brinings for large items (12-14 hrs, overnight) or for short brinings for small, boneless items (1/2 - 1 hrs) .
  • 1/2 c. salt
  • 1/2 c. sugar (optional)
  • 1 gallon water
  • Seasonings
Making the Brine and Brining Logistics

It is easiest to dissolve the salt and sugar in the liquid by heating at least part of the liquid. If you heat all of the liquid you should allow it to cool before adding the meat. I like to heat about a third of the liquid just warm enough to dissolve the salt and sugar and then add the rest of the liquid to cool it immediately.

Place your meat and brine in a food-safe container or plastic bag. Add the meat first and pour the brine in until it is covered. You may need to weigh the meat down to keep it submerged.

The biggest challenge with brining is figuring out where to store your brining vessel. Of course, most cooking shows and the draconian USDA recommend keeping the meat in the fridge the whole time. For those of us who live in the real world, there often isn't enough space. I only refrigerate if I am brining overnight. Otherwise, I leave the meat and brine on the counter or in a cool spot.

The benefit to leaving it out, in addition to freeing up fridge space, is that your meat will be room-temperature when you are ready to cook it. If you refrigerate the meat and brine, be sure to remove it from the fridge an hour or more before cooking so it can warm up. This will speed up your cooking process and ensure that things cook evenly.

Once your meat is brined, remove it from the solution and rinse it as little as you think is necessary. One quick trip under the tap should be enough for most things, but if you are concerned it will be too salty, you can dunk the meat in fresh water or rinse it twice. Pat it dry before cooking or allow it to air dry. If you make gravy or pan sauce from the drippings, taste before adding salt--you may already have enough.

Lillian's Favorite Poultry Brine

This is actually a re-post (I didn't get any comments on the original, but perhaps it is more apropos now). The original can be found at How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Roasting Chicken.

2 c. boiling water
5 c. cold water
1 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. salt
3 Tbsp. (heaping) brown sugar
3 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 Tbsp. cracked black peppercorns
1 tsp. cracked whole allspice
2 tsp. dried thyme or (ideally) sprigs of fresh thyme

For bone-in poultry, I brine for 2-3 hrs, or 5 maximum. See the original recipe for the rest of the process for pan-roasting a cut-up chicken.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Brine the turkey, darn it!

After being badgered for years by my youngest son to brine my turkey, I finally did it. Naturally, I overthought the process and compared website recipes for days, including the information about where and how to actually do it. My eventual container was an XXL ziploc bag (big enough to hold a small adult) since it is food-grade plastic and doesn't leak all over the place. I put the turkey into the bag, put the bag into a cooler (brilliant idea from several websites since there is never enough room in the refrigerator for such a thing) and poured the prepared brine into the bag. I covered it with bags of blue ice, although it probably wasn't necessary. Weather permitting, you could also leave it outside; usually the temp around here on Thanksgiving is slightly cooler than the fridge. Every so often I turned the bird around and upside down, which was made easy by using the bag. 
I made my brine by boiling an assortment of root vegetables in 2 gallons of water: carrots, garlic, celeriac, potatoes, a couple tomatoes. I added 2 cups of salt and 1 cup of sugar, and cooked it until they were dissolved. I cooled it and boiled it down until it was half the volume, then refrigerated it. When I poured it onto the turkey, I added one gallon of water/apple cider mixture.
After about 20 hours, I hoisted the bird into the sink and filled the sink with cold water. I washed all the brine off, inside and out, and patted it down with paper towels. Finally, I rubbed oil all over it. 
To roast: preheat oven to 500. Place turkey breast-side up on a rack in a roasting pan - sides shouldn't be too high so that the heat can circulate. Roast on lowest rack centered in the oven for 30 minutes. Take out and turn oven down to 350 - cover the turkey breast with a double layer of aluminum foil. Return to oven and bake for about 2 1/2 hours - the thermometer should read about 160 when placed in the thick part of the breast. Remove from oven and cover with more foil and let it rest. Use the good yummy juice on the bottom of the pan to make gravy. 

From the Thanksgiving Leftover department

Stir Fried Leftover Salad in Black Bean Garlic Sauce

(If I had known how delicious this was I would have taken a picture)

Saute in un-flavored oil: Onion, carrot sticks, green vegetables, pre-soaked shiitake mushrooms
Stir in a heaping spoon of Black Bean Garlic Sauce, combine well
Add the leftover salad that didn't get dressing on it: ours was spinach, green leaf lettuce, shredded carrots, craisins, walnuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, fresh parmesan cheese.
Continue to stir fry at high heat until all ingredients are cooked approximately the same amount. 
Serve with rice noodles or rice.

Whenever I see weird combinations like this on menus at yuppie restaurants I make rude remarks and keep looking. But, by golly, it was really, really good! 

Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar Sauce

Here's the recipe for sweet potatoes that I think is essentially how I remember them from all of my childhood Thanksgivings. And I should know, since I ate the vast majority of them...

Sweet Potatoes
I can't tell you exactly how many to get - I had around 5 pounds (the store was having a 5#/$1 special on sweet potatoes, which was great.), but I increased the amount of sugar sauce later on.

Chop the potatoes into 1-2 inch chunks - you want them to be big enough that it's not too time consuming to skin them later, but at the same time they need to cook pretty quickly. Put them in a big pot, cover with water, then boil the potatoes until a fork goes into them easily. Drain the potatoes, then let them cool.

Once cool, use a dull knife to help slip off the skins of the potatoes - it should be easy, and you really shouldn't have to use much force. I recommend putting the skinned potato chunks back into the same pot.

Sugar Sauce
Melt 1 stick butter in a small sauce pan, then add 1/2 cup brown sugar. You're basically just making sure they're pretty well combined. Once it has become pretty well mixed, pour it over the potato chunks, and stir thoroughly.

Pour the potatoes into a pan for baking (I used a cast iron skillet, which was almost better than a baking pan), and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Since everything's full cooked, you could take them out at any point really, but I feel like the longer they're in, the tastier they get. Just make sure they don't burn.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Soupe de poisson

This, like most French foods, is a quintessential peasant food that, through whatever process it is that idolizes french shit, is thought of as something vaguely patrician. Fish soup is exactly what it sounds like; what poor fishermen and sailors eat when they arrive in port. This particular version is considered Provencale, originating in Marseille and the surrounding area. I guess northern sailors eat different stuff. Maybe whale.

The basic idea is to take as many different kinds of the cheapest fish you can find, and cook them down whole with some veggies until its a mushy slurry, and then strain it finely so you're left with a super savory, fishy broth. I will demonstrate the traditional method of service as well.

I found some french language recipes, and they all basically go like this:

Lots of different fish - only big ones gutted, small ones whole.

Brown the fish bits, add veggies and sweat until clear, simmer the whole mess without lid adding water as it boils out for 1-2 hours, and strain through a very fine strainer. Before straining, you will need to mash it up or blend it. I think I used my stick blender. Apparently, it is important that you re-boil the soup after the straining. Finally, season to taste and add a measure of saffron. Also, salt, pepper, and paprika. Ideally, it should be fishy, a bit salty, and only a bit spicy. Herbs are up to you, but I think dill is often used.

Here is my soup cooking.

The asian market where I now do 94% of my shopping has a great variety of seafood, and for this I used salmon heads ($1 a lb) and a big tray of smelt (tiny little bait fish). Since this isn't nearly the breadth of fish that you would ideally use (generally something like 6-10 different kinds of fish are used) I used some fish stock I made awhile back from tilapia carcasses (and I suck at fileting fish so there was lots of goodness in the stock)

For service, aioli is required. It's darn easy to make yourself. Just whisk up an egg yolk with a little water, and, while whisking, drizzle in plain vegetable oil (it actually tastes kinda funky if you use olive oil, I have found). This will emulsify the oil and water together and make mayonnaise. The amount of oil depends entirely on what consistency you desire; the more you add the thicker it will get. I think they've done experiments and found that a single egg yolk contains all the emusifying power you need to make 20+ gallons of mayonnaise, so dont worry about eggs. It will need a good amount of salt to taste right.

Then, to make it aioli, add a bit of turmeric, and pureed garlic. The easiest way to do this is press a fork down on a plate and rub a whole clove against the tines of the fork, pureeing it. I used about an entire head of garlic for 1 quart of aioli, but this is entirely a matter of taste.

For the soup, make some big croutons by toasting pieces of bread, and spread aioli on them. Set them afloat in a big bowl of soup. Optionally, you can sprinkle with cheese; traditionally, gruyere or something similar (emmenthaler, etc). I only had asiago on hand, but whatever works.

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

Announcing the first of the Thanksgiving recipes! I got this recipe from NPR during a show about cranberries. It's a very simple and easy pie (great if you need to make a last-minute dessert), which uses our favorite seasonal fruit. It can be served warm or cold and with or without whipped cream, though I argue it's best as-is.

I didn't take this awesome picture--it's from the NPR website (Andrew Pockrose). Yes, it's as delicious as it looks.

Preheat the oven to 350 and butter a 9" or 10" pie plate.

2 c. cranberries (fresh or frozen), coarsely chopped*
1/2 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped*
1/2 c. sugar

2 eggs
3/4 c. melted butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. flour
1 tsp. almond extract

*(Retain some of the most attractive cranberries and walnuts for decoration)

Toss together the chopped cranberries, walnuts, and sugar for the filling. Place this mixture in the buttered pie plate and pat it down gently.

I chopped these using a food processor but you can just use a knife.

Mix together the batter ingredients until smooth. Pour the batter over the cranberry filling and smooth the surface with a spatula, making sure all the cranberries are covered with batter.

Get creative with the decorating!

Decorate the surface of the batter with walnuts and cranberries. Place in the oven and bake at 350 for 40 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned and the entire surface is crusted over. The pie will be dense and delicately flavored.

This is how it should look when it's done--molten cranberry goodness around the edge and a light crust across the top.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Here's another one for posterity. I found it in my old email box, back when I asked mom for the recipe while living in the dorms:


Begin by preheating the oven to 400 degrees - place well-oiled iron muffin pan in oven while you prepare batter.

Put into blender*: (you can double or multiply by 1.5)

1 cup milk
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP melted butter

Blend until smooth; pour into muffin cups about 2/3 of the way. Check at 20 minutes; remove if brown. The magic is the hot oil in the hot pans. They will be popunders if you do not preheat the pan.


*I find they work pretty well if you use mixers. You can actually just mix vigorously, if it comes to that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage

This recipe was sort of implied in our previous gnocchi post, but I thought I'd post it as a stand-alone recipe because it's just so darn good. The time consuming part is making the gnocchi, but once that's done with the rest goes quickly. If you want to freeze some for future use (which you will be very thankful you did), freeze the gnocchi in a single layer after they are formed, but before they are boiled. Once they're frozen fully, place them in a ziploc bag and simply dump them in boiling water when you're ready to eat them. They can be eaten right after boiling or fried in a little oil if you want crisp edges.

Use the guidelines below as a ratio, which you can increase for a larger batch. This makes enough for 2 meals for 2 people or so. Apparently true gnocchi don't even contain egg, but I haven't tried the recipe that way. If you try that and it works out, let me know.

The gnocchi with lamb summer sausage and steamed brussels sprouts (I grew them!) with butter and lemon.


2 lbs. cooked squash puree (steamed or baked)
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
~ scant 2 c. flour + more for dusting
1 tsp . salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
pinch of nutmeg

Cook the squash immediately before making the gnocchi, so it's still hot when you form the dough. Puree the squash, ideally with a potato ricer or food mill.

Sprinkle the squash with the spices and make a well in the center of the puree. Add the eggs and half of the flour and combine well using your hands. Add the rest of the flour a little bit at a time so that the dough just coheres. You want to a) mix it very little, b) add as little flour as possible, and c) keep the dough very sticky and flexible. Once it forms into a very soft mound, turn it onto a floured board.

Cut off handfuls of dough and form them into snakes about 3/4" in diameter. Cut into 1/2" pieces. You can roll the gnocchi individually across the tines of a fork at this point to give them ridges (which hold more sauce), but I find this step to be time consuming and unnecessary. Mine never seem to hold the ridges through boiling.

If you're going to freeze some, place them on a tray in the freezer at this point. Otherwise, boil the gnocchi in small batches in well-salted water until they float, plus another 30 seconds or so. Strain them from the water and toss them in oil or melted butter while you complete the batch. Serve as is with grated parmesan, or use them in a recipe, such as the one below:

Gnocchi in Brown Butter and Sage

30-50 gnocchi
3/4-1 stick unsalted butter
10 fresh sage leaves, slivered
salt and pepper
fresh parmesan

In a heavy-bottomed, large frying pan, melt the butter very patiently over medium heat. Taking care not to scorch it, allow the butter to turn golden brown. Add the gnocchi and a couple pinches of salt and toss occasionally so that they get crisp and brown on several sides. Add the sage leaves, and pepper, and toss, cooking for one minute more. Remove from the pan and serve piping hot with a generous pile of freshly grated parmiggiano regiano on top.


This might also be good with some lightly cooked prosciutto slivers mixed in. Also, cooking virtually anything in brown butter makes it delicious, so I recommend this technique for all kinds of things. I like to cook steamed carrots in it with a little shredded red cabbage for extra color.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Susan's Cream Scones

Who is Susan? We don't know! This recipe comes from the Melting Pot II Cookbook, which was a kick-ass collection of recipes from the parents of one of the pre-schools in Santa Barbara. A friend of ours, Debbie Lipp provided this recipe from her friend Susan. Whoever Susan is, she makes a good scone!

1 1/2 c. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. melted butter
1 egg, beaten
~1/2 c. buttermilk

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat egg in measuring cup and fill with buttermilk to make 2/3 cup. Stir in melted butter [should now be 1 c. of liquid]. Add liquids to dry ingredients and beat until just smooth [I have read that in Ireland this is done in a maximum of five strokes!]. Do not overmix. This is a very soft dough. Turn it out of the bowl onto a well-floured board. Flour your hands and pat the dough into a round. Cut it into six to eight wedges. Move the wedges onto a cookie sheet, spacing about 1/2 inch apart. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes. Serves 4-6.

If there are any left in the bread basket at the end of dinner, eat them with jam for dessert!


I find that this recipe works every time, is very fast to prepare, and impresses the hell out of anyone who eats the scones. I have used all kinds of different dairy products in place of the buttermilk: yogurt, sour cream, soured milk. I like to use sour cream, which I thin with a little water or milk. Buttermilk has the best results, and soured milk the worst (relatively), but all produce a delicious scone.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday Dinner: Mole Enchiladas, Spanish Rice, and Blueberry muffins

Here is my delicious Sunday dinner:

With blueberry muffins for dessert:

The enchiladas are as per Lillian's procedure, but using a mole instead of a red sauce , derived from this recipe but with total and utter lack of regard to their proportions (also with shredded chicken, black beans, and much cilantro):

And the Spanish rice as per this recipe, again following it quite loosely:

For those of you with large quantities of homemade chicken stock, you could obviously just make these, however, I needed some stock-like-substance, so I cooked the chicken with carrots, onion, some cinnamon stick, some cloves, and a bit of other stuff, then used the chicken broth for both of the above recipes. This worked out super duper well, since the chicken also tasted really good when it went into the enchiladas.

The muffins are from the following recipe, though I didn't have real yogurt so I just added water to labne (reasoning that labne is just yogurt minus water). The muffins are weirdly fluffly (not as dense as normal muffins) but quite tasty:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Simmered Kabocha Squash

I got this wonderfully simple recipe from the Kitazawa Seed Co. catalog, though mom says she used to make it all the time, which must be why it tastes so comfortingly familiar. I like to make it when I'm feeling under the weather, but in general it's a useful and colorful side-dish, especially for Japanese-style meals. It can be served hot or cold (when it's cold it makes a great late-night snack).

1 medium sized kabocha squash
~1 qt. dashi (recommended), chicken broth, or water
2-3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. mirin or dry sherry (optional)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Wash the squash, cut it in half, and scoop out the seeds. Cut it into 1 1/2" square chunks, leaving the skin on (keeps the pieces from breaking apart). Place it in a suitable saucepan with the skin side down. Add enough dashi or broth to cover, and add brown sugar and mirin. Cover and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add the soy sauce and simmer for 7 more minutes. When the squash is tender (but not mush), remove from heat. Allow to sit and cool for a few minutes so the squash can absorb the flavor. Serve hot or cold.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Minestrone Soup

My minestrone, made with potatoes, carrots, small red beans, green beans, fresh tomatoes, and sproingy noodles. All just stuff I had on hand.

I just learned a great tip for making this free-form soup: add a couple spoonfuls of pesto at the end! I thought I should post the recipe (or more like, guidelines) as a reminder of this tasty dish. There are basically no rules for minestrone, so just use what you have on hand. I added a ham hock by simmering it for a long time in the broth and cutting the meat off of it to add to the finished soup, but you can use pancetta or bacon or just leave it vegetarian if you like.

Rainbow of colors, get ready to turn into rainbow of flavors!

several pieces pancetta or bacon (or 2 Tbsp. olive oil)
mirepoix (onion, celery, and carrots, diced)
red pepper flakes (optional)
3-4 c. stock or water
1 can tomato sauce
a few dashes of red wine
bay leaves
mixed vegetables, diced:
--white things like potatoes, parsnips, or celeriac
--summer squash or winter squash
--additional carrots or celery
--chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
--green things like green beans, peas, collards or spinach
1 can kidney or canellini beans, drained
2 Tbsp. pesto (or equivalent herbs and garlic)
cooked small noodles (~1/2 box) or 2 c. cooked rice
salt & pepper
parmesan for garnish

In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, render the fat from the bacon or pancetta, or heat up the oil. Add the bay leaves and red pepper flakes. Saute the mirepoix over medium-high heat until it is tender and begins to brown on the edges.

Add the stock, red wine, and tomato sauce and bring to a gentle boil.

Begin adding the vegetables, with the densest ones first. For instance, add the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes before adding the green beans. Once the vegetables are 90% cooked, add the beans. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir in the pesto. Stir in the rice or noodles.

Adjust the seasonings and serve piping hot with freshly grated parmesan. This is delicious with crusty bread and makes excellent planned-overs.

NOTE: An awesome and 'authentic' touch is to simmer the soup with a piece rind from the parmesan cheese. It gives a great flavor, but I already used my rind for the last soup I made, so I couldn't use it this time!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Alex requested this recipe, which was a fun opportunity to look at my Jr. High School-era handwriting on the recipe card. I learned to make pannekoeken in Home Ec. in 7th grade (surely that class has since been eliminated or at least renamed) . It is like a large popover or a very eggy panckake that's baked, and is typically served for breakfast. The whole thing puffs up when you bake it and then the edges fall inwards.

One example of a pannekoeken. They puff up higher if you preheat the pan and butter good 'n' hot, but this was the first batch and I was impatient.

Preheat oven to 45o. Coat a circular baking dish (ideally one with high sides) with melted butter.

1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. milk
2 eggs

Beat until smooth. Pour the batter into the buttered pan and sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, until it puffs up and browns on the edges. Serve as quickly as possible, because it will fall as it cools. I like to serve it with maple syrup, but it is also good with fresh or canned fruit.

NOTE: This recipe doesn't double well, so if you want more pannekoeken, you should just make it one batch at a time. This recipe makes enough for one very hungry person.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Spareribs part 2: jerk

This is the 2nd half of the spareribs I braised before. I prepared them jerk style, but sorta half assed so while they still turned out delicious, they did not spirit my palate away to the Caribbean.

The jerk marinade was about 1 part cider vinegar, 1 part water, half a lime's juice, a bunch of chopped scallions, and a bit each of thyme, allspice, cumin, and coriander. I blended this with a bullion cube for good measure and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar. It probably would have worked if I had properly marinated the meat, but I didn't do it until about 10 minutes before prep so there was minimal penetration of the flavor into the meat. I compensated by basted it as it barbecued.

Using Lil's tried and true method of dividing the coals with a big foil roasting pan, I slow cooked the meat for about 2.5 hours, basting it with the sauce and turning it every 30 or so. What you see above is the result, with a pronounced smoke ring into the meat. It was delicious.

Here is the final serving, with some frijoles, fried egg, grilled onions (as always when I light the grill), and fried plantains:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chicken Saltimbocca

I haven't been cooking that much lately (my energies have instead been spent on pickling and preserving things), but tonight I got back into the kitchen and put together an excellent meal. Saltimbocca (literally, 'jumps in your mouth') can be made with chicken, veal, or pork cutlets, and this time I opted for boneless, skinless chicken thighs. It's wrapped in prosciutto, though I used some awesome, thin-sliced, Canadian bacon from Anoka Meats, which was surprising similar to prosciutto. The key ingredient is fresh sage, so if you don't have any just let me know and I will give you some! I have plenty in my garden. Some people add capers to the dish, some people add spinach, but I like to just keep it simple. Make it however you like.

Yummy yummy! You can't see the sage, but it's underneath the outer layer of the rolls. It give the dish its characteristic flavor, which you don't taste very often.

1 - 1 1/2 lbs. chicken, veal, or pork cutlets
enough thin sliced prosciutto so that you can wrap each cutlet in it
1 handful whole fresh sage leaves (sliver 2-3 of them for later)
salt and white pepper
flour for dredging
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. white wine
1/2 lemon, juiced

Pound your meat out flat with a meat pounder. Sprinkle both sides lightly with salt and white pepper. Press 2-3 sage leaves onto one side of each piece. On top of the sage and meat, place enough prosciutto to roughly cover each piece. Roll the pieces so that the prosciutto is on the outside (with a layer of sage inbetween it and the meat).

Fresh out of the pan. They look a little scary in the photo but I assure you they're delicious. I just poured the sauce over them before serving.

While you do the next step, gently heat 2 Tbsp. of the butter and the olive oil in a medium frying pan. Lightly dredge the meat rolls in flour and secure with toothpics if you like. Gently fry the rolls over medium heat, turning with tongs during cooking so that each side gets browned. TIP: if you don't want to use toothpicks, cook the side with the seam first to keep them from unrolling.

When the rolls are cooked thoroughly and golden brown on all sides, remove them from the pan and keep them warm. Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth and lemon juice and allow it to reduce by 1/3. Whisk 1 Tbsp. flour (you can just take this from the dredging plate) into the wine and then pour this into the deglazing liquid, stirring constantly. Allow this to thicken and add the slivered sage leaves and remaining Tbsp. butter, and adjust the salt. Pour the sauce over the rolls or serve it on the side.

I served these with mashed potatoes and patty pan squash sauteed with green beans. Just heat some olive oil, add a couple of minced cloves of garlic, add the squash and green beans, and season with fresh parsley, salt, and ground pepper. Voila--quick and easy!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

White Beans with Bastirma

I got this wonderful recipe from the Almost Turkish recipe blog. Bastirma is a salted, highly seasoned, pressed beef product that you can find at the deli counter in Holy Land. I think it fulfills the role a pork product like bacon would fill in non-Muslim (or Jewish) cuisine. It has a complex, salty flavor, with a lot of paprika in it. It's well worth buying and is also very good in scrambled eggs and fried potatoes.

Here's a domestic brand of bastirma. They have several at Holy Land, so you might find a pack that doesn't look exactly like this. They are probably all tasty, though I hear that the stuff imported from Turkey is more intensely flavored.

1 lb. cannellini beans, soaked overnight (or 2 cans, drained)
1/2 pack of bastirma strips (10-12 pieces), shredded
butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 banana peppers, chopped
1 Tbsp. pepper or tomato paste
2 tomatoes, diced (or 1 can petite diced tomatoes)
1 tsp. crushed pepper
1 tsp. dried mint
1 tsp. oregano
salt to taste
2 c. water or broth

All of the ingredients assembled. Please excuse my bizarre food experiments in the background. The peppers came from my co-worker's garden and the tomatoes are some of the very few ripe ones I produced!

Soak the cannelini beans for 8-12 hrs. and boil or pressure cook them until they are tender but a little undercooked. Drain well.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, saute the onions in oil until they become soft and translucent, adding the garlic part way through. Add the peppers and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the pepper/tomato paste and stir well so that it coats the veggies and is fully distributed.

Stir in the tomatoes, using the liquid they give off to scrape any brown bits off of the bottom of the pot. Add the black pepper, mint, and oregano. Stir in the bastirma pieces and cook for a minute or so to release the flavors.

Add the drained beans and combine everything together thoroughly. Add enough water/broth so that the beans are submerged by ~3/4" liquid. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for one hour. (You can also use the pressure cooker here, but I think you get better flavor from a slow cooking).

This looks about a thousand times better in the Almost Turkish photo, so seriously just click on that. It's really, really tasty though--I promise!

When the beans are completely tender, remove from heat and salt to taste. Serve with buttered crusty bread and, if you like, freshly grated parmesan.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Emma Fischer's Apple Pudding

I can't believe that I haven't posted this until now. This is the Magidow family's all-time favorite recipe involving apples; it was given to me by a dear friend who died an early and untimely death; each time I make it I think of her. To Toni!

Fill buttered baking dish with chopped and peeled apples. Sprinkle with sugar and dot with butter. Put in medium oven (350) while making the batter:

1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar

Cream butter and sugar well. Add:

1 well-beaten egg
1 small cup flour sifted with 1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon vanilla

Pour (or plop) batter over apples and bake 45 minutes or until brown. Serve hot from the oven. Invite your friends. Makes a great breakfast treat, too.

As you can see, there is no specific amount of apples, just kind of mound them up so they don't fall out of the pan. The batter will seem kind of sticky, but it melts into a lovely, golden crust. It is a great alternative to pie or apple crumble and most people have all these ingredients handy.

Happy Fall!

Sea Foam Pancakes

A good old Magidow recipe, posted here for posterity so I don't have to search around my computer for the recipe every time I need it:

3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
3/4 cup matzo meal
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten
fat for deep frying

Beat together the egg yolks, salt, water. Stir in the matzo meal and fold in the egg whites. Heat the oil to 375 and drop the batter into it by the tablespoon. Fry until browned on both sides. Drain. Top with cinnamon sugar or maple syrup. Serves 3-4 very small people who aren't very hungry.*

* this recipe does not "double" well. It is best to make it twice (in two different bowls) to make twice as many.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Braised spareribs

Here are some tasty meaty bits prepared via my favorite method: braising. Quick recap: this means browning in a heavy pan at very high heat to get a tasy sear, then covering the meat about halfway with a flavorful liquid, sealing the pan as airtight as possible, and baking it at a relatively very low temperature (~225 degrees) for 2+ hours.

In this case, the tasty liquid was about 2 parts red wine, 1 part water. I sprinkled the meat with salt and pepper first, but otherwise there was no seasoning. You want the liquid to be gently bubbling, but not at a rolling boil; this is difficult to gauge since you must seal the container, but using tinfoil makes it pretty easy to replace the lid. Or, if your oven's thermostat is pretty accurate, just aim at a little over the boiling point (212). The heaviest pot you have is important, but cast iron or other reactive materials will change the color of the sauce (although with a red wine sauce it wont be too noticeable).

When they're done (about 2.5 hours in this case) remove the meat, wrap in foil, and get reducing. I never have the patience to produce a true demi glace, but the difference is 10% less texture with 100% of the flavor. Stick the braising liquid over medium-high heat, and reduce by at least 75% (to make a demi glace you'll be left with about 10% of the liquid you started with, and the last 10 minutes or so require close attention so it doesnt burn).

I added a spoonful of my homemade extra-hot mustard, some diced scallions, and a healthy drizzle of maple syrup. Sides were some of momma's garden beans and parsely mashed potatoes.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fasuliya - Green Bean Stew

If you're anything like me, you have more green beans than you can deal with right now. Even if you don't, this is an easy and versatile dish that can either be a vegetarian side-dish or a meaty main entree. You can even use frozen green beans, so this would be a welcome taste of summer when you're raiding the freezer for vegetables in the middle of winter.

I first had this dish in Jordan, and was pleased to find the recipe at Summer Bahrain's wonderful Mimi Cooks Middle Eastern food blog. I followed her instructions pretty closely, so you can view the recipe there, but I will re-post it here for convenience.

If you want to make this a heartier meaty main-dish, add some ground beef, lamb or beef cubes, or kufta meat balls. It's delicious with rice or as a side-dish. Many of the ingredients are optional, so just make it how you like.

~1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1.5" pieces
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 chili pepper, chopped (optional)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small can tomato paste
2-3 c. water or broth, boiling
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or allspice, whichever you prefer
1-2 fresh tomatoes, diced (optional)

In a medium-sized soup pot, saute the onions in oil until tender and starting to brown. Add the chili pepper and cook 1-2 more minutes. Meanwhile, dissolve the tomato paste in the broth. Add the garlic, green beans, and cilantro to the pot and stir. Add the black pepper, salt, and allspice. Pour the broth mixture over, scraping any onion bits off the bottom of the pan. The beans should be almost submerged, with a few sticking over the broth level (add more broth if necessary).

*If you want to add meat, cook it in a separate pan and then add to the beans before the next step. Deglaze any drippings off the bottom of the meat pan and add them to the beans.

Stir in the tomato chunks and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until the green beans are tender. Adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chocolate Cake! Oh yeah!

Alex writes from Austin, "Mom, do you know any particularly good chocolate cake recipes?" What better time to post this beauty: Texas Sheet Cake. It is easy and quick and tastes just plain yummy.

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter (so far it sounds pretty good, right?)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Grease a rectangular baking pan, set aside. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and sale. set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup butter, 1/3 cup cocoa, and 1 cup water. Bring to boil stirring constantly (yes, Alex, you can do this while talking on the phone). Remove from heat. Beat cholocate mixture into the dry mixture until thoroughly blended. Add eggs, buttermilk, an dvanilla. Stir or beat until batter is thin (about 1 minute.) Pour into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 about 25 - 35 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Err on the side of less time and keep checking it.

Chocolate Frosting
1/4 cup butter
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
3 tbsp buttermilk
2 1/4 powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Mix well, pour over warm cake, spreading evenly. Place cake in pan on wire rack, cool thoroughly before cutting. Or not.

I don't have a picture; I first tasted it at a neighborhood pot-luck and then looked up the recipe on the interweb. It comes out perfect every time. Bon appetit!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sherwa - Afghani Lamb Soup

This soup is simple and satisfying and turns out great in the crockpot or pressure cooker. It's essentially a flavorful lamb-based broth with large chunks of root vegetables floating in it. It's traditionally served with strips of flatbread immersed in it, which I think is even tastier when the bread is stale. You can use any kind of bone-in lamb, as long as the individual chunks aren't too big (i.e. don't use an entire lamb shoulder). Try your best to find turnips because these really give it the flavor it needs. Despite the simple seasonings and broth-iness, this soup is hearty and satisfying.

I normally leave the turnips in larger pieces, but some of mine had hollow centers I had to cut out. By keeping things in large chunks they don't fall apart and cloud the broth as much.

1.5-2 lbs. bone-in lamb chunks
1 large onion
1 tsp. ground coriander
2-3 tomatoes, peeled and sliced or chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into thick diagonal slices
3-4 potatoes, peeled and halved
4-5 turnips, peeled and halved
1 handful cilantro leaves, chopped
salt and pepper

In a medium frying pan*, cook the onions in a little oil until they begin to brown on the edges, adding the coriander and some salt. Increase the heat and place the lamb in the pan, searing it on all sides. Transfer the meat and onions to your crockpot.

Cover the meat with about 2" of water (this took ~3 qts. in my cooker). Add the tomatoes, some more salt, and some pepper. Cook on low 4 or more hours while you're at work.

When you get home, increase the temperature to high and add the carrots, potatoes, and turnips so that they cook for another hour or until tender (if your potatoes are very large you may want to put them in for 30 min. before adding the other veggies). While those are cooking, remove the lamb chunks and pull the meat off the bone and return it to the pot (optional). Before serving, adjust the salt level and stir in the cilantro. Serve in large bowls with strips of flatbread to dunk or immerse in the soup.

*If you're using a pressure cooker, you can do this all in the PC. Cook it on the highest pressure for 40 minutes before adding the vegetables. Release the pressure and cook for 7-8 minutes more with the veggies.

Fried Tofu with Indonesian Sauce

This recipe is great for when you want something really nice and simple, especially in hot weather. It's adapted from the "Sundays at the Moosewood" cookbook, where it's called Tauhu Goreng Kechap. The sauce is definitely more than the sum of its parts - I really like it.

2/3 light soy sauce
3-4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp minced onion/scallion/shallot(I usually use green onions)
1-2 small bird chilies
1/4 c fresh lime juice (I recommend more)
1/2-1 tsp. sugar

Fry up some tofu, make some rice. I recommend adding some vegis - they recommend steaming some mungbean sprouts, but I personally skinned and seeded a cucumber, and blanched some thinly cut carrots. Put the vegis and friend vegis on the rice, then pour sauce over to taste. Depending on the season, it might go well with some miso soup or something.

A picture of it made all fancy (served with a side of broccoli...and sake, even):

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Vesuvio Sandwich

This might be the first sandwich recipe on the blog. When Dan returned from a daytrip to New Jersey, he admitted that he'd had a sultry and unforgivable lunchtime affair with a Garden State native who "had more meat than I could get in my mouth". Some asshole named Vesuvio.

Turns out Vesuvio is a sandwich. Our family has never been big on sandwiches, and it's a bit odd to think of a 'recipe' for one, but this is a fantastic combination of ingredients that deserves posting
. The key is to use fresh, high quality bread. I recommend something like a mini ciabatta roll, which has a springy, airy texture, but without the mouth-shredding crust of some other European-style breads.


deli slices of smoked turkey
roasted red peppers from a jar
provolone cheese
a fresh ciabatta roll

Try to have a ratio of cheese:meat of about 1:5. No need to add any other kind of condiment, especially if your bread is fresh. Enjoy!

PS: When I posted this I checked to see if there's anything else known as a "Vesuvio sandwich". Turns out the signature sandwich of the Vesuvio restaurant in Philadelphia won accolades as the 'best sandwich in America', a cheese-steak BLT sandwich. Very different from Dan's version with the same name, but probably sinfully good.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Basic Corn Chowder

You know it's late summer when you've had sweet corn with 9/10 of your past meals. If you're anything like me, you wind up with leftover ears, either cooked or raw, that you weren't able to get to before you started on the next batch. This phenomenon coincides nicely with the arrival of cooler weather--all together this means it's the perfect time for corn chowder.

This recipe is pretty basic, but feel free to spice it up with curry or red pepper chunks or anything else you can imagine. I made it with 4 ears of corn, but anywhere from 3-6 would probably work. I don't like mine too creamy, but if you like it that way then just add more dairy.

3-6 ears of corn, raw or cooked
3 strips bacon or a hunk of salt pork, diced
1 onion, diced finely
2-3 ribs celery, diced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2-4 potatoes, cubed (~1.5 c.)
1-2 qts. chicken broth
1/4 c. vermouth or dry sherry
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. marjoram
lots of black pepper
Tabasco or chipotle sauce (optional)
1/2 - 1 c. half and half, cream, or evaporated milk
3 Tbsp. butter

Heat up a heavy dutch oven and cook the bacon or salt pork until the fat renders from it and it begins to crisp. Add the onions, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt and cook over medium-high heat until it begins to brown. Add the celery and cook until it is tender and the onions are mostly caramelized.

Cut the kernels from the ears of corn into a bowl and then scrape the rest of the pulp into the bowl using the back of your knife. Break up the corn bits into individual kernels.

Pour the broth into the pot and add water so that you have 3 qts of liquid. Scrape any bits off the bottom of the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Add the corn, potatoes, herbs, some black pepper, and sherry and reduce the pot to a simmer. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.

Remove the soup from the heat and partially blend the soup so that it is mostly smooth, with some potato and corn chunks remaining. Slowly stir in the cream until it is how you like it. Add the butter to enrich it and then adjust the seasonings with more black pepper and tabasco sauce (if desired). Don't bring it back to a boil or the cream will curdle.

I served the soup with crusty bread, roasted chicken, and garden-fresh green beans--a winning combination!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pão de Queijo - Brazillian Cheese Puffs

I remember looking this recipe up on the internet in around 1998 and I had to do exhaustive searching to find a single recipe. Now there are tons, as well as several videos of how to make it. Pão de Queijo are just as easy to make as buttermilk biscuits, but are arguably more delicious. They are springy little puffs of tapioca starch and cheese and go well with virtually anything--what's more, they only take about 35 minutes to make from start to finish. The only hard part is keeping tapioca starch (aka tapioca flour, manioc flour, cassava flour) on hand, though this is easy to find at any Asian store and is usually cheap. You also need a hard, mild cheese that won't overwhelm the puffs. I used a combination of parmesan and white cheddar.

2 c. tapioca starch
1 c. milk
1 c. water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
~1 c. grated hard, mild cheese

Preheat the oven to 450.

Place the tapioca starch in a large bowl. Bring the milk, water, vegetable oil, and salt to a boil. Pour it slowly over the starch while stirring with a wooden spoon, making sure to moisten completely. Keep stirring until it is just cool enough to handle. Crack the eggs into the bowl and squish them in as thoroughly as possible, using your hands. It will look like a mess at this point and the dough will remain very sticky. Still using your hands, mix in the grated cheese until it is evenly distributed.

Cover 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Oil your hands and lightly roll the dough into golf-ball sized rounds and place these on the sheets. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400 and cook 10 minutes more until puffed and browned. Serve piping hot.


This recipe can be increased or decreased. As-is, it will make about 3 dozen puffs.

Apparently these are best made with 'polviho azedo', sour manioc flour, or a combination of it and regular tapioca flour. If you can find this stuff, then your pães will be more puffy and have a slightly sour flavor, or so the internet tells me. Let me know if you find it and try it out.

The leftover pães heat up well in the microwave (~30 sec.) and are surprisingly good with jam.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Moroccan Beet Salad

So this is actually a ridiculously simple beet salad, but I got it from my friend Melanie who just got back from Morocco. Apparently she knows at least two other recipes for beet salad, but this is her favorite:

4 small-medium sized beets
1/2-3/4 cup beet juice(produced by boiling the beets)
juice of one lemon
2-4 Tbsp sugar (to taste)

Boil beets whole, then cool, and remove skins. Dice. Mix the juice produced from boiling them with lemon juice and sugar. Pour the sauce over the diced beets. Serve chilled as an appetizer.

She also serves most dishes with a really simple side salad as well:

Salt (more than you think)
Vinegar (white is fine)
Olive Oil

Remove the seeds from the tomatoes, then dice. Dice cucumbers. Combine everything. Apparently this is just the basic salad they eat with everything, but it's very refreshing for those of us who like cucumbers.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Turmeric 'Taters

Here's an easy and colorful potato side dish that uses the cheerful but under-appreciated turmeric. I've only made it in the pressure cooker, but it will probably work in a regular pot if you simmer it carefully. Only use enough potatoes that they will cover the bottom of your pan in a single layer.

They look better on the plate, but here's the basic idea. The wedges will be fluffy on the inside, slightly translucent, and obviously, bright yellow.

2-4 russet potatoes, peeled cut in wedges
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsp. oil
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. ground coriander (optional)
hot water

In the base of your pressure cooker, heat the oil until moderately hot. Add the garlic and saute until it just begins to turn golden. Add the turmeric and stir so it colors the oil and begins to release its fragrance, about 30 seconds.

Add the potato wedges, white pepper, salt, and coriander to the pan and toss the potatoes so they are coated in the turmeric oil. Distribute the potatoes so that they form a single layer in the bottom of the pan.

Pour 2-3 Tbsp. hot water into the pan very carefully so that it doesn't wash off the turmeric yellow. The best way to do this is to hold a spoon to the inside edge of the pan and pour water slowly into it so that it slides down the side of the pan without touching the potatoes. You want to add only enough to prevent burning, but not enough that the potatoes are swimming in it.

Place the pressure cover onto the pan and cook the potatoes for 3-4 minutes, releasing the pressure using the cold-water method. Serve by carefully lifting the wedges out of the pan without breaking them.

To make this without a pressure cooker I would simmer them on low on the stovetop, adding small amounts of water throughout the process so that the potatoes don't burn. It will probably take 30-40 minutes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rosy Radish Water Kimichi

The first harvest of my garden has arrived, in the form of red radishes! The variety I grew is called Shunkyo Semi-long and I chose it because it matures quickly. Unfortunately (or so I thought) these radishes are too spicy for comfortable snacking or use in salads. I couldn't let them go to waste, but I just didn't know what to do with them! Fortunately, though, I emailed the wonderful Maangchi, who runs a fantastic Korean cooking blog and whom I've corresponded with in the past. She responded right away with a recipe idea: water-style kimchi ('mul kimchi'), which she recently made with similar radishes.

Take that, rabbits!

This style of kimchi has more liquid than what you find in the most common style of kimchi available in the store, though it is made in a similar way: a short and simple fermentation. The recipe that Maangchi sent me doesn't use red pepper flakes, which is a nice change from the usual red kimchis you find. The results are boldly spicy, crisp, and slightly effervescent, with a refined white-and-green palette. I'd hoped that the results would be more of a pink color from the red radishes, but they were just the slightest rosy hue (still beautiful). This recipe is very easy, uses easy-to-find ingredients, and is a great introduction to making kimchi--I urge you to give it a try.

1 qt. radishes in 1/8" slices, made up of red radishes and daikon
1/2 white onion, sliced thin
1 1.5" knob ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 cucumber, sliced thin (I left this out)
5-6 green onions, sliced small (optional)
5 cloves of garlic, minced with a knife
1-2 hot green chilis
4-5 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
~1 qt. boiling water

Select a well-sealing container that you would like to store the kimchi in and wash and dry it well. Place the sliced radishes and cucumbers in the container. Add 2 Tbsp. salt and mix. Boil 1 qt. water and dissove into it 2 Tbsp. salt and 1 Tbsp. sugar. Pour this over the radishes and cucumbers--don't worry about it being hot, as this helps keep the vegetables crisp. Allow to cool to around room temperature.

Slice up the onions, green chilis, and ginger and add them to the kimchi container. Mix well and taste. It should be pretty salty but not overwhelmingly, so adjust the salt accordingly. Add cold water to reach the rim of the container and cover.

My kimchi after 2 days. Note the small bubbles on top from the fermentation.

Let the kimchi sit on the counter to ferment for 1-2 days. This is a summer recipe, so with warm days that's all it should take (allow more if it is cool inside or if you ferment it in the refrigerator). Serve with hot or cold noodles, rice, or anything that suits your fancy.

The results are deliciously powerful and have just the tiniest blush of pink. Even an ordinary pack of ramen seems like a meal with these mixed in at the end.

Thank you Maangchi!

Pad Thai

This is the 100th post on the blog! Good work, family--I think we've created something wonderful here. Keep on postin'! Now that I'm writing this 100th post, I feel like I should commemorate it with some kind of special recipe, but this is just what I made for dinner tonight. In the end I guess that's the most appropriate thing to post, since the only theme for our blog is "food the Magidows cook".

I learned this recipe from my roommate, JiJY, and it's the 'dry' style of pad thai, rather than the saucier American style. You can use any meat and add vegetables as you like, though it's best kept simple. The most important trick is to keep the noodles undercooked, since you want them to stay robust at the end. Tamarind sauce can be a little harder to find, but most Asian stores carry it--unfortunately there are no substitutions for this and you need it to proceed. If the paste is very thick, thin it with hot water so that it pours readily but still coats a spoon.

1 lb. 1/8"-wide rice noodles (aka 'medium rice sticks', 'ban pho')
1 lb. meat, diced (chicken or pork) or raw shrimp, whole
2 shallots, minced
2 small hot chiles, sliced thin
1 small onion, sliced thin
(you can also add 1-2 c. of another vegetable here, such as broccoli or spinach)
2 eggs, beaten with a dash of fish sauce and a pinch of sugar
3-4 green onions, in 1.5" pieces
2-3 c. fresh beansprouts

1/3 c. tamarind sauce
3 Tbsp. oyster sauce
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
3-4 Tbsp. brown sugar
oil for frying

1/4 c. peanuts, roasted and crushed
lime wedges
cilantro for garnish

Soak the noodles in hot tap water until they're soft enough to bend without snapping, but still firm (about 30 min.), drain. Using kitchen shears, snip the noodles a few times so that they will be easier to manage in the pan.

In your largest frying pan or wok, heat 3-4 Tbsp. oil until very hot. Add the shallots and hot chiles and stir over high heat for ~1 min. Add the meat and a dash of fish sauce and cook until the meat is cooked through and beginning to brown (if you use shrimp, hardly cook them at all). Add the onion slices and cook until they just begin to stoften. Add the vegetable (if it is something chunky like broccoli you should blanch it before adding) and cook until just tender, adding some fish sauce and oyster sauce partway through cooking.

Clear the meat and veggies to the side of the pan and add a little more oil. Pour the beaten eggs into the center of the pan and stir them constantly until they cook through and are fluffy. Mix everything in the pan together well.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the drained noodles to the pan. Pour the tamarind sauce over and add some more oyster sauce and the brown sugar. Combine the noodles, meat, vegetables, and sauce until everything is well coated. Taste and adjust for seasoning using the above sauces. Add the green onions and beansprouts and toss until they soften a little.

Serve with lime wedges, cilantro leaves, and crushed peanuts to garnish. The texture should be somewhat dry and the noodles should be resilient. I'm not sure how to make the saucier style of pad thai, but I think you would just add more oyster sauce and sugar and reduce the tamarind.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fresh Spring Rolls and Singapore Noodles

An ode to rice noodles!

Today I had fun exploring the international grocery stores in Rochester. Rice and Spice, an Indian place, is great and I got excellent service there. The shopkeeper helped me find everything on my list and even gave me some recipes. The Asian Food Store was really seedy and kind of freaked me out a little bit (especially the half-wit working the meat counter), but I found some amazing glazed pork and was inspired to make this meal.

I love Singapore noodles, even though they have nothing to do with Singapore, but they are hard to find. I've been meaning to figure out how to make them and today was the perfect chance. The dish is a lot like fried rice in that you use little bits of vegetables and meat, whatever you have on hand, except that it's made with rice noodles and seasoned with curry powder. I used chicken thighs and some glazed pork, and left out the traditional shrimp. Feel free to improvise and conduct Operation Icebox.

Update: Check out the Chicken Salad Springrolls and Hoisin Peanut Sauce I created later using leftover Hmong Chicken Salad! Also 

The springrolls are also well suited to improvisation and using what you have on hand. As long as they have rice noodles, something crunchy, and something aromatic you're doing well, especially if you keep an eye to color. You can make them vegetarian or use virtually any kind of protein: pork, shrimp, beef, seasoned tofu, etc... The great thing is that it's easy to keep rice noodles and springroll wrappers on hand.

The rice noodles I used for this recipe are one size smaller than I should have gotten (though they still worked pretty well). Look for ones that say 'rice vermicelli'.

Fresh Spring Rolls

6-8 springroll wrappers (sometimes called 'rice plates')
1 c. thinly sliced roasted red pork
1 large bundle or several small bundles of rice vermicelli (to make 2-3 c. cooked noodles)
1 handful Thai basil, cilantro, and/or mint
2 c. mung bean sprouts
2-3 leaves of Chinese cabbage or lettuce, sliced thin
1 carrot, julienned
radish, julienned or sliced thin, depending on size and shape

Boil the rice noodles for 3-4 minutes, then drain and rinse several times in cold water. Wash the herbs and vegetables well. Assemble all your ingredients to make an assembly line. Fill a shallow dish with warm water and make sure you have a clean, smooth working surface to form the rolls (such as the countertop or a plate).

Once everything is set up the assembly goes quickly.

1) Dip a rice wrapper in the water just long enough to get it completely wet. Place the wrapper on your work area, allowing some water droplets to wet your work surface.

2) Place the meat on the lower third of the wrapper in a way that will look attractive when you serve the springrolls.

Notice how the meat overlaps to form a pleasing pattern and there are a variety of colors in the roll.

3) Add some lettuce/cabbage on top of the meat for crunch and carrots nearby to provide color contrast.

4) Place a small handful of rice noodles on top of the lettuce so that it forms a narrow mound the size of your desired springrolls.

5) Place some herbs on top of the noodles and some beansprouts on the edges.

6) Fold the left and right sides over the filling. Bring the bottom flap up and over the filling.

7) Roll the contents away from you, tucking the edges in as you go and gently compressing the filling as you roll so that it makes a nice cylindrical shape. Bring the excess wrapper around the roll.

8) Keep the rolls moist as you work, handling them with wet fingers if they begin to stick together.

Trying to capture the dying light and avoid using a flash.

Singapore Noodles

As I mentioned before, the ingredients are flexible, and this can be made as a way to use up odds and ends. You can use leftover meat (omitting the meat-cooking step) and any vegetables you please.

1 large bundle rice vermicelli (to make 1 qt. cooked noodles)
1 onion, sliced thin
1/2 lb. chicken or pork , finely chopped
1 c. small cooked shrimp (optional)
1 large egg, beaten with a pinch of sugar and salt
1/3 c. each of the following vegetables, chopped finely:
  • carrots
  • celery
  • red or Chinese cabbage
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 hot chili peppers, minced
3-4 green onions, sliced into 1" pieces
1 handful cilantro, chopped
2 handfuls beansprouts
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
4 Tbsp. light soy sauce
3 Tbsp. curry powder
crushed peanuts (optional)
oil for high-heat cooking

As always, pre-prep is the key to a good stir-fry. Not pictured are the chopped meat, garlic, and cilantro.

Use a large pan of wok. Heat 1-2 Tbsp. oil until just smoking and add 1/2 of the chopped garlic and the hot chilis. Stir for 30 seconds, then add the chopped meat. Stir constantly, adding 1 Tbsp. fish sauce and 1 Tbsp. soy sauce partway through cooking. Cook just until the meat is no longer pink in the center, then remove it from the pan into a large bowl.

Repeat the above process with the oil and garlic. This time add the onions, carrots, celery, and cabbage, again adding the fish sauce and soy sauce part way through. When the vegetables are 3/4 cooked, move them to the edges of the pan and pour the egg into the center. Stir it constantly until it forms small, fluffy pieces. Toss the contents of the pan together until the veggies tender-crisp and then remove everything from the pan into the same bowl as the meat.

Allow the pan to cool a bit and rinse the noodles in cold water again to loosen them up, and drain them very well. Add oil to the pan and heat it up to medium-high. Add the noodles to the pan, immediately stirring so that they don't stick too badly. Add 2 Tbsp. of soy sauce and 2 Tbsp. curry powder and stir to combine.

Return the meat and vegetables back to the pan, along with any juices that collected to the bowl. Do your best to combine things thoroughly, while trying to stir as little as possible (ie, be efficient--too much stirring and the noodles break apart). When things are half-combined, add the cilantro, beansprouts, and green onions and one more Tbsp. curry powder. Remove from heat and keep tossing. When everything is fully combined, serve piping hot and garnished with more beansprouts and chopped peanuts.