Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Chinese-American Stir-Fried Cabbage with Bacon

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

This recipe comes from one of Grace's friends, Tane Chan, the owner of The Wok Shop in San Francisco. If and when you are in SF, this is one store you must visit. It is a rather small shop that is packed to the gills with amazing goods. I myself have been there a couple of times. Tane is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to woks. There is a variety to choose from, and she will set you up with the correct wok that fits your lifestyle. It truly is a place not to be missed.

Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Bacon
Bowl 2: Garlic
Bowl 3: Cabbage
Bowl 4: Chicken broth
Bowl 5: Soy sauce
Bowl 6: Salt, pepper

This was a first. Starting with a cold wok. Normally, the wok is heated till a bead of water evaporates quickly (within a second or two), before any oil or food is added.

This is a dish that Chinese Americans were forced to make, when Napa cabbage and Chinese sausage were unavailable to those living outside of Chinese communities. They had to use regular green cabbage, and American bacon.

The cabbage gets stir-fried along with some cooked bacon and garlic, then some chicken broth is added and the wok covered, this is cooked for a very short time (30 seconds), then seasoned with the soy sauce, salt and pepper. A very quick and easy side dish.

The recipe can be found on SFGate, along with an article on Tane and her wonderful store. 

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 229 of  Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge (or by clicking on the link above), which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed.  

Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

TWD: Chocolate-Mint Nightcaps

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Marcel DeSaulniers

Ahh, I was so looking forward to making these!! Chocolate mint ganache, sandwiched between two chocolate cookies, and topped with even more ganache (to resemble a nightcap).

These treats are small, and are meant to be eaten with your fingers. However, a fork may have been better, for the cookies are like a small moist sponge cake, that stick to the tips of your fingers, and are quite messy.

These were a bust for me. The chocolate mint ganache had no mint flavor to it all. I should have went with my instinct to infuse the cream for a longer time - at least an hour, as I do when I make ice cream. It also was too firm to pipe. Well, it was perfect when I pulled it from the fridge, but as it sat out on the counter, while I baked my last set of cookies, it firmed up even more! I had to place the bowl of ganache over a waterbath to soften it back up. Unfortunately, the ganache was not as smooth after doing so.

I felt the cookies were too light for the heavy ganache. I'm thinking maybe brownies would work better, or maybe even meringue cookies for more of a textural difference.

I only made a few for the photo - the rest of the cookies are in the freezer, waiting for a recipe that calls for cake crumbs - they'll probably end up in the trash though. And the extra ganache? Who knows. Would hate to throw out all that good chocolate. Maybe I can make truffles with it, or stir it in to warm milk for hot cocoa. (It would be a lot of cocoa!)

To view how my fellow bakers fared with this recipe, click here to be taken to the TWD blogroll for their links.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Fried Sweet Rice with Sausages and Mushrooms

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

This week we have a two for one. Fried Sweet Rice with Sausages and Mushrooms which was due at the beginning of last month, and this month's recipe of Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef.

We'll start with the latter.

Oh. My. Goodness. The ginger tomato beef is fabulous!

I only wish that I had made plain white rice to go with it. I did not read the narrative at the top of the recipe page beforehand, that reads this stir-fry is saucier than most stir-fries (you can't tell by the picture in the book) - so regular rice would have been a good great idea. There was too much going on in the rice I made. I hadn't planned on serving these dishes together, it just happened that way.

Mise in place.

Bowl 1: Flank steak, ginger, soy sauce, dry sherry, cornstarch, sugar, salt, pepper, sesame oil
Bowl 2: Canned whole tomatoes
Bowl 3: Sugar
Bowl 4: Dark soy sauce, dry sherry, sesame oil
Bowl 5: Scallions

As is the norm with stir-fries, there isn't much work to get a delicious meal on the table. For this dish, the most time consuming part of the recipe was slicing the beef - and that took maybe a minute to do.  The beef is combined with soy sauce, sherry, ginger, cornstarch, sugar, salt, pepper, and sesame oil. This marinates while you prep the rest of your ingredients.

The beef is added to a hot wok and left undisturbed for about a minute, to give it a chance to sear; then it is quickly stir-fried and removed from the wok to be added in later.  The tomatoes and sugar are added next, breaking the tomatoes into smaller pieces with the spatula. The soy sauce mixture (dark soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil) is added to the wok along with the beef and scallions, and stir-fried till the beef is heated and cooked through.

Bam! Done. Delish.

My sister was here for dinner, and she was going on and on, about how good this was. "Is this in my book? Our book? You know the one." Yes. Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge. Page 80. I'm sure she'll be making this in a day or two. It was that good.

And now on to the Fried Sweet Rice with Sausages and Mushrooms:

As I mentioned above, our group made this stir-fry back in the beginning of November. Including myself. Twice. Epic fail. Twice. Determination set in.

As the saying goes, third time's the charm.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Shiitake mushrooms, Chinese sausage, garlic
Bowl 2: Rice
Bowl 3: Scallions
Bowl 4: Soy sauce
Bowl 5: Salt, white pepper

The recipe calls for sweet or sushi rice. In my first two attempts at this recipe, I used premium sweet rice. This type, or at least this brand, is extremely glutinous, as evident in the picture below. It was impossible to get the rice grains to separate. I ended up with a sticky mass of mush. This wasn't very pleasant to eat, but, boy did it taste good. I had to get this recipe right.

The glutinous monster.

I thought my first attempt went awry for I had rushed the cooling process. The secret to perfectly fried rice is using cooked cold rice - preferably made the day before. I did not let my rice cool completely (almost - but not quite) before chilling.

So on my second attempt, I brought my rice to work with me, to make sure it had sufficient time to cool completely before being placed in the refrigerator. Still I had issues with the rice being too sticky.

I finally succeeded - though I am not jumping through hoops as I expected. If I had originally used the sushi rice for this stir-fry, I would have written that this was a great tasting dish.

However, Grace mentions in the book, fried rice made with sweet rice, gives an extra richness and bite that is addictively delicious. Addictively, is an understatement.

I'm going to have to experiment with different brands of sweet rice. I really, really, liked the sweet rice; the flavor is far superior to the sushi rice, which to me, tastes like your everyday white rice.  

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 80 (beef recipe) & 260 (rice) of  Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed.  
These two recipes just so happen to be available online (though do get the book for more of Grace's fabulous recipes.):
Ginger tomato beef can be found here at SFGate and the fried rice over at NPR.

Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

TWD | Baking Chez Moi | Cranberry Crackle Tart

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking Chez Moi
by Dorie Greenspan

This cranberry crackle tart may look fancy, but really, it is unbelievably simple.

The filling is made up of just two egg whites and some sugar and salt, and whipped until soft peaks are formed. Then fresh cranberries are carefully folded in. Next time, I would add more cranberries.

The meringue mixture is placed in a pre-cooked tart shell made with a sweet tart dough that has been spread with jam - Dorie suggests chunky cherry, raspberry, or strawberry. I used a sour cherry and rhubarb jam.

I used the back of a spoon, by pressing it into the filling and lifting up, to give it it's fluffy, swirly texture. 

It may not look like much, even Dorie mentions in the book that this tart is homey looking. 

This made for a nice light dessert after our always, overabundant Thanksgiving meal. Everyone said they enjoyed it - I may have liked it more if I used more cranberries and jam. I found it to be rather bland. 

Visit my fellow bakers to see how they fared with this recipe by clicking here.

It is the rule of TWD not to post the recipes here on our blogs. However, the recipe can be found online here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club | November Recipes

The CCC cooking their way through Veg Everyday
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

My selections for November:

Rutabaga "Farrotto"
Twice-Baked Potatoes
Chestnut and Sage Soup
Patatas Bravas

Click here for the complete list of August's recipe options.

Rutabaga "Farrotto"

The actual recipe is named Rutabaga (or Swede - depending on if you have the US or UK version of the book) "Speltotto". It's a play on risotto, a rice dish - here Hugh substitutes spelt for the rice.

I could not find pearled spelt, so I opted for pearled farro. It is mentioned in the book that pearled barley could be substituted, but reading the packages, barley can take up to an hour to cook, as where the farro only takes about twenty minutes - this is why I chose the farro over the barley, and I was happy with the outcome.

Cubed rutabaga is mixed in with some sautéed onions and garlic. The farro (or spelt), is stirred in until it is covered in oil and butter from the onion mixture. As with risotto, warmed broth is added in next, about a cup at a time, and stirring until the grains have absorbed all the liquid, before adding the next cup of broth. After all the broth has been added and the grains and rutabaga are tender (al a dente), some parsley and cheese are mixed in along with some salt, pepper, and nutmeg. 

The Mr. deemed this "good & hearty".  He took the leftovers to work for him and a co-worker; who commented "this must be healthy. It's on the bland side." Just goes to show you, how individual tastes vary.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

Who doesn't love a good baked potato? Twice-baked or otherwise. 

For me, baked potatoes are an easy and quick comfort food. Twice-baked are a bit more indulgent and take a little longer - but not much, and are worth it. Served with a salad, you have an easy weeknight meal.

For twice-baked potatoes, you cut the top off of a baked potato and scoop out the flesh, mix it with some butter and sour cream (or Greek yogurt as I did), and add in your favorite fixings - this can be anything from bacon to broccoli - use your imagination. Replace the filling into the shell, mounding it, and bake again until heated through. 

For this recipe, scallions, smoked Gouda, and a generous dash of cayenne pepper where my choice of fixings. This would also be delicious with sautéed mushrooms added in, as I did with these potatoes in a previous post.

Add extra cheese and scallions (or chives) for garnish, just before serving. I added extra cheese on top, gave it another minute or two in the oven - just long enough for it to melt, then I added sliced scallions and some Gouda hearts.

Chestnut and Sage Soup

A lovely chestnut soup topped with crisp fried sage leaves, chopped chestnuts, and a spattering of yogurt.

The recipe states you can use vacuum-packed precooked chestnuts. I wanted to try my hand at roasting my own - though it is mentioned in the book to blanch, peel and simmer the chestnuts. But we all know roasting brings out a much deeper flavor in foods than boiling ever would.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..♪

Well not quite... these were roasted in the oven... and an electric oven at that. 

Before the chestnuts are roasted, they are first soaked in warm water for about half an hour. Then the flat side of the chestnut is scored with an X (the skins are tough - you will need a very sharp knife). They are then placed on a baking sheet, flat side up, and roasted until the skins curl back at the X, and the chestnuts are tender.

They are peeled while still warm for easier peeling- so it's said. It's a tedious job to say the least. It was not till I was just about done, that I found that if I squashed the chestnut with the palm of my hand, it helped release the skin from the meat.

I ended up having to make only half the recipe, for after the chestnuts were cooked and peeled, my pound of chestnuts yielded only seven and a quarter ounces of chestnut meat! The recipe calls for fourteen ounces.

Roasting and peeling the chestnuts was the hardest part - using precooked chestnuts, this soup will come together fairly quickly.

Onions are sautéed in a bit of olive oil and butter until soft, then some sage and garlic are added and cooked for another minute. Even though I halved the recipe, I used the full amount of sage called for in the recipe, and doubled the amount of garlic (the recipes in this book seem to need an extra boost when it comes to the herbs and spices).

Vegetable broth is added to the onion mixture, along with most of the chestnuts (a few are reserved for garnish), salt and pepper, and is simmered for about fifteen more minutes. The soup is cooled slightly, then transferred to a blender or food processor, and puréed. I prefer to use an immersion blender, for transferring hot liquids back and forth, to me, is an accident waiting to happen - and makes for less clean up! Crème fraîche is added to the purée with any needed additional seasonings. I liked the soup the way it was, so I omitted adding the crème fraîche.

The soup is garnished with fried sage leaves and sliced chestnuts. The recipe states to finish it off with a drizzle of olive oil. I used some non-fat Greek yogurt thinned with milk; though the drizzle of oil makes for a very pretty presentation.

I would make this one again - only using the packaged precooked chestnuts next time.


Crostini. It's just a fancy name for toast that is topped with your choice of deliciousness.

I make these often to go with a roasted butternut squash soup that I make. The recipe in the book has you drizzle olive oil over the bread, sprinkle with some salt, then bake until golden. Hugh lists in the book several toppings to choose from.

My version, I butter the bread and toast until golden (I did do one as Hugh suggests - the center one, with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt).

After toasting the bread, my version is turned over (Hugh's is removed from the oven and is spread with the topping of your choice), and is then topped with cheese, thyme, sage, salt and pepper. They are popped back in the oven just until the cheese is melted. I normally make these with Gruyère cheese. However, this evening I used white cheddar, for this is what I had on hand; either way, they are delicious.

Hugh suggests to top only one half of the crostini, leaving the plain half as a palate cleanser. I can't say how Hugh's version compares to mine, for my husband woofed it down - probably did not even notice that only half the bread was topped with the cheesy goodness. I'm confident that it was just as tasty.

Toasted bread and cheese. Need I say more?

Patatas Bravas

Wow. Incredible flavor. The Mr. even gave it an A+.

The book states that this is a classic Spanish tapa. We didn't go the appetizer route with this, we served it alongside our baked chicken and steamed broccoli; and the leftovers were great with our pouched eggs the next morning.

This dish consists of a homemade spicy tomato sauce (delish!) and fried potatoes.

The sauce is made from sautéing some onions, thyme, garlic and a hot chile pepper. Then a can of tomatoes, some paprika, sugar, salt and pepper are simmered together until you have a nice, rich, thick looking sauce. This is kept warm, while you make the potatoes.

Boiled (slightly undercooked) cubed potatoes are sautéed in oil until they are golden and crispy, and given a sprinkling of salt.

The potatoes are then placed in a serving dish and topped with the (out of this my world) spicy tomato sauce, and garnished with some parsley (or in my case, thyme).

This was the favorite of the month.

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the November LYL post on the CCC website, by clicking here.

We have been asked not to publish the recipes here on our blogs. We encourage you to go out and purchase the book and join us on this fun and healthy adventure!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Cauliflower with Rice Wine

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young


Here is an incredibly easy and surprisingly tasty stir-fry. I say surprisingly, because really, there isn't much to this recipe, as you will see below.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Ginger
Bowl 2: Blanched cauliflower
Bowl 3: Rice wine (I used dry sherry), rice vinegar
Bowl 4: Salt

I had some sliced scallions hanging out in the fridge, so I tossed a handful on for a little color; taste wise - the cauliflower doesn't need it. Who knew that so few ingredients would add so much to this under-appreciated vegetable. 

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 214 of  Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed.  
The recipe is also available here on Google books. 

Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

TWD | Baking with Julia | Amaretti

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Nick Malgieri

The book states that amaretti means "little bitter things", due to the use of sweet and bitter almonds in the dough; and that bitter almonds cannot be imported into the United States*. 

These not so little cookies of mine, are made from only a few ingredients; four to be exact, and one of them being optional: almond paste, sugar, egg whites, and pine nuts (I used sliced almonds).

The almond paste is mixed with the sugar in two increments until the paste turns into very fine crumbs; next, the egg whites are mixed in. Bam! Done. How easy is that?!! So easy, it felt as though something was missing.

The dough is transferred to a pastry bag and small mounds are placed on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment, about one and a half inches apart. I obviously made mine too large, for I only yielded a baker's dozen, as where the recipe states it makes about three dozen! Oops.

Before baking, the cookies are dabbed with a wet towel to remove the points and ridges made from the pipping tip; this also helps produce the crinkly top. If using the optional nuts, they are applied at this time. I topped a third of my cookies with almonds, another third with powdered sugar, and left the last plain.

They are baked in a 325° oven for about twenty minutes.

The cookies did stick to the parchment, as noted in the book that this could happen. I have a very thin metal spatula that I used to remove them - it worked OK. It is recommended to wet the underside of the parchment, using a pastry brush with hot water, and allowed to sit for a few seconds, until the cookies can be released. I started with this method, but when I lifted the parchment paper, the powdered sugar started falling off my cookies.

The cookies were wonderful the day they were made, but I liked them even more a day or two later. They became a little more crisp on the outside, with a wonderfully chewy center. They do become rather dry and too crispy, after day two. 

Though I enjoyed them all, the powdered sugar ones were my favorite.

These were so easy, so sweet, and so dangerously good (not knowing just how dangerous they could be!)
*Of course I had to find out why bitter almonds were not allowed to be imported into the US as mentioned in the book. Did you know, that bitter almonds contain a naturally occurring toxic chemical, hydrogen cyanide? This chemical has serious side effects such as slowing of the nervous system, breathing problems, and death. According to WebMD, they advise not using bitter almond. Ah yeah...

In my research, I ran across this current recall from Whole Foods for said almonds, imported from Italy and Spain??? Hmmm - maybe import restrictions have eased since 1996 - when this book was printed.

Do head over to the TWD website by clicking here to see the results of my fellow bakers.