Friday, February 29, 2008

Guacamole And Toasted Pita Chips

About guacamole--try to add some fresh corn, pinenuts, or sun-dried tomatoes, and you will find this classic dish exciting again!

Toasted Pita Chips
I love Trader Joe's whole wheat pita bread. Somehow it's not as bitter as other whole wheat products, and it has a very nice wheat aroma. I simply toasted them on my pizza stone--they came out really crispy and delicious!
Guacamole

I have to confess, I used Trader Joe's guacamole kit, and why not? You get all the tiny pieces of ingredients in a nice box (right portion too!), and all you have to do is to blend!

In case you want to start from very scratch, here is the recipe: )
Ingredients:

  • 2 avocadoes
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 pearl onions
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • juice of one lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

    Blend everything together, and add your favorite twist. You get yourself a very nice weekday snack!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Desserts From Yesterday

Several months ago, I got into "sugar fever". I made so many desserts that my boyfriend(ex) back then was very worried about my weight! Luckily, this fever finally faded, and after working out for a while, I was totally back! :)
My photographing skill sucked, so I can only recall from my memory what they really look like, and taste like. But I can tell you, those are very sweet, very happy memories.. well worth the extra pounds.
Pineapple cheese cake with almond crust and tortoise jelly







The black layer is turtoise jelly, a very unique chinese herb (not from turtles!)
Pair this cheesecake with purple yam cream... I was in heaven!




Purple yam cheese cake with champaign grapes and almond honey crust






Bubble eggs with cactus fruit



They are so light that you can only taste the taste, but you can't bite into anything!



Crepes with black sticky rice and peaches

It looks like peony to me.

Blue potatoes with papayas, dragon fruit and black rice



Flex seed pumpkin harvest cake


I had this huge cake for a whole week!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chicken Marsala

Honestly, it's not a cheap dish! I probably spent more money on marsala and cream than chicken and mushroom combined! However, on the bright side, it is a very delicious dish, and I don't have to travel to a restaurant, wait for a long time and spend even more money. :)) It's very important for a graduate student who lives on a tiny stipend.

Ingredient:

  • 1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 10 oz mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (2 lb total)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry Marsala wine
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Preparation:

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200°F.
    Bring broth to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan over high heat, then boil, uncovered, until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 20 minutes.
  2. Cook shallot in 3 tablespoons butter in an 8- to 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until shallot begins to turn golden, about 1 minute.Add mushrooms, 1 teaspoon sage, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Put flour in a wide shallow bowl.Gently pound chicken to 1/4 inch thick between 2 sheets of plastic wrap using the flat side of a meat pounder or a rolling pin.
  4. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour, 1 piece at a time, shaking off excess.Transfer to sheets of wax paper, arranging chicken in 1 layer.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon each of oil and butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté half of chicken, turning over once, until golden and just cooked through, about 4 minutes total.Transfer cooked chicken to a large heatproof platter, arranging in 1 layer, then put platter in oven to keep warm. Wipe out skillet with paper towels and cook remaining chicken in same manner, then transfer to oven, arranging in 1 layer.
  6. Add 1/2 cup wine to skillet and boil over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, about 30 seconds.Add reduced broth, cream, and mushrooms, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons wine and 1/2 teaspoon sage.
    Serve chicken with sauce.



Chicken And Corn "Pie"

I love to cook, but as a 5'5'' girl, I really couldn't eat all my creations. So dealing with leftovers has become a big part of my everyday life..
Luckily, I have so many odd pieces I can mix and match, so sometimes, magic happens! For example, this chicken and corn "pie".

Sweat your onion slices using a little salt, then add some garlic, caper, black pepper, saute until onions are very soft. Add diced leftover chicken pieces, warm it up. Make a corn bread batter by mixing corn meal, eggs, milk, fresh corn, and baking powder, then pour it over chicken mixture. Bake until it's set in the center.
Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top. And put apricot-sour cream combo on the side. Delicious. A successful leftover makeover!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Water Fried Buns

About water fry--Baking makes food crispy but dry; steaming makes food moist but mushy; water fry gets all the benefits.
Let's see the end result--very moist and tender buns with lacy and crispy crust. Talk about yummy!

A good water fried bun should have this lace.

The buns are so tender and soft, even toothless people can appreciate them!


It's a little labor intensive, but the heavy snow made me leave work early. I got plenty of time on hand..

First, combine warm water, eggs,oil,sugar, salt in the bread machine.
The portion is the same as Chinese soft buns.


Put in the flour and yeast


Choose "dough" for the machine


After the cycle completed, the dough would almost triple in volume.

Ok, now let's make the filling.
Combine 2 eggs, one TBSP water and 1/4 TSP salt, and beat. Then use 1 TBSP olive oil to cook the eggs.

Chinese chive flowers


Finely dice them


Wood ear mushroom


Chop them..


Use a little hot water to soak the bulgur. Let it undercook and still have some bite.


Mix all the ingredients and add some ground white pepper. The filling is done!
Make buns the size you like and let them sit for an hour.
Now the water fry.
Heat 1TBSP vegetable oil in a pan, and carefully put the buns in. Swirl them so that the bottom is well greased. Don't crowd the pan, otherwise the water won't distribute evenly and the buns may burn or get soggy. Put 1/2 cups of thin corn starch slurry in, and cover. Use high heat to boil the slurry, then lower to medium heat until almost all the liquid has evaporized. Then turn to low heat until you see a thin layer of starch paper. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 2 more minutes. Don't try to open the cover during the cooking because the buns would shrink!

Put a place over tha pan and carefully slip the buns out. Now you get it!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Falafel And Hummus

About chickpeas--Use dried ones for falafel and save canned ones for hummus!
Food truck is the trademark of philadelphia. Here, for less than 5 bucks, you can get amazingly good food from all over the world. I used to frequent a middle-eastern truck called "Magic carpet"--their falafel is the best I'v ever had! Keen to reproduce the same flavor, I bought some canned chickpeas (only 69 cents/can!) and started to wait for my impulse to cook.
Finally, on a lazy Friday night, I managed to make a mushy baked version of falafel. Word of caution--DO buy dried chickpeas and soak them, or you will end up like me!
Falafel

The taste is the same though..


Ingredient:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4-6 tablespoons flour
  • Soybean or vegetable oil for frying
  • Chopped tomato for garnishDiced onion for garnish
  • Diced green bell pepper for garnish
  • Tahina sauce
  • Pita bread

Preparation:

1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
2.Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.
3.Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
4.Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle-Eastern markets.
5.Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.
NOTE: Egyptians omit the cilantro and substitute fava beans for the chickpeas.
To garnish your falafel in true Israeli style, try adding one or several of the following condiments: harissa hot sauce, pickled turnip , mango amba (pickle), or sauerkraut.
Hummus
I don't want to make mushy falafel again, but I still have a can of chickpeas...Em..how about hummus?

I was lying on my bed last night, reading susan spicer's crescent city cooking (It makes my mind peaceful.^_^) , when her hummus recipe caught my eye. It has garlic confit? Gotta try it!

For garlic confit

Ingredient:

  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 sprigs of thyme or rosemary

Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer until all the water has evaporized. The garlic would turn golden like the following picture.

For hummus:

Ingredient:

  • 1/4 cups garlic confit
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 cans of chickpeas or white beans
  • 1/2 cups of tahina
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/4 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
  • 2-4 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cups of olive oil+1-2 tablespoon garlic confit olive oil

Blend all the ingredient together, and you will get this amazingly tasty hummus! It's quite addictive.:)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Perfect chinese soft buns

These chinese soft buns are nothing like the breads from your "western" bakery--I think Allen would agree with me 100%. Here is how I made those chocolate almond stuffed buns, so yummy, so easy!



They are feather light, with just a touch of sweetness...

Recipe from King Arthur
Dough
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sugar*
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups (13 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn or safflower oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) warm water
  • Fillingabout 2/3 cup filling of your choice, chilled

Topping

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten with 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) water
    *you can increase the sugar to 1/4 cup if you're using a sweet filling. Also, you could sprinkle some sugar on top after you do the egg wash.

Manual/Mixer Method:

  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all of the dough ingredients, and mix until the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased or floured surface, and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it's smooth and shiny. Or knead it in a mixer, using the dough hook.
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or rising bucket, turn to coat, cover the container with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise till it's tripled in bulk; this took about 2 hours in our test kitchen, but may take longer in your home kitchen. The more bread you bake, the more wild yeast develops in your kitchen, the faster yeast doughs will rise; we bake a lot of yeast breads here in our test kitchen, so they tend to rise faster than they might in a regular kitchen.

Bread Machine Method:

  1. Place all the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer (usually, liquids first, yeast last). Program the machine for dough or manual, and press Start. Check the dough about 10 minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle and adjust its consistency as necessary by adding additional water or flour to form a soft, smooth ball. Allow the machine to complete its cycle, then allow the dough to remain in the machine till it's tripled in bulk, perhaps for another hour.

Shaping:

  1. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or lightly floured work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces, each about 3 ounces (85g), a bit smaller than a tennis ball. Cover the dough pieces, and let them rest while you prepare the filling of your choice. Note: To test this recipe, I used equal parts -- 2 1/2 ounces each --smoked tofu and minced cooked pork, moistened with a bit of bottled barbecue sauce. Pretty tasty!
  2. Cover the unused dough pieces with a damp cloth or plastic wrap as you work. Working with one piece at a time, use your fingers to flatten it into a 4-inch round whose edges are slightly thinner than the center. Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling in the center of the dough, pull the edges into the center to enclose the filling, pinch to seal, then give the pinched edges a twist, to seal even more securely. Place the buns sealed-side-down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces and filling, placing buns about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
  3. Cover the buns with a proof cover or lightly greased plastic wrap. After 45 minutes, brush them with the topping, and re-cover. After 1 hour (15 minutes later), brush them again with the topping. Don't worry if they don't appear to have risen much; they'll rise as they bake.

Baking:

Bake the buns in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 minutes, until they're golden brown. Serve them warm, or at room temperature. Yield: 8 buns.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XIII, No. 2, Winter 2002 issue.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Soothing Desserts

About cardamom--there is nothing like cardamom! Not mild, but very soothing~

Solid yogurt with cardamon and cranberry honey sauce..
I added my own twist by pouring cranberry honey sauce on top. :)


Gelatin can make yogurt solid. It tastes quite different..



Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (from 1 envelope)
  • Pinch ground cardamom
  • dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon mild honey (preferably orange blossom)
  • Small pinch cinnamon
    Special equipment: a 1-cup ramekin (4 inches across and about 2 inches deep)

Preparation

  1. Whisk together yogurt, sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Put water in a very small saucepan and tilt pan so that water is on one side, then sprinkle gelatin and cardamom evenly over water. Let stand 1 minute to soften. Heat mixture over low heat, stirring, until gelatin is dissolved, about 30 seconds. Whisk hot gelatin into yogurt until combined well.
  2. Pour yogurt into ramekin and chill, covered, until set, about 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Bring dried cranberry, honey, and cinnamon to a simmer in cleaned very small saucepan, stirring, then simmer about 1 minute. Cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.
  4. Run a thin knife around edge of ramekin to loosen pudding, then dip ramekin into a bowl of hot water 30 seconds and invert pudding onto a plate. Spoon syrup over pudding and arrange orange around side.

Yam"cream" with almond, mint and champaign grapes

The yam was baked, mashed and mixed with port wine. Good match!



Chicken Tikka

About yogurt marinade--it makes a big difference!


I have been craving for Indian food for a long time. The only problem was that I couldn't find those spices! Recently I found a nice indian supermarket nearby and I am so thrilled! Yep, I will try all my indian recipes, one by one.

Ingredient:

  • 1/2 cup thick plain whole-milk yogurt such as Greek
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated (with a rasp) peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated (with a rasp) garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon garam masala (Indian spice mix)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes

Preparation

  1. Stir together all ingredients except chicken in a medium bowl, then add chicken, stirring to coat. Marinate, covered and chilled, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Put chicken in preheated 550F oven, and let it bake for 5 to 7 minutes total.

I put the chicken pieces on top of lemon spinach--I can't eat meat without veggies. :)



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Half-Blood Orange Budino

About budino--mix the egg whites gently but thoroughly, or you won't get those beautiful three layers!

I am very proud to present my version of budino, although I did forget to use water bath and the top cracked a little. :(

Check out the crispy topping...

And soft egg cloud....

And creamy corn custard....


Let your guests gasp and wonder how much work you put into this. It's quite easy indeed!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup very fine corn meal
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh regular lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated blood orange peel
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon saltWhipped cream (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter six 3/4-cup custard cups or ramekins.( I recommend glass custard cups. After all, you worked so hard to get those beautiful layers. You want people to see, right?) Combine 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, corn meal, orange juice, and blood orange peel in large bowl; whisk until well blended. Whisk in milk.
  2. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt(!) in medium bowl until frothy. Gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until soft peaks form.
  3. Fold beaten egg whites into orange mixture in 2 additions. After folding the egg whites in, the batter should look like this..
  4. Divide mixture among prepared custard cups. Place custard cups in roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of custard cups. Bake puddings until tops are golden and spring back when lightly touched, about 30 minutes. Remove cups from water. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream, if desired.

30 minutes have elapsed........................................

Bam! Here comes our B-U-D-I-N-O!

After thought: why do I call it half-blood orange budino? I was supposed to use blood-orange juice instead of regular orange juice, but I can't imagine what the color would be--maybe too scary for the picture! So blood orange peel+orange juice=half-blood orange, right?