Saturday, March 29, 2008

Peanut soup with tomatoes

I was cleaning up my apartment some days ago, when I found some leftover peanut butter sitting alone at the back of my fridge. It's been a while since I had a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast, so I decided to use it up before the expiration date comes.
The result is this delicious dish inspired by the African peanut soup. :) Yummy!

2 tablespoons roasted peanut or vegetable oil
2 large onions, diced
2 large bell peppers, 1 red and 1 green, diced into 1/2-inch chunks
2 teaspoons chopped ginger
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes, or more to taste
2 cups crushed tomatoes in sauce
5 cups water, or chicken stock, or vegetable stock
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 box or 1/2 carton tofu, preferably soft
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup sliced scallions, including the firm green。

1. Warm the oil in a wide soup pot set over high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, ginger, and sweet potatoes, and saute, stirring frequently until the onions have begun to color, 8 to 10 minutes, adding the garlic after the first 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt, several good twists of the pepper mill, and the cayenne to taste, and cook a few minutes longer.

2.Add the tomatoes and scrape the pot to lift up any brown bits from the bottom. Add the water or stock, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.

3.Add the peanut butter and cook, stirring, until it has dissolved

4.Remove 2 cups of the soup and purée with the tofu until perfectly smooth. Return this mixture to the soup. (If you wish, purée the entire soup.) Taste for salt and for the heat level, adding more cayenne if desired.

5.Serve with 1/3 cup rice mounded in each bowl and plenty of scallions scattered over the top.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

St Petersburg--an orange city

I have never seen a city so proud of their specialty fruit like St Petersburg!! Everywhere I went, I saw oranges. In my hotel, they provided free oranges and orange mint water for the guests, and the mamalade is of course orange too!
This restaurant is called "Tangerine",and they really mean it--orange decor, orange napkins, and oranges in every dish!

My appetizer was tapenade with oranges. Emm, they were really good with bread sticks!

The main course was seafood skewers with oranges. The scallops were huge, almost the size of my palm, and they were super fresh. That is sooo memorable!

I had my lunch at "Banbu", a restaurant with an interesting concept. You choose your own ingredients and sauces, they only cook it. You really can't complain if you choose the wrong sauce for your food! Luckily mine turned out great.

They have a big and impressive stadium-like cooking center. Their chef was kind enough to let me take pictures.

I couldn't believe that I only spent $10 for lunch (tips included). A great deal!

I tried the fresh catch at the pier, but their chef was terrible--they can even make the freshest swordfish taste like "s**t". In order to cheer myself up, I ordered a crepe suzette at a french cafe. Amazing! Their chef even poured the flaming Grand Marnier on the crepe right in front of me. Quite a performance! I didn't have a chance to catch that, but I did have a photo of their beautiful ice tea--simple but very elegant.

At the beautiful beach, we chose a very popular restaurant--Hurricane. But their food is just OK. I guess American people don't really care about the delicate balance of food here.
The black liquid is Mexican coffee, made with tequila and coffe liquer. Very bitter and strong.

Another funny thing is, the sushi chef at a Japanese restaurant recommended " Atomic Bomb Roll " to me! I guess he didn't really know much about the history. :)
I also went to many bars with my friends. One of them specialize in tapas. They are just OK, but the purpose of going to bars is to get drunk, right? So no complain and no pictures( too dark in the bars). I am happy~
St Petersburg is indeed a good place to relax. But I am not old yet. :) I still like the vibe in philly and I am glad that I am back!

Monday, March 10, 2008

My bread basket--Baguette

I couldn't believe that I got this baguette right the very first time I tried it!! Some people call it "beginners' luck", but I think it's not luck, it's the extra care every beginner takes to learn a new recipe.
For example, the recipe calls for a 12 hour "poof" time. I waited till a weekend to set it up and carefully compared every step to the textbook. If this couldn't guarantee a success, I don't know what does. :)
So please read the step-by-step instruction and try to understand the rationale behind it. These heavenly home-made baguettes are just hours away!!
The crispy skin can sing right out of the oven!

Yet it's soft inside. Those evenly distributed holes are an indication of success.

That's why I love King Arthur. Not only do they have great products, they also have great education resources for a new baker like me! Please click here to see the detailed instructions.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Food fight!

This is an amazing video! Have you figured it out yet? :)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bread Rolls With Egg Tofu

Those beautiful bread rolls are very quick and easy to make, yet they are not boring at all! Use your imagination and let every mouthful be a surprise!!

I used whole wheat potato bread. You need to use very soft bread with a little sweetness.

  1. Lay the bread out and pound them thin. You can cut the edge, but I find it quite tasty with the edge. It's up to you.

  2. Put a thin piece of egg tofu /Japanese tofu (玉子豆腐) on top of the bread and spread whatever filling you like in a thin layer. Here I used home made egg tofu with egg white only--normally it would look yellowish.

  3. Roll them up tightly and seal the edge nicely with some beaten eggs. It's very important to keep them together.

  4. Dip into egg batter. Gently fry the rolls until they crisp up.

This one was made with black bean puree..

This one was made with flavored mayonaise.

This one was made with pickled apricot.

The last one was made with Korean spicy bean paste.

Put them all together, and you get a nice platter!

Lamb Shank

About Lamb Shank--It's meaty, it's cheap.. Why bother with the expensive lamb chop? :)
I think oven is a great invention. In China, very few families have ovens, and my family certainly didn't. We braise meat, and slowly stew the meat, but a lot of attention is needed to prevent meat from burning. If the meat is slowly roasted in the oven, it's another story. Just put a thermometer in and at the right time, it would beep! No stirring, no checking, it's so easy.

The meat is so tender that it melts in your mouth!

Welcome to My Kitchen by Tom Valenti

Tom Valenti was the first chef in New York City to cook this great recipe. It can be found in his book Welcome to My Kitchen, just published by HarperCollins.

  • 6 lamb foreshanks
  • Coarse salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 ribs of celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 whole head of garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups beef broth and 2 cups chicken broth
  • White Bean Puree, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Season the lamb with salt and pepper.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrot, and onion; cook until very soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Add the tomato paste and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add the thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, anchovies, and garlic; cook 3 minutes.

4. Add the wines, vinegar, and sugar; raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and add the broths. Leave over medium heat while you brown the lamb shanks.

5. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil into a sauté pan. Over medium-high heat, brown the lamb shanks well on all sides, using tongs to flip them over.

6. Transfer lamb shanks to a roasting pan and pour the braising liquid on top. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove the foil and cook 2 1/2 to 3 hours more, turning the shanks over every half hour until the meat is very soft.

7. Remove the shanks from the braising liquid and strain the liquid. Skim any fat that rises to the surface, then use the liquid as a sauce. Serve in shallow bowls atop White Bean Puree. Per serving: 400 calories, 12g carbohydrates, 38g protein, 19g fat, 120mg cholesterol
Nutritional Breakdown: New Wellness, Richmond, Va.

Makes 6 servings.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Best Apricot Cake

I started to get tired of cakes--I even browsed through a cake "bible" and found nothing interesting. Luckily, Michel Richard did it again. His apricot cake is an absolute stunner! It's the most moist and tender cake you can imagine!
I tinkered with his recipe a little, so the crust didn't look as pretty( no butter in the crust and soyflour for wondra). But it's still crunchy and amazingly tasty. Considering the great reduction of fat--10 TBSP less butter, I am very happy with the result.

It looks like cheesecake, ay? But it only has 1/4 cups of heavy cream, the only diary product.

Take a spoon, and you will see the difference. It's neither a souffle nor a custard. It's not even the egg bubbles I made before. It's a little firmer and it doesn't shrink; It melts in your mouth, yet somehow manages to burst into a refreshing stream of citrus fruit. Very intriguing indeed!

In this picture, it looks like a cake now. It should. My tiny canon can't really take into all its true beauty. What a pity!

I am sorry, folks, I have decided not to publish any recipe from Michel Richard. He has put his heart and soul into his book and I don't want his effort go unrewarded. Please check out his book " Happy in the kitchen". You will not be disappointed!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Eight Treasure Porridge

About lotus seeds--It's flavorless, but without it, the porridge would tastes like a cheesecake without sugar, or a burger without salt.
I felt pretty weak recently. The main reason is the god damn paper I had to write. I actually prefer working to writing up the work! The latter is more painful if you know what I mean. The concentrated stress can easily crush my biological balance. So as a chinese girl, the first thought was-- I need eight treasure porridge to boost up my energy!!

Actually I used way more than 8 ingredients. The main stars are dates and lotus seeds. You can use whatever grains you have on hand, but you need one strong but delicate sweet ingredient to dominate, and one mild but fragrant ingredient to support. In my case, the dried dates have a distinctive sweet fruity flavor, and the lotus seeds have this incredible flavorless aroma. You can substitute dates with dragon's eye fruit, another traditional ingredient. :)

Why dates and lotus?
Date, in chinese medicine, is a great and strong tonic, but too many dates would backfire, and make you sweat and feel dizzy.
Lotus seeds, in chinese medicine, is a mild and gentle tonic, and can ease the effect of dates.
It's all about yin and yang--balance. :)

I also added 16 kinds of beans. I bought it from Trader Joe's, and I lost the package already. You get the idea, right? Beans, as many kinds as possible.

Last, corn meal and chinese almond. Chinese almond is smaller and milder. They stay crunchy even after 12 hours of stewing. Plus, it's good for the lack of energy.

Put all the ingredients and lots of water (roughtly 3 times of dry ingredients) in the thermal pot, bring to a boil and put it back to the vacuum container. Wait for 12 hours, and you will get this wonderful porridge! Slow cooker works well too, but it's going to be an energy sucker for this porridge. You can add honey afterwards, but I like mine as it is. You have to clear your mind to enjoy this firework! Just like in Ratatouille--simple but elegant.