Friday, July 9, 2010

Cardamom Pistachio Ice Cream

About a month ago, the whole family - Pau Pau & Gong Gong included - went on a quick, weekend trip the beach for my cousin Liana's college graduation. We spent a glorious afternoon playing in the ocean and watching sea lions, before scarfing down a delicious seafood dinner on the pier.

That night, Brandon & I left the munchkin with her grandparents and snuck off to an ice cream shop across the street from our hotel, where I had the most amazing scoop of Cardamom Pistachio Ice Cream. It was a perfect blend of spicy cardamom, rich, cold, creamy ice cream and roasted, crunchy pistachios.

I came home determined to make my own version.

Cardamom Ice Cream
adapted from Bon Appetit

1 3/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream

In a food processor, grind 1 cup of pistachios with 1/4 cup sugar. In a large saucepan, combine nut mixture with milk, cardamom and nutmeg and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add almond extract.

In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and egg yolks. Gradually add        milk mixture, whisking constantly to make a custard. Pour custard into the saucepan and      cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. This takes about 10 minutes. You'll know it's done when you draw a line on the back of the spoon and it leaves a path. Strain into a large bowl and chill until cold, about two hours.                                                     

Add heavy cream and remaining pistachios into custard and freeze in ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions.

Friday, May 14, 2010

One Scone, or Two?

Last week the playgroup Emi & I go to had a Mother's Day potluck in the park, and as usual, I was scrambling around at the last minute, searching the cupboards for something to bring. Then I spied a package of cream cheese in the fridge and instantly I knew what I to make.

Scones smothered in large dollops or rich, sweet Devonshire cream are lovely with cucumber sandwiches and cups of strong Earl Grey tea. They're also the perfect accoutrement for a picnic brunch. 

I dug out an old Bon Appetit scone recipe I like to trot out anytime I serve "high tea." I like this recipe because the scones come out light and fluffy, almost like cake, and they're ridiculously easy to make. Occasionally I'll add a cup of fresh strawberries or currants. For our Mother's Day picnic, I threw in 1/2 a cup of toasted pecans.

My other favorite teatime goodie is Devonshire cream. I discovered a great recipe years ago when I threw a baby shower for a friend who'd spent a few years living in London and came back with a taste for clotted cream. Now, I can't even remember where I got the recipe because I just scribbled the ingredients down on a piece of scrap paper, which is tucked safely in my three-ring-binder/family cookbook.

Like the scones recipe, this version of Devonshire cream is really simple and super yummy. It also goes great with waffles or fresh berries.

Devonshire Cream

3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 tsp. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla

In an electric mixer, whip ingredients until soft peaks form. Chill until serving.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Slow - and Yummy - Asparagus

I never cared for asparagus growing up. The few times my mom prepared them, they were undercooked and bitter-tasting. As an adult, I tried a few overcooked versions and actually liked the vegetables a lot more, until I gradually learned to cook them myself and settled somewhere inbetween.

I got one of my favorite asparagus recipes from my father-in-law, who served them cold with this delicious, bright, creamy dill sauce. A friend offered a much simpler method - roasting with a little bit of olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper - and one Christmas Eve I served asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto and drizzled with olive oil.

Now, I have a new favorite asparagus recipe.

I was checking out the New York Times Dining & Wine section online not long ago, when I stumbled on this great article describing another way of cooking asparagus - slow-cooked in paper packets.

I wish I could say I put my own spin on Melissa Clark's recipe, but aside from a couple cloves of crushed garlic and a few dashes of truffle salt to finish the dish, I followed her suggestions exactly and dinner that night was perfection. I couldn't wait for Sunday, when I could go back to the Farmer's Market for more asparagus.

Give the NY Times' slow-cooked asparagus a go, or try my father-in-law's cold asparagus with dill sauce.

Brian's Cold Asparagus with Dill Sauce

2 lbs. fresh asparagus
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Steam asparagus until tender, then shock in ice water. Drain and let chill in refrigerator.

In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix well. Once asparagus has chilled, drizzle with sauce and serve cold.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Falafel Craving

When my little one was still in the midst of her picky toddler phase, my mom picked up a copy of Healthy Meals for Babies & Toddlers to inspire me. I was immediately intrigued by a recipe for falafel. Spicy with a bit of crunch, these traditionally deep-fried garbanzo bean fritters are stuffed into pita bread and drizzled with a cool, creamy yogurt sauce.

I have fond memories of walking into Westwood Village for a little Middle Eastern brain food during my college days, and once I read the recipe I was seized by a craving for falafel so of course, I had to give it a try.

I checked out a few recipes online first to compare ingredients - spices, in particular - and techniques. I liked the recipe in the book because it called for pan-frying the falafel, rather than deep-frying them, which can be messy and not exactly healthy. I fiddled with the recipe a bit, using dried chickpeas soaked overnight rather than the canned stuff, and threw in red pepper flakes for more flavor. I also borrowed Guy Fieri's recipe for yogurt sauce.

I ended up making this dish twice. The first time, the patties didn't hold up well in the frying pan, so I tried adding an egg to help bind the batter and it worked like a charm. I also found it helpful to make sure the pan was very hot before frying the falafel, and I cooked them almost to the brink of burning. This gave the patties a crispy layer that held them together as well as a satisfying crunch.

Oh, and by the way, Emi loved this dish.

Falafel with Yogurt Sauce

For Falafel:
2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1/4 onion
2 tbsp. whole wheat flour
1 egg
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. red pepper flakes

For Yogurt Sauce:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp. cumin

In a small bowl, combine yogurt sauce ingredients and mix well. Let chill in refrigerator.

Combine falafel ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil in a frying pan until it is shimmering. Using a cookie-dough scoop or a spoon, drop several scoops into the hot pan and flatten slightly with the back of the scoop.

Cook for three to five minutes. Once the edges are a golden brown, use a spatula to get a look at the bottoms and if they're a rich, crunchy, brown, flip them over and cook the other sides.

Serve inside warm pita bread and drizzle with plenty of yogurt sauce.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oatmeal Pecan Cookies for Kids

I recently made a batch of Auntie Sharon's favorite polenta cookies, and of course, Emi got to try a few. They were an instant hit with my 18-month-old, and pretty soon the sound of Emi squawking "Coca, coca, coca" was ringing through the house - all day long.

I was good and limited her intake to about a cookie a day, all the while thinking I should find a more toddler-friendly recipe. Things came to a head on Sunday when we took Emi to an art show, and I made the fatal error of slipping her a few, broken cookie pieces. Poor Daddy had to follow her around the block about a half dozen times, then chase her up and down a short flight of stairs.

So I did a little online research and came up with this adaptation of Ina Garten's Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookie recipe. I cut out the raisins, since I hear they're not good for kids' teeth, swapped out all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour and replaced white sugar with agave syrup. I kept the brown sugar in because I like the molasses flavor, but I cut the amount in half.

My cookies came out very moist, almost cake-like. I'm guessing the agave syrup had something to do with it, so next time I might play with the ratios a bit and use only about 2/3 cup of agave for every 1 cup of sugar. I usually like a bit more crunch to my cookies, but Emi likes them!

Oatmeal Pecan Cookies

1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup agave syrup
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Add the oats and pecans and mix just until combined.

Using a small ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop 2-inch mounds of dough onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a baking rack and cool completely.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reconstructing Shrimp Salad

A few years ago, I put together a cookbook for my brother-in-law and his wife using favorite family recipes from my mother-in-law, Jacque, who got many of them from her mother-in-law, Grandma Pete. I figured it would be a pretty easy gift to make - type up the recipes, write an intro, slap on some photos and I'm done.

I figured wrong.

Most of the recipes were pretty straight-forward and complete with a list of ingredients, measurements and directions. I'd even made one or two dishes before such as the Cornish pasties we always serve on Christmas Eve. Others, however, proved more challenging to decipher.

Grandma Pete's Peach Cobbler, for instance, was a handwritten list of five ingredients with precious few instructions. I'd never made cobbler before, so I had no idea how to write a recipe that a novice home chef could successfully execute. I ended up spending a Saturday afternoon making a test cobbler with blackberries. It turned out great, and now it's one of my favorite desserts - warm and comforting and super easy.

But Grandma Pete's Shrimp Salad - one of Jacque's favorites - mystified me. Not only were the measurements absent, but I couldn't quite envision how to put the salad together. Did the lettuce merely serve as a bed for the dressed shrimp, or was I supposed to toss it along with the shrimp, mayo, lemon juice and salt? And was that really all there was to the dressing? Unlike the cobbler, I didn't do a test-run. I typed up the ingredients sans measurements and just made up the instructions.

I had a chance to redeem myself when I was asked to bring a salad to my mother-in-law's birthday party.

Since the recipe wasn't clear, I made an executive decision to make a green salad with shrimp rather than a true shrimp salad. I included more veggies - tomatoes, cucumbers and avocado - to boost the nutrition and turned up the flavor by roasting the shrimp. I also couldn't resist adding some fresh dill to the dressing.

I tested my concoction on Brandon even though he claimed to have no memory of his grandmother's salad. "Huh," he said, after biting into a drenched lettuce leaf. "You know, it kind of tastes familiar."

My reconstructed salad (which I forgot to photograph during the festivities) turned out surprisingly well, and I even munched on the leftovers later that night.

Grandma Pete's Shrimp Salad

I found out later that Grandma Pete's recipe was indeed for a true shrimp salad. Apparently, she shredded the lettuce and used bay shrimp, although I prefer the larger crustaceans. You could also add diced avocado for a little richness and nutrition.

1-2 lbs. medium-sized raw shrimp
2 tbs. olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
lettuce, shredded (I like butter lettuce, but Pete used iceberg.)
1/2 purple onion, diced
2 celery stalks, halved length-wise and diced
1 avocado, diced (optional)

1 cup mayonnaise
juice of half a lemon
2 tbs. fresh dill, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and devein shrimp, removing the tails. Spread on a cookie sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 6 to 8 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and firm. Be sure not to overcook, or shrimp will become rubbery. Let cool for several minutes.

Combine mayonnaise, lemon juice and dill, and whisk until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine shrimp, lettuce, onion, celery and avocado. Add dressing one spoonful at a time, and toss gently.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Five Dollar Plate: Marylou's Adobo

Many, many months ago, my good friend, Marylou, gave me her recipe for traditional, Filipino adobo, and for many, many months it sat, untouched, in my email box. The ingredients were simple enough - pork or chicken, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic - but the method of simmering the meat for an hour, then browning it in a skillet, was foreign to me.

I was tempted to disregard Marylou's exacting instructions and take the more familiar route - sear, then braise. Tradition won the day. I defrosted a couple of pork shoulder steaks I bought on sale at Safeway for less than two bucks a piece, and got to work.
I was transferring the meat to the skillet when I realized I was basically making carnitas - duh!

Marylou's recipe was easy, with minimal prep work. Although her instructions said to let the meat marinate for 30 minutes, other online recipes called for a minimum of three hours. I let it sit for an hour. Even then, the adobo only took a little over two hours to make, including an hour for simmering.

The adobo was tangy and flavorful with a bit of heat - an instant family hit. I served it over long-grain, white rice with half a bag of TJ's organic baby spinach leaves I sauteed with a dollop of vegetable oil and dash of salt. We liked the adobo so much, next week I'm going to try it with a combination of pork and chicken.

Traditional Filipino Adobo

1 1/2 lb. pork shoulder or butt cut into 1 1/2" cubes
1/2 c. vinegar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. salt
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bay leaf
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. sugar
1 c. water
2 tbsp. cooking oil

Combine all ingredients, except cooking oil, in a pot and let stand for at least 30 minutes. Simmer covered for at least 1 hour or until meat is tender. Drain and reserve sauce.

Heat cooking oil in skillet. Brown meat on all sides. Transfer to a serving dish. Pour off all remaining oil from skillet. Add reserved sauce and cook for a minute or two, scraping all browned bits sticking to pan. Pour sauce over meat and serve.

Variation: May be made with chicken or a combination of chicken and pork.

Some online recipes said Filipino adobo should have some heat to it and called for a jalapeno or peppercorns, which are removed before serving. I tossed in a few dashes of red pepper flakes, and it turned out great.

$3.72 - 2 lbs. pork shoulder
$1.00 - organic baby spinach

$4.72 total

Friday, April 9, 2010

Five Dollar Plate: 'I'd Like the Chipper Chicken'

Ever since I was laid off, I've been finding ways to save a little money here and there. I shop less at Macy's and more at Old Navy. I've learned to comb through consignment shops for great deals on designer labels - think Marc Jacobs vest for $13 - and I've all but abandoned Barnes & Noble in favor of my local Friends of the Library bookstore, where I can pick up paperback mysteries for a buck and Jacques Pepin Celebrates for $4.

When it comes to food, I try to be inventive with the ingredients already in our fridge so we waste less and save more. Once, when I was in charge of dessert for a family birthday party, I did a quick inventory of my pantry, then poured through all my recipes and whipped up a Chocolate-Espresso Mousse Cake without a single trip to the grocery store.

Every penny we save allows us to spend more on quality ingredients such as fresh, organic fruits and veggies, preferably from our Farmers' Market because everything there just tastes better.

I also love Trader Joe's because I can get rBST-free cheeses at reasonable prices, nitrate-free lunch meat and bacon, as well as organic eggs, milk, juice, peanut butter, flour, granola, etc. Every so often I hit the national grocery chain near my house for stuff I can't get at TJ's and deals on meat. A few weeks ago I hit the Mother Lode - packages of five chicken breasts for a little more than $5, and six thighs for just under four bucks!

That night I made my mom's chicken and donggu (dried shiitake mushrooms) stir-fry with organic Chinese broccoli I'd picked up for $1 at the Farmers' Market. As I was cooking, I realized the total cost of dinner was somewhere in the neighborhood of $5. Beat that Melissa d'Arabian! Emi loved it, and we even had leftovers for the next night.

I was inspired. I decided to challenge myself to come up with more Five Dollar Plates and make it a regular Mixed Plate feature. (My Curry Lentil Soup recipe comes pretty close to being a Five Dollar Plate: $2 bag of lentils, $2.50 head of organic cauliflower, plus a couple more bucks for an onion, bacon and a carrot.)

Next, I tried David Lebovitz's Roast Chicken With Caramelized Shallots. I love his blog. Not only does it have awesome recipes, but I get to vicariously live the life of an American in Paris. When I read his yummy-sounding recipe for a new twist on roast chicken, I just had to try it out. Lucky for me, I had a freezer full of chicken thighs.

Ultimately, this recipe was more than $5. The shallots cost as much as the chicken - $1.99 for a package of two at Trader Joe's. I also made mashed potatoes using veggies leftover from our St. Patty's Day corned beef boil, and sauteed about 1/2 a bag of organic baby spinach ($1.50 for a 6 oz. bag) in a little bit of olive oil and garlic.

Still, I decided to include it because I think you can trim the cost a bit with some savvy shopping. For instance, substitute thighs with drumsticks ($2.
50 for five drumsticks at Trader Joe's) and look for shallots at a discount grocer. Plus, I really needed some photos for this post.

UPDATE: I just bought a pound of shallots from Safeway for $3, and 4 shallots weighed less than 1/2 a pound which brings the total for this dinner less than $5.50.

This recipe was as delicious and effortless as its creator claimed. One thing I'd do differently: skip turning over the chicken. The skin stuck to the dish, leaving some of the tastiest bits inaccessible.

Chicken and Donggu Stir-Fry with Chinese Broccoli

1 chicken breast, sliced into thin strips roughly an inch long
2 lap cheong (Chinese sausage), diced
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 bunch of Chinese broccoli, chopped into 2-inch lengths
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs. oyster sauce
2 tbs. soy sauce
1 tbs. peanut oil

Combine chicken, soy sauce and garlic and let marinate for two hours.

Soak mushrooms in hot water for several minutes to rehydrate. Drain, and squeeze out excess water, reserving a few tablespoons for later. Slice the mushrooms and set aside.

Heat oil in a pan on medium high heat and add lap cheung, rendering out the fat. Throw in the chicken and stir frequently. When chicken is completely cooked, add mushrooms, broccoli and oyster sauce. Mix thoroughly. For a thicker "sauce", dissolve 1/2 tsp. of cornstarch in a tablespoon of water and mix with the chicken and veggies.

Serve with rice.

$1 - chicken breast
$1 - broccoli
$3 - sausage, mushrooms, rice
$5 total

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Let Them Eat Ice Cream Cake

Brandon doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, but his absolute favorite dessert is mint chocolate chip ice cream. The first time I made it for him I used fresh mint ala David Leibovitz. And I didn't just use mint from the supermarket, or even the Farmers' Market. I actually bought a live plant, stuck it in a pot, watered and nurtured it until there were enough leaves to harvest for the recipe.

"It takes like a plant," my loving husband opined after taking a few bites of my homemade ice cream.

The next time I made mint chocolate chip ice cream, I just skipped the steeping process and used 2 tsp. of mint extract.

Brandon loved it.

Then again, when I made this quickie version, he loved it, too, so I'm not sure how discerning he is. Me? I much prefer the altered David Lebovitz's recipe. The combination of the rich, creamy, French-style frozen custard with the cool, refreshing mint, is to die for.

I decided to up the ante and made a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake for Brandon's birthday. I made the ice cream a couple days in advance, and the only thing I did differently was store the container in the freezer door instead of in the back so the ice cream would stay soft and easier to spread over the cake.

I baked the cake the day before Brandon's birthday dinner. I used Paula Deen's Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake recipe, which was super easy and turned out great. It's my new go-to cake recipe and I can't wait to make it again. I'm already thinking of ideas for Emi's 2nd birthday ...

I decided to make a small cake using a couple of three-inch round pans, and because I have a terrible track record of sticking cakes, I went with my non-stick, spring form pans that I buttered and floured just in case. As an extra precaution, I even cut out parchment circles to line the bottom of the pans. Plus, I have this handy dandy, off-set, silicon spatula that is great for sliding between the pan and the cake.

Paula's recipe makes three 9-inch layer cakes, so I halved the ingredients and still ended up with too much cake. Once the cakes had cooled, I cut off the rounded tops using a serrated knife, then carefully cut each cake in half to create two layers. (Check out this video of Flo Baker and Julia Child to learn how to cut a layer cake evenly - the relevant part is about 12 minutes into the video.)

Instead of a cardboard cake round, I used the bottom of my spring form pan as a base for the first layer of cake. Taking an off-set spatula, I spread about a 1/2 inch layer of ice cream over the surface of the cake, then topped it with the second cake. I repeated the steps one more time, then "iced" the cake with ice cream.

I used the bottom of my second spring form pan to cover the top of the cake, then lined the sides with strips of parchment paper and covered the entire cake in plastic wrap before storing it in the back corner of my freezer. I set the freezer to the coldest temperature and let the cake harden overnight.

I kept things simple since Brandon doesn't get excited about elaborately decorated cakes, but if you want you could use fondant to cover the cake. That will give you a smooth slate to decorate with fondant cutouts or icing.

If you prefer more ice cream than cake, here's another option to try: Place a single layer of cake, approximately 1/2 to 3/4-inch high, in the spring form pan and fill the rest of the pan with ice cream. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer overnight. When you're ready to remove the pan, use a silicon spatula to separate the ice cream from the sides of the pan. Occasionally dip the spatula in hot water to keep it from sticking to the ice cream.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Duck Confit

For Christmas Brandon gave me The Cooking of Southwest France by Paula Wolfert, who supposedly changed American cuisine with her recipes for duck confit and cassoulet. She's basically the Julia Child of rustic French cooking.

I'd never heard of her, but I'm also more comfortable rolling tekka maki than curing duck.

I think Brandon was hoping I'd suddenly get the urge to preserve poultry and then whip up a rich, hearty cassoulet. But we don't have a vacuum packer to sous v
ide duck legs, and the traditional method calls 6 cups of rendered duck or goose fat, plus some Butcher's lard.

Yeah, right. Maybe when Emi goes away to college.

A few weeks ago, however, Anne Burrell demonstrated her short-cut version, or what she called "Cheater's Duck Confit." What I like most about Anne's show "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" is her emphasis on techniques rather than just recipes. Basically her approach to confit is to skip the lengthy curing process and cooking the duck low and slow to render out the fat, then browning and braising it with wine, fresh thyme and bay leaves.

It looked easy enough, so I decided to make it for Brandon's birthday.

Since duck is out of season, I had to buy it frozen at our local gourmet grocery store, and at nearly $30 for four legs, I was pretty nervous about this dish turning out. Thankfully, Anne's recipe was as easy as she made it look on TV.

I put the legs skin-side down in my trusty LeCreuset dutch oven and let the fat render out on very low heat (second to lowest s
etting) for more than an hour, before turning up the heat to medium-high to brown both sides. I couldn't believe how much fat those legs produced. My pot had a good half-inch of bubbling, yellowish, yummy goo.

Browning the duck was as good as frying it.

The only glitch came when I cooked the onions in the covered dutch oven. There was so much condensation that the onions never really caramelized, so if I were to do this again I think I'd leave it uncovered. The rest of the recipe was a breeze.

While the duck and onions were braising in the oven for 90 minutes, I got to work on my side dish - celery root and potato puree. Other suggested side dishes included lentils, a salad of dandelion greens, spinach or potatoes cooked in duck fat, but I wanted something starchy and somewhat bland to balance the fatty confit.

The long braising time turned the duck a deep, rich brown and the meat was so tender it fell away from the bones.
I also served asparagus spears sauteed in a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. The clean, acidic bite of asparagus helped cut the richness of the otherwise delicious meal.

It turned out that one duck leg per person was plenty. But if you cook more than you need, you can always use the leftovers to make cassoulet.

Tune in later for my take on ice cream cake!

Celery Root Puree
1 large celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 to 5 medium-sized red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons of butter
1 cup heavy cream

Combine water, milk, salt and pepper into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add celery root and potatoes. Cook until veggies are fork tender. Drain liquid and add cream and butter. Puree with a food mill or immersion blender. Salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Curry Lentil Soup

Brandon came home from work sick yesterday and the first thing he asked was whether we had anymore chicken soup. Unfortunately for him, I'd eaten the last can of Progresso the week before when my cold was at its worst, but a quick survey of the cupboard revealed a bag of lentils ...

I decided to make lentil soup. Although I perused a couple online recipes, ultimately I made up my own and it was a hit with both Brandon and Emiko, the World's Pickiest Toddler.

The great thing about this dish is that it's packed with fiber and protein from the lentils, not to mention the nutritional goodies from carrots and cauliflower. The other thing that's nice about dried lentils is they don't have to be soaked overnight.

Here's the hearty, Indian-style soup I came up with using ingredients we had at home:

Curry Lentil Soup
4 strips of bacon cut into lardons
1 yellow onion diced
1 carrot diced
3 large garlic cloves minced
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
1 lb. of dried green lentils
1 tsp. yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1/3 tsp. ground cumin
1 qt. chicken stock
1 qt. water
1 tbs. salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, fry the bacon on medium heat to render out the fat. Lower heat and add onion and carrots. Sweat the vegetables with a pinch of salt and pepper until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. Mix in garlic, then add cauliflower, curry, coriander and cumin.

Rinse lentils and drain before combining with veggies in the pot and stir. Pour in the chicken stock and water, making sure to deglaze any brown bits of bacon stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Check occasionally and add more water if necessary.

Once lentils are tender, add remaining salt and pepper to taste. If you salt the lentils before they're tender the skins will toughen and prolong cooking time, which is about an hour.

I went easy on the curry since Brandon was under the weather. One teaspoon was just enough to give it some flavor, so if you want more heat boost the amount of curry and maybe toss in a few pinches of chili powder.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

I love dim sum.

The Chinese equivalent of afternoon te
a, dim sum is an assortment of small dishes including, steamed and fried dumplings, cakes, noodles, sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves and savory meats, distributed through the restaurant on rolling carts and served with pots of hot tea.

Seriously, Yum.

So when my mom brought over a couple of taro roots, I decided to make standard dim sum fare, woo
tul gow, or taro cake, in honor of Chinese New Year.

These days, most people would rather go out to a dim sum restaurant than make it themselves, but a few years ago I set out to learn how to make some of my favorite Chinese comfort foods and tried out a few dim sum recipes along the way, including taro cake. After sampling a nearby restaurant's dried, tasteless version, Brandon, my mom & I decided that my recipe was far superior.

Woo Tul Go (adapted from Ellen Leong Blonder's Dim Sum turnip cake recipe)
2 tbs. small dried shrimp
1 small taro root, about 12 oz.
2 tsp. oil, preferably peanut oil
1 Chinese sausage, finely diced
1 scallion, finely sliced
1 tbs. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 3/4 cup rice flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper

Soak the shrimp in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the water.

Using rubber gloves, peel taro root and dice into 1/4 inch cubes. (Taro's rough exterior can irritate skin.) In a saucepan, combine taro with 2 cups of cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover, letting it simmer for about 15 minutes until it turns a pale purple and is tender. Drain, reserving water.

Heat oil in a skillet and stir-fry shrimp, sausage and scallions. Toss in cilantro and mix, then remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together rice flour, salt, sugar and pepper. Combine reserved shrimp and taro water. Measure out 3 cups, adding water if necessary. Add water and taro to the rice flour and stir until it becomes a thick
paste. Add sausage mixture and combine well.

Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with a parchment paper circle and oil the paper and side of the pan generous
ly. Pour the cake mixture into the pan and cover with another oiled parchment paper circle, using a spatula to level off the top.

Set up a steamer (You can use a bamboo one, those aluminum, tiered steamers or do what I did - inserted a round, metal trivet into a regular 7-quart pot. If you don't have a trivet, try inverting a pie tin.) Cover and steam for 40 minutes, replenishing water when necessary. Let cool and remove from cake pan, carefully peeling away parchment paper. Cut into wedges or diamonds. Heat oil in a skillet and pan fry, giving the tops and bottoms a crispy, brown crust. Serve hot with soy sauce and spicy chili oil on the side for drizzling.