Saturday, March 31, 2007

Blackened Shrimp with Mango Couscous


This is a super-yummy dinner combination. I found the Blackened Broiled Shrimp recipe in the Winter 2007 issue of Taste of South magazine. I realized that I have not had "blackened" anything in a long time and have never made it before. It was easy enough, just sprinkle on some seasoning and pop under the broiler.
Blackened Broiled Shrimp
(Serves 6 to 8)

Ingredients:
32 large shrimp
1/2 cup peanut oil or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons Vanns Blackened Seasoning
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Louisiana-style hot sauce (optional)

Instructions:
Preheat the broiler. Shell and devein the shrimp, leaving tails on. Brush shrimp with oil and sprinkle with blackened seasoning. Broil for 2 minutes per side, until shrimp are pink and opaque.

To serve, squeeze lemon wedges over shrimp and season with a few dashes of hot sauce, if desired.

To accompany the blackened shrimp I decided to make Mango Couscous from The Soul of a New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson (which is quickly becoming my new favorite). This is an excellent couscous that can stand alone as a light meal. Imagine the smell of mango, jalapeno and garlic being sauteed in olive oil. It tastes as good as it sounds. The flavors and textures are complex between sweet mango and raisins, fresh tomatoes and lime, and a bit of spice from the jalapeno. I absolutely love it.
Mango Couscous
(4 servings)

Ingredients:
1 cup couscous
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1 mango, peeled, pitted and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
1 jalapeno chili, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1 ripe tomato, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup loosely packed small cilantro sprigs, chopped
1/4 cup loosely packed small parsley sprigs, chopped
Salt

Instructions:
Prepare the couscous according to the package directions. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the garlic, mango, and jalapeno and saute until the mango begins to color lightly. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the couscous, raisins, tomato, lime juice, cilantro, and parsley and toss to heat through. Season with salt.

Serve hot or at room temperature.


Friday, March 30, 2007

Chocolate Tostada with Salt


I recently had salty chocolate for the first time and I adore the combination. Vosges Barcelona Exotic Candy Bar is made with milk chocolate, smoked almonds and gray sea salt. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was amazing! I love salt and add it to lots of different things. So I was really excited to try it when combined with chocolate.

Inspired by that candy bar, I decided to try the Chocolate Tostada with Olive Oil and Salt recipe I found in The New Spanish Table. It is really easy to make and a very interesting little snack which would be fun appetizer at a party. But I confess, I like the candy bar better.

Chocolate Tostata with Olive Oil and Flaky Salt
Tostada de Chocolate con Aceite de Oliva
(serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients:
5 to 6 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), grated

1 piece (9 to 10 inches long and at least 2 inches in diameter) dense, chewy baguette, cut in half lengthwise

Fragrant extra-virgin olive oil

Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

Instructions:

Preheat the broiler.

Place the chocolate in the top of a double boiler and melt it over simmering water.

Brush the cut side of each baguette half very lightly with olive oil. Broil the bread until golden, watching out that it doesn't burn around the edges. (Alternatively, you can toast the bread.)

Spread the cut side of each baguette half with the melted chocolate, lightly drizzle a little olive oil over the chocolate, and judiciously sprinkle it with salt. Cut each baguette half on the diagonal into roughly 1 1/4-inch pieces and serve at once.


Tandoori Chicken with Date-Nut Couscous


I haven't made anything from Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine in a while. I found this recipe for Tandoori Chicken with Date-Nut Couscous in the April, 2007 issue. This recipe was part of a feature in an article about buying in bulk - like at Costco or Sam's Club. I'm a big fan of roasted chicken legs and also couscous so I knew I needed to try this out.

I chose to marinade the chicken over night because that is just easier since I have a full time job and hectic work weeks. So it ended up being pretty quick to throw everything together. I love when quick and easy dinners during the week end up having so much flavor - and this definitely did. Using yogurt as a marinade is new to me, so that was fun to experiment with something new. I ended up halving the recipe and I had enough food for dinner, leftover lunch and a bit for the dogs.

You can find the recipe for Tandoori Chicken with Date-Nut Couscous on the Every Day with Rachael Ray website.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

#90: Malt Ball Cupcakes


When I first read Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007 I was intrigued by #90 Malt Ball Cake. I LOVE Whoppers so I thought the concept of a cake that tastes like Whoppers sounded awesome. I searched online quite a bit for a recipe with no luck. But finally, with their March 2007 issue, Food & Wine published the recipe from Brooklyn’s Baked. The recipe is for a three-layer cake. I don't have three cake pans and I'd rather eat cupcakes than cake so I decided to modify the recipe. I made the full cake batter recipe and didn't even use half of it with the 24 cupcakes I made. I decided that I would not need all of the frosting so I halved the recipe. But it ended up that I still had a ton left over. I think I only used a third of it.

I was able to find most of the ingredients for this recipe in my local grocery store. The bittersweet chocolate called for is for over 70% cocoa but I purchased the Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chips which are over 60%. I also could not find "cake" flour. So three cups total of all-purpose flour. I am not sure how the cake is supposed to end up, but I seemed a little dense to me. I brought them all into work and everyone raved about them. But I thought the fresh nutmeg added a strong flavor that was a bit unpleasant to me. But I'm glad I made these because they ended up being interesting. And I realized that I am NOT much of a baker!

You can find the recipe online at the Food & Wine website.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Zucchini and Tomatoes Baked with Fontina


This recipe for Zucchini and Tomatoes Baked with Fontina from the Al Forno cookbook reminds me of Summer. My house smelled like a trattoria while this was cooking. What a fresh combination. The richness of the zucchini and fontina combined with the tangy tomatoes was really great. It was perfect since I live in Florida and it was still 70 degrees while I ate dinner tonight.

I halved this recipe since there was no way I could eat 6 zucchini by myself. And I didn't think it would last that well. However now, after seeing that it still has alot of shape even after it is roasted, I think it will be fine chilled for lunch tomorrow.

Look for the Jihva for TOMATOES roundup after April 1st at My Workshop.

Zucchini and Tomatoes Baked with Fontina
zucchine ripiene con pomodori e fontina
(Serves 6)

Ingredients:
6 medium zucchini (as straight as possible)

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for sprinkling

about 30 cherry tomatoes, halved

3-4 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

8 oz fontina cheese, sliced

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
Grease a shallow ovenproof dish. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Halve the zucchini lengthwise and trim a little off the uncut sides so that they will sit still like boats. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the soft-seeded centers. Arrange the boats in a row in the prepared dish.

Put the garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl, stir well, then brush over the cut surfaces of the zucchini. Arrange the halved tomatoes in the grooves. Season well, then sprinkle with olive oil and bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and arrange the cheese over the zucchini and tomatoes. Return the dish to the oven for another 10 minutes to melt the cheese. Serve immediately while the cheese is still bubbling.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Cuban Pork Chops with Mojo and Sofrito Mashed Potatoes


Last weekend I caught Guy's Big Bite on the Food Network. I've have only seen it one or two other times and each time I am super-impressed by the awesome meals he prepares. So I decided to get the ingredients and try one out. Tonight I made Cuban Pork Chops with Mojo and Sofrito Mashed Potatoes.

This is one amazingly tasty meal. Each recipe is good on its own, but they are great when put together. I have been concentrating on cooking a lot of Asian food lately, I forgot how tasty some good classic recipes can be. The pork chops are so flavorful due to the marinade followed up with a spice rub. And the potatoes really complement all the spices in the pork chops. The diced peppers in the potatoes are a really nice twist on an old classic.

It did take me over an hour to make this dinner, but I will do it again. I know my mom will love this one and I'd like to make it for her sometime.


UPDATE: The links below have been expired at the Food Network Website. I am leaving them active on this post just in case they ever come back.

You can find the recipes for Cuban Pork Chops with Mojo and Sofrito Mashed Potatoes on the Food Network website.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

#108: Sparkling Wine and Sushi


It's my birthday and I was going to cook some yummy meal, but I was out doing things all day and I decided to treat myself to an awesome sushi dinner. I did get it to go because I had to get home to let the dogs out. But it was still a treat.

I chose this day to crack open the bottle of champagne I bought a while ago. I guess it's actually sparkling wine, but it's the same to me. A few months ago my wine guy recommended this bottle of Mionetto Vinicoltore A Valdobbiadene from Italy. He suggested this when I asked for Sparkling Wine from a Bottle with a Metal Cap which is #108 on F&W's 100 Tastes to Try list for 2007 (since I can't everything on the initial 100, I've added some from the additional 15 suggested on their website).

When preparing to open the bottle I still expected some type of pop! It must be instinct from champagne bottles exploding and the cork hitting the ceiling in the past. But it just popped right off and there was a bit of a fizz sound like the old pop bottles. The wine was just as bubbly as the corked versions.

The wine is sweet and dry. It went really well with the sushi, especially since I like to order spicy sushi. The spicy and rich food vs. the sweet and bubbly wine was an indulgent combo - perfect for my birthday. My friend came over with birthday cake and flowers which as perfect!


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Stir-Fried Noodles with Chicken Slivers


I had a little bit of a hard time with this recipe for Stir-Fried Noodles with Chicken Slivers from the Revolutionary Chinese Cooking cookbook. It was because of the noodles. I found Ho Fun Rice Noodles at the Asian market. They are dried and in one of the many noodle packages you have to look through. This package is mint green colored. The recipe instructions mention "soaking" the noodles but I chose to follow the instructions on the noodle package to cook them first. I think this is what you need to because I don't think you can stir fry them without them being cooked. Does anyone one know the traditional way to stir-fry noodles?

My noodles stuck to my wok. It was hard to stir-fry them. I was able to save most of them but then I had to completely clean out my entire wok before re-heating and cooking the rest of the dinner.

The end result is really tasty though. I like the "chicken slivers" but cutting up the chicken in really long and thin strips. I brought the leftover for lunch and my friend enjoyed it too. I was a little concerned it would be too oily, but it reheated just fine.

If you can find Ho Fun noodles, definitely give this one a try!

Stir-Fried Noodles with Chicken Slivers
ji si chao fen

2 boneless chicken breast halves (12 oz. total)
4 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked for 30 minutes in hot water from the kettle
1 1/2 lb. soaked Ho Fun Rice Noodles (about 5 oz. dry)
3 scallions, green parts only
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
2 tsp. chopped salted chiles (can substitute Sambal Oelek)
2 tsp. soy sauce
Salt and White Pepper
5 oz. bean sprouts
2 tsp. soy sauce
Salt and white pepper
5 oz. fresh bean sprouts
1 tsp. sesame oil
5 Tbsp. peanut oil for cooking

for the marinade:
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. light soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. potato flour (can sub cornstarch)
1 tsp. Shaoxing wine
1 Tbsp. Water

Cut the chicken breasts along the grain of the meat into fine slivers. Place a bowl with the marinade ingredients and mix well; set aside.

Drain the mushrooms, squeeze dry, and remove the stems, then cut into fine slices. Cut the scallion greens into thin slivers about 1 1/2 inches long; set aside.

Heat the wok over a high flame until smoke rises, then add 3 tablespoons of the oil and swirl around. Add the drained noodles and stir-fry until hot and fragrant; set aside. (If you have deep-frying oil at hand, you can deep-fry instead, which is faster.)

Rinse the wok if necessary, then reheat with 2 tablespoons fresh oil. Add the chicken slivers and stir-fry until they separate. Add the ginger, garlic, salted chiles, and mushrooms and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the hot noodles and continue to stir-fry, adding the soy sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the bean sprouts and stir-fry until they are piping hot. Finally, add the scallion greens, stir-fry a few times, then remove from the heat, and stir in the sesame oil. Serve immediately.

Variations: The same dish can be made with egg noodles, and you can use pork slivers instead of chicken if you prefer, or a mixture of mushrooms if you are vegetarian.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spiced Egg Salad


Oh man, this is ANOTHER really surprising recipe. I don't eat egg salad. And I surely don't make it. But I just cracked open The Soul of a New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson and this recipe for Spiced Egg Salad jumped out at me. This cookbook is filled with recipes for African cuisine. I am still very unfamiliar the spices, cooking techniques and even common foods. I think I have only tried African food one time and I let the waiter suggest something. It seemed like a perfect starting place for me because it is full of ingredients that I am familiar with (except for the bird's eye pepper, but I just used a jalapeno). There are no special sauces or spice mixtures I needed to make.

This is not your typical egg salad! No yellow creamy and tangy sauce. This is made with fresh global ingredients. The tomatoes make it refreshing. The eggs make it fulfilling. Peanuts add crunch and the spices add flavor. The cilantro and lime add the perfect finish. I hard-boiled the eggs the night before to save some time, but it is pretty quick to put together (buying fresh tomatoes and onions already diced would make it even faster). I love that it is served a room temperature. I think it's going to taste even better when I bring it for lunch tomorrow because the flavors will have been melding together a bit more.

I'm sure you can make a sandwich out of this, but I just ate it plain. I didn't want the bread to dull any of the flavoring. But I think it would go really, really well with a whole-wheat pita.

Since my first recipe turned out so well, I'm really excited for this book. Yesterday they announced that The Soul of a New Cuisine has been nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award in the International category (I wrote an article listing all the nominees at PaperPalate.net).

Spiced Egg Salad
(4 servings)

1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/4 cup unsalted blanched dry-roasted peanuts
1 bird's eye chili, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
2 small red onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over low heat. Add the peanuts and saute until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chilies, onions, and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, ginger, and chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl.

Gently fold in the eggs, tomatoes, cilantro, soy sauce, lime juice, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and the salt. Serve at room temperature.


#42: Healthy Snack Bars that Taste Great


Listed as #42 on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007 are Healthy Snack Bars that Pass the Taste Test. The recommended "snack bar" is Gertrude and Bronner's Magic Alpsnacks which can be ordered from drbronner.com. I was hesitant to order these since you can not order an individual bar - you have to order a 12pk for $33.00. I missed the fact that there is a mixed case available and I ordered the Apricots & Cranberries version.

These are really interesting. They are not gooey and sugar-coated like most snack bars. Yet they are not dry and brittle like most health bars. They have a great consistency and satisfying flavor. At first I thought it was kind of nutty tasting. But then I read the ingredients and noticed they are made from hemp, which I had never eaten before. And I liked it alot! I brought the box of snack bars to my office and left it out on my desk. I work in a room with 6 guys and the box was empty when I came into work the second day. Everyone enjoyed them and even asked me if I was going to order some more.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Junshan Chicken with Silver-Needle Tea


Ah, back in my kitchen after vacation. I couldn't wait to get back to my Revolutionary Chinese Cooking cookbook. Tonight I made Junshan Chicken with Silver-Needle Tea. It looks bland because it is so white, but it is delicately tasteful. There is a slight tea flavored sauce which seems to enhance the tender chicken. I didn't want to eat this with rice because I didn't want the rice to over power the natural flavoring.

I have never prepared a food recipe with tea before, but it has been on my list of things to do. I visited Teavana this past week and purchased several types of loose teas, including silver needle (which is known to have a high amount of antioxidants).

Many of the recipes in this cookbook call for chicken with the skin on. I can not find it anywhere, be it the thigh or the breast meat. It's boneless and skinless or boned and with skin. So I either have to make the recipe without the skin or mess around cutting it up. Tonight I went with the boneless chicken so there is no skin. And it still tasted great.

This was a fun recipe for me to prepare. I liked that I got to "wash" the tea as I have seen in tea ceremonies. And it was also fun to "double" fry the chicken by cooking it twice. It probably isn't that good for the waist-line though because of all that peanut oil.

Junshan Chicken with Silver-Needle Tea
jun shan ji pian

2 boneless chicken breast halves with skin
1 Tbsp. Chinese Yellow or Green Tea Leaves
Salt
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1 1/4 cup peanut oil for cooking

for the marinade:
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Shaoxing wine
1 Tbsp. potato flour
1 large egg white

Holding your knife at an angle to the board, cut the chicken into thin slices. Put the slices in a bowl, add the marinade ingredients, and mix well. If there is any excess egg white that does not cling to the chicken, discard it.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil, and then let the water cool to 176 degrees before pouring 1/2 cups over the tea leaves. Strain off the water immediately, then add 5 tablespoons fresh water at the same temperature to the leaves, and leave to infuse.

Heat the oil over a medium flame until it reaches 275 degrees. Add the chicken nd swiftly separate the slices with a pair of chopsticks. When the chicken slices are pale but not completely cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Drain off all but 3 tablespoons oil and return the wok to a high flame. Add the chicken and salt to taste and stir-fry. When the chicken and salt to taste and stir-fry. When the chicken is just cooked, pour in the tea infusion, leaves and all, and when the liquid boils, add the potato-flour misture and stir as it thickens the juices. Immediately remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil, and serve.


My Celebrity Chef Match

This is a fun quiz I took to find out who which "celebrity chef" I am most like . . .
My celebrity chef match is
The Naked Chef

No cause for alarm! Your cooking counterpart doesn't sauté, simmer, or season in his birthday suit. It's just his take on food prep that's naked. Like Jamie Oliver, you've probably got a low-key, no-frills approach to cuisine — and maybe to life, too!

Whether you're cooking for company or for yourself, you're keen on creating succulent flavors that make your taste buds do summersaults — without spending the whole day slaving over a hot stove. After all, you've got other things to do and places to be. And your knack for keeping up with culinary trends and stripping cooking down to the basics will make your cooking a winning welcome at any meal.

Who’s Your Celebrity Chef Match?
Brought to you by Tickle


Sunday, March 18, 2007

#71: Pork Stir Fry with Mangosteens


I was hesitant to try mangosteens after Kate from Kate in the Kitchen had a bad experience with the mangosteen juice she tried. However, I had to press on since I committed to try as many of the F&W 100 Tastes to Try as I can. While I was shopping at the Asian grocery store last week I found a large can of mangosteens, which are listed as #71 on the F&W 100 Taste to Try list.


Mangosteens are an Asian fruit that look like a little plum with a top on it. Since I got them in the can they were already peeled. They have sections like an orange and have a fleshy consistency. I think they taste like very ripe pears. They have a seed inside which is like seed in a mango.


I searched online and found a recipe for Pork Stir-fry with Mangosteens which was originally published by Sunset magazine in 1989. It is really good. The mangosteen holds up well adds a sweet little bite to the stir fry which is a nice change up from the normal stir fry with just meat and veggies.

Pork Stir-fry with Mangosteens
(serves 4)

1 can (1 lb. 4 oz.) mangosteens or longans, packed in syrup
Teriyaki sauce (recipe follows)
3/4 pound boneless pork, such as loin shoulder, or shoulder or butt
2 to 3 tablespoons salad oil
4 green onions (ends trimmed), thinly sliced
1 whole green onion, ends trimmed

Drain fruit; reserve syrup for teriyaki sauce. If made ahead, cover fruit and syrup and chill up to overnight.

Trim off and discard most fat and tough connective tissue from pork. Slice meat across the grain into 1/16- to 1/2-inch-thick strips about 3 inches long. Mix meat strips with teriyaki sauce; cover and chill at least 1 hour, or up to overnight.

Place a wok or 10- to 1 2-inch frying pan over high heat. When hot, add 2 tablespoons oil. Lift 1/2 the meat from teriyaki sauce with a slotted spoon; add to pan. Stir-fry until meat is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Lift out with slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat to cook remaining pork; add oil to prevent sticking. Add marinade, all meat and juices, fruit, and sliced onion to pan. Stir gently until boiling. Spoon onto a platter; garnish with whole onion. Warn your guests that mangosteen sections may have seeds.

Teriyaki Sauce
Stir together 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup reserved fruit syrup (preceding; save balance for other uses), 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger, and 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dining Spring Break Style


I have spent the last week with my sister and 10-year-old nephew. He came to visit me in Florida during his Spring Break. We did all the Florida things - Busch Gardens, Universal Studios, Yankees Spring Training game, museums, aquariums, beaches . . . I'm exhausted. Usually, I have adult visitors and I get to eat some of the best food in Florida. The seafood down here is great. But this past week has been full of entertaining a 10-year-old which to me means junk food. We had a ton of theme-park food or quick meals at chain restaurants. We were doing to many things to take the time to go out for nice dinners. We did sneak in one though. The best meal was some fresh King Crab legs at The BeachHouse in Bradenton Beach. We all had seafood and even my nephew ordered the crab legs. We ate just before sunset and it was gorgeous.

But our week of fun has ended and life returns back to normal. I can't wait to get back in the kitchen!


Saturday, March 10, 2007

#43: Chicken in Amaranth Sauce


I love when the meals I cook surprise me. It is one of the best parts about cooking recipes. Sometimes they are negative surprises when you are sure that the ingredients will yield an amazing meal, but you become disappointed at the blandness or flavoring. But other times the results are much more positive. When I read the recipe for Chicken in Amaranth Sauce, I did not know what to expect, but it didn't seem like anything special. The only reason I made it was because I wanted to try something with Amaranth because it is listed as #43 on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try.


I purchased the puffed amaranth from Nu-World Foods who sells a wide variety of amaranth products. I found this excellent recipe for Chicken in Amaranth Sauce on their website.

Puffed Amaranth is a nutritious, whole grain, gluten-free product high in quality protein, dietary fiber, polyunsaturates, Omega 3 fatty acids and a variety of vitamins and minerals including iron and calcium. Puffed Amaranth is a uniformly puffed white seed, 1/16” in diameter, likened to a micro-popcorn, which maintains its identity through typical processing.


All the onions in this recipe scared me. Two large onions! 4 chicken breast halves. I pictured the end result something like Chinese food that I order which has a little bit of meat and alot of onions and sauce. But the onions are sliced thin and they melt down. There is no strong onion taste at all.

Making the sauce was simple even though when I read the instructions I thought it would take a while to cook. I saved myself by purchasing diced tomatoes from the produce section. So all I had to do was toast the amaranth puffs and do a bit of measuring. The most work came from slicing the onions and spinach.

The end result was amazing. Tender chicken simmered in a spicy sauce. Those chipolte peppers really have some kick! I am not sure what ethnicity this recipe would fall under, but it reminds me of Indian food - mostly due to the sauce and heat. I loved it!


Thursday, March 8, 2007

My Box 'o Food


I have been challenged to show my fridge by Jennifer from Nutcase 101. Now I feel all exposed. Why is it scary to post a picture of my open fridge on the Internet for the world to see? It's a normal fridge. A fridge full of all sorts of random stuff. Nothing to be ashamed of. It's not like I have body parts or scientific experiments in there.

Right now there are a lot of leftover ingredients from my Asian cooking spree. Also some meat and veggies I planned to cook this week (I took this photo on Saturday).

The highlights are in my freezer:

three huge bags of candy (reese's peanut butter cups, snickers and kit-kats) that was leftover from a Halloween event I helped out at. I just stuck them in the drawer of the freezer and have one every now and them.

Vosges Haute-Chocolate Exotic Ice Creams

Frosty Paws - ice cream for my puppies

The real secret is that the key to my food world is not really my fridge. It's my pantry. That is where I buy all sorts of goodies to stock up on just because they look interesting or are on sale or something like that. The fridge just has my current foodie quests.

But go ahead. Peak into my culinary world . . .


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

#49: Fragrant-and-Hot Tiger Prawns


Another great meal I owe to my project to taste all the foods on Food & Wine's 100 Tastes to Try in 2007 list. #49 Hot Hunan Shrimp references the Revolutionary Chinese Cooking cookbook.

British cookbook author Fuchsia Dunlop was the first foreigner—and one of only four women in her class—to study full-time at China’s leading culinary school, the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. In February, she’ll publish her second book, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, about Hunan culture and cuisine. This stir-fried shrimp, like most of her recipes, is remarkably doable—and bracingly spicy.


The only problem I have with this book being on the list as it specifies Hot Hunan Shrimp as #49 and there are only 3 shrimp recipes in the entire book: Fisherman's Shrimp with Chinese Chives, Fragrant-and-Hot Tiger Prawns, and Noodles with Fresh Shrimp and Baby Greens. I decided to try the Fragrant-and-Hot Tiger Prawns because it seems to be the "hottest" of the three. And it was delicious!

One thing to note is that the cooking is SUPER-FAST. I had to read the recipe a few times so I could remember everything I was supposed to do before I started. I still had to glance back at the book now and then, but the recipe is pretty simple and it kind of cooked itself.

I really want to dive into this book alot more. But I have some family coming into town and we are going to be out and about for an entire week. I probably won't even cook at all. So I'm using this as my bed-time reading. It's really interesting to learn all about the Hunan way of cooking.

Fragrant-and-Hot Tiger Prawns
xiang la xia

1 lb. tiger prawns or jumbo shrimp, thawed if frozen
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. Shaoxing wine
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
1 tsp. chili bean paste
1 tsp. chopped salted chiles
3 Tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. dark soy sauce
2 scallions, green parts only, finely sliced
1 Tbsp. finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 cup peanut oil for cooking


Cut the heads off the prawns or shrimp, and remove the legs. Remove as much of their dark veins as possible.

Heat the oil in a wok over a high flame until it reaches 350 degrees. Shake the prawns dry. Tip them into the wok and deep-fry for less than 30 seconds, until they have turned pink and are partially cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the oil, and return the wok to a medium flame. Add the ginger, garlic, chili bean paste, and chopped salted chiles and stir-fry until the oil is wonderfully fragrant and stained a deep red by the chiles. Add the water and dark soy sauce and bring to a boil.

Add the prawns and then cook over a high flame to reduce the sauce, stirring constantly. When the water in the sauce has evaporated, add the scallions and bell pepper to give them a lick of heat. You should smell the fragrance of the onions after a few seconds, at which point remove the wok from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.


Monday, March 5, 2007

Japanese Burger with Daikon


While going through the Japanese Light cookbook, I have been making what I tend to think of as traditional Japanese recipes. But this cookbook has alot of "American" recipes too. For example, the Japanese-Style Chicken Burger with Grated Daikon is a traditional American burger but it is made with Japanese ingredients.

I didn't make this because I love new types of burgers. In fact I rarely eat burgers because there seems to be many better food options. But decided to give this a try just to see what a Japanese flavored burger would be like.

And I am pleased to report that this is a really tasty burger! Combining tofu with ground chicken made it very light and not a bit greasy. The daikon (Japanese white radish) and soy sauce topping made it perfect to eat with alone - no bun required.

Japanese-Style Chicken Burger with Grated Daikon

4 ounces firm cotton tofu, well drained
8 ounces ground chicken
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 small free-range egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon cornstarch
salt and black pepper
8 ounces daikon, peeled and grated
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a large mixing bowl, mash the tofu with a fork and drain off any excess water. Mix in the chicken, shallots, garlic, ginger, egg, and cornstarch. Season with salt and pepper. Shape the mixture into four equal-sized patties about 1 1/4-inches thick. Put them on a plate lined with paper towels, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to develop the flavors.

Meanwhile, grate the daikon and combine with the lemon juice and soy sauce.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the burgers for 5 minutes on one side, then turn them over and cook 4 minutes, or until golden on the outside and white throughout but still juicy. Top each burger with a generous spoonful of the daikon mixture.



Sunday, March 4, 2007

Cider-Glazed Scallops


I have died and gone to heaven. Somehow the Cider-Glazed Scallops from The Irish Spirit cookbook are the BEST scallops I have ever eaten in my life. And I have eaten a lot of scallops. These scallops tenderly fried in rich Irish butter tastes like eating crab or lobster with drawn butter sauce. I couldn't help it - I was frying the scallops in batches and while the second batch was cooking I ate four or five scallops from the first batch.

And even better than crab or lobster, the apple cider glaze over the top adds a touch of sweetness that is sublime. The scallops get served over Irish Apple-Potato Cakes and the combo is perfect.

While this meal is quite easy to prepare, I somehow used every single pot in my entire kitchen. Between the boiling of the apples and potatoes and the frying of the scallops and the potato cakes . . . I had my counters covered with every pot, pan and measuring utensil when done. But it was so tasty I didn't care, and I will make these again. But I will have to double the batch because I can eat this entire recipe by myself. I really hope you try this one out because it is amazing!

Look for more Irish recipes at the roundup of St. Patrick's Day: Green or Irish, an international food blogging event hosted by kochtopf.

Cider-Glazed Scallops
Serves 4 as main course

1 cup Irish cider
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound sea scallops, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter
1/4 cup minced fresh sage
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 small Granny Smith apple, unpeeled, cored, sliced and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Irish Apple-Potato Cakes

In a small saucepan, bring the cider and wine to a boil. Cook stirring frequently, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the mixture is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Set aside.

Season the scallops with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. When the butter starts to brown, add the scallops and cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove from the heat, transfer to serving plates, and cover to keep warm.

Return the skillet to the stovetop over medium heat. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Stir in the cider mixture, sage, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, the stir in the apple. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and the apple pieces are slightly tender. Season again with salt and pepper. Uncover the scallops and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve with the potato cakes.


Irish Apple-Potato Cakes


Well, it's March! I've been waiting to crack open The Irish Spirit cookbook I got a few weeks ago. Not that I need to eat Irish Food only around St. Patrick's Day, but I did want to have a few Irish posts around this time of year.

Okay, I'll fess up. These are so good that I was eating them raw! Well, everything is safe to eat but I was eating spoonfuls before they got fried. Mashed potatoes and apples? What an AMAZING combo! This was another one of those dishes that I couldn't believe I made something on my own that tasted so good.

I am not the best fryer in the world. My Irish Apple-Potato Cakes ended up like brown mush. I don't know . . . when my grandma made mashed potato cakes they were all nice and crisp and like individual little cakes. When I tried to flip mine they were all mush. But they TASTED amazing and that's what counts, right?


Check for the Monthly Mingle #8: Savory Cakes roundup at hosted by Meeta at What's for Lunch Honey at the end of the month.

Irish Apple-Potato Cakes
Makes 8 Cakes

1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and mash. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the apples and water. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the apples begin to break up and are pulpy. Drain the apples and stir into the potatoes. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter, the parsley, flour and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. With floured hands, form the mixture into 8 flat cakes. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the oil. Fry the potato cakes for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until browned and crisp.


Pineapple Muffins with Coconut Crumble


I originally bought the fixing for these muffins to participate in the Muffin Monday blogging event. The problem was that I didn't get to make them in time. So i decided to make them Sunday morning for breakfast.

The smell of the coconut baking is amazing. But the best part is getting at the crumble while it is still hot. These muffins didn't last too long as leftovers. They become to moist, maybe due to the pineapples. By the second day of leftover I had to throw them out.

Pineapple Muffins with Coconut Crumble

Crumble:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons self-rising flour
1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Muffins:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 can (8oz.) crushed pineapple, undrained
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups self-rising flour

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Spray the bottom of 12 muffin cups with vegetable spray.

Prepare the crumble: Combine sugar, flour and butter in a bowl. Work the butter into the mixture using a fork. Stir in the coconut and set aside.

Prepare the muffin batter: Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric miser on medium-high speed until the mixture is creamy, 30 seconds. Add the egg, pineapple and juice, milk and vanilla and blend on low speed until just combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Fold in the flour with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, 25 strokes. The batter will still be a little lumpy. Spoon or scoop 1/4 cup batter into each prepare muffin cup, filling it two thirds of the way full. Sprinkle a heaping teaspoon of crumble topping on each muffin and gently press the topping into the batter.

Bake the muffins until they are lightly golden and just spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 180 to 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cook for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the muffins, left them up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes. The muffins are ready to serve.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Soy-Marinated Roast Chicken Legs


Chicken legs are my favorite part of the chicken. I was excited when I found this recipe for Soy-Marinated Roast Chicken Legs in the Japanese Light cookbook. I made a double batch and used the extra chicken for leftover tacos and in a salad.

It may be a simple concept, but the process patting the chicken dry after marinating and then brushing with oil makes them extra crispy. It was perfect and I learned something new!

Soy-Marinated Roast Chicken Legs

4 chicken legs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

for the marinade:
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sake
3 tablespoons mirin
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons sugar

Make 3-4 incisions on each chicken leg across the muscle tendon to help the marinade penetrate. Put the chicken in a bowl, mix together all the marinade ingredients, and pour over the chicken. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Take the chicken legs out of the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Mix the vegetable and sesame oils, brush the legs with them and roast for 25-30 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the chicken inside until you are ready to serve. This way the chicken legs will be juicy and succulent.


Friday, March 2, 2007

Leftover Tuesdays #2: The Roundup

I'm so happy that I was able to host this month's Leftover Tuesdays food blogging event. David at Cooking Chat came up with this great idea for sharing creative ways of using our leftovers. This month we had participants from around the world.
Rachel of Coconut & Lime in Baltimore, MD made Triple Citrus Cranberry Cake using leftover cranberries.
Lydia of My Kitchen in Sydney, Austrailia made Braised Pork Belly with Yam using leftover roasted pork and yam.
Kazari of I Think I Have a Recipe for That... in Canberra, Australia made Chicken Crepes using leftover chicken
Megan of What's Cooking in Ontario, Canada made "Spanish Inquisition" Rice using leftover taco sauce packets
Brilynn of Jumbo Empanadas in Canada made Arancini (fried rice balls) using leftover risotto
Chris of Mele Cotte near Atlanta, GA made Baked Stuffed Onions using leftover rice and veggies.
Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine in New Jersey made Veggie Patties in Spicy Gravy using leftover veggie patties.
Bhargavi of Maa Inti Vanta in Tokyo made Indian Style Onigiri (Japanese rice ball) from leftover rice.
Mary of ceres & bacchus in Kingston, New York made Mashed Potato Cakes using leftover mashed potatoes.
Anjali of Anna Parabrahma in Bangalore made Recycled Dhokla using leftover dhokla.
Mia of Cloudberry Quark in Helsinki, Finland made Summer Pudding with Cardamom & White Wine using leftover french bread.
Freya of Writing at the Kitchen Table in Essex, UK made Skate with Caper Sauce and Crisp Vegetables with Honey Dressing using leftover skate wings she had tucked away in the freezer.
Ulrike of K├╝chenlatein in Kronshagen, Germany made Gratinated Gnocchi with Bacon using leftover potatoes and bacon.
Tigerfish of tezcape:I'm a foodie in California made Chicken Penne with Celery and Sun-Dried Tomatoes using leftover rotisserie chicken (also made shredded chicken sandwiches, Chai Buey Soup and Chicken Noodle Soup).
Fruit Tart in Champaign, IL made Meat, Beans and Rice using leftover pork loin.
Claire of Cooking is Medicine in Mississippi made Roasted Chipolte Raspberry Pork Salad with leftover pork loin.
David from Cooking Chat in Massachusetts, the originator of Leftover Tuesdays, made Chipotle Pork Stew using leftover chipotles in adobo sauce.
And finally, I made Sliced Tuna Soft Tacos using leftover tuna steaks.