Monday, August 27, 2007

A quick Japanese meal

I finally went grocery shopping at a Japanese grocery store near my house and got inspired (read: hungry) to make a quick Japanese meal for myself. As I usually get too bored and lazy cooking for myself, I like to make quick, easy stuff.

Also I am woefully inept at grocery shopping -- that is, I am somehow incapable of planning for a week's worth of meals on the spot, so I usually end up either with enough to make just three meals, or once I ended up buying a lot of lunchable type items like apple sauce, juice boxes, jellow, etc., all things that came neatly, individually packaged. These recipes don't call for much but just the staples in your pantry.

Japanese sauteed ginger pork

  • 3 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (do not subsitute Chinese cooking wines. It doesn't work!)
  • 1 pound thinly sliced pork loin or pork for sukiyaki (as labeled at my supermarket. It's a little fatty so I trimmed some of the fat off)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup scallion, cut in 2-inch pieces
  1. In a large bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the ginger with soy sauce, sake and mirin. Add the sliced pork, cover, and marinate for about 15 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet or wok over high heat. Add the scallion pieces and the 1 tablespoon of reserved grated ginger, stir until fragrant, about a minute. Add the pork and lay them flat on the pan and fry until brown. The pork should have a brown, crispy look to it. Do not cook on low or medium heat, as the juices will not cook fast enough to get a crispy texture.
  3. Serve over hot steamed rice.
note: I think whisking in maybe half a tablespoon of miso into the dressing could be good. Will try that next time.

Eggplant with Sesame Dressing

2 small Japanese eggplant, sliced in the diagonal into 2 inch long pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Sesame dressing (see below)
2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds

Rub the eggplant slices with salt. Let them sit on a plate lined with paper towels for about 15 minutes. Some liquid will come out of the eggplant. Rinse the eggplant slices and pat dry.
Over medium heat, add the oil to a flat sautee pan. Cook the eggplant until brown on all sides.

Drizzle with dressing and a sprinkle of toasted white sesame seeds.

A note about the sesame dressing:
Ok I cheated. I used bottled dressing! I know that is not in the spirit of this blog but here is the dressing that I used:

But I HAVE made sesame dressing before, I swear. And here is the recipe for the sesame dressing:
* 3 tbsps rice wine vinegar
* 1 tbsp sesame oil
* 1 tbsp soy sauce
* 1 tsp sugar
* 1 tsp ground white sesame seeds

Whisk all ingredients together except the oil. Add the oil slowly and whisk into emulsion.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Anthony Bourdain Blogs Top Chef

Anthony Bourdain -- he who eats live, beating cobra hearts, chain smokes like it's going out of style, and wears a black leather jacket no matter where -- is my favorite culinary bad boy. As if I am not already enough of an Anthony Bourdain fan, he now blogs about the reality show Top Chef for Bravo! TV network! Thanks to Amy for pointing this blog my way. Food blogging can't get much better than this:

(Commenting on an episode where some female contestants balked at the idea of having to cook while wearing heels and dressy club attire. Howie is one of the most unbearable chefs in the competition.)

"I gotta tell ya; I've worked with women cooks who could crank out a hundred fifty meals off a very busy grill station in freakin' stilettos and still have the energy to give Howie the beating of his life..."

Chef Rocco DiSpirito came out as the guest judge for an episode. Unfortunately he looked a little like either Nicole Kidman or, according to Bourdain, David Gest -- just a touch too much of the Botox.

"There was no glory to be had last night. There were no winners. Not when everybody, contestants and judges alike, were left wiping Rocco's Frozen Love Juice off their faces at the end."

Anthony's Blog on Top Chef

Some of Anthony Bourdain's books:
Kitchen Confidential
The Nasty Bits
Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
A Cook's Tour
Typhoid Mary

Panera's summer strawberry poppyseed salad

I have been somewhat addicted to this salad this summer at Panera cafe. Though I usually don't like sweet-ish salads, I really love this one! I think it is easily reproduced with store bought dressing (use Brianna's dressing. Link below).

Strawberry and Poppyseed Salad

4 cups Romain lettuce, wash, dried, cut and chilled
1 cup blueberries, washed and picked over
1/2 cup sliced pineapples (optional)
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup canned mandarin orange segments (substitute fresh mandarin orange if you want)
1 cup poached or grilled chicken breast
Brianna's home-style poppyseed dressing
Handful of roasted walnuts, optional

I have no more instructions than toss everything to combine, serve immediately!

A good complement to this meal is some bread and iced apricot black tea.

Enjoy what's left of your summer this year!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hong Kong Style Cheese Rice Seafood Casserole

, so I think I have figured out approximately how to make a Hong Kong Style Cheese Rice Seafood Casserole. Yay!


Rice portion:
2 cups of cooked rice
1/2 pound scallop
1/2 pound shrimp
2 medium sized shallots (or onions if you prefer)
3 eggs
ketchup (amount to your liking)
butter/olive oil (for you healthy people)
frozen carrot/peas/corn
1 bag of mozzarella and parmesan cheese mix
Salt and pepper

1-1 1/2 cups of white wine (a dry wine like a chardonnay)
2 cups heavy whipped cream
1 medium sized shallot (or onion)
Salt and pepper

Rice portion:
Stir in the butter/olive oil in a heated pan. Add shallots and let it fry a little. Add in shrimp and scallop. Stir until pink/cooked. Add in frozen peas/carrots/corn. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in rice and mix with seafood etc. Beat 3 eggs in a bowl, then pour over rice so that the rice has a nice yellow color. Stir until egg is cooked. Add ketchup to your taste level.

Add wine and shallots to heated pan. Simmer over medium heat until it has almost evaporated. Whisk in cream and continue to let it simmer until it is bubbling a bit. add in salt and pepper.

And now the casserole:
Pour cream over rice and mix together. If there is not enough sauce, you should make more. It really depends on how creamy you like your casserole to be. Scoop rice mixture into two oval baking pans. now put a layer of the cheese over it. If you want it to be more crispy, consider mixing in grated parmesan in the cheese mixture. Put into oven on high broil and let it cook until the top is brown and crispy (usually takes about 5-8 minutes, depending on your oven.)

VOILA! Very yummy and rich, so maybe only eat it once every two months.

Old Fashioned Chocolate cake

I made this yesterday and it was super easy and yummy! I don't remember the last time I baked not from a cake-mix, so it was quite a feat for me. If I can do it, you can too!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup best-quality cocoa
1 1/2 sticks soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons good-quality vanilla extract
2/3 cup sour cream

Special equipment: 2 (each 8-inch diameter) layer tins with removable bases, buttered

6 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
3/4 stick unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon good-quality vanilla extract
Sugar flowers, to decorate, optional

Take everything out of the refrigerator so that all ingredients can come room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put all the cake ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, cocoa, butter, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, thick batter. If you want to go the long way around, just mix the flour, sugar and leavening agents in a large bowl and beat in the soft butter until you have a combined and creamy mixture. Now whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla, and eggs and beat this into your bowl of mixture.

Divide this batter, using a rubber spatula to help you scrape and spread, into the prepared tins and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, which should be about 35 minutes, but it is wise to start checking at 25 minutes. Also, it might make sense to switch the 2 cakes around in the oven halfway through cooking time. Remove the cakes, in their tins, to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of their tins. Don't worry about any cracks as they will easily be covered by the frosting later.

To make this icing, melt the chocolate and butter in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Go slowly either way: you don't want any burning or seizing.

While the chocolate and butter is cooling a little, sieve the confectioners' sugar into another bowl. Or, easier still, put the icing sugar into the food processor and blitz to remove lumps.

Add the corn syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is combined whisk in the sieved confectioners' sugar. Or just pour this mixture down the funnel of the food processor onto the powdered sugar, with the motor running.

You may need to add a little boiling water, say a teaspoon or so, or indeed some more confectioners' sugar, depending on whether you need the frosting to be thiner or thicker. It should be liquid enough to coat easily, but thick enough not to drip off.

Choose your cake stand or plate and cut 4 strips of baking parchment to form a square and sit 1 of the cakes, uppermost (i.e. slightly domed) side down.

Spoon about 1/3 of the frosting onto the center of the cake-half and spread with a knife or spatula until you cover the top of it evenly. Sit the other cake on top, normal way up, pressing gently to sandwich the 2 together.

Spoon another 1/3 of the frosting onto the top of the cake and spread it in a swirly, textured way (though you can go for a smooth finish if you prefer, and have the patience). Spread the sides of the cake with icing and leave a few minutes until set, then carefully pull away the paper strips.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Auntie #1's Mapo Tofu Recipe Goes to California

My friend Nandita made Auntie #1's Mapo Tofu recipe last weekend and reported great success! She said it was absolutely delicious. The only thing she would correct would be the amount of water. She says much less than 1 cup.

Anybody else tried this?

Veggie Fried Rice -- With the Right Soy Sauce!

Finally I have realized what has been wrong with my fried rice: I have been using the wrong soy sauce! Ever since I smuggled a bottle of the soy sauce used at Ahma's house, my Chinese cooking has improved by at least...20 percent by conservative estimates! I think using fresh shiitake mushroom probably helped a lot too.

I have been making this vegetable fried rice lately. It is so easy that I hesitated posting it, but given the lack of my culinary adventures lately, here it is.

Vegetable Fried Rice

4 cups cooked white or brown rice
1.5 cups fresh button shiitake mushroom, lightly washed and diced
3/4 cup cooked soy beans (edamame)
3/4 cups cooked corn (I use frozen white corn and cook it in the microwave)
1/2 cup diced red and yellow bell peppers
3/4 cup cooked broccoli or broccoli rabe
Vegetable oil
Soy sauce to taste
Sea salt and pepper to taste.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over medium high heat. Throw in the mushroom dices and let cook for about a minute or two. Don't stir too much. Let the mushrooms brown a little bit. When the mushrooms are cooked, push them to the side of the wok. Add two tablespoons soysauce into the side of the hot wok. When the soysauce bubbles, stir it together with the mushrooms until combined. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for two to three more minutes together until flavors meld. Add cooked rice and stir fry until combined. Add a table spoon more oil if neccessary. Pour one to two tablespoons of soysauce onto the side of the wok and combine with the rice to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Simple. Viola!

I eat this with anything. More stir fried vegetables or even an egg!