Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sesame Soba Noodles with Avocado Rose

Usually when I get an avocado in my Boston Organics delivery, I just hope that I'll be able to figure out how to use it before it gets overripe.  But this time I knew exactly what to do with it; I was going to attempt an avocado rose!  I had first discovered these a few weeks ago thanks to a post on Food52 on the trend taking over Instagram.

To make one, slice an avocado in half.  You want a ripe avocado, but not one that is so soft it'll be hard to manipulate without smushing.

Remove the pit, then carefully peel away the skin.  See that little bit of flesh left on the skin below?  It ended up being the only blemish on my rose.  =(

Place on half cut side down on a cutting board and slice the avocado thinly.  It helps to use a paring knife since it has less surface area to stick to the avocado than a chef's knife (which I found out the hard way).

Start shifting the slices diagonally.

Try to make as long of a chain as you can make without breaking it.

Start curling in one end of the chain and continue rolling it in until you've made a rose!

To have something to eat with the avocado, I tried making some sesame soba noodles based on my go to peanut butter noodle recipe but using tahini instead of peanut butter.  I really liked how the buttery avocado added a cool creaminess to the sesame noodles, so much so that I'd pair the two again even if I didn't have enough time to make an avocado rose!

Sesame Soba Noodles with Avocado
makes 2 servings

2 handfuls of soba noodles
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
A pinch of sugar
1 avocado
Sesame seeds and chopped scallions, for garnish (optional)

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the soba noodles.  Cook until done.  Drain in a colander and run under cold water so that the noodles don't stick to each other.

Mix the tahini, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and sugar until it forms a smooth paste.  Toss with the noodles, adding water to thin, if desired.

Serve with sliced avocado and garnish with sesame seeds and chopped scallions, if desired.

Previously:  Will It Puffle?
Last Year:  Scoglio all'Andiamo (Saffron Fettuccine with Seafood in a Lemon Garlic White Wine Sauce)
Two Years Ago:  Easy Chilquiles with Fried Egg and Avocado
Six Years Ago:  Lilikoi Malasadas (Portuguese Donuts filled with Passion Fruit Curd)
Seven Years Ago:  Moffles!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Will It Puffle?

I was so excited when I received an electric bubble waffle maker from my brother and sister-in-law for my birthday last year.  I had visions of making the eggettes I used to get from NYC's Chinatown and SF's Genki and maybe even making a puffle cone a la Cauldron Ice Cream or Monkey King Tea (below).  But after trying the recipes I found on-line for eggettes and puffle cones (basically the same recipe) I'm still not satisfied with the results.  I even played around a little with the ingredients but nothing I made recreated the aroma, texture, or taste I was looking for.

Not to be deterred, I decided to experiment with some other batter-based foods I had made before.  First up was pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread).  Since some of the eggette recipes used a little tapioca flour, I figured it would be fun to try an entirely tapioca flour based batter in the bubble waffle maker.  The results were incredible!

The bubble waffle maker was able to encapsulate the chewy, airy bread in a crispy crust in a fraction of the time it takes to bake the pão in the oven.  And it's sooooo cute!

I also tried Korean pajeon (above) and Japanese okonomiyaki (below), and the results were decent, but not really worth writing about.

Probably my favorite use of the bubble waffle maker has to be the Taiwanese oyster omelette.  Since I remember the sweet potato starch batter to be super sticky, I added a half tablespoon of oil to the batter itself and made sure to oil the waffle iron well before adding the batter.  And even though I took those precautions, I was still surprised when the omelette came out rather easily from the iron.

As with the pão de queijo, I loved how the outside of the batter got super crispy but still stayed moist inside.  And the shape of the bubble waffle maker gave it a lot more nooks and crannies for an even higher crispy to chewy ratio!

So does anyone else have a good eggette recipe or recommendation for what to try next in the bubble waffle maker?

Next:  Sesame Soba Noodles with Avocado Rose
Previously:   The 4-Hour Baguette
Last Year:  Gordan Ramsay's Sublime Scrambled Eggs - 2 Ways
Two Years Ago:  Nutella Mini Crepe Cakes
Six Years Ago:  The Best Scones in the World
Seven Years Ago:  Samoa Cupcakes and the Cupcake Exchange

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The 4-Hour Baguette

I've made the famous no-knead bread a few times now, and while the concept is great, the reality is I'm always a little disappointed with the results.  Even though there's no kneading involved, it's still a multi-step recipe that can take 20+ hours to finish, and while the texture of the ensuing bread is great for a home cook, it's kind of lacking in flavor.  So I'm pretty excited to have found a recipe for bread that only takes 4 hours from start to finish, still has great texture, and is packed full of flavor.

I pretty much followed this Genius Recipe from Food52 for Dan Leader's 4-Hour Baguette but I applied some of the concepts I learned from Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast and added some diastatic malt powder.  According to the King Arthur Flour website, the malt powder promotes "a strong rise, great texture, and lovely brown crust".  You can certainly make this bread without it; I just used because I still had some left from making croissants that one time.

What I love about this recipe is that it doesn't call for any special equipment.  Don't have a stand mixer?  You can knead the dough by hand.  Don't have a pizza stone?  Use a rimless baking sheet or an upside-down baking sheet to bake the loaves on.  Don't have a baguette pan or a baker's couche?  Just use parchment paper and something long and weighted on the sides to help shape the loaves as they rise.  Don't have a bread lame?  Just use a sharp knife or even scissors!  As you can see, while I could definitely use more practice with shaping and scoring baguettes, I'm quite pleased with the results considering it was my first time!

The 4-Hour Baguette (adapted from Dan Leader's recipe on Food52)
makes 3 loaves

1 1/2 cups warm water, about 115°F
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups bread flour (if you don't have any bread flour, just use all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (optional)
3 teaspoons kosher salt
Oil, for greasing bowl
1/2 cup ice cubes or 1 cup water

Place the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over it.  Let stand for 10 minutes, until foamy.

Add the flour(s) and malt powder (if using) and stir by hand with the dough hook until all the flour has been absorbed.  Let sit for 20 minutes to allow the flour to hydrate.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead using the dough hook attachment on medium speed, until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.  When done, wet your hands and reach underneath the dough and grab about a quarter of it.  Gently stretch this section of the dough up and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough.  Rotate the bowl 90° and repeat 3 more times.  This process is called applying a fold.  Transfer the dough seam side down to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a cold oven until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

After it has doubled, apply another fold, cover, and return to the oven again.  Let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the oven and place an oven-safe pan on the bottom rack.  Place a pizza stone or a rimless or upside-down baking sheet on the rack above.  Preheat oven to 475°F.

Lightly flour a large piece of parchment paper and place on another rimless baking sheet or cutting board.  Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and cut the dough into 3 even pieces.  Shape each piece into a rectangle and fold the longer sides in to make a narrower rectangle, sealing the seams with the heel of your hand.  Gently roll the rectangle into a 14" log.  Place the logs, seam side down, onto the parchment paper about 2-3" apart from each other.  Lift up the paper between the logs to form pleats and hold them in place with foil/plastic wrap/parchment paper boxes on either end.  This helps shape the baguettes as they rise so that they expand up instead of out.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit until it doubles in size, about 50 minutes.

When fully proofed, remove the plastic wrap and flatten out the parchment paper to space out the loaves.  Using a super-sharp knife, scissors, or bread lame, score the top of the dough in long, diagonal slashes.  Trim the parchment paper, if needed, so that it is about the same size as the pizza stone/baking sheet in the oven.

Pull out the oven rack with the stone or baking sheet on it and, using the corner of the parchment paper as a guide, slide the loaves, still on the parchment paper, onto the baking stone or pan.  Place the ice cubes or water in the oven-proof pan (this produces steam that lets the loaves rise fully before a crust forms).  Bake the baguettes until darkly browned and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes; cool before serving.

Next:  Will It Puffle?
Previously:  Tropical Pulled Pork on Griddled Banana Bread Sandwiches
Last Year:  Chocolate Mochi Snack Cake
Two Years Ago:  Dan Bing (Taiwanese Egg Crepe)
Three Years Ago:  Happiness Cake
Six Years Ago:  Mama Huang's Secret Beer Duck Recipe
Seven Years Ago:  Cincinnati Chili 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tropical Pulled Pork on Griddled Banana Bread Sandwiches

Back in January I found an incredible deal for airfare to St. Thomas so I went ahead and booked it along with four nights at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef using my points.  Even though the weather forecast the weeks up to the trip showed a lot of possible rain, it turned out to be beautiful and sunny every day we were there!
Sunrise at the Frenchman's Reef

On our third day, my friend Sooyun and I took the passenger ferry from Red Hook to Cruz Bay in St. John and hiked the Lind Point Trail to Honeymoon Beach.  After some relaxing time on the beach, we continued over to the Caneel Bay Resort for lunch.  Little did I know I was about to have one of the best sandwiches I had ever eaten.  We almost didn't order it (I was craving a turkey sandwich, and Sooyun almost ordered something else before I reminded her about the rum pork on crispy banana bread sandwich she had pointed out earlier), but after tasting it, I'm so grateful we did.  I think it was that perfect balance of salty pulled pork and sweet banana bread plus the crunch from a red cabbage slaw.  The memory of this sandwich haunted me for over a month before I finally decided to try and recreate it.
Floating at Honeymoon Beach, St. John

For the pulled pork I pretty much followed my slow cooker kalua pork recipe except I added a quartered orange and garlic plus a splash of passion fruit rum.  For the banana bread I followed this basic recipe but you can just use your favorite recipe as long as the bread can be sliced and griddled without falling apart.  Then I made a quick cabbage slaw using coconut white balsamic vinegar, lemon sugar, and shredded red cabbage.  If you don't have smoked sea salt, passion fruit rum, coconut white balsamic vinegar, and lemon sugar, you should be fine using regular sea salt, another rum (or skipping the rum altogether), a light vinegar (like cider or rice wine), and regular white sugar.  But then where would be the fun in that?

Tropical Pulled Pork on Griddled Banana Bread Sandwiches
makes about 8 sandwiches

For the pulled pork:
3 lbs. boneless pork butt/shoulder
2 tablespoons smoked sea salt
1 orange, quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup rum (tropical flavor like passion fruit or mango preferred)

Using a steak knife, poke the pork all over and rub with smoked salt.  Place in the slow cooker along with the orange quarters and garlic cloves.  Turn on low and cook for 12 hours. 

Halfway through, flip the pork and add the rum.

When done, remove the excess fat and shred the pork with a fork.

For the red cabbage slaw:
3 cups shredded red cabbage
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon coconut white balsamic vinegar (or other light vinegar)
1 teaspoon lemon or white sugar

Please the shredded cabbage in a salad spinner or a colander over a bowl.  Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage and mix.  Let sit for an hour, then rinse and squeeze/spin out the excess water.

Transfer the cabbage to a sealable container.  Add the vinegar and sugar and mix.  Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, until ready to use.

For the sandwiches:
2 loaves of your favorite banana bread (or just one loaf if you want to make open faced sandwiches)

Slice the banana bread to the thickness you prefer and butter both sides.  Heat a pan over medium-high heat and cook the banana bread slices, turning once, until both sides are browned.

Top one slice with the pulled pork and slaw and add the other slice.  Serve with plantain or yucca chips and die of happiness.
Sunset at Frenchman's Reef

Next:  The 4-Hour Baguette
Previously:  Pad Thai
Last Year:  Homemade Squid Ink Pasta
Two Years Ago:  Miso-Glazed Eggplant
Three Years Ago:  Peking Duck Pizza
Six Years Ago:  Bacon Fat Caramels
Seven Years Ago:  St. Patrick's Day Maki

Monday, November 16, 2015

Pad Thai

I got to go to Bangkok for a meeting last week and went a day early so I could explore the city a bit on my own first.  Besides visiting the temples, enjoying the view and drinks at Sky Bar, shopping at Siam Paragon, and getting massages for 270 baht ($7.50!) an hour, I also took a cooking class at the Silom Thai Cooking School.  I chose a Sunday morning class because I liked the proposed menu:  tom yum soup, green papaya salad, pad thai, massaman curry, and mango sticky rice.

The class was very well organized;  first we took a bus to a wet market to pick up the ingredients and then we walked to the classroom which had three different sections:  one for food prep, one for cooking, and one for eating.  Most of the ingredients that we used were already pre-measured for us, so there was only a minimum of chopping and stir frying but enough that we felt like we were actually cooking!  We also got a go at the enormous mortar and pestle to make the papaya salad and the massaman curry paste.

Above are the ingredients we used for pad thai.  Starting at the 10 o'clock position and going clockwise, we have fish sauce, ground chili powder, ground peanuts, pickled daikon, palm sugar, tamarind paste, young garlic cloves, tofu, bean sprouts, scallions, and an egg.  After stir frying everything together with pre-soaked rice noodles, it was plated and served with additional bean sprouts, ground peanuts, sugar, and chili powder to adjust for personal taste.

Pad thai was my first introduction to Thai food (back at the now shuttered Thai Cuisine in Ithaca, NY), and I immediately fell in love with the sweet and sour noodle dish.  I've never tried making it before though because the flavors seemed so foreign to me.  Even after becoming more familiar with fish sauce, there was still something else that eluded me, and I think that ingredient was tamarind paste.  It provides that characteristic sour taste essential to pad thai.  If you can't find it at a local Asian grocery store, the cooking school recommends using an equal volume of vinegar, but I would really recommend using tamarind paste if you can find it.  You can also substitute brown sugar for the palm sugar and cashews for the peanuts.  When I made this recipe again at home I omitted the pickled daikon and shrimp but otherwise it tastes pretty close to what I remember!

Pad Thai (adapted from the Silom Thai Cooking School)
serves 2

4 oz. dried rice noodles
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
2 tablespoons tamarind paste or white vinegar 
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6 shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/4 cup firm tofu, cubed
1 handful bean sprouts (reserve half for serving)
2 scallions, cut into 1" pieces
1 or 2 eggs
2 tablespoons ground roasted peanut, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground dried red chili powder (optional)
1 tablespoon pickled daikon, finely chopped (optional)
Lime slices

Soak the rice noodles in room temperature water until soft (20-30 minutes).  Drain and set aside.

Mix together the fish sauce, sugar, and tamarind paste to make the pad thai sauce.

Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat, add garlic and fry until fragrant.

Add the shrimp, tofu, bean sprouts, and scallion pieces and stir until the prawns are cooked.

Crack the egg(s) straight into the wok; stir rapidly until scrambled.

Add the drained noodles and half the pad thai sauce, half the ground roasted peanuts, ground dried red chili powder, and pickled white radish, if using. Mix everything together and keep frying until the noodles become soft and translucent.  If the noodles are not fully cooked yet, add a splash of water and cook until done.  Taste and adjust for seasoning with additional pad thai sauce.

Serve with the lime slices, reserved bean sprouts, roasted ground peanuts, ground dried chili powder, and additional sugar if you like.

Next:  Tropical Pulled Pork on Griddled Banana Bread Sandwiches
Previously:  Mini Homemade Pretzel Dogs
Last Year:  Raindrop Cake
Two Years Ago:  My Mom's Taiwanese Sticky Rice
Three Years Ago:  Duchikey (or Simplified Turducken)
Six Years Ago:  Nanaimo Bars
Seven Years Ago:  Homemade Crystallized Ginger

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mini Homemade Pretzel Dogs

My church held their second annual Highrocktoberfest last week and asked me if I could provide some snacks again.  Last year there was a competition for best cornbread, which I won with my Elote-Style Cornbread Waffles.  This year there was no such competition; I was just told to make something that would go well with beer.  Since I'm not a big beer drinker I wasn't really sure what that would be, but then I took inspiration from the fact that this was a riff on the German Oktoberfest. What could be more German than sausage and pretzel?

I pretty much followed Alton Brown's soft pretzel recipe but decided to skip the salt in the pretzel dough since the sausage would provide enough salt.  I also threw in some diastatic malt powder since I had a lot left over from making croissants.  You can use cocktail weiners for this, but I was able to find mini kielbasa sausages at my grocery store so I went with those.  And instead of buying pretzel salt, I just used a flaky sea salt.  I wouldn't suggest using regular table salt for the topping, and even regular kosher salt might be too fine.

Mini Homemade Pretzel Dogs
makes about 48 dogs

2 1/4 cups warm water (about 110-115°F)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
33 oz. (about 6 3/4 cups) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon diastatic malt powder (optional)
3 oz. butter, melted
48 cocktail weiners or mini sausages
2/3 cups baking soda
1 large egg
Pretzel or flaky sea salt

Mix the water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, then sprinkle on the yeast.  Let sit for about 5 minutes until foamy.

Add the flour, malt powder (if using), and melted butter and mix to combine on low using the dough hook.  Once the dough comes together, adjust the speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes.  Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Divide the dough in half, then each half in half, each quarter in half, and each eighth in half.  You'll end up with 16 pieces of dough.  Divide each of these pieces into thirds so you end up with 48 pieces of dough.  One at a time, roll the dough into a long snake about 9" long.  Starting at one end, wrap the dough around a weiner until it is completely encapsulated, sealing the ends.  If you have leftover dough, just pinch it off and reserve*.

In a large pot, mix the baking soda with 10 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Working in batches, add the pretzel dogs to the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet, 1" apart from each other.

Beat the egg with a tablespoon of water.  Brush each of the pretzel dogs with the egg wash and sprinkle with the salt.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until dark golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  Serve with honey mustard dip (recipe below).

*If you have enough extra dough, you can try making some traditional pretzels!

Honey Mustard Dip
makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup mustard (I used a mix of yellow mustard and whole grain mustard)
1/4 cup honey

Mix together and serve with the pretzel dogs.

I made this dip to go with the pretzel dogs, but after all those were gone, they put out hard pretzels to snack on and it went really well with those too!

Next:  Pad Thai
Previously:  Pasta con le Sarde
Last Year:  Mochi Donuts and Pon de Rings
Two Years Ago:  Bahian Style Moqueca (Brazilian Fish Stew)
Three Years Ago:  Magical Cold Brew Coffee

Friday, July 24, 2015

Pasta con le Sarde

I had the pleasure of joining my cousin in Italy again, this time on a 9 day trip to Sicily.  We started in Palermo and made our way in a counter-clockwise tour of the island.  One of my favorite stops was the geological formation known as Scala dei Turchi just to the west of Agrigento.

It looks like a milky-white set of steps rising out of the Mediterranean Sea, and it's completely free to explore.  While I'm really glad I was able to climb it, I do hope that one day soon the government will decide to protect the area since it will likely become quite damaged from all the human activity.  For more pictures of the trip, check out my Instagram feed.

One of my other favorite stops was the UNESCO world heritage Baroque town of Ragusa.  Not only is it absolutely lovely, it has some of the best restaurants on the island including the 2 Michelin-starred Ristorante Duomo.  We were able to have a 7 course lunch there for only 45 euros (that's like $50 with the recent exchange rate)!

The pasta course was their take on a traditional Sicilian dish:  pasta con le sarde.  From what I remember the waiter saying, they used homemade saffron spaghetti with olive oil poached sardines and bread crumbs with wild fennel.  The version I made uses dry spaghetti from a box and canned sardines, but it's still pretty good, especially if you like sardines.

Pasta con le Sarde (adapted from The New York Times Cooking)
serves 2

1/4 cup raisins
A pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup olive oil plus 3 tablespoons
1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped, fronds chopped and reserved
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 cans sardines in oil
1/2 pound spaghetti or bucatini
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine the raisins, red pepper flakes, and wine in a small bowl and set aside.

In a heavy skillet, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-low heat.  When hot, add the fennel bulb, onion, and garlic.  Season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender, about 25 minutes.

In the meantime, melt the butter in a small pan and add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add the bread crumbs and cook until golden brown.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

When the fennel mixture is ready, add the wine mixture and sardines, breaking them into pieces.  Bring to a boil and gently simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the instructions on the box until al dente.  Strain and return the pasta to the pot set over low heat.  Fold in the fennel-sardine mixture.  Toss in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add 3/4 of the fennel fronts, the pine nuts, capers, and 1/4 of the bread crumbs.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide the pasta among two plates and sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs and fennel fronds over each.  Serve immediately.

Next:  Mini Homemade Pretzel Dogs
Previously:  Garlic Naan
Last Year:  Cleveland Cassata Cake (Bonus:  In a Jar!)
Two Years Ago:  Backyard Mint Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Freckles
Five Years Ago:  Coconut Lime Sorbet
Six Years Ago:  Curried Carrot Soup