January 31, 2007

Mango & Sticky Rice

2 mangoes, sliced
2 cups sticky rice (also frequently labeled "glutenous rice" or "sweet rice")
14 oz coconut milk
1/2 cup light brown sugar

In a medium bowl, cover the rice in warm water. Allow to soak 1 hour. Rinse and drain. Place in a large pot with 2 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Meanwhile, bring the coconut milk, a pinch of salt and the brown sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to cook until it has reduced slighly and is thicker. Place the warm rice into a bowl and pour the hot coconut milk over it. Stir to combine. Allow to sit 30 minutes before serving. Serve with sliced mango.

Yield: about 6 modest servings.

My thoughts:

Mango with sticky rice is my favorite dessert to get when we go to a Thai restaurant. It is super easy to make at home if you can find the glutenous rice. I like to make it with light coconut milk (although I have been served just plain sticky rice with mango, I like it best with the coconut) instead of the regular kind, it has pretty much the same flavor and a lot less saturated fat. Light coconut milk does take slightly longer to thicken then regular coconut milk so figure in a few minutes extra cooking time if you go to make this.

Meatloaf Surprise!

1 small onion minced
2 eggs
2 pounds very lean ground beef
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered
10 oz frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 cups of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 grated Parmesan
1/4 cup green onions
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 teaspoons horseradish
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 350. In a large saucepan, bring water and potatoes to boil. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and mash together with milk, sour cream, butter, salt, pepper, green onion, horseradish. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, onion Parmesan, salt, pepper, parsley 1/3 cup tomatoes and olive oil. On a large (at least 14x12 inch) sheet of waxed paper, pat meat into a 11x9 inch rectangle. On top, spread the mashed potatoes, leaving a 1 inch border. Repeat with the spinach. It should look something like this:

Then, starting at the smaller end, gently roll the meat away from you, while slowly removing the waxed paper at the same time. This is very similar to the way one would make a sushi roll or a jelly roll. Use a spatula if needed to help loosen the meat from the waxed paper. Place the rolled meat, seam side down in a 13x8 inch baking dish. Pour the tomato mixture over the meatloaf and bake uncovered for 1 hour 15 minutes. Allow to stand at least 5 minutes after removing it from the oven before slicing and serving.

My thoughts:
After a few weeks of pretty much nonstop Asian cookery, we decided to go in the absolute opposite direction and try something more kitschy retro Americana. Let me tell you, it is so good! The horseradish gives it a kick and beyond the novelty factor, it is basically a whole meal in one. I love the tomato sauce on top. I read a book once where the author talks about eating meatloaf with "tomato gravy" and while I am not sure if this is quite it, the tomatoes really do take on the flavor of the meat and seasonings and is so tasty. I do recommend using very lean ground beef for this recipe because there is no place for the grease to go except into the potatoes or pooled on the bottom of the pan. We used 90% lean and the meatloaf was virtually grease free.

January 29, 2007

Steamed Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)


2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup warm milk
1/3 cup warm water
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 oz active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in 1/2 cup water, water reserved
1 1/2 cup char siu
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 teaspoons oyster sauce
4 teaspoons hoisin sauce
12 4-5 inch wide wax paper squares

You need to make the char siu the night before you want to make the char siu bao.

For the dough:
In a small bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons of the sugar in the milk and water. Sprinkle in the yeast and allow to sit 10 minutes. Mix in the remaining sugar, 2 cups of flour and the salt. Mix until the dough is no longer sticky, adding additional flour as needed. Place dough on a floured service and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Meanwhile....
To prepare the filling:
Chop the rehydrated mushrooms, reserving the liquid. In a wok or large saucepan, heat the oil saute the mushrooms with the ginger, garlic, and green onions. Add the mushroom liquid, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, cornstarch and sugar. Stir until the sauce thickens. Stir in char siu. Allow to cool.
Back to the dough:
Punch the dough down, roll it into a cylinder. Cut it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Then roll each ball into a circle about 4-6 inches in diameter. Place 1 tablespoon (or slightly more) of filling into the center of the circle. Pull the edges of the circle up over the filling, pinch in the center to seal. Place the buns seam side down on a waxed paper (or parchment, we used waxed paper, but I think parchment would work just as well, if not better) lined cookie sheet
and repeat for each circle, leave a 2 inch space between each bun. Cover and let rise until puffy and light. Bring water to boil in wok or saucepan. Place buns (still on waxed paper squares) in a bamboo steamer. Place over water and steam* about 15 minutes or until glossy and smooth.
Serve immediately.
Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers. Leftover char siu bao can be reheated in the microwave (for about 2 minutes) with great success.

Note: leftover char siu is good hot or cold. Add it to wonton soup, use it in egg rolls, serve over fried rice.
*No steamer? Just brush the tops with egg yolk and bake for about 18-25 minutes in 350 degree oven.
My thoughts:
Unfortunately, there no real dim sum restaurants in Baltimore, so we rarely have the opportunity to indulge in some of our favorite treats. What are char siu bao lovers to do? Make your own! Which is exactly what my husband did this weekend. It is time consuming (I was a char siu bao widow for hours) but well worth the effort. They were amazing! While the thrill of pointing out what you want on a cart was missing, the taste was dead-on. The best part of making your own is being able to put as much or as little pork in each bun as you want and being able to tweak the recipe. The recipe Matt came up with is tailored to our tastes: more ginger and lime was added, the ketchup (which I loathe) that is often a part of recipes for char siu was entirely eliminated in favor of golden syrup. Despite the finagling of the ingredients the flavor is near identical to that of the char siu we've had at various Chinatown establishments. Beyond delicious and well worth the work.

January 28, 2007

Char Siu (Chinese Barbecued Pork)


1.5 lbs boneless pork rib, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 3 inch wide strips
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seed paste
1 tablespoon grated lime peel
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon 5 spice powder
juice of 1/2 lime
few drops red food dye (optional)

Warning: the pork needs to marinate overnight, so make this before you want to serve it.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients except for the pork. Whisk together to form a thick sauce. Place the pork into a ziplock bag and add the marinade. Refrigerate over night. The next day, preheat the oven to 350. Remove the meat from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Place the pork on a a foil lined baking pan and bake for 30 minutes uncovered. Flip the meat over and bake an additional 45 minutes, basting occasionally with reserved marinade. Cut into thin slices or chunks

My thoughts:

Char siu is excellent in egg rolls, wonton soup and is a integral part of char siu bao.

January 26, 2007

Sesame Marinated Steak on Spinach and Soba Noodles

2 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh green chili pepper, minced
1 lb tender beef steak (we used 1 inch thick piece of top round)
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine (sake)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, crushed*
1 tablepsoon lime juice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 2 teaspoons of water
2 oz dried shiitake mushrooms

10 oz frozen spinach, defrosted and drained

soba noodles, cooked

Place the steak, soy sauce, chili pepper, sake, sesame oil, lime juice, garlic, sesame seeds and green onions in a large ziplock bag and allow to marinate at least 45 minutes or up to overnight. While the steak is marinating soak 2 oz. dried shiitaki mushrooms in 1 cup hot water. Remove steak from marinade, reserving marinade, and sear on a hot pan. For a 1" thick steak, cook on high heat for 2.5 minutes on each side for rare steak. Remove steak to a pan and cover with foil. Let sit for 5 minutes and then slice thinly. While steak is cooking, squeeze out mushrooms, reserving liquid, and chop them. Add the mushrooms, cornstarch and liquid to a sauce pan with the marinade. Bring sauce to a boil, cook for 5 minutes and then add the cornstarch mixture. To serve: thinly slice the steak and arrange on a bed of soba noodles and spinach**. Drizzle with sauce.

*This is easiest with a mortar and pestle. In lieu of that, you can crush them between two sheets of wax paper with a rolling pin.

**sauteing the spinach with some minced garlic and sesame seeds is a nice touch, but not entirely necessary.

My thoughts:

Some how the picture didn't come out as appetizing as I would have hoped. I assure you, this was an entirely delicious meal. Dark soy sauce, which vaguely reminds me of some sort of molasses, is a bit strong tasting for dipping but is great for marinades. It imparts a lot of flavor in a relatively short period of time, which makes it great for weekday dinners. Every once in a while top round (some times called "london broil top round") will go on sale for just under $2 a pound (it is generally about $7 per pound) and we always stock up. It freezes well and if you get a thinner cut, it defrosts rather quickly.

January 24, 2007

Tropical Blondies


2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup shredded coconut
2 eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons rum
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour or spray with cooking spray with flour one 8 inch square baking pan. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix throughly, about 2-3 minutes. The batter will be rather thick. Scrape batter in pan. Bake 40-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle of the pan comes out almost clean. The blondie will set up as it cools. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes then remove from pan to continue to cool. Serve at room temperature or slightly above.

My thoughts:
Back on January 22nd, I found out that it was National Blonde Brownie Day and I haven't been able to get blondies out of my head since. It is really only in the last year or so that I have even had a blondie but I already think I like them better than brownies. My favorite kind of brownies are more than just straight brownie, like the cheesecake brownies I made a while back. Blondies are a lot easier to make, are easily doctored and generally require a lot less butter* than brownies which is odd considering that blondies derive most of their flavor from butter. Not that blondies are health food, but I like to keep that level of butter consumption to a time that is a bit more celebratory, not just a sweets craving.

*These blondies only use 6 tablespoons (less than 1/2 a cup) to make a 8x8 inch pan worth while a recipe for the same amount of brownies generally calls for a full cup of butter.

January 23, 2007

Carrot Spice Muffins

2 cups shredded carrot
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup oil
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour or line 20 wells in a muffin tin. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, carrots, ginger, allspice, cloves, sugar and mace. In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, oil, applesauce, sugar and vanilla. Pour into the dry mixture and mix thoroughly. Fill each well 3/4 of the way full and bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the center muffin comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

My thoughts:
These are the sort of muffin you can feel virtuous eating. They are just filled with all sorts of things that purport to be good for you: carrots, whole wheat flour, and applesauce replaces much of the oil. Which isn't to say they are exactly health food, but it is nice to have the illusion, isn't it?

January 22, 2007

Chinese-style Stuffed Cabbage


12 dried shiitake mushrooms
8 large cabbage leaves
1 carrot, julienned
1 onion, julienned
2 stalks celery, julienned
2 oz dried bean thread noodles
1 /2 cup fresh hon-shimeji mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup green onions
1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper


First, rehydrate the shiitake mushrooms in rehydrated in 1 cup water for about 15 minutes. Reserve the liquid and chop the mushrooms. At the same time, in a small bowl, soak the noodles for about 10 minutes or until softened. Drain, then chop into 3-4 inch pieces. While you are waiting for all that to soak, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients and set aside. In a wok or large sauce pan, heat oil until very hot. Add the both types of mushrooms, carrot, celery, green onions, and noodles, stir fry for about 1 minute. Add the sauce and cooking, stirring occasionally, until mixture is heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Steam the cabbage leaves for about 3 minutes or until just pliable. Drain and rinse with cool water. Stuff each leaf with about 1/8 of the mixture. To fill: place the leaf in your hand, open side up, place the bit of mixture towards the stem end and roll towards the other end. Repeat until all of the leaves are full*. Place leaves in a bamboo steamer. Bring the reserved mushroom liquid to a boil in the wok. Arrange the bamboo steamer (or other steamer) on top and steam for about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

*If you have leftover filling, it makes a yummy filling for dumplings. You can steam them right along side the cabbage rolls.

My thoughts:
A great way to turn some odds and ends of produce: just one carrot, some leftover mushrooms, a couple of stalks of celery, a small knob of ginger into a healthy, easy meal. The flavor is wonderful too, fresh with a just a hint of ginger.

January 20, 2007

Cuba Libre Cupcakes

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup coca cola
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons dutch processed cocoa
2 tablespoons rum
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour 1 12 cupcake cupcake pan. In a small saucepan, heat butter, coca cola and rum to boiling. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Mix together lime juice and milk in a small bowl* or measuring cup and set aside. Meanwhile, whisk together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the cooled butter/coke mixture and beat until well combined. Add egg, beat then pour in the milk. Mix until combined. The batter will be rather thin. Fill each well 2/3 of the way full. Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove cupcakes to wire racks as soon as possible to cool. Frost with Chocolate Rum Cream Cheese Frosting when cool. Garnish with a wedge of lime.
*This will sour the milk a bit. Do not worry if it looks slightly curdled.
My thoughts:
When I heard about the Cupcake Round up, I knew this was the excuse I needed to make the recipe I have been creating in my head for months: cuba libre cupcakes! Cuba Libre is the fancy name for a simple cocktail: a rum and coke served with a wedge of lime. I am so glad I finally sat down and figured out a recipe that would combine all of these flavors. These are divine. Their light and fluffy texture is perfectly balanced by the creamy frosting. They are also not as sweet as the list of ingredients would lead you to believe and the chocolate, while not traditional to the drink, adds a depth to the flavor.

One caveat: please use good rum.

Chocolate Rum Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons dutch process cocoa
1 tablespoon good rum

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until smooth. Use to frost cool cupcakes or cake.

My thoughts:
Chocolate and rum are a great pair and the cream cheese keeps it from being too sweet. Excellent on Cubra Libre cupcakes.

January 19, 2007

Schezuan Mussels with Eggplant and Green Beans


6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Chinese eggplants, roll cut*
1 green chili minced
2 cups green beans
8 oz fresh or frozen mussels
1/2 cup green onions
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, cut into small sticks
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons of ground pork
1 tablespoon balsamic or black rice vinegar
1 tablespoon chili paste
1 teaspoon corn starch mixed with 1 teaspoon of water

vegetable oil for frying

First, stir together broth, chili paste, vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and oyster sauce. Set aside. Then, heat 3 inches of oil in a wok to 375 degrees ** . Fry the green beans for 1 ½ - 2 minutes or until they start to wrinkle. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Fry the eggplants for 2 minutes until they start to turn golden. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Pour all but 2 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Add the green onions, garlic, chili pepper, and ginger. Saute for 1 minute until fragrant and then add the pork. Cook the pork until it is no longer pink, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks. Add the sauce mixture and the mussels. Bring to a fast boil and cook for 5 minutes until the mussels are tender and the sauce has reduced slightly. Add the green beans, eggplant, and corn starch mixture. Cook 1-2 more minutes until the sauce thickens. Serve over white rice.

* To "roll cut": cut the first piece on the diagonal at 45 degrees. Turn the eggplant a third and cut another diagonal piece out of it. Continue until the whole eggplant has been cut up. If the eggplant is too big, cut into half lengthwise first, then roll cut. The chunks of eggplant will look almost triangular. Roll cut vegetables are perfect for flash frying. Alternately you could the eggplant on a diagonal.

** Rather than measure the temperature, I turn to heat to high and leave it for about 15 minutes until you can smell the oil.

My thoughts:
Flash frying the vegetables, while it does make it a slightly less healthy meal, does help the vegetables maintain their crispness and color. Anyway, I loved this meal, spicy yet not burning, the sauce was great and the mussels were the perfect touch. It is also super fast and easy to make.

January 18, 2007

Bubble Tea

large tapioca pearls
8 oz strong black tea
8 oz milk or soy milk
1-2 tablespoons simple syrup

In a medium pan bring about 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the amount of tapioca pearls you would want for one large or two small glasses of bubble tea. Continue to boil until the pearls float to the top and are soft, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and cover. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake together the milk, simple syrup and tea. Depending on how big your cocktail shaker is, you may need to do this in two batched. Strain into a large cup and add the tapioca pearls. Serve with a large bubble tea straw or a spoon.

My thoughts:
It is easy to make bubble tea (boba tea) at home. The pearls are easy to find at Asian groceries and online. If you are into the having the authentic experience, the giant straws that allow you to slurp the tea and the "bubbles" up together are a must. I've never seen them in a store, there are many places online that sell them quite cheaply, some as low as $1.50 for 100. Some people are off put by the slightly slimy, chewy texture of the tapioca pearls but I love them! It's like a drink and a snack all in one.

January 17, 2007

Homestyle Kimchee Rice

2 cups short grain or sushi rice
2 cups hot broth
2 cups baby bok choy or baby napa cabbage, chopped
1 cup cabbage kimchee, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup green beans, quartered
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
8 oz lean ground pork
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt to taste

30 minutes before you start cooking, rinse the rice once and soak in warm water. Do not let the rice soak for more than 30 minutes are it will get mushy. If the time is up on your rice before you are ready to cook, strain it and leave it in the colander to dry.

In a large non-stick saucepan with a lid, add the vegetable oil and sesame oil and set the heat to medium high. Saute green onions, garlic and ginger for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the pork and brown it, breaking it up with a spoon. When the pork is brown, add the baby bok choy and kimchee. Saute for 5 minutes or until the green are wilted. Add hot broth and rice and stir. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Add green beans, turn the heat down to low and cook for 10 more minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 10 more minutes. Serve.

Yield: 4 main course servings

My thoughts:
We love kimchee and are always looking for new ways to use it. My husband saw a recipe that called for kimchee to be mixed with rice and peas and was inspired to make this. We added a bit of ground pork and used green beans and baby napa to make it filling enough to serve as a main course.

January 16, 2007

Maki Sushi

sushi rice
sushi filling- I used thinly sliced avocado, masago* and surimi**
>bowl of water to dip your finger tips in


First, place the nori shiny side down on a bamboo rolling mat. If there are lines or bumps in the nori, they should be horizonal on the mat. Break it in half horizonally if you want to make the small, single filling rolls (maki) or use the whole sheet to make large (futomaki) rolls. For example, I used the whole sheet because I used the crab stick and avocado but if you are just making a tuna roll, avocado roll, etc, only half a sheet is needed. Spread the nori evenly with sushi rice. Try not to make too thick of a layer and keep away from the top edge***. The rice is very sticky so it might help to wet your finger tips before and during this step.

Then arrange your filling towards the center of the rice. If I am using masago, I tend to spread it over all of the rice, or you can keep it in the middle.

After that, begin rolling. Use firm pressure and start to curl the mat up. Hold the filling in towards the center of the roll as you bring the edge of the mat up and over to start forming the roll. When the mat hits the edge as you are rolling, then just pull it back towards you. Once the maki is rolled all the way, gently squeeze it to pack it together and round out the roll. It should now be a thick, dense log.

Cut into several slices. I find a bread knife works best, even better than super sharp knives, for cutting the roll. Serve with wasabi and soy sauce.

Easy! And if you are a little less rice happy than I am you won't get the rice in the curl like I do. Although, I kind of like it this way.

* Roe available in large frozen blocks at Asian grocery stores, chop off some and defrost it over night.
** Imitation crab. While conventional grocery stores frequently carry this (Louis Kemp is a popular brand) it does not taste like the surimi used in sushi bars. Any Asian grocery would have it, often frozen.
*** I am always a little overzealous with my rice. Try and leave a slightly bigger margin on top than I do.

My thoughts:
Like making sushi rice, everyone has a slightly different way of making sushi rolls. I find I get good results using this method, but you can of course tweak it to make it work for you. Some people like to line the mat with plastic wrap, but I personally don't find that too helpful. After you do a few rolls it gets easier and quicker. This is a fun thing to do for a dinner party and cheaper than going to the sushi bar. Many stores now have sushi grade fish available but I would advise you to use it the same day you buy it. Otherwise, use vegetables or cooked ingredients.

Sushi Rice

3 cups uncooked sushi rice
3 1/2 cups water
2 inch piece kombu*
6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine (sake)
2 teaspoons salt

At least 1 hour before you want to cook the rice, wash the rice four times. Allow to dry in a colander. In a small, bowl, whisk together the salt, vinegar and sugar, set aside. In large nonstick saucepan (with a lid) add the water, rice, kombu and rice wine. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Cook 5-10 minutes or until the water level is almost equal to the rice. Cover, reduce heat to low. Cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat, keep covered and let stand 5 minutes. Remove kombu then up end the rice into a large bowl, pour in the vinegar mixture, and gently mix in while fanning off the rice with your other hand. Cover with a damp cloth until cool.

* variety of kelp, available at Asian grocery

My thoughts:
Making sushi rice is rather time consuming and fiddly so generally I let my husband handle it who always does a great job. Everyone seems to have their own technique, but this one yields perfect sushi rice every time we make it.

January 15, 2007

Rosemary and Sun-dried Tomato Focaccia

3 1/2 cups flour
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil PLUS 1/4 cup, divided use
1 tablespoon salt
5 oz sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
OPTIONAL: 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of water. Allow to sit about 10 minutes. Then combine yeast with 1 cup of flour in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook. Mix thoroughly then add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, 2 1/2 cups flour and 3/4 cup water. Mix thoroughly again and then add the remaining flour and water. Continue to mix with the dough hook until a soft dough forms. If it is sticky, add a bit more flour, too dry or powdery, add a touch more water. Remove from the bowl and pat into a round shape. Grease a 14 x18 inch pan* with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the dough in it, cover with a damp towel and allow to rise** about 1 1/2 hours. After the 1 1/2 hours, stretch the dough out to the length of the pan, cover with a damp towel and allow to rise an additional 45 minutes. After about 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 450***. After the 45 minutes, uncover and poke the dough with your finger to make little holes. In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup olive oil, and a couple of tablespoons of water. Brush this over the bread, then sprinkle with rosemary and coarse salt. Bake 15-20 minutes, checking about half way through to make sure it isn't browning too quickly. After about 15 minutes of baking, add the sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan then return it to the oven for about 5 more minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*a black, metal pan works best.
**an "cold" oven is an excellent place to allow your dough to rise.
***it is nice to bake this in the pan on a baking stone, if possible. Place the baking stone in the oven while you preheat.

My thoughts:
Because we are punny people, we always always refer to this bread as farkatke* bread instead of its actual, sound alike name of focaccia. We do this so much, I think I have forgotten how to pronounce the true name and now fear ordering it in restaurants. Which, luckily, I can avoid doing because when ever I get the urge we can make it ourselves. It is pretty easy to make and the topping can be dictated by whatever odd ingredients you have around the house that you want to use up.

*Yiddish for ridiculous

January 14, 2007

Chinese Eggplant & Green Beans with Cellophane Noodles

1 Chinese eggplant, halved and thickly sliced
2 large hand-fulls of green beans, halved with ends trimmed
1 cup fried bean curd*, cubed
1 inch piece ginger, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 small chili pepper, minced
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup minced green onion
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili paste
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
4 bunches cellophane noodles

Combine broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili paste, sugar, green onions, and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside. Add oil and sesame oil to a large skillet or wok with a lid and set over a high flame. Add ginger, garlic, and chili pepper. Stir fry for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the eggplant and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until most of the oil is absorbed. Add the green beans and stir fry 1 minute. Add the broth mixture and the fried bean curd, bring to a boil and cover the pot. Put the noodles in cold water and set the timer for 5 minutes. After the five minutes, cut the noodles in half and add them to the pot. Saute for 2-3 minutes until the noodles and tender and the liquid has been absorbed.
Yield: enough for 2 as main course, or 4 along side another dish.

*Most Asian groceries have fried bean curd in the same sort of blocks you buy tofu in.

My thoughts:
I'll be the first to admit, this is not the prettiest dish. It is, however, extremely delicious. The noodles and eggplant soak up the yummy sauce and it is rather spicy. It is very quick to make, which makes it a great meal when you come home tired and hungry after a foray to the Korean grocery.

January 13, 2007

My Favorite Dipping Sauce for Dumplings


1/3 cup light soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup sliced green onions (green part only)
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Combine all ingredients and serve with dumplings. Makes 4 servings.
Check out these dumpling recipes:
My thoughts:
I know it's scarcely a recipe but is it so much better than plain soy sauce for dipping yummy dumplings. It's worthwhile to mix some up (without the green onions, add those when you go to eat) to keep in the fridge so you always have some on hand. You never know when you might have a sudden yen for dumplings.

January 11, 2007

2006 Food Blog Award Winner!

I am excited to say that I won the Best Food Blog-Original Recipes award! The number of people who took time out of their day to vote for me was overwhelming. I just want to say that I really appreciate it. I'd especially like to thank all of the people who wrote blog posts, left comments and sent emails of support over the last week. I loved hearing from all of you and I can never grow tired of hearing of your successes in the kitchen using my recipes. I can't thank you all enough.

Please take some time and check out the other winners.

Pork and Fennel Stew

2 lbs of boneless pork rib, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup flour
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
2 leeks, halved and sliced
2 fennel bulbs, cut into thin 1 inch strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons olive iil
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 sprig fresh thyme
salt and pepper and paprika to taste

Season pork cubes with salt, pepper, and paprika. Put the flour in a bowl (a paper bag would work well also), add a bit of salt and pepper, and then toss the pork in the flour until it is coated. Heat the oil in a large flat-bottomed pot, add the pork, the garlic, and the fennel seeds. Brown the meat on all sides. Add the fennel and leeks. Cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes until the vegetables have started to soften. Add the wine to the pot and stir until the wine has thickened and the flour stuck to the pan has loosened, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and the thyme and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down low and cover the pan, simmering for 45 minutes. Skim the scum off the top periodically during this time. Then add the potatoes and carrots, and cook (stirring frequently) at a medium-low heat for 1 hour or until the carrots and potatoes are tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

My thoughts:
This stew might not win any beauty contests but it doesn't have to-the taste is enough. Fennel and pork are natural companions and this stew highlights them both. My husband (who also was kind enough to both create and type up this recipe for me) made this for dinner earlier this week. The leftovers were just as good the next day.

January 10, 2007

Swoon-Worthy Kissable Cookies

1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
5.5 oz Kissables (or M & Ms)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium sized bowl combine flour, salt, and baking powder. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the sweetened butter and mix until a very thick dough forms. Use a spoon to fold in the Kissables and distributing them evenly. Form cookies by dropping 1 teaspoon of dough on the sheet two inches apart. Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on wire racks (if you can wait that long) then serve with plenty of cold milk.

Yields: about 2 dozen cookies, depending on size. I like to make just a few cookies at a time and keep the rest of the dough in the fridge until the next urge stikes.
My thoughts:
My mom gave me a bag of Special Dark Hershey Kissables a couple of weeks ago. She had suggested making cookies with them, but I worried that since they weren't marked for baking they might melt or crack so I planned to eat them out of hand. Then she called me last night and said she had made a batch of cookies using Kissables that she swooned over. I couldn’t find the exact recipe she used (I think it originally called for M&M baking bits) but I was inspired to make some cookies of my own. They truly are swoon-worthy. I think I like Kissables better in a cookie than out of hand, out of the bag the shells are almost have a slippery coating (I think she they don't stick together in the bag) but in cookies they are perfect. The shell stayed intact and the chocolate inside stays slightly melted even after they are cool which contrasts nicely with the crisp, buttery cookie. Not to mention that Kissables are bigger than chocolate chips so you get a lot of chocolate in one cookie. Kissables have a higher ratio of chocolate to shell than M&Ms but if you can't find Kissables, dark chocolate M&Ms would be a good substitute.

January 08, 2007

Sticky Toffee Popcorn

3 cups air popped popcorn, picked over for unpopped kernals
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla

Bring the water, and sugar to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until it reaches a rich amber color and when dripped into a glass of cold water it forms a soft caramel and quickly stir in vanilla. Meanwhile, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place popcorn in a large bowl. As soon as the sugar is ready, carefully pour it in ribbons over the popcorn and toss. To cool it quickly, spread the coated popcorn over the parchment paper to cool. Serve while still slightly warm.

My thoughts:
I was thinking about making some sort of brittle but I had a yen for popcorn and made this instead. It's been unseasonably warm here (in the 70s!) in Baltimore and popcorn sounded a little lighter than a nut brittle. I still liked the idea of making a sweet treat so I played around a little and came up with this. It has both crisp popcorn and chewy toffee covered kernels scattered through out. Nuts would make a godd addition, but it would no longer be fat free.

January 07, 2007

A Sauce of Two Fishes

32 oz can whole tomatoes, hand crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
6 oz can tuna, drained and flaked
10 anchovy fillets
6 canned or jarred artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
red pepper flakes

In a large sauce pan, heat oil. Add garlic and saute until golden. Reduce heat to low and add the anchovies. Using the back of a spoon, mash the anchovies into the garlic until the texture is uniform. Turn the heat to medium, add red pepper flakes, tomatoes (in their juices) and simmer for 20 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Add the tuna, artichoke hearts and parsley. Cook for an additional 10 minutes and serve on hot pasta.

My thoughts:
This is a great sauce to make the day before you go to the store-most of the ingredients should already be in your pantry. Despite relying on several canned ingredients, this is a very fresh tasting sauce. This comes from using the best canned tomatoes available and lots of fresh parsley.

January 06, 2007

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January 05, 2007

Chicken Kofta Masala with Spinach

6 cloves garlic
2 slices white bread, torn
2 dried chili peppers
1 egg
1 large onion, quartered
1 inch knob ginger, peeled
1 cup canned whole tomatoes, hand crushed
1 lb ground chicken
8oz frozen spinach, drained and squeezed dry
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
3 teaspoons meat masala*, divided use
1 teaspoon garam masala, divided use
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

additional bread crumbs extra to roll meatballs
vegetable oil for frying


In a food processor or blender, puree the onion, garlic, chili peppers and ginger together. Set aside.

For the meatballs: In a small saucepan, heat the milk and the torn bread until the liquid is absorbed. Set aside to cool.Then, in a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, 1/2 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon meat masala, 2 tablespoons of the onion puree, the cooled milk/bread mixture, the 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, the egg and salt and pepper thoroughly until a wet mixture forms. Arrange some bread crumbs on a plate. Using your hands, form one inch meatballs from the mixture and roll in crumbs. Set aside. Fill a large pan (that has a lid) with about 1/2 inch of oil. Fry the meatballs, turning occasionally until they are browned on each side, this should take about 15-20 minutes. They do not have to be cooked all the way through, just browned.

For the sauce: Remove the meatballs from the pan and allow the meatballs to drain on a paper towel lined plate. Pour all but about 2 tablespoon of drippings out of the pan. Return to the stove over medium heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds, saute until the mustard seeds pop, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining onion mixture and saute until it is golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes in their liquid, the rest of the garam masala, the meat masala, turmeric, salt, pepper and the spinach. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until well combined. Return meatballs to the pan, stir to coat. Cover the pan and cook for about 40 minutes.

Serve with white rice.

*available at Indian grocery.

My thoughts:
Generally kofta masala (also known as meatball curry) is made with lamb, but that can be difficult to find. We made this with ground chicken and it came out wonderfully. Ground chicken on its own tends to be a bit bland but it also absorbs any flavors you cook it with. This made it a perfect choice for this recipe. The meatballs took on the flavor of the fragrant sauce and made a very satisfying, tasty dish that was no harder to make than spaghetti and meatballs but a bit more exotic.

January 04, 2007

Mushroom Omelets for Four

8 eggs
1 large onion, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
8 oz of mushrooms
1/2 cup grated cheddar
1/4 cup green onions, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

salt and pepper


Saute onion, garlic and mushrooms in butter and oil until soft (about 20 minutes), add salt and pepper, stir. Divide this into four equal portions either in the pan, or in bowls. For each omelet, heat a nonstick pan with cooking spray on a medium high heat. Beat 2 eggs with 1 tablespoon of the green onions and some salt and pepper. Pour egg into the pan and tilt with a circular motion to cover the surface with the egg. As the egg starts to cook, push the sides towards the center with a spatula tilting the pan to bring the uncooked egg in contact with the pan. Do this three or four times around the egg until it starts to set (this should only take about 2-3 minutes). Sprinkle two tablespoons of the cheese over the egg, and scoop 1/4 of the onion mixture down the middle of the egg. When the egg is set to your taste, slide onto a plate, flipping with your wrist when it is halfway off the pan to fold the omelet over. Repeat for each omelet. Serve hot.
My thoughts:
This is sort of our fall back breakfast when we have over night guests. It's quick, it's easy and everyone enjoys it. I also find that people are impressed with omelets (or omelettes, both spellings are acceptable) in a way that is disproportionate to how easy they are. They also go great with popovers, which have a similar effect on people.

January 03, 2007

Lucky Curried Cabbage and Black-eyed Peas

1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
1 cup black-eyed peas (frozen or canned)
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 small chili pepper, dried or fresh
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
2 teaspoons of dried split mung daal*
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon Asafoetida powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water

Puree onion, garlic, chili pepper, and ginger in a food processor**. In a large pan with a lid, saute mustard seeds, mung daal, cumin seeds, and asofotida in oil for 5-10 minutes until mustard seeds start to pop. Carefully add the onion mixture to the pan. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the onion is golden and has a pleasant aroma. Add cabbage and stir to coat. Cover and cook for 15 minutes on high. Add water, coconut, salt, garam masala, turmeric and black-eyed peas. Bring to a boil then cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes or until tender.
Serving suggestion: serve with white rice.

*available at an Indian grocery.
**Or chop them very finely by hand.

My thoughts:
Black-eyed peas are said to be lucky if eaten on the first of a new year. Rather than make the more traditional hoppin' john, my Indian food loving husband came up with this curry. It is really, really good-the cabbage takes on an almost creamy texture and flavor and the beans make it hardy enough for a main dish. We were lucky enough to find frozen black-eyed peas, but I bet canned would work just as well.

January 02, 2007

Pesto Pizza with Sundried Tomatoes and Artichoke Hearts

Pizza dough
8 oz fresh mozzarella, shredded
3 oz sun dried tomatoes, sliced and patted dry if needed
5 oz canned or jarred artichoke hearts, sliced and patted dry


Preheat the oven to 500. Follow the pizza dough recipe up until the point where the round of dough is on the pizza stone and is awaiting sauce. Spread about a 1/4 cup of the pesto on the dough leaving the 1/2 inch of raised dough bare. Sprinkle with cheese and arrange the artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes on the surface. Bake about 8 minutes or until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling. Remove from the stone (it helps to have a pizza peel) and serve.
My thoughts:
This was the main course of our 80s night. To me, nothing says '80s cuisine like sun dried tomatoes and "California" pizza. What I forgot was how good these pizzas can be! Normally I am a pizza traditionalist, but the pesto sauce instead of usual tomato-based sauce was an amazing idea. I was worried it might be a little greasy what with the oil in the pesto and the oil packed artichokes and sun dried tomatoes but the pizza was totally grease free and very delicious. I forgot how good homemade pizza tastes and these flavors (while they are very Spago) went together wonderfully. It was a little time consuming (my husband started making the crust 2 hours before we wanted to eat) but there is very little "hands on time" which leaves you free to make the pesto and clean up before it goes in the oven.

January 01, 2007

Poke Cake

2 3 oz packages of Jell-O, each a different color
2 layers yellow cake
fluffy frosting
2 cups boiling water, divided use

Return cooled cakes to clean cake pans. Place on cookie sheet. Using a two pronged fork or chopstick, poke random holes in each layer of cake, about 2 inches apart. In two separate bowls, mix together one package of Jell-O and one cup boiling water and allow to cool slightly. Pour one flavor over one cake layer and then pour the other of the remaining layer. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours. Remove from pan, dipping the bottom of the pan briefly in hot water to loosen if needed. Ice top, sides, bottom and between the two cakes with fluffy icing. Slice and serve.

My thoughts:
For New Year's Eve we had decided to have a 80s movie marathon. We wanted to make food that reflected the time. We knew what we were going to make for our main meal (recipe to come) but I wasn't sure about dessert. Then I remembered making poke cake as a kid. It was too campy to resist so we made it, although not in the traditional way. As my husband put it, we are probably the only two people in America who made a poke cake with Jell-O using a very delicious homemade yellow cake and fluffy, homemade beaten egg white frosting. All of the recipes I could find for poke cake on the web called for cake mixes and Cool Whip for "frosting". I just couldn't abide that. So even though we used Jell-O, the cake and icing are top notch. The flavor is less fruity than you would think and it is fun to cut into the cake and see the swirly different colored layers.

Yellow Layer Cake

3 1/3 cup flour
1 1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 egg yolks*

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour or spray with baking spray two 8 inch round pans. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and egg yolks, mix until well combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Add the vanilla to the milk. Mixing continuously, add the flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Divide evenly into the prepared pans and bake about 40 minutes or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Cool on wire rack, removing from the pans after about 5 minutes. Cool completely then ice.

*This cake is great with fluffy white icing, which can help use up your leftover egg whites.

My thoughts:
This is a beautiful cake. Moist, flavorful, and rich. It is a perfect base for any icing or decoration.

Fluffy White Frosting

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
4 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

In a medium saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil until it reaches soft ball stage (when a drop of the syrup forms a soft ball when dropped in cool water)while continuing to stir occasionally. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks. Keep the mixer running (you need a stand mixer or a friend to complete this next step) while you pour a continues stream of the molten syrup into the egg whites. Continue to beat for about 5 minutes, adding vanilla after about two minutes, or until the frosting is fluffy, glossy and cool. Frost cooled cake.
My thoughts:
This is another one of those "miracle of cooking" recipes: egg whites and a simple syrup combine to make a superbly fluffy, delicious and beautiful frosting. It is also virtually fat free, which makes it perfect to spread over rich cakes.