Archive | February, 2011

Thin Mints

28 Feb

Who doesn’t love thin mints? Weirdos.  I don’t have to sell these, you know how good they are.  And homemade? So delicious. This recipe comes from the blog Ming Makes Cupcakes– whose graphics I love-  but i think it no longer gets updated.  Nonetheless- this recipe is totally spot on- and very easy.  Just like the World Peace Cookies, this dough freezes well and the paper towel roll trick [see Just the Tips] – worked like a charm.  P.S. these cookies keep well in the frigde- that way the chocolate doesn’t melt- and remember how good freezing the girl scout ones were?

Cookies
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon mint extract

Topping
1 cup chocolate chips [I used Ghiradelli bittersweet- which are like dark chocolate]
1 teaspoon mint extract

Mix flour, cocoa, salt and soda.  In a separate bowl, cream butter until smooth.  Add sugar and beat for one minute.  Add milk, vanilla, and mint and beat an additional minute.  Slowly add the dry ingredients while beating.  Once mixture is well-combined and resembles small pebbles.  Use your hands to form into a ball.  Roll dough into a log and wrap in wax paper.  Chill for 2 hours.  Slice into thin rounds and place on parchment paper.  Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Melt chocolate in a pyrex bowl set above a simmering water and add mint. Once cookies have cookies and become crispy, coat their tops in chocolate by dipping them or smearing them w. icing knife.

Sydnie’s Taiwanese Stew

25 Feb

Photo taken in Micah & Sydnie’s apt in Tokyo. Best feast.

So I am eating this while I write, and I just have to say this is the most satisfying, delicious, comforting, filling yet surprisingly light stew ever.  While I was in Japan, I had the pleasure of staying with Micah and his girlfriend Sydnie- best hosts ever.  The last day we were there, Sydnie made us this stew.  I was a little wary- because I had never been into hardboiled eggs- but this has pretty much changed my egg-eating life.  Before, I only ate scrambled– now any kind– poached, fried, soft boiled– throw my way.  The thing I like to do eating this stew- is break apart the egg and then the yolk thickens the broth in the most delicious way possible.  This is a Sydnie family recipe- so she just intuits and varies it a little all the time.  But, she gracefully quantified it for me and it came out spot on!

Let’s talk about the ingredients- some of which you might not already have in your cabinet.  The first- the vegetable in here is daikon.  Daikon is like a big long radish- kinda looks like a giant white carrot.  I thought I would have trouble finding it- but when you are looking for it- you notice it everywhere- grocery stores and asian groceries.  And the thing is, you simmer it for so long with the stew that it- along with the eggs- take on the flavor (and color) of the broth.  I knew the daikon was done when it was colored throughout.  It was pretty easy to find 5 -spice too- which is a Chinese blend of spices- with sort of a hint of cinnamon overtones on the nose (ha!). Last is anise star.  Anise has that vaguely licorice flavor- like fennel does- but don’t let that scare you off.  And these stars are just beautiful.  If you can’t find it- you will be fine without.  You put the anise star and ginger slices in– like you would a bay leaf– then you take out when you are done.  This stew is a little hard to get around to making because it simmers for hours- but I am telling you that it is way worth it.  And it is actually super easy.  Leftovers are amazing- and they freeze well (freeze w. out eggs).  It is traditional, Sydnie says, to include the frozen in the next batch- enriches the flavor.  You could also make this with pork.   Char Bar– if you have read this far- you have to make it- because I know you have those spices already- and you’d be way into it.  Serve w. brown rice.  And I got to tell you, I had know idea how to make hardboiled eggs so after 6 eggs gone to waste, I got it down- and have included instructions for you.  And the rice too- because maybe it’s silly- but I always end up looking it up on ehow.

6-8 hard boiled eggs (2 per serving)
1 pound stew beef- cut in chunks
two 1/2 inch slices of fresh ginger- peeled
6-7 green onions (or scallions)
daikon, peel and chop into chunks [the daikon in japan was enormous- only needed one- but the one i found here smaller- so I used two)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 anise star
sugar cubes (small handful- 1/4 cup?) or I used 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1-1/4 teaspoon five star spice

serve w. brown rice (i used short grain)
1 cup rice
2 cups water

Hard boil eggs.  Place eggs in a saucepan.  Add enough water to about an inch above eggs.  Cover pot. Bring to boil. Turn off heat. Do not open, let sit for 10-15 minutes.  Put eggs to cool in a bowl of cold water.  Then tap lightly against side of sink to start to peel.
Place meat in bottom of a big pot/stockpot/dutch oven. Add enough water to cover meat.  Bring to boil.  Then take off heat and pour out water.  With just beef in the pot, add 1/2 cup soy sauce and then add enough water to just cover the meat with a little extra.  Add anise and ginger stars.  Add five star. Add sugar.  Add green onion.  Bring to boil, then lower heat, cover and simmer for a couple (3) hours.  45 minutes [or I’d say more like an hour] before you want to eat, add daikon.  Taste test to see when done- daikon should be tender and fully colored by soy sauce in the middle.  Additional salt to taste, if needed.
Brown rice.  Rinse rice (yes, do this).  Add rice and water to saucepan. Cover. Bring to boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 50 minutes.  Turn off heat (do not open!) and let sit for 10 minutes.

Pasta alla Norma

23 Feb

The other night Sam and I had Randi and Marty over for dinner.  Sam requested this dish- which I love and long looked for a recipe but did not know its proper name.  I made a huge heaping bowl of it and we ate almost all of it before I remembered to take a picture- so my apologies- it was way more gorgeous than this image suggests. There are  tons of recipes for this- but for Italian cooking- I trust Marcella Hazan.   I love her recipes because they are so simple– and she has my favorite risotto recipe.  Marcella fries her eggplant and while  I am sure that would be super delicious,  I decided to be healthier and bake the eggplant- I put both ways in here so you can choose.  We were having an early dinner- so I salted (this draws out moisture and bitterness- otherwise eggplant will soak up oil like a sponge and take forever to cook– a lesson I learned the first time I tried to cook eggplant parm w. Juan Carlos in my philly apt) and baked off the eggplant the night before.  I used ricotta salata- a classic cheese for this dish- it is ricotta that comes in a block sort of resembling feta.  Fresh ricotta or mozzarella (ooh or even smoked mozzarella maybe?) would work well too.  And by the by, Marcella calls this dish Eggplant and Ricotta, Sicilian-Style.

1 to 1-1/2 pound eggplant
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup onion, sliced very thin
1-1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 cups fresh ripe plum tomatoes, skinned, peeled and seeded cut into narrow strips or when tomatoes not in season use a 25oz can of whole plum tomatoes- drain then chop.
3 tablespoons freshly grated romano (I subbed parmesean)
3 tablespoons fresh ricotta (or ricotta salata or mozzarella)
8 to 10 fresh basil leaves
1 pound pasta- rigatoni
Vegetable oil (if frying eggplant)

Cut off eggplant stem.  Peel (optional) eggplant and cut into 1-1/2 in cubes.  Put cubes in colander, set over big bowl, sprinkle liberally w. salt.  Let eggplant sit for about an hour so salt draws out bitter juices (you’ll be able to see brown liquid in bowl).  (Yes, this is a necessary step).
Take a handful of eggplant, rinse under cold water to get off excess salt.  Wrap them in a dry paper towel and squeeze to get out as much moisture as possible.  Spread on another dry towel and continue until you have rinsed all eggplant cubes.
If frying:  Put enough veg oil in a large frying pan to come up 1/2 inch side of the pan- turn to med high.  When oil is hot, slip in as many eggplant that fit loosely in the pan- might have to do batches.  When eggplant feels tender when prodded with a fork, transfer it with a slotted spoon or spatula to a cooling rack or to a platter lined with paper towels to drain.  Pour off the oil and wipe the pan clean with paper towels.
If baking: Preheat to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil. Brush w. olive oil.  Spread out eggplant in single layer.  Bake until it looks done– I’d say between 20-40 mins- it starts to looks shrunken, browning and tender.
Start making your pasta.
Put olive oil and onion in pot and turn to med high.  Saute until onion becomes light gold colored.  Add chopped garlic- and cook for a few seconds, stirring as you cook.
Add the strips of tomato, turn up the heat to high, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the oil floats free from the tomato.
Add the eggplant and a few grindings of pepper, stir, and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for just a minute or two more, stirring once or twice. Taste and correct for salt.
Toss the cooked and drained pasta with the eggplant sauce, add the grated romano, the ricotta, and the basil leaves– mixing thoroughly– and serve at once, with the grated Parmesan on the side.

Pavlova

17 Feb

Ah Pavlova, how I love thee.  For those of you not familiar with it- pavlova is like a giant meringue with whipped cream and fruit on top- whose origin is debated between Australia and New Zealand.  But according to wikipedia- which of course we take as fact- “The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years, but formal research indicates New Zealand as the more probable source.”  So, ha!  This recipe comes from NZ, where I studied abroad.  I have thought about making it ever since my return- about 8 years now- but getting a shiny new KitchenAid mixer (thanks Debby and Henry!) made it all happen.  Some manage fine w. a hand mixer- but I always had trouble w. egg whites with my shitty one- works much better if yours has a whisk attachment.  American recipes i’ve seen use way more eggs and cream of tartar as an agent.  While I am sure that would work- I decided to stick with the NZ recipe.  Caster sugar is a more finely ground sugar- I think 10 times finer than granulated- don’t substitute confectioner! which is like 100 times more fine.  To make my own caster sugar- I just put granulated in the food processor and pulsed for about 10 seconds.  If you don’t have a food processor- I am guessing that you can get away with granulated.  Now, for some reason I don’t really understand- you are supposed to allow this to cool completely in the oven- this keeps it crisp?  A little annoying- because I couldn’t open the door to see if it all caved in.  The back-up plan was going to be Ina’s Eton Mess recipe- so then u just crush up the meringue- and put it in a glass- layered w. strawberries and whipped cream- a tasty back up if I ever heard one- so I wasn’t  too worried.  Was going to top w. Balsamic strawberries but couldn’t find any strawbs. According to JP (who’s Australian) passion fruit is the best way to go.

2 Egg Whites
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon cornflour (i take this to be cornstarch)
4 tablespoons boiling water (1/4 cup)

Line a baking sheet w. parchment paper.  Use a plate or some such to trace an 11 inch cirlce (i’d probably go smaller next time- 9 or 10 inches).  Place all ingredients in a bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on high speed until very stiff (about 15 mins- less than 10 min if using a kitchenaid).  Spread onto baking sheet within the circle. Bake in a moderate over (350 degrees) for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 225 and bake a further 45 mins.  Cool in oven (a couple hours).

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
dash of Vanilla extract

Beat on high- only take a few minutes.  Usually add confectioner sugar- but left it out this time- Pavlova is sweet enough already.

Carrot Ginger Soup

7 Feb

Delicious simple soup.  My mom used to make this for holidays- Thanksgiving, I think.  When I was young, I thought orange soup was weird.  But now I think it’s pretty.  Terry, a longtime friend of my mother and a great cook herself, recently gave me an immersion blender.  This was my first shot at using it- and i’ll say that it is pretty dope.  If you aren’t familiar with these- they are basically like a blender wand (Micah argues it should just be called this- as it a more apt and cool term).  So just stick the blender wand into your pot- and you don’t have to worry about transferring to a food processor.  A Silver Palate recipe, of course.

6 tablespoons butter (3/4 stick)
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup finely chopped ginger
7 cups chicken stock (or veg stock)
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 pounds carrots, cut in 1/2 in pieces
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
pinch of curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
chopped chives or parsley to garnish (optional)

Melt butter in a large pot.  Add onion, ginger, and garlic and simmer for 15-20 mins.  Add carrots, stock and wine- bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for another 45 minutes.  Blend/food process the soup until smooth.  Put back in the pot, stir in curry and lemon. Salt and pepper to taste.

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