Thursday, January 27, 2011

Busting Out the Food Processor

I love Bosc pears. But that's only part of why I wanted to try this salad from Tyler Florence @ Food Network. Another reason was that I got to bust out the food processor, which is always exciting for me. The dressing is really what sets this salad apart, but the choice of greens themselves is very important, too. I think the dressing requires leaves with more density and flavor themselves, since it's thick and has a strong flavor.

When I first finished the dressing (puréed pear and shallot with honey, lemon, and oil) and tried it, I was pretty skeptical. Well, I thought I'd done something wrong, like substitute olive oil for grapeseed or had too big a half-lemon. There was a flavor there besides the pear and onion that was fairly strong and seemed out of place. But when I tried the salad altogether, leaves with dressing, it was really excellent! The man's a genius! Thanks to the strong presence of the greens themselves, the flavors really came together well.

Shallots: sliced. Pear: diced. Ready to sauté

Sautéing before puréeing

Salad done

It's hard to see the dressing in this photo since it's been tossed into the salad. And I skipped on the cheese and nuts since they make my skin act up.

Actually, I made another accidental substitution (and dropped the beet greens since they didn't have them at my local grocery store and I figured there would already be way more greens than I needed). I picked up collard greens instead of chard since my local grocery store apparently put Collard Greens where the label clearly says "Green Chard." Also in the section that says "Rainbow Chard." I guess I should have known by looking at the leaves, but I've only used chard once or twice before and never Collard Greens. On the plus side, Collard Greens are a heavy leaf with good flavor in and of themselves, and fit in perfectly with the salad! I wanted to be sure it was okay to eat them raw and did a Google search--I don't know what all the people going on about its being "extremely bitter" and "very tough without cooking." Just get rid of the stem and you're fine for toughness. And bitter? Please. Not at all. No really, I couldn't taste the bitterness at all. Eat some 苦瓜 ku gua (Bitter Melon).

A side note: I'm terrible at timing how long to steam fish. It always takes a lot longer than I think it needs. Also next time I'm putting the flavoring ingredients under the fish 'cause that's apparently how I should have been doing it all this time.

Steamed kingfish with black mushrooms, scallions, and ginger. Why kingfish? Because it was cheap and I'm poor. I don't know anything about kingfish.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New Things: Salad and Baking

This week I tried stretching in a couple new directions: salad and baking. Specifically a kale salad and vegan "buttermilk" biscuits. Actually I've thrown together many random salads before, but I want to get more ideas on what can be put together, and decided to start trying salad recipes. I haven't really used kale before, so I picked up a bunch and looked up a salad recipe for it. This particular one was a "Massaged Kale Salad" by Aarti Sequeira. I did not know about Food Network's Next Star competition, but apparently she won Season 6. May be something to check out. The salad recipe can be found here:

Destemmed and cut into strips. Massaged with salt.

Kale has a nice kinda firm, chewy texture to it, once softened by the salt massage. I subbed apple in for the mango since I didn't have any mango. It's a good salad! I just need to be careful not to add too much salt in the massage process and oil in the dressing making part. Sequeira's rather vague in her recipe regarding amounts.

On to the biscuits, my first foray into baking! Vegan "buttermilk" biscuits. Now, I'm not vegan, or even vegetarian. But I have several food allergies, most notably dairy products. As such, the "vegan" label can be a helpful indicator at least that there's no dairy in something. I have to say that I'm appreciative of our greater awareness of food issues and substitutes in our day and age. It will make things easier for me to work around dairy when I eventually start exploring Western cuisine more. Not in restaurants, as they love--LOVE--their butter. And cheese, and cream, and milk, and yogurt, etc. [I did, too, once upon a time.]

As for the baking part, I've never baked anything (unless we're talking meats and vegetables) before, so I definitely don't have special mixers or mashers, and just did everything by hand.

Ready to bake


I think they turned out well! They were nice and crumbly and just a touch moist inside. Probably could have been a little more moist, but I waited for the browning on the edges, hmm. Not so buttery as real buttermilk biscuits, but whaddaya gonna do. Still good. I deem it a success.

And the recipe for these is here:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Ugly Dumpling and Other Children's Tales

The poor dumpling pictured above wasn't even the first dumpling I tried making (it was the second), but it was the first I tried pleating. I did manage to get much more decent at the pleating after a number of them. My single pleat (largely for speed's sake; making dumplings is rather time consuming) ones are pictured below.

Ahh, 水餃/鍋貼 (shui jiao/guo tie; dumplings/potstickers; a.k.a. 餃子,ギョウザ (gyoza) in Japan for potstickers (I'm not sure if/what they call the boiled version, which is shui jiao in Chinese). Machine made frozen dumplings are easy enough to buy at Asian groceries or even Costco. However, they are vastly inferior to handmade dumplings. In cities with large Chinese populations, there are always people who sell their own handmade dumplings. I'm not sure about the DC area, though...might have seen some at the Great Wall supermarket, though I was skeptical as the good ones my parents would buy were ordered from specific people rather than picked up at a grocery store.

In any case, I finally decided to give making my own a go--minus making my own dumpling skins. Doing that would decrease the deliciousness/work ratio too far for me to do it. This recipe, from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook, was pretty standard issue and tasty. Pork, green onions, cabbage, ginger, seasoning. I have to say, though, that the pre-made dumpling skins were a little stiff to work with and definitely too thin for both potstickers and dumplings (potstickers can be thicker skinned and dumplings thinner). And I didn't accidentally pick up wonton skins. I guess for the rest of the batch, which I froze, I'll just have to make 餛飩湯 wonton soup. Which, actually, is nice since I haven't made that before, either. Or dumpling soup.

Ready to start wrapping

These ones are ready to cook

Skin's too thin, but otherwise tasty dumplings

A final thought: I don't like chili oil. I tried including it in my dipping sauce mixture this time (soy sauce, a little vinegar and sesame oil, garlic and green onion if you want to put in the extra effort), and it's just really strong and unpleasant a flavor to me.

[musing: I've noticed that an important element of the prettiness in food photos is in the vessels and other background elements (besides, of course, the composition, lighting, etc.). I suppose if I wanted to improve my food photography, that's one area I could invest in. Having more things would also allow more visual choices. But meh, for another time and when I actually have the money to buy more of my own kitchenware.]

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

To Begin: Oxtail Noodle Soup

Here's to my new blog! Starting things off, this post is about the ginger oxtail stew recipe I recently tried out. It's another good one from that now treasured tome of mine, The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook, by Patricia Tanumihardja. Oxtail is such a tasty cut of beef. Mmm, the meat with the cartilage and gelatin...I can understand why it's a little more pricey.

The recipe in the book only described the stew, but I made it into a beef noodle soup because it seemed so clearly right, rather than serving it with rice, as was suggested. I added in boiled 芥藍 jie lan (Chinese broccoli), and the noodles I used were dried 拉麵 la mian (a Chinese wheat noodle--which I suspect to be the origins of Japanese ramen, given the similarity in pronunciation, the fact that Chinese people call Japanese ramen, "la mian," and the fact that ramen is also "Chinese noodles" in Japan.) Check out the book if you'd like to see the recipe!*

Shots from the process:

The cast assembled

Oxtail parboiled

Simmering away


Woops, forgot to include the cilantro and green onion garnish in the photo.  Well, it does mean the main ingredients are more prominently and clearly pictured.  Anyway, for next time I'll try using a different cut of beef and see how things work.

*Copyright's a weird thing here, for me. I'm wary of posting recipes from books due to copyright issues, unless I've made modifications--on the other hand if recipes are describing what are considered classic dishes from a culinary tradition, can an author really claim copyright? I don't know about that.. In any case, I'll stick with only posting modified recipes, ones that are available publicly, such as on the web, or my own, when I have something good.