Saturday, February 26, 2011

Round 2: Quickbread

My second attempt at baking! I hadn't heard the term, "quickbread," before, but it's a pretty broad category, including banana breads, cupcakes, cakes, and scones. Basically breads that use leavening agents other than yeast. The recipe I followed for this one is from Mipa at Alien's Day Out, a vegan food blog. Thanks go to my friend, Maree, for introducing me to her blog. Actually, I'm very appreciative of her blog and for this recipe's being near the top at the time I looked, for revealing/confirming to me the viability of using oil, and canola oil specifically (canola's the best!), in baking. Awesome! Because I can't use dairy, and the vegan butter substitutes, like Earth Balance, seem to cause me issue, too.

Her recipe calls for jujube, which I didn't have, so I just made a raisin quickbread. It turned out great; the bread had a nice kind-of crisp crust with moist interior and a mildly sweet flavor. I halved everything since the recipe said the amounts would make 1 large loaf--but I guess what she calls a large loaf, I think is medium. Ah well, duly noted. Anyway, I'm excited to try making other quickbreads, now! First up, of course, will be banana, and next probably squash as time windows arise.

Off-Topic Interlude
Time to pull out my nerd card on you. This is about light and color. Check out the photo below:

Under the red saran wrap, the plastic bowl looks white rimmed and pale green bodied. However, all of the bowl is actually the same pale green. The saran wrap absorbs non red light, and green, standing opposite red on the color wheel (which totally isn't scientific--it's an artist's tool. Actually, I wonder how the color wheel's complements actually work out physically with the light spectrum and their subtractive interactions...?), has no red component and comes out looking colorless through the plastic wrap! Cool, right? Right? Fine, I thought it was cool. I tried holding a piece of the wrap over a more saturated green to see how it looked, but it still showed through as green (though, less so, of course), I'm guessing because it was a lot more saturated, but don't know why.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Not Your Grandma's Gamjatang

Looks like I'm on a Korean roll for the moment. 감자탕 (oh snap, yes I did just bust out the Hangul typing function) gamjatang is a spicy pork bone soup with potatoes and vegetables. I knew nothing about it before looking up recipes for the pork bones I'd bought. Why'd I buy the pork bones? Well, I saw a recipe in the Seattle Times for ham bone soup that sounded good, and I like the idea of making soups and stews with meat bones since it makes for a richer soup and feels less wasteful than just throwing the bones away. By the way, they're cheap as hell--$1.29/lb.? Nice. Anyway, when I was trying to find that Times recipe again, I found, instead, recipes for gamjatang. It sounded better than the recipe I was originally looking for, so I decided to try to pull elements from a couple different recipes, leaning more toward the gamjatang. In the end, I whittled it down pretty much just to this one, from Maangchi. Thanks to my friend, Sarah, for introducing me to the site! It's a great resource for Korean recipes.

But as the title of this post says, this isn't your harmuhnee's gamjatang. I didn't have several of the ingredients asked for, wasn't going to make a trip out to H-Mart or Great Wall, and Harris Teeter failed.

// begin Harris Teeter gripe //
Although Harris Teeter stocks a pretty good variety of things used in different cuisines (at much higher price than you'll find at your local Asian grocery), produce is often left on the shelf to the point that it's wilting and no longer desirable. As such, I was not going to buy the soft 大白菜 dabaicai (Napa cabbage) or the slimy 豆芽 douya (soybean sprouts). My guess is that this is a result of their offering a pretty good variety of produce/products. The customer base doesn't buy the diversified selection quickly enough for them to turn over (well, profitably) the produce very quickly. Though, the tomatoes and lettuce do fine, of course.
// end Harris Teeter gripe //

Anyway, I went for plain ole cabbage instead, and just dropped the bean sprouts. There were no perilla leaves or seeds, Chinese chives, and of course no soybean paste or hot pepper paste (which are Korean sauces, though I think soybean paste is really the same as miso paste). Hell, I didn't even have pork neck or spine bones (I'm pretty sure it was a leg bone, judging from the enormous ball and socket on one side and groove for the patella on the other). I bet they've all been exported to Korea where they sell for more than they would in the US. So instead, I adapted Maangchi's recipe with my previous spicy stewed beef recipes and threw in black beans for good measure; I wanted some more protein anyway, since the bones have only a little meat on them. But it turned out very well, (and my recipe was so different) so I'll actually post a recipe this time!

Simmering with first group of ingredients

2 hours after first starting to simmer, second group ingredients added .5 hours ago, done! Well, almost.

Sprinkle with garnish, and now it's done.

Wow, so this turned into kind-of a monster post; took a while longer than I'd anticipated (writing up the recipe added a fair amount of time). I was going also to talk about my second attempt at baking (quickbread!), but I think I'll do it as a separate post. Anyway, next time I make gamjatang, I definitely need to try it with the perilla leaves/seeds.

Modified 감자탕 gamjatang (pork bone soup)

2 lbs. pork bones
1 one-inch piece ginger, sliced

first group ingredients
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 one-inch pieces ginger, sliced (yup, another one)
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 dried red chili pepper, seeds removed
2 TBS salted soy beans
1 cup black beans, soaked overnight in 3 cups water

second group ingredients
¼ cabbage (2-3 cups), parboiled one minute, torn into bite-sized pieces
3 small potatoes, peeled
2 green onions, cut into two-inch pieces, whites included
(ideally use napa cabbage instead; also add 2-3 cups Chinese chives, cut 2-inch pieces)
the sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS hot pepper flakes
1 heaping TBS chili garlic sauce
3 TBS rice wine
3 TBS fish sauce

chopped green onion

0. Soak black beans overnight.

1. Soak pork bones in cold water 2 hours, drain and rinse. (Maangchi's recipe says 2 hours, but I don't think it's necessary. I think it's just to get the blood out, but the blood comes out when we parboil the bones anyway...I only soaked it for a half-hour)

2. Boil water in a large pot.
3. Add cabbage and blanch for 1 minute.
4. Drain and rinse the cabbage, tear each leaf into big bite-sized pieces and set aside
5. Boil water (just enough to cover the pork bones). Drain and rinse the bones, and boil for 7 minutes.
6. Rinse and strain the pork neck bones and put them in a large pot with 10 cups water.
7. Add first group ingredients and boil for 1.5 hours over medium high heat. (skim off any scum that rises).
8. Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, add ingredients from the sauce and mix together. Hold off on the fish sauce until right before adding to the pot if you want to avoid its smelling up your kitchen.
9. Prepare second group ingredients: tear, cut, peel ingredients as described in ingredient list above, and set aside.
10. 1.5 hours after the first group started cooking, take the (formerly) dried chili pepper and shiitake mushrooms out of the pot.
11. Slice shiitake mushrooms into bite sized pieces.
12. Add second group, the sauce, and the chopped shiitake mushrooms into the soup. Cook for another 30 minutes.
13. Turn off heat, transfer the soup into a serving bowl, and sprinkle with chopped green onions. Serve with steamed rice.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Kalbi, Korean grilled beef short ribs, is fantastic. I actually had it a lot growing up, but never knew it was supposed to be a Korean dish (my family is Taiwanese). And I don't think the older generation(s) of my family knew it as Korean either; they aren't too familiar with Korean cuisine, but everyone makes grilled beef short ribs. It's just one of those things, I'm sure, that's made its way around Asian nations' cuisines. Like various forms of spicy beef noodle soup, braised pork belly, stir-fried fat noodles, and chicken curries.

To be sure, the way I had beef short-ribs growing up is different than kalbi, though. And having finally tried making kalbi (recipe courtesy of The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook), I can say that kalbi is a more involved process than our short ribs were. The way my family marinated was simpler (though, that's not to say that everyone's is). Mainly, there's fruit rub (kiwi in this recipe) to tenderize the meat for kalbi. There were also just several more ingredients in the marinade. Anyway, discussion to follow pics from the process:

Kiwi puréed

 Massaging the meat

 The marinade


 Several hours later, after marinating and finally broiling (I know, no grill :[ )

It's always great to try new things, so I was happy to do the kiwi massage. I will say, though, the meat ended up too tenderized. It was kind of falling apart. Well, the ones on the broiling pan were falling apart, while the one I had from the baking pan was better. I wonder why that was...? Something about stewing in its juices? That doesn't seem right. Maybe it was just the one. I don't know if the recipe calls for more kiwi than is needed, or if maybe I massaged too much (though I really didn't massage very much at all). Or did the soda put it over the top? Or I overcooked it? But the one in the juices had better texture than the ones on the broiling pan. Hmm. Well, I'll just have to change things next time.

This was also my first time using the oven broiler. I was worried about burning and smoke--but I'm not really sure how our oven broiler works. It's a gas oven, but there doesn't seem to be something to apply direct heat from above. It may just be the highest temperature the oven goes (past 500, it just says BROIL). Our hypersensitive smoke detector did go off a couple times despite the lack of smoke, though. I think it was the gas.

Anyway, things smelled nice and the flavor on the one not falling apart was good. Oh, and the veggies are just kind of random. The cucumbers were a savory Chinese style marinated cucumber, and the onions I just threw in the oven to "grill" with a little lemon (leftover produce scraps from other productions, ha) squeezed over them.

*Afterthought: Oh, you know what? Maybe it was because I froze the meat for a while before getting around to cooking it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gravlax [=buried salmon]

Apparently gravlax is cured salmon. I'd never heard the term until I recently saw it on a blog post, referred to over and over again, and had no idea what the author was talking about. Finally, at the recipe portion of her post, she referred to Mark Bittman's Minimalist version of gravlax, and at the beginning of his column, he explained it. What? Minimalist cured salmon? Sweet, I have to try it!

Bittman's version, I believe, is the basic, fundamental version of gravlax: you just cure it with salt, sugar, and dill. After I put it aside to cure, though, I started worrying about parasites and looked up some information on what to do with salmon to deal with that if you're not going to cook it (as I wasn't). In the end, I found a discussion of the freezing conditions recommended by the FDA, which said to freeze for 7 days at -4 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. -4F! Our freezer does not say how cold "9" on the dial is and we don't have a thermometer to put in it. And I wasn't going to go buy one just for this. (The salmon also hadn't been commercially frozen beforehand). Oh well, after the curing was done and washed away, I just turned our freezer up to 9, waited for 7 days, and hoped for the best.

After freezing, I took it out to defrost in the refrigerator and tried it out. It tasted great! A lot like some smoked salmons do, actually, despite the fact that it wasn't smoked. Definitely there are smokier salmons than others, and this would have been more like the less smoky ones. Anyway, not having had a salmon sandwich in a while (save for that mouth melting salmon and tuna ciabatta at Delicatus in Seattle this winter) I decided to use my gravlax for sandwiches.

I was pretty excited to have this sandwich. (plus some mustard) It was really soft! I wonder if the freezing has anything to do with that...

If I develop unusual medical concerns in the near future, tell House to check for parasites.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Happy Lunar New Year!

Lunar New Year was actually last Thursday, February 3rd, but Spring Festival's still going on; it's a two week celebration. My family wasn't very traditional, but we did celebrate Chinese festivals at a minimal level (so we did the New Year's Eve eating with family/friends and red envelopes). Pictured above is 羅蔔糕 luobogao (radish cake), a traditional food for Chinese New Year, and also commonly served at dimsum. The traditional foods for the New Year tend to be symbolic for punny reasons (a side note: puns are a HUGE part of East Asian humor). In the case of luobogao, it's because gao, which means something like paste or cake in this case, is a homonym for "tall," and you want to grow tall.

Making this is quite a process! But it's a fantastic dish. I mostly followed this recipe at Asian Dumpling Tips*, but halved the quantities and just dropped the wheat starch altogether and only used rice flour. Check out photos from the process, below:

 Grating the 白蘿蔔 bailuobo (white radish, a.k.a. daikon)
Radish with sausage, shrimp, scallions, cooked and ready to steam.

 My new steaming setup: steaming pan with wok and lid! So much better than the pot or sauté pan I was trying to get by with before. More to come on the wok in the future.

 Forty minutes later, ready to cool off and then pan fry. Can be eaten as is, but frying makes the skin and textures so much better.

Mmm, seared to perfection.

The textures came out perfectly. It was crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Yes, the recipe I referenced wanted a more "bouncy" texture, but I like it this way and don't want to bother with finding wheat starch. The flavor, on the other hand, wasn't quite there. The daikon flavor was really sharp. I'm not sure why that was. Maybe it was the radishes themselves. Maybe I should have cooked it longer than the recipe called for.

Actually, there are several things I'll do differently next time: pan fry the sausage and shrimp (and include black/shiitake mushrooms) first before adding the daikon into the pot rather than simmering the daikon and then adding the sausage, etc. to the pot. This, I believe, will bring out the savory flavors of the meats (and mushrooms) better since they were hardly present this time. I'll also try simmering the radish a little longer in hopes that the biting flavor of the radish will be reduced. I may also just skip on that whole wringing out the radish liquids. When I did that, the amount of liquid was exactly the amount the recipe said to add water up to--in other words, the radishes already had the right amount of water in them naturally. Though I suppose wringing it out lets you be precise in case of individual variation.

One last note: the red sauce in the opening photo is not ketchup, but rather sriracha sauce. I prefer a mixture of oyster sauce/soy paste, though. In any case, all in all, I'm happy with how things turned out.

*It's weird to me that the author, Andrea Nguyen, refers to luobogao as dumplings. I had to look it up, and I guess technically they are since apparently dumplings aren't necessarily filled and are just based on some cooked flour..

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Study in Contrasts

Ooh, I got one for ya: What do palida and ratatouille have in common?

Pretty much nothing, actually. But I had them together anyway. In Chinese bowls. S'what I do.

Palida is apparently dal but with aromatic garam masala spices added at the end. I am very unfamiliar with Indian/South Asian cuisine, and didn't even know what dal referred to. Well, I tried making yellow split pea dal (not really traditional, but apparently a substitute legume used in America) and things turned out nicely. Beans! Or rather I should say legumes! With grains of some sort. It's genius, I tell you. I have to say, though, not so satisfying as meat, eating vegetarian. No, no, I'm not going vegetarian. Just with this meal.

Man, Indian cuisine is so complicated with its mass of spices, though. I couldn't find the cardamom that was supposed to be part of the garam masala. Here are the ones I did use, besides the coriander, cumin, paprika, and turmeric (and other things) that went into the stew beforehand.

Cinnamon, Cloves, and Bay Leaves

You know, I think I was actually supposed to use cinnamon sticks of 1/2 inch diameters and not 1/2 inch long cinnamon sticks. Oh well. This is on the simpler side of garam masala, too, from what I gather.

A quick question for anyone who knows: do lentils turn mushy quicker than split peas? Do split peas just take forever? I cooked them for a while and though they softened up fine, they didn't really turn to a mushy texture.  Anyway, the flavor was good--wouldn't know if it's "correct" or not, though.

Ratatouille I've been making occasionally for a while now. It's a great vegetable dish that you can make a large batch of to last a while. I used Helene @ My Tartelette's recipe, which is excellent, with quantity reductions because I don't need to make so much.

As for the palida, I got the recipe from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook. I'll be looking into other legume recipes in the future. Especially since I have this bag of black beans sitting around, that were not fermented, as I'd wanted; I can't read hangul! Or understand what the sounds mean, anyway.