Sunday, August 26, 2012

HULK SQUASH


Fortunately, my CSA picks its squash in a timely fashion, so we weren't delivered giant green and yellow clubs to work with; I might've had to HULK SQUASH then. Still, there was a lot of squash. The collage above is composed of some of the things I made using the zucchini, yellow, crookneck, sunburst, and pattypan squash I received. There's really a lot you can do with summer squash, though some dishes clearly are simpler than others--and I am now at the point of treating my squash as simply as possible. Good thing the summer squash harvest is waning.

You can broil or grill them:


These ones were my first attempt, using a toaster oven. Henceforth I just halved or quartered zucchini or yellow squash lengthwise, rather than cutting slices as pictured above. I liked the thickness better.


Once broiled/grilled, you can chop them up and use them in a salad:


Toss with some oil, a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, sliced green onions, and halved cherry tomatoes (not pictured), maybe also a little basil and oregano, and you're golden.

Of course, it was also easy to just slice them thin and sauté the squash before tossing in a salad. The brief cooking really helps bring out a lot of flavor. If you keep it brief, the squash will still have the crispness of raw squash on the inside, too:



Then there's stuffing and baking:


I found that the rice (or whatever else you decide to stuff your squash with) at the top gets hard, so it's best to keep the lids on while they're baking if you want to keep it moist.


I keep trying to stuff and bake vegetables with egg. I've finally come to realize that egg takes a lot longer to cook through and set when baking vs. steaming. Tangentially, if you don't cover up the top, an unbeaten egg will develop an unpleasantly hard skin when baked...


And then there's soup:


You just gotta cook the squash (and whatever else you're including, such as garlic, onion, scallions, carrots), whether by roasting or sautéing, simmering with a little water/broth and thyme, and then food-process it all together.


Squash bread would be a great option:


Though I'm much more a cook than a baker. It doesn't help that wheat causes me issues. This batch was made with a gluten-free flour mix from King Arthur Flour, but I didn't have xanthan gum on hand, which helps give gluten-free baked goods more lift. This yellow squash bread tasted ok, but felt a little grainy. Maybe the xanthan gum would've helped make it a little more bread-y. It was kinda cake-y, partially because the recipe I followed called for a lot of sugar, to the point that you couldn't really taste the squash.

Which brings me to another point: summer squash is pretty light in flavor, so you want to treat it lightly with the seasoning. Too heavy and you'll overpower it, but just right and the squashy flavor is really excellent.


I've found that sautéing and stir-frying are great for bringing out the flavor of summer squash:


This time sautéed first and then simmered.

In a subsequent attempt, stir-fried with a thicker sauce:


All that said (and shown), it's also a good thing that I can handle a fair amount of routine in my diet, too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Masoor Dal Baked Potato


Oh yes, this happened. I did put my masoor dal on a baked potato. Too bad I didn't have any cilantro on hand.

Not that this is so far a leap; dals are general eaten on rice or with roti, so this is just another starch--another good canvas for dal to act on.

How do you feel about mixing foods and cuisines? I clearly am pretty loose with my pairings, as in the background of this photo is a blanched green bean with a Chinese sauce. This is where innovation comes from, heheh.

Speaking of mixing it up, this article is a good one if you're looking for inspiration in changing your cooking routine. Different cuisines do have general flavor profiles associated with them. If you look at their foods and recipes more broadly, you can discern flavor combinations that work well, that have been developed over time in their different regions.

Up next, a large photo post of some things I made with the masses of squash I got from my CSA.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Drooly Scrambled Eggs


You can get moist, creamy scrambled eggs without using milk! In French, eggs cooked just barely to having set, but which are still moist, are called "baveuse" or runny/dribbly. Literally, though, "baver" means "to drool/slobber". On top of that, I think scrambled eggs cooked in such a manner are drool-worthy.

This was a miraculous discovery to me, as I've long thought that beating in milk with the eggs was necessary. However, I tried just beating in a tablespoon of water per egg (and a pinch of salt), which helps to give the eggs some volume and lightness, and the rest is up to technique (from The New Best Recipe). Of course, if you can have milk and butter, it tastes even better.

You can either use a fork and slowly stir the eggs in a wide circular motion, with the fork tines held horizontally--parallel to the plane of the skillet, or use a spatula and gently push the eggs from one side of the skillet to the other. As the curds form, you start to gather them up into a mound. Remove from heat as soon as the eggs are just set and still wet-looking, and serve immediately. The New Best Recipe says to use high heat, but I've found that I need to use lower heat on my stove for the rate of cooking that they describe in their recipes.

I beat in chopped scallions with my egg this time.

On another somewhat related note, good timing is also key to getting your omelette eggs to be similarly soft and moist. Though with omelettes, you don't need water or milk mixed in with the eggs (thanks again to The New Best Recipe). Once the egg is just set and the top still moist (baveuse), remove the skillet from heat before proceeding with the filling and folding. If you just turn off the stove, but don't move the skillet, the residual heat will keep cooking the egg more than if you move the skillet away.

The filling is leftover black bean and corn salad I made. Gotta remember to add salsa...


Hmm, I'm not getting the "lovely brown exterior" described in the book, though. The moistness of the eggs are just right, though. I think I need a smaller skillet, so that the bottom can brown before the top cooks through and dries out, since the egg layer won't be spread out as much. I'm using a 10", so go for smaller than that for a 2 egg omelette. The New Best Recipe says 9" for the 2 egg omelette; 8" for a 2 egg scrambled egg, but I haven't had a problem with a 10" for a 2 egg scrambled egg.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Agemiso Tofu | Tofu no Misoni


Prepare yourselves for The Most Massive Miso-Tofu Missive Ever Made.

I went back and did further testing and refining of my technique for skillet-miso-glazed tofu and have concluded that for the best results, I had to split my old recipe up into two different approaches plus a third, unusual one.
  1. Agemiso Tofu: basically agedashi tofu with a miso sauce instead of just dashi.
  2. Tofu no Misoni: miso-simmered tofu. In my opinion, this method gets better texture than my previous approach.
  3. Pan-fried tofu blocks with miso glaze: this one's really an alternate approach to the Agemiso Tofu. Name suggestions for this approach are welcome, haha. "Seared" doesn't seem quite right, but maybe.
You can see my old approach here. Basically, the problem with my old approach was that the cornstarch I used to give the tofu extra crispness when pan-frying turned around to give the tofu extra mushiness when the tofu was subsequently simmered in the miso sauce (not necessarily a bad thing--I actually kinda liked the extra starch layer, and Japanese cuisine fully embraces gooey and slimy textures, such as uni sushi [sea urchin] and grated yamaimo--but not what I wanted to achieve), while also doing its job of thickening up the sauce as it reduced to a glaze.

Thus, to fix this, I had to drop the cornstarch dusting step in the miso-simmered version, which I'm now calling Tofu no Misoni (misoni means miso-simmered). This version, then, doesn't have a crisp tofu skin.

To keep the tofu surface crisp, you can't simmer the tofu in the sauce to cook it. Ultimately, the Agemiso Tofu approach is the same as Agedashi (age referring to frying), where you dust with starch and deep-fry the tofu while separately preparing the dashi soup for pouring over the tofu afterward. I went for shallow-frying rather than the usual deep-frying in order to save oil and some effort. However, this still sort of defeats the ease of technique and effort I liked about my old approach.

Finally, my third approach. I tried cornstarch-dusting and then pan-frying with thick-cut blocks of tofu (because blocks have satisfying mouth-feel), but this leads to a crisp top and bottom with an uncooked middle layer. This is why I cut my tofu thinner for the shallow-fried and miso-simmered approaches, to allow them to cook through. However, I actually really liked the crisp exterior with uncooked center! It provided for a more complex and tasty mix of flavors--but you have to like the flavor of "uncooked" tofu in this case (quotations because tofu is cooked in the process of making it).

On to the recipes and photos:

Agemiso Tofu
Shallow-fried (or deep-fried if you prefer) tofu with miso sauce prepared separately.



1/2 block medium-firm tofu (7-8 oz)
~3 TBS cornstarch

1/2 cup dashi (or chicken stock if you can't find dashi. I use the instant powder kind of dashi, rather than making my own, for convenience.)
2 tsp white miso paste
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine

1/4-inch vegetable oil

1/4 tsp tapioca or potato starch, mixed with 1/4 tsp water

katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
aonori flakes (seaweed)
green onions, slivered or minced
  1. Press tofu for about 10 minutes. Once excess fluid has been drained, cut into flat matchbox-sized blocks.
  2. Pat tofu dry and dust with cornstarch.
  3. While the tofu is being pressed, whisk the dashi, miso, sugar, soy sauce, and rice wine together in a small bowl.
  4. Heat oil in wok over medium-high heat until tiny bubbles form around a chopstick inserted into the oil. Arrange tofu blocks in wok, broad-side down, and shallow-fry until browned on both sides, several minutes each side. Remove tofu from oil and drain on paper towel lined dish or cooling rack.
  5. Pour miso sauce into a small skillet and simmer until reduced by about half. Remove from heat. Stir the tapioca starch so that it's suspended in the water rather than clumped, pour into miso sauce while stirring. Stir and apply low heat until thickened a little.
  6. Arrange tofu in serving dish with raised edges or a bowl. Pour miso sauce over tofu. Sprinkle katsuobushi (bonito flakes), aonori (seaweed) flakes, and slivered or minced green onions over the tofu and serve.



Tofu no Misoni
Miso-simmered tofu: simple to prepare and delicious.



1/2 block medium-firm tofu (7-8 oz.)

1/2 cup dashi (or chicken stock if you can't find dashi. I use the instant powder kind of dashi, rather than making my own, for convenience.)
2 tsp white miso paste
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine

1-2 TBS vegetable oil

katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
aonori flakes (seaweed)
green onions, slivered or minced
  1. Press tofu for about 10 minutes. Once excess fluid has been drained, cut into into flat matchbox-sized blocks. Pat tofu dry.
  2. While the tofu is being pressed, whisk the dashi, miso, sugar, soy sauce, and rice wine together in a small bowl.
  3. Heat oil in small skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Arrange tofu blocks in skillet, broad-side down, and pan fry until lightly browned on both sides, several minutes each side.
  4. Pour miso sauce into the skillet, turn heat down to medium. Simmer for several minutes on each side of tofu, until tofu has cooked through and sauce has reduced by about half.
  5. Remove tofu from heat and arrange in a platter. Pour sauce over tofu. Sprinkle katsuobushi (bonito flakes), aonori (seaweed) flakes, and slivered or minced green onions over the tofu and serve.


Pan-fried tofu blocks with miso glaze


1/2 block medium-firm tofu (7-8 oz)
~3 TBS cornstarch

1/2 cup dashi (or chicken stock if you can't find dashi. I use the instant powder kind of dashi, rather than making my own, for convenience.)
2 tsp white miso paste
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine

1-2 TBS vegetable oil

1/4 tsp tapioca or potato starch, mixed with 1/4 tsp water

katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
aonori flakes (seaweed)
green onions, slivered or minced
  1. Press tofu for about 10 minutes. Once excess fluid has been drained, cut into thick blocks.
  2. Pat tofu dry and dust with cornstarch.
  3. While the tofu is being pressed, whisk the dashi, miso, sugar, soy sauce, and rice wine together in a small bowl.
  4. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Arrange tofu blocks in skillet, broad-side down, and pan fry until browned and crisp on both sides, several minutes each side. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towel lined dish or cooling rack.
  5. Pour miso sauce into a small skillet and simmer until reduced by about half. Remove from heat. Stir the tapioca starch so that it's suspended in the water rather than clumped, pour into miso sauce while stirring. Stir and apply low heat until thickened a little.
  6. Arrange tofu in serving dish with raised edges or a bowl. Pour miso sauce over tofu. Sprinkle katsuobushi (bonito flakes), aonori (seaweed) flakes, and slivered or minced green onions over the tofu and serve.

Heheh, in this attempt, which was actually before the agemiso and misoni approaches, I thickened the sauce too much.