Archive | July, 2009

Taro Coconut Milk with Tapioca (西米露)

31 Jul

Summer is a time for cool, refreshing desserts. Xi mi lu is a popular Asian dessert commonly served after dinner at restaurants, and it is suuuper easy to make. The only difficult part is waiting for the damn thing to cool enough to count as “refreshing”. I burned about fifty layers of skin off the roof of my mouth by tasting it as it cooked.

PSA: Coconut milk fresh off the stove is Very Hot.

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Taro Coconut Milk with Tapioca (西米露)
Adapted from Eupho Cafe (Recipe in Chinese)

Ingredients
2/3 cup mini tapioca pearls
600g (about one med) taro
2 cans coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar

Cook the tapioca. The original recipe says to boil water, turn off the heat, add the tapioca, and cover for 20 minutes. Reboil, turn off heat, and cover for 10 minutes. This doesn’t make any sense to me because when you cook tapioca, you have to stir constantly to make sure the pearls don’t stick to each other.  However, I followed the directions blindly and ended up with a solid block of tapioca. I spent the next hour or so trying to separate the pearls. Go Christine. You’re a smart one. Also, I don’t know why my tapioca is green.

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SO. Let’s try this again.

Cook the tapioca. Bring about 3 cups of water to a boil and reduce to medium heat. Add the tapioca and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The pearls should turn clear when they’re cooked, with no opaque white dots in the middle. Cooked tapioca is slightly chewy (or “QQ”), neither hard nor mushy. Immediately drain and transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.

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Now, taro is a PAIN to work with. They’re tough little buggers to peel, and bleed starch all over your hands. Do you best to cut them into 1cm cubes.

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Toss them into a pot with the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Add the sugar and cover, stirring occasionally until taro becomes soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and chill in the refrigerator. When ready to eat, drain the tapioca again and add to the taro/coconut milk soup. Mix and serve.

Length of Procrastination: 50 minutes of hands-on time, forever and a half to chill.
Ways to Prolong Procrastination: Cook the tapioca wrongly and spend forever trying to separate the chunks.

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do you wok the wok

28 Jul

recently i watched a movie called “taste of happiness” that had a shanghai chef in japan who cooked all these dishes in this huge wok. my mom also cooks with a wok and every time i go home to eat, i marvel at how well scrambled eggs come out. other things seem to cook differently in a wok too – green veggies always come out more colorful and less wilted, and meat gets cooked thoroughly and tenderly without ever sticking to the side. so for a few weeks i was raving about how awesome a wok is. then, christine bought me a wok as a present, and last night i broke it in and made my first meal in the wok.

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i also used a new wok scoop that i bought in chinatown, and a butcher’s knife christine bought for me. the butcher’s knife is great – it is heavy and sharp and cuts vegetables completely differently than western chef’s knives. the wok scoop, surprisingly, is all you’d need to cook anything in the wok. you can stir the ingredients being cooked, spoon in broth or spoon out soup, you can use the edge to cut meat or veggies into smaller chunks in the wok, use it to serve single servings of rice, you can even scramble eggs using the scoop.

i made cucumber with scrambled eggs (i would have done the traditional tomato and eggs but my haymarket cucumbers were looking a bit overripe) and a large batch of garlic green beans. i made half of it with marinated tofu leftover from our barbeque last night, and another half with beef (from leftover hamburger). so christine, here’s to cooking together to procrastinating together.

Cucumber and Scrambled Eggs

Ingredients

two eggs
one asian cucumber

scramble two eggs in a bowl. sprinkle with salt. heat wok with a bit of oil. before oil gets hot and starts smoking, pour the egg into the wok. occasionally stir until egg starts to firm, then scoop the scrambled egg back into the bowl.

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peel and slice cucumber at an angle into elongated oval slices. heat oil in wok. put a bit more oil so that the cucumber doesnt become burned or dry, and will come out with more color. stir-fry cucumbers for two minutes. add the eggs back in, stir fry and add salt to taste.

Tossing the ingredients in the wok

Tossing the ingredients in the wok

Garlic Green Beans with Marinated Tofu or Beef

ingredients:
1 lb green beans
1/2 package (1 cube) extra firm tofu
1 clove garlic
1/2 lb ground beef
soy sauce and salt

marinated tofu:

slice extra firm tofu into 1/4 inch slices. prepare a marinade of soy sauce, sesame oil, and furikake, and soak the tofu in the marinade. be sure to flip the tofu once so both sides get covered by furikake. after marinating, cut the tofu into bite size squares.

beef:

take 80% lean hamburger (1/4 to 1/2 lbs, about the size of 1 burger patty). hand mix garlic powder, adobo powder, salt, pepper, and cumin.

greenbeans

wash and prepare the green beans by pinching off both ends, then breaking the beans into 1 to 2 inch long segments. peel and dice one clove of garlic into larger, rough slices. heat oil in wok, and toss in the tofu or the beef. if using beef, break the meat into small chunks as it cooks. remove the tofu when the sides barely start to brown, and the beef when it is almost thoroughly cooked.

heat some oil and toss in the garlic. stir for a few seconds for the garlic to start flavoring the oil, then toss in the green beans. stir fry the green beans, making sure that everythings gets a slight coat of oil and starts to get a bit tender. toss the tofu or beef back into the wok and stir fry together, adding salt and soy sauce to taste. remove when the green beans are tender but still slightly crunchy, and still have a bright green color to them.

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cooking time: 15 minutes to prepare green beans and cucumber while rice is cooking, 15 minutes to stir fry.
ways to prolong procrastination: cook a large batch of food. the wok is huge.

no recipe needed

21 Jul

because all i’m making is fresh, squeezed orange juice. when i was in Serbia for the Summer World Universiade Games one of the things i got addicted to was freshly squeezed orange juice from the local SuperMaxi. The total cost was 295 dinars for a huge litre of the delicious stuff, or a bit less than $5. of course, i’d down the whole thing between the time we left the SuperMaxi and when we left the mall.

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recently, i got a hand oj extractor, and went to Haymarket and bought a bunch of Florida juicing oranges. I’d never noticed but since the juicing oranges had really thin skins, they were hard to eat, but easy to juice, compared to navel oranges. and the juicer practically gutted each orange half, taking out all the pulp and leaving only a dried, empty shell. it was also alot easier than i expected. just think, while making juice you’re also getting in a good arm exercise. freshly squeezed orange juice is always a win-win situation.

orange juice

Length of procrastination: 10 minutes

Ways to prolong procrastination: Make lemonade. Then make limeade. Then make a strawberry banana raspberry smoothie in my new Magic Bullet.

Pan-fried Tofu with Napa Cabbage and Vermicelli

20 Jul

The weekend before last, I took a short trip back home to California for my dad’s birthday. Usually when I’m home, my mom doesn’t ever let me touch the stove because, in her words, she doesn’t like eating food made by people who don’t know how to cook. Ouch…burn.

To be fair, my mom is the best cook in the entire world.

This tofu, napa cabbage, and vermicelli dish is one that she taught me that weekend. And because she was swamped with cooking a banquet-sized dinner, she actually let me pan-fry the tofu! (Under her careful supervision, of course.) Progress is being made.

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Pan-fried Tofu with Napa Cabbage and Vermicelli
From my momma’s kitchen

Ingredients
1 package of extra-firm tofu
1 medium-sized head of napa cabbage
2 rectangular prisms of vermicelli (they usually come 3 to a bright pink mesh bag in Asian supermarkets)
cooking oil
sesame oil
soy sauce
salt, white pepper, Asian seasonings to taste
corn starch or other thickening agent (optional)

Put vermicelli in a bowl of cold water to soak.

Cut tofu into small, flat blocks, about 1/2″x2″x3″, and lightly pan-fry with sesame oil. Set aside.

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Slice the napa cabbage and stir-fry for 5-10 minutes. They should still be crunchy and undercooked. Add in the tofu along with about 1/2 cup of the water the vermicelli has been soaking in and cover.

While you wait, remove the vermicelli from the water and cut into 6″ strands. This step is skippable if you don’t mind long strands of vermicelli or if, like me, you just forget. Add in the vermicelli when the napa is almost cooked through. It’s important not to add the noodles in too early because they’ll turn into mush if cooked for too long. Season to taste. I usually use soy sauce, salt, white pepper, and some Asian “vegetarian seasoning” from home. The thing is like MSG–it makes everything taste like magic–but has to be all-natural because I bought it at an organic/health food store. But I digress.

If you prefer your sauce to be a little thicker, feel free to add in some corn starch or flour.

When your napa is soft, it’s all done! Nom to your heart’s content. Or until it’s all gone.

Length of procrastination: 20 minutes

Ways to prolong procrastination: Cook some rice to go with it!

Meet My New Toy

16 Jul

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She was sitting on the shelf at Rite-Aid with a little $19.99 tag in front of her. I walked past her and stole a glance. She glanced back. I walked past again, this time looking pointedly, but trying not to act too interested. She looked pointedly back. On the third pass, I stopped in front of her and stared. She stared back, flashing her cardboard box seductively so that the light bounced off the words “delicious versitility” and “fully automatic”. I nervously shifted my weight from one foot to the other, then stooped down to look her in the eye. She cocked her head and winked at me. I caved.

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Yes. I bought an ice cream maker from Rite-Aid. I dare you to judge me after eating some of the ice cream that comes out of it (I feel like using the feminine pronoun here would be inappropriate for some audiences). I don’t have $50 to blow on some gorgeous Cuisineart supermodel. My cute little Hamilton Beach does the job and does it well. Sure, her extension cord is only about a foot long. Sure, it takes an entire freezer full of ice, plus half a carton of salt, for her to freeze ice cream properly. Sure, she’s a bit bulky and unwieldy, but dangnammit, she makes a gallon of ice cream in the flavor of my choice. And that, my friends, is true love.

ice cream

I’ve made two kinds of ice creams so far: green tea and raspberry+apricot. The green tea was the honest-to-goodness best green tea ice cream I’ve ever had. It’s not made with a custard base (no eggs!), so it’s got a much lighter texture–just like green tea is supposed to be. I’ve always thought that the store-bought versions were too creamy and too sweet, but this ice cream is absolutely perfect. Plus? No heat, so you can go from mixing bowl to mouth in less than an hour.

The raspberry and apricot ice cream came out with a consistency more like frozen yogurt than ice cream, probably due to the amount of water in it. This didn’t bother me, but the apricot syrup did come with a whole ton of sugar, making the final product really crazy freaking sweet. Not that I’m complaining or anything, but I’d probably cut the amount of granulated sugar I put in by half if I were to make this again.

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Green Tea Ice Cream
From Jason Truesdell

Ingredients
4 cups heavy cream
4 cups whole milk
2 cups  sugar
4 heaping tbsp matcha (green tea) powder
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk the matcha with the milk and sugar, making sure the powder dissolves. Stir in the cream and vanilla. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes, then freeze and churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Makes about 3 quarts.

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Raspberry and Apricot Ice Cream
I made it up! Seriously.

Ingredients
5 cups milk (I used 2%)
3 cups + a sprinkle of sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 large eggs, beaten
4.5 cups heavy cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 can of apricot halves (12 oz.)
2 cups frozen raspberries

Combine milk, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Do not boil!

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs as you pour half of the hot milk mixture into it. This tempers the eggs so that you get custard instead of scrambled eggs when you pour everything back into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat while stirring until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. It’ll be nice and thick and almost gooey. Chill in the refrigerator (or freezer).

While you’re waiting for your custard base to cool, scoop out your apricot halves and dice them. Save the syrup! Size doesn’t matter a whole heckuva lot. Just make sure you’re okay with that size apricot going into your mouth. Add the syrup and apricot pieces into your cooling custard.

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In a small saucepan, heat the frozen raspberries with a sprinkle of sugar so that their juices come out. Stir and squash them as best you can, then pour the raspberries through a strainer into your apricot-flavored custard. This’ll remove the raspberry seeds and residual pulp, but feel free to skip this step if you like the crunch.

When everything’s cold, stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Freeze and churn according to your ice cream maker’s directions.

Makes one gallon.

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Length of procrastination: 50 minutes  (green tea), 1.5 hours (raspberry apricot)

Ways to prolong procrastination: Repeatedly open the freezer door to check whether the custard is cool yet. The answer is no, and it probably prolongs the cooling process. Oops.

Also: Bobby’s back! All the nice, high-res artsy-fartsy photos were taken by him. Visit his blog for more pictures and general awesomeness. ^^

I’m submitting these to the Ice Cream Social hosted by Savor The Thyme, Tangled Noodle and Scotty Snacks.

Veggie Dumplings

8 Jul

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Let me be honest–I’ve never made dumplings in my life. In my twenty-one years, never have I sat down next to my mommy and helped her wrap the scrumptious, intricate crescents. Last weekend, after the Fourth of July madness, some of my ATS lovelies came over to help me wrap my very first dumplings. If you’re going to  make dumplings, I highly encourage you to do it with friends. It involves a lot of washing and shredding and dicing, which may drive the average person insane. The logical solution is to get someone else to do it.

Also, it takes five people one-fifth of the time to wrap nearly a 89 dumplings as it takes one person.

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Veggie Dumplings
From Angela, Stephie, Tiffy, Zach, and me.

Ingredients
1 pack silken tofu (two blocks)
1 small head napa cabbage
2 large eggs
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated
2 blocks of dried vermicelli, rehydrated
2 packs dumpling wrappers
salt
white pepper

Smash the tofu with the flat side of your Asian butcher knife until it looks like cottage cheese. Set aside.

Wash and shred the napa cabbage. Avoid the small bitter leaves in the middle of the head. Toss the shreds with salt to remove the excess water and set aside to drain.

Beat the eggs and fry over a large skillet to create thin pancakes of egg. Shred into pieces about 2 inches long and set aside.

Remove the stems of the shiitake mushrooms and dice. Set aside.

Cut the vermicelli into short strands, at most 2 inches in length. Shorter strands will be easier to wrap, but if they’re too short, the strands will turn into mush. Not tasty.

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Take all of the shredded and diced ingredients that you set aside and dump them into the smushed tofu. Thoroughly combine. Don’t be a wuss–use your hands! At this point, you can add a little white pepper and salt to season the filling, but most people will be eating dumplings with soy sauce, which adds a significant amount of salty flavor.

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Now it’s time to wrap the dumplings. There are tons of different ways of wrapping them–you can just seal the edges together or pleat one edge. It takes some practice and a lot of patience to create a nice, pleated dumpling. When wrapping, keep in mind that any air in the middle of the wrapped dumplings will expand in the heat and give you a funny-looking bloated dumpling. No worries; you can just squeeze the air out with a spoon as you cook them, and the taste isn’t compromised. You may want to flour the plate or aluminum foil you’re placing the folded dumplings on so that they won’t stick to the surface.

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Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a drop of sesame oil so that the dumplings don’t stick to each other. Add the dumplings and wait for the water to boil again. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the skin becomes soft and not too chewy.

Any leftover dumplings can be frozen in a ziploc bag for about a week.

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Length of Procrastination: About 3 hours
Ways to Prolong Procrastination: Make a delicious frozen treat for dessert while waiting for dinnertime. (Foreshadowing! DUN DUN DUNNN.)

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