Thursday, July 15, 2010

Daring Cooks' Nut Butter & Taiwanese Cold Noodles

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

This months' challenge was revealed 2 days before my flight back to Taiwan. When i found out that we had to make nut butters using food processors, i knew i had to act quickly and finish the challenge before i went back to TW where i would be lacking in all sorts of kitchen appliances. But with all the packing, moving, and world cup games going on, nut butter was the last thing on my mind. I wasn't reminded of my challenge until i got to unplugging the food processor cord from the wall... so with 30 minutes left before leaving for the airport, i quickly grounded some sliced almonds, packed it up, threw it in my check-in bag and said good-bye to my room!

So after a few days of rest, i finally dragged my lazy ass off the couch and made Taiwanese Cold Noodles (涼麵) with the Almond butter that flew back with me. I replaced the traditionally used oil noodles with no-carb, no-calorie Shirataki / Konjac noodles and topped it off with bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, eggs, and chicken breasts. This makes a very light and refreshing meal, perfect to combat the fiery summer heat of Taiwan. Thanks for the challenge, Margie & Natashya!

Homemade Nut Butters
  • The process for making various types of nut butters is essentially the same. Pour nuts into bowl of food processor [picture 1]. Grind the nuts in the processor until they form a paste or butter. The nuts first turn into powdery or grainy bits [picture 2], then start to clump and pull away from the side of the bowl, and finally form a paste or butter [picture 3, 4]. The total time required depends on the fat and moisture content of the nuts; grinding time will vary from roughly 1 to 4 minutes (assuming a starting volume of 1 to 2 cups [240 to 480 ml] nuts). Processing times for a variety of nuts are described below.
  • You may add oil as desired during grinding to make the nut butter smoother and creamier or to facilitate grinding. Add oil in small increments, by the teaspoon for oily nuts like cashews or by the tablespoon for dryer/harder nuts like almonds. You may use the corresponding nut oil or a neutral vegetable oil like canola.
  • The inclusion of salt in the nut butters is optional and to taste. If you make nut butters from salted nuts, peanuts or cashews for example, you will not need additional salt. We recommend making unsalted nut butters for use in the challenge recipes (and other savory recipes) since the recipes call for salt or salty ingredients. You can then adjust the salt to taste. If you are making nut butter for use as a spread, you should add salt according to your preference.
  • Roasting the nuts before making nut butters is optional according to your preference. To roast nuts in the oven, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4). Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until nuts are fragrant and a shade darker in color. Allow nuts to cool before grinding. Roasted nuts will make butter with darker color than raw nuts.
  • It’s helpful to keep in mind that the yield of nut butter is about half the original volume of nuts. If you start with 1 cup nuts, you’ll get about ½ cup nut butter.
  • The consistency of nut butters varies from thin & soft (almost pourable) to very thick and hard depending on the fat content of the nut. Homemade nut butters will probably not be as smooth as commercial products.
  • Homemade nut butters are more perishable than commercial products and should be stored in the refrigerator. The nut butters harden & thicken somewhat upon chilling.
Approximate Processing Times in Food Processor for Nut Butters:
  • Almonds: form a thick butter in about 2 to 3 minutes for slivered almonds, or 3 to 4 minutes for whole almonds; the skin of whole almonds will leave dark flecks in the butter
  • Cashews: form a smooth, spreadable butter after about 2 minutes of processing
  • Hazelnuts: form a firm, thick, and grainy butter in about 2 to 3 minutes; to remove the skin from whole hazelnuts, roast in a 400 degree F oven (200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6) for about 5 minutes or till skins loosen, then rub hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel to remove some of the skin; the remaining skin will leave dark flecks in the butter
  • Macadamias: form a soft and smooth butter in about 2 minutes
  • Peanuts: form a thick, grainy butter in about 2 or 3 minutes
  • Pecans: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give pecan butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
  • Walnuts: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give walnut butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
  • Pistachios: According to the Nut Butter Primer from Cooking Light, pistachio butter is dry and crumbly with a tendency to clump during processing; they recommend combining it with softened cream cheese for easy spreading and report a processing time of 3.5 to 4 minutes. Please note, we did not test pistachio butter.
Taiwanese Cold Noodles with Almond Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded garlic (making a paste)
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (or to taste)
  • Water, adjust to desired consistency

  • For the COLD NOODLES:
  • Chinese egg noodles /oil noodles, cooked and drained
  • Chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • Fresh bean sprouts and Chinese chives, boiled and drained
  • Fresh carrots, julienned
  • Fresh cucumbers, julienned
  • Pan-fried egg omelettes, sliced into thin strips.
  1. Combine all dressing ingredients together in a large bow and mix until well blended. Adjust the consistency by adding more water or more almond butter. Set Aside.
  2. Place the cooked noodles onto a plate and top with shredded chicken breasts, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, and egg. Drizzle with desired amount of almond dressing, gently toss and enjoy.
Taiwanese Cold Noodles

Monday, June 28, 2010

Daring Baker's (chocolate) Pavlova

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

I had the worst luck making Chocolate Pavlovas this month. I really don't know what happened, i followed Dawn's recipe exactly and i ended up with a Chocolate Pavlova with colors that were opposite from everybody else's masterpiece... I'm talking about having a DARK brown pavlova base and a LIGHT brown chocolate mousse! I'm guessing the mistake happened when i was folding in the coco powder into the egg whites... cuz after sifting in the 1/3 cup of cocoa powder, everything felt heavy as i was trying to fold it together. The folding took forever to blend and by the time i was done, the egg whites were already half-deflated. I didn't want to waste the ingredients so i baked it anyways... and luckily for me, what came out was a lovely flourless chocolate cake topped with yummy mousse and strawberries! LOL, it was the best mistake i've ever made ;)

But i thought you should know that i redeemed myself the next day and made a traditional Pavlova (without chocolate). It turned out soooo much better and i finally understood what the fuss is all about-- that crispy crust and chewy marshmallow cloud is to die for! The layer of mascarpone cream topped with kiwis gave it the perfect balance of sweet and sour. Sigh, i wish i had an oven here in Taiwan... so want to make this again!

1- Chocolate Meringue
(for the chocolate Pavlova):
  • 3 large egg whites
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
  2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form [picture 1, 2]. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
  3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white [picture 3]. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon [picture 4].
  5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
(for the top of the Pavlova base):
  • 1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream
  • grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
  • 9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
  • 1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)
  1. Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
  2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl [picture 1]. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
  3. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten [picture 2]. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.
3: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):
  • 1 recipe crème anglaise (recipe below)
  • ½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
  • 2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)
  • ½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream
  1. Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.
4: Crème Anglaise
(a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):
  • 1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
  • 1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow [picture 1, 2].
  2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil [picture 3]. Take off the heat.
  3. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs [picture 4].
  4. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium [picture 5]. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon [picture 6]. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
  5. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.
Assembly of Chocolate Pavlova:
  1. Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top.
  2. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.
(failed) Chocolate Pavlova

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Daring Cooks' Pâtés and Bread

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

Ooops, i'm a day late for the challenge :( Life has been so busy these days that i just can't find the time and will to blog. JLo's graduating and he's busy packing and shipping his 5 years of junk away. Seeing his room empty out day by day makes me even more sad to do anything else, SIGHHHH, this sucks. We're both heading back to TW this weekend and thus starts our 1 year long-distance relationship, we'll see how that goes :(

On a brighter note, I was really excited when this months' Daring Cooks' challenge was revealed because one of my favorite bloggers, Valerie, whom i have followed for quite some time is the co-host! Valerie and Evelyne gave us many recipes for Pates to choose from and I went with a double-layered Vegetable Pâté (no pesto layer) and the Chicken Liver Terrine. Growing up in a Taiwanese household meant that chicken livers or any type of animal organs wasn't going to gross me out-- making AND tasting the Pâté was no problem for me! JLo also shared some with one of his friends and he told us that Pâté, or called "Pasztet" in Poland, is also very commonly eaten in Polish households. He said it tasted very much like the ones his grandmother makes! So thanks, Valerie and Evelyne, for sharing this awesome recipe with us!

Chicken Liver Terrine
Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan
  • 1 tbsp duck fat, or butter
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 300g (11 oz) chicken livers, trimmed
  • 3 tbsp brandy, or any other liqueur (optional)
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz, 1/2 cup) smoked bacon, diced
  • 300g (11 oz) boneless pork belly, coarsely ground
  • 200g (7 oz) boneless pork blade (shoulder), coarsely ground (or ground pork see note below)
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 tsp quatre-épices (or 1/4tsp each of ground pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger is close enough)
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz, 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) heavy cream
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
    NOTE: If you cannot find ground pork belly or blade, buy it whole, cut it into chunks, and pulse in the food processor. You can also replace the pork blade with regular ground pork
  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC (400ºF, Gas Mark 6).
  2. Melt the fat or butter in a heavy frying pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the chicken livers and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until browned but still slightly pink on the inside [picture 1].
  3. Remove the pan from heat. Pour in the brandy, light a match and carefully ignite the alcohol to flambé. Wait for the flames to go out on their own, carefully tilting the pan to ensure even flavoring [picture 2]. Set aside.
  4. Put the minced pork belly and blade in a food processor, then add the onion-liver mixture and the chopped shallots, and pulse until you obtain a homogenous mixture – make sure not to reduce it to a slurry [picture 3, 4].
  5. Transfer to a bowl, and gradually stir in the chopped bacon, quatre-épices, cream, eggs, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well [picture 5]. Spoon the mixture into a terrine or loaf pan, and cover with the terrine lid or with aluminum foil [picture 6].
  6. Prepare a water bath: place the loaf pan in a larger, deep ovenproof dish (such as a brownie pan or a baking dish). Bring some water to a simmer and carefully pour it in the larger dish. The water should reach approximately halfway up the loaf pan.
  7. Put the water bath and the loaf pan in the oven, and bake for 2 hours. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes. The terrine should be cooked through, and you should be able to slice into it with a knife and leave a mark, but it shouldn’t be too dry. Refrigerate, as this pâté needs to be served cold. Unmold onto a serving platter, cut into slices, and serve with bread.
  8. NOTE: This pâté freezes well. Divide it into manageable portions, wrap tightly in plastic film, put in a freezer Ziploc bag, and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge before eating.
Chicken Liver Terrine


Vegetable Pâté
Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan
1. Line your pan with plastic wrap, overlapping sides.

White Bean Layer
  • 2 x 15-ounce / 900 ml cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained thoroughly
  • 1 tbsp / 15 ml fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil
  • 1 tbsp / 15 ml minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
2. Mash beans in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom of prepared pan [picture 1, 2].

Red Pepper Layer
  • 7-ounce / 210 ml jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
  • 3/4 cup / 180 ml crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)
3. Combine peppers and feta in processor and blend until smooth. Spread pepper mixture evenly over bean layer in prepared dish [picture 3, 4].

4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

5. To unmold, invert pâté onto serving platter. Peel off plastic wrap from pâté. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve with sourdough bread slices.


Peter Reinhart's French Bread

I stumbled across this wonderful recipe through Judes' Apple pie, Patis, and Pâté. The recipe can also be found in Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Homemade French Bread

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pea, Lettuce, and Bacon Soup

I'm officially done with school this year! Well, other than my summer training that i have yet to do and some scores i have yet to receive, i'm pretty much done!! :) :) :) :) :) The weather has also cheered up and it's finally hot enough for shorts, tanks and skirts. You can say that i'm a very, very happy person right now :D

So with summer here, all the grass, trees, and flowers around the city reminded me of a soup I made a while back-- a green one, a very very green pea, lettuce, and bacon soup. I don't know about you guys, but i'm not familiar with using iceberg lettuce in any sort of cooking other than eating them fresh in salads. I was afraid the taste would be too odd and the look too healthy for JLo (he sometimes think healthy eating= unappetizing food), so I halved the recipe to test it out. The green mush looked pretty gross after blending it up but i was a changed (wo)man after the initial taste test. Forget "peas and carrots", Forrest Gump would have no problem changing to "peas and lettuce" if he knew what i'm talking about! The lettuce pieces stirred in on the last step gave it a nice crunch and change of texture. JLo had no problem asking for seconds and thirds-- that's pretty good considering how thick and rich the soup was!

Pea, Lettuce, and Bacon Soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) bacon strips, chopped
  • 2 lb (900 grams) baby peas, defrosted
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 1/2 lbs (1 kilogram) iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and bacon and cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until soft, but not browned [picture 1].
  2. Add the peas, stock, and half the lettuce to the saucepan, then simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper [picture 2, 3, 4].
  3. Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly, then blend in batches until smooth (i used a stick blender) [picture 5].
  4. Return to the saucepan with the remaining lettuce and stir over medium-low heat until warmed through [picture 6].
Pea, Lettuce, and Bacon Soup

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Daring Bakers' Croquembouche

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Oh no... i just realized i'm 5 days late for my daring bakers' Croquembouche post. AHHHHHHHHH, i can't believe it. You have no idea how devastated i'm feeling right now. I was so excited about this moths' challenge that i completed mine on May 2nd-- that's 1 day after the reveal date! UGHHHHH, *cries*, it's been a long time since i've been this dissapointed in myself, but i guess i should cut myself some slack since life has been more than hectic for the past week. I'll spare you guys the details but let's just say it involved a lot of studying, graduations, family reunions, food comas, hospitals, parties, and fist fights. Mmmhmm, now let your imaginations run wild! :P

So back to the my piece montée: I never had much luck making choux pastry; tried it many times but always ended up with dough that was too wet to stand. So this time i followed Cat's recipe EXACTLY and out came the most amazing puffs ever! I made around 40 miniature puffs and filled it with coffee pastry cream. I wanted to do more with the decorations on the Croquembouche but after many fail attempts with numerous items, i decided to keep it simple with spun sugar and a last-minute stapled ribbon. I can't wait till I finish my last exam this saturday because i'm dying to try these puffs again. Thank-you so much, Cat, for this awesome challenge. It's definitely one of my fav!

Pâte à Choux
(Yield: About 28)
  • ¾ cup (175 ml) water
  • 6 tablespoon. (85 g) unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • Egg wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally [picture 1, 2].
  3. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely [picture 3].
  4. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan [picture 4].
  5. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
  6. Add 1 egg [picture 5]. The batter will appear loose and shiny [picture 6]. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
  7. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs [picture 7].
  8. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide [picture 8]. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
  9. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).
  10. Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
  11. Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more [picture 9]. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.
Pâte à Choux

Vanilla Crème Patissiere
(Half Batch)
  • 1 cup (225 ml) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoon (100 g) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoon (30 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon. vanilla extract
  1. Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk [picture 1]. Set aside.
  2. In another pan, combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat [picture 2].
  3. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture [picture 3].
  4. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook [picture 4].
  5. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking [picture 5].
  6. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil [picture 6].
  7. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.
  1. When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet [picture 1].
  2. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
  • 1 cup (225 g.) sugar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  1. Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand [picture 2].
  2. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color.
  3. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.
Assembly of your Piece Montée:
  1. Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet [picture 3]. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up [picture 4].
  2. When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Daring Cooks' Stacked GREEN Enchiladas with Spinach Sauce

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on and written by Robb Walsh.

This month, Barbara and Bunnee challenged us to make our own enchiladas and sauce. The original recipe they shared was a homemade green sauce using chiles and tomatillos. But due to the lack of vegetable variety in POZ, i had to look for other alternatives. I didn't want to stray too far from the original recipe so after much thought, i decided to stay "GREEN" and made Enchiladas with spinach sauce. It's also extremely hard to find flat corn tortillas here so i made my own wheat tortillas to stack. I also replaced chicken breasts with pork since it was the day before labor day and the grocery store was basically empty by the time i got there. Sheesh, talk about bad luck with ingredients this month! So even though my Green Enchilada is full of substitutions and using spinach makes it a completely different dish... at least i got the color right, muahaha!

These enchiladas were amazing. The stacked tortillas and cheese almost makes it a Mexican lasagna. It was the perfect last-meal before i started my 1 week detox diet-- it's full of carbs, meat, and cheese! If it wasn't for a meal as gratifying as this, i don't think my diet would've lasted 2 days. So thank-you Barbara & Bunnee, I've reached new horizons with my resourcefulness this month and this challenge has indirectly helped me loose a few pounds. Doesn't get any better than that!

Stacked GREEN Enchiladas with Spinach Sauce
adapted from
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 cup light cream (12%) or half-and-half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 green onions, minced
  • 200 grams fresh green chilies
    (roast, peel, remove seeds, chop coarsely)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • Salt & pepper, to taste.

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
    (i used 500 grams pork)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    (use more as needed)
  • 12 6-inch corn tortillas
    (i made my own wheat tortillas and only used 6)
  • 2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese
    (i used hollander cheese)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Spinach Sauce:
    1. Cook spinach according to package instructions. Drain well. Set aside.
    2. Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add flour and stir mixture for 2 minutes; do not brown.
    3. Gradually whisk in whipping cream and milk. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
    4. Stir in spinach, cilantro, green onion, chilies, cumin, coriander and red pepper [picture 1].
    5. Puree in batches in processor until almost smooth (optional, i skipped this step).
    6. Season with salt and pepper.
      Tip: if your sauce doesn't thicken up, dissolve some starch with cold water and slowly pour into the sauce while mixing constantly.
    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    2. Sautee the chicken (or pork) until just cooked through. Cool and set aside [picture 2].
    3. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check – it should sizzle immediately. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most). Drain on paper towels. Add oil as needed and continue until all tortillas are done.
    4. In a baking dish, ladle a thin layer of sauce.
    5. Lay tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup of sauce over the tortillas. Divide half the chicken among the first layer of tortillas, top with some sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese.
    6. Stack another layer of tortillas, top with the rest of the chicken, more sauce and another third of the cheese [picture 3].
    7. Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese [picture 4].
    8. Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
    9. To serve, spoon any leftover sauce over the stacks and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes.
    Stacked Enchiladas
    with Spinach Sauce

    Sunday, May 09, 2010

    Homemade Ginger Ale

    I've been meaning to make Ginger Ale ever since I received a food request from Shallah in February. I know, I know, it's been a long time since February and i'm not even sure if Shallah will come back to check it out... but here it is anyway!

    Making your own Ginger Ale is fairly easy. All you've got to do is to make your own ginger syrup and mix it with your carbonated water of choice. I personally like Schweppes since I can always count on its "gas content". I tried other local brands of sparkling water but the fizz just didn't quite get there. You might also notice in the picture below that i used Schweppes tonic water instead. I guess it's a sign of aging when i'm starting to enjoy a hint of bitterness to my Ginger Ale, hahaaaa, sad.

    But anyhoo, this simplified recipe is a great alternative to the proper way of making Ginger Ale which requires yeast and fermentation. But if you're interested, here's a great page with step-by-step pictures that'll give you a better-tasting one which might also yield some alcohol depending on your fermentation process. I'm not daring enough to try this, but let me know if you do!

    Ginger Ale
    • 1 cup fresh ginger, finely minced
      (using a knife or food processor)
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 cups water
    • Sparkling water / club soda / tonic water

    Ginger Ale

    Thursday, April 29, 2010

    Daring Bakers' Steak and Mushroom Pudding

    The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

    Whoopsies, i'm a day late! The thing is, i was sooo close to skipping this challenge after i realized a traditional British pudding isn't really a pudding. A British pudding is"any dish cooked in a pudding bowl or pudding cloth normally steamed, boiled but sometimes baked". The steaming part dissapointed me a little since i really wanted to use the oven after such a long cooking-break. It wasn't until the posting day (yesterday) that i decided to maintain my 7 month DB streak and skipped a day of school to complete the challenge (FYI: i'm not a bad student, we're allowed to skip one day out of our 3 week dermatology course!).

    The "Steak and Kidney pudding" recipe Esther posted on the forum caught my eye so i went that direction and made a Steak and Mushroom pudding since kidneys aren't easy to find here. I used butter instead of suet and made the pastry with a food processor. And because i used a food processor for my dough, my mind automatically switched to "pie crust" mode and i forgot to add baking powder to the mix, DANG IT! I should've paid more attention to the instructions... Esther even kindly reminded us to find substitutions for self-raising flour but i was dumb enough to miss it. Ah well, lesson learned!

    But despite that HUGE mistake, i was thrilled to find out that my pudding still flipped out to be a perfectly unscathed dome. The best part was when the juices from the beer and beefspilled out at the first cut. Oh, if only i had recorded it... it would be one of those videos i'd play over and over again on my bad days =D. I had to peel off the entire suet crust since it was inedible without the effects of baking powder, but JLo and I still enjoyed a wonderful meal of steak and mushroom filling that night. Thanks, Esther, for hosting such an interesting challenge this month!

    Steak and Mushroom Pudding
    • For the STEAK FILLING:
    • 450-500 g casserole beef, diced
    • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
    • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
    • 200-250 g button mushrooms
    • 2 tablespoons plain flour
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • 150 ml Guinness beer
    • Worcestershire sauce

    • For the SUET PASTRY:
    • 250 g self raising flour for pastry (If you cannot find self-raising flour, use a combination of all-purpose flour and baking powder.)
    • 175 g shredded suet or suet substitute (i.e. vegetable suet, crisco, lard, butter)
    • 150 ml water for pastry (only an estimate)
    1. For the Steak filling: Add everything to a bowl and mix this all up so meat gets coated with the flour [picture 1].
    2. For the Suet pastry: add flour and and suet into bowl, adding salt and pepper [picture 2].
    3. Add the water, a tablespoonful at a time, as you mix the ingredients together [picture 3].
    4. Make up the pastry to firm an elastic dough that leaves the bowl clean. Don’t over handle the pastry or it will be too hard.
    5. Now roll this out on the work surface, lifting and turning it so it doesn't stick to the surface. Cut out a quarter of the dough to use for this lid [picture 4].
    6. Place the rest into the bowl, pressing it to seal it against the sides of the bowl and bottom and top [picture 5].
    7. Now put filling inside the pie [picture 6]. Add worcestershire sauce to guinness and pour over the top [picture 7].
    8. Roll the final piece of pastry out into a circle big enough to cover the top of the basin, dampen the edges and pinch the edges together to seal [picture 8].
    9. Seal well and cover with a double sheet of foil – pleated in the centre to allow room for expansion while cooking. Secure with string, and place it in a steamer over boiling water.
    10. Steam for 3 - 5 hours, you may need to add more boiling water halfway through or possibly more often [picture 9].
    11. One way to tell that it is cooked is when the pastry changes colour and goes from white to a sort of light golden brown.
    Steak and Mushroom Pudding

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Daring Cooks' Brunswick Stew, the Long Way

    The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

    I'm so glad i have the Daring Kitchen to keep me on track with blog updates because Ive been a bit lazy after returning from my Easter break in Amsterdam. I guess I've growntoo accustomed eating out and getting served that this sudden transition back to the mediocre student life has stricken me a little. But don't worry, i'm pretty sure i'll get back on my feet when my tummy realizes that the pampering is over and food will not appear by itself until i pay a visit to the kitchen.

    This Brunswick Stew challenge couldn't have been more perfect for someone struggling to recover from the holidays. I halved the original recipe and still ended up with a HUGE pot of stew that was enough to feed JLo and I for three days. Having food within reach and not having to go through the entire shopping-preparing-cooking-serving process was a huge relief! This probably sounds bad coming from someone with a food blog but hey, everyone needs a break now and then-- don't judge me!

    I made the long version of Brunswick stew that took around 3 - 4 hours total to complete. I used chicken and pork for the protein and replaced butter beans with white ones (those were the only changes i made). The recipe was fairly easy but the most challenging part, for me, was probably shredding the meat. I shredded mine super thin and that probably took around 20 minutes to complete. This was my first time having Brunswick stew and i thought it tasted a lot like the usual chicken soup... but the vinegar and lemon juice added at the end gave it a nice tang that it lacked. I can only imagine how much better it would've been if i had some tobasco at home!

    In the words of Wolf, "Brunswick stew is not done properly “until the paddle stands up in the middle.”" Considering how sturdy my ladle looks standing in the stew, this challenge was a great success! Thanks, Wolf, for sharing this recipe with us!

    Brunswick Stew, the Long Way
    Serves about 12
    • 110 grams bacon, roughly diced (1/4lb/4oz)
    • 2 Serrano, Thai or other dried red chiles, trimmed, sliced, seeded, flattened
    • 450 grams rabbit, quartered, skinned (1 lb/ 16oz)
    • 1.5 - 2 kilograms chicken, quartered, skinned, and most of the fat removed
    • 1 tablespoon sea salt for seasoning, plus extra to taste
    • 8-12 cups Sunday Chicken Broth (recipe below)
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 large celery stalks
    • 900 grams Yukon Gold potatoes, or other waxy type potatoes, peeled, rough diced (2 lbs)
    • 1 ½ cups carrots, chopped
    • 3 ½ cups onion, chopped
    • 2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (about 4 ears)
    • 3 cups butterbeans, preferably fresh (1 ¼ lbs) or defrosted frozen
    • 1 35oz can / 996.45 grams / 4 cups whole, peeled tomatoes, drained
    • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
    • Juice of 2 lemons
    • Tabasco sauce, to taste
      1. In the largest stockpot you have, preferably a 10-12 qt or even a Dutch Oven if you’re lucky enough to have one, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until it just starts to crisp [picture 1]. Transfer to a large bowl, and set aside.
      2. Reserve most of the bacon fat in your pan, and with the pan on the burner, add in the chiles. Toast the chiles until they just start to smell good, or make your nose tingle, about a minute tops [picture 2]. Remove to bowl with the bacon.
      3. Season liberally both sides of the rabbit and chicken pieces with sea salt and pepper.
      4. Add more bacon fat if needed, or olive oil, or other oil of your choice, then add in chicken pieces, again, browning all sides nicely [picture 3]. Remember not to crowd your pieces, especially if you have a narrow bottomed pot. Put the chicken in the bowl with the bacon, chiles and rabbit. Set it aside.
      5. Add 2 cups of your chicken broth or stock, if you prefer, to the pan and basically deglaze the pan, making sure to get all the goodness cooked onto the bottom. The stock will become a nice rich dark color and start smelling good. Bring it up to a boil and let it boil away until reduced by at least half.
      6. Add your remaining stock, the bay leaves, celery, potatoes, chicken, rabbit, bacon, chiles and any liquid that may have gathered at the bottom of the bowl they were resting in. Bring the pot back up to a low boil/high simmer, over medium/high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover, remember to stir every 15 minutes, give or take, to thoroughly meld the flavors [picture 4].
      7. Simmer, on low, for approximately 1 ½ hours. Supposedly, the stock may become a yellow tinge with pieces of chicken or rabbit floating up, the celery will be very limp, as will the chiles. Taste the stock, according to the recipe, it “should taste like the best chicken soup you’ve ever had”.
      8. With a pair of tongs, remove the chicken and rabbit pieces to a colander over the bowl you used earlier. Be careful, as by this time, the meats will be very tender and may start falling apart.
      9. Remove the bay leaf, celery, chiles, bacon and discard.
      10. After you’ve allowed the meat to cool enough to handle, carefully remove all the meat from the bones, shredding it as you go [picture 5].
      11. Return the meat to the pot, throwing away the bones. Add in your carrots, and stir gently, allowing it to come back to a slow simmer. Simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 25 minutes, or until the carrots have started to soften [picture 6].
      12. Add in your onion, butterbeans, corn and tomatoes [picture 7]. As you add the tomatoes, crush them up, be careful not to pull a me, and squirt juice straight up into the air, requiring cleaning of the entire stove. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring every so often until the stew has reduced slightly, and onions, corn and butterbeans are tender.
      13. Remove from heat and add in vinegar, lemon juice, stir to blend in well. Season to taste with sea salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce if desired [picture 8].
      14. You can either serve immediately or refrigerate for 24 hours, which makes the flavors meld more and makes the overall stew even better. Serve hot, either on its own, or with a side of corn bread, over steamed white rice, with any braised greens as a side.
      Cornbread Bake over Brunswick Stew
      Brunswick Stew