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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bass and Salmon Quiche

I had 1 whole bass and 1 salmon filet already cooked that I needed to figure out some type of repurposing deal.
Ah.. quiche!
I used my Buckwheat Thyme Shortcrust, but instead of infusing the water with thyme, I used dried rosemary and a pinch of chili powder.
The "appareil" part was the standard 4 medium very well beaten eggs, 1 cup milk, 3/4 cup heavy cream, some chili powder, a pinch of nutmeg and some fresh cracked pepper.
This was poured over the some pieces of plancha bass, salmon, and grilled veggies in the precooked crust, then topped with some grated parmesan and cooked at 375°F 180°C for about 40 minutes.
Now THAT is how to do leftovers!

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Buckwheat Galettes (Crêpes)

I've been living in France for about 7 years and I have never made crêpes or crêpe batter once in my life.  Back home in the US, my mother would do it and everybody in the neighborhood (I may just be exaggerating a bit) would flock to the house to brunch on this foreign French delicacy nobody else they knew could make.  She was good at keeping her secrets.  She also put rum in her batter so of course everyone was addicted to her crêpes!  I always figured I'd leave the crêpe making to my French friends and I'd handle all the "weird" cooking.  Tonight, though, I wanted to participate because I love buckwheat, and I have some home made maple syrup from my colleagues in Quebec that work wonders with buckwheat, and I wanted to share that goodness with the unbeknownst.
Yield 10 large diameter galettes
260g (9oz) buckwheat flour
5g (3/4 Tbsp) cooking salt (not fine table salt)
1 medium egg
25cL (9floz) + 30cL (10floz) cold water
a touch of butter per galette for cooking
1.  In a mixing bowl, add the flour, salt (I used gros sel de Guerande), egg, and one of the water portions.  Stir together with a wooden spoon.  No need to beat the egg before adding, this should come together very smoothly.
2.  When it has a thick consistency, film the top of the bowl and let it rest for at least 4 hours with one of those hours at room temperature.
Overnight in the fridge is best.  There is a fermentation process that happens during this time that gives these their signature taste.
3.  Add in the rest of the water and beat well.  The consistency should be more fluid.  If it's not, add just a touch more water.
4.  Ready to cook.  In a flat crêpe pan (if you have one), melt just a touch of butter, spoon some of the batter in and spread it into an even circle.  Here in France, they cook it on a flat electric hotplate called a bilig and spread it with a flat wooden squeegee-ish utensil called a rozell as shown below.
(photo borrowed from LaCuisinedeBernard)
I of course have neither of these things and made this batter to bring to a "Crêpe Party" I was invited to.  There was an electric mini crêpe cooker where everyone cooked their own and added the toppings of their desires.
You can also just do this in a very wide round flat pan and flat spatula.
5.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side.  Flipping is optional if you can spread it thin enough.  Top with fun things such as egg, spinach, cheese, mushrooms...
you know, all the good stuff.
You can also go sweet and add some maple syrup or whatever floats your sweet tooth.  Here in France, this batter is used for savory and a different batter with wheat flour is used for sweet.
I do not follow those rules.  I love buckwheat too much to NOT have it with home made maple syrup for dessert..

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Bass and Salmon on the Plancha

Today was an eventful day...and I topped it off with some mega plancha activity.
As much as I like grilling meat, nothing quite rivals with fish, seafood, and veggies on the plancha.  Something about this cooking method brings out the best in those chosen ones.
It's all quite simple.. all you need is a theme.  My theme is usually olive oil, garlic, lime, and piment d'espelette.  Sometimes I'll add some orange or herbs, but that's basically how it goes.. I rub it into all the crevices of the bass, then grill it at medium temperature for about 5-7 minutes on each side until the flesh is flaky.
The salmon just needs a quick 2 minute sear on each side after being rubbed with my marinade, some fleur de sel and some pepper.

The veggies I chose this time were onions, yellow bell, zucchini, and green chili.  This mix also received a few teaspoons of the family marinade, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar during cooking time.
I grilled some already steamed potatoes as well, which was a nice addition to all this goodness.
There are times when you try to identify period of time that made you feel the most.. yourself.
These past 2 weeks were exactly that for me..

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Green Chili and Avocado Burger

This is a messy picture, but I felt a very very deep need to share it...
So I've been avoiding the charred chili process since I moved to Lyon because I don't have a gas stove (or bbq).  I always used tongs to hold my bell or chili over the open flame of a gas burner to get that charred effect, making the skin much much easier to remove.  When you're planning on cooking the chilis or bell peppers, unless you have digestive issues, you really don't need to go through this step, because the work is not worth the effort in the end.  But when you're going to then marinate them in some olive oil or use them in a salad or as a topping, this process is definitely worth every second.
By the way.. I season and shape my own burgers.. and sometimes I even grind the meat myself.  I'm not sure I've ever shared the seasoning recipe.. but that may be because I never measure, so it might be extremely annoying to those of you who need exact measurements.
I'll give basic instructions, but this is just "to taste" which I agree is very hard to follow because if you've never done it, you don't have a "to taste" reference.
Makes 4 burgers
Lets say I have about 800g (28.2oz)  of ground beef, separated into 200g (7oz) piles
few squirts tabasco, tapatio, or frank's hot sauce (depending on what I have on hand)
few squirts Worchesterchire sauce
drizzle of EVOO
few cracks black pepper
2 shakes Red Robin seasoning (or a mix of garlic powder, onion powder, ground celery, paprika, and salt)
some dried tarragon (or parsley, but I have a large stock of tarragon)
Then I use my little hands to mix everything together into the ball and shape them into "squares" because my burger buns are square.

So.. I don't have a gas stove, but I do have a high oven setting.  I simply placed this beauty whole on some foil on an oven tray closest to the broiler on the highest heat, and cooked it for about 20 minutes, flipping it once to get that char on both sides.
Then I removed it and placed it into a plastic bag for about 5-10 minutes to let it "sweat," making the pyjama removal process much much easier.
And there she is.. sneakily slipping out of her pyjamas..I love the aroma that finds its way to my nostrils during this process.. it reminded me of chile rellenos.. mega flashback!  I just might be able to recreate those here, if I'm careful and find some big enough chilis.  Ooh! Project!
I purposely re-used my griddle pan after last night's fiasco.  No throat grasping tonight though..
I first added my undressed chili.  I should have done 2.  I thought it might be too much.. but seriously... you can never have enough chilis.
Then I added some compté cheese and some raw onions.  I'm really digging the raw onions these days.  I used to always grill them and deglaze with balsamic vinegar, which is lovely, but I like the crunch of rawness... raawwrr!
Notice the non chili burger in the background.  Hahaaa that one got some pickles instead (for color).
The montage consisted of a sunny side up egg, a quarter of a ripe avocado, some tomatoes, and romaine lettuce.  The meat side of the bun was slathered with a sauce they call "Samourai" here which is somewhat of a spicy mayonnaise that works well with burgers.

And Yes.. I say Yes!!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chipotle Lime and Orange Marinade

As I was quietly finishing my dumpling soup lunch, dinner desires were concocting in my head.  I switched continents in a split second.. From China to Mexico, with a longing for chipotle peppers and black beans.  I wanted something tangy and spicy to penetrate my turkey cutlets before cooking them on my griddle pan and getting yelled at for the smokey coughing production caused by the sizzling chipotle aroma.  That feeling, when you make smoke with chili entrails and it catches the back of your throat before you can breath it in..
Yes, that feeling is what I was longing for..because any meal succeeding that feeling is bound to be memorable.  I remember the very first time I felt that feeling.  I must have been 13 or 14, sleeping over at one of my best friend's house, chatting in the morning, when all of a sudden, I felt something grasp the back of my throat.  It wasn't violent, but new and strange.  I couldn't quite identify what it was, or if that was something normal coming from the kitchen.
"Oh don't worry, that's just my mom blending hot chilies.  You get used to it after a while."
It was the most bizarre sensation related to food aroma I had ever experienced.  (I was also not very old, but still.. none of my Indian influences had ever done this to my lungs!)
The funny thing is, that feeling didn't come from smoke at all.  It was the fumes released into all the rooms of the house by the chilis and their seeds after having been grilled during the blending for a very satisfying chipotle salsa.  I thought I could never in the world sit through that again without coughing incessantly, but as the years went by, I did get used to it, and I even craved it.  I didn't really know what it was called, but whenever I felt that throat catching feeling in her house, I knew we were in for something good.
Today I was able to recreate that feeling, although some of it was actually a mixture of smoke and chipotle fumes.
It was pleasant but in a way nobody else in the house could understand, and it brought me back to my teens, discovering how different cultures were what made the world a perfect place.
I achieved my goal by making an amazing marinade for my turkey cutlets (but you can easily use chicken) and grilling them.  I used a griddle pan (hence the house smoke) but this would work just as well on a bbq or plancha, if you don't think your lungs can handle it.
Yield 1 cup
4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
3 Tbsp EVOO
juice from 1/2 very juicy orange
juice from 1 lime
1 large handful flat leaf parsley
3 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 tsp cumin
pinch salt
lots of cracked black pepper
Pico de Gallo:
1 large shallot, minced
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 large avocado, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped feta
1 handful chopped flat leaf parsley
6-7 chopped basil leaves
juice from 1/4 lime
cracked black pepper
1.  Blend all the marinade ingredients together.
2.  Lavishly slather it on to your turkey cutlets or whatever cut of meat you are preparing.  Let marinate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.
3.  Grill or griddle your meat and be sure to inhale, and let your eyes roll back as you cough with pleasure.
4.  When you are done with your chili cough, make the pico de gallo by stirring all the chopped ingredients together.  This will be a nice salsa to spoon over your beans or to accompany your grilled meat.

I served this with some Chipotle Black Beans (no pinto this time) into which I added about 1/2 cup roasted Bernettine squash.  The addition of the squash gave it a nice consistency.
I also served some red and basmati rice with a custom pico de gallo.
I'm not even sure I'm allowed to call it pico de gallo, but it served its purpose well.
Today was a good day...

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hot and Sour Leek Dumpling Soup

The best part about spending lots of time one day working on batches of egg rolls, samosas, bagels, baozi, hummus, or potstickers is that you have an amazing meal the same day as a reward for you hard work, but these happily freezable items can then be plucked out individually to fulfill your here and now desire.
My here and now desires are so potent they start manifesting themselves during my sleep, spicing up my dreams to a point that when I have come to, they are screaming from within unable to be stopped by any reasonable human power.
Today, I wanted dumplings.  The desire was intensified by the fact that the desire could be quickly and easily fulfilled.  Don't get me wrong now.. Quick and easy isn't all it takes to cut it for me.  It must be top quality.. Nothing half motivated or mediocre.
Since I had made the potstickers myself, the quality was not an issue, which left me focused on the quick and easy.  All I needed to do was make a stock worthy of my potstickers, then pop them out of the freezer and heat them up in the soup, transforming them into dumplings.
Yes!  Something spicy and sour with some sexy black vinegar and some tangy doubanjiang!
Serves 3
15-18 leek dumplings or potstickers
1 handful leek greens, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, julienned
1/2 cucumber, julienned
1 large handful sliced shitake mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 inch ginger, grated
1  heaping Tbsp doubanjiang
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp black vinegar
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 handful spinach
1 handful celery leaves
5 cups water
1 Tbsp olive or canola oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp cracked black pepper
mint leaves for garnish
1.  Heat the olive oil in a pot and sweat the leeks, then add the carrots and cook, stirring for a few minutes.
2.  Add in the cucumber, shitakes, garlic, ginger, doubanjiang, soy, and vinegars and stir to infuse the flavors, then add the water.
3.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to an active simmer for about 5 minutes.  You want the carrots to be tender.
4.  Add the spinach and celery leaves and let them wilt, then add the pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
5.  Before serving, add in the dumplings.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat.  You just want to heat them through.  Add the sesame oil and stir.

Serve garnished with some mint leaves and with a side of egg rolls for an immersion meal.

I know it's still august and I just busted out a soup, but it was rainy today, so it worked out.  Plus, I don't care what the weather is like.. when I want dumpling soup, I want it and I want it NOW even if I'm all hot and sweaty after eating it.
The hot came from the actual temperature and the kick from the doubanjiang.  The sour comes from the vinegars which match perfectly with those little leek potstickers.
I've actually run out of my Chinese freezer loot.  I'm going to have to make a run to wonderland again soon... ooooh!

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

White Peach Pie with a Kick

This looks suspiciously like the Red Plum Pie I made last week.. well, that's because it's almost exactly the same pie, except that instead of red plums, I used white peaches.. but I left the skin on, hence the pink hues.
That.. and I added chili powder, which was an excellent decision.  It weens away the people that can't appreciate art, and leaves more for the connaisseurs...
Serves 8
1 lb (450g) white peaches, pitted and sliced into wedges
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 cup (50g) cassonade or brown sugar plus 2 Tbsp for sprinkling
1/4 cup (50g) ground almonds
dash milk
some cookie crumbs for sprinkling (mine were orange anise cookies)
shortcrust (I used half buckwheat, half T80 flour and spiced it too)
1. Cover the rim of the uncooked shortcrust with foil, poke the bottom a few times with a fork, sprinkle it with some sugar, and pre-cook it for 10 minutes in the oven at 190°C 375°F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whip together the eggs, sugar, ground almonds, and a dash of milk.
3. Lay the wedges into the crust
 and pour the almond mixture in.
4. Bake for 10 minutes at 220°C 425°F, then sprinkle on the cookie crumbs
and reduce to 175°C 350°F for 40 minutes or before the cookie crumbs start to burn.
 5.  Let cool at least 30 minutes before attacking it.
Perfection.. not too spicy, but you can feel it there, tickling you.. waiting to consume you..

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Octopus and Mussels on the Plancha

I'm not sure there are enough words to express all that I have experienced today from first sight to the tips of my fingers to my eyes to my tongue to the deepest pleasure of life available to "normal" the actual pleasure I really enjoyed.
I've been wanting to try cooking octopus for a very very long time now, but it was never the right "moment" according to some.. and I was almost certain that the day I would finally go specifically buy octopus, there wouldn't be any.
These little ladies are fresh, fished from the Mediterranean.  They are not very big, and the fish monger cleaned them, removed the ink sac and the "plume" or bone and separated the head from the body for me.  She said they didn't need much time on the plancha, but didn't tell me anything about boiling.  After some research and seeing with my consultant, I decided to boil, but I completely stressed out because everywhere you look on the internet tells you to do something different to tenderize, and some don't boil at all.  It really all comes down to the size and if it is fresh or frozen.  A big octopus will need to be boiled 45 minutes to 1 hour.. a baby one will not at all, a medium one (like mine) will need 20 to 30 minutes.  My stubborn self was afraid to overcook it, so I didn't listen to the voice on my shoulder.
It was still the most amazing experience.  I enjoyed the texture and taste, especially after being massaged in that lovely olive oil and orange and lime juice.
 Raw fresh octopus.. count the 8 tentacles...I'm sorry lady, but I had to lift up your skirt to check out your inner beauty..
 Submerged in boiling water, pepper, anis bulbs, and kosher salt for 10 hindsight, I should have made that 20.  The boiling part is to tenderize it.   Since my octo was fresh, it was more tough than if it had been frozen and thawed.  I will listen to the wise ones next time.
 Octopus, tossed in lime, olive oil, garlic, piment d'espelette, fleur de sel, cracked black pepper, flat leaf parsley with all its friends.. zucchini, eggplant, and onion in the same goodness plus a squizzle of orange..
The mussels are just cleaned.  Their seasoning will go on once they are open.
Do you see that little red bottle in the back?  That is spanish olive oil in spray form specifically for the plancha.  My angels are always looking out for me.  That little bottle works wonders.  I love it.
I had no idea this picture was being taken, but I do look very concentrated on the task at hand.
 Happy zucchini, eggplant, and onions grilling with a squizzle of orange..
Mussels opened after about 50 seconds... then tossed with some olive oil, flat leaf parsley, grated garlic, piment d'espelette, and pepper... oh are you sensing a recurring theme here?
and finally.. the moment we've all been waiting for.. well, at least I have been waiting for this for at least 1 year..
I may have cooked these a total of 4 minutes, being sure to turn them so they get the nice grilled color on each side.
This was the culmination of my evening (not my day).  Those tentacles.. ooh!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lamb Shank, Drumstick, and Merguez Couscous

So I was planning on just picking up some bread and coming home.  The problem with that idea is that my bread place is the same as my vegetable wonderland place.  As I walked in, I was hypnotized by all the fresh peaches and misty vegetables, so I decided to take a stroll and see if anyone interesting wanted to chat.  A long white (fairly crooked) turnip caught my eye.  "Oh.. it's been a long time since I've worked with you," I told him.  "S'il vous plaaiiit!" it said to me showing me its little crooked bend.  I don't know why, but this turnip completely charmed me.. and I don't usually fall for that act, but this one smiled at me, as if saying.. "you know I'm kidding about the cripple thing, but I'll blow your mind in a couscous I promise!"
Where's the food!  I quickly brain scanned my freezer content and decided that there was nothing more desirable and more attainable tonight than some couscous with some crazy delicious lamb shank.  I wasn't even sure that was even something that was done.. and I've recently taken to using chana dal instead of chickpeas because of the faster cooking time and the no-need-to-peel factor.  This was a win-win-blow your mind-deal.  Why not?
This took me 1 hour and 15 minutes.. int he pressure cooker.  You could easily just dump it all into a crockpot and cook it on low for 7 hours.  At this late point in the day, I hadn't talked to the turnip yet, so there were no 7 hours for me to wait.
Serves 6
small drizzle EVOO
2 lamb shanks
1 chopped onion
2 chopped medium tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp ras el hanout
4 cups water or as needed
1 coarsely chopped long white turnip
2 coarsely chopped carrots
6 chicken drumsticks
1 Tbsp harissa
1 cube dehydrated lamb broth
6 merguez sausages
1 coarsely chopped zucchini
6 oz (18cL) chana dal, rinsed
cracked black pepper
1 bunch cilantro for garnish
1 3/4 cup cooked thin grained couscous
1.  In a pressure cooker, heat a drizzle of EVOO on high heat, then throw in the lamb shanks and cook until colored, flipping, for about 5 minutes.  It will get smokey.  No problem.  Open a window.
2.  Add the onion and listen to it sizzle.  Mmmm.
3.  Add the tomatoes, half the ras el hanout, the tomato paste, and enough water to level.  Close the cooker and let it cook for 30 minutes under pressure.
4.  Remove the pressure and open the cooker.  Add the turnip, carrots, and drumsticks in that order.  Sprinkle with the rest of the ras el hanout, lamb cube, the harissa, and more water just to level.  You don't want to submerge, just have enough to make a sexy broth.  Close and cook under pressure for another 10 minutes.
5.  Remove the pressure again and contemplate the loveliness.  Add in the chana dal, zucchini, and merguez sausages in that order.  You could also separately grill the sausages and add them in just to serve.. but I didn't think of that until I was actually eating.  Plus, you dirty less dishes this way, and it doesn't bother me to eat "steamed" merguez instead of grilled.  Close and cook under pressure for another 10 minutes.
6.  Remove the pressure (this is the last time, I promise).  Add a bunch of cracked black pepper.  The lamb should fall of the bone, the chana dal and vegetables should be bite tender but still firm.

Serve over some couscous and top with some chopped cilantro.
I may have just auto-fainted myself.  This week has been an insane mix of desire and realization...

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dangmyeon Japchae

The little voice inside my heart whispered Japchae to me, and since that delicate sound, Japchae has been on my mind.  I've made an adapted version of this a few years ago with whatever I had on hand, but this version is the authentic one.  This Japchae is the one made with real dangmyeon sweet potato starch noodles, real shitake mushrooms, and real Korean kimchi on the side.  This time, it was store-bought kimchi, but I intend to make some myself soon, since I recently found a Korean cooking blog, Maangchi, that explains the technique.  I'm so lucky to have an Asian Wonderland supermarket where I live to supply myself with all these foreign yet so perfectly familiar ingredients.
I'm not sure I've ever been so excited about fermented or cultured cabbage in my life.  I'm not sure how I am able to be so enthusiastically excited about something I'm so familiar with, I should not be surprised by how delectable it is.  The best parts of life are when the most familiar parts completely take over you in a way you find so immensely pleasurable you completely let yourself go, completely blown away, and even more impatient for the next time.. if there is a next time..
Serves 4
250g or 2 bunches sweet potato noodles (dangmyeon)
few drizzles EVOO
1 carrot, julienned
1 onion, sliced into moons
5 shitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced
1 handful sliced black mushrooms, soaked
1 bunch spinach, cooked (or 4 defrosted cubes)
7-8 scallions, cut into 2 inch pieces
200g thinly sliced steak
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 Tbsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp cane sugar
lots of fresh ground black pepper
sesame seeds for garnish
1.  Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes or until tender.  Drain but do not rinse.  Place in a large bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp sesame oil and 1 Tbsp soy sauce.
2.  In a wok or heavy based pan, splash some olive oil on high heat and cook the sliced carrots for about 1 minute, stirring.  Add the cooked carrots into the bowl with the noodles
3.  Drizzle a bit more olive oil into the wok and cook the onions until translucent.  Add the onions into the bowl with the other friends.
4.  Drizzle just a touch more olive oil into the wok and cook the soaked mushrooms.  Cook for a few minutes until fragrant, then add the spinach and heat through.  Add this into the bowl with everyone else.
5.  Drizzle another dash of olive oil into the wok and add the scallions.  Stir fry for about 30 seconds, then add the steak slices.  Color well and add 1 Tbsp mirin and a bit of soy sauce.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes, then add it all to the bowl.
6.  Add the sugar, rest of the sesame oil, and soy sauce into the bowl with some freshly ground black pepper.  Toss well.  It should still be piping hot if you organized yourself well.

Serve garnished with sesame seeds and with a side of kimchi, if you are lucky enough to find some.
If needed, additional sesame oil and soy sauce can be added to each individual serving.  I didn't want to overdo it with the seasoning and found that my way of doing it was exactly how I wanted it (but yet so surprisingly good I wondered if I was still on Earth).
Those noodles are truly amazing.  It's like they come from a different universe.  This is the first time I've used them for their intended purpose (in a hot dish) and they are extremely hard to substitute.  They keep their chewy texture, they are clear and brownish when hot, but when used in a salad become translucent blue.. which is freaky, but I love it!
The kimchi I had was very spicy, so I didn't feel the need to add any more heat.  If you don't have kimchi, you might want to add some chili powder or even cut a whole thai chili into your plate.  I really enjoyed the acidity of the kimchi with the japchae.. it took me to another level.. again...

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dim Sum Party

There comes a time in ones life when one feels ready to have a dim sum party.  When I think of dim sum, I think of lots of variety of things being carted around and my getting to taste each and every little item.  Most items are in their steamer baskets, some are fried, some are savory, some are sweet.  It is an old Chinese snack culture usually served to accompany tea.
At my dim sum party, it was a dinner deal, and I didn't have little carts with little steamer baskets because, well, I only have one steamer basket.  What I did for my dim sum was make one "thing" per cooking utensil.  I made one thing fresh, the Goi Cuan, one thing steamed, the Baozi, one thing deep fried, the Cha Gio, and one thing pan fried, the Jiaozi.
Why would anyone want to go through so much trouble?
Well, for me, spending all day in the kitchen folding egg rolls and pleating dumplings is a fabulous day.  Also, everything but the spring rolls can be frozen, so it's like I'm preparing future dim sum parties that I will be able to bust out impromptu and that is pretty amazing.
It also gets quite addicting.  You may mess up your first steamed meat bun but as you go, you develop a technique, your fingers become nimble little magical cinnamon sticks and you're amazed that you've already pleated 90 dumplings in under 1 hour!
Now, I want to roll spring rolls every day all the time and with a bunch of different fillings.  I want to eat everything wrapped in a big salad leaf with tons of mint and dipped into a tangy spicy sauce!
I'm serious it's all I can think about and I've been doing it for 3 days!!!
I've made each of these items before, but (of course) I changed the fillings a bit here and there.

For the Baozi (Steamed Buns), instead of a ground beef filling, I made a vegetarian filling with paneer.
Yield 15 buns
200g paneer, diced
1 handful shitakes, soaked and diced
2 tsp doubanjiang (Pixian broad bean chili paste)
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 inch ginger, trated
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp chopped scallions
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1/4 cup water (as needed)
Dipping Sauce:
1 1/2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp black vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp sugar

For the Jiaozi (Potstickers), I made a leek and scallion filling inspired by Yi Reservation's chive dumplings.
Yield 90 Jiaozi
1 lb (450g) mix of ground turkey and beef
1/2 lb (225g) chopped leeks
3 chopped scallions
1 inch ginger, chopped
1 egg
1 cup hot water
1 tsp corn starch
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
Make the filling by stirring everything together in one direction, adding the water 2 tablespoons at a time until all the water is absorbed.

For the Goi Cuan (Fresh Spring Rolls) I replaced the shitake and basil by some avocado and cilantro to make it dreamily perfect.

For the Cha Gio (Nems/Egg Rolls) I used chicken and red cabbage instead of turkey and kohlrabi.

All this was more than enough food for everybody, so for dessert I stayed on familiar territory.. pie.. Plum Pie to be exact.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Red Plum Pie

I'm starting to realize how much of a pie person I really am.  I like it because there really aren't any rules.  The other day I saw some beautiful red plums on sale so I bought a bunch.  Plums are hard to choose.  If they are too firm, you don't get much of the juicy goodness when you bite into it.  If they are not firm enough, you bite into mush, and it is not the most pleasant experience.  These plums, though, were perfect.  They were eyes-roll-back good, and I figured they would make a perfect dessert to my little dinner party.  Now here's why I like making pie so much:  just create the recipe as you go.  I have by go to shortcrust that rarely changes.  I usually go half buckwheat, half white flour, and some sort of spice..cinnamon, nutmeg, pain d'épices, ginger..sometimes I put chili powder in it just for kicks.  The rest is just imagining how flavors will mesh, if I want a dry tart consistency or a more custard like consistency, and then adapt and ta of a kind home made pie that you'd better hurry up and write down the recipe before you forget what you did.  Luckily, I always remember to measure just in case it turns out edible.  In this case, I was imagining some sort of almond custard, but most importantly, I wanted a zippy topping.  Not too long ago I made these delicious orange anise cookies that were gluten free.  They held together enough for the photo, but when I stored them in their airtight cookie container, they stuck together and all. I was ever able to retrieve from the container were pieces and crumbs, but never an entire cookie.  I probably should have let them cook longer and let them "dry out" longer before storing them, but hey, lets not dwell on the past, ok?  Those crumbs were the most tangy delicious crumbs I could get my hands on and I was not going to let them go to waste.
Serves 8
1 lb (450g) red plums, pitted and sliced into wedges
2 eggs
1/4 cup (50g) cassonade or brown sugar plus 2 Tbsp for sprinkling
1/4 cup (50g) ground almonds
dash milk
some cookie crumbs for sprinkling (mine were orange anise cookies)
shortcrust (I used half buckwheat, half T80 flour)
1. Cover the rim of the uncooked shortcrust with foil, poke the bottom a few times with a fork, sprinkle it with some sugar, and pre-cook it for 10 minutes in the oven at 190°C 375°F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whip together the eggs, sugar, ground almonds, and a dash of milk.
3. Lay the wedges into the crust and pour the almond mixture in.
4. Bake for 10 minutes at 220°C 425°F, then sprinkle on the cookie crumbs
and reduce to 175°C 350°F for 30 minutes or before the cookie crumbs start to burn.
 5.  Let cool at least 30 minutes before attacking it.
This was my first time using plums in a pie, so I wasn't too sure how it was going to come out.  The result was perfect.  It held together nicely, there were no wet juices flowing, and the flavors worked well together.  Cooked plums taste a bit like cherries.  Actually, I wouldn't have recognized the fruit if I hadn 't cooked them myself.  If you dońt like cherries, this pue is probably not for you, but I love cherries, so this pie was a definite win!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Culture Clash Lentil Salad

The urge for dal has been flaring.. and although the weather isn't great, my apartment retains heat like no other, and all I want to do is eat refreshing meals.  Since testing the beluga black lentils as a salad, I'm hooked on cold lentils.  I may as well try out all the different combinations possible, since of all the things I may be out of, lentils are plentiful.  Have I ever mentioned that I have an entire cupboard dedicated to my bean and lentil stash?  I must have at least 10 different types, plus the chickpea flour. A nuclear bomb could hit and I'd have enough to keep me alive for probably about a year.
Oh dear, as that phrase came out, a flash of my mother's "bomb shelter" cupboard comes to mind.  My brother and I always used to make fun of her for that.  I suppose there are certain things in life you cannot control.
So my urge flared, I picked masoor dal, which is the whole version of coral lentils.  When you're going for the salad, make sure you pick a lentil that won't explode once its cooked.  It will be more enjoyable "en bouche."  Then I kind of went insane.  I started to go French with shallots and mustard, then I want American with the cranberries, then I went Indian with the garam masala, and topped it off with something Greek-ish Italian with the capers and feta, and then the Thai chile joined the party.  It was a whole mess in my head while this was coming together, but as I somewhat expected, the flavors go perfectly well together.
Serves 3 as a meal
3/4 cup lentils, rinsed
1 chopped tomato
1/4 red cabbage, shredded
1/4 cucumber, chopped
1 shallot, minced
Juice from 1/4 lime
Juice from 1/4 orange
3 Tbsp capers
3 Tbsp dried cranberries
Lots of cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp strong mustard
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 hard boiled or steamed eggs, peeled
Handful crumbled feta
1 Thai chile per person who wants one
Pinch fleur de sel
1.  Cook them lentils in 3 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until they are tender, but not complete mush!  You are not making a puree are making a salad.  Respect the product, please!
2.  While that is happening, toss together everything but the eggs.
3.  When the lentils are ready, drain and rinse them under cold water so they cool, then toss them with the other tossed ingredients.
4.  Serve with one egg per person, halved though because it is much more appetizing that way.

It may seem that there is so much going on that you can't pick out the individual ingredients, but you really can.  In each bite you have an explosion of several things that take turns going off.  It's not a synchronized H-bomb.  It's several little firecrackers following the music...

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Goi Cuon (Spring Rolls) with Hoisin Peanut Sauce

Next week I'm having a dim sum party, so I should really wait until next week to talk about this.. but I just can't help myself.  I have shrimp that is going to be my happy hour today.. but I have this urge to transform it into these spring rolls.  I'm missing a few things, but the cool thing about spring rolls is that they are made with rice paper that you soak one at a time, so if you want just one, you can make just one.
These are pretty versatile and you can put whatever you please in them, but here is my version of these fun summer rolls.
Now, some people say that goi cuon is tasteless.. but those people obviously don't get the point.  These are salad rolls.. sometimes there is shrimp in them (like mine) but the seasoning comes from the punchy sauce.  These are not meant to be eaten sauceless!
Yield however many you feel like making
Spring rolls:
Rice paper
Salad leaves of your choice
Mint leaves
Basil leaves
Carrots cut into matchsticks
Cucumber cut into matchsticks
Shredded cabbage
Shrimp sliced lengthwise
Sliced shitakes
Glass noodles

Hoisin Peanut Sauce:
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
some water to thin out the sauce

1.  Prepare all your ingredients
2.  Dip rice paper into some warm water on all edges for no longer than 2 seconds.  It should still be somewhat hard, but should not break when you bend it.  No worries.. it will soften later.
3.  Layer your ingredients so that when you roll, you can tuck the sharp edges under the protection of the salad or noodles.
Don't be too greedy.. you only need very little of each.  I used 1 1/2 shrimp plus one slice shitake and just a pinch of the rest.
The glass noodles give the rolls body.  Between the salad and the noodles, the sharp edges of the cabbage and carrots should be contained to avoid tearing the paper.
4.  Roll exactly the same way you would do egg rolls (cha gio).  Tuck and roll the bottom corner (the one closest to you, then when you get to the center, fold in the side corners like you would roll a burrito, then keep rolling until the end.
The rolling technique is something you get used to.  I had just rolled 40 egg rolls prior to making these so I was already used to the technique.

These were refreshingly amazing!  That sauce.. oh that sauce..  it makes the whole deal worth while.  I made 10 of these for happy hour and it took me about 30 minutes total from ingredient prep (including shrimp peeling) to finished sauce.  Not too bad, right?  This was also my first time (correctly) working with rice papers.  The secret is to make sure they are still slightly hard after the water bath.  Do not soak them or they will be very hard to work with.  I rather like the idea of make-as-you-need rolls compared to the-sheets-are-thawed-so-finish-or-throw-away-the-rest, meaning you make 40 at a time.
Sorry that's an over-use of hyphens.
Now that I've got the hang of it, I'm going to add fun things like avocado and chilis..
ooh imagine chipotle spring rolls....

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