Friday, February 25, 2011

Chickpea Stew with Spinach and Saffron

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I got a few cookbooks over Christmas and now I finally have the time to read them and try some recipes. I cracked open The Complete Tassajara Cookbook today and tried this chickpea stew recipe. Tassajara is Zen retreat center in the Santa Lucia mountains of California. The recipes have a definite spiritual slant to them, with focus on respect of ingredients and on love in cooking. It's very inspiring in that respect. As for the recipe, I like how simple, fresh and elegant it is. I'm looking forward to making interesting recipes like moussaka and tofu pad thai!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Savory Tang Yuan (素鹹湯圓)

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VB and I spent most of Chinese New Year in Taiwan. There's always a chaotic aspect to Chinese New Year, which I think can be a bit overwhelming. But the best thing (besides the red envelopes, hehe) about Chinese New Year is always the food -- the variety, all the delicacies and sweet snacks. And it's not over until 15 days later, on Lantern Festival, when everyone eats these stuffed glutinous rice balls called tang yuan. They come in different sweet, savory and unfilled varieties. Here, I made some savory tang yuan, a little too late for Lantern Festival but a delicious treat nevertheless.

This recipe is adapted from a cookbook that I picked up in Taiwan. You'll need:
  • 3 cups glutinous rice flour, divided into 1/2 cup and 2 1/2 cups
  • 11/12 cups cold water, divided into 1/4 cup and 2/3 cup
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 portion filling, recipe below
  • chopped Chinese celery
  • chopped cilantro leaves
  • ground white pepper
  • drizzle of sesame oil, optional
For the filling, you'll need:
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 1-inch slice of vegetarian ham, about 3 ounces, diced
  • 4 ounces of unflavored bean curd, diced
  • 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of tapioca starch
Rehydrate dried shiitake mushrooms by immersing them in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, remove stems and rough chop into bite sizes. Squeeze out any excess water. To a food processor, add mushrooms, bean curd and vegetarian ham. Process until mixture becomes granulated and can easily squeezed into a ball. Place mixture into a prep bowl, add soy sauce, ground white pepper and tapioca starch. Mix well. Start forming small balls by placing approximately 2 teaspoons of the mixture in your hand and squeeze tightly. Set aside.

Begin by bringing a pot of water to boil. In a prep bowl, add 1/4 cup of cold water to 1/2 cup of glutinous rice flour. Form dough. Split dough into 3 pieces and flatten. Boil pieces of dough until they float, about 2 to 5 minutes. Remove dough from boiling water. Place dough into a prep bowl and allow it cool. Add 2 1/2 cups of glutinous rice flour to bowl. Add 1/2 cup of hot water and mix well. Add 2/3 cup of cold water and canola oil. Form dough by incorporating all the flour and kneading lightly.

Take a piece of dough and roll into a ball. The ball should be slightly bigger than the size of your filling. If the dough sticks to your hands, spray your hands with some canola oil spray before handling the dough. Flatten the ball into a disc and stretch the disc gently by pressing with your thumbs. Place the filling in the middle of the disc. Pinch edges to close. Be careful not to stretch the dough too much or you will tear the dough. If the dough does tear, you can easily patch it up with a scrap piece. Roll it around in your palms to form a smooth ball. While you are working, cover completed tang yuan with wet paper towel to prevent them from drying out.

Bring a pot of water to boil, add tang yuan and boil for about 5 minutes. They are cooked when they float, turn milky and slightly translucent. Gently ladle tang yuan into serving bowl. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot water to the bowl, garnish with some chopped cilantro, celery, ground white pepper and sesame oil.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Black Bean Chorizo Tamales

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I like making tamales. Sure, they are a bit labor intensive, but always fun and tasty. Unwrapping a tamale is like unwrapping a tasty little present. VB would know -- he wolfed these down in super human speed. Here, I made tamales with Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo and some black beans. Totally delicious and definitely worth the time and effort.

You'll need:
  • 2 cups masa harina flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 package dried corn husks
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 portion of black bean chorizo filling, recipe below
For the black bean chorizo filling, you'll need:
  • 1 package soy chorizo product (El Burrito's Soyrizo, Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo or other similar products), plastic casing removed
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, small diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • salt to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Turn off heat and soak corn husks for 15 minutes. Make sure the husks are immersed completely. Remove husks and set aside.

Cream vegetable shortening in a stand mixer. Turn off mixer. Add masa harina flour, salt, cumin, chili powder, baking powder and mix well together in medium low speed. While the mixer is on, stream in vegetable stock slowly. The mixture should be thick but spreadable.

In a medium non-stick skillet, begin sauteing onions in canola oil until translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, black bean, cumin, oregano, and cayenne. Lightly mash black beans with spatula or back of a spoon. Add soy chorizo mix. Saute for another 5 minutes. Check seasoning. Soy chorizo tends to be packaged with enough salt and spices that you don't necessarily need to add more salt.

To assemble tamales, lay out a corn husk, spread an even layer masa mix across the middle. You should leave at least 4 inches at the bottom. Top masa mix with black bean chorizo mix and some cheese. Fold corn husk over length-wise. Be sure that your masa mixture wraps around the filling completely. Then fold the bottom up. The top of the husk should be open. Steam covered for 45 minutes to an hour. I steamed them by placing a metal steamer inside a large pot with about an inch of water and then placed tamales onto the steamer. Remember to make sure that you have enough water throughout the steaming process. Serve with your favorite salsa on top.

Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo

Pin It VB and I have been hit with sudden urges to eat a lot of Mexican food since we came back from our trip. So, I made some tamales with soy chorizo and black beans to curb those cravings (more to come on that later). It's nice to take a break from Chinese food for awhile -- not too much in common between Chinese food and Mexican food besides that they sometimes share the same strip mall. This also gives me a chance to review Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo -- yet another fake meat offering by Trader Joe's.

I like Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo. Like El Burrito's Soyrizo, the product is encased in a plastic casing. So, unlike real sausages, slicing soy chorizo up is not an option. Instead, you must squeeze the product out of its casing. It's meant to be a substitute of loose sausage meat. Compared to Soyrizo, Trader Joe's version is chunkier with looser bits. The texture is less like meat, in my opinion, than Soyrizo because real sausage meat tend to stick together a bit more. Since it is chunkier, it can be a bit chewy in a bad, fake-meaty sort of way.

As for the taste, Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo is nicely flavored with lots of spices, which mask that awful soy taste in many fake meat products. You can taste the soy a little bit, but it's not very noticeable.

Texture: 3 out of 5 stars
Taste: 4 out of 5 stars
Overall: 3.5 out of 5 stars

In A Nut Shell: I like El Burrito's Soyrizo better, but this isn't bad. It's a nice and less greasy substitute for the real deal.

Here are some recipes ideas for Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo -- black bean chorizo tamales, Caribbean rice and beans (and soy chorizo), taquitos and vegan jambalaya.

Monday, February 14, 2011

We're Back! + French Bread... Pizza?

Pin It Call off the rescue team! I haven't fallen into a hole for 2 weeks with no food or drinks. In fact, quite the opposite. We traveled to Taiwan and had lots and LOTS of vegetarian buffet. For about a week straight, we ate at a buffet everyday. It has been an exciting and wonderful trip, but I can't wait to spend some time in the kitchen and cook some dishes inspired by what we've eaten on this trip.

But in the meantime, here's a VB classic -- something that he enjoyed as a bachelor short on time but long on pizza craving. It's a baguette sliced in half, smeared with marinara sauce and stuffed with mozzarella, chopped spinach, sliced mushrooms and artichoke hearts. The sandwich is then wrapped tightly in aluminum foil and baked in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. The result? A delicious, hot, melt-y, chess-y sandwich that tastes like a pizza but handles like a sandwich. I guess that is what you call best of both worlds.