Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chives and Tofu Pan-Fried Buns

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Chinese food showcases chives as a star ingredient. Mature chives have fairly pungent, garlic-y, onion-y flavors -- they really stink up the fridge. I had some chives left over and had to use them quickly so I can stop smelling them all the time. So I made these delicious chives tofu pan-fried buns.

To make these savory buns, you'll need --
  • 2 cups chives, finely chopped
  • 4 blocks five-spice flavored baked tofu, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger juice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • pinch of salt 
  • canola oil
  • 1 recipe of Chinese sweet yeast dough, below
For the Chinese sweet yeast dough, you'll need --
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon soybean powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoon active yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of salt
To make the dough, combine flour, soybean powder, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Dissolve sugar and active yeast in water. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Knead lightly until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside  for 15 to 20 minutes.

In the meantime, combine all ingredients for the filling. Set aside. Heat up a teaspoon of canola oil in a non-stick skillet fitted with a lid.

Punch down the dough and divide into 20 equal pieces. Roll out one piece and add about a tablespoon of filling in the middle. Gather dough edges into pleats and twist. Place bun into hot pan immediately. If you cannot cook buns immediately, freeze them right away. Allowing them to sit on the counter will make them soggy.

Place about 5 buns inside the pan with plenty of space between them. Allow the buns to sizzle in the pan for a couple of minutes. Add about 1/4 inch of water into the pan. Cover pan immediately with lid. Allow buns to steam for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the lid and let any remaining water evaporate completely. Buns should be easy to remove from the pan once water evaporates. The bottom should be golden brown and crispy. If not, add more water and repeat the process. Serve with dipping sauce of your choice.

These buns are pretty darn tasty. Sure, it's kind of a lot of work, but so good! Chances are, you'll have plenty left over. They can easily be frozen for another day. And you'll be happy that they are there when you don't have time to cook.

Morning Star Farms Chik Patties Original

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I've noticed that fake meat manufacturers try to get cute with mock chicken products. They call it "chick", "chik", "chick'n" to distinguish their fake chicken from the real deal. But no one is getting cute with beef or pork  -- it's not "moo'f" or "oinker." Why is that??

All musings aside, here, we have Morning Star Farms Chik Patties Original. This is the first fake chicken product that I've ever tried. Turns out, it's not half bad. The patties are breaded in the style of chicken nuggets or chicken tenders. Relatively mild, this tastes faintly like chicken. Actually, it tastes like chicken nuggets, which is to say, not real chicken. The outside crust is nice and crunchy. The inside texture is chewy and stringy -- again, like gray and tough chicken nuggets, not real white chicken meat. At least the patties are pretty thin, so you don't notice the texture as much.

So. It is "chicken" like chicken nuggets are "chicken." However, it is relatively inoffensive -- not outright gross or weird. As far as similarities to chicken nuggets go, this is a great imitation of chicken nuggets. Unfortunately, chicken nuggets are poor imitations of real chicken.

Taste: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Texture: 2 out of 5 stars (when compared to real chicken)
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

In A Nutshell: Not bad, not great -- it's inoffensive as far as fake meat goes. But it's also bland and a bit boring. In that respect, it is a bit like real chicken sandwich patties.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Tart

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I think I'm addicted to these one-bite wonders -- a dish that contains vegetables, carbs and protein, all in one bite.  I made a roasted vegetable tart that contains a bunch of vegetables found in cans, freezer and fridge. I dumped everything that I had onto the tart (What can I say? It's rainy and I'm too lazy to go to the grocery store). As you can see, I have some Asiago cheese, caramelized onions, olives, sliced tomatoes, asparagus, capers, oyster mushrooms and sliced garlic.

I got the tart recipe from the Food & Wine Magazine, but used different toppings to make this tart uniquely mine. I really like the tart -- it's crispy, crunchy and flaky -- perfect vessel for all the vegetables on top.

For the tart, you'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cold and cubed
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cold and cubed
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Begin by combining whole wheat flour with corn meal and salt. Add butter and vegetable shortening. Using a hand mixer, stand mixer or food processor, break up the fat until  the mixture turns into wet sand consistency. Add cold water until the dough barely comes together. Form dough into a ball and refrigerate for at least an hour. When you're ready, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and top with desired toppings. Bake in 425 degree oven for 30 minutes until tart becomes crispy.

I really like the mix of vegetables I used. Every bite has a different flavor combination. Sometimes you get the briny salty olives or capers. Sometimes you get the sweet bright acidity of the tomatoes and caramelized onions. All that with the crispy and flaky tart and creamy Asiago cheese. I can see this as a fun appetizer for a party or a delicious main course for a night in.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Flat Bread with Roasted Garbanzo Bean Puree

Pin It I feel like I'm stuck in a bit of cooking rut. Even when I crack open a cookbook, I'm not excited by any recipes. When I get stuck in a rut, I go to my local market and see if anything inspires me. I found these fresh garbanzo beans and felt that maybe I can make something delicious out of them.

These garbanzo beans came with their shells, which are tough and takes a bit of time to remove. But once you crack open those shells, you'll see gorgeous pale green garbanzo beans. I quickly blanched them and then tossed them in a hot pan with some olive oil, whole peeled garlic, salt and some cayenne pepper. I then roasted them for 25 to 30 minutes in a 425-degree oven. The roasted garbanzo beans and garlic are then processed into a puree with some water, olive oil, and lemon juice.

I also made some simple Indian flat bread (chapati), smeared some garbanzo bean puree on top and added sliced tomatoes and fresh arugula. Just a bit of cracked black pepper and you've got a nutritious hand roll/sandwich thingy. Fresh garbanzo beans taste more green than dried beans, which are nice and creamy but sometimes can be a bit flavorless. The young beans taste a bit like fresh peas -- crunchy and juicy. So, next time, try some fresh garbanzo beans if you see them at your local market!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Noodles and Mushroom Kelp Broth

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One of VB's favorite dishes from Taiwan is this brothy noodle with all sorts of fixings on top -- Chinese celery, minced fake meat, pickled mustard greens, bok choy, mung bean spouts, hot sauce, sesame oil. But the star of the show is definitely the mushroom kelp broth that everything is boiled in. So simple and flavorful -- just a piece of kelp with dried shiitake mushroom, slices of ginger, scallion, and some soy sauce simmering in a pot of water for an hour. The result is a perfect broth for noodles -- savory and flavorful. This is a nice, simple meal for days I'm (almost) too lazy too cook.

Orecchiette Two Ways

Pin It I made some mao er duo (cat's ear noodles), the Chinese cousin to orecchiette, Italian little ear pasta. That got me curious about the Italian orecchiette. I gotta say that these were not very successful, possibly because I accidentally used corn meal instead of semolina since I never got around to labeling everything my pantry. Ahem.

Anyway, I made orecchiette with broccoli by simply sauteing broccoli with some shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and red wine vinegar. For a different take, I also made some orecchiette with some roasted butternut squash, pine nuts, and fresh herbs. I think both were equally delicious, but certainly would be better if my pasta come out a bit better.

Live and learn. And organize pantry!

Thai-Style Potato Stew

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Have you ever had one of those crazy weeks/months where everything seems to be happening all at once? Well, I'm having one of those weeks/months. Everyday is a brand new opportunity for something to go wrong. I've managed to squeeze some home cooked meals during this time. Here is a Thai-styled potato stew that's hearty and spicy. Sure, you need about a million ingredients to make this recipe, but it's worth a try, especially on unseasonably cold nights.

You'll need:
  • 1 portion Thai yellow curry paste, recipe below
  • 1 block extra firm tofu or unflavored bean curd
  • 2 cups green beans, trimmed and chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 5 medium red potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 15 Thai basil leaves
  • 15 mint leaves
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • salt to taste
  • lime wedges for garnish
For Thai yellow curry paste, you'll need:
  • 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, remove tough outer leaves and sliced
  • 3 Thai chilies
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
Begin by adding all the ingredients for the curry paste, except the canola oil, to a food processor. Process until everything is finely chopped. Stream in canola oil to form a paste.

In a heavy pot, heat up canola oil until it shimmers. Add onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in curry paste and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Stir in potatoes and add water and soy sauce. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in green beans, red bell peppers, tofu and coconut milk. Adjust seasoning. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Just prior to serving, add mint and basil. Serve with lime wedge.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Paratha Stuffed With Spicy Cauliflower

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I tried making paratha, stuffed Indian pancakes, a while ago. They turned out pretty good, but they took a ton of time. Being lazy as I am, I haven't attempted making paratha again... until now. I got this recipe from World Vegetarian, one of the cookbooks that I got as a Christmas present. It is chuck full of delicious and exotic vegetarian recipes from all over the world, but there's definitely an emphasis on Indian cuisine.

The one big different between these paratha and the ones that I made was that this paratha is made of half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose flour, which makes the dough more elastic and easy to work with. The previous recipe used half chickpea flour and half all-purpose flour.  The chickpea flour makes the dough tougher and harder to work with. I had a bunch of tears in my dough last time. This time, I was able to roll these paratha much thinner without tearing the dough.

Although I'm not a big cauliflower fan, I don't mind it here. The stuffing is spicy and flavorful, which means it didn't taste like cauliflower at all. Thank goodness for that.