Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beet Goat Cheese Ravioli

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After many nights of Chinese food, it's time for a change. VB mentioned some beets ravioli that he had at a restaurant. I thought, why not?

*Warning: This takes a lot of work. Just saying. But it sure looks pretty. And tastes good!

For this beet goat cheese ravioli recipe, you'll need:
  • 5 small (or 3 medium) beets
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • juice from 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
  • zest from 1 lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons butter or butter substitute
  • salt to taste 
  • freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
  • chopped chives as garnish
  • 1 portion of pasta, recipe below
For fresh pasta, you will need:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 extra large (or 4 large) eggs
  •  pinch of salt
Begin by dumping flour on a clean work surface. Make a well in the flour and add eggs to the well. Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs and slowly incorporate enough flour to make a slurry. Then cut the flour to incorporate all the eggs into a shaggy dough. Knead the dough until smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes. Place dough in a large bowl and cover with damp paper towel. Allow dough to rest for 30 minutes. For more details on how to make the pasta dough, check out my previous pasta making adventure.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Clean and trim ends off beets. Wrap them in aluminum foil and place into a baking pan. Bake for 45 minutes. At that time, check the beets by inserting a pairing knife into the beets. If the knife goes through without resistance, beets are done. Otherwise return them to the oven and continue to check every 10 minutes. Unwrap cooked beets and allow them to cool until they can be handled. Peel beets and quarter them.

Add beets to a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add goat cheese, ricotta cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt. Pulse until mixed. Do not over process. Set aside.

Cut the pasta dough into approximately 8 equal pieces and pass each though a pasta machine. Make sure that each piece and the pasta machine are well floured. I did not get the pasta to the thinnest setting because I like my pasta with more bite to it. You should get 8 2-foot strips. Brush the surface of 1 strip gently with egg wash. Place about 1 tablespoon of beet mixture about 2-3 inches apart. You can get about 5 dollops on each strip. Gently layer another strip on top, pressing the air out of pockets one raviolo at a time. Cut out each raviolo. I used a biscuit cutter, but a knife and square ravioli will do just fine. Gently press out any air pockets. Repeat the process until you use all the pasta strips.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season with salt. Drop 5 ravioli at a time. In a non-stick skillet, melt 1 tablespoons of butter or butter substitute over medium heat and allow it to brown slightly. After about 5 minutes, strain out ravioli and place into skillet with browned butter. Toss quickly to coat with butter. Serve with grated parmigiano reggiano and chopped chives. Repeat until all ravioli are cooked. You should be able to make about 20 ravioli with this recipe, but you will get more if you do not discard your scrap dough.

    Friday, February 24, 2012

    On Making Tofu

    Pin It I suffer from bouts of insomnia. Actually, it's pretty often, like every other day. Most recently from some medications that I'm taking (speaking of which, I am also taking something else that could cause drowsiness, but it doesn't seem to offset the insomnia). Anyway, this is neither the time nor the place to discuss this. I only brought it up because I seem to have the best food ideas when I'm lying awake at night. And after about an hour of dreaming up these ideas and with no prospect of sleep in the near future, I get up and start making things happen. So my most productive hours tend to be between 4 am and 7 am (then I crap out at 3 pm).

    This morning's brilliant idea: making tofu. This has actually been in the making since Christmas, after I received a SoyaJoy Total Tofu Kit as a part of my Christmas loot. It's been on the back of my mind to give this a whirl, but there's always an abundance of things to try so it's been on the back burner. Besides, I can buy a block of tofu easily around here. BUT! I am going to make something special with this -- not just any ol' tofu from the corner supermarket. I can't tell you what it is yet. You just have to come back for more...

    The SoyaJoy Total Tofu Kit comes with a large bag of nigari (magnesium chloride), a tofu press box and a piece of cheese cloth. If you don't want to buy a tofu press box, you can use any sort of rectangular container with holes that allow drainage and you can apply pressure on the top (A meatloaf pan might work if there is sufficient drainage. Even something as simple as a sieve, if you don't mind a slightly irregularly shaped end product). The other two items are essential -- you cannot make tofu without nigari or a piece of cheese cloth.

    I relied greatly on Just Hungry's guide to making tofu -- it's an excellent tutorial with lots of details and good advice. I'm posting pictures documenting my long, arduous process of making tofu and hopefully offer some practical advice.

    You will need soy beans, which are dried edamame. But don't actually use edamame, because that won't work. You'll end up with edamame soup -- not a bad thing, just not the intended result. Dried soy beans are hard and yellow and look like this:

    I used about a cup and half. They were rinsed and picked over, then soaked for 8 hours at room temp. After soaking, I rubbed them gently together between my palms to hull the tough outer skin. Then the soy beans were drained.

     Soybeans were added with a bit of water to a food processor and pulsed until foamy.

    Then I added the blended soy beans with 6 cups of water to a large pot. I slowly brought it to simmer over low heat. If you try to heat it up too quickly, it would either foam and boil over or scorch the bottom of your pot.

    After the mixture simmers, the foam will slowly go away. Keep the heat low for 20 to 30 minutes. Remember to stir frequently so the bottom doesn't burn.

    The fibrous soy bean starts to separate from the milk. You can see the granules on my spatula.

    I poured soy milk mixture into a colander lined with cheese cloth. Then I squeezed the cheese cloth to get all the soy milk out.

    It's been 10+ hours and I had soy milk! It tasted bean-y and has that great soy taste that I grew up with. The supermarket soy milk nowadays tastes nothing like this. For this alone, the effort was worth it.

    Soy milk goes back into a pot (a different pot) and slowly brought to about 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn off heat. I dissolved 3 teaspoons of nigari that came in the kit in a cup of warm water. I poured it little by little around different parts of the pot and stirred it gently. Cover and wait 15 minutes.

    I poured the mixture directly into the mold lined with cheese cloth.

    Weighing it down with an empty measuring cup. I would later add water into the cup to increase the weight. I put the mold into a pan and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

    Twenty-four hours after I started the process, I have a tiny one-inch thick block of tofu.

    Random thoughts on my tofu making project:
    • You need a lot of soy beans to make very little tofu. Next batch will be a much bigger batch.
    • Well, if there is a next batch. The process is long and laborious and I used every pot and container in my disposal, making the clean up process equally long and laborious.
    • Every single surface of my kitchen was covered with some sort of soy bean by-product -- curd, milk and fiber. And they don't come off very easily.
    • The result is very bean-y, like the tofu that I used to have as a kid. Unlike most of the supermarket versions, this one is preservative free and very flavorful.
    • I think I need to do something about my insomnia.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    Zha Jiang Mian (炸酱面)

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    VB brings his lunch to work almost everyday. One of his co-workers was curious about my version of Dan Dan Mian, but declared that Zha Jian Mian is better. Specifically that she makes a good Zha Jian Mian. Sounds like a challenge! I love a good challenge.

    Unfortunately, I think I may have failed this one. Well, I guess if I had to grade myself, this version of Zha Jiang Mian would be given a C-. Number one reason? Zha Jian Mian should be saucy, as the name implies (it literally means "fried sauce noddles"). Mine is a bit on the dry side. It's one thing to make something like... oh say, Indian pizza. There's no right way; it just has to taste good. But it's much harder to make something that's steeped in tradition and childhood memories. This one just didn't quite measure up.

    Sadly, you can tell that it's not saucy enough.
    The problem was the vegetarian ham that I used in here. It soaked up all the sauce and became mushy. If there's anything that I hate more than a dry Zha Jian Mian, it's mushy fake meat. So I made the decision to forgo the sauce part and focus on getting a more meaty texture. I think this Zha Jian Mian would be good with a fake meat product like Harmony Valley Vegetarian Hamburger Mix, something that's pre-soaked and unflavored. Otherwise it's also okay just to leave the fake meat out entirely.

    I do think the flavors were good. But the end result wasn't good enough to post a recipe for it. Maybe one day, I can make an A+ Zha Jian Mian.

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    Dan Dan Mian (擔擔麵)

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    There are noodles in there somewhere...
    Over the years, I have purchased quite a few Chinese cookbooks written in Chinese, but I find them a bit hard to use. They never account for the fact that some ingredients are hard to find in America. And they use kilograms instead of ounces or cups as measurement, forcing me to use all the 4th grade math that I can't remember. So, for years, I wished for an authentic Chinese cookbook written in English for American cooks who are not interested in orange chicken or General Tso's anything.

    For Christmas, I got Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking and Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fuchsia Dunlop. They are the cookbooks that I've been hoping for. I find the recipes to be authentic. VB and I also like this style of Chinese food because the spices make vegetables much more exciting than just plain.

    I found this Dan Dan Mian recipe (VB calls it "Dan and Dan Noodles"... eh, close enough) in Land of Plenty. I couldn't find ya cai (芽菜) in my local Chinese supermarket, so I substituted with finely chopped zha cai (榨菜). I also used finely chopped vegetarian ham instead of ground pork and added some blanched bok choy for freshness. The result was pretty darn delicious. I can't wait to try more recipes from these cookbooks!

    p.s. Generally, I don't post recipes from cookbooks and I always link to online recipes unless I made substantial changes. I hope that would encourage people to buy these awesome cookbooks that someone spent months, if not years, to write. Obviously that sentiment is not shared by all food bloggers. So without any further comments on this point, I'm going to gently point to where you can find this particular recipe online.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Tofu Enchiladas with Green Sauce

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    Don't be alarmed. This is just a small baking dish I filled with enchiladas. Recipe makes A LOT more than this.
    It's been awhile since we had enchiladas. VB was very enthusiastic when I mentioned making enchiladas, but a bit puzzled by the green sauce part. I got the idea for this tofu enchilada from a daytime talk show. Who said TV rots your brain?

    For this tofu enchiladas, you'll need:
    • 16-ounce block firm tofu, finely crumbled (I passed the tofu through my trusty food mill)
    • 1 15-ounce can black beans
    • 1 15-ounce can corn
    • juice from 1 lime
    • 15 corn tortillas
    • 1 cup shredded oaxaca cheese (or mozzarella if oaxaca cheese is hard to find)
    • 1 portion green tomatillo sauce, recipe below
    For the tomatillo sauce, you will need:
    • 6 tomatillos, husk and stem removed and rinsed
    • 1 Anaheim pepper
    • 2 Serano peppers (adjust for your desired heat level)
    • 1/2 medium white onion, large diced
    • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
    • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro
    • 6 cups water
    • salt and pepper to taste
    Begin by boiling water in large pot.  Add tomatillos, Anaheim pepper, Serano peppers and white onion. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Peppers and tomatillos should turn dull green. Reserve 1/2 cup boiling liquid. Strain. Remove any tough stems that are still attached to the peppers. Add boiled tomatillos, Anaheim pepper, Serano peppers and white onion to a blender. Add boiling liquid, garlic and cilantro. Puree content into sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Allow sauce to stand in room temperature for 30 minutes.

    Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

    In a large prep bowl, combine crumbled tofu with black beans, corn and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside. Spread about 1/3 cup of green sauce into a baking dish. Make sure that the sauce covers bottom of the entire dish. In a dry hot non-stick pan, gently toast corn tortilla on both sides. Add about 3 tablespoons of tofu mix in the middle of the toasted tortilla. Wrap tortilla tightly around the tofu mix. Place the enchiladas seam side down into the baking dish with green sauce. Repeat until baking dish is filled. Drizzle the remaining sauce over the top. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cheese should be golden brown and melted. But if it's not, you can broil on high for a few minutes until cheese browns. Allow enchiladas to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Super Bowl Madness

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    If you follow this blog (which I know only about 3 of you do. The rest of you just stumble in from time to time.), you know that we eat pretty healthy (healthfully?) around here. I try my best to avoid fatty things like cheese and butter and you know we don't eat meat around here (most days for me anyways). But, once a while, we throw all rules out the window for the occasional indulgence. And that occasion happens to be THE SUPER BOWL.

    I happen to watch (and love) football. But the Super Bowl, for me, is not really about football. It's about food. A couple of years ago, we cooked enough food for 6 but invited no one over for the Super Bowl. This year, we still made too much food and... decided not to share with anyone.

    So, we had:

    Homemade hummus with toasted pita and baby carrots.
    Nachos with a side of salsa, guacamole and Tofutti sour cream.
    You can hardly tell, but these are hand-cut steak fries covered in Imagine mushroom gravy and soy cheddar, fancily known as "poutine."
    Tofu balls from Tofu Yu with gyoza dipping sauce.
    Field Roast Frankfurters with Smart Veggie Bacon, to be topped with freshly made (not by me) saurkraut and mustard.
    Last but not least, jalapeno poppers and Kim & Scott's Pizza Pretzels.
     Looking at these pictures gave me food coma...

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Aloo Tikki Burgers

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    VB loves these Indian vegetarian burgers that we'd see from time to time at some local Indian restaurants. They are simple veggie patties topped with slivers of raw onion and ketchup. Not knowing what exactly they are called, I googled a bit and found this aloo tikki recipe and figured that this had to be it.

    Well, long story short, that wasn't it. But it was still delicious. Aloo tikki is a potato patty that's served as street food in northern India. I stuffed it inside a pav bread (white Indian dinner roll) and added some ketchup. It was delicious! Not exactly what VB was looking forward to, but delicious nevertheless in an expected way.

    Thursday, February 2, 2012


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    I've been promising VB that I would make taquitos for over a week. Things keep coming up and I keep having to say: "maybe tomorrow." Well, "tomorrow" finally came yesterday and I made taquitos while testing a new product -- Harmony Valley Vegetarian Hamburger Mix. So, for this recipe, keep in mind that I used a particular product that is crumbly and unflavored. Certainly you don't have to use this product to make this recipe, but be mindful of the amount of seasonings you use if you choose a flavored product.

    For this taquitos recipe, you will need:
    • 1 pableno pepper
    • 1/2 large onion, finely diced
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
    • 1 teaspoon dried cayenne pepper (you can adjust it to your desired heat level)
    • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 pound imitation meat crumble (I used Harmony Valley Vegetarian Hamburger Mix. Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo or El Burrito's Soyrizo are also good options.)
    • 3 tablespoons canola oil
    • 4 tablespoons water
    • salt to taste
    • about 15 corn tortillas
    • your choice of salsa, guacamole, and/or sour cream
    Begin by charring the skin of the pableno pepper on all sides over open flame. If you do not have a gas stove, you can broil on high for 3 to 5 minutes on each side until the entire pepper is charred. Place charred pepper in a container. Cover container tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside for 15 minutes. Remove the pepper and peel away the charred skin. Remove the core, seeds and ribs. Finely dice and set aside.

    In a nonstick skillet, heat up 1 tablespoon canola oil. Gently sweat diced onion and pepper until onion becomes translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about a couple more minutes. Remove and set aside.

    Brown imitation meat product with a tablespoon of canola oil in a nonstick skillet. Once the mix is browned, add back the onion pepper mixture. Season with salt, ground cumin, dried oregano and dried cayenne pepper. Cook gently for about 5 more minutes. Set aside.

    Gently mash pinto beans until there are no whole beans left. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil into a nonstick skillet. Once the fat shimmers, add mashed beans. Stir gently until all the oil gets absorbed. Add 4 tablespoons water. Mix together water with mashed beans quickly and cook until the mixture reaches a paste consistency. Remove. Combine together refried beans with the meat mixture. Set aside and allow mixture to cool.

    Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an ovenproof dish with nonstick spray.

    Heat up a dry nonstick skillet over medium heat. Quickly toast corn tortillas in the skillet on both sides until softened. Place about 2 tablespoons of the bean mixture on the tortilla, in a log shape on the upper half of the tortilla. Take the short (top) edge and tuck it firmly under the bean mixture. Push that edge slightly away and roll tortilla firmly into a taquito. Place it seam down into the greased ovenproof dish. Repeat the process until the dish is filled. Spray the taquitos liberally with nonstick spray to allow it to become crispy in the oven. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating them half way through the cooking process to allow them to crisp on all sides. Serve with salsa, guacamole and/or sour cream.

    Harmony Valley Vegetarian Hamburger Mix

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    Whenever VB goes to Whole Foods without me, he comes back with very interesting things to try. This was something that he picked up on one such trip. Harmony Valley Vegetarian Hamburger Mix is a very unique fake meat product. Unlike other fake meat crumbles, this product came dry in a pouch, making it shelf stable. That means it can be stored in the pantry at room temperature -- a big plus for those short on fridge space. Unfortunately, it also looks suspiciously like fish food. Or bath salt. You can decide for yourself.

    Dry mix.
    Prior to cooking, the dry mix must rehydrate in cold water for at least 15 minutes. Then, it is pan fried until browned.

    Re-hydrated mix
    For those who are used to flavored crumbles like soyrizo, one key way that this product is different is that it's unseasoned. One pouch is equivalent to 1 pound of ground beef. So while making any recipe, you have to be aware that you need to add enough seasonings to flavor about 1 pound of meat. If you don't like the seasonings already added to products like soyrizo, this can be a good alternative for you.

    Browned hamburger mix.
    I find the hamburger mix to be very crumbly. It does not hold together by itself. To make my taquitos (more to come on that later), I had to mix in some refried beans in order to get the mixture to hold together without falling apart. The hamburger mix has the telltale texture of fake meat -- a bit springy and mushy. By itself, it tastes unmistakably like fake meat with a slight hint of soy. But when all mixed together and baked into taquitos, I couldn't taste the soy flavor anymore. I do like the fact that you can flavor this any way you want -- with this product, you wouldn't be stuck with all the spices that came in the package.

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

    In A Nut Shell: If you try to have this hamburger mix as is, you will be disappointed by how bland and boring it is. But, if you season it well with spices and herbs, this can be a very versatile product.