Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ginger Ice Cream with Raisin Sauce

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think most people associate ginger with Asian food. Maybe because it's widely used in Chinese and Indian food? I know it makes frequent appearances in other Asian cuisines, but I wonder if it's as ubiquitous as people think. I wouldn't say it's widely used in the kind of Thai food I grew up eating. When it showed up on the table, it was most often served raw, as an edible garnish or something along those lines. Raw ginger isn't for everyone, but I love love love it. As much as I like the distinctive flavor, it's the spiciness that does it for me. Cooking ginger seems to quell the heat. I'm always a little disappointed when I taste something that is gingery, but lacks the spiciness.

A couple of weeks ago, I tasted a really delicious ginger ice cream at our neighborhood Japanese restaurant. It had the right amount of sweetness and spiciness. To my surprise, Sonny loved it and he asked if we could make it at home. Hey, no problem! I like making ice cream and eating it too!

I've made enough ice cream to where I don't usually need to go looking for a recipe, but after I made this, I figured I should check to see if a similar recipe was posted. I'm lazy and don't like to type up the method. As it turns out, the exact recipe is already posted. Lucky me! Click to go to Emeril's ginger ice cream recipe. If you like ginger and you like ice cream then do check it out. It's got a great texture and the sweetness and spiciness are well balanced. A couple things to note: 1) add the ginger after the cream is heated and let it steep for 15 or 20 minutes to retain the spiciness and 2) this ice cream freezes hard. I wonder if that has to do with the ginger juice? You'll want to let it sit out for about 10 minutes before trying to scoop it.

To go with the ice cream, I toasted some sliced almonds and made a raisin sauce. To make the sauce, simply soak about 1 cup raisins in about 2 cups hot sparkling pear until they plump up (white grape or apple juice would work just fine; I just happened to have the cider). They take a while to plump up. Puree the entire lot and push it through a fine mesh sieve. Lastly reduce the sauce to the desired consistency. Pretty easy.

I'm submitting this post to Weekend Wokking, hosted this time by MomGateway. We're celebrating ginger, so if you have a ginger recipe you're just dying to share, check out the rules then send your submission to momgateway(at)gmail(dot)com! The deadline is this 11:59PM Sunday, August 30th.

My very own taste tester.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Regional Recipes China Round-up!

Can you believe the summer is almost over? Seems like I closed my eyes in June and then poof! it’s suddenly the tail end of August. Maybe it’s because this summer has been jammed packed with stuff. Between vacations, visitors and school, time has just flown. But the one thing I haven’t been able to fit in is the blogging. I was hoping to participate in more events, but every time I got around to it, deadlines were passed or some other excuse came up. I’m hoping that with the new school year there will be a little more routine so I can get a better handle on dividing my time and fit some more blogging in. For now, here’s the round-up for Regional Recipes: China. Enjoy!

Broccoli beef submitted by gaga in the kitchen. Broccoli is one of the vegetables my son will actually eat without complaining so this dish appears on our table fairly regularly. And as gaga says, it’s easy. Tasty and easy? Can't beat that!

Lobster congee submitted by [eatingclub]vancouver. I love love love congee and using lobster sounds so decadent. Doesn’t it look delicious? The only thing missing is a dollop of chili oil on the top :-)

Pork jowl with brown sugar rub submitted by [eatingclub]vancouver. Pork jowl is a wonderfully flavorful yet inexpensive cut of meat. I don't know why it's not more widely available. I can only imagine how delicious it was after two days in their brown sugar rub.

Crispy noodle cake with saucy stir-fry submitted by me. The contrasting texture of the crispy noodles and saucy stir-fry go very well together. And it tasted good too! :-)

Thanks so much to the participants. After the long break, I was afraid I might be the lone participant, but these ladies came through beautifully.

For the next region, let’s do SPAIN! I've been perusing through José Andrés’ book Made in Spain. The pictures are so inspiringly beautiful and I am determined to learn how to make a proper paella.

You can find out more about Regional Recipes here. Send your submissions to me by September 15th at blazinghotwok(at)gmail(dot)com. I hope you'll participate!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Crispy Noodle Cake with Saucy Stir-fry

Did I mention I'm going back to school? No? I must have forgotten.

In case you're wondering, I'm getting my teaching credential to be a science educator. So far it's been swell. The instructors are awesome. My classmates are awesome. Everything's awesome except for the damned reading. Lord save me from the reading. If I'm not reading something as exciting as say, The Bourne Identity or The DaVinci Code, I'll be lucky to make it through a paragraph before nodding off. As you can imagine, reading about pedagogy has been slow going.

Anyhow, I decided to put the schoolwork aside for a day and concentrate on stuff I've been neglecting. Like the laundry. Paying the bills. My garden. My poor, neglected blog. Especially my poor, neglected blog. Working on it has always been an outlet, and with all that I've been cramming into my head lately, it's nice to be able let some stuff out.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Martin Yan's China. I was flipping through and I saw the noodle "cake" recipe and I remembered trying something similar at my neighbor's house. The combination of crispy noodles with a saucy stir-fry was great.

It's a pretty easy dish, but there was a fair amount of prep work because you have to boil the noodles and prepare stuff for the stir-fry. The actual cooking was the quick part. I think it took me about 45 minutes to put this on the table.

To flavor the stir-fry, I used fermented tofu with soy beans. I doubt you'll find this at your local supermarket, so a trip to your favorite Asian market is probably in your future. Otherwise, you can use fermented (yellow) soy beans, which your local market might carry. If you're not in the mood to track either down, then by all means, use your favorite stir-fry. I only recommend a very saucy one so the noodles can soak in the sauce.

Crispy Noodles with Saucy Stir-fry
Serves about 4

For the noodles:
  • 8 or 9 oz dried wheat noodles (I use a Thai brand) or 1 lb fresh Chinese egg noodle
  • 1/2 cup broth (I used a beef broth but chicken or even vegetable is fine)
  • a few tbs oil for frying

For the stir-fry
  • 2 tbs fermented tofu with soy bean (or just fermented yellow soy beans)
  • 2 Chinese cooking wine, divided
  • 1 tbs thin soy sauce (or oyster sauce)
  • 1 cup rich chicken or beef broth (use a good quality--it makes or breaks the dish)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 4 tsp cornstarch, divided
  • 12 oz chicken, sliced for stir-frying
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • thumb-sized knob ginger, sliced into matchsticks
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Start by cooking the noodles. Drain and rinse well with cold water and drain again. Toss with a little oil to prevent them from sticking. Set aside until you're ready to fry them. If you can set them in the fridge, even better. They fry better the colder they start.

While the water for the noodles gets going, prepare the chicken by combining 2 tsp cornstarch with 1 tbs cooking wine. Turn the sliced chicken in the slurry and set side.

Make the sauce for the stir-fry by mashing the fermented tofu and soybeans until you get a paste. Don't worry if you don't mash every single soybean. Add 1 tbs cooking wine, the broth, thin soy sauce (or oyster sauce) and sugar. Mix until well blended. Stir in 2 tsp cornstarch. Set aside.

It's best to fry the noodles in two batches. If you try to do it all in one go, you'll probably get a fat cake with a large amount of soft noodle in the middle. Trust me, you'll want to maximize the crispiness. In a non-stick pan (or well-seasoned cast iron skillet), heat a couple of tbs oil over medium heat. Add about half the cooled noodles, distributing them into an even layer. Add half the broth and cook until a nice crispy crust forms and the broth has evaporated. Watch the heat! You wouldn't want your noodles to burn. You may want to move the pan around every so often to distribute the heat better. Flip or carefully turn the noodle cake over and allow a crust to form on the opposite side. When you're satisfied slide the noodle cake onto a plate and keep warm until you're ready to serve.

When you cook the second cake, start heating your wok for the stir-fry. Once it's nice and hot, add some oil and fry the chicken. When the chicken is just about done, remove it and set aside. Add more oil if necessary, then add the garlic, ginger and bell pepper. Stir-fry for a minute, then add the zucchini. After another minute add the chicken back in. Toss well then slowly add your sauce by drizzling it down the side of your wok. Hopefully it will begin to thicken on contact. If it doesn't, no worries. It will once it begins to heat through. Adjust flavor with more soy sauce if necessary. When the sauce has thickened, you're done! Divide the stir-fry over the two noodle cakes and serve immediately. I like to put out chili-garlic sauce as well, for those who like it spicy.

Blazing Hot Wok
This is my submission for Regional Recipes. We're in China! If you'd like to participate, I'll take submissions until the 20th. C'mon, you know you want to! Send your submission to me at blazinghotwok(at)gmail(dot)com. Be sure to include a photo (about 200x200) so I can include it in the round-up!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I realize it’s been too long since my last post. You know how it goes—life gets super busy and the hobbies are put on the back burner. Normally, I wouldn’t feel too bad about it, but I’ve got a book sitting on my kitchen table that I promised to review. I’ve had it since, like, early June, and I can’t have it hanging on my conscience another day.

Now that I’m ready to say something about this book, I realize I don’t really know what goes into a book review. Is it as easy as saying whether I like the book (or not) and why (or why not)? I’m sure there’s more to it, but I’m just going to put my opinion out there and let you decide what to make of it.

Right. I should probably mention the name of the book...Cooking from the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America by Sami Scripter and Sheng Yang. And what did I think of it?

I like it! The book isn't filled with artistically arranged food shots (there are few, but most recipes aren't accompanied by a photo), but instead we get the author's personal story, comments about the food, and stories, poems and pictures that show us a little of Hmong-American life. I like that the recipes, while allowing Western alternatives for hard to find ingredients, don't lose their boldness. But the true reason I like this book is I feel a connection to the food; it feels so familiar to the Northerneastern-style Thai food I grew up eating. The nostalgia alone is enough for me to give it a fantabulous review. If you want more information about the book, the authors, Hmong food and recipes I encourage you to visit Cooking from the Heart.

The recipe I've decided to share is for a spicy bamboo salad. I chose it because it reminded me of the bamboo salad Mom used to make. As the author says, the flavors in this dish are bright and bold, and I would have to agree. The cilantro gives it a really nice freshness. If you're worried about the shrimp paste, there's no need. It complements the bamboo; I think you'll be surprised how well the flavors go together.

Spicy Bamboo Salad

  • Thai chili peppers (to taste), grilled
  • 1 large can shredded bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed well
  • 2 cups Vietnamese cilantro (regular cilantro is fine), roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp shrimp paste (kapi, Vietnamese-style or even anchovy paste is fine)
  • fish sauce, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • fresh lime juice, to taste (my own optional amendment)

Grilling small Thai chilies is challenging, so I recommend toasting them on a dry skillet until they start to brown.

In a large mortar, pound the garlic, chilies and cilantro until you get a uniform paste. Add the shrimp paste and incorporate well. Add the drained bamboo shoots and pound them lightly, turning with a spoon until they are uniformly coated with the spice paste. Be careful not to use too much force. You’re not trying to annihilate the bamboo shoots. Season with fish sauce, salt and lime juice (if using).

Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Goes well with simple, grilled meats or fish and rice.