Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mom's Mai Fun (Rice Noodles)

I am returning to my roots so to speak in twofold, cooking based on what produce is fresh and consequently on sale and a Chinese dish which readers were surprised I do not cook more of.  Celery was on sale for just 79 cents so I picked one up and coincidentally my mom was making lunch for themselves and my cousin late last week using her celery.   That sounded good so I had her walk me through how she makes hers so I can replicate myself, perfect for Throwback Thursday, when mom cooked for me. 

Ingredients

Prepackaged dry rice stick noodles
4-6 stalks (ribs) of celery (cut on a bias)
1 can of Spam (cut in strips)
Shrimp (diced)
½ Onion sliced
2 cloves of Garlic minced and/or 3 fresh ginger slices
Oil

Preparation

  1. Boil water and turn off
  2. Put rice noodles in hot water allowing it to steep for about 5-10 min until al dente
  3. Remove and drain (do not lay on itself)
  4. In frying pan, flavor 1 tbsp oil with ginger or garlic over medium heat for a couple of minutes and remove ginger/garlic from oil
  5. Add shrimp and cook through
  6. Add spam and onion strips, sauté until lightly brown and remove
  7. Add celery to sauté picking up the brown bits
  8. Remove everything including any liquid
  9. Heat 1-2 tbsp oil to same pan
  10. Add drained noodles, stir, turning over once
  11. Add pre-cooked ingredients back in (shrimp, celery, spam, onion)
  12. Add green onions and toss with noodles
  13. Add a little dark soy if you prefer some color
Notes: 

  1. Due to a shellfish allergy, I left shrimp out of the one I made. 
  2. I only made ½ of the recipe so picture is 3-4 servings
Price:  $5 for 6+ servings = Less than $1 a serving



Monday, July 27, 2015

Fresh Fig with Marscapone, Honey, and Pistachios

Black Mission Figs are our absolute favorite fruit this time of year, worth stalking at the Farmer’s Market starting mid July, to catch it during its short 3 week season.  Although figs are mainstream nowadays, I cannot help reminiscing about an incident 10 years ago when we introduced a stranger to this fruit that was literally in their own front yard. 

While visiting a friend in San Jose, their neighbor kindly asked if we can move our car so they can prune their tree.  Upon going outside, my husband discovered they were pruning a fig tree but discarding all that delicious fruit.  When asked why, they were unaware what a fig is but their children love to throw them at each other.  We referenced Fig Newton in hopes of lighting a bulb of recognition over their heads so they decided to try it after we ate one with no negative consequences.  Ten minutes later and over 5 figs a piece, his kids started gathering them to bring home vs. using it for pitching practice. 

This recipe is a perfect example when Twitter comes in handy, following those with similar interests.  When @culinarytravel Michelle Winner tweeted a recipe from La Crema Wineries blog of a simple summertime dessert highlighting the luscious Black Mission Fig, I knew I had to make this myself. 

All that stalking finally paid off this past Saturday as I laid my hands on 2 brimming baskets of Black Mission Figs at the Farmer’s Market.  If you do not have access to a Farmers Market in your area or prefer just one stop shopping, you can find figs (although not Black Mission) at Trader Joe’s when you pick up your marscapone and pistachio nuts. 

Because of the marscapone, I thought it would taste similar to a cakeless tiramisu.  Instead, because of the pistachio nuts, I was pleasantly surprised that it was closer to a cannoli filling meets baklava.  Either way, this dessert will prove figs have come a long way since the Fig Newton and this simple no bake dessert is one even Rachael Ray can pull off!!  Mission Fig Accomplished!
 
Fresh Fig with Marscapone, Honey, and Pistachios - http://blog.lacrema.com/fresh-figs-mascarpone-honey-pistachios/

Notes: 

  1. I prefer the lighter color honey for this dessert. 
  2. This recipe can make 12 individual small glasses of the dessert
Price:  $12 for 12 servings = $1 a serving


No excuse that you do not know what a fig is



Friday, July 24, 2015

Cruffins Courtesy of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse

Do not get too excited!!   No, I did not steal the Mr. Holmes recipes a few months back so I can make my own cruffins and in fact I will preface by saying I will never be skilled enough to make them even with a recipe. 

I was in New York about a month after the introduction of Dominique Ansel’s cronuts but hesitant to stand in line in the dark for hours without a guarantee, especially when I was still trying to figure out my way around the subway system.  Fast forward 2 years later… 

I did not wait in line for hours last Saturday like half the Bay Area for the Hello Kitty Bobblehead at the A’s game so I decided instead to wait in line for an hour early Sunday morning for cruffins in front of the Mr. Holmes Bakeshop begging them to open, open, open like an old Mervyn's commercial! 

Tip #1 - Every Sunday evening, they list the anticipated cruffin and donut flavors for the week on Facebook which I did not realize until I heard the person behind me mentioned what the flavors were for the week. They have 1 flavor for the cruffin and 2 flavors for the stuffed donuts each day.  I took a gamble that it wouldn't be coffee and was pleasantly surprised that it was lemon meringue pie that day.

Tip #2:  If you are facing the storefront, the cruffin line is to the left and the regular pastry line is to the right.  There is a pink sign notating that but when you jump out of the car like I did, I automatically just lined up where I saw the line.  Luckily, 5 minutes later at 8AM, I noticed my line was moving so realized I was in the wrong one and was still able to be near the front of the correct line.

Tip #3 - If you can come with a second person, one person can get some pastries to munch on while you are waiting for those cruffins.  They start handing out stickers around 10 minutes before 9 so make sure to be back in line before then if you want to maximize the cruffin allocation!

Final verdict?  Yum and worth that hour wait!!  Each person is allowed 2 so we got the max.  Dusted with sugar on the outside, followed by light flaky layers and then ending with the not overly sweet filling was a perfectly balanced treat any time of the day making it 5 stars and us Holmies!!
 





 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Christmas in July with a Summer Twist

You hear Christmas in July all this month from Christmas themed TV shows on the Hallmark Channel (wish I have cable) to the marathon of Christmas fare hawked on the Home Shopping Network.  To me the holiday means time with family usually revolving around food. 

Unlike Thanksgiving which is synonymous with turkey and stuffing, Christmas can be broader, usually a roast like prime rib, lamb, or even ham.  However cooking up a roast is not feasible to feed just a few people and especially not in the middle of a hot July.  So I went for a scale down version instead going with rib eye steaks (which probably has been in my freezer since Christmas anyways) with a summer twist this time around serving it up with a Heirloom Tomato Salad with Anchovy Dressing - http://www.cookwithzee.blogspot.com/2015/07/heirloom-tomato-salad-with-anchovy.html
 
Grilled Rubbed Rib Eye Steaks

Preparation

  1. Bring the steaks to room temperature before cooking
  2. Rub both sides of steaks liberally with cut raw garlic
  3. Sear the steaks in a pan on both sides
  4. Place seared steaks on baking sheet in preheated 400 degree oven and cook through an additional 5-8 minutes depending on thickness of steaks and how rare you want it. 

 Price:  $14 for 4 servings = $3.50 a serving




 

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Anchovy Dressing

I decided to add a summer twist to this year’s Christmas in July dinner by taking advantage of the fresh produce I would normally not find in December.  Nothing says summer like heirloom tomatoes so when I saw this recipe from Food and Wine, it just became a natural pairing to my rib eye steaks.   

Even though this recipe is originally a vinaigrette, I modified it to my taste as after I made the vinaigrette, I felt that it was way too strong and overpowering.  Because I really love the fresh flavor of an heirloom tomato and why I pay $3/lb for one, I want it to naturally shine so I skipped the vinaigrette and just drizzle it with the warm anchovy dressing and it was perfect! 

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette -
http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/heirloom-tomato-salad-with-anchovy-vinaigrette

Notes: 

  1. I personally like the yellow heirlooms as it is the least acidic
  2. I left out any of the ingredients I did not have like parsley, marjoram leaves
  3. The eggs were so tasty with the anchovy dressing, you may want one full egg per serving
Price:  $5 for 4 side servings = $1.25 a serving


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pork and Beans Bread

I know this sound so strange and maybe even slightly off putting, but my philosophy has always been try things at least once before dismissing it.  I can only imagine what I would have been missing if I never tried salmon baklava, but that is a story for another time.    

Another recipe from one of Joanne Fluke’s mystery books that have been sitting around for almost 6 years collecting dust, just waiting to be made.  For 4 years, I never got around to picking up a can of pork and beans since it is not exactly high on my weekly list.  Then when I finally came across the recipe again and had the beans on hand, the chopped walnuts I picked up from TJs got recalled.  Fast forward to 4 months later and I got a cup of walnuts from my mom’s Costco sized bag, before realizing I only have olive oil, which apparently is a no-no for this recipe.  Finally over 5 years later, presenting the Pork and Beans Bread which was surprisingly worth the wait!

Ingredients

1 (15 oz) can of pork and beans
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil (not canola or olive)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups white (granulated) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (measure after it has been chopped)
3 cups all-purpose flour (pack it down in cup when measuring)

Preparation

  1. Spray two 9x5x3-inch deep loaf pans with Pam or another nonstick cooking spray
  2. Don't drain the pork and beans. Pour them into a food processor or blender, juice and all, and process them until they're pureed smooth with no lumps
  3. Place the beaten eggs in a large mixing bowl
  4. Stir in the pureed pork and beans and mix them in well
  5. Add the vegetable oil and the vanilla extract. Mix well
  6. Add the sugar and mix it in
  7. Mix in the baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and stir until everything is incorporated
  8. Stir in the chopped nuts.
  9. Add the flour in one-cup increments, stirring after each addition.
  10. Spoon half of the batter into one loaf pan and the other half of the batter into the second loaf pan.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 to 60 minutes.
  12. Test the bread with a long food pick inserted in the center. If it comes out sticky, the bread needs to bake a bit more. If it comes out dry, remove the pans from the oven and place them on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes.
  13. Run the sharp blade of a knife around inside of all four sides of the pan to loosen the bread and then tip it out onto the wire rack.
  14. Cool the bread completely, and then wrap it in plastic wrap. At this point the bread can be frozen in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.
Notes: 

  1. I realized a little too late (after I pureed all the pork and beans) that I could’ve just ½ the recipe and made one loaf. 
  2. With the exception of the nuts, veggie oil, and pork and beans, I already have all ingredients in my pantry or fridge. 
  3. The beans just gave it additional moisture to the bread so it does not flavor it in any way. 

Price:  $5 for 2 loaves = $2.50 a loaf

 
 
 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pupusa Y Vegetales

Around Cinco De Mayo, I saw corn masa on sale and faintly remembered looking at a recipe years before that required it, so I bought a bag.  Good ole Murphy’s Law ensured I could not find the recipe that needed the corn masa or even remember what the recipe was for.  So with almost 5 lbs sitting on my counter for over 2 months, I had to find a way to make use of it short of the way too time consuming tamale.  I racked my brain and the internet trying to come up with ideas.  Soup thickener?  Not really.  Making my own tortillas?  Nyah.  Pupusas?...  Pupusas???  Hmmm, now there is an idea.  We discovered Salvadoran food and pupusas over 5 years ago at Platano in Berkeley and have introduced many friends and family to great results, including this past Saturday because my dad wanted to go back. 

So here is Take 1 on making my own pupusas.  Experimenting in progress so stay tune for Take 2 and 3. 
 
 
Notes: 
1.  I used mozzarella cheese, sautéed zucchini and onions for the filling which is only 1 tbsp per pupusa. 

Price:  $4 for 8 pupusas = 50 cents a pupusa