Tuesday, December 1, 2009

San Choy Bao

I know living in Australia means my recipes are perpetually out of season; I find san choy bao very refreshing on the summer day. But cool crispy lettuce stuffed with warm meat and veggies is probably tasty whatever the season, idiosyncratic preferences notwithstanding. It's also simple to prepare (except for all the chopping).

1 whole head iceberg lettuce
1 yellow onion, diced
2 T sesame oil
1/2 to 1 lb diced/minced meat (I used kangaroo, but beef, chicken, or duck are also common choices. Or mushrooms, if you prefer a vegetarian option.)
3 carrots, diced
1 small jar water chestnuts, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
fish sauce or soy sauce, to taste
1 cup cooked Asian noodles, chopped

Soak the lettuce in a bowl of cool water. Meanwhile, fry the onion in the sesame oil over medium high heat until translucent. Add meat or mushrooms and brown, add diced veggies and cook until meat is finished, and add fish sauce or soy sauce. For a bit of heat, add chopped bird's eye chilis at the same time as the veggies.

The soaking should have loosened the lettuce leaves and made it easy to peel them off the head of lettuce without breaking them. Separate the leaves and put them on a platter. Fill the bottom of each with noodles; this will help soak up the juice from the meat-and-veggie mixture. Place the meat-and-veggie mixture into the lettuce leaf cups on top of the noodles, and serve immediately.

This recipe will make dinner for two, or appetizers for more. I do not know how to eat san choy bao gracefully.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lemon curd

Recently I made the lemon meringue tart from Susan Loomis's book (which I borrowed from nice people). The crust was a bit too hard, but the lemon curd was fantastic. And the whole thing was quite pretty, too. Lemon curd may have just a couple of AOSs—think lemon meringue pie, lemon parfait—but it has lots of AOCs. Pancakes. With fruit. Made into a mousse. In a cake.

7 tbsp. butter
1 cup sugar
4 whole eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (or less, depending on how tart you want it)
zest of 1 lemon

Melt butter and sugar in the top of a double boiler. When the butter has melted, add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk well after adding each one. Add the fresh lemon juice, whisk to combine, and then cook over gentle heat (i.e., simmering water) until it has thickened, 5-10 minutes. (It took 10 minutes for me.) While it's cooking, stir frequently. When it has thickened to the consistency of not-yet-chilled pudding, or creamy yogurt, let it cool and then add the lemon zest.

If you're making a lemon meringue tart, spread it into an already-baked crust and refrigerate for a few hours. Before serving, spread meringue on top (3 egg whites and 1/3 C sugar) and broil for a minute or two.

Endive salad

Today, for lunch, I really didn't want to turn on the stove. It's hot and insanely humid here, and though the air conditioning makes it generally pleasant inside, the kitchen can get very warm when things are cooking. So I put together salads from what we had on hand. I like endive salads with blue cheese (especially stilton), but I didn't have any today and used pecorino instead. Any sharp and lively cheese will do, but you don't want it to overpower things, so crumble it well or shave it with a vegetable peeler. For the dressing I went with Paul Newman's Lighten Up! Italian, which is the one store-bought dressing I use. It's excellent—very nearly as tasty as freshly made.

Endive salad
(serves 2)

2-3 Belgian endive, sliced crosswise
a handful of walnuts, chopped
1 pear, peeled and chopped, or a few red grapes sliced in half
crumbled blue cheese (or thinly shaved pecorino or Manchego or whatever)
lemony vinaigrette

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Brian's B'day cake

I had a good response to the very simple chocolate cake I made last night - so here it is.  It's from epicurious.com, with some alterations.  See this for the original recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Bittersweet-Chocolate-Cake-1863
  • 8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour

  • 4 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream


Preheat oven to 325°F. Line bottom of 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with waxed paper. Butter sides of pan and paper. Dust pan with flour. Melt 8oz. chocolate and butter in top of double boiler over simmering water, stirring until smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl until pale yellow. Mix in flour, then chocolate mixture. Using electric mixer, beat whites in another bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold into chocolate mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack. Run small sharp knife around sides of pan to loosen cake. Turn cake out onto platter and cool. (Can be prepared 8 hours ahead. Cover with cake dome and let stand at room temperature.)

Melt remaining chocolate in the double boiler.  Stir in sour cream.  Chocolate will seize up somewhat (more if you use lower fat sour cream).  Spread over cake.  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Passionfruit Jam

The passionfruit vines in my backyard have dropped a huge amount of fruit, and I need to do something with it. When it comes to preserving acidic fruits like passionfruit, marmalade-style preserves are far and away my favorite. Most of the recipes I located online were for passionfruit curd or some passionfruit gelatin concoction, but after a little digging, I finally discovered this perfect recipe from The Cook's Cottage. I'll make it this weekend and report back.

Update: I strongly recommend the recipe. It gels beautifully, it's very tasty, and it will make your house smell wonderful.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mango Pickle

I'm not sure where you get green mangoes in Cambridge, but summer is y-cumen in, so maybe someone will be selling them.

Since this recipe requires no measuring (just eyeballing), it works even in worlds where the meter stick is less than a meter long, the baker's cup holds a hogshead, and the scoville unit measures the amount of vanilla in a bean. Denizens of inverted spectrum worlds beware: eyeballing may not work properly there.

green mangoes, 5 or so (don't use ripe ones!)
fresh chilis
white vinegar
chili powder
mustard oil, several tablespoons
mustard seeds

Julienne the mangoes and mix them with salt until they are coated. The ideal vessel for this activity is a pan with vertical sides, because you need to press the mangoes to get all the water out. I put a plate on top of them and something heavy (usually an economy-sized tub of vinegar) on top of the plate, then leave them overnight. Once the mangoes are pressed, rinse and drain them. Mix in fresh chilis, white vinegar, chili powder, and asafoetida to taste. Put the mango mixture in whatever container you plan to store it in. Heat the mustard oil over a medium-high stovetop, drop a handful of mustard seeds in, cook them until they pop, and take the mixture off the heat immediately. (I have found that pouring it out of the pan and into another vessel helps prevent burning, if you mess up the timing on the delicate mustard-seed-popping procedure.) Once the mustard oil has cooled, pour it over the mango mixture, seeds and all. If the oil has seeped into all the cracks between the mango bits and still covers the top of the mixture, great; otherwise, add more oil.

Leave the mixture to stew for about a week. (I've heard you can keep it at room temperature, but I always put it in the fridge.) Then share and enjoy.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Brie en croute with porcini and thyme

This is lasciviously heavy. But it's easy to prepare and satisfies the most insatiable fat-tooth. If you like sweet stuff, you can replace the porcini/thyme with honey and toasted almonds or dried cherries or et cetera.

  • 1 wheel of brie
  • 1 sheet of puffed pastry (thawed)
  • some porcini (reconstituted if dried; cleaned and chopped if fresh)
  • fresh thyme, 1 tsp or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • one egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Wash and stem the thyme and saute it in olive oil with the porcini for a couple of minutes.

Half the brie along the flat side to produce two slabs. Set one slab creamy-side up in the center of the puffed pastry. Place the mushrooms on the brie and close the other slab on top. Fold the puffed pastry around the wheel as decoratively as you can manage. Make sure you don't tear the pastry; otherwise brie will ooze uglily out.

Brushed the outside of the brie-filled pastry wheel with the beaten egg. Transfer the wheel to a cookie sheet or casserole dish or whatever and bake it for 20 minutes at 400ºF. Then turn down the oven to 300ºF and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.

I'm not sure how many people this serves. If you try to split the entire wheel between two people, make sure to sleep with the windows open.

Creamy Braised Brussel Sprouts

Emile Durkheim argued that a certain amount of deviance is necessary for the functioning of a healthy society. He thought that order in society needs people to accept social norms, and this in turn requires a certain amount of deviants flouting these norms. Hence, criminals, hipsters, and Vermont. Something like Durkheim's theory had seemed to me the only way to explain the fact that some people incurably and perversely say they enjoy brussel sprouts. These are, of course, invariably nasty crap. However, recently, I have discovered that brussel sprouts are not intrinsically wrong. They merely have the potential for great evil. If you braise them in cream they are actually rather tasty. I also wonder if Durkheim's views of society would have been the same if he had fully reflected on cream's ameliorating influence on just about anything.


1 pound Brussel Sprouts
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 lemon
Coarse salt
Freshly ground white pepper (cooking black pepper in a liquid for too long is meant to make it bitter)

1. Trim the brussel sprouts: cut off base and peel any ragged outer leaves.
2. Cut brussel sprouts into halves, or thirds if they are big.
3. Brown the brussel sprouts: in a large skillet, melt the butter on medium-high heat until it stops foaming, and then add the sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally until sprouts are golden and brown in spots, about 5 minutes.
4. Pour the cream into the skillet, stir, cover and reduce to a slow simmer. Braise until sprouts are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a sharp knife, 30 to 35 minutes.
5. Finish by stirring in a generous squeeze of lemon juice, and adjust seasonings to taste. Simmer uncovered for a few minutes to thicken the cream.

This is from Molly Steven's book "All About Braising", which Alejandro recommended to me, and I can't recommend enough.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

pasta for the time-pressed snob

to accompany the sweet potato fries, course.

you can seriously put this together in 20 minutes, and it tastes pretty sophisticated for a simple pasta dish. it's not very healthy, i admit. but it is delicious. occasionally one just finds oneself with a bit of leftover half-and-half in the fridge, and, well, what to do?

chopped shallots or sweet onion (don't use a pungent yellow onion here)
sliced mushrooms (i like cremini, but white ones would do)
lots of chopped thyme (absolutely essential!)
torn greens (i used beet greens, but chard or spinach would do—just don't use anything too bitter, like kale)
pasta, such as farfalle (make sure it is an elegant shape...no wagon wheels please! and, er, no boobs either)*
butter, olive oil, salt, and pepper
half-and-half (or crème fraîche or even heavy cream)

heat water for the pasta. as soon as it's boiling, add the pasta—the sauce will take less than ten minutes to make. respect the pasta: don't overcook it.

meanwhile, heat a little butter and olive oil, and sauté the shallots or sweet onion with a small pinch of salt until they are soft and starting to brown at the edges. add the sliced mushrooms and sauté with another small pinch of salt and a grind of pepper until they are...i don't know how to describe it, but until they look cooked. it will take only a couple of minutes. add the thyme. add a handful of greens and cook over medium heat, turning frequently, for a few minutes more, until they're wilted. finally, add a splash of half-and-half and simmer over low heat for another minute or two. adjust the salt, combine with some pasta, and serve with another small grind of pepper on top.


(n.b.: you don't need much cream, because you can always make it moister by adding a bit of pasta water to the final dish. the cream is just for taste. also, i haven't done this, but it seems like a small splash of white wine might be nice after you've sautéed the mushrooms—just let most of it evaporate.)

*update: soon after posting this, i spotted farfalle jewelry at the moma store. yes, really. my pasta shape instincts are spot on!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

white beans with rosemary

mmm! a yummy appetizer made mostly out of pantry staples.

1 can small white beans, rinsed well
1 big or 2 small shallots, finely minced
1 or 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
small pinch of salt and pepper

put your beans in a bowl, and add the following ingredients slowly, tasting often. you may want more or less of them than i've indicated. you can use any tender small white bean; i usually use goya's "small white beans," which work well. this is best on toasty bread, in my humble opinion, as a kind of bruschetta. i like to mash it just a little bit so that it will stay on top of the bread, but not so much so that the texture and look of individual beans are lost. if you want to cut the slight bitterness of the rosemary and shallots, you could add a teeny amount (1/4 tsp?) of balsamic vinegar. it's not needed, though.

Monday, February 16, 2009

beautiful omelettes

super quick, super pretty. the green from the pesto, the white from the feta, the dark mushrooms and the orange yellow omelette look spectacular.

sliced black trumpet mushrooms (I got mine from Formaggio's)
feta cheese
2 - 3 eggs (I recommend "The Country Hen" from Wholefoods... they are organic, their shells are tough, and their yolks bright, which I take to be signs of health)
olive oil

1. sautee the mushrooms in the oil.
2. beat eggs and then fry for a minute or two. flip over, and fry for 30 secs to 1 mins.
3. dollop pesto, crumble feta, and slather mushrooms.
4. roll them up, and cut diagonally if you feel like it.

I adapted this from http://www.101cookbooks.com/ which has heaps of healthy, vegetarian recipes, and impressive food photography.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

shaving fennel, not beards

shaved fennel and pear salad

shave one large (or two smaller) fennel thinly
halve and core one pear (my favorite is Anjou) and sliver into very thin slices, about as thick as the fennel
one handful of parsley, chopped
about half a cup freshly grated ricotta salata (on the largest side of the box grater)
juice of one half of a lemon
glug of good olive oil
sea salt and freshly grated pepper

mix everything together. eat.