Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pico de Gallo

Pico de gallo. It's been a while since high school Spanish class, but that translates to "rooster's beak" doesn't it? How the heck did it get that name? I don't see the resemblance at all. With my "ants crawling on a tree" dish, the noodles are tree branches and the pieces of ground meat are ants. That makes sense. This one, who knows...

Regardless of the name, I love pico de gallo. It's so fresh and tasty, I could eat it all by itself. I served it with tortilla chips this time, but really it goes well with any mexican dish.

- Tomatoes (diced)
- Red onions (diced finely)
- Cilantro
- Lime juice
- Salt
- Pepper

Mix everything together and let it sit for a bit so that the flavors can infuse each other.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Roasted Bell Pepper Pasta

So I tried to make homemade pasta again after failing at it last time, and I'm happy to report - MUCH BETTER!

It's still not perfect, but it's getting there. And this time, I did feel like it was worth the trouble. Just barely though. See how much thinner the noodles are this time? I really think that was the key. But I made some changes to my dough too, which I think helped as well. I'll keep playing with it and hopefully become a pro at it one day!

*pats myself on the back*

And because it's been so darn hot, I figured I'd do a lighter pasta. I roasted some colorful bell peppers, carmelized some onions and tossed it with some oil, herbs and cheese. This was really nice. Nice, fresh, a bit smoky and sweet from the roasted peppers. The pasta and peppers were really the stars of the show.

I'm also submitting this blog entry to Vindicate the Vegetable which happens to be highlighting bell peppers this week! I love it when things just fall into place. Check it out on Monday to see everyone else's great bell pepper recipes and stories.

- 2.5 cups of white flour
- 1 cup of whole wheat flour
- 5 large eggs (I probably would've used 4 if they were extra large)
- 1-2 Tbs water (just becuase again, my dough wasn't coming together like I expected it to, so added a bit of water)

- 1 large red bell pepper
- 2 medium yellow bell peppers
- 1 red onion
- olive oil
- parmesan cheese
- oregano
- salt and pepper

Pasta -
Make the pasta like you would any other pasta - make a pile of flour with a well in the middle, crack the eggs in, mix until a dough forms, kneed until smooth, let it rest, roll it out in your pasta machine (or if you have a ton of time and energy and patience, you can roll it out by hand too).

Peppers -
Roast the peppers until all black and charred everywhere. Put it into a plastic bag while it's still hot to let it steam a bit, this will help the skin come off more easily. Wash it under cold water to help cool it off for handling and to peel the skin. Cut the pepper open and wash out the seeds too.

Putting it together -
Put some olive oil in a pan and heat it up. Add the sliced onion and a bit of salt and carmelize it. Add in the peppers, some herbs, and the pasta. Add a bit more oil to coat everything, some salt and pepper and cheese to taste. And that's it!


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Handmade whole wheat fettucine

Aw poop. A dud. =( And I was sooo excited about making my own pasta too! I swear I'll do better next time though.

I've been wanting a pasta machine for quite some time now and found a reasonably priced one the other day, so I snatched it up. I love pasta as is, and love fresh pasta even more! But fresh pasta is so darn expensive compared to the dried stuff that I can never justify buying it. Well, you all know what the solution to that is, right? Make your own!

sigh, I've become one of them. Before I really started liking to cook, I liked to watch cooking shows. I'd watch Martha Stewart make her own potato chips or marshmallows from scratch and enjoy the show, but all the while laughing at how ridiculous she was for going through all that trouble for something so readily available and cheap in the grocery store. Sure, I knew hers probably tasted better than the ones in the store, but all that trouble just didn't seem worth it to me. So I went about my business as usual, buying everything from the store and microwaving hot pockets for dinner (I was a college student after all).

Fast forward a few years to a gorgeous kitchen that I love, lots of great kitchen gadgets and some experience under my belt, and now I'm the ridiculous one. Pasta's so cheap and easy, why do I want to go through so much unnecessary work? I guess it's because I've hit that stage in my life where it IS worth it to me. Well, not this time (this one was a dud, remember?), but hopefully next time it will be.

I followed this recipe from allrecipes that got rated with 4.5 stars, so I thought it'd be a good place to start. Either I'm terrible at measuring and following directions (which is true), don't know what the heck I'm doing, or all the people who gave this recipe such a great rating are liars! I'll let you be the judge...

Let's go through all the things that went wrong:
- First of all, after following the directions exactly, there wasn't enough liquid to bring the dough together, no matter how long I mixed, so I kept adding a small amount of water at a time until it finally sorta did. I didn't want to add too much since I was already adding a lot more than the recipe called for, so I stopped as soon as the dough came together, which may have still been too little. I really have no idea what consistency pasta dough should be at, but it seemed kinda dry and stiff to me.

- Then the dough kept creaping up the side of my mixer and wouldn't stay in the darn bowl. I kept stopping the mixer to push the dough back down only to have it creep up over and over again.

- Next, I could hear my mixer's motor straining and a slight burning smell. OH NO! Don't you dare break my mixer, I love that thing like a fat kid loves cake! So I took the dough out and kneaded it by hand. Goodness that was freaking workout. Get that cake-loving fat kid to knead some pasta dough and he won't be fat anymore, that's for sure. I half-assed my way through the kneading since it was so difficult, so that probably played a part in the pasta's eventual failure as well.

- Then, this being the first time I've ever made my own pasta, I didn't know what thickness to stop at. My machine can be set at 1-9. I started at 1 and moved up like I'm supposed to and stopped at 6 because that seemed to be the right thickness I wanted it at. Little did I know that the pasta sucks up a ton of water when it's cooked. I knew dried pasta does, but I didn't know that fresh pasta did too. So my fettucine ended being waaay too thick.

- And lastly, the texture. Doing half whole wheat flour was too much whole wheat. It was grainy and stiff, and I could even feel the crunchy grains of whole wheat in my mouth as I ate - and no, I did not drop any egg shells into the dough if that's what you're thinking. It was not at all the nice chewy al dente I was hoping to achieve. Dried pasta from the store kicks this labor intensive pasta's butt any day!

Oh well, there's always next time, right? Anyway, here's the recipe and a few pictures of me hard at work. Try this recipe at your own risk. And if works out for you, there's really no need to tell me because I'm already feeling pretty crappy about the failure and am blaming it on the recipe and not my own incompetence. =)

Oh, and I served it with leftover bolognese.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil


  1. Stir together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour and salt in a medium bowl, or on a clean board. Make a hollow in the center, and pour in the olive oil. Break eggs into it one at a time, while mixing quickly with a fork until the dough is wet enough to come together. Knead on a lightly floured surface until the dough is stiff and elastic. Cover, and let stand for 30 minutes to relax.
  2. Roll out dough by hand with a rolling pin, or use a pasta machine to achieve the desired thickness of noodles. Cut into desired width and shapes. Allow the pasta to air dry for at least 15 minutes to avoid having it clump together.

To cook fresh pasta

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Fresh pasta cooks very quickly. It will float to the surface when fully cooked. Drain, and use as desired.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sichuan Dry Fried Green Beans

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't like this dish.

When we go to Chinese restaurants, we always order family style. We all sit around, stare at the menu, and pick a dish we like for everyone to share. As we're picking our dishes, we often take into consideration other people's opinions and will ask - "Do you guys like ...?" with which other people will respond "Sure, that sounds good." or "Not really, but go ahead and order it, there'll be plenty of other things for me to eat." But whenever someone says, "Hey, do you guys like sichuan dry fried green beans?", I never hear that second response. Instead, it's often followed by several "Oh, I loove that dish!" or "YAH! I was thinking of getting that one too!" which is then followed by a friendly discussion about who gets to "have" that dish and who has to go scouring the menu for something else. And when the green beans finally make it to the table, it always gets gobbled up, leaving no leftovers, and the person who ordered it feels a sense of pride because the dish they picked was so popular.

It's kinda silly how attached we get to the dish we're "responsible" for. It's like a popularity contest. We interpret the praises our dish receives as personal compliments and even occasionally rub it in the faces of our fellow diners who picked less "successful" dishes. And if your dish remains untouched at the end of the night, flashbacks of getting picked last out on the playground come rushing back.

In the end, the moral of the story is - if you haven't tried this dish yet, try it. And if you're ordering family style at a Chinese restaurant, order this one. It's gauranteed to make you feel like prom king/queen for the night. =P

Oh, and I've found another great blogging event that I want to be a part of. Kalyn's Kitchen sponsors Weekend Herb Blogging which is being hosted by Paulchen's FoodBlog this week.


- 3 handfuls of green beans (yes, I'm great at measuring things)
- 1/4 lb ground meat (pork is best. The meat is actually entirely optional since the beans are the star of this show)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbs soy sauce (or to taste)
- preserved radishes (optional)

(preserved radishes)

- Prep your ingredients. Wash the green beans, cut off the ends, and cut the longer beans in half for easier cooking and eating. Dry the green beans well since you're going to be dumping them in hot oil and would probably like to minimize the splatter. Mince the garlic.
- Heat a good amount of oil in a pan over high heat. You can even deep fry the green beans if you'd like, but it seemed like a hassle to heat up a ton of oil for deep frying a few beans. If you don't mind the hassle, go for it.
- Dump the green beans in the oil and fry the heck out of them! I have yet to encounter an overcooked green bean but have eaten many undercooked ones, and it's not good. Trust me, even if it looks all black and burnt, that's okay! It's supposed to be that way! In fact, it's better that way! Fry them until they're all shriveled up and have char marks all over the place. When you bite into them, there should be no "squeakiness" left in them (hopefully you know what I mean by that and don't think I'm crazy). You may find this easier to do in smaller batches for quicker and more even cooking. It's up to you though.
- Take out the green beans and put them on some paper towels or a cooling rack to get rid of some of that oil.
- Dump the excess oil out of the pan (unless you like your food greasy) and turn the heat down (you don't need super high heat for the meat).
- Add the garlic and ground meat and half of the soy sauce in the pan and brown the meat until cooked through.
- Add the preserved radishes and shriveled green beans back in along with the rest of the soy sauce and toss until everything is warmed through.
- Serve over rice and bask in the glory of all the compliments you'll receive!

Simple Bolognese

When I was living in Hong Kong, there was a little Italian grocery store that I liked to frequent. It was called Viva Italia and the owner (a sleazy womanizer with the craziest stories) shipped everything over from Italy. He held free cooking classes/demonstrations and tastings (YUM!) twice a week to show us how to use the ingredients in his store. I'd go to these classes as often as possible, meet lots of interesting people, hear about his shady escapades, eat a lot of great food, and learn a bunch of Italian dishes. Yes, I learned to cook Italian food in Hong Kong of all places!

Back then, I wasn't much of a cook at all. My method of making spaghetti was to brown some ground beef and pour Prego over it. If I was feeling especially adventurous, I might add some onions or mushrooms. If I was feeling particularly lazy, hot dogs did just fine! And don't even think about anything fancier than spaghetti.

Paolo, the owner of the store, always used a base of shredded carrots, diced onions, and diced celery for his tomato sauces. I thought this was such a great idea! You don't really even realize it's there, it gives the sauce more body, flavor and chunkiness, and you sneak in a lot more veggies! The ratio was always 2 parts of onion to 1 part of carrots and 1 part of celery.

Anyway, so given my new found discovery, this is now my recipe for spaghetti bolognese (or paperdelle in this case).

And I just found this wonderful event - Pasta Presto Nights! Even though I kinda want to wait to submit something fancier for my first entry, I'm impatient and want to participate now! Check out Once Upon A Feast on Friday to see the roundup, and if you want to join in on the fun, send your submissions to Ruth AT 4everykitchen DOT com.

- 2 parts diced onion
- 1 part of celery diced

- 1 part of carrots shredded

- 1 package of ground meat (beef is best, but turkey and chicken work too)
- 2 large cans of tomatoes or a jar of Prego

- 3 tbs of tomato paste

- red wine (0ptional)

- minced garlic

- oregano
- salt

- olive oil

- ground black pepper

- Heat some oil in a large pot
- Add the onions and sweat until mostly soft
- Add the minced garlic

- Add the carrots and celery and sweat until mostly soft
- Add some oregano and stir everything together

- Add the tomato paste and stir together

- While the veggies are going, brown the meat in a separate pan. Then add it at this point. Or, if you're lazy like me, go ahead and add the raw meat now and brown it the best you can with everything else in there too.
- Pour in the wine. This is optional but I like put in about a cup. - Pour in the cans of tomatoes. If you like whole tomatoes, crush or dice them first. - Salt to taste and grind some black pepper in. - Simmer until the sauce has thickened to your desired consistency. Add more tomato paste if thickening is a problem.

- Serve over pasta of your choice and sprinkle with a bit of parmesan cheese!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Strawberry jam

I'm constantly looking for ways to use our strawberries (and lemons too, but that's for a different post). We have a small little strawberry patch in the yard. Look how many strawberries I got from just one "harvest"! And I go out there 2-3 times a week. I don't always get this many, but there is definitely no shortage of strawberries in this household during the summer.

These strawberries are a lot more fragile than store bought ones and will only last maybe a day or two after being picked, so I always pop a few in my mouth, then immediately wash and hull the rest and stick them directly into the freezer. I use them for the occasional smoothie, strawberry lemonade, margaritas, etc but I still don't come even close to using enough to keep up, so I thought I'd make some jam to store for future use.

I followed the directions from the Ball Fruit Pectin package insert since from all the research I've done, I've been scared into not being too creative, in fear of developing botulism or some other horrid disease. This is a big deal for me! I never measure things out and often have trouble following directions (one of the reasons I tend to avoid baking, though I've been making an effort to change that). Anyway, so here it goes!

- 5 cups of strawberries
- 1/4 cup of lemon juice

- 7 cups of sugar

Prepping the jars:
- Wash the jars and lids in hot water.
- Heat the jars in hot (but not boiling) water. Don't heat the lids to prevent seal failure.

Making the jam:
- Put strawberries and lemon juice in a BIG pot. Mash the strawberries (I used a potato masher but didn't mash too much since I like my jam a bit chunky)

- Gradually stir in the fruit pectin (this will thicken the jam). Bring everything to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.
- Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Return everything to a rolling boil and keep it boiling for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Skim the foam if necessary.

Jarring instructions:
- Lay a clean towel down on the table and using jar lifters, pull the jars out of the hot water bath and onto the towel.
- Ladle the hot jam into the hot jars. Be careful! A wide-mouthed funnel would be helpful for this. Leave 1/4" of headspace.
- Clean off the lip and outside of the jar.
- Place the lid on and screw on the band.
- Using the jar lifter, put the hot, closed jars into a bath of boiling water. The water should cover the jars by at least an inch.
- Boil the jars for 10 minutes (more at higher altitudes) and then let sit for 5 minutes. If you see bubbles coming out of the jar while processing, don't worry about it, that's normal.
- Remove the jars from the water bath onto a towel to let it cool. It should stay there for 12-24 hours undisturbed (though I was impatient and only left it alone for about 2 hours, but it seems fine to me). You'll probably hear popping noises as it cools and the jars seal.
- After 12-24 hours, check to make sure the lid does not pop up and down. If it does, it is not sealed properly and you can either reprocess it or stick it in the fridge and eat it now.

- Smear it on toast, waffles, bagels, etc and enjoy, or give them away to your friends!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mango Chicken Stir Fry

Yup, another mango recipe!

I'm a salty kinda girl. Give me a slice of cake and a slice of pizza and I'll pick the pizza 99% of the time. And as you can see from my blog, I generally don't make sweets. Fruit is sweet. So leave it to me to try to turn it into something savory =)

One tip I have for this dish is to err on the side of not ripe enough over too ripe. Heating the mango will mush it up a bit, so the firmer it starts off, the better.

- 1 mango cut into slices
- 1 chicken breast cut into bite size pieces

- 1/2 onion sliced

- 2 red chilis sliced at an angle (red bell pepper can be used too if you don't want it too spicy, or more chili or red pepper flakes if you want even more heat)

- Bok choy cut at a bias

- Cashews
- Salt

- Corn starch

- Marinate the chicken in corn starch like I did for the pad thai. You can also add soy or xiao shing wine or other flavoring if you'd like, but I didn't this time around.
- Heat your wok/pan until almost smoking.
- Add a splash of oil and heat through.

- Toss in the chicken and keep it moving in the pan until mostly cooked.
- Add onions and chili and some salt to taste and toss it around. Then add the bok choy. And lastly the mango and cashews. This should all be added in pretty quick succession and shouldn't be left to cook for too long since they don't take long to cook and you want all the veggies to remain crunchy.

- Serve over rice.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Lettuce Wraps

Mmm...lettuce wraps. Crunchy, fresh, delicious.

Many dishes that I make end up being out of necessity. Necessity as in I need to clear out the fridge/freezer of xyz asap, what can I do with it? This is one of them...

Oh Costco, how I love and loathe thee at the same time. They've got such great stuff, and SO MUCH of it too! Even though you don't need a million rolls of toilet paper, it's such a good deal and so convenient that you really just can't resist. Besides, you wouldn't want to get caught pissed off at your neighbor with no toilet paper in the house to "decorate" with, right? (Yes, I know there are worse scenarios to be caught in without toilet paper, but this is a food blog after all and I don't want to ruin your appetite). And lastly, it's not like toilet paper goes bad or anything. Hearts of romaine lettuce on the other hand - do.

Getting tired of sandwiches and salads, I started racking my brain for other ways to use up the lettuce. Hmm...rack, rack, rack...lettuce wraps! Yes, they're usually made with regular lettuce or butter lettuce, but I have romaine to get rid of, so romaine it is. Besides, for the life of me, I can't figure out how to peel off a leaf of regular lettuce without mangling it like a Edward Scissorhands. So really, even if I did have regular lettuce on hand, I'd probably go with the romaine anyway.

*Oh, and a note on the ingredients. My hubby and I both detest water chestnuts. It's something about the texture that I just can't stand. I don't mind it in this dish however, where it's chopped up into tiny pieces and adds a great crunch, but the hubz vetoed it as he hates it even in this dish. So to try to make up for the lack of crunch, I added wood ear. It helped a bit, but still wasn't the same, so I definitely suggest ignoring the hubz and using the water chestnut anyway!

These are rehydrated wood ears that have been soaked in warm water for just a few minutes (submerged in cold water, put in the microwave for 1 minute and let to sit for a minute or two).

Another possible addition that I left out is deep fried rice vermicelli (mi fen). These little noodles puff up immediately when they hit hot oil and are great mixed into the filling and also make great garnishes. Fry up a little pillow of rice noodles and lay your lettuce wraps on top for a beautiful presentation. Just make sure you put them into the oil in the general shape want it in because once they've puffed up, they become stiff and will break if you try to rearrange them.

Now for the recipe, enjoy!

*Measurements are estimations as usual. Do yours to taste/personal preference

- 1/2 pound of ground meat (I used turkey though chicken, pork and especially duck would work wonderfully)
- 2-3 carrots diced finely
- 1 tbs ginger minced
- 2-3 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 green onion chopped
- 5-6 wood ear diced finely (optional)
- water chestnuts diced finely (I omitted this, see note above)
- handful of pine nuts (optional)
- deep fried rice noodles (optional)

- 1 tbs Oyster sauce
- 3 dashes of white pepper (optional)

- Lettuce leaves
- Hoisin sauce

Mix the oyster sauce into the ground meat and set aside. It's better to use too little than too much as you can always add more later but it's hard to take it out.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan and set aside.

Heat up some oil in a wok/pan. Toss in the carrots and stir fry until mostly cooked through.

Then add the ginger, garlic, green onion, wood ear, and water chestnuts and white pepper and toss around for about 30 seconds.

Then add the ground meat and toss everything together until fully cooked. Taste it. If it needs more seasoning, add a bit of soy or more oyster sauce or salt. Keep in mind that you'll be adding hoisin sauce as well, so don't make it too salty at this point.

Add in the pine nuts and rice noodles at the very end and mix it in.

Take a piece of clean and dried lettuce, smear some hoisin sauce on the bottom, fill it with the meat mixture, wrap it up, and shove it in your mouth! (you might want to chew and swallow too)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Thai Papaya Salad

I've never seen green papayas (unripe papayas) in the U.S. before (granted I've never looked either), but I got super excited when I saw it and just HAD to grab it. And boy am I glad I did! The next thing I need to keep my eye out for is a mandoline though. Julienning that darn thing by hand only took a year and a half...

To prep the papaya, cut in half (I had to use a cleaver since it was pretty hard) an scoop out the seeds. Oh, and peel it too. Then julienne away!

- Green papaya (julienned)
- Tomato (sliced into super thin wedges)
- Garlic (minced)
- Dried baby shrimp (soaked in water to rehydrate a bit)
- Peanuts

- Lime juice
- Fish sauce
- Palm sugar (I used brown sugar)
- Chili peppers

It's super easy! Just mix everything together and let it sit for a bit so that flavors meld and then stuff your face!

Edit - This recipe has been featured on KeyIngredient! Check it out!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pasta salad

I had some leftover cucumber from the sushi that I wanted to use up, so I decided to make a pasta salad with it. I basically used whatever I found in the fridge and this is what I came up with. It was pretty good in my opinion and would go well with grilled chicken.

*Edit - I added some cut up ham to the leftovers for my lunch the next day and it was even better!

- 1/2 pound of pasta (I used shells)
- 1/2 cucumber diced

- 1 can of corn drained

- 1/2 red onion sliced thinly

- marinated artichoke hearts
- ham (diced)

*These measurements are just estimations. Do yours to taste according to your preferences.

- 2 tbs dijon mustard
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 3 tbs balsamic vinegar

- a squeeze of lemon juice
- salt

- pepper
- dill
- oregano

- Cook the pasta until al dente and then run under cold water to cool it off
- Mix the pasta and other ingredients in a large bowl

- Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar. Close the jar and shake. Taste it and adjust the seasonings/ingredients as needed.

- Pour the dressing over the pasta and veggies and mix.

- Serve alone or as a side.