Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Strawberry Bread

Our strawberry plants are producing a lot less fruit this year. Maybe it's because the plants or older now, or maybe because I thinned out the patch a bit earlier this year. Either way, it's probably a good thing because we still have frozen strawberries leftover from last season that need to be used up.

And because we can only eat so much strawberry jam and drink so many smoothies, I'm always looking for ways to use the strawberries and came across this strawberry bread. It's like banana nut bread, but with strawberries! Maybe next time I'll try a strawberry and banana nut bread since strawberries and bananas go so well together...

I got this recipe from Amber's Delectable Delights and highly recommend it!

Source: Amber's Delectable Delights
- 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
- 1 1/4 cups (6 1/2 ounces) flour (I used bread flour)
- 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) mashed strawberries
- 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) vegetable oil

- Mix the walnuts, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the lemon zest, eggs, strawberries and oil.
- Combine the two until well blended.
- Pour everything into a greased 9x5" loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool the bread in the pan for 15 minutes, then move it to a cooling rack.
- Slice and serve!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Nuo Mi Fan

Almost every Chinese family I know makes this sticky rice dish (known as nuo mi fan or you fan) in place of traditional stuffing during Thanksgiving. In fact, for me and most of my friends, it's the highlight of Thanksgiving dinner! My mother in law does a better job with it than I do, so even though I've hosted Thanksgiving the past two years, I always ask her to bring the "Chinese Stuffing". I also always ask her to make extra so that we can keep the leftovers, though there's never much left because, like I said, it's the highlight of Thanksgiving dinner. When people are packing up doggy bags at the end of the night, the hubz makes it known that the leftover nuo mi fan is off limits :)

The reason my mother in law's version of nuo mi fan is better is because it's just somehow more fragrant than mine. I thought it was the fried shallots, but no matter how much I put in, it's still not the same. I'm going to have to watch her make it and steal her secrets one of these days, but for now, my version is not bad either. In fact, it's pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

I make my nuo mi fan in 3 different methods, depending on how lazy I'm being. I believe the traditional way is to fry it a bit first, and then steam it to finish it off, but that also requires the most work. My semi-lazy way is just to stir fry it the whole way through and skip the steaming. This yields just as good results in my opinion, so this is the method I use the most. And my lazy way is to the user rice cooker. It's super quick and easy and can be done with just a little prep, then you can "set it and forget it". The rice cooker method produces grains of rice that don't quite have the same resistance as the other methods, but it still tastes great and will save you a lot of time.

For today, I decided to go with the steaming method, but I'll explain all 3 below...

- 2 cups of glutinous rice (the package might say sweet rice on it)
- 6 Dried Shitake Mushrooms (you can use more or less depending on your personal preference)
- 4 Xiang Chang (or Lap Cheong in Cantonese) which is a Chinese Sausage. Again, you can use more or less of it, depending on your personal preference.
- Soy Sauce
- Oyster Sauce
- Fried shallots
- Scallions or parsley for garnish

- Rinse the rice in running water, then soak it overnight. If you plan on using your rice cooker, put the rice in the rice cooker pot and fill it to the line as you would when cooking rice normally. Otherwise, just make sure the rice is fully covered with water.
- Either the night before or the day of, soak the mushrooms to soften them. If you don't have time to wait for them to soften because you're impatient or forget to plan ahead, put them in water, pop them in the microwave for about a minute or two and then let them sit for another 5-10 minutes or so. This should soften them up faster. (Save the soaking liquid).
- Dice the mushrooms and the Xiang Chang.
- If you're using the rice cooker method, add soy sauce and oyster sauce to the rice and water to taste. Then toss in the mushrooms, xiang chang, mushroom soaking liquid (minus the grainy bits at the bottom), and a healthy dose of fried shallots. Give everything a good stir and turn on your rice cooker. When the rice cooker indicates that it's done cooking, serve it with a garnish of freshly chopped scallions or parsley.
- If you're not using the rice cooker method, heat a large wok or pan. You can add oil if you want, but I don't find it's necessary since the sausage has plenty of oil already.
- Put the xiang chang in the wok/pan and cook it until fragrant.
- Drain the rice and add it to the xiang chang, along with the mushrooms. Stir everything together so that the rice is coated with the oil from the sausage.
- Add soy and oyster sauce to taste. Also add in the reserved mushroom soaking liquid (be careful not to pour in the grainy bits that have settled at the bottom).
- Keep everything in the pan moving until the liquid has been absorbed.
- If you want to steam it, mix in the fried shallots and move everything to a steamer. Steam it until the rice is soft and chewy and no longer crunchy. Serve with scallions or parsley.
- If you want to finish it in the wok/pan, add the fried shallots and just keep stirring and flipping the rice until the rice is soft and chewy and no longer crunchy. As the rice cooks, it will get stickier and you'll find that it gets harder and harder to mix and stir, but that's okay. Keep at it! Then serve it with some scallions or parsley.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Blackened Mahi Mahi, Couscous, and Asparagus

We don't eat much fish in this household, but after eating this one, the hubz and I decided that we should probably try to change that.

We have the in-laws over every so often, and every time they come, they bring a bunch of food with them. This time, they left behind two big mahi mahi steaks. Since mahi mahi is a very "meaty" fish, we thought they would go well with a nice bold flavor instead of the delicate flavors usually associated with fish, and decided on blackened mahi mahi.

This whole meal was shockingly quick and easy while being super tasty and healthy. I even cheated by using the microwave for the asparagus and was pleasantly surprised by the results. I'm definitely keeping that little trick in my repetoire from now on!

Anyway, if you'd like to give this meal a try, here's how...

For the fish -
- Mahi Mahi or any other "meaty" fish
- Salt
- Pepper
- Paprika
- Oregano
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Cayenne
- Cumin

For the asparagus -
- Asparagus spears
- Salt
- Pepper
- Lemon

For the couscous -
- Couscous
- Water or some sort of broth
- Salt

For garnish (optional) -
- Lemon
- Parsley

For the fish -
- Mix the spices in a bowl and pat a nice generous layer on to both sides of the fish filet.
- Heat a nice heavy-bottomed pan (we used our castiron) until smoking hot.
- If desired, add a bit of oil to the pan, though we found it wasn't necessary.
- Put the fish in the pan and put the lid on. Don't touch it until a nice crust has formed (a few minutes, depending on how thick your fish is).
- Flip the fish and repeat the step above and leave it in the pan until the fish has cooked through.

For the asparagus -
- Rinse the asparagus and trim off the tough ends.
- Some of my asparagus were monstrously thick, so I split them down the middle length-wise to make them more uniform. This isn't necessary, but it's what I did.
- Lay the asparagus flat in a dish and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
- Pop them in the microwave until they're cooked but still have a crunch to them (this took about 1.5 minutes for me, but it'll depend on your microwave and how thick your asparagus are).
- Squeeze some lemon juice over the asparagus and they're ready to serve!

For the Couscous -
- Follow the directions on the back of the box.
For me, I brought the chicken stock and a bit of salt to a boil on the stove top, added the couscous. Then I turned off the heat, put the lid on and let it sit for 5 minutes. I then fluffed it with a fork and served it with the fish and asparagus.

My hubz came up with both versions of the presentation. Pretty good, huh?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Century Egg Tofu (Pi Dan Tofu)

I apologize for the lack of posts recently. Both work and life in general have been keeping me busy, but here's another super quick and super easy dish. *Warning* - it's not for everyone.

See that black jelly like stuff in the picture? That's an egg. Yup, a hundred year old egg! It's not really a hundred years old, that's just what it's called. It's also known as century egg or pi dan in Chinese. Here's what it looks like with the shell on.

How do they get the egg that way? They cake it in clay, ash, salt and some other stuff to preserve it. Even if you can get passed its appearance, it's definitely an acquired taste and texture, and tastes nothing like an egg. I know a guy who will eat everything from chicken feet to scorpions to bull testicles, etc, but won't touch this stuff with a ten foot pole. Then there are people like me who absolutely adore it.

So, if you're feeling adventurous, give this a try. It's a nice refreshing dish that's especially nice on a hot summer day, and who knows, you may fall in love with it too!

- 2 century eggs
- 1 block of silken tofu
- Soy sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Sesame oil
- Green onions or bonito flakes as a garnish (optional)

- Dice the tofu into large cubes.
- Dice the century eggs into large cubes.
- Top the century egg and tofu with a few dashes of soy, a healthy drizzle of oyster sauce and a splash of sesame oil.
- Garnish with green onions or bonito flakes if you want.
- Mix everything together and serve cold.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Homemade Kimchi

I started eating kimchi at the ripe old age of 3. I thought that was pretty impressive until I met my friends' daughter who is eating at age 1! Anyway, I loved the stuff from the beginning and often wished I was Korean so that we could eat it with every meal. All I needed was kimchi and rice and I was a happy girl.

But I guess one should be careful of what they wish for. One of my childhood friends who is Korean explained to me that her grandmother was the family kimchi maker, as I'm sure is the case in many Korean households. Unfortunately, her grandma's taste buds weren't what they used to be, so the kimchi she made was waaay too spicy for the rest of the family. But because no one wanted to hurt grandma's feelings, everyone grinned and beared it. Then again, I always find myself wishing that store bought kimchi was spicier, so maybe I'd fit in perfectly with their family!
I've always wanted to try making my own kimchi but just never got around to it. Well, one day, I found myself with an abundance of napa cabbage in the fridge while my supply of kimchi was running dangerously low. It was like the stars aligned and told me "you must make your own kimchi". So I did. And you know what? It was sooo darn easy and way more tasty. I don't think I'm ever going to get the store-bought stuff again! And you can make lots of other goodies with it like Kimchi Jigae, Duk Bokki, Kimchi Fried Rice, and much more!

Regional Recipes is highlighting Korean food this month, and what's more Korean than kimchi? The host this round is Wandering Chopsticks.

Recipe from Kitchen Experiments
(this makes a lot so feel free to make smaller batches if you're not a frequent kimchi eater, although this will keep in the fridge practically forever without going bad)
- 2 heads of napa cabbage
- Lots of salt
- 1 cup of glutinous rice flour or mochi flour
- 2 cups of water
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of fish sauce
- 2/3 cup of Korean chili powder (I just used regular chili powder - and trust me, it's definitely spicy enough. You may want to start with less to begin with. Be warned, the spice seems to intensify as it ferments.)
- 1 bulb of garlic
- 1 onion
- 2 inches of ginger
- 1/2 cup of julienned carrots
- 1 bunch of garlic chives (I skipped this and used scallions instead and it turned out fine)
- 1/2 cup shredded daikon radish (I skipped this also and it was fine)
- 10 pieces of fresh oysters (optional) (I skipped this as well)

- Cut the cabbage in to quarters length-wise and rinse them.
- Sprinkle salt on every single leaf by lifting each of them and salting in between. Put more towards the base because it's thicker. Let them sit in the sink or a large bowl for 4 hours, flipping them half way through.
- After 4 hours, the cabbage should be wilted like shown below. Rinse off all the excess salt so that your kimchi won't be too salty. Squeeze out the excess water.

- To make the kimchi paste, mix the glutinous rice flour and water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Stir it constantly until it reaches the consistency of rice congee or a watery pudding. Keep a vigilant eye on it because the point it can quickly overcook. I had to make a second batch because I stepped away from it for a second and ruined it.
- Add the fish sauce and chili powder and mix well.
- In a food processor, process the ginger, garlic and onion. Add this to the rice flour, chili, fish sauce mixture.
- Stir in the julienned vegetables. If you're using oysters, add those now too.
- If you want to keep your kimchi in quarters, spread the paste on each leaf of the cabbage (using your hands it the best way). Or cut the cabbage into bite size pieces and mix it into the paste.
- Put the kimchi in a jar and keep it at room temperatures for approximately 2 days (I ended up leaving mine out for 3). Yes, this made me nervous too, but trust me, it's how it's done.
- You'll know it's done fermenting when you open the jar and hear or see bubbles and smell a bit of "sourness".
- When it's done fermenting, keep it in the fridge and eat it with rice or cook with it.