Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Stir- Fried Fuzzy Melon with Ginger Pork

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

Fuzzy melon with ginger pork - absolutely delicious!

Mise en place.

Bowl l:  Pork, water, scallions, soy sauce, cornstarch
Bowl 2: Ginger
Bowl 3: Fuzzy melon
Bowl 4: Salt, pepper
Bowl 5: Chicken broth, soy sauce
Bowl 6: Scallions
Bowl 7: Sesame oil

I am so glad I persevered in looking for the hard to find fuzzy melon (aka moa qua or chi qua); after two farmer's markets, three produce markets and two Asian grocers, I found the elusive melon at a farmer's market while out on a bike ride.

You may be asking yourself, "What is a fuzzy melon?"

They are part of the gourd family, and look like a large spotted cucumber or zucchini. When very fresh, they have a white fuzz covering their skin (click here for photo) - hence the name.  They have a mild flavor similar to a cucumber, and the texture (to me) of zucchini (when eaten raw).

Oddly enough, according to the book Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, watermelon rind may be substituted - which I had at the ready, just in case... 

I am so thankful the butchers at our upscale market (a term my sister despises - she says it sounds snooty - it's not Safeway, and costs a whole lot more) do not mind me asking for only two ounces of ground pork. They are always so accommodating. I always say I'm going to buy a half pound and freeze the rest in two-ounce increments, but I never do. I so don't utilize my freezer as much as I should. 

The wee amount of pork is mixed with some water, scallions, soy sauce and cornstarch. This is stir-fried just until opaque, then transferred to a plate to be added back in toward the end. Next, some oil and ginger are added to the wok, cooked just until fragrant, before adding the wonderful fuzzy melon, along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. This is cooked for a very short time (about one minute), then the broth mixture is swirled in, the pork is added back in and stir-fried some more just until the liquid has almost evaporated and the melon is tender. The wok is removed from the heat, a bit of sesame oil is stirred into the mixture, then the remaining scallions are added. 

Whoala! You have another fabulous tasting dish from the amazing wok guru, Grace Young.

P.S.: When I went back to clean the wok after dinner, the scent was still tantalizing - I wanted to lick the wok clean instead of washing it (I did refrain..).

Got Wok? Got Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge? No? What are you waiting for?!!!

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 232 of  Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed. 

Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book 115: The Pastry Queen | Sugar Saucers

by Rebecca Rather

These are called sugar saucers because they are as large as, you guessed it, a saucer - the plate, not the UFO, that I had imagined.

I was craving something sweet, and wanted something quick and easy. Aside from the hour chill time in the fridge (or fifteen minutes in the freezer) these fit the bill perfectly.

These are basically a sugar cookie. In addition to the normal ingredients of butter, granulated sugar, egg, vanilla, flour, baking soda and salt, this recipe also includes powdered sugar and canola oil.

After the dough has chilled, using a standard-size ice cream scoop (mine apparently is larger than standard - for I only got six cookies instead of twelve), the dough is dropped onto a cookie sheet about two inches apart. The dough is then flattened to about a quarter inch thick. I covered the ball of dough with a piece of parchment paper and used the bottom of a glass to flatten.

Whoa. Two cookies took up the whole sheet pan. Good thing I started out with the pan that had only two on it.

I had four on the first sheet pan. The dough was too soft to transfer, so I cut the parchment and lifted two of the cookies to another pan.

If you look closely, you can see the edge of the cookie peeking out - they are saucer sized! The finished cookies were six inches in diameter, giving me six cookies; as where the recipe states I should have gotten a dozen of four-inch cookies.

I decided to add some sugar to the tops before baking. I left two plain, two were sprinkled with granulated sugar, and two with demerara sugar. I actually liked them best without any sugar.

These cookies were crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Perfect in by book. And they seemed to get better with each passing day. 

Being these were so huge, I cut them up shortbread style. These would be a great addition to a potluck - or better yet, even a sit down dinner - put the cookies in the middle of the table and let your guests just break off a piece; there is just something fun, to eating such a big cookie.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TWD: Vanilla Pound Cake

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Flo Braker 

Need to make a dessert at the last minute? I bet you have everything you need on hand to make this cake - it's a simple and straightforward recipe.

This cake is made up of standard ingredients of flour, baking powder, salt, butter, sugar, eggs, milk, and vanilla.

When recipes call for milk, I'm assuming they mean full-fat milk. I only have non-fat milk, so I used a mixture of non-fat and half and half; other than that, I followed the recipe as directed. 

The cake has a wonderful sweet vanilla flavor, and is lighter and not as dense as your typical pound cake. My cake was a tad on the dry side, so I served this topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt and berries. Unfortunately the yogurt was a bit overpowering - it masked the lovely vanilla flavor this cake has. I think whipped cream would be a better option.

I read that this is also tasty toasted; this I did not get a chance to try, for I had already sent the cake off with my sister for her to take to work.

Hop over to the Tuesdays with Dorie website and check out the LYL: Vanilla Pound Cake link to see what my fellow bakers thought of this recipe. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Water Spinach with Fermented Bean Curd

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young 

Water spinach is nothing like the the spinach your thinking of (at least to those unfamiliar with Asian cuisine). Water spinach has long narrow leaves and hollow stalks, and the flavor is milder than regular spinach.

Did you know that water spinach is from the Morning Glory family? And that this plant requires a permit to be grown in the United States according to, for it is considered to be a federal noxious weed? A mighty tasty weed, if I may say so myself.

Interestingly enough, you can buy water spinach seeds from Amazon (what can you not get?). I did not see any disclaimer about needing a permit. Then again, I did not try to add it to my shopping cart - maybe at check out it states that fact.. maybe.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Garlic
Bowl 2: Water Spinach
Bowl 3: Fermented bean curd, dry sherry
Bowl 4: Salt, sugar

This was an incredibly easy recipe. All that is required, is you rinse your water spinach, trim it, cut it into four-inch lengths,  and spin-dry it in a salad spinner (ingredients should always be dry as possible to avoid hot oil splatters). Mix your bean curd (as Grace mentioned on one of our FB posts, don't be put off by the scent of the bean curd; and I can attest to the fact that it is a bit nasty smelling... but in the end, it tasted fabulous) with some dry sherry (or rice wine), roughly chop your garlic, and combine a bit of salt and sugar together.

As usual, you start by stir-frying your aromatics (garlic in this case), add the spinach and cook until it is starting to wilt, add the bean curd mixture, the salt and sugar. Viola! You have a delicious side dish to any meal you see fit. I served it alongside leftover pasta. Italian - Chinese... I have always been on the eccentric side; and it goes with what Andy's mom always insisted on -  having a green vegetable on the plate. Works for me.

I have a small confession to make - as I was preparing this dish taking mental notes, I thought to myself, I'm not going to care much for this dish for I'm not a fan of "stalky" vegetables. You know when greens are cooked, they wilt to nothing, leaving only the hard, chewy, sometimes fibrous stems - not my thing - and not in this case! I could have easily eaten the whole thing in one sitting - on its own - with nothing else - and I would have been happy.

I always have a hard time with conveying my thoughts on how to describe the taste... I'm the same way when I go to the doctor - how to describe what I am feeling - "I don't feel well - fix me!"

I'll try (try, being the operative word here): This dish has a mellow, earthy flavor, with a bit of saltiness - kinda reminiscent of miso soup - kinda - in the background kinda way (OK, enough of the word, kinda). It is best served warm, however, I thought it was just as delicious cold, while I sat here polishing it off as I wrote this post. Yeah. This was good.

You'll just have to take my word for it, that is was delicious, or go buy the book and a wok, and make it for yourself. And if you do, please leave me a comment on what you thought of this recipe.

The recipes in this book continue to amaze me. With just a few ingredients, you can have such a delicious outcome. I just can't say enough good things about Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge. Best book yet!

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 211 of  Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed. 
Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tavern Gazpacho

from The Black Dog: Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook
by Joseph Hall & Elaine Sullivan

When temps heat up, who wants to turn on the oven, stove, or even the grill? Certainly not me!

After I heard that it was going to be in the triple digits the following day, I decided it was going to be ice-cold gazpacho for dinner.

Gazpacho is a cold soup made up of raw vegetables and tomato juice.

This really could not be any simpler to make. You take a bunch (three pounds to be exact) of tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, red bell pepper, scallions, and celery, and chop everything up into small diced pieces. Toss into a large bowl or container and add some tomato juice (I like to use V8 - Spicy Hot), red wine vinegar, olive oil, Tabasco, some fresh basil, Worcestershire sauce and some salt (I omit the salt, for I find the V8 is salty enough on its own) and pepper. Give it a stir, and chill for several hours - preferably overnight.

Bam! You have dinner ready. How simple is that? Not to mention delicious!

This is the only gazpacho recipe I have made, and I think it is absolutely wonderful. 

Funny, I got this recipe from my sister, who has made other recipes in the past, and this is her favorite. The funny part is, she got it from my daughter, who got it on-line, then to find out I have the cookbook the recipe came from!

Do give this recipe a try. It really is refreshing on a hot day, and it's healthy to boot!

You can find the recipe on page 55 of The Black Dog: Summer on the Vineyard, or by clicking here.

The recipe calls for one quart of tomato juice. I always buy extra to add to the leftovers. Also, the recipe states it will serve six. That would be very generous portions. I placed my soup in a container with marked measurements, it registered at just over four quarts. I'm thinking this will serve closer to eight or more.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club | June 2014

The CCC is cooking their way through River Cottage Veg
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Here we are in our second month of cooking through this wonderful cookbook. As I mentioned in May's post, we get to choose to cook anywhere from one to ten recipes each month from the recipe list on the CCC website.

Reading through this month's recipes, it was hard to choose - they all sounded so wonderful. I was feeling quite ambitious as I read through the list, and decided on seven out of the ten choices. It makes for a long post, I know..

Here are my selections for June:
(Not necessarily cooked in order.)

New Potato, Tomato, and Boiled Egg Salad
Lettuce, Spring Onion, and Cheese Tart
Cucumber and Lettuce Vichyssoise
Pizza with New Potatoes and Blue Cheese
Vegetable Tempura with Chile Dipping Sauce
Honey Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Steamed Vegetables with a Hint of Garlic

Click here to see the full list of June's recipe options.

New Potato, Tomato, and Boiled Egg Salad:

This is not your typical potato salad that has been slathered in mayo, and has the over-powering taste of vinegar that you get at your local deli.

I love finding recipes that have a new healthier spin on them, and are still delicious - like the one in Food to Live By, the California Waldorf salad  - it's made with fresh spinach, and no heavy dressing or marshmallows! Check it out, it's delicious!

This is quite the easy one to put together. You boil your potatoes and eggs (separately of course), let them cool, and give them a quick chop.

The vinaigrette for this salad is made up of either canola or olive oil (I used olive), cider vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. This is then poured over the chopped soft-boiled eggs; stirring, the yolks mix in with the vinaigrette, making for a slightly creamy dressing.

Add the tomatoes and potatoes, stir, taste for seasonings, and top with chives (I added extra chives and mixed them in as well). Viola! Done.

This salad has great potential. It was good, it just needs a little something extra. Maybe a bit more mustard, or a pinch of (insert your favorite herb or spice here). 

I also felt there was a bit too much dressing, and I even used about a half pound more potatoes than the recipe called for - the picture in the book looks a lot drier than mine - still I did enjoy this.

Pizza with New Potatoes and Blue Cheese:

This pizza is similar to the one I made last month.  It uses the same dough and caramelized onions (which you can never have too much of in my opinion). Only this time, he as you add garlic and rosemary to the onions - which makes it tastes a little bit like Thanksgiving.

Here we replace the asparagus with potatoes, and the mozzarella and Parmesan with blue cheese.

Caramelized onions and blue cheese?!! I'm in heaven here.

My new potatoes were huge! It took only eight slices to cover my pizza. If you don't have access to the smaller new potatoes, I would crumble the cooked slices and sprinkle them over the pizza.

You may be thinking, potatoes on pizza? Believe me, it works - just like it does in the roasted vegetable quesadillas I make.

I think this would make a wonderful appetizer cut in small slices, served alongside a glass of Champagne of course.

Cucumber and Lettuce Vichyssoise:

Vichyssoise is a chilled soup made up of leeks and potatoes. Hugh has upped the ante by adding cucumber and lettuce to the mix, giving this soup its green hue.

There was not much labor involved in this recipe, as I'm finding out with most of the recipes in this book - which is nice. 

You start out by "sweating" (cooked in a covered pan on low heat) your leeks in butter for about ten minutes, or until the leeks have softened. Then the potatoes and broth are added. Once the potatoes are almost cooked, Hugh has you add the cucumbers and lettuce, and cook for a bit longer, then he instructs you to remove the potatoes to be pressed through a ricer, sieve, or food mill (I just used my wooden spoon to mash them), for they will become gluey if put in the blender with the broth mixture. I recommend removing the potatoes before adding the vegetables, for it was quite tedious to fish out the potatoes bits amongst the cubed cucumbers and shredded lettuce.

After the potatoes are removed and have been mashed, the soup mixture is puréed in a blender and poured over the mashed potatoes, then some cream, salt, and pepper is added - combine this together and leave the soup to cool, then chill for a couple of hours (longer the better).

While the soup is chilling, you can make some quick croutons to top your soup with. Take a couple pieces of bread, cut the crusts off, cube the slices, and fry in oil until golden (watch carefully - they brown quickly!)

My croutons look dark, not only because I may have cooked them a tad too long, but I used a winter wheat bread, that is full of seeds and nuts - which, by the way, made for some tasty croutons.

I thought this soup was just OK. To bad too, for it makes for a beautiful presentation. I may start serving my split pea soup this way.

There was not a lot of flavor going on here. I'm thinking maybe a little tarragon would brighten things up a bit; or using spinach in place of the lettuce, as Hugh suggests as an alternative, which also would give the soup a darker green color.

Honey-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:

Well, it doesn't get much easier than this!

Slice a few tomatoes (cherry are called for, but I used a mixture of cherry and small tomatoes from our garden), top it with a mixture made up of garlic, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast till the tomatoes are juicy and bubbling.



My bounty. :)

 I had these tasty bites with the leftover soup - it made for a fine light meal.

I enjoyed the roasted tomatoes (I prefer them at room temp) over toasted baguette slices that were brushed lightly with olive oil and sprinkled with some salt and pepper before broiling. Make sure to spoon up the juices from the ramekin to spoon over the tomatoes - it's delish. I think the tomatoes would also be wonderful over scrambled eggs, or in an omelette the next day if you are lucky enough to have any left over.

Yep. The tomatoes were the favorite for this month.  

Vegetable Tempura with Chile Dipping Sauce:

Normally I would shy away from anything deep-fried; but the picture in the book looked so enticing, I had to give this a try, and I'm glad I did. :)

This is the beginning of the most tasty dipping sauce! At first taste, as it was cooling, I thought, ehhh. But after it sat for awhile, and the flavors melded, it was delicious!

To make the sauce, you combine red currant jelly, cider vinegar, soy sauce, fresh red chiles (my stores do not carry red chiles - I subbed serrano. I could have went to my local Asian grocery, but they sell them in a package of what seems like a hundred of 'em), garlic, and a bit of fresh ground pepper, and optional cilantro (I did not use cilantro [which I love] for I liked the look of the sauce on its own. The picture in the book, you really can only see a bunch of cilantro in sauce). I added some red pepper flakes, for I was disappointed with the heat factor of my serranos.

After simmering the sauce for a short time, remove it from the heat and bring it to room temp and it's ready to go. Easy peasy.

Like I said, the sauce develops a much better flavor after sitting for a time, so make it early on. Hugh says the sauce can be put into a sealed jar and kept refrigerated for up to a week.

In the not so distant future, I will have my own fresh Thai hot peppers!

I was a bit apprehensive making this in my flat-bottomed, carbon-steel wok (which is relatively light), the instructions say to use a heavy-bottomed saucepan (it would be safer). Seeing all that oil (about 24 oz., it only came up about an inch in the wok [which was plenty],  the instructions say to use about two inches of oil) in a not real sturdy pan, was a bit unnerving at first, but worked just fine - not to mention it did wonders for the patina on my wok.

The tempura batter is made up of flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and ice-cold mineral water. This is not prepared until you have your vegetables prepped, and the oil heated and ready to go.

Really any vegetable will work here. Hugh suggests asparagus, zucchini, broccoli/cauliflower florets, bell pepper, eggplant, scallions, red onion, mushrooms, or kale - is there much left?

He does not specify just how much vegetable to use. I went with about a pound of asparagus, and two zucchini and did not have enough batter to finish them all. I had about six slices zucchini and maybe five asparagus spears left. Oh, and I would double the sauce... it's that good.

I cannot remember the reason I did a quick search on tempura before getting started, but I found out that for a successful tempura, the batter needs to be very cold. This must be why the instructions say to mix the batter with an ice cube. I also read that all the ingredients should be cold before mixing. After mixing the ingredients, I kept a large ice-pack under the dish as well.

I used tongs to dip my vegetables in the batter and to transfer them to the hot oil. I would recommend having two sets of tongs (or one tong, and a slotted spoon) - one for dipping in the batter and one for removing the vegetables from the pan, for the batter will get caked on your tongs if you use them for both.

Once cooked, these need to be served immediately. Don't you hate it when a recipe says that - it always makes me nervous - and in the end, usually the food is just fine if not served asap. Here, you'll want to serve them immediately, or very soon, unless you don't mind a less crunchy coating; it becomes soggy after a short time, though still tasty.

These were fun to make, though not sure if I would make them again. It's a lot of oil wasted (I have read in the past that people reuse their oil - not me), and I did not care for the lingering scent of fried oil hours later - like when you come home from a Mexican restaurant, and your hair and clothes are permeated with the smell. Does that happen to you? Or should I be looking for a different eatery? Ha ha ha. 

These came in a close second to being the favorite of the month. :)

No fancy place settings here on Tuesday nights. Totally casual - it's puzzle night. My sis comes over and we eat, drink, puzzle, (or jumble, or scrabble, or watch a movie.. whatever we are in the mood for). This evening, it was relaxing in the backyard with good food (made the tomatoes again, and Laura brought stuffed mushrooms), good drink, and good company.

Well I guess I was a bit over-ambitious. I was only able to complete five of the seven recipes I chose for this month. I'm thinking my limit is around four or five - that's going to make for difficult choosing in the future.

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the LYL post for June on the CCC website, by clicking here.

We have been asked not to publish the recipes here on our blogs. We encourage you to go out and purchase the book and join us on this fun and healthy adventure!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Hoisin Pork with Peppers

WW's  wokking through Stir-frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

Well, wouldn't you know it - a recipe that calls for red bell pepper (those of you that read my posts, know that I always sub out green for red), and my market was out of them! Go figure.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Pork, scallions, hoisin sauce, garlic, rice wine, ginger, soy sauce, salt, pepper, sesame oil
Bowl 2: Bell pepper, carrot
Bowl 3: Salt
Bowl 4: Scallions
Bowl 5: Rice vinegar

The amazing scent of the meat marinating was enticing, to say the least.

This was yet another super easy, super fast recipe. Prep was minimal - just slicing up a carrot, a bell pepper, shredding and mincing some scallions, and slicing up the pork. 

The pork gets mixed with the minced scallions, hoisin sauce, garlic, rice wine, ginger, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and sesame oil. Which reminds me, I need to remember to post a question on the WW Facebook page asking Grace (yes, the stir-fry guru herself answers our many questions) why the oil for the marinade(s) is added after mixing all the other ingredients - why not add it at the same time?

The pork only marinates for a short time; just long enough to finish prepping the rest of the ingredients; of course mine marinated a little longer, I had to gather just the right stuff for the photo shoot and get pics of the mise en place - important things, ya know?

The pork is cooked undisturbed in the wok for about one minute to add a nice sear, then stir-fried to brown the other side. The meat is removed, and the salt and vegetables get a quick toss until softened, the pork is added back along with shredded scallions and vinegar for another couple of minutes. Total cooking time.. maybe four to five minutes.

Like I said, super easy, super fast. You can't even order and pickup take-out that quick; hell, sometimes you get put on hold for longer than that. Besides, making it yourself is so much fresher, healthier, and better tasting.

by purchasing Grace Young's book Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, along with a 14" flat-bottom wok. 
 You'll be happy ecstatic that you did!

Both of these items can be purchased from The Wok Shop* in San Francisco, CA, in person or on-line.

* I have no connection with the Wok Shop, other than being an extremely satisfied customer!  I have purchased a couple of woks from them; one for myself, and others for family.

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 94 of  Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed. 
Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

TWD: Phylloccine Ice Cream Sandwiches

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Gale Gand

Phylloccine [fee-loh-chee-ne]. No, it's not an actual word - and before I read the recipe, I was pronouncing it with a long I and soft C - sounded to me like some kind of additive or something - doesn't it?

It's actually a combination of the words phyllo and fettuccine. You know, like "Brangelina" for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The phyllo dough is cut into fettuccine size ribbons to be made into "nests".

This recipe was super easy! After the phyllo is formed into the nests, they are sprinkled with butter and sugar. Once the nests are baked, you top them with ice cream, brown sugar whipped cream (which I omitted), a "salad" made up of raspberry purée, mint and whole raspberries (I went with just a purée), and more fresh fruit, and a sprinkle of powdered sugar if you wish. 

I sprinkled the nests with demerara sugar. I think I would have liked regular sugar better.

With strawberries being super sweet and delicious, I had to make my favorite ice cream - Strawberry-Basil Ice Cream, by David Lebovitz. You can not go wrong with his ice cream recipes.

Originally I was going to go with a mixture of berries for this dessert. In the end, I decided on only strawberries and blueberries.

Looking at this photo, fanned strawberries on the plate would have been prettier..

That said, this would make a beautiful dessert for the Fourth of July, don't you think?

If you are thinking it's too much work, really, it's not. The nests can be made a day ahead, as well as the purée, use your favorite store bought ice cream, and you can always put out the components, and let your guests build their own. :)

This is such a versatile dessert - how about coconut ice cream?!! adorned with tropical fruits like mango, kiwi, papaya, and pineapple!

The options are endless, use whatever floats your boat. 

Surprise your family and friends with this elegant and easy dessert. You can find the recipe on page 405 of Baking with Julia, or by clicking here.  

For other inspiring ideas, check out my fellow baker's rendition of this recipe!