Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Spicy Dry-Fried Beef

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

This week's recipe is a little more time consuming in prep and cook time, than past recipes. This dish took a whole ten minutes to cook! Whereas the others take maybe half that time. Yet, you still won't get take-out that quick, or have it taste as fabulous as this stir-fry tasted.

Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Carrot, celery, dried red pepper
Bowl 2: Flank steak
Bowl 3: Soy Sauce
Bowl 4: Ginger, garlic
Bowl 5: Sesame oil
Bowl 6: Scallions
Bowl 7: Salt, pepper

To prep the meat for this recipe, you cut the flank steak in two-inch-wide strips along the grain. Then cut across the grain into quarter-inch-thick slices. Stack the slices, and give them one more cut.

Normally when we stir-fry beef dishes, the meat is mixed with some soy sauce and rice wine, and a few other ingredients - a marinade of sorts. Here we are using a technique called dry-frying; where the meat is cooked in a small amount of oil, but does not use any other liquids, such as stock or sauce, and is cooked for a longer period of time, which intensifies the flavor.

The carrots lent a sweetness to the slightly salty beef, and the chili peppers gave off the perfect amount of heat (you wouldn't think that three small red chili peppers tossed in whole, aside from a small snip at one end, would emit as much heat as they did); the flavor was incredible. 

This was one wokalicious stir-fry! 

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 70 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, August 19, 2014

TWD: Baking Powder Biscuits

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Marion Cunningham

Marion Cunningham - need I say more? I have her book, The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, from over thirty years ago - it was my first cookbook. The recipes are basic, no-frills, flawless, easy peasy, always turn out, kinda recipes. 

So, how can one one mess up such an easy recipe? Well, let me tell you:

1. Subbing butter for shortening - and we all know that shortening makes for flakier biscuits.
2. Subbing half & half for milk (either that, or non-fat milk)  - not detrimental, I'm sure.
3. Using expired baking powder - detrimental, if you want a little height to your biscuits.

I cut the recipe in half, and using a three-inch biscuit cutter, I came out with four biscuits, plenty for the two of us.

My biscuits were not as flaky as I had expected, and only rose to about an inch in height. They tasted OK. They are biscuits after all - not a whole lot going for them, other than what you top them with - gravy, jam, butter, honey - whatever floats your boat.

If I were to make these again, one, I would brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter, and give them a sprinkle of salt, before baking.

The biscuit with a bit of butter and honey. It was tasty this way.

The recipe can be found on page 211 - 212 of Baking with Julia, or by clicking here. Do visit my fellow baker's sites to see how they fared with this recipe.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Watermelon Rind and Tomatoes

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

Using watermelon rind may have come about from the Chinese being frugal, leaving nothing to waste; much like the Italians, using up stale bread, by creating the bread and tomato salad, Panzanella.

You may recall, that our last recipe was Stir-Fried Fuzzy Melon with Ginger Pork. It is said that you can substitute the fuzzy melon (which is not an actual melon, but part of the gourd family) with watermelon rind.

Grace and Matt, our fearless leaders of Wok Wednesdays, decided we should make that recipe once again using the watermelon rind, to see how it compares in taste and texture to the fuzzy melon version.

When I decided to make this, I really did not feel like making a trip to the grocery store for the pork that is called for in the recipe. So I decided to opt for the rind and tomato version that was mentioned in Grace's story in the book.

Mise en place.

1. Watermelon rind

2. Tomatoes

Grace says it is best to use seeded watermelons, as opposed to seedless for they have a thicker rind.

I had already purchased the watermelon (seedless) in the event I could not find fuzzy melon, before reading which type is best for this stir-fry. The rind of my melon was just over a quarter-inch thick, a little thicker in some areas - the seeded melons should have around a half-inch thick rind.

To prepare the rind, you need to remove the tough outer green skin, and cut away the red flesh - you just want to use the white portion of the melon - a little colored flesh is OK - you don't need to go crazy getting it all off, and it's actually very pretty when there is a little bit left on. 

As you may already know, watermelon is 92% water (source). As is mentioned in the book, I sprinkled the rind with salt, and let this sit for about thirty minutes to remove any excess water.

The rind, when eaten raw, was surprisingly similar to the fuzzy melon in texture. I can not really give a fair assessment in taste to the comparison to the fuzzy melon when cooked, for my watermelon was about two weeks old, and I did not make the same recipe as before. The rind (raw), had a barely discernible taste of cucumber (which the fuzzy melon tastes like to me) - I really had to taste and think about it for a minute, I'm sure it was because my melon was not fresh.

I know my fellow wokkers will have great success with substituting the rind for fuzzy melon in the original recipe. It's nice to know that when fuzzy melon is unavailable, there is a comparable alternative that mimics the original ingredient.

To see what this week's recipe is supposed to look like, click here.

I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of this stir-fry. I was not expecting a whole lot of flavor from just the rind, tomatoes, and a sprinkling of sugar. Apparently I am getting enough patina on my wok, that it is giving my foods that wok-hei* (pronounced wok-hay) flavor.

We eat a fair amount of watermelon in our household, so I'm sure I'll be stir-frying up another batch of this prepared the same way, or revisit the fuzzy melon recipe, or even try one of the recipes I came across on the website; there are recipes for pickles, slaw, and chutney, that call for the rind of the watermelon. Who knew?

*Grace describes wok-hei as "the taste or breath of the wok".

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 230 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 28, 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club | July 2014

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

My selections for July:
(Not necessarily cooked in order)

Shaved Summer Vegetables
Tomato, Thyme, and Goat Cheese Tart
Pasta with Raw Tomato
Marinated Zucchini with Mozzarella
Chocolate-Beet Ice Cream

Click here to see the complete list of July's recipe options.

Marinated Zucchini with Mozzarella: 

This dish consists of only a few ingredients, yet it is full of flavor. 

To begin, you thinly slice your zucchini - we are talking 1/16 of an inch here. If you want beautiful wide zucchini ribbons as shown in the book, I would suggest slicing them a bit thicker, for after they are cooked and mixed with the rest of the ingredients, they pretty much shriveled up; nevertheless, I was happy with the outcome.

The instructions say to put the slices into a bowl, and using a pastry brush, coat them all lightly with oil. There was no way they would all be coated evenly if tossed into the bowl, so I took the tedious route - lined the bowl with the slices, coated with oil (just one side), then added another row of slices, oiled, and so on, until all the slices were lightly coated.

Once your zucchini is coated with oil, you sauté the slices until tender and golden. Hugh recommends about two minutes per side. However, I found some of the slices were tender and the brown spots showing through to the other side before turning, so I only cooked those on the one side.

The marinade is made up of olive oil, garlic and lemon zest, which is briefly heated in the pan to take the raw edge off the garlic, and to infuse the flavors into the oil. The marinade is then poured over the zucchini, and some salt, pepper, lemon juice, and basil are added. This is all mixed together, and left to sit at room temperature for one hour.

Just before serving, coarsely torn or sliced mozzarella is added to the zucchini. I used burrata, which if you haven't tried burrata, you are missing out on something wonderful. It looks like your typical ball of mozzarella, then you cut into it to reveal its creamy softness in the middle, which is made up of mozzarella shreds and cream. Sublime.

I wish this did not take so much time to make. This would be an elegant first course to serve to company. Cooking the slices was a bit laborious - imagine cooking like sixty pieces of bacon..

It just occurred to me, that you could speed up the cooking process by using one of those griddles that fit over the two burners of a cooktop. Wish I had thought of this before - I could have cooked more slices at one time. There just may be a next time after all.. :)

Aside from the amount of time it took, I really enjoyed this recipe, and I just may revisit it sooner than later.

Hugh suggests serving this with some good bread or warm flat breads. I served it as a side dish to our dinner of beer butt smoked chicken.

Have you ever made a beer butt chicken? I used to roll my eyes at this fad. Andy finally got around to making one. Wow! does it turn out incredibly tender and moist. He also used for the first time, the smoker box attached to the grill - a winner! We'll definitely use this technique again.

I really thought this was going to be the favorite of the month - but it has been bumped to second place. Continue reading for the winner!

Pasta with Raw Tomatoes:

How pretty is this?

I was just looking for a recipe like this a few weeks ago to use our bounty of fresh tomatoes in. The recipe calls for one and a half pounds of tomatoes - I was lucky enough to have just that amount ready (at one time!) from our tomato plant from my last picking. I have never had a tomato plant give off as many tomatoes as this one has.

For this recipe, you start by marinating the peeled and seeded (I did not do either) chopped tomatoes and their juices, with some garlic, capers, fresh red chili pepper (I used died red pepper flakes), basil, oil, salt and pepper; this then sits at a cool room temperature for about one hour, before being added to a bowl of cooked pasta, along with some additional fresh basil shreds and a few grinds of fresh ground black pepper.

Hugh mentions he sometimes uses mint in place of the basil, and suggests you may also add some chopped red onion or fennel, or replace the capers with sliced olives, even add some Parmesan or goat cheese. 

I had to up the seasonings, for I found this to be rather bland; which could be the result of using a pound of pasta, whereas the recipe calls for only twelve ounces. I added extra salt and pepper, more red chili flakes, and added some feta cheese (it really is better with cheese), and I think Hugh's suggestion of red onion would be really good in this. It could have used less oil however - even using more pasta than the recipe called for, I felt it was a little too oily for my liking.

Shaved Summer Vegetables:

Eating foods in their natural state (raw) will always be more beneficial than when cooked. I was excited to try this recipe for we love the Raw Kale Coleslaw I make (often).

I had this together in no time at all. Take a variety of vegetables - I used zucchini, carrot, turnip, and radish - Hugh also suggests beets and kohlrabi, slice them as thinly as possible - using a mandoline if you have one is the best way.

The dressing is made up of canola (I used olive) oil, lemon juice, honey, English mustard (I used a sweet hot mustard - I did not need yet another type of mustard opened, sitting in my fridge), salt and pepper.

I preferred the vegetables tossed with the dressing and allowed to sit for a few minutes, rather than having the dressing just drizzled over the top as instructed. Allowing it to rest, the vegetables become softer, making it more manageable to pierce the vegetables with your fork.

I found this recipe to be just OK. 

Tomato, Thyme, and Goat Cheese Tart: 

I can sum this up in one word:  F A B U L O U S ! ! !

The recipe calls for thirteen ounces of puff pastry to be rolled out rather thinly, and trimmed to the size of a ten by twelve rectangle.

My package was fourteen ounces, and I had the measurement in mind, and found the sheet was almost the recommended size. I completely spaced on the rather thinly part, and rolled it out to the specified size, not paying attention to the thickness of the dough. It turned out just fine, other than the edges appear to be higher than the picture in the book.

My plan was to have a picture showing only a third of the tomatoes layered, so you can see the fresh minced garlic sprinkled over the dough, under the tomatoes - however, the doorbell rang and when I returned I went into automatic mode and finished placing the tomatoes on top. Oh well.

This was incredibly easy to throw together, and made for a delicious weeknight meal served with a simple green salad.

All you do is - roll out the pastry, cut off about half an inch from the edges, brush them with some beaten egg and place on top of the rectangle - this will give it a rimmed edge when baked. Sprinkle on some minced garlic, layer tomatoes on top, season with salt and pepper, and give it a drizzle of olive oil, and bake for fifteen minutes before adding the cheese and thyme leaves, continue baking until golden and bubbly (mine never bubbled).

This is one you will want to make for company or bring to a potluck; it comes together quickly and can even sit for an hour before serving, as Hugh prefers it that way. I wouldn't know how it holds up - Andy and I polished this off in no time, straight out of the oven. Yep, the whole thing (cover your ears eyes, Kelley!) - and the recipe states it will serve four to six... it was that good. Andy even gave it an A+.

Convinced yet?

If not, one word: Puff Pastry. OK two. What doesn't taste great when made with puff pastry?

This, was by far the favorite of the month. :)

Whenever a recipe calls for puff pastry, I have always reached for Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry. Then this box caught my eye - I will a lot of the time, choose my books and wine this way - by the label. :)

I was however, curious as to why this brand was twice the price for less product.

Pepperidge Farm:


Well there you go, it's safe to say I didn't mind paying the extra money.

Chocolate-Beet Ice Cream:

I have a tendency to lean toward the unusual - and ice cream is no exception. I had never really been into ice cream, until I started making my own. My first flavor was coffee, and boy was it good. Then I ventured out and made strawberry-basil - d e l i s h! I also have made orange- Szechwan peppercorn, and cinnamon, both of which were darn tasty too.

First, melted chocolate is stirred into a custard mixture which is made from whole milk, heavy cream, and egg yolks. Next, puréed roasted beets that have been mixed with some of the milk is added, the mixture is then strained into a bowl and left to cool, then chilled.

After the mixture is chilled completely, it is processed in an ice cream machine until it is soft-set, then transferred to a freezable container and frozen until firm.

The beets give the ice cream a beautiful, bright, deep-pink hue. It tricks the brain into thinking you are about to indulge in a sweet, tart, berry flavored ice cream.

This really should be called Beet-Chocolate Ice Cream - not the other way around. All I could taste was beet; the chocolate wasn't discernible at all.

At first bite, my brain said definitely not - not liking this - it tastes like... beets.

With each consecutive bite, it does start to grow on you. But you have to like beets. Though the ice cream is soft, and seems creamy at first, it has a sort of rough texture to it - imagine running your tongue along a piece of suede (not that I have..) - soft, but not smooth.

I would have liked a stronger chocolate flavor with a slight beet undertone; this is what I was expecting with chocolate being first in the name.

I'm still undecided about this one. Like I said, it starts to grow on you.

No... no, I'm not. You either like it, or not. I wanted to like it. I really did. It's barely OK, definitely not worth the fat and calories; and the texture is weird.

They say you can't win them all. Excited for my next (and last) recipe - panzanella!

(Update: My sister was over for dinner, and just before she had to leave, [I completely forgot about wanting to serve the ice cream!] I asked her to try the new ice cream flavor I made. I did not tell her what it was made from. When she saw it, she thought it was going to be raspberry flavor. I gave her a small taste, and her first reaction... I taste chocolate! Gave her another taste - grass! Ha ha ha. Grass. Beets. Close enough. She actually liked it.)


Every time I came across a recipe for panzanella, I would say to myself, I want to make that.. and never did. So I was excited that it was a chosen recipe for this month!

I had panzanella once before, long ago; I think it was my sister-in-law, Darc, that made it, and I do remember liking it - a lot. Why it has taken me so long? Who knows..

Panzanella. A good recipe to use up some stale bread. As much as we love bread, a whole loaf of French bread is just too much for us to consume in one sitting; we could - it's just not a good thing.

I had a whole loaf of French bread in the freezer that needed using up (next time - I'll use a better quality of bread than the store brand), and it was Saturday - farmer's market day! Tomato season!

This lovely salad is made up of stale bread, tomato juice (crushing & straining fresh tomatoes), olive oil, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, Kalamata olives, cucumber, red onion, cherry tomatoes, capers and basil.

I stayed true to the recipe, with one exception - I added two cloves of garlic to the dressing; I so wanted to use my favorite Cabernet vinegar, but refrained, and used the cider vinegar that was called for in the recipe.

This was a wonderful salad, aside from my not so great bread. The bread was, I think, a bit too airy for this dish. I think a more dense bread would work better here.

I'm going to make this again with a different style bread; maybe cube it, toss it with some olive oil, salt & pepper, and roast it until it is dry. I think it will be even better this way.

(Update: We ordered a panzanella salad at dinner from a fancy restaurant when we went out; I was curious to see the difference; even with the less than stellar bread I used - Hugh's recipe was way better! It rocked!)

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the LYL post for July 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, 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.