Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WW: Stir-Fried Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms

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

         Stir-Fried Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms

I am really taking to this whole stir-fry way of cooking. It's quick, easy, healthy, tasty and with minimal clean-up. Who could ask for more?

I absolutely love sugar snap peas; I eat them whole straight from the bag. They make for a great afternoon snack. Just in the last few years I have grown to actually like mushrooms. I used to avoid them like the plague. The shiitakes have a wonderfully earthy, smoky, rich flavor. They may be my favorite so far. The two of these together made for a very satisfying side-dish to the Soy-Ginger Grilled Steak I was serving for dinner.

Reading up on shiitakes they are quite nutritious and seem to have medicinal properties as well:

This food is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Zinc, Copper and Selenium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus and Manganese. (This information taken from the website.)

Studies in animals have found antitumor, cholesterol-lowering, and virus-inhibiting effects in compounds in shiitake mushrooms. However, clinical studies are needed to determine whether these properties can help people with cancer and other diseases. It is reasonable to include shiitake mushrooms as part of a balanced diet. (This information taken from the website.)

I am cooking through this great book along with the Wok Wednesdays on-line cooking group. We will not be posting this and future recipes from this book in order to help promote the publishing industry and to help keep books alive and thriving!

To get the recipe to make this wonderful vegetable dish, run over to your nearest bookstore and purchase Grace Young's book Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge. Also check out my fellow blogger's posts to see what they thought.

Succes meter (1-3): 3

I was not sure if my mushsrooms were safe to consume.
They had a fine white powder, mold-like on the surface.
What is mold? A type of fungi.
What are mushrooms? A type of fungi.
The undersides looked OK.
They smelled OK.
I'm alive and well to post this!
Must have been OK!

The mushrooms looked better after a good cleaning.
How do you know if a mushroom is not good?
I used them being that there was an expiration
date of a week out.

Chicken broth, rice wine and soy sauce.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ahhh.. the baking stone: a tale of caution

I have always wanted a baking stone. Actually what I really want is to close off the fireplace in the house which we do not use and open it up on the outside which is situated perfectly on the back patio and turn it into an outdoor brick oven.

While I work on getting my better half to agree to my great idea I'll have to manage with the baking stone that I broke down and purchased for making the TWD recipe of naan. I refrained from this purchase in the past mostly due to storage space. I justified my purchase with the reasoning that baking through the book Baking with Julia, which has a lot of bread and a few pizza recipes, the stone would get a lot of use and I would get my monies worth in no time. Still the dilemma of where to store this huge piece of heat-retaining clay persisted.

The cupboard where I keep my cookie sheets is already stuffed to the brim and in no way was it going to fit. To my delight the instructions recommend that you keep it in the oven. YES! Dilemma solved. So I thought. The instructions also state that keeping it in the oven does not affect other baking functions. I beg to differ.

I have made this banana bread too many times to count and it is one of my favorites. The bread has always turned out in the time specified with excellent results. As I placed the bread on the middle rack (the stone is on the bottom rack) I thought to myself that the oven may cook warmer with the addition of the stone retaining heat. I was concerned the bread would brown too fast on the bottom even though it was placed on the middle rack, not on the stone itself.

I found it strange that I had to cook it ten minutes longer than normal (skewer came out wet) even though the browned crust said otherwise. I covered the top with foil to keep it from getting too brown. After cutting into my beautiful loaf I see that the bottom half is darker than the top. I have always had uniform color throughout. Chalk it up to a lesson learned. I will remove the stone before using the oven in the future - if I remember.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TWD: French Strawberry Cake

Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Flo Braker

                                                                               French Strawberry Cake

I can't remember the last time I baked an eight-inch cake. I wasn't even sure if I had a cake pan that size. Scouring through the black abyss of a cupboard I was lucky to find an eight-inch springform pan which worked perfectly for this type of cake.

Upon releasing the cake from the pan it looked oh so small and it was only 1 1/4 inches high. There was no way I was going to get three layers out of it. Cutting it in half would have to suffice. I baked the cake a day ahead and wrapped it in plastic wrap though the instructions say it would be fine left out un-wrapped overnight; I felt the need to wrap it. That is why the top looks mottled - for the plastic wrap when removed took some of the top layer off. No worries though, as it was soon going to be covered with fluffy whipped cream.

As the wrapped cake sat on the counter I could smell the sweetness of it; it smelled so good. Both the strawberries and the whipped cream had added sugar. I was surprised that the finished cake was not overly sweet. I altered the recipe slightly: I added only 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar to the berries rather than the 1/4 cup the recipe called for. The whipped cream recipe called for 2 tablespoons sour cream which I did not have so I substituted plain Greek yogurt. I also sprinkled the berries (after being placed on the cake) with Cointreau. If I were to make this again, I would make a simple syrup with the Cointreau and brush the cake layers with it for it was ever-so-slightly dry; which I think sponge cakes are in general.

I forget how much I like whipped cream (with no sugar added) as a frosting; it tastes fresh and light, and has that oh so pillowy soft look to it.

This was just OK. It was easy and turned out beautiful. I really wanted to like this cake, to say it was to die for. How can something so beautiful and smell so good not taste amazing. My sister took the leftovers to work and I had to ask (two days later) what they thought of it. Normally she texts me soon after with their praises and requests for the recipe. She said they did not say anything, that maybe I need to make something chocolate - my specialty.

Once again a BWJ recipe has not won me over. So far the recipes in this book are making me think that I have lost my culinary touch. I am known in my circle of friends as the dessert lady. Whenever there is a get-together I'm the one that gets chosen to bring dessert. I'm a sucker for punishment so I'll give this book a few more tries to impress me.

Success meter (1-3): 2 (I rated this a two because it was so easy and so beautiful. Maybe with a tweak or two it can be amazing.)

Freeze your bowl and beaters before whipping
your cream for better volume.

Looking for the recipe? Visit this month's host's sites:

Sophia of Sophia’s Sweets 

Also make sure to check out all the other Tuesdays with Dorie baker's variations of this cake by clicking here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Over The Top"

                                       Ginger-Soy Grilled Steak

I had sent a text to my husband asking what he would like to barbecue for dinner - chicken, fish, or steak. He chose steak. I did a search through and Ginger-Soy Grilled Steak rated 4 forks, sounded like the perfect match to go with my side dish of Stir-Fried Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms.

Once again the hubby grilled the steak to perfection; I am a lucky woman in more ways than one.

The sauce, initially the marinade for the steak, was the clincher. It added the most wonderful flavor. You will need to boil the marinade for five minutes to kill off any harmful bacteria before serving along side the steak.

This was a fabulous meal; even Andy said, "Mark this one over the top."

Success meter (1-3): 3

The marinade is made up of soy sauce,
fresh ginger and scallions.

Boiling the marinade to
serve as the sauce.

Our new patio table. Cannot wait for the lighted umbrella
to arrive. The wonderful aspect of this table that seats
eight is that it has two leaves you can remove for
a more intimate setting.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Wokin' the Wok

Finally I have a carbon-steel wok!

It only took me three orders to get. The first I ordered from Amazon which arrived with a broken helper handle. I sent this back to be exchanged and the second one arrived with a cracked helper handle. Apparently this is a common problem with the Joyce Chen wok, this I find out reading the reviews after my purchase. I highly recommend you don't purchase this brand!

I ended up ordering a wok from the Wok Shop in San Francisco, CA. I placed my order around 10:00pm on a Tuesday night and it arrived on Thursday!! I was thrilled to say the least. The Wok Shop rocks!!

I already had a stainless-steel wok when I joined the Wok Wednesdays cooking group that I have been using with fine results. However as I was reading through Grace Young's book Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, I came across the section about seasoning your wok and how it develops a nice patina which forms a natural non-stick surface; and seeing fellow bloggers having the same wok, to say that I was feeling a bit jealous is an understatement. I was so craving for that blackened surface on my wok which it would never have being made from stainless-steel.

I have been trying to be less wasteful by not purchasing items I really do not need. My stainless-steel wok was working just fine. To justify my purchase I told myself that the patina this new wok develops will mean less oil is used, which translates to healthier meals. Another plus is it will boost my iron intake!

Cannnot wait to make our next recipe in my new wok!

Seasoning my new baby:

Boil water with 1/4 cup salt to remove the
 manufacturer's film/coating on the wok.


Hmm... interesting.

Ginger and scallions for seasoning the wok.

Stir-fry with a couple tablespoons oil, making sure
to push the vegetables up and around the edges.

I think I took the term "stir-fry till charred" literally.

On its way to developing a beautiful patina.