Friday, October 31, 2008

Pacific Rim, Week 10: Japanese

Again, my classmates and I were pleasantly surprised at how different Asian cuisine is from country to country--similar ingredients and cooking methods, but slight changes in ingredients, and the difference was inspiring.

Here's my to-go box (a.k.a. Hun's dinner and the next day's lunch for both of us), upward from chicken teriyaki at bottom: pork tonkatsu, asparagus and carrot tempura, beef sukiyaki, with more chicken teriyaki at top right
Pacific Rim, Week 10: Japanese food

Horenso and tomago soup. Tomago is egg, and horenso is spinach, through in some Hondashi, and you basically have egg drop soup with spinach and a dominating fish flavor--yum yum yum! Chef had us add some red, white, and green Kamobongo fish cakes . . . he's Italian.
Pacific Rim, Week 10: Japanese food

Japanese sticky rice. Using short grain rice, it could be nothing but sticky!
Pacific Rim, Week 10: Japanese food

Tempura veggies
Pacific Rim, Week 10: Japanese food

Teriyaki beef
Pacific Rim, Week 10: Japanese food

Pork cutlet Tonka(t)su Japanese style. Chef added the "Japanese style" because, as Hun and I learned during dinner at a Hawaiian joint the day before, Hawaii has tonkatsu, too (and they're both delicious). Yay with the tasty crispy breading!
Pacific Rim, Week 10: Japanese food

Teriyaki chicken stir-fry. Mmm, sugar-sweetened sticky sauce!
Pacific Rim, Week 10: Japanese food

Yakitori, now with pineapple hat! Fitting, I guess, because it tasted pineapply!
Pacific Rim, Week 10: Japanese food

Benihana fried rice. Of course, we didn't actually cook it on a hibachi--it's just Benihana's recipe.
Pacific Rim, Week 10: Japanese food

Japanese potato dumpling (curry Korokke)--yes, once again, we made curried potato croquettes. Yum yum yum!, and uber hooray for crispy coating.
Pacific Rim, Week 10: Japanese food

Beef sukiyaki (with shirataki, aka yam noodles)
Pacific Rim, Week 10: Japanese food


Shirataki are low-carb, low-calorie noodles made from a tuber called "Devil's Tongue." They're low on flavor, meaning they're highly efficient and soaking up the flavor of the ingredients you cook them in, but they're ... well ... high in texture--chewy can be an understatement. Not that I was turned off by their texture--I thought it worked well with the beef!

Panko! When I was taking French Cuisine classes, our chef-instructor told us that panko was made by shooting batter at a super-heated steel wall. The batter would cling to the wall, cook, then fall as panko crumbs. He was full of crap. It's really just a coarse grind of usually crustless bread, though if crusts are included, then it's tan panko.

"So what's the secret," Hun asked. "Why is tempura batter so light?" Maybe it's the cornstarch, maybe it's the baking powder. My learnings say it has to do with the cold water in the batter. Wikipedia agrees!

Chef drew a loose comparison of tonkatsu sauce to Heinz 57. It's not the same, but if you're desperate, it will do in a pinch.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers, October: Pizza and Toppings


It's time for this month's installment of the Daring Baker's challenge! Every month, the assigned host delivers a secret recipe to all the DBers around the world, and at the end of the month, the DBers post the results on their blogs. This month, host Rosa chose Peter Reinhart’s basic pizza dough from his book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The recipe is on Rosa's blog here, along with gluten-free instructions. We were allowed to use whatever sauce and toppings we wanted, as long as we used both sauce and toppings. Another rule—we HAD to toss at least one of our pizza crusts, as in death-defyingly up in the air, hopefully not straight into air vents, into ceiling fans, light fixtures, or another overhead obstacles, like the ceiling itself.

Here's a shot of my "everything" pizza--a little bit of all the leftover ingredients from the other pizzas--basil, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, black olives, and different cheeses on homemade tomato sauce:
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings

The dough came together easily with an overnight rest, and I flattened my five of my six dough balls out to rest before tossing them. Six pizzas (kinda)! It was a pizza frenzy. Not as exciting as like a piranha frenzy, but far tastier (for the peoples, anyway):
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings

The sixth dough, I decided to play with, making garlic butter knots. Yum! Here are the raw knots rising:
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings

And the baked knots:
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings
Cinnamon and sugar would've made for a nice dessert knot.

I decided to toss all of my doughs for pizzas instead of just the one that Rosa required. It took a bit of working out . . .
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings
Kudos to Hun for being the photographer for this travesty! ;)

. . . but by the last pizza, I’d figured out the dynamics!
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings
I dedicate my decent tosses to my cooking/fooding/blogging buddy, Ken, who can toss a mean pizza!

Pizza sauce does not have to come from a jar. Channeling my mom’s old “on the spot” spaghetti sauce, I make my own red sauces. Everyone can recognize that pizza sauce is basically tomato sauce, but somehow, not everyone realizes that just up the aisle from the jarred pasta sauces, you can find cans of tomatoes in varying states of “not on the vine,” from whole, peeled tomatoes to the reduced tomato paste. For the thick tomato sauce, I use canned tomato sauce, making sure it’s low sodium so I can add my own amount of salt. It’s not as watery as chopped or diced tomatoes, so you don’t have to worry about it soaking out your pizza. Basically, I sizzle up some garlic, salt, and oregano or basil, add the can of sauce (two 28-ounce cans, in this case), and add a splash of liquor (I had some marsala around for some tiramisu cheesecake I’d made earlier). Cook it down to concentrate the flavors (in other words, until it tasted “right”), seasoned to taste, and ladled it onto my pizzas.

My first pizza used my favorite toppings, sausage, black olives, and mushrooms with asiago, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses:
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and ToppingsDaring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings

I'm a thin-crust gal, totally, unless it's Chicago-style pizza, and therefore, artery-clogging. I think if I'd made my crust thicker, it would've developed some nicer air pockets. As it is, I'm happy with how light this turned out:
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings

Okay, in a home oven, pizza upskirt shots aren't as exciting as they are in brick oven pizzas, but this doesn't do the good crust justice:
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings

Next came pepperoni, but not this ridiculous little pepperonis—real REAL pepperoni, with mozzarella cheese:
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and ToppingsDaring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings
I'm not sure if the pepperoni shrunk up and away from the edges, or if they just slid toward the center because I put them on a concave (square) plate. Maybe a little of both.

Tossing really does make for a good, uniform shape (which most of the pizzas lost when trying to fling it from the cookie sheet onto the stone), size, and thickness:
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings

And baking it a few minutes longer make for a bit more crisp to the crust:
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings

I made a sweeter treat pizza using figs and provolone, adding torn basil after removing the pizza from the oven—don’t bake it with the basil because the basil will just turn brown or black, withering away to ickiness:
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and ToppingsDaring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings

And the last crust, I baked with no sauce—just a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar, baking it until it was wonderfully crispy. I mixed some local honey and whipped cream cheese, spread it on, added some sliced organic strawberries, and drizzled a little more honey over it:
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings

Strawberry pizza is often made with a shortbread crust, but truth be told, I like this pizza tart better—it paid more homage to the strawberries than to the usually oversweet and buttery crust, and the crust was cracker crisp instead of cookie crumbly:
Daring Bakers July: Pizza and Toppings

I loved this month's project. The dough was the easiest and most low-maintenance pizza dough I've made, and tossing was a lot of fun! My favorite for taste is still the bianco (yup, it's thick crust, but its very crispy bottom and good flavor made it one of those handfuls of exceptions). Maybe one day, I'll hold a pizza party like the one I held with some of my awesome food-loving friends using this dough recipe!

Check out my fellow DBers’ fabulous pizzas over at our blogroll!

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).
2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.
NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.
3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.
4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).
NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.
5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.
NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.
6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.
7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.
NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.
8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.
9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).
NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.
10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.
NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.
11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.
12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.
13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.
NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.
If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.
14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pacific Rim, Week 9: Vietnamese

I'm not sure how traditional these dishes were (and definitely won't attest to any incorrect spelling in dish names), but they were all pretty tasty! I continue to be amazed at how different food can taste even though it's all looked similar from week to week. This week's bonus came when we got to finally use the giant tilt skillet, which Chef favors over flat-tops (griddles); they're easier to clean and are multi-purpose, since you can do everything from griddle potato cakes to boil up huge amounts of stock. There are a lot of photos here that show various types of "tilt-skilleting."

My plate, from cold noodle salad at 3 o'clock: cha khoai tay (Vietnamese potato patties), cha bo (grilled beef patties Vietnamese style with veggies and nuac cham), ga chien (Vietnamese fried chicken)
Pacific Rim, Week 9: Vietnamese Food

Cha Bo (grilled beef patties, Vietnamese style, with veggies)
Pacific Rim, Week 9: Vietnamese Food

Com Chien Thap Cam (fried rice with pork, chicken, and sausage)
Pacific Rim, Week 9: Vietnamese Food

Coconut curry chicken noodle soup
Pacific Rim, Week 9: Vietnamese Food

Vietnamese grilled steak with cold noodle salad
Pacific Rim, Week 9: Vietnamese Food

Ga Chien (Vietnamese fried chicken)
Pacific Rim, Week 9: Vietnamese Food

Vietnamese rolls
Pacific Rim, Week 9: Vietnamese Food

Cha Khoai Tay (Vietnamese potato patties
Pacific Rim, Week 9: Vietnamese Food


While fried food will of course go soggy after time, it will sog out faster if you pile it vertially. Condensation/Steam from food at the bottom will rise up, sogging out the food above it, and oil from food at the top will sog down into the food below it. It's why I spread our potato patties out across the plate instead of trying to pile them up decoratively.

Also when deep frying, don't overcrowd your oil, especially with the first batch of fried items. With each item you drop into the oil, its temperature will drop, and soon you'll go from a lively fry to a snoozy sizzle. You can crank the fry-o-lator's temp up and avoid overcrowding to make sure your food fries up well (meaning it will yield crisp and clean results) and quickly.

I do wish we'd chopped the noodles up a bit for the cold noodle salad we paired with the flank steak; it would've been easier to both serve and eat. While long noodles are fun for some Italian twirling action, I found little joy in them here, although the taste and texture were both fine. So--chop those noodles!

Nuoc cham can take a lot of work, especially if you're working from scratch and are trying to finely grind down your garlic and chili into a paste. You could use a pestle and mortar or, if you're making a large enough amount, a food processor. And if all else fails, get the flat end of your meat cleaver going against your cutting board for a makeshift pestle and mortar. Or, just chop the stuff up finely and call it done!
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"10 Things the Food Industry Doesn't Want You to Know"

Yahoo! printed this recent U.S. News story. It's a good read, and the full article is worth reading, but here it is in short:

1. Junk food makers spend billions advertising unhealthy foods to kids.

2. The studies that food producers support tend to minimize health concerns associated with their products.

3. Junk food makers donate large sums of money to professional nutrition associations.

4. More processing means more profits, but typically makes the food less healthy.

5. Less-processed foods are generally more satiating than their highly processed counterparts.

6. Many supposedly healthy replacement foods are hardly healthier than the foods they replace.

7. A health claim on the label doesn't necessarily make a food healthy.

8. Food industry pressure has made nutritional guidelines confusing.

9. The food industry funds front groups that fight antiobesity public health initiatives.

10. The food industry works aggressively to discredit its critics. Read more!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pacific Rim, Week 8: Thai 2

This week, blogging took second place to welcoming my sweetheart of two years into my home as he moved in with me. Woot! So this is more a photo post than anything else.

Clockwise from clams in red curry: sizzling fried fish (red snapper) with sweet Thai chili sauce, conch in red curry, Thai coconut chicken, Thai chicken fried rice.
Pacific Rim: Week 8, Thai Food 2

There were dishes I didn't get a chance to take individual shots of, though for the life of me, I can't figure out how. Missing dishes include conch in red curry, Phad Thai, and pho kho tom (cold rice noodles with shrimp), and the truly amazing and much beloved Thai iced tea.

Turkey in red curry
Pacific Rim: Week, Thai Food 2

Khao Phad (Thai chicken fried rice)
Pacific Rim: Week 8, Thai Food 2

Thai coconut chicken
Pacific Rim: Week 8, Thai Food 2

Phad Thai
Pacific Rim: Week 8, Thai Food 2

Clams in red curry
Pacific Rim: Week 8, Thai Food 2

Whole sizzling fried fish with sweet Thai chili sauce
Pacific Rim: Week 8, Thai Food 2

Kluay Buad Chee (banana in coconut milk)
Pacific Rim: Week 8, Thai Food 2


Don't soak rice noodles or cook rice noodles for too long--they'll turn into a mush blob and you'll lift out a wok-shaped noodle pancake when you try to flip them out.

I'm not sure if turkey's a traditional Thai ingredient. I'm sure it's not. We just had it around and it needed to be used up, so into the green curry it went. I'll leave out the long discussion I had with my Hun about whether or not there were turkeys living in Thailand. =\ I will say that turkey goes well in green curry. Curry makes everything better!

The fried whole fish is actually just the carcass--the part leftover after you slice the fillets off. You just batter it, fry it in the wok, and put it on the platter as decoration.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Nikki's Tiny Foods birthday potluck (6 weeks after the fact!)

I love gatherings built around food. I love potlucks. I love themed dinners. When my friend Nikki decided that her birthday party would also be a tiny foods potluck, I was instantly excited! There was a good combination of foods that were made in small version and foods that could be taken in small servings. It was nice to be able to fill up our little plates and wander around the kitchen and dining room, building tasting plate after tasting plate. Everything was good!

Here's my contribution: Pork and vegetarian lumpia with duck sauce. You can fold your lumpia from corner to corner or from end to end. If I have a vegetarian filling, I fold corner to corner and tell diners to look for the "v" of the outside corner--v for vegetarian!
Nikki's Tiny Foods bday party

Nikki's chorizo balls
Nikki's Tiny Foods bday party

Chicken satay
Nikki's Tiny Foods bday party

Nikki's Brooklyn cheese puffs
Nikki's Tiny Foods bday party

Sarah's peanut butter chocolate rice krispie squares
Nikki's Tiny Foods bday party

Wendy's vegetarian pigs in a blanket
Nikki's Tiny Foods bday party

Patrick's cherry cheesecakes and Oreo cheesecakes
Nikki's Tiny Foods bday party

I forgot the name of the guy who brought this: "Pickled shrimp"--a Martha Stewart recipe
Nikki's Tiny Foods bday party

Nikki's bday cake
Nikki's Tiny Foods bday party

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