Category: Asian

Dinner from My Kitchen

February 14, 2011

First things first.  I think I am going to ask you all what you would do with ingredients more often!  The uses you came up with for those pickled raisins were amazing!  Curried carrot dip, on top of pizza with Gorgonzola, baked in squash with couscous and pistachios – I want to make everything.  The winners, picked randomly, are commenters #26 and #18.  Bebe would put them in chicken salad and Stacey would put them in anything with cauliflower.  Congrats ladies!  Contact me soon to get your raisins.

Moving on.

It has been a busy couple of weeks in my kitchen.  Since the beginning of the month, I have taught three classes, cooked a yoga dinner for 24, made a birthday cake for my younger son, and baked cupcakes for my older son’s class.  When typing that out, it doesn’t look like all that much.  But it was a lot, especially coupled with regular old everyday life.

At the end of a long stint of cooking, I sometimes feel like I am done with it.  The thought of chopping anything, turning on a burner, bringing butter up to room temperature, cracking an egg – just too. much. effort.  But then my husband goes out of town and a friend brings her kids over for dinner, and I realize what I really want to eat for dinner is not take-out but my cooking.  And so, back into the kitchen I go.

This Asian-noodles-in-a-broth-with-tofu idea is not new on this site.  It is one of my favorite things to eat in the world.  Each time I make something like this, it is a little different.  I glanced at a recipe from Deborah Madison to get me going in a slightly different direction than I would have if left to my own devices.  Then I totally made it my own.  As with most Asian noodle dishes, soups or otherwise, I would eat this every night without complaint.  If it is still frosty in your part of the country, a bowl of noodle soup warms you like no other.  But this is light and fresh enough to taste right even if your city is thawing.

One Year Ago:  Holly B’s Favorite Cornbread
Two Years Ago:  Vegetarian Caesar Salad and Red Curry with Winter Vegetables and Cashews

Somen Noodle Soup with Spring Vegetables and Baked Tofu
Dana Treat Original
Serves 3-4

This recipe might look a little complicated but it is actually quite quick to make.  You can always double the broth and freeze half for next time. Somen noodles are very thin wheat noodles found on the Asian aisle of your supermarket.  Feel free to use different vegetables in the mix – snow or snap peas would be great.

For the broth
Zest of 1 lime
3 stalks lemongrass, bruised lightly with a knife, then sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2-inch piece ginger, cut into coins
½ of a large red onion, sliced
10 sprigs cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. light brown sugar

For the tofu
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. dark sesame oil
2 tsp. hoisin sauce
2½ tsp. light brown sugar
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced
1 pound extra firm tofu, blotted dry and cut into small cubes

For the soup
6 ounces somen noodles
Vegetable oil
½ red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and very thinly sliced (use a mandoline if you have one)
Small handful green beans, trimmed and cut into thin slices
5 spears asparagus, ends trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal

1 lime, cut into small pieces
Cilantro leaves
Jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced

Make the broth
Put all ingredients except for the soy sauce and brown sugar in a large saucepan.  Pour in 8 cups of water and add a large pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.  Cool slightly, then strain out and discard the solids.  Stir in the soy sauce and brown sugar.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.  Keep warm over low heat.  (Can be made two days ahead.  Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate.)

Make the tofu
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Mix together the marinade in a medium baking dish.  Taste, making sure the balance is to your taste.  You want it to be salty, sweet, and slightly sour.  Stir in the tofu, coating well with the marinade.  Allow to sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally to make sure the tofu is coated with the marinade.  Place in the oven, uncovered, and allow to bake until all the marinade is absorbed and the tofu is getting a slight crisp to it, about 35 minutes.  Toss the tofu once or twice in the baking process so that all the pieces come into contact with the pan.  Remove tofu from the oven and allow to cool.

Make the soup
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the somen noodles and give a good stir.  Watch the pot so it doesn’t foam over.  Cook the noodles until they are almost done, with just a slight bite, and drain.  Rinse well with cold water, drain, and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add the red onion and sauté until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, jalapeño pepper, and ginger and cook for another two minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the green beans, carrots, and asparagus and continue to cook, stirring often, until the green vegetables are crisp tender, about 5 minutes.

Place some noodles in the bottom of a deep soup bowl.  Ladle on the broth.  Add tofu and vegetables and garnish with cilantro, lime, and jalapeño pepper slices.

Hot Soup, Cold Day

January 6, 2011

We have had some cold weather here in Seattle recently.  Cold here means high 30’s during the day and well below that at night.  I know for those on the East coast and in the Midwest, this is small potatoes.  It makes me realize what a true weather wimp I am.  Rain, endless gray days, darkness at 4pm – all those things I can handle.  Extreme temperatures though?  I can’t.  Randy likes to joke that I am only comfortable if it is between 70 and 75 degrees and I think that is about right.  Too hot and I am miserable, too cold and I am miserable.  This makes it nearly impossible for me to live anywhere other than Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and perhaps San Diego.  (I could live in London or Paris though.)

One nice thing about a relatively mild (read: rainy) climate is that, except for a few staggeringly hot days each summer, we can enjoy soup all year.  I am a big fan of soup for many of the same reasons that most people are.  It tends to be easy, you can easily feed a lot of people, it can be very healthy, and soup keeps well.  Many soups taste better a day or two (or even three) after they have been made.  Busy families need soup.

I am a sucker for any Asian soup, especially those involving rice noodles.  I love eating pho, the rock star Vietnamese rice noodle soup, at my favorite joint in any season. For how much I love this kind of soup, I don’t make it all that often.  I recently paid a pretty penny for a cookbook from Australia because I was blinded by the fact that there was a delicious sounding pho recipe in there.  The book was small and now I fear it is at the bottom of a toy box covered with trucks, trains, and construction vehicles.  So I made this soup instead.

Something I really liked about this version was how much flavor the broth brought to the bowl.  I’ve made Asian vegetable stock for various thing before but somehow this was much better.  Yes, you cheat a bit by using a small amount of pre-made veg stock, but if you use a good one (Rapunzel is the only brand I like) you end up with an incredibly flavorful base for your soup.  One that tastes like it’s been simmering for hours, not 20 minutes.

Noodle Soup Previously on Dana Treat: Asian Coconut Noodle Soup

Tofu and Shiitake Noodle Soup
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 3-4

There was originally one pound of eggplant in this soup as well but I have very specific ideas of where eggplant should be.  Not in Asian noodle soup for example.  I used a pad thai width noodle here but the super thin kind would be great too.  If you use those, I would do 4 ounces instead of 6 ounces.

3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 whole lemongrass stalks, thinly sliced
Six ¼-inch thick slices of fresh ginger, smashed slightly, plus 1 tbsp. very finely chopped fresh ginger
¼ cup soy sauce
Freshly ground white pepper
6 ounces rice vermicelli
Vegetable oil
¼ pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and caps quartered
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 pound firm flavored tofu, such as Thai, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ a Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
½ cup bean sprouts
¼ cup cilantro leaves
2 tbsp. mint leaves, torn
Lime wedges and hot sauce for serving

In a medium soup pot, combine the vegetable broth, water, lemongrass, sliced ginger, and soy sauce and season generously with white pepper.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook over low heat until flavorful, about 20 minutes.  Strain the broth into a heatproof bowl, pressing on the solids.  Discard the solids.

Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.  Cook the rice vermicelli until al dente, about 5 minutes.  Drain and cool under running water.

Wipe out the soup pot and heat just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom.  Add the mushrooms, season with salt and white pepper, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the chopped ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the tofu along with the vegetable broth, cabbage and noodles and simmer just until the cabbage is wilted, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the bean sprouts, cilantro and mint and season the soup with salt and white pepper.  Serve the soup in deep bowl.s passing lime wedges and hot sauce at the table.

Inspired by The New Yorker

December 1, 2010

The New Yorker has been a part of my life ever since I can remember.  My parents, transplanted New Yorkers, have subscribed to it ever since they left The City in the early 70’s.  As a child, I would look through it every week, trying to find the Nina’s in the Hirschfield drawings and trying to understand the jokes that studded most of the pages.  As I got older, I would read the movie reviews and realized that if Pauline Kael actually liked something, you had to go see it asap.  I learned that some of the best short fiction was published in those pages and some of the best writing in this country, period.

When I moved into my first apartment after college, my mother’s housewarming gifts to me were a set of pots and a subscription to The New Yorker.  That was in 1993 and I have been getting it ever since.  Even in my dark days of exhaustion that comes with having newborn babies, I made every effort to read that magazine.  I may not have read anything else for four years, but I was always more or less caught up with The New Yorker.

Once a year, the magazine comes out with a food issue.  As you can imagine, it is heaven for me.  Amazing writing about food – I treasure every article.  This year, I was captivated by a recollection written by Chang-Rae Lee about growing up in a Korean household in New Rochelle.  In addition to telling a wonderful and heartfelt story, the writing in this article is extraordinary.  I am a good and fast reader.  I find that, these days, I skim a lot of what I read.  Sometimes I happen upon something that is so well-written that I calm down, slow down and savor.  I did that while reading Away by Amy Bloom while on vacation and I did it with this article.  There are some beautiful passages in there and the story really affected me.  (If you are a fiction lover and have not read Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, please go buy it from your local bookstore.  It shot right up into my top 5 favorite books I have ever read.)

This may sound trite, but one of the things that stuck with me from that article is the following:

“She cooks an egg for me each morning without fail.  I might also have it with fried Spam or cereal or a slice of American cheese, which I’ll unwrap myself and fold over into sixteen rough-edged pieces, but always there is a fried egg, sunny-side up, cooked in dark sesame oil that pools on the surface of the bubbled-up white in the pattern of an archipelago; try one sometime, laced with soy and sweet chili sauce along with steamed rice, the whole plate flecked with nori.  It’ll corrupt you for all time.”

OK.  Corrupt me.  I could not get that idea out of my head.

In general the words “rice bowl” are intoxicating to me in the way that the word “chateaubriand” might be to someone else.  I had to make this.  But.  I also had to change it, add to it.  Make it more about the rice and less about the egg.  As I started to create my version of the dish, I realized it was starting to look an awful lot like this rice bowl and so I went off in a slightly different direction.

Here is what I ended up with.  Brown rice studded with scallions, grated fresh ginger, sesame seeds, and avocado chunks.  Tofu and red pepper marinated and baked in a mixture of tamari, sesame oil, sherry, and kecap manis (a sweet soy sauce).  That sunny side-up egg is cooked in sesame oil like described and the whole thing is topped with a healthy dose of sweet chili sauce and all together it tasted nothing like the stuffings and mashed things of last week.  In other words, it was awesome.

A few notes.  I cook brown rice like I cook pasta and you should too.  It will not end up mushy if you make it this way.  Instructions are below.  I really like the flavor of tamari, so I try to use that when using soy sauce.  You can use whatever you have on hand.  Kecap manis, as I mentioned, is a type of sweet and very thick soy sauce, and I have fallen in love with the flavor.  It adds a lot here, but if you don’t have any, you can just add another tablespoon of tamari and a tablespoon of honey to the marinade instead.  (The dish will no longer be vegan in that case.)

One Year Ago:  Holly B’s Stollen
Two Years Ago:  Breton Apple Pie

Brown Rice Bowl with Soy Sauce Marinated Tofu and a Fried Egg

Dana Treat Original
Serves 3-4

For the Tofu
10 oz. extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch squares
3 tbsp. tamari, or other soy sauce, divided
1 tbsp. sesame oil, plus more for frying the eggs
2 tbsp. dry sherry
1-2 tbsp. kecap manis

For the rice
1 cup short-grain brown rice
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Bunch of scallions, thinly sliced
1 small avocado, cut into ½-inch chunks
3-4 eggs
Sweet chili sauce (such as Sambal Olek)

Make the tofu
In a medium baking dish, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the tamari, sesame oil, sherry, and kecap manis.  Add the tofu and the red bell pepper and gently stir to coat all the pieces with the marinade.  Allow to sit for at least half an hour and up to 8 hours.  Cover and refrigerate if longer than 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Place the baking dish in the oven and bake, stirring occasionally, until almost all the marinade has been absorbed, about 40 minutes.  Set aside.

Make the rice
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the rice and cook, keeping at a boil, until tender but with a slight bite, about 35 minutes.  Taste often to make sure you don’t overcook it.  Drain and allow to cool just slightly.  In a bowl, combine the cooked rice with the remaining 1 tablespoon of tamari, the sesame seeds, grated ginger, the white and pale green part of the scallions, and the avocado.  Use a rubber spatula to stir so that it doesn’t become too mushy.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of sesame oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Carefully break the eggs into the skillet, trying to make sure they don’t touch one another.  Turn the heat to medium-low and cover.  Cook until the whites of the egg are set but the yolk is still soft, about 5 minutes.  Use a spatula to remove the eggs to a paper towel-lined plate.

Finish the dish
Place a portion of rice in a bowl.  Top with pieces of the tofu and red pepper.  Lay a fried egg on top.  Garnish with the dark part of the scallions, chili paste, and more tamari to taste.

Mushroom Redemption

November 9, 2010

Before we had children, one of our very favorite things to do was go to the theatre.  Each year we would get season tickets to either the Seattle Rep or the Intiman and see incredibly high quality shows.  One year, we did a special deal where, in addition to the tickets, we got a fixed price dinner (with a deep discount) and a restaurant right nearby.  The place is nice inside and the food was fine and we always enjoyed our evening.

This year, after only seeing a show here and there for the past four years, we got season tickets to the Rep.  We will see eight plays over the course of their season.  We have already been to two and I have to say it is so nice to have this part of my life back.  The other night, Randy and I went to see Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women and, for old time’s sake, decided to eat at that old restaurant.

It’s still a sweet place but the menu is almost exactly the same as when we last dined there, about four years ago.  That is never a good sign.  Worse, my food – which was always passable before – was pretty terrible.  My salad was soggy and there is not much I like less than soggy salad.  My main course, a wild mushroom risotto, was nearly inedible.  It was barely warm, chalky and mushy, with bits of undercooked sweet potato (huh?) scattered throughout and bits of brown that I could only guess were mushrooms.  As a nod to the “wild” part of wild mushroom risotto, there were a couple of chanterelles charred almost beyond recognition sitting atop the mush as a garnish, along with a giant sprig of tarragon (again, huh?).

Eating such a terrible dish made me want to give mushrooms a better experience.  Allow them to shine all their glory instead of hiding them throughout overcooked rice.  When I was planning to make the fregola the other night, I had a sense that it was going to be on the lighter side.  I felt like our dinner could use a more substantial side than just the green beans I had in my refrigerator.

This flavor packed side dish stars some Asian ingredients but it really would go with just about anything.  It’s the kind of thing that you keep picking up pieces to taste, long after you have decided that the seasoning is spot on.  I used cremini, shiitake, and chanterelle mushrooms, but any would be good here.  If you are going to roast whole shallots, as the recipe instructs you to do, I would use very small ones.  If yours are large, I would slice them into rounds and roast them that way instead of cutting then into quarters like I did.

Mushroom Sides Previously on Dana Treat: Asparagus and Grilled Shiitake with Ginger Soy Vinaigrette, Mushrooms with White Wine
One Year Ago:  Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts
Two Years Ago: Eggplant Rollatini with Capellini

Roasted Mushrooms and Shallots with Fresh Herbs
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 4 to 6

2½ tbsp. dark sesame oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1¼ pounds mixed mushrooms (DT: I left mine whole, but you can cut in half)
10 small shallots, peeled
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil with the garlic, ginger, and soy sauce.  Spread the mushrooms on a baking sheet and drizzle with the sesame oil mixture; toss to coat.  Season with salt.  (DT: be very careful with the salt since soy sauce is so salty.)  Roast the mushrooms for about 30 minutes, until tender and glazed.

Meanwhile, on a second rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the shallots with the remaining ½ tablespoon of sesame oil; toss to coat.  Season with salt and roast for about 25 minutes, turning once, until golden brown and tender.

Place the mushrooms and shallots together in a bowl and add all the herbs.  Toss well to coat the vegetables with the herbs.  Serve warm.

Getting Out of the Rut

November 4, 2010

It’s been over two weeks since I last posted a main course recipe.  It hasn’t been two weeks since I cooked a main course, but sometimes cooking and posting do not go hand in hand.  Truthfully, I have been in a bit of a cooking rut lately.  I feel restless and agitated which is not conducive to good menu planning.  When I feel this way, I tend to want to revisit things I have already made and that does not an interesting food blog make.  (Curiously, I seem to have no problem with baking.  Hmmm.)

The best way to get out of a rut, in my opinion, is to choose a type of cuisine that you love and then turn to a cookbook that you trust.  In my ennui, I picked up my still relatively new but already much beloved copy of Plenty and begged it to inspire me.  Of course, it did.

The mere fact that I have a “noodles” category on my side bar (which is different from the “pasta” category) should tell you that I am passionate about Asian noodles.  I will happily eat any variety but I think rice noodles are my favorite.  Pair them with a homemade curry paste and coconut milk and we are venturing into “I could eat this everyday” territory.  I’ve made other variations on this theme before but this particular recipe had me swooning.  The curry paste is incredibly flavorful and actually, not hot.  I seeded my chiles because, although I love spice, you just never know.  I won’t next time.

Some notes and tips.  Ottolenghi instructs you to toss both the cooked noodles and broccolini with sesame oil.  I opted out of that to keep the dish healthier and also because I couldn’t see that distinctive sesame flavor as welcome here.  I made the mistake of adding Kaffir lime leaves to both the paste and the noodles and wow – yum.  I’ll continue to do that.  Ottolenghi says you can make this noodle dish with a store-bought green curry paste in a pinch but I say his paste is precisely what makes it taste magical, as stated above.  Do yourself a favor and double it.  This kind of paste can keep for several weeks, covered, in the refrigerator.  The changes I made are reflected in the recipe below.

One Year Ago: Holly B’s Lemon Sour Cream Muffins and Tomato Leek Soup
Two Years Ago: Harira Soup and Fattoush Salad

Broccolini with Rice Noodles
Adapted from Plenty
Serves 4

My Whole Foods always has Kaffir lime leaves.  Wide rice noodles are specified in the book but I couldn’t find them so I used Pad Thai width.  I would avoid the ones that are angel hair width.

1 pound broccolini, cut into florets with long stems
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. brown sugar
7  Kaffir lime leaves
1 14-ounce can “lite” coconut milk
1 14-ounce package rice noodles
Juice of 1 lime, plus wedges for garnish
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Spice Paste
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium green chiles, seeded (or not) and roughly chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, outer layer and tough ends removed, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
7 Kaffir lime leaves
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cumin
Grated zest and juice of 1 small lime

Start by making the paste.  Place all the ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor and blend to a paste.  You might need to stop once or twice to scrape the mixture back down from the sides of the bowl or add a little water to it to loosen it up.

Sauté the onion with the oil in a medium saucepan for 3 or 4 minutes, or until translucent.  Add the curry paste and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.  Add a teaspoon of salt, the sugar, lime leaves and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Bring two medium saucepans of salted water to a boil  In one, cook the rice noodles for 3-6 minutes (check the package instructions and don’t overcook them).  In the other cook the broccolini for 2 minutes.  Drain each one and run cold water over them, running your fingers through the noodles to make sure they aren’t sticking together.  Squeeze the lime juice over the noodles and sprinkle with salt.

Divide the noodles among shallow bowls and top with the broccolini.  Spoon the sauce over top and garnish with the chopped cilantro and lime wedges.

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