Monday, August 15, 2016

Zucchini Pizza

I used to cringe a little whenever I got zucchini or summer squash in my Boston Organics delivery because while I liked the vegetable enough not to add it to my "No List", I didn't like it enough to know what to do with it other than to stir fry it with garlic or grate it into an amnesty bread.  But that all changed when I saw Smitten Kitchen's post about summer squash pizza.

I tweaked the recipe (which is originally from Jim Lahey of no-knead bread fame) a little by using my favorite pizza crust instead of the one in her post because I already had some on hand.  I also tossed the breadcrumbs in a little olive oil for a little extra crunch and to protect it from burning too fast.

I wasn't really sure about having to buy the Gruyere cheese and even made it for the first time without the cheese and substituting with some minced garlic and olive oil (which, by the way, ended up being pretty darn good and worth trying if you don't eat cheese).  But then I caved in and got a small block of Gruyere.  And boy oh boy was it amazing.  Divine.  Glorious!  In the oven, the cheese melts and binds the shredded zucchini together in a holy matrimony of texture and flavor.  It's simply perfect.

Zucchini Pizza (adapted from Jim Lahey by way of Smitten Kitchen)
makes 1 pizza

8 oz. ball of pizza dough
1 medium zucchini or summer squash, about 1/2 lb.
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 oz. Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
1 generous tablespoon breadcrumbs
Drizzle of olive oil

Place a pizza stone on an oven rack set at the top 1/3 of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Trim off the round end of the zucchini and using the other end as a handle, shred the zucchini on the coarse holes of a box grater.  Squeeze the shredded zucchini in your hands to remove the water and transfer a fistful at a time to a small mixing bowl.  Add the salt and mix well.  Let sit for 20-30 minutes so that more water is released.  Squeeze the zucchini again until you get out as much water as possible.  Mix with the Gruyere cheese.

Mix the breadcrumbs with a little olive oil, just enough to moisten and clump them together a little.

Stretch the dough onto a parchment paper-lined flexible cutting board.  Top with the zucchini-cheese mixture then sprinkle on the breadcrumbs.  Slide the pizza (still on the parchment paper) onto the pizza stone and bake for 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the breadcrumbs are golden.  Use tongs to slide the pizza with the parchment paper from the pizza stone onto a cutting board.  Slice and eat!

Previously:  My Mom's Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry
Two Years Ago:  Grace's Ginger Scallion Fish
Three Years Ago:  S'mores Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Mom's Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

This is one of the original recipes in the cookbook that I made for my mom's Christmas gift 8 years ago.  I would've shared it earlier, except I thought I'd shared it already!  It's a classic dish to order from a Chinese restaurant--velvety strips of marinated beef stir fried with tender crisp broccoli in a flavorful brown sauce--and perfect served over steamed white rice.

To keep the beef tender and not chewy, it's important to slice the strips against the grain.  The addition of cornstarch in the marinade further helps improve the texture of the beef.  Since the broccoli takes a lot longer to cook than the beef, it is cooked separately while the beef is marinating and then added back in at the end.  You'll want to use a large pan with a lid so that you can steam the broccoli after a quick stir fry.

My favorite part about this recipe is the marinade which ends up becoming the sauce upon stir frying with the beef.  It is already quite fragrant due to the soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil, but my mom adds a secret ingredient that really brings it over the top:  cinnamon!  Only a tiny amount is added that you can't really taste it, but the aromatic spice somehow boosts all the other flavors in the sauce in a way you wouldn't expect.

My Mom's Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry
serves 4

1 lb. flank or sirloin steak, sliced thinly against the grain
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons rice wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
6 cups broccoli florets
Salt, to taste

Whisk together the soy sauce, cornstarch, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, minced garlic, and cinnamon.  Toss with the sliced steak and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on high and add the broccoli florets.  Season with salt and stir fry until bright green.  Add 1/2 cup water and cover.  Steam until the broccoli is done.  Transfer the broccoli to a bowl, and wipe down the pan.

Add another 2 tablespoons of oil and heat on high again.  Add the steak and marinade to the pan and stir fry until the beef is just done and no longer red.  Add the broccoli back into the pan and continue to stir fry for another minute or two to combine.  Serve hot.

Previously:  How to Make an American Flag Cake
Two Years Ago:  Cleveland Cassata Cake (Bonus:  In a Jar!)
Three Years Ago:  Backyard Mint Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Freckles
Six Years Ago:  Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
Seven Years Ago:  Curried Carrot Soup

Sunday, July 3, 2016

How to Make an American Flag Cake

I've been wanting to make an American flag cake for the 4th of July and had pinned several possible versions including this one from Food52 and this ice cream cake version from the Food Network.  But the problem with those round layer cakes though is that I only had one round cake pan and no way to transport the finished product.  I wasn't too keen on having to pull out my piping bag to make Ina Garten's (or as Brit + Co called it, Taylor Swift's) version either, so when I came across Smitten Kitchen's version from four years ago, I was truly smitten.  Not only was it a single layer rectangular cake, but all you needed was some powdered sugar to make the "stars" and stripes!

In her post, she includes a recipe for the cake and frosting, but I cheated by making the cake with a box mix and using store bought frosting.  After baking the cake, allow it to cool completely before frosting.  If it's domed on top, you can level it with a serrated knife or just do as I did and "spackle" in the sides with frosting so the top is level.

While the cake is baking, wash and dry the berries.  While the cake is cooling, you can start arranging the berries to make sure you have enough.  I used a piece of paper towel that was the same size as the cake to plot out the berries on.  The blue part takes up about half the short side of the flag and extends about a third of the way across.  There are 13 stripes (one for each of the original colonies; yay AP American History!) but you probably won't be able to fit that many on the cake.  If you can, try to make an odd number of stripes so that the top and bottom stripe will be red.

After frosting the cake, start putting the berries that you want to appear white on the cake, leaving room for the other berries.

Dust these with powdered sugar, then arrange the rest of the berries into the spaces left for them.

In reality, it took a lot longer to make than I thought.  The first batch of raspberries I bought were overripe and broke apart when I was washing them, so I had to go back to the store to buy another pint.  Then I made the mistake of not completely drying the raspberries before decorating the cake, so the powdered sugar started to melt before I could even take any pictures.  But if you learn from my mistakes, it's actually not that hard to make and totally worth it!  Not only is it super impressive to bring to a party, the fresh fruit on top of the cake is really, really delicious!

Fun fact:  if you can someone figure out how to make the starburst design, you can also use this template to make the Taiwanese (or more accurately, the R.O.C.) flag!

Previously:  Maine Blueberry Gateau
Last Year:  Pasta con le Sarde
Two Years Ago:  Papaya Milk and Papaya Milk Popsicles
Three Years Ago:  Bubble Tea Popsicles
Six Years Ago:  Coconut Lime Sorbet

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Maine Blueberry Gateau

I first had this cake at my friend Evie's Epiphany Party last year, and it was truly an epiphany.  I never knew homemade cake could taste so good--so buttery and moist and bursting with blueberries!  I e-mailed Evie immediately after the party to ask for her friend's recipe, and it turns out it's from a bed & breakfast in Maine.

The first time I made this cake I made it in a pie pan (because I didn't have a 9" pan) and used frozen wild blueberries.  It was quite tasty but not as pretty so I dusted it with powdered sugar as instructed in the original recipe.  When I made it this time I used a 10" springform pan and fresh blueberries, and it looked nice enough to forgo the powdered sugar dusting.

Don't worry if you think the cake batter to fruit ratio is off.  You will be spooning a lot of blueberries on top of the batter, but while the cake bakes in the oven the blueberries sink while the cake rises so it's perfect by the end.

Maine Blueberry Gateau (lightly adapted from the Benjamin F. Packard House via The Washington Post)
serves 6

1 cup and 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained (may substitute frozen wild blueberries)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease a 9- or 10-inch springform pan and dust with flour.

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with the baking powder and salt and set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high to high speed, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and continue beating until well blended. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Beat until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the blueberries with the remaining teaspoon of flour and the lemon juice. Spoon the berry mixture over the batter.

Bake for 50-55 min, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife around the edges of the cake to release it from the pan before you release and remove the springform.

Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar before serving, if you want.

Next:  How to Make an American Flag Cake
Previously:  Tortilla Española (Spanish Potato Omelet)
Last Year:  Garlic Naan
Two Years Ago:  Speculoos (Cookie Butter) Ice Cream and Mini Stroopwafel Ice Cream Sandwiches 
Three Years Ago:  Homemade Cronuts
Six Years Ago:  Elote (Mexican Grilled Corn)
Seven Years Ago:  Bulgogi Dumplings

Friday, June 3, 2016

Tortilla Española (Spanish Potato Omelet)

I already had a trip to France and Italy planned when I found out I would need to be in Madrid the following week for work.  So after some quick thinking and planning, I managed to extend my time in Europe for another week and head out to Madrid a few days early before the meeting!

It was my first time in Spain, and I wanted to make the most of it.  My friend Sarah Ruth (the one who taught me my favorite brownie recipe) joined me from Sweden, and we managed to hit a lot of the capital and even took a day trip to the nearby town of Segovia.  Some highlights of the trip:

Eating chocolate con churros every day for breakfast!  We liked going to El Brillante for the authentic Madrileño experience and learned about purros there, which are basically, bigger, fatter churros that really remind me of Taiwanese you tiao.  We also tried them at Chocolatería San Ginés since everyone says they have the best ones, and I did like them more because they were less greasy and the hot chocolate wasn't as sweet.

One of Sarah Ruth's friend's boyfriend was a local, and he was kind enough to take us around 2 of the 3 nights we were free.  I really wanted to try Madrid's specialty--bocadillo de calamares--which is basically like a fried calamari po'boy.  He took us to La Campana just off of Plaza Mayor, and the sandwich was a lot bigger than I expected!  It was pretty good, but I would've appreciated some type of sauce on there like a spicy remoulade or an aioli or something.  I bet it would be really good at 3 am after a night of partying!

Another one of his suggestions was a Chinese restaurant that was an underground parking garage.  I totally thought it wouldn't be worth even seeking, but then we looked on-line for it, and it seemed like the real deal.  So after more than 10 days without Asian food, I was desperate enough to try it out.  You guys, it was awesome!  It honestly tasted like something my mom would make!  To find it, go to the southeast corner of Plaza de Espana and look for the stairs that go down.  Can't miss it.

We went to La Latina for tapas one night, but I was so tired we only made it to two bars . My favorite was Juana La Loca.  They had the best tortilla I had in Madrid, probably because they caramelized their onions for extra flavor.  They also had El Increible, a soft-cooked egg with truffle paste on bread.  It was amazing.  I loved that they also had some dessert options for tapas, although we didn't try any.

Mercado de San Miguel is like the Fanueil Hall/Quincy Market of Madrid (super touristy food court) but it's so beautiful I can't help loving it.  They have a paella stall with four kinds of paella, and you can get a ración (single serving) instead of having to order enough for at least 2 people like every other restaurant.  I tried the paella negra which was colored with black squid ink.  The guy scraped up some of the crusty bits from the bottom of the pan so it had a nice combination of textures.

There were a lot of great places to watch the sunset.  Two of mine were next to the Royal Palace and the Temple of Debod, which was moved from Egypt when the building of a dam threatened to flood it (similar to how the Met in NYC got the Temple of Dendur).

After returning from Madrid, I knew I wanted to try making the iconic tortilla española at home.  I settled on Mark Bittman's recipe with a few tweaks.  Instead of a whole cup of olive oil, I used half olive oil, half vegetable oil, mostly for budgetary reasons.  It's still a lot of oil, though, but you can strain it and save it in the refrigerator for the next time you make tortilla española.  I also started cooking the onions before the potatoes to try get some caramelized flavor into the tortilla, à la Juana La Loca.  They were just starting to brown on the edges when I added the potatoes, but I think next time I'll wait even longer since they didn't really end up caramelized by the time the potatoes were done.

Lastly, instead of just salt and pepper, I used this awesome Spanish flavored sea salt I picked up from El Corte Inglés that was seasoned with hot pepper, rosemary, black pepper, garlic, onion, parsley, and tomato.

Tortilla Española (adapted from Mark Bittman)
serves 3 as a main course and 6 as an appetizer

1 1/4 lbs. potatoes (I used Russet, but Yukon Golds would work too)
1 medium onion
1 cup olive oil (or use 1/2 olive oil 1/2 vegetable oil)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 large eggs

Heat the oil in an 8- or 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Chop the onions and add to the oil with some salt and pepper.  Stir occasionally while you prepare the potatoes.

Slice the potatoes thinly, using a mandoline if you have one.  Add to the oil along with some more salt and pepper and adjust the heat so that it bubbles lazily.  Cook until the potatoes are tender, but not brown.  While the potatoes are cooking, beat the eggs with some salt and pepper.

Drain the potatoes and onions in a colander, reserving the oil.  Wipe the skillet clean and add two tablespoons of oil back to it.  Heat over medium heat.  Add the potatoes to the egg mixture and mix gently.  Transfer to the skillet.  After the edges firm up, about a minute or so, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 more minutes.

Use a heat-proof rubber spatula to loosen the edges of the tortilla.  Place a large plate on top of the skillet and flip the tortilla onto it.  Add another tablespoon of oil into the skillet and slide the tortilla, cooked side up, back in.  Cook for another 5 minutes, using the spatula to coax the sides of the tortilla into a domed shape.  Slide onto a plate and serve warm or at room temperature.

Next:  Maine Blueberry Gateau
Previously:  Sesame Soba Noodles with Avocado Rose
Last Year:  Taiwanese Oyster Omelet (Without the Oysters)
Two Years Ago:  Candied Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Three Years Ago:  Rosemary Honey and Lemon Frozen Yogurt
Six Years Ago:  Passion Fruit Ice Cream
Seven Years Ago:  Kalbi (Korean Barbecue Short Ribs)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sesame Soba Noodles with Avocado Rose

Usually when I get an avocado in my Boston Organics delivery, I just hope that I'll be able to figure out how to use it before it gets overripe.  But this time I knew exactly what to do with it; I was going to attempt an avocado rose!  I had first discovered these a few weeks ago thanks to a post on Food52 on the trend taking over Instagram.

To make one, slice an avocado in half.  You want a ripe avocado, but not one that is so soft it'll be hard to manipulate without smushing.

Remove the pit, then carefully peel away the skin.  See that little bit of flesh left on the skin below?  It ended up being the only blemish on my rose.  =(

Place on half cut side down on a cutting board and slice the avocado thinly.  It helps to use a paring knife since it has less surface area to stick to the avocado than a chef's knife (which I found out the hard way).

Start shifting the slices diagonally.

Try to make as long of a chain as you can make without breaking it.

Start curling in one end of the chain and continue rolling it in until you've made a rose!

To have something to eat with the avocado, I tried making some sesame soba noodles based on my go to peanut butter noodle recipe but using tahini instead of peanut butter.  I really liked how the buttery avocado added a cool creaminess to the sesame noodles, so much so that I'd pair the two again even if I didn't have enough time to make an avocado rose!

Sesame Soba Noodles with Avocado
makes 2 servings

2 handfuls of soba noodles
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
A pinch of sugar
1 avocado
Sesame seeds and chopped scallions, for garnish (optional)

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the soba noodles.  Cook until done.  Drain in a colander and run under cold water so that the noodles don't stick to each other.

Mix the tahini, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and sugar until it forms a smooth paste.  Toss with the noodles, adding water to thin, if desired.

Serve with sliced avocado and garnish with sesame seeds and chopped scallions, if desired.

Next:  Tortilla Española (Spanish Potato Omelet)
Previously:  Will It Puffle?
Last Year:  Scoglio all'Andiamo (Saffron Fettuccine with Seafood in a Lemon Garlic White Wine Sauce)
Two Years Ago:  Easy Chilquiles with Fried Egg and Avocado
Six Years Ago:  Lilikoi Malasadas (Portuguese Donuts filled with Passion Fruit Curd)
Seven Years Ago:  Moffles!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Will It Puffle?

I was so excited when I received an electric bubble waffle maker from my brother and sister-in-law for my birthday last year.  I had visions of making the eggettes I used to get from NYC's Chinatown and SF's Genki and maybe even making a puffle cone a la Cauldron Ice Cream or Monkey King Tea (below).  But after trying the recipes I found on-line for eggettes and puffle cones (basically the same recipe) I'm still not satisfied with the results.  I even played around a little with the ingredients but nothing I made recreated the aroma, texture, or taste I was looking for.

Not to be deterred, I decided to experiment with some other batter-based foods I had made before.  First up was pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread).  Since some of the eggette recipes used a little tapioca flour, I figured it would be fun to try an entirely tapioca flour based batter in the bubble waffle maker.  The results were incredible!

The bubble waffle maker was able to encapsulate the chewy, airy bread in a crispy crust in a fraction of the time it takes to bake the pão in the oven.  And it's sooooo cute!

I also tried Korean pajeon (above) and Japanese okonomiyaki (below), and the results were decent, but not really worth writing about.

Probably my favorite use of the bubble waffle maker has to be the Taiwanese oyster omelette.  Since I remember the sweet potato starch batter to be super sticky, I added a half tablespoon of oil to the batter itself and made sure to oil the waffle iron well before adding the batter.  And even though I took those precautions, I was still surprised when the omelette came out rather easily from the iron.

As with the pão de queijo, I loved how the outside of the batter got super crispy but still stayed moist inside.  And the shape of the bubble waffle maker gave it a lot more nooks and crannies for an even higher crispy to chewy ratio!

So does anyone else have a good eggette recipe or recommendation for what to try next in the bubble waffle maker?

Next:  Sesame Soba Noodles with Avocado Rose
Previously:   The 4-Hour Baguette
Last Year:  Gordan Ramsay's Sublime Scrambled Eggs - 2 Ways
Two Years Ago:  Nutella Mini Crepe Cakes
Six Years Ago:  The Best Scones in the World
Seven Years Ago:  Samoa Cupcakes and the Cupcake Exchange