Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Candied Grapefruit Peel

Come January, the only healthy-looking produce at the store is grapefruit, it seems! Little gems, delicious peeled or eaten with a spoon, I always hate to throw away the beautiful peels.

Sunday afternoon I found myself with 2 sleeping children, a husband on hand to tackle anything that might arise, and a pile of grapefruits. The fruit went into a bowl for dinner that night, and I started work on Smitten Kitchen's recommendations from LAST January.

In a nutshell, you parboil grapefruit peel quarters 4 times, scrape the pith off and julienne, then boil 2 hours in a simple syrup. Drain and let dry, then toss in sugar. For far more detailed instructions, see below! (The camera didn't come out until later in the game, sorry!)

Wash your grapefruit, and cut into quarters. Peel away the fruit and set it aside.

Put your peels in a pan, and cover with water to an inch over the peels. Now, these guys FLOAT, so push them down and make sure you have an ample inch on top.

Bring to a boil over high heat, boil for 30 seconds, and drain into a colander. If you can, do a quick rinse and scrub of your pan, put the peels back in and add more water to an inch above. Boil again. Keep doing this until you have boiled them 4 times, at least. I've seen 7 recommended, but 4 seemed to be plenty.

After the last drain, let them cool enough to handle comfortably and start laying those quarter pieces on a cutting board and using a teaspoon to gently scrape as much pith as possible off. It's easy to tear, so be careful!

One you're cleaned of pith, start cutting into very narrow strips. They don't need to be match-stick sized, but pinky is definitely too wide. The narrower they are, the more sugar-to-grapefruit ratio you have.

Now make sure that your pan is cleaned of all the bitter oils clinging to the sides (that's why we boiled- to get all those bitter oils out) and put the peel strips back in. Cover with water again, measuring how much water it takes. Add an equal amount of sugar as water (I used 5 cups water and 5 cups sugar for 4 large grapefruits), and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours stirring occasionally. The syrup will get darker and thicker, and the grapefruit peels will be translucent. (I actually boiled covered 2 hours, and an extra hour after that uncovered. That seemed to work, too.)

Drain into a colander one last time (I set my colander over a bowl to save the syrup...why? I don't know.) and then spread the pieces over a wire cooling rack with tin foil or a cookie sheet underneath to catch any drips. Let dry until no longer sticky (I left mine overnight).

With 1 cup sugar in a bowl, start putting in handfuls and swirl around to break up and coat with sugar. Sift them out with your fingers, and throw in another handful.

You're done!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Whippercrinkles or Really Fast Cookies

Catchy name, no? When I need treats in a hurry, I turn to this recipe. I've never met a kid who didn't adore these cookies and make their Mom ask me for the recipe. (Thankfully, all the Moms have been really nice about it when I tell them it's just a cake mix. Ha!)

If these were made from scratch, and chocolate, they'd be called Crinkles. If you use a lemon cake mix, they're called Lemon Whippersnappers.

I call 'em...

This is adapted from Betty Crocker's Fudge Crinkles

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking sheet.

In a bowl, combine:
1 (two layer size) cake mix (any flavor)
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
(If this is too dry, add a bit of water)

Mix thoroughly and scoop out with a small ice cream or cookie scoop, 3" apart on the baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes, or until the edges are set.

(For a prettier cookie, these can be rolled in powdered sugar before baking, but I find that too messy for eating as a Primary treat, which is usually where these end up.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Geung Chou (Ginger Vinegar)

It is common practice for women in Hong Kong to consume a variety of "special foods" post-partum. The combinations are said to restore balance to the woman's body, along with replenishing her depleted iron and calcium.

This soup is one of "those" foods. It's also a food that you either love...or love to hate. After all, you are drinking vinegar!

Begin by gathering your ingredients:

2 lb. Ginger (young is better)
12 Eggs
5 lb. Pig Trotters
2.5 L Sweet Vinegar (*see note below)

Prepare your ingredients:

Ginger: Begin by washing the ginger. Scrape off the thin skin and slice into thick medallions and set aside.

Eggs: Hard boil and peel all 12 eggs. Set aside, whole.

Pig Trotters: Rinse, inspecting each one for any stray hairs.

Remove any hair you find and boil the trotters in water until they are cooked through, 15-20 minutes. (They will put off a lot of grey gunk - make sure your pot is large enough to handle all of this, or cook your trotters in batches.) Rinse and set aside. (Throw out all that nasty water and all that gunk

Combine your ginger, eggs, trotters and ginger in a large ceramic pot**, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally, making sure the eggs don't float in one position for too long. (Otherwise, you'll get dry leathery patches on your eggs where they poke out above the water, and these are nigh unto impossible to chew!) Turn off the stove at night, and return to a boil in the morning before reducing back to a simmer. Continue this process for two to three days, or until the eggs are dark and the trotters are falling off the bones. If you like, when the soup is cool at night, skim the fat off the top and discard.

(*The vinegar used here is a special Chinese vinegar - no other will do. Look for large jugs of it on the lower shelves of Asian markets. It can be found online, but it's hard to find and very expensive. We found our 2.5L jug in NYC's Chinatown for less than $10. This was the least expensive variety available, but the quality wasn't very high. We found that we had to add sugar, and then all was right with the world.)

(**Please do not leave this soup in any metal pot for the duration! The vinegar is likely to react with the metal and give you something that is definitely not tasty. This soup is traditionally made in a ceramic soup pot. Go here for a video of a Hong Kong mama washing ginger, and to see the kind of pot I'm talking about. These are also available in large Asian markets. We made ours by first cooking everything on the stove in normal pots and then removing it all to a ceramic crock pot - the soup really must simmer for 2-3 days before it is well blended and ready to eat.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Samoa Cookies

I came across this post last week, and mentioned it to Wonder Daddy. Unexpectedly, his eyes lit up and he squeaked "Did she have a recipe for Samoas?"

So, instead of a birthday cake this year I made him these!

In a nutshell, these are crisp buttery wafers, topped with a scoop of chewy coconut-caramel mixture, and then dunked in and drizzled with chocolate.

The recipe says to roll the dough out in a few batches, then cut with a 1.5" cookie cutter, then use a big straw to punch out the center...aw nuts. Just divide the dough in half, roll into two logs, chill, and cut into 1/4" discs. No one will miss the hole in the middle, and besides: you'll never get the coconut to go around the hole. I don't care that the author did it- she's amazing and I'm not. I'm fine with that. Really!

She recommended Werthers Chewy Caramels. I didn't know there was such a thing...but nevertheless, there was. And it was on sale, 2/$3.

So you unwrap those babies, microwave for 3 or 4 minutes with a few splashes of milk and some salt, and mix with some nicely toasted coconut (20 minutes at 300 degrees, and stir it around a few times.)

Spoon the gooey coconut and caramel onto the cookies, dredge the bottoms in chocolate (I used almond bark...it was half off after the holidays!) and use the rest of the melted almond bark to drizzle over the top. The easiest way to dunk these, I found, was melt the chocolate and pour a little at a time onto a salad plate. It was easy to swirl the cookie bottoms around without burning my fingers on a vat of molten chocolate. Although, that would be a delicious way to be burned.

You can visit her fabulously written post for a more complete recipe (I'd hate to steal her thunder) but that's it in nutshell. Yes, these take a while- it's not a "dump-mix-bake" recipe. But, they are VERY worth it. And rather economical, when you consider the girls in green vests are hawking roughly 20 cookies for $4, and this recipe makes at least 4 dozen. I made my logs small (these MUST be consumed in one bite, so small is definitely better) and I think I got about 70 cookies.

Next time, I'll make the cookie dough the night before and refrigerate. The next day, I'll just need to slice and bake, cook the coconut while they're cooling, and proceed to assemble the cookies.

Now will someone please give me a reason to make her Thin Mints? Wonder Daddy took all our cookies to the office....*sob* Something about New Year's resolutions...phooey.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Coconut Prawn Curry

Just a few reviews of this dish before I share the recipe:

"This is better than my favorite restaurant!" (Mom)

"Hard to beat the prawns you fixed on Sunday, that was amazing. I just boil them, but yours take work and were AMAZING!" (Dad)

"Wow. What's in this?" (Uncle R)

OK, so are you ready for the recipe? I found this in the comment section of Serious Eats- the poster said it was copied from Epicurious.com, but that's just anecdotal.

I didn't take any pictures- the entire family was seated and ready to eat their forks, with or without food. (And since forks are in short supply, I preferred them to eat food.) Plus...really, have you ever seen a GOOD picture of a golden brown curry, studded with soft tomatoes and tiny chunks of cashews, onions, garlic, and ginger? Creamy with juices and coconut milk? Flecked with shards of cilantro?

I haven't. But this suuuure tasted good!

The original recipe calls for a 4 pound chicken, and for 3/4 cup whole milk yogurt to be stirred in with the cashews just before serving. Due to current household dietary restrictions (no land meat, no dairy) I used 2 pounds tigertail prawns and 3/4 cup coconut milk, both stirred in with the cashews just before serving, and simmered long enough to cook the prawns. I also cooked the whole thing in one of my Christmas presents: a cast-iron dutch oven from Ikea (Gosh, I love the "as-is" section. Seriously, half off because someone used the pan and returned it?)

Chicken Curry with Cashews

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped (2 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 (3 1/2- to 4-lb) chicken, cut into 10 serving pieces
1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 cup cashews (1/4 lb)
3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
Accompaniment: cooked basmati or jasmine rice
Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro

Heat butter in a 5- to 6-quart wide heavy pot over moderately low heat until foam subsides, then cook onions, garlic, and ginger, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder, salt, cumin, and cayenne and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add chicken and cook, stirring to coat, 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, including juice, and cilantro and bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes. (If making ahead, see cooks' note, below.)
Just before serving:
Pulse cashews in a food processor or electric coffee/spice grinder until very finely ground, then add to curry along with yogurt and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring, until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.

Cooks' note:
Curry, without yogurt and cashews, can be made 5 days ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Reheat over low heat before stirring in yogurt and ground cashews.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chinese Creamed Corn Soup

This is my favorite soup when I'm in a hurry - it comes together in 5-10 minutes, it's always delicious, and it's an interesting way to serve a veggie side. Om nom nom!

Chinese Creamed Corn Soup

Adapted from

5 cups homemade chicken stock or storebought chicken broth (I use 5 cups of water and 2 t. chicken base, or to taste. Add the chicken base at the end if you're worried about over-salting the soup.)
1 can creamed corn
1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
Black or white pepper, to taste (I prefer the taste of black pepper, but it's up to you.)
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, or to taste
2 green onions (spring onions), finely chopped for garnish, optional

1. Bring the broth or stock to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the creamed corn and bring back to a boil (about 3 minutes).
2. Stir in the salt, sugar, and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes to bring back to a boil again.
3. Give the cornstarch and water mixture a quick re-stir, and then pour into the boiling soup, stirring to thicken. When the soup has thickened, remove the saucepan from the heat. (You can tell the cornstarch is cooked when the white-ness of it goes away.)
4. Pour the egg whites into the soup in a steady stream while stirring the soup in a clockwise direction until they form thin shreds.
5. Add the sesame oil and the green onions garnish if using.

Ma's Potato & Chicken Curry

Wow - housecleaning. I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe yet! My Sister In Law suggested I put this together after I had my second baby - one afternoon of stove-watching gave us three nights of dinner. Score!

Marinate 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs in 2 T. soy sauce, 2 t. sugar, 1 T. cornstarch and 2 T. julienned ginger.

Potatoes (about 1 lb, peeled and chopped)
Carrots (about 1 lb, peeled and chopped into thick medallions)
Onion (one large, chopped)

In a soup pot, heat 2 T. oil until fragrant, cook chicken with 1 tsp. curry powder for 5 minutes

Remove chicken. Add a little more oil - cook veg with more curry powder and salt until crisp tender.

Fill with water to nearly cover the veg- simmer until vegetables are almost done, then add chicken back in, along with half a can of coconut milk (about 7 oz).

Mix together a slurry of 1/2 cup milk, 1 tsp. soy sauce, 2 tsp. sugar, 2 T. cornstarch, 1 T. oyster sauce and 1 tsp. sesame oil. Stir into curry mixture. Return to a simmer to cook the cornstarch and thicken the curry.

Serve family style, garnished with a sliced green onion. Serve over jasmine rice.

(Can I get an om nom nom?! The milk at the end can be ommitted to make this dairy free.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Pecan Miso Green Beans

That's really just not a very elegant title, is it? Sorry - it's the best I can do! I found my inspiration for this recipe in the New York Times column Bitten, by Mark Bittman (author of How to Cook Everything) His version uses walnuts, but I used what I had on hand. I also messed with the proportion of the other ingredients as well.

I served these as a cold salad with dinner last night - they were quite tasty! Lo Gung added a small pile of the beans to his bento lunch last night and reported back toda - these are even better warm. (The flavors are much more pronounced if you serve this dish warm or even room temperature. Oops!)

For the original recipe, please go here.

Pecan Miso Green Beans

Green Beans (I used frozen - about 5 handfuls) - cooked until crisp tender and then shocked in cold water to stop the cooking

In a blender, combine until smooth:
1/2 cup pecans
1" ginger, grated on a microplane (about 2 T.)
2 T. miso (light or dark - I used dark)
1-2 teaspoons soy sauce (to taste)
1/2 cup water

Toss the cooled green beans with the dressing. Can be kept in the fridge - allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Because this recipe is vegetarian, it would make an excellent candidate for picnic lunches, buffets, packed lunches or other situations where refrigeration is an issue.