Sunday, April 24, 2011

Italian Fried Zucchini Flowers

Fried Zucchini flowers is a delicious seasonal appetizer that makes use of the male flowers which would go to waste after pollination. The male flower is a bright orange colored blossom and develops only a small thin stem that does not grow into a vegetable. Picked fresh from the garden and prepared immediately is the best method. They can be stuffed or simply battered and fried. It is great appetizer or garnish on a salad your guests will not soon forget.

Ingredients:

  • 16 zucchini flowers
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cup cake flour
  • Pinch fresh ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoon dry white wine
  • Kosher or Sea Salt and fresh ground White Pepper to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ cup grated Romano cheese
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cup vegetable oil for frying

Preparation

  1. Remove pistils (centers of flower), split flowers in halves.
  2. Place all dry ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl.
  3. Beat the eggs until they are well mixed and have taken in a bit of air.
  4. Add the wine and water to the eggs and beat to combine the wet ingredients.
  5. Add the wet mix slowly until all of the ingredients have become incorporated.
  6. Beat until the mixture is the consistency of pancake batter.
  7. Add more flour or water, if necessary.
  8. Let stand 5-20 minutes so the flour can become hydrated.
  9. Heat oil in a large frying pan to aproximatey 335° f.
  10. Stir the batter to make sure it is a uniform consistency.
  11. Add flowers one at a time in batter. let the excess batter drip off.
  12. Fry until crisp and golden brown. on both sides. Do not crowd the pan.
  13. Remove with spider or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  14. Transfer to dish, sprinkle with salt and serve.
  15. Serve immediately.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Crispy Noodles (Mee Krob)

I have never been to a Thai restaurant that did not serve Mee Krob. It's as unthinkable as not seeing pad Thai on the menu. If you have never eaten Mee krob it is worth ordering, or making it in your own home.

A good Thai meal should have several courses served together family style. It is all about variety and how the different dishes on the table play together.

Mee Krob is a spicy noodle appetizer which combines the basic flavor profiles in found in Thai cooking: sweet, hot, salty, sour, bitter and savory are all in merged in a delicate balance. The textures liven up a meal. Light crispy noodle cloud, crisp bean sprouts and green onions, tender shrimp all wrapped in a light tangy sauce dance on the tongue.

Ingredients

  • ¼ Pound Rice Vermicelli
  • 1-2 ounces Shrimp raw
  • ½ Cup tamarind paste
  • ½ Cup Green onion, cut into 1" length
  • ½ Cup Bean sprouts
  • 1 to 4 Tablespoon Fish sauce
  • 5 Tablespoons Brown or Palm sugar
  • ½ Cup Warm water
  • 1 Teaspoon Ketchup
  • 4-5 Cups Cooking oil for deep frying
  • 4-5 sprigs Cilantro or Chinese parsley
  • Red Chili, sliced

Mise En Place

  1. Clean, remove the shells and devein the shrimp
  2. Cut the Green onion into 1" lengths.
  3. Combine tamarind with warm water, mix and strain.
  4. Simmer rice vermicelli in water until soft. Drain well.

Preparation

  1. Fry noodles, a little at a time, in a wok on high heat until they puff up.
  2. Set aside in the paper towels to drain.
  3. In a saucepan, stir fry shrimp in 3 Tablespoon of oil; combine tamarind water, fish sauce, sugar and ketchup.
  4. Bring to boil and simmer on a low heat until sugar becomes sticky.
  5. Combine fried noodles and toss lightly to mix.
  6. Garnish with cilantro or Chinese parsley, and red chili.
  7. Serve with bean sprouts. and green onion.
Yields 2 servings

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ten Useful Kitchen Tools

And Why You Need Them

I wanted to do a list of some of the smaller kitchen tools I find handy. The list is far from comprehensive and I did not include some of the tools which I consider basics which all cooks will have in their kitchen. For the most part I am excluding knives, pots pans, and appliances. I also excluded tools which take up large amounts of counter space. I wanted the list to reflect the need for multiple use simple tools instead of dedicated single purpose ones.

  1. Cast Iron Grill Pan

    A cast iron grill an works great no matter what the season. I find they make some of the best grill marks. Cast Iron has the ability to retain heat so you do not get an intense temperature drop making the meat steam instead of sear. I do not like nonstick pans. Once it is well seasoned cast iron is forever. I also use it as a roaster in the oven so the meat stays out of the fat.

  2. Melon Baller

    Even is you do not eat a lot of melons it is a great multi-tasking tool. It works well for coring fruits and vegetables. Is is great for making small uniform sized potato balls for deep frying. The thin wall edge makes seed removal from squash easier. I also like it as a scoop for portioning small meatballs, cookie dough or dumplings. Look for one with two different sized scoops and a comfortable but sturdy handle.

  3. Micro-plane

    The idea for this kitchen essential was the sure form rasp made for wood work. I had used the carpentry version long before a kitchen version was made. Micro-planes come in different grades which correspond to the size of the gratings made. It works great for citrus zest, garlic, or hard cheese, such as Parmesan. A micro plane is much easier to use and clean than the old box style graters. and you are less liable to sustain a knuckle shredding accident.

  4. Mandolin

    When you have to make thin uniform slices quickly the Mandolin is the tool I go to every time. Regardless of your knife skills when you are faced with prepping pounds of vegetables , a mandolin will dramatically reduce the time needed. Many people have a fear of a mandolin, however if you use it wisely with the safety guards it can be your best kitchen friend. You d not need an expensive one, yes I have drooled over an 18" bed stainless steel machine covered in adjustment knobs; However I use an inexpensive simple model as my day to day workhorse.

  5. Egg Slicer

    I can hear you ask the question: "Why do I need an egg slicer?". I'm glad you asked. Besides doing a great job slicing those hard-boiled eggs, it work well for slicing fresh mozzarella and Mushrooms. Any food that is small and tender can be sliced quickly.

  6. Pizza Cutter

    A pizza cuter is not just the best way to slice a pizza. It is a versatile cutting tool. I use mine for noodle cutting and ravioli making, cutting any kind of dough from puff pastry to pie crust. I particularly like it when I am using a metal ruler. The blade runs along the edge and does not make you run the risk of ruining a good knife of greater value.

  7. Food Scale

    I find a food scale to be an essential tool. It has many benefits: 1. Measuring by volume is the most inaccurate method even though we know the old rhyme a pint is a pound the world around. Bakers measure ingredients by weight with good reason, baking is an exact discipline. 2 It makes translating recipes from someone using metric units easy, and writing your own recipes easier to repeat when fine tuning it for publication. 3. When living in a nation that is obsessed with diets it is a good to know how much of what is in a portion. 4. Information is power enough said.

  8. Stainless Steel Colander

    The humble colander has many uses besides draining liquid off of food. It can be used as an improvised steamer, pepper roaster or smoker for the more adventurous. It is also good for shaking off flour and small bits of dough when preparing fresh made pasta. I have even pressed one into service as a spaetzle maker.

  9. Parchment Paper

    I know that these days new products like Silplat are all the rage. It is great stuff, however the price makes me catatonic from sticker shock. I can be a bit retro, so I still love the original non-stick baking surface, Parchment! Parchment paper is something I cant live without. When making Sunday brunch for a large number of people who in their right mind would fry bacon or sausage? Sheet pans lined with parchment works great. crispy bacon without the popping, splattering and time consuming hovering over a pan, priceless. It is the baker's friend, especially when making cookies or anything with sugars that will caramelize making them stick to the cookie sheet. There are also recipes where you make a parchment package of fish or fowl, aromatics, and a splash of wine. You roll and crimp the edges till you have a sealed packet. Bake them and serve still sealed, it is dramatic, keeps the food warm and juicy

  10. Propane Torch

    I know you think I am kidding, but a propane torch can take your cooking style to a new level. Many impressive entrees and desserts can be made with the aid of a torch. It gives you pin-point control of surface browning. It makes exotic fare such as Baked Alaska simple and easy. It can also save a dish from blandness. Ever have a bread crumb topping on a casserole refuse to brown? If so torch it to get that golden brown and delicious look we all love.

Lad Na

Almost every Thai restaurant I have eaten in has a variation of this savory noodle dish. You may see it spelled many different ways ranging from Lard Na to Lad Nah, however it is spelled it is good eats. Lad Na is another Thai dish that echos the Chinese influence on their cuisine.

Protein and vegetables in a silky sauce merged with thick dumpling style rice noodles. The textures are important. Crisp vegetables, and stir-fried noodles that are crispy on the outside but succulent and chewy on the inside. The noodles should have a slightly smokey flavor complimenting the sweetness of the oyster flavored sauce. It is a good choice for people who fear the fiery side of Thai cooking.

As with many recipes there is much flexibility in ingredients. You can make the dish with almost any protein choice, including pre-fried extra firm tofu making it a dish vegetarians can eat. The same goes for the mushrooms, I have eaten it made with Shitake, Crimini, or common white button mushrooms.

Preparation is simple and the cooking time is short. Just remember to do your mise en place so you can cook the dish in a timely manner and not juggle preparing ingredients for you need to add quickly. Stir-frying is a very time sensitive technique, so good prep work is critical.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup thick Rice Noodles (soaked in water)
  • ½ Pound of your choice of Protein choice, Boneless Chicken, Beef, or Pork works best
  • ¼ lb Sliced broccoli
  • ¼ lb fresh mushrooms
  • 1 Tablespoon Corn Starch
  • 1 Teaspoons Oyster sauce
  • 1 Teaspoon Thin soy sauce
  • 1 Teaspoon Fish sauce
  • 1½ Teaspoons Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Minced garlic
  • 4 Tablespoon Peanut oil
  • ½ Cup Water
  • ½Teaspoon Pickled chili for garnish

Mise En Place

  1. Soak rice noodle in a warm water for 15 minutes. Drain. Set aside
  2. Break the broccoli into individual branches and slice the broccoli stalks into thin pieces.
  3. Soak them in cold water for 15 minutes
  4. Slice the mushrooms thinly
  5. Slice the protein thinly into 1" strips.
  6. Combine the corn starch with the water and make a slurry, stir well to get rid of any lumps

Preparation

  1. In a saucepan, heat 2 Tablespoon of oil and brown minced garlic to light brown.
  2. Add soak rice noodle and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Remove and reserve them for later.
  3. Heat the remaining amount of oil.
  4. Add the sliced protein, broccoli and mushrooms.
  5. Stir-fry for approximately 3 minutes.
  6. Add cornstarch slurry and bring it to a gentle boil.
  7. Add oyster sauce and fish sauce, sugar, stir until the sauce thickens.
  8. Add the rice noodles and toss to warm and coat them in the sauce.
  9. Transfer the Lad Na to a serving plate.
  10. Garnish with the pickled chili. (optional)
  11. Serve Immediately
Yields 2 servings

Friday, April 08, 2011

Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken Tetrazinni is a retro baked casserole. Spaghetti chicken and mushrooms with a delicious creamy wine sauce, what's not to love. It is one of my favorite chicken recipes, and will please kids and adults alike. Give your family a little love on a plate tonight.

Tetrazzini is an American dish possibly named after the Italian opera star, Luisa Tetrazzini. It is widely believed to have been invented between1908-1910 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California by Chef Ernest Arbogast. Tetrazzini was a long-time resident at the Palace Hotel, which may add credence to the claim. However, other sources claim that the dish originated at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City.

  • Yield 6 to 8 servings
  • Prep 35 min
  • Cook 1 hr
  • Total 1 hr 35 min

Ingredients

  • 9 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Thyme leaves
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, room temperature
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 12 ounces linguine
  • ¾ cup frozen peas
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 cup grated
  • ¼ cup dried Italian-style breadcrumbs

Preparations

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Spread 1 tablespoon of butter over a 13 " by 9" by 2" baking dish.
  3. Melt 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil in a deep large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat.
  4. Sprinkle the chicken with ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
  5. Add the chicken to the hot pan and cook until pale golden and just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.
  6. Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool slightly.
  7. Coarsely shred the chicken into bite-size pieces and place into a large bowl.
  8. Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil to the same pan.
  9. Add the mushrooms and saute over medium-high heat until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms become pale golden, about 12 minutes.
  10. Add the onion, garlic, and Thyme, and saute until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes.
  11. Add the wine and simmer until it evaporates, about 2 minutes.
  12. Transfer the mushroom mixture to the bowl with the chicken.
  13. Melt 3 more tablespoons butter in the same pan over medium-low heat.
  14. Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes.
  15. Whisk in the milk, cream, broth, nutmeg, remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper.
  16. Increase the heat to high. Cover and bring to a boil.
  17. Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 10 minutes.
  18. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  19. Add the linguine and cook until it is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes.
  20. Drain. Add the linguine, sauce, peas, and parsley to the chicken mixture.
  21. Toss until the sauce coats the pasta and the mixture is well blended.
  22. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish.
  23. Stir the cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl to blend.
  24. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the pasta.
  25. Dot with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter.
  26. Bake, uncovered, until golden brown on top and the sauce bubbles, about 25 minutes.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Smoked Salmon Spread

This is a quick and easy recipe for party food. It is easy to scale up for large gathering. I like the mix of smoke, dill, citrus and chives melded with the creaminess of cream cheese. It has always been a hit every time I have served it.

Ingredients

  • ½ Lb Smoked Salmon without skin (Copper River is best)
  • ½ Lb Cream Cheese softened
  • 1 Tablespoon Dill Weed dried
  • 1 Tablespoon Chives fresh chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest finely grated
  • ½ Teaspoon White Pepper fresh round
  • ½ Teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
  1. Place the cream cheese in a bowl and whip till it is loose.
  2. Add the dry ingredients including the lemon zest and chives, mix well.
  3. Flake the salmon and combine with the cheese mixture. Be careful to not lose the texture of the salmon.
  4. Cover the spread and refrigerate it for at least an hour, overnight is best.
  5. Serve with small slices of rye bread or your favorite crackers.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Thai Cashew Chicken

Cashew Chicken (Kai Pad Med Ma Muang)

Cashew Chicken is a simple dish which shows the influence of Chinese culture on Thai cuisine. It is a quick, simple and very tasty dish that balances the elements of sweet, savory, and hot. It has a wide range of textures, making it interesting eating. We all are looking for a new way to cook chicken and this one will be a hit with family and friends. For those who are not chili addicts just reduce the number of peppers used.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ Pound Boneless chicken
  • ¼ Cup Cooking oil
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 4 ounce Sliced water chestnuts
  • 6 to 8 Green onions, 2" length
  • 3 to 5 Whole dried red chili peppers
  • 2 Tablespoon Oyster sauce
  • ¾ Pound Unsalted roasted cashew nuts

Preparation

  1. Thinly slice chicken into 2" length.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok and stir fry the garlic until it is a light brown color.
  3. Add the chicken and oyster sauce, stir fry it for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the water chestnuts, green onions, red chili peppers & roasted cashews.
  5. Stir until the ingredients are mixed well.
  6. Serve hot over Jasmine rice.
Yields 2 servings