Friday, May 29, 2020

Lo Mein (Stir-Fried Egg Noodles with Chicken & Shrimp)

Lo Mein is a Chinese stir-fried noodle dish consisting of egg noodles, an assortment of meat, veg, and a savory sauce that always includes soy sauce. In this version, I use chicken and shrimp for the meat, bok choy and carrots for the veg, and soy and oyster sauce for the sauce. The ingredients are flexible so feel free to add or substitute with whatever's in your frig, e.g., bean sprouts, mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, snow peas, red bell pepper, etc. High heat is essential in cooking this dish to achieve a restaurant-quality dish!

1 lb. chicken breast or thighs, thinly sliced
1 lb. medium shrimp, shelled & deveined
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. ginger, minced
1 Fresno or jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced
1 large carrot, julienned
3 large bok choy, trimmed and sliced into large pieces

1 1/2 lbs. Chinese egg noodles, 4 pkts. yakisoba noodles, or pancit

1/2 cup chicken stock (1/2 cup water + 1 tsp. Totole chicken granules)
5 tbsp. oyster sauce
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch

1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper

3 scallions, bias-cut into 1/2" pieces
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. Combine all the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

2. Add 3 tbsp. oil in a large pan or wok over high heat. Add the sliced chicken and partially cook, about 1 minute; remove and set aside. 

3. Add the shrimp to the same pan and as partially cook, about 1 minute; remove and set aside. 

4. Add 1-2 tbsp. oil to the same pan, bring up to heat and add the ginger and garlic. Toss briefly and then stir in the carrots, bok choy and Fresno chile and saute for 30 seconds. 

5. Return the chicken and shrimp to the pan, stir, then add the egg noodles; Cook 1-2 minutes or until the noodles are tender.

6. Stir in the sauce and bring to a boil. When sauce has thickened, stir in the scallions and cilantro. Turn off heat and stir in the white and black pepper. Serve immediately while hot.

 Sliced bok choy, scallions, Fresno chiles, cilantro, carrots, garlic & ginger.

For the sauce. 

This time around I used a total of 4 yakisoba packets from 2 of these larger packages, 
readily available in most supermarkets.

Thinly sliced chicken breast and shelled, deveined shrimp.  

Briefly saute the chicken until partially cooked through; remove and set aside. 

Briefly saute the shrimp until partially cooked through; remove and set aside.

 Saute the garlic and ginger until fragrant.

Add the carrot, bok choy and Fresno chile. 

Gently toss in the noodles and cook until tender. 

Add the par-cooked chicken and shrimp back to the pan, then stir in the sauce and cook until thickened. Add the scallions and cilantro, turn off heat and stir in the white and black pepper. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Shakshuka (Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce)

SHAKSHUKA! Oh yeah, baby! I just love saying that name and, of course, eating this fab dish. It originated in North Africa but has become a popular and iconic breakfast dish in Israel. Some recipes call for fresh tomatoes, others for canned. I like using good quality canned whole tomatoes, which are consistently sweet and rich in flavor, crushed by hand (just put your hand in the can and VERY gently crush the tomatoes to ensure you don't get plastered with tomato juice). The spices and Harissa paste, a North African/Middle Eastern condiment, impart amazing flavor, but if you don't have Harissa, no problem -just add extra tomato paste and an extra pinch of cayenne.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper (green or red), seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes (crushed by hand)
1 tbsp. Harissa paste (sub with tomato paste if not available)
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup pitted black olives, sliced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley leaves
6 eggs

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the chopped onion and bell pepper; season with 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper and saute 5-6 minutes or until the vegetables are slightly softened.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the minced garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper. Stir briefly 15-20 seconds to incorporate. 

3. Stir in the hand-crushed tomatoes, Harissa paste, tomato paste, olives and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Taste the sauce and season with another 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper, as needed.

4. Make a well in the thickened sauce with a spoon and gently crack an egg into it. Continue doing the same with the remaining eggs so they are evenly spaced in the pan. Cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the eggs are cooked to your desired doneness. Turn off heat, remove cover, and garnish with fresh parsley leaves.

Great served with crusty bread or pita bread on the side. 

Parsley, bell pepper, onion, garlic.

Saute the onions and bell pepper in olive oil until slightly softened. Season with salt & pepper. 

 Add the spices and stir 15-20 seconds.

Add the tomato and Harissa paste, then add crushed tomatoes, olives and parsley. 

Fresh-laid eggs from our hens.

 After the sauce has thickened, add the eggs to the pan (use a spoon to create a well for each egg).

 Cover the pan and simmer over medium low heat 10-15 minutes or until the eggs have reached the desired doneness.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Vanilla Sponge Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

I know that mom enjoys desserts that are not too sweet, so for her 80th birthday on 1/17/20, I came up with this vanilla sponge cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. It was light and redolent with the aroma of the fresh berries. The key is to use very ripe strawberries and, even then, macerating them first with a sprinkling of sugar to ensure they are not too tart.

1 recipe vanilla sponge cake:

1 recipe whipped cream

2 pints fresh ripe strawberries

1/4 cup apricot jam

1. Make the vanilla sponge cake and set aside to cool.

2. Once cake has cooled, cut 1 pint of the strawberries into halves or thirds (depending on size) and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with a 2-3 teaspoons of sugar, stir to combine and let sit to macerate 15-30 minutes. 

3. Stem and cut the other pint of strawberries in half; set aside.

4. Make the whipped cream; set aside.

1. Place one of the cooled cake layers onto a cake stand or plate lined with parchment or a cardboard cake round. 

2. Spread the macerated strawberries along with some of the juice on top of the cake layer. Top with a 1-inch layer of the whipped cream.

3. Top the cake with the second cake layer. Using an offset spatula, spread whipped cream to cover the sides of the cake.

4. Place the rest of the whipped cream into a large pastry bag with large star tip and pipe the whipped cream decoratively on top of the cake. 

5. Decorate the top of the cake with the halved strawberries.

6. Heat the apricot jam in a small saucepan or in the microwave until just melted.

7. Brush the melted jam over the strawberries to give them a nice sheen.


Colcannon Potatoes (Irish Mashed Potatoes)

Colcannon Potatoes is an Irish dish that consists of mashed potatoes combined with greens, typically cabbage or kale, and there are many different versions out there (some even including bacon and/or cheese). I tried one version recently that incorporated thinly shaved sautéed Brussels sprouts instead of cabbage, and it was really, really good. This is my rendition and now my go-to fav to serve with corned beef on St. Patrick's Day.

Mashed Potatoes:

1 dozen (3-4 lbs.) medium white or Yukon Gold potatoes 
4-6 tbsp. butter
2 cups half & half (or 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup whole milk)
Salt & pepper

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced (or 3 cloves garlic confit)

1 small head Savoy cabbage or 12 Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
1 leek, thinly sliced (white and light green part only)
2 tbsp. olive oil 
Salt & pepper

1 scallion, thinly sliced for garnish

1. Cover the potatoes (unpeeled) with cold water in a large pan and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook, about 20 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain the water from the pan and add butter while the potatoes are still hot. Add the half and half or milk-cream and blend well with a potato masher (mixture does not have to be totally smooth). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

2. In a large saute pan, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add the thinly sliced leek and cook 1-2 minutes; add the sliced cabbage or Brussels sprouts and minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until the cabbage is tender but not mushy. 

3. Add the sautéed leeks and cabbage or Brussels sprouts to the mashed potatoes and stir to combine. Taste and re-season as needed. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with sliced scallions. Best served warm.

Add the butter to the drained potatoes.

Sliced Brussels sprouts and minced garlic.

Saute the leeks, Brussels sprouts, and garlic in olive oil until tender-crisp.

Stir the sautéed greens into the mashed potatoes.

French Basque-Style White Bean Salad a la Maison Jaussaud's (Adapted from Tom Lingo's Recipe)

This recipe is adapted from my neighbor Tom's, who told me he got it years ago from the owner of Maison Jaussaud's (aka 'Josos') in Bakersfield, California. Maison Jaussaud, a venerable and upscale French restaurant on South Union Avenue in Bakersfield, had its heyday back in the 1950's 60's and '70s. It closed its doors I believe in the early '90s? due to changing tastes and times, but many of its patrons fondly remember their famous white bean salad. Although the restaurant was French, their beans seem to be in the Basque style of pickled beans with olive oil, vinegar, minced garlic and onion. Tom cooked his white beans in an Instapot cooker until al dente, but I opted to used canned instead to speed up the process. Really delicious served on sourdough or French bread.

Original Ingredient List & Directions from Tom Lingo:
1 lb. baby white beans cooked in Instapot for 70 minutes, drain & rinse
4-6 large cloves garlic, crushed (more if you want)
1/2 cup diced green onions
1/2 medium bell pepper, diced very fine
1/2 cup celery, diced very fine (optional)
1 part vinegar (white or apple cider)
2 parts olive oil or vegetable oil (or a mixture)
Lemon juice (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients, cover, marinate and refrigerate for 24 hours. Serve with sourdough bread or as a topper on a green salad.

My Adaptation:

Two 15-oz cans white beans, rinsed
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 medium green bell pepper, finely diced
3 tbsp. apple cider or white vinegar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
8 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Combine, cover and refrigerate overnight. 
Serve with crusty sourdough or French bread

Rinse the canned beans in a colander.

Let the beans drain thoroughly.

Apple cider vinegar, olive oil, minced garlic, scallions and celery.

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with sourdough/French bread. 
Tom brought us this loaf from Pyrenees Bakery in Bakersfield.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I'm a fan of Panera Bread's soups, especially their creamy chicken and wild rice soup. Wanting to make my own at home, I consulted a few knock-off recipes online and finally concocted this version, which I think is better than Panera's. Just sayin...

1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
5 tbsp. flour
1 bay leaf
8 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup (8 oz.) wild rice

1. Add the butter and olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat and heat until the butter has melted. 

2. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender, about 5-6 minutes.

3. Add the diced chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 10 minutes.

4. Add the thyme leaves, bay leaf and garlic and stir briefly until fragrant, then season with a little salt and pepper.

5. Add the flour and stir frequently, for about 1 minute, to cook out the taste of raw flour.

6. Add the chicken broth, heavy cream, 2 tsp. kosher salt and 1 tsp. black pepper; bring to a boil. Add the wild rice and bring back up to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 hour or until the rice is tender. 

7. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and serve with hot sauce on the side. 

Diced chicken thigh meat. 

Heat the butter and olive oil in a pot over medium heat until the butter has melted. 

Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook until tender, then add chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 10 minutes.

Add the thyme leaves, bay leaf and garlic, stir, and season with a little salt and pepper. 

Add the flour and stir about 1 minute. 

 Add the chicken broth, heavy cream, 2 tsp. kosher salt and 1 tsp. black pepper. Add the wild rice and bring back up to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 hour or until the rice is tender. 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Agedashi Tofu

First time I tried Agedashi Tofu was at our fav local Japanese restaurant in Wildomar, Sushi Ka. We wanted a light appetizer and tofu seemed to fit the bill. Out came a platter of small cubes of lightly battered and fried tofu sprinkled with scallions and served with a soy-dashi broth on the side. Sooooo good! I was surprised that such a simple dish could be so addictive - genius! On further research, I found that Agedashi tofu is a very popular dish in Japan, in particular, at Izakaya bars that serve small dishes/appetizers with their drinks. Sushi Ka serves their tofu with sauce on the side, while others actually place the fried tofu on top of the sauce. Of course I had to try to make this at home and here's my version. It is pretty traditional - just tofu cubes coated in potato starch and fried, with a soy-mirin-sake-dashi dipping sauce. Since tofu is inherently bland, I seasoned the tofu cubes with a little salt before coating, and also seasoned them again with a little more salt after frying. 

1 pkg (1 lb.) tofu - soft/silken, medium or firm (soft is trickier to fry)
3 scallions, finely chopped

2 cups dashi broth (2 cups water + 1 tsp. Hondashi powder)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. mirin
2 tbsp. sake

1/2 cup potato starch or cornstarch
Kosher salt
Vegetable oil

Optional Garnishes:
1 Fresno chile, seeded and thinly sliced
Shaved bonito

1. Place the tofu block on a double paper towel-lined chopping board then cut into 24 cubes (see below photo); separate the tofu cubes into a single layer then cover with 2 layers of paper towels. Place another chopping board on top and weigh down with heavy cans. Let sit for 30 minutes to let the tofu drain out its liquid. 

2. Make the sauce: combine all the sauce ingredients together into a saucepan. Bring up to a boil over medium heat. Let boil for 4-5 minutes until slightly reduced. Turn off heat and cover to keep warm.

3. Place enough oil in a medium pot to reach 3 inches. Heat over medium-high heat until oil temperature reaches 350F.

4. In the meantime, remove the heavy cans, top chopping board and paper towels from the tofu. Pat the tofu gently with another sheet of paper towel. Lightly season with kosher salt. 

5. Place 1/2 cup potato starch on a plate. Gently toss half of the tofu cubes in the potato starch to lightly but thoroughly coat on all sides. 

6. Place as many coated tofu cubes onto a fine mesh skimmer and lower into the oil. Stir the tofu in the oil gently with the skimmer to prevent from sticking to the pan. Fry for 3-4 minutes or until the coating is crispy and barely beginning to brown. Remove the tofu to a paper towel-lined plate and immediately season with some kosher salt.

7. Continue frying the remaining tofu in the same manner until done. 

8. Place the fried tofu cubes onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with chopped green onion and/or any of the optional garnishes. 

9. Serve with the warm soy-dashi sauce on the side. This dish does not keep so must be served asap after frying.

 For the sauce: soy sauce, sake, mirin, and Dashi stock powder.

Cut the tofu block into 24 cubes. 

Separate the tofu cubes into a single layer on paper towels. 

Cover the top of the tofu cubes with more paper towels, then another chopping board (baking sheet also works); Top with some heavy cans to weigh down on the tofu. Let sit for 30 minutes to allow the tofu to drain its excess liquid. 

Combine all the sauce ingredients together into a pan. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly reduced. Turn off heat and cover to keep warm. 

Garnishes: scallions and thinly sliced Fresno chiles. 

Coat the tofu cubes in a thin layer of potato starch on all sides. Fry the tofu in vegetable oil (in 2 or more batches, depending on the size of your pan) for 3-4 minutes or until the coating is crispy and just barely starting to turn light brown. 

 Drain the fried tofu on paper towels; season lightly with kosher salt.

 Serve immediately garnished with green onions, sliced chiles, or any of the other optional garnished. Serve the sauce on the side for dipping.