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.

3. 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. 

4. 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. 

5. 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.

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

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

8. 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.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Pinto & Kidney Bean Chili with Ground Beef

Chili recipes can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make them, and this version definitely leans towards the former. Simple is fine as long as the end results are delicious and all I can say is that you can't go wrong with this recipe - it's time saving due to the use of canned beans and the flavors are familiar and un-muddled by too many ingredients. I adapted this recipe from a Wendy's Copy Cat Chili recipe on, substituting canned crushed tomatoes with fire-roasted diced tomatoes and added extra water, tomato paste, and 1 tsp. of sugar. 


2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 stalks celery, chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef or turkey
3 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder or granulated garlic
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sugar

2 cans (14.5 oz. each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes with garlic

1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans
1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans

Shredded cheddar

Sliced scallions/green onions

1. Heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. 

2. Add the tomato paste and stir frequently for about 2 minutes, until color has darkened.

3. Add the ground beef or turkey and break up the meat (I use a potato masher). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink. If there's a lot of fat, drain some of it out. 

4. Add the chili powder, cumin and garlic powder, salt, pepper, and sugar; stir to combine. Add the canned tomatoes, then fill each can with water to wash out any tomato bits and add to the pot. 

5. Add the canned beans with their liquid to the pot and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30-40 minutes.

6. Serve the chili in individual bowls and garnish with shredded cheddar and sliced scallions. 

 Onion, green bell pepper, and 2 stalks celery.

 Fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic, kidney beans, pinto beans, and tomato paste in a tube.

 Saute the onions, bell pepper and celery in 2 tbsp. olive oil until softened.

 Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently until darkened, about 2 minutes.

 Add the ground meat.

 Break up the ground meat with a spatula or, in this case, a potato masher. Cook until the meat is no longer pink.

 Add the spices, salt, pepper and sugar.

 Stir in the tomatoes and 2 cans of water.

 Add the canned beans along with their liquid.

 Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 40 minutes.

Serve the chili in bowls and garnish with shredded cheddar and sliced scallions.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Garlic Roasted Eggplant with Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, and Basil

Eggplant and olive oil are like two peas in a pod. And when you add garlic, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil on top of that, well they're like four peas in a pod! This recipe combines all of these ingredients together in an easy to prepare and delicious oven-roasted veggie dish. I do not have exact measurements for the olive oil, balsamic and seasonings as that is up to one's own taste. However, skimping on the olive oil is never a good idea when it comes to eggplants because they soak it up like a sponge and will taste like one without it. Also, I use granulated or powdered garlic instead of fresh because sometimes fresh garlic will burn during the roasting process and leave a bitter taste. 

2 large eggplants, cut into large 2" dice
1/2 cup+ olive oil
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. granulated garlic or garlic powder
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 cup fresh basil leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. 

2. Place the diced eggplant on a foil-lined baking sheet and pour a generous amount of olive oil over the eggplant and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, then toss the eggplants to combine all the ingredients. 

3. Spread the eggplant out into a single layer on the pan and place in the oven. Let roast for about 45 minutes, turning the pieces over with tongs about halfway through the cooking time. 

4. When the eggplant is tender (check with a fork), remove the pan from the oven. When slightly cooled, taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, garlic powder as needed. Tear the basil leaves by hand into smaller pieces and add to the eggplant. Toss to combine while the eggplant is still warm.

This dish can be served warm as a side dish or at room temperature as an appetizer/antipasto.

 Flavored olive oils and vinegars like roasted garlic olive oil and vanilla & fig California balsamic from the Temecula Olive Oil Company here, work well in this recipe.

Toss the diced eggplant with a generous amount of the olive oil, balsamic and seasonings. 

Toss in the torn basil leaves with the warm eggplant before serving. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Crispy Pan-Fried Thousand Year Eggs with Sautéed Bell Peppers and Chili-Black Bean-Vinegar Sauce

This is a very interesting and delicious take on thousand year-old eggs (aka 'Pidan'). Mom came across this recipe online (YouTube?) and adapted it to her own taste. She made it for our June 22, 2019 celebration of what would have been dad's 93rd birthday. The Pidan are halved and coated in potato starch and pan fried until lightly crispy. The topping is a sauce of sautéed diced bell peppers, minced Fresno chilies and minced garlic with black bean sauce, chili sauce and rice vinegar. I haven't made this myself yet but will update this post when I do with more exact ingredient proportions and instructions. The only thing I would change is to put the bell pepper sauce on the bottom of the plate and top it with the Pidan to keep them crispy. Otherwise, it's a tasty and brilliant dish! Thanks mom!

6 Thousand Year-Old Eggs (Pidan), halved
Potato starch
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1" dice
1 Fresno chili, seeded and finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Black bean sauce
Chinese chili sauce
Rice vinegar
Cilantro for garnish

Gyoza (Japanese Potstickers / Pan-Fried Dumplings) with Soy-Vinegar Dipping Sauce

The best recipe for Japanese potstickers (aka 'gyoza') I've come across so far is the one by Kenji Lopez-Alt. The filling is the perfect combination of ground pork, cabbage, garlic, ginger, scallions, salt and sugar. Salting and then draining the finely chopped cabbage before adding it to the filling helps to keep the dumplings from getting soggy (soggy = less crispy = not good). Gyoza are different from Chinese pan-fried dumplings (Guo Tie) in that they are smaller in size and have thinner skins. In fact, according to Kenji, using the thinner store-bought wrappers to make gyozas rather than the thicker and larger homemade variety, is absolutely requisite. The following recipe is adapted from Kenji's, which I doubled, using fewer scallions and green cabbage instead of Napa. 

Adapted from Serious Eats "The Best Japanese Pork & Cabbage (Gyoza) Recipe, by Kenji Lopez-Alt:


1 medium had of Napa or Green Cabbage, finely chopped
4 tsp. salt

Filling Ingredients:
2 lbs. ground pork
2 tsp. white pepper
6 cloves finely minced garlic
2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
4 scallions, minced
4 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt

2 pkgs. gyoza wrappers (around 40 wrappers per pkg.)
2 tbsp. grapeseed or vegetable oil
1/2 cup water (if using 12" skillet - use less if pan-frying in a smaller skillet)

Soy-Vinegar Dipping Sauce: 
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. chili oil (Layu)
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 clove garlic, grated
1 green onion, finely minced

Can also use Ponzu Sauce:

Detailed instructions and video on how to make and pleat the dumpling wrappers:

1. Finely chop the cabbage and place in a bowl. Add 4 tsp. of salt and stir to combine (I use my gloved hands for this). Let sit for 15 minutes and then transfer the cabbage to the center of a large dish towel. Twist the towel and squeeze as hard as you can over a bowl or the sink to remove as much liquid as possible. 

2. Place the squeeze-dried cabbage back into a clean bowl and add the filling ingredients. Using your hands, knead the mixture well until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined and starts to feel tacky/sticky. Place a teaspoon-sized amount of the pork mixture to a small microwave-proof bowl and nuke for about 15 seconds or until done. Taste the cooked portion for salt, pepper, sugar and adjust seasonings to the mixture if needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not using immediately. 

3. MAKE THE DUMPLINGS: Set up a workstation with a small bowl of water on the side and a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place one gyoza wrapper on your palm and fill a heaping teaspoon of the pork filling in the center. Using your index finger, moisten the edge of the wrapper with water and fold over into a crescent shape, pleating the edges to seal tight. 

Kenji has an instructive video on his Serious Eats website on how to make and pleat the dumplings:

Place the dumplings on the parchment-lined baking sheet. If not using right away, place the baking sheet into the freezer and freeze for 30 minutes. Place the frozen dumplings into Ziplock-type bags and freeze for future use. 

4. TO COOK: Heat 1-2 tbsp. vegetable oil (I like to use grapeseed oil, which has a high smoking point) over medium heat until very hot. Place as many dumplings into the pan as will fit in a single layer. Swirl the pan occasionally and cook until the bottoms of the dumplings are golden brown (probably takes about 2-3 minutes). Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan and cover tightly. Let steam for 3 minutes (5 minutes if the dumplings are frozen). Remove the lid and continue cooking until all the water has evaporated and the dumplings have crisped again. 

5. TO SERVE: Slide the dumplings onto a serving plate and turn them over so that the crispy bottoms are facing up. Serve with the soy-vinegar dipping sauce, ponzu sauce, or your fav store-bought dumpling sauce. 

Finely chop the cabbage.

Add 4 tsp. of salt to the chopped cabbage and stir to combine (I use my hands for this). Let sit 15 minutes. 

Finely chopped ginger, scallions, and garlic.

After 15 minutes, place the chopped cabbage onto the center of a clean kitchen towel over a bowl. 

Twist the towel and squeeze the cabbage tightly to remove as much liquid as possible. 

Place the squeeze-dried cabbage into a large bowl and add the scallions, ginger, green onion, salt, white pepper, and sugar. 

Add the ground pork and knead the mixture well with your hands until slightly sticky/tacky. 

Place a heaping teaspoon of the filling onto the center of each dumpling wrapper. Using your index finger wet the edges of the wrapper, fold over, and crimp to seal. 

Place the dumplings onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and place the dumplings into the pan in a single layer. Swirl the pan occasionally. 

When the bottoms of the dumplings are golden brown, add 1/2 cup of water and immediately cover the pan. Steam for 3 minutes (5 minutes if the dumplings are frozen). 

Remove the cover and continue cooking the dumplings until all the water has evaporated and the bottoms have re-crisped. 

Some of the dipping sauce ingredients: rice vinegar, soy sauce, chili oil (layu).

Serve the dumplings crispy side up.