Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chicken Noodle Curry with Fried Noodle Cakes

This is seriously hands down the best Thai dish I make.  I first tried it a few years ago when I bought my copy of Quick & Easy Thai.  The cover of the book is a picture of this dish.  When I was learning to cook, this dish was intimidating.  The first few times I fried the noodles, I made a giant mess in my kitchen.  I think fire was involved at one point as well. 

I was drawn to the fried noodle cakes, they looked so...professional.  But the star of this dish is the curry broth.  The noodle cakes are simply a sauce-to-mouth vehicle, because this sauce is so good that you'll want to shovel it down in huge quantities.  I make extra sauce and noodle cakes.  The sauce is a great combination of coconut, lime juice, and spicy curry.  The lime juice is absolutely essential if you want this sauce to be amazing.  All of the garnishes work very well with the sauce, especially the shallots, definitely don't omit those. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Green Chicken Curry with Zucchini

I'm still here!  I've made lots of tasty new dishes, but haven't had time to post until now.  I've been camped out on my couch reading the newest installment in my favorite book series, A Song of Ice and Fire.  A Dance with Dragons came out almost six years after the last book in the series; I've been waiting for a long time!  I'm finished reading it now, and can get back to writing about food. 

It's been a long time since I made a curry with coconut milk.  It's not the healthiest thing on earth, but it's soooo good.  This is a green curry with zucchini and chicken thigh meat from Quick & Easy Thai.  Normally, I use boneless skinless chicken breast, even when thigh meat is called for, but this time I decided to do what the recipe asked and use thigh meat.  I did remove the skin and cut off as much of the fat as I could, though.  The verdict: thigh meat is better!

I used to buy the small jar of Thai Kitchen green curry paste at Wegmans, but they stopped carrying it.  So I ended up going to the nearby Korean supermarket and buying the real deal.  My first lesson: the curry paste from the Korean market is significantly more spicy than the stuff I buy at Wegmans!  But, this curry still turned out really well.  It was spicy, but not overly so.  Usually, I make a side of rice to go with my curry, but it slipped my mind to put rice in the rice cooker until I was almost done.

This simple, quick curry is spicy, creamy, and filling.  I love zucchini so I enjoyed the flavor that it added.  The fresh basil adds a nice touch, but next time I'd consider adding some Vietnamese cilantro for a stronger, more lemony flavor. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Harry Potter and the Fabulous Chocolate Frogs

The final Harry Potter movie comes out next week, and it's bittersweet for me.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was published when I was in college, and I haughtily dismissed it as dreck that was aimed at tweens.  And did so until the first movie came out during law school.  One of my classmates wanted to go see it to make sure it was suitable for her kids to watch, and several of us tagged along.  I was highly skeptical.  Coming out of the movie theater, I remember telling my friends how I wanted to read the books right away.  The next day, I went to the bookstore and bought the first four books, Order of the Phoenix hadn't come out yet.  I was converted; I turned into somewhat of a Harry Potter fangirl.  Now, all of the books have been published, and the last movie is coming out in a few days.  As cliched as it sounds, it's the end of an era. 

Thankfully, I have friends with similar interests, and over last weekend, I had them over to watch Deathly Hallows Part 1 before we see Part 2 (at midnight!) when it comes out.  One of the foods that has always amused me in the Harry Potter books are chocolate frogs.  Margaret brought over some frog shaped candy molds and I quickly became obsessed.  Making frog shaped chocolate is remarkably easy.   I nuked a measuring cup full of broken Hershey's milk chocolate bars, poured it into the molds, and froze it for 15-20 minutes.  Then, I repeated with Hershey's dark chocolate.  The result were some adorable chocolate frogs!  Even though I froze them, they got a little melty on the plate.  So, I served them in a Pyrex dish filled with ice and topped with tinfoil to keep them cool.  I guess that once I heated the chocolate, it made it more prone to melting.  I made extra frogs and kept them in the freezer until all of these were eaten.  These were a fun way to eat chocolate.
These might not hop around, but they're still cute!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Caspian Fava Bean Omelet

Or, more accurately, fried eggs amidst fava beans and dill.  That's not a bad thing, but I definitely feel like the description in my new book was a little off.  Maybe my definition of "omelet" is somewhat rigid, I was imagining using beaten eggs.  After actually reading the recipe instead of just skimming the ingredients and thinking, "this contains fava beans and a ton of garlic, awesome!" I realized that I'd basically be pouring four eggs into a pan filled with fava beans, dill, and spices.  I was a little concerned about how this vegetarian dish would turn out. Of all the new types of cooking I've tried recently, Persian seems the most challenging right now.  The ingredients are mostly familiar (except for some spices and fruits that aren't available), but the cooking methods are completely different from anything I'm used to.  So, I was a little apprehensive about cooking this dish.

According to my new cookbook, Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, the Persian name for this dish is "baqala qataq." There are several different ways to spell "baqala qataq," but from my searching, I learned that it's a dish from Gilan, a province along the Caspian sea.  I really wanted to see a picture of how this dish should look, but despite my fearsome google-fu, it took me several minutes to find a picture of what this meal should look like.  Thankfully, my meal looked somewhat like the picture, except that I mauled my eggs.

One thing that I will absolutely do the next time I make this: use fresh fava beans!!  The book specified fresh or frozen fava beans. My grocery store had neither.  So, I bought a 1 lb can of fava beans.  While the dish still turned out well, I think that the canned beans added more salt, and their texture was probably different from the real thing.  I also suspect that canned fava beans don't absorb water as well as fresh or frozen.  And lastly, removing skins from canned fava beans is a huge pain in the butt.  With fresh ones, a few minutes of boiling and they slide right off.  Not so with the canned beans.  I don't recommend them.

I should warn you that this picture is not pretty.  Canned fava beans are beige.  Also, one of my egg yolks broke.  And at the end, I wasn't quite sure if the yolks were done, so I stabbed them a few times with a butter knife.  And my pan was too big.  Despite its homely appearance, this dish tasted quite good!  I love fried eggs, and I'd venture to say that if you like them too, you'd enjoy this dish.  Think of it as fried eggs on top of some tasty sauteed beans with spices.  There is a ginormous amount of garlic in this dish, but its bite is taken out by the long cooking time.  And it's balanced out by 2 cups of dill.  Overall, this is a very flavorful, garlicky, dill-y way to eat fried eggs.  I made the full recipe this time, and it was too much food.  One egg per person is definitely okay, especially when serving this dish with rice and a small salad.
Maybe stabbing the eggs wasn't the best idea ever. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Red Chile Enchiladas with Chicken and Melted Cheese

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that Rick Bayless is my culinary hero.  I love Mexican food, and every single one of his recipes that I've tried has been fantastic.  Especially the salsas.  Because of him,  I have at least five kinds of dried chili peppers in my pantry right now.  Although his cookbook, Mexican Everyday, has a good number of authentic Mexican dishes that look intriguing, I usually end up making tacos or enchiladas because it's an excuse to make salsa or sauce.  These red enchiladas are the more traditional cousin of his red enchiladas with jalapeno tomato sauce

This sauce uses fire roasted tomatoes and guajillo chiles.  You need a really good blender to make sure that there aren't huge chunks of toasted guajillo in your sauce.  Rick Bayless recommends pushing the sauce through a sieve after using the blender.  If your blender is good enough, this isn't necessary.  This sauce isn't very spicy, but it has a great flavor from the guajillos.  You can kick it up a notch by adding some chili powder or cayenne if you're feeling brave.  Although the recommended cheeses for these enchiladas are Mexican melting cheeses such as Chihuahua or quesadilla, I use aged cheddar.  I think the cheddar is much more flavorful.  My cheddar was more on the medium side, I think sharp or extra sharp would be too strong.   To make the filling, the chicken is mixed with some of the sauce before placing it inside the tortilla.  The first few times I made this recipe, I thought the chicken needed something extra.  Now, when I cook it prior to shredding, I sprinkle some adobo seasoning and ancho chile powder on it. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My First Foray into Persian Cooking

I just received my copy of Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies.  I've been intrigued by Persian cooking since I came across a few Persian recipes in a Middle Eastern cookbook.  Main ingredients in Persian cooking include a lot of foods I really enjoy: pistachio nuts, pomegranates, onions, garlic, dried fruits, and fresh herbs.

Instead of starting with something simple, I decided to throw myself in and make pistachio soup and Caspian olive and pomegranate salad.  Realistically, I should have picked just one of these and then accompanied it by something simple.  Instead, I spent a long time in the kitchen.  In the book, the picture of the soup is a nice, light green.  Because pistachios are green, right?  The recipe called for raw pistachios, and I can only get roasted.  So, maybe that's why my soup wasn't green.  Regardless, when I first sat down to eat, Dave and I were extremely skeptical because it didn't look anything like the picture.   The color, was, in fact, kind of off putting.  But, we were wrong to doubt the soup!

The spice mix was perfect, a nice body from the cumin and coriander and just a little kick from the cayenne.  The soup didn't taste like cream of pistachio, instead, it was pistachio with a little garlic, some cumin, and a little bit of sour tang from the orange and lime juices added at the end.  I didn't deviate from the recipe other than to omit the garnish entirely because I can't get barberries without ordering them online.  This soup can be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for for chicken broth.  Even though I was halving the recipe, I added the full amount of garlic, spring onion, and leek, so the recipe below is how I made it.  If you want your soup less leeky, just use half a leek. 
I can't walk from the kitchen to the dining room without sloshing my soup all over the place.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mapo Ramen

Who didn't live on ramen in college?  You could eat ten meals for a dollar, and most of the time it was better than what they were serving in the cafeteria.  My 18 year old self didn't care that I was eating my monthly salt intake in one convenient, microwavable Styrofoam cup.  Technically, my first "cooking" happened while I made ramen in my dorm room during my freshman year of college.  I invented "gourmet ramen," which was a Styrofoam of instant ramen with one packet each of soy sauce and hot mustard from the previous night's Chinese delivery dinner. I think once I went so far as to get some scallions from the salad bar to put on my ramen after I nuked it. 

This ramen is different.  No super salty flavor pack or Styrofoam is involved. Oh, and it also tastes really good.  I've posted before about how much I love mapo tofu.  The same blog that created the awesome mapo tofu recipe I use added one for mapo ramen.  The thing I love about this dish is that it's a soup flavored like the spicy mapo tofu sauce I love so much.  Plus, it has noodles, and you can't go wrong with noodles.  This is enough food for a meal in itself. 


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