Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thai Fried Hardboiled Eggs

If you still have hardboiled eggs leftover from Easter, here’s the perfect way to save them from neglect. It’s not complicated, but it’s so different that you’ve got to try it!

This is a recipe from a Thai cookbook I bought when we were over there. It's one of those things where we looked at the picture and said, “Hmm, deep fried eggs…how can that be bad?” We made them as a snack on Easter, and if we had fried more than just 4 eggs, we would have eaten them all.

They taste just like regular hardboiled eggs - no oil gets inside - except with a warm, crispy outer layer. The cookbook called for a sauce made with tamarind pulp. All I had was tamarind concentrate, which I use in my pad Thai, so I improvised a dip with that, sugar and a splash of fish sauce. I really think any Asian dipping sauce you like would work with these – there are so many ready made sauces you can buy, or whipping one up yourself is just as easy. Tamarind has a very sharp, sour, and citrusy flavor, so try aiming for something sweet and tangy. In this picture, you can see the fried crust better...

Our whole Easter (except dessert, but I'll get to that later) had a Asian theme. While we had the pot full of hot oil going, we decided to make some coconut shrimp (actually, those were all Mike)...

There may have also been some shrimp and pork wontons, but there is no photographic evidence of alleged wontons.

And for breakfast, we had kimchi and rice bowls with eggs. This is our new favorite thing. The Asian grocery store we've been frequenting lately seems to be Korean-owned because they sell huge jars of this fantastic, fresh (as fresh as a condiment made of fermented cabbage could be) kimchi. It's got a good heat level, but not too much for me, and the cabbage is just a little crisp. I love it, and I think Mike could eat it by the pound.

Anyway, I put some in a bowl with brown sushi rice (any rice would be great) and top it with fried eggs - a perfect meal! It was my dinner tonight, actually. So, if you're feeling adventurous, try frying some hardboiled eggs. We did it because we've never seen it before, but it's really good!

Thai Fried Hardboiled Eggs with Tamarind Sauce
Adapted from Authentic Recipes from Thailand by Sven Krauss, Laurent Ganguillet and Vira Sanguanwong

For 4 eggs; make as many as you want.

Canola oil for deep frying
2 large shallots, sliced
4 hardboiled eggs, peeled
chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

For dipping sauce:
3 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce

Thoroughly combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust flavors to your liking - this is not an exact science. Alternatively, use any sweet/tangy dipping sauce.

Using a deep fry thermometer, heat oil about 3 inches deep in a medium saucepan to 350-360 degrees. Try to maintain this temperature as closely as possible the whole time. Fry the shallots until golden; drain on paper towel.

Fry two eggs, turning once or twice, until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining eggs. Slice eggs in half lengthwise and serve with dipping sauce, shallots and cilantro.

A quick note: Mike and I are going to Boston this weekend to celebrate our 2 year wedding anniversary (it was actually March 19th). So, you probably won't be hearing from me until Tuesday, since I'm crazy with trying to finish up a work project before I go.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Carrot Curry Soup and Cornmeal Biscuits

I’ve always been one to favor chunky soups over smooth, creamy purees. Probably because I was afraid the purees contained an unholy amount of actual cream. I’ve recently figured out that this is not the case. Simply pureeing vegetables will give you a thick, satisfying texture with little or no cream.

I’ll just say up front that I love this carrot soup. It is so thick, rich and loaded with curry flavor. It is mostly made of carrots (shocking, I know) simmered with cumin seeds, red curry powder and some potatoes, which provide extra body and creaminess. Once all your veggies are peeled, it’s really easy, too.

I started with a carrot soup recipe from Once Upon a Tart, a cookbook I really like (and have used mostly for scone recipes and this soup). I opted for coconut milk (reduced fat works fine) to give the soup just a little extra creamy oomph and some more Asian flavor. I honestly thought I would need to punch up the seasoning at the end, but the curry and cumin flavor is perfectly assertive and balanced.

Soup demands bread, rolls or biscuits on the side, so I made these cornmeal biscuits from Cooking Light. For a lighter recipe, they worked really well AND you can make them easily in one bowl; you don’t have to bother with a pastry blender either, just work the very cold butter in with your fingers. The only change I made was to use all whole wheat pastry flour instead of half AP, half whole wheat. Also, they needed a good 4 or 5 extra minutes in the oven.

If you’re celebrating Easter today, have fun! I think I’ve made lamb for the past 3 or 4 years, but today we’re cooking all Asian food. As has been customary for the past 3 years, we were awakened at 6:30am by some lunatic in our building who plays Christian rock CD’s excessively loudly (penetrating ear plugs loud) once a year on this day…awesome. And by that I mean, not awesome.

Carrot Curry Soup
Adapted from Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau

I like the flavor and medium-spicy heat level of Spice Islands red curry powder. If you have a very spicy curry powder, use the lower amount.

Serves 4 to 6

1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine (about 2 tablespoons)
1 generous teaspoon cumin seeds
2 to 3 teaspoons red curry powder
2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2 small)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus up to 1 cup additional for thinning soup
1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk (lowfat or regular), divided
2 fat lime wedges, plus additional for serving
chopped cilantro, for garnish

Heat the butter and oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat; add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until very soft and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the ginger, cumin seeds and curry powder; cook for about 3 more minutes, stirring continuously. Add the carrots and potatoes; stir for 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of the chicken broth and 1 cup of the coconut milk. Season again with salt and pepper, as desired. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and cooked, covered, until carrot and potato is very soft, 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and use a hand-held immersion blender to puree soup. You can also do this in batches in a blender. You should have a very thick consistency. Return to low heat and add the remaining coconut milk, reserving about 3 tablespoons for garnish. Add up to 1 additional cup of chicken broth to get the consistency you want. Squeeze in the juice from the 2 lime wedges. Taste and add more salt and pepper or lime juice as needed.

Ladle into bowls and drizzle with coconut milk in a swirl pattern. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cucumber Saketini Recipe

Sake it to me!

That's for Mike, so everyone else, please forgive the cheesiness. The saketini is a drink that's been popping up on trendy cocktail menus, and I think it has a lot going for it:

- It has no connection to an actual martini, aside from being served in a martini glass; so, it won't totally kick your butt like the much stronger gin and vodka varieties.

- It's not an embarrassingly girly color (yes, I'm talking about Cosmos and Sour Apple martinis), so anyone can sip it in public without fear of ridicule.

- The base of the drink is sake, so yum!

Sake is a big thing around our house lately. On Friday afternoon, I stumbled upon a recipe for a Cucumber Lime Saketini and realized that I had all the ingredients at hand. We had the remnants of a bottle of sake that we opened about 6 days prior, and it still tasted good (I love that the stuff keeps longer than wine). I also had a cucumber which I bought for salad, but decided that I really didn't want it in my salad after all. Using that cucumber and having a drink early-ish on Friday afternoon are what motivated me to make (read: get Mike to make) saketinis.

On closer inspection of the recipe I found, we realized it totally would not work. It called for a tiny bit of sake, a LOT of lime juice and too much sugar. This is a great example of my general feelings about all recipes: You need to read them thoughtfully, imagine how they will turn out, and let your own taste and common sense prevail. Sometimes recipes are crummy, or they just aren't what you want...it happens.

So this is our recipe. Still not terribly strong (sake just has a bit more alcohol content than wine), very refreshing, and a better application for cucumber than salad.

Cucumber Saketinis
For afficionados out there, the type of sake we used was Junmai Ginjo, but it should work fine with any dry sake.

Makes 2 drinks

Generous 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped fine
8 ounces dry sake
2 teaspoons sugar
2 juicy lime wedges
2 paper thin slices cucumber, unpeeled, for garnish

Fill two martini glasses with ice and water to quickly chill. Add the cucumber to a cocktail shaker and muddle, as if making a mojito. Add sake and sugar; squeeze in the juice of the two lime wedges. Fill shaker with ice and shake vigorously. If you're not in a rush, let it sit for 1 to 2 minutes. Discard the ice water in your martini glasses. Shake again and strain saketini mixture into glasses. Float a cucumber slice in each drink and enjoy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Irish Potato Chowder Recipe

I am sneaking in one more St. Patty’s Day-inspired recipe. This is what I made to eat with my Irish Soda Biscuits from the previous post. It is a quick, healthy chowder recipe that I modeled after my Corn and Seafood Chowder.

I spent an inordinate amount of time debating what else I should add to this chowder. I originally conceived it as a “vegetable chowder” instead of just focusing on the potatoes. But, the idea was to have an Irish theme, and it doesn’t get more Irish than tender chunks of russet potatoes. Leeks and scallions provide a vegetal counterpoint to all that wonderful starch; a handful of Irish cheddar adds richness and protein; and bacon just makes it all good.

When I told Mike over the phone about making this chowder for myself on Wednesday (he travels for work every week), he said, “You made chowder without me?” in a sweetly pathetic voice. Well, I have to eat too, don’t I? I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the biscuits until the next day. I did save him plenty of leftovers, which are excellent.

Irish Potato Chowder
You can add anything you want to this simple, healthy chowder. Cut back on potatoes a bit and add carrots, parsnips or sweet potatoes, for example. If you don’t have marjoram, use all thyme.

Serves 3 to 4

5 slices bacon
2 large leeks, trimmed of tough outer leaves, sliced lengthwise and chopped in to 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
2 tbs. all-purpose flour
2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups lowfat milk
1 tbs. cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbs. water
2 tsp. white wine vinegar, cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup grated Irish cheddar cheese (about 2 ounces)
5 scallions, thinly sliced

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium-low heat. Drain on paper towels, break into pieces and set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pot. Add the leeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and marjoram; cook one minute, stirring constantly. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Add potatoes and give them a few turns to combine. Add the broth and milk, season again, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in cornstarch mixture to thicken chowder slightly. Stir in vinegar and bacon pieces. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed. Ladle in to bowls and serve topped with cheese and scallions.

Kiss me, I'm giving you some great Irish recipes from other blogs:

Skillet Irish Soda Bread from Smitten Kitchen - I wish I had thought of this!
Irish Buttermilk Scones from Albion Cooks - Super-simple and perfect.
Agnes O'Sullivan's Brown Bread from Tea & Cookies - With whole wheat flour, bran and wheat germ.
Irish Lamb Stew with a Twist from Simply Recipes - This recipe amps up the flavor.
Bailey's Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies from Baking Bites - Reminds me of those days when I drank Bailey's with reckless abandon.

Irish Soda Biscuits and Southeast Asia

Irish Soda Biscuits have absolutely nothing to do with Southeast Asia. But, I do want to tell you about a piece I wrote for NPR.org's Kitchen Window column titled, Food and Longing in Southeast Asia. The story is about how food is essential to an authentic travel experience. AND, there are recipes for Vietnamese Seafood Stew in a Clay Pot, Thai Spicy Shrimp Salad and Greens with Chile and Garlic.

I also did an interview for NPR's food podcast (you can either download it to your MP3 or listen directly from the NPR website). There's a link right at the top of the story. I hope you'll read and listen and let me know what you think!

Well, now. March 17th is right around the corner. The Irish may not have the endless culinary traditions of France, Thailand or Spain, but they've go soda bread. I love the simple whole wheat Irish soda bread based on a recipe from a church cookbook we had when I was a kid. I've mentioned it multiple times, and here's the link again.

This year, I thought about trying a new soda bread recipe. Maybe a jazzier one with raisins, caraway seeds, sugar, multiple eggs...maybe I'd even put it in a loaf pan. But that's not really Irish, ya know? Their food didn't exactly result from living in a land of plenty. The traditional food of Ireland is simple, hearty peasant food, and I'm happy to eat it.

So I decided to adapt my favorite, dead simple recipe to biscuits. I actually didn't change anything but the shape and the baking time, but that's all the change I was up for. These are a perfect companion for soup. And don't forget the sweet Irish butter.

Irish Soda Biscuits

Makes 8 large biscuits

2 c. whole wheat flour (or any combo of whole wheat, whole wheat pastry and Irish style)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
Turbinado or other coarse sugar (granulated works too), for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and honey. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flour mixture. Stir until all the flour is moistened.

Scoop dough onto the prepared baking sheet to make 8 (roughly 2 1/2-inch wide) biscuits. Sprinkle sugar over tops of biscuits. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes (mine took 17), until bottoms are light brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a rack and cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Guinness Brownie Recipe

Another year, another Guinness recipe. This is a great brownie recipe ANY day of the year, but it's perfect for St. Patty's. These brownies do not taste like beer, but you can detect the smoky flavor of stout, which is a dream date for the intense dark chocolate in this recipe. Read on if you're a brownie fan (and who isn't?!) or check out last year's Guinness cupcakes with espresso buttercream (or this Guinness Beef Stew while you're at it).

I've been eating these brownies for a few days now, feeling guilty about not sharing them with you. Last week was so busy with work, and it carried right into the weekend (but don't feel bad for me; work is good news if you're a freelancer). Now that things have calmed down a bit, I can finally get back to my blog!

This is an easy recipe that I found on here on about.com. "About" is not my favorite recipe source, due to a truly awful cookie recipe I tried years ago, but this one looked solid compared to a few of the other Guinness brownie recipes I turned up. Then I saw that one of my favorite bloggers also used it with good results. There is not a lot of sugar in this recipe, so I think the white chocolate is there to add some additional sweetness, and the brownies are definitely sweet enough for me.

I recommend a good quality bittersweet chocolate (I used Lindt 70% cocoa), but I'm sure you could get away with semisweet too. The texture is fudgy, but not in an under-baked sort of way. I think the Guinness imparts a unique bubbly lightness, so these brownies are not as dense and heavy as your typical fudgy brownie. To my surprise, I like them just as much as these peanut butter swirl brownies. Both are rich and chocolatey, but that's where the similarities end. Just give them a try for St. Patty's Day, and you'll see what I mean!

Guinness Brownies
Adapted from About.com and Cookie Madness
I used Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder; Hershey’s or Green & Black’s Organic are two other good brands. I used Lindt 70% cocoa bittersweet chocolate, which I believe is widely available in large, 3.5 ounce bars that cost about $2 each. I have to mention that this is also my favorite everyday eating chocolate. The price makes it a steal, and it’s just as satisfying to me as more expensive brands. For white chocolate, I used a Ghirardelli white chocolate baking bar. I don’t know if they are that different, but I think the bar has superior flavor to the Ghirardelli white chocolate chips, which I think are totally tasteless (but I’m not a fan of white chocolate). Finally, be sure the beer is at room temperature so you don’t bring an unwelcome chill to your other ingredients.
Makes 24 brownies (in a 9 x 13 pan)

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
8 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces high quality white chocolate, chopped
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup Guinness Stout beer, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with nonstick foil (or regular foil coated with nonstick spray); or, use a nonstick pan coated well with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa and salt; set aside.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave: In a medium glass bowl, or other microwave-safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate, white chocolate and butter. Microwave on medium power for 45 seconds and stir. Continue microwaving and stirring at 30 second intervals, reducing to 15 second intervals as the chocolate is nearly melted. Stop just when the chocolate is smooth (all microwaves are different, so take care not to burn it). Set aside.

Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and mix on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add melted chocolate in two additions, beating on medium speed until combined. Add flour mixture in two additions, beating on medium speed until combined. Add one-third of the Guinness and the vanilla and whisk until combined. Repeat two more times with remaining Guinness.

Pour brownie batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over top. Bake for 23 to 27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (mine took exactly 25 minutes). Cool completely in pan, cut into 24 squares and serve. These are excellent eaten within 24 hours (possibly longer; I’m not sure), and they freeze very well.