Friday, March 30, 2012

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

I didn't expect to love this soup so much, but it kind of blew me away. The flavors were so fresh and bold. It was so good that for a brief moment, I could close my eyes and pretend I was at a Thai restaurant, a very casual one where I get to wear my Homer Simpson slippers. This soup had just the right amount of heat for me too (which means if you like things really spicy, you should probably pump up the volume when you make it). Of course it helped that I avoided actually swallowing any of the hot pepper pieces. So if you eat those, you'll be in business (I, on the other hand, would be filing bankruptcy on behalf of my aching tongue).

Serves 6

2 (14 oz.) cans light unsweetened coconut milk
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
3 stalks lemongrass, cut in half vertically and then into 4- to 5-inch pieces
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 serrano chili (or other hot pepper), sliced into rounds
1 tablespoon jaggery/coconut palm sugar (can substitute brown sugar)
2 teaspoons chili sauce (such as sambal or sriracha)
8 skinless boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup thinly sliced Thai basil (or basil)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1.      Combine coconut milk, broth, mushrooms, lemongrass, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, hot pepper, palm sugar and chili sauce in large saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors.
2.      Add chicken; simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
3.      Mix in green onions, basil and lime juice.
4.      Remove lemongrass before serving (or tell your guests not to eat it).

adapted from Bon Appétit, June 1998

Occasionally I see this at my supermarket, but I'm lucky
enough to live near a little produce store that sells a lot of
Asian and Latin ingredients. Their lemongrass is always
better than what they sell at the grocery store.
I chopped mine about 2"-3", but I recommend
chopping it 4"-5" (just to make it easier to remove).
ginger and jalapeño pepper (I couldn't find a serrano)
I was scared if I cut my pepper into rings and kept the
seeds/membranes, the soup would be too spicy for me.
So instead of rings, I just cut mine into large pieces.
adding fish sauce to coconut milk, lemongrass, garlic and ginger
mushrooms, sambal and hot pepper added

The mushrooms could have been sliced thinner, but I
bought them already sliced and wasn't about to try to slice the
slices thinner (I might as well stick my fingers in the paper
shredder and be done with it). I know I added the broth too,
but I think I forgot to take a photo of that.
I found this in the international section of my supermarket.
adding the jaggery
slicing the chicken

I could have sliced the chicken thinner
too, but it's hard (that stuff is slippery).
I bet this soup would taste good with tofu too.
adding the chicken (most of it sank)
chopping scallions
lime and basil leaves
adding the scallions
basil and lime juice added
 mixed and ready

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Baked Goat Cheese with Caramelized Onion, Garlic & Mission Figs

This spread is full of flavors I love, so it's no surprise that I enjoyed it a lot. But I should warn you, it's ugly as hell (actually, these photos don't do its hideousness justice; it's way more objectionable in person). So if you're entertaining and trying to impress, you should probably go in another direction. But if you don't mind underwhelming the crowd, then go for it. Once they taste it, they'll appreciate its inner beauty (my mom used to tell me guys would appreciate mine, but so far no dude has ever complimented me on my stunning personality).

Yield: 20 servings

2 (11-12 oz.) logs goat cheese
14 dried Mission figs (1 cup), finely chopped
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large Spanish onions, finely chopped
10 garlic cloves, crushed
3 rosemary sprigs
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper

1 baguette, sliced (for dipping)
3 ripe pears, sliced (for dipping)

1.      Preheat oven to 350º F.
2.      Crumble the goat cheese into an oven safe dish and set aside.
3.      In a sauce pot combine the figs and sherry with enough water to barely cover the figs. Place the sauce pot over high heat and bring up to a bubble, cover and remove from the heat and let the figs plump while the onions are cooking.
4.      Pour the olive oil into a large skillet and place over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
5.      Using a slotted spoon remove the plumped figs from the sauce pot, leaving behind any of the liquid. Add the figs to the cooked onions, stir to combine and then spoon over the goat cheese. Place the dish into the top half of the oven for 20 minutes, until the edges begin to bubble.
6.      Remove and serve immediately with sliced baguettes.

barely adapted from Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh
crumbling the goat cheese into the baking dish
mission figs
adding sherry to the chopped figs
onion, garlic, rosemary, salt & pepper
I want to say golden, but the rosemary
turned the onion more of a light green.
I removed the rosemary so it wouldn't be too
overpowering. It still had a very strong (and wonderful)
rosemary flavor, so I recommend doing that.
adding the cooked figs
all mixed
putting the fig/onion mixture over the goat cheese
ready to bake
nice, warm baked goat cheese with
caramelized onion, garlic and mission figs
served on a juicy pear slice

Monday, March 26, 2012

Curried Red Lentil and Swiss Chard Stew with Garbanzo Beans

Whenever I see a big, beautiful bunch of greens, they call out to me. What I hear is something along the lines of: Buy me. We're gorgeous and good for you. Eat us and you'll feel great. But I wish they would say something like: Run away! You hate bitter greens. Buy broccoli before it's too late. Obviously this bunch of Swiss chard didn't warn me and ended up in the cart. So I surrounded the chard with a bunch of other stuff I like, so I wouldn't mind the bitterness. It was a delicious plan. Just like when you invite over some buffers so you don't have to be alone with someone you can't stand. Now you know how to handle me when I get old and bitter (the next phase after middle-aged and sarcastic).

Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
6 cups (48 oz.) vegetable broth or chicken broth
2 bunches Swiss chard, tough stalks removed and coarsely chopped (about 13-15 cups)
1 lb. red lentils (about 2 1/4 cups)
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
plain yogurt (optional)

1.      Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until golden, about 13 minutes.
2.      Mix in garlic, curry, garam masala, and cayenne; stir for 30 seconds. Stir in the chard and cook until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes.
3.      Add the broth, increase the heat and bring to boil. Add lentils and garbanzos; reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer until lentils are tender, stirring twice, about 10 minutes.
4.      Divide stew among bowls. Top with yogurt if desired.

slightly adapted from Bon Appétit, December 2005
beautiful red swiss chard

I actually do like bitter greens, just not in a big pile on their
own (for me, they take on more of a supporting actor role).
onions in the pot
onions golden
adding the garlic and spices
adding the chard
chard wilting
adding vegetable broth
adding lentils and garbanzos
served with yogurt

If you're wondering why the color is so different from
the pot to the bowl, it's just the lighting in my kitchen.
It's dark by my stove, but the kitchen table is bright
and sunny, right next to glass sliding doors.

I don't think I bothered to mention this
before, but this stew is really good!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bieber Fever Wonton Skeevers (Nutella Banana Dumplings)

One day my daughter asked me why she didn't have anything with Justin Bieber on it. And not in a fun, lighthearted way either. She was genuinely irritated at the lack of JB merchandise in the house. I think I replied "why would you have anything with Justin Bieber on it?" Then, while she glared at me, I asked "do you even know who Justin Bieber is?" To her credit, she did. She even started singing that song baby. Which she still sings frequently, crowbarring it into my head. And for that, Biebs should rot in hell (what? - he's 18 now - all bets are off). So when she needed a new folder for school, I got her a JB folder, which I figured was harmless enough. When I surprised her with it, she hugged and kissed it and said she was going to marry JB. When I told her he was dating Selena Gomez, she was undeterred (let's hope that's not the start of a pattern). Since then she's developed a pretty acute case of Bieber fever (not to be confused with a cute case, although kissing her folder was a little cute).

Biebs tasting a Bieber fever wonton skeever.
Fun fact: JB's favorite food is spaghetti.
Eh - it's actually not all that fun.
Fast forward a few weeks...I had wonton wrappers leftover from making pork potstickers, so I thought it would be tasty to make a dessert dumpling. I asked Maddie what we should call them and big shock, she said we should name them after Justin Beiber. Then when I told my husband I was putting banana in there, he was reminded of the aebleskivers we made. So we tacked on the skiver (but spelled it so people would rhyme it with fever). And that's my way too long explanation of the inception of the Bieber Fever Wonton Skeever. Sorry about the two minutes of your life that you'll never get back.

(Nutella Banana Dumplings)
Yield: 24

24 square wonton wrappers
1/2 cup nutella, or as needed
2 large (ripe) bananas, each sliced into 12 rounds
coconut oil (or canola oil or other no-taste oil) as needed
1/4 cup cinnamon-sugar, or as needed

1.      Lay a few wonton wrappers out on a dry surface; keep remaining wrappers covered. Place roughly a teaspoon of nutella in the center of each square. Top nutella dollops with banana slices (or you can do it the other way around, banana then nutella).
2.      Keep a small bowl of water next to you for moistening your fingertips. Using a wet finger, moisten the border of each wonton square. Fold one corner into the center, then fold in the opposite corner. Then fold the remaining two corners in (sealing with water as you go). Pinch any openings so all edges are sealed. Continue with the remaining wontons and filling, setting the folded ones on a large plate or parchment lined baking sheet.
3.      Heat a large nonstick skillet with about 1/4” oil over high heat. Pan fry the dumplings until golden on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
4.      Drain hot dumplings on paper towels and roll each dumpling in the cinnamon-sugar while still hot.
5.      Allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Serve warm.
putting the nutella in a ziploc bag

Piping it was way easier than using a spoon. When you're doing
this alone, do yourself a favor and use a glass to hold the bag.
sliced banana
piping nutella on a banana slice (on a wonton wrapper)
two corners folded in
three corners folded in
four corners folded in (of course now,
you've got yourself four new corners)
pinching the new corners so the filling doesn't ooze out
I also made some into triangles and then
folded in those corners to make this shape.
pan frying
ready to be sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar
adding cinnamon to sugar

I didn't measure, but if I had to guess,
I would say I used between 1/4 to 1/2
teaspoon per 1/4 cup (I like it very cinnamony).
cinnamon sugar mixed

Don't wait until your dumplings are cooked 

to mix the cinnamon-sugar (it should be ready
while the dumplings are still hot).
sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar

Next time, instead of sprinkling, I would roll the hot
dumplings in a bowl of cinnamon-sugar so more
of it sticks (I already updated that in the recipe).
the sweet, warm, gooey good!