Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Asian Lettuce Wraps



Filling:
1 head bib or iceberg lettuce or any lettuce that will hold up as a wrap
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 medium carrot
6 medium button mushrooms
1 small zucchini
one can water chestnuts
2-3 green onions
1/4 cut chopped peanuts
peanut oil
sesame oil

Sauce
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1.5 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1 teaspoon pepper flakes, if you like it hotter.

dice the chicken into small (1/8th inch) cubes, place in a bowl and add a few dashes of soy sauce, a tablespoon of corn starch, stir and set aside. cut the carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, and water chestnuts into little cubes and put each in its own little bowl. Cut the green onion into little rounds like you would for any other Asian dish... you know just slice it and set aside.

mix all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Carefully pull the leaves off the head of lettuce and wash in cold water. dry the lettuce leaves and store in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that cold lettuce is crunchy and the filling will be hot and you looking for the contrast. I think keeping the lettuce very cold and adding the filling just before eating will give the best results.

Place a heavy bottomed pan or wok over high heat for about a minutes add about 2 to 3 tablespoons peanut oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil and let it heat until the oil starts to ripple. Add in half of the chicken quickly stir it around and once it is browned all over remove and set aside in a clean bowl. Repeat with second half of chicken. Add another tablespoon of peanut oil and a tablespoon of sesame oil into the hot empty pan and add the carrots. cook stirring for about a minute then add the mushrooms, cook for another minute to 2 minutes and then add the zucchini and water chestnuts then add in the cooked chicken and sauce and cook for about 30 seconds to a minute or until the sauce thickens a little add the green onion and peanuts and serve.

This dish was a huge hit with the family. it was a little difficult to get the kids to try it because they thought it looked bad. But once they took a bite they could not get enough. Next time I make it I will have to double the batch.

if you would like to keep this vegetarian I think that little cubes of tofu could easily replace the chicken and I do plan to try it that way next week when I make this dish again. I am also thinking celery would be a nice element too.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Introducing The Daring Cooks










May is the month for the introduction of the Daring Cooks, a spin off of the long loved Daring Bakers. I have been participating with the Daring Bakers Challenges for almost 2 years now and can not convey how excited I was when the Daring Cooks Challenge was announced. Now I had the Daring Cook Challenge to do with my son (who is now almost 4) and the Daring Baker Challenges to do with my daughter, she was the reason for joining in the first place.

The first challenge for this new category was ricotta gnocchi. How perfect was that with gnocchi being one of my son's favorite foods ever.

This Challenge took place while visiting my parents in Michigan. I was so very lucky to have the oppertunity to visit Michigan right in the middle of Morel season and I did find myself a nice little collection of the wonderful mushroom and decided that I would make a morel cream sauce for the little clouds of gnocchi that I was to create. I also made a red sauce for my son, the only way he eats his gnocchi.

First I made the ricotta gnocchi from the recipe chosen by Ivonne and Lis from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook called Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi and the recipe is as follows...

For the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.

If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough

To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.

Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.

Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.

Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.

Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).

Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.

In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep.

With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.

At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.

Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.

If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.

Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them.

Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.

You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.

Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside.

In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.

Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).

With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently place in your sauce of choice.

For the Morel Sage Cream Sauce...

Clean 15 to 20 morels and cut morels into halfs or quarters, depending on their size.

In a Sauce pan melt 1 tablespoon butter, add morels and 15 fresh sage leaves saute for a few moments, add in 1 tablespoon flour and cook until the flour smells nutty. Add in 1 cup cream, cook stirring until sauce bubbles and thickens. season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fresh Squeezed

~Orange Juice~One of our family favorites and one of the great things about living in Mexico.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

MMMMMMMM Pudding?

I have never really made pudding before. I have made custards but not pudding. I thought it was high time I gave it a try. I can't remember what recipes I picked to base my pudding off of because I think I read 50 recipes before making the pudding.

3 large egg yolks, beaten lightly
3 cups milk
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 oz. dark chocolate, cut into small pieces

Place egg yolks in a bowl and beat, set aside.
Add milk, coco, sugar, cornstarch and salt to a sauce pan and bring to a boil, string contently to be sure it is smooth. Once mixtures thickens remove from heat and temper the egg yolks and add to the pan and return to heat. Continue cooking over medium heat until the mixture gets even thicker (about 5 minutes I think) Remove from heat stir in vanilla and chocolate pieces. Stir until all melted and pour pudding into containers and chill for 4 hours or over night.
This pudding was good pudding but the kids did not like it (they are odd I know) but the neighbor who is a chocolate pudding fan thought it was very good so I guess it was a winner and now I know that our family is not a pudding family...we are for sure a lemon curd family!