Saturday, March 31, 2012

Poached egg nests

I love soft-boiled eggs, or, more specifically, the just-underdone whites of an egg. (With salmonella being a very real but very remote danger of jiggly eggs, and restaurants having an aversion to serving them that way, I'd never eaten one that way until I accidentally underdid a pot of hard-boiled eggs.) I also found out that's how poached eggs have traditionally been cooked. Amanda nor Corin likes eggs, so I don't make them often, but when I do I like to poach up an egg.

This particular recipe is the result of wanting to add something to accentuate the egg, and getting a little bit cheeky: a "nest" made of strips of baked spring roll wrapper.

1 sheet unfrozen spring roll wrapper (I like O'Tasty brand)
2 eggs
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
optional: ham strips, béarnaise sauce

1) Very lightly butter the spring roll shell, then cut into strips using a pizza cutter.

2) Make two nests on a cookie sheet by peeling apart the strips and then bunching them together.

3) Broil in the oven for 1-3 minutes until the tops turn brown (they go black quickly, so watch them carefully).

4) To poach your eggs, bring a small saucepan filled with water, vinegar, and salt to a rapid boil, reduce heat to a strong simmer, and then crack your two eggs directly into the hot water.

5) Watch the eggs closely, and in 2-4 minutes when the top has almost but not quite closed over, use a slotted spoon to remove the egg, draining the water off before placing each on a nest.

6) Salt to taste and eat immediately.

Optional: You can easily turn these into eggs benedict nests by adding warmed strips of canadian bacon or ham to the nests, and spooning some béarnaise sauce on top of the egg.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saucy tender-pork stir fry

I'm still extremely new to cooking meat in raw form. (Aside from frozen hamburger patties, crumbled bacon, and cured Italian meats, I have tended away from most meat in my home cooking.) But after I fell for pork ribs last year, and then cooked actual turkey for the first time last Thanksgiving, I started looking for more meaty recipes I'd enjoy.

My favorite meat dish growing up was a flanksteak stir-fry my mom makes; the meat is tender and juicy the way she prepares it. So I dug out the recipe card and tried it using some pork chop meat that I got on sale, and it worked just as well — as succulent as I remember. Here's my version:

12-14 oz pork chop strips (1/4 - 1/2" thick)

1 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp water
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp teriyaki sauce
1 tbsp white wine
1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp peanut oil

another 2 tbsp peanut oil

1 1/2 cups brown rice (cooked volume)

6 oz broccoli florets
3 oz carrots, sliced
3 oz snow peas
(I use the 12 oz bag of pre-cut sitr-fry vegetables from Safeway to save time)

1/2 medium sweet onion, chunked
2/3 cup cashews

1/3 cup mushroom oyster sauce

1) Stir together the marinade ingredients, then add the pork. Let soak for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so in case the corn starch settles to the bottom. Just before cooking you'll add the 1 tbsp oil and stir well.

2) Cook your brown rice. (Assuming you're using an instant rice; otherwise you'll need to do this step first.)

3) Heat a dutch oven on medium-high heat, adding the 2 tbsp oil and waiting for it to start popping slightly. Add the meat and marinade mixture and stir constantly as the pork cooks, until you don't see any more pink on the outsides. (The insides may have a little pink still, but will cook through as the vegetables steam.)

A quick note here on stir fries: Traditionally these are cooked in a wok, but woks are not made to cook on a flat stove, but rather sit inside a hole where it's being blasted by flame from all angles, making the entire surface hot enough to cook. This allows you to cook everything very quickly while pushing it around. If you use a wok on a flat stove, usually only the bottom (which is small) gets really hot, and it's of no real advantage. Using a large-bottomed dutch oven on your biggest burner gives you the most super-hot surface area you'll get on a flat stove, I've found, even if it isn't even close to as quick as a real wok stir fry.

4) Reduce heat to medium. Add the vegetables, onions, and cashews to the pork, then drizzle on the mushroom oyster sauce (regular oyster sauce would of course work as well, but I'm addicted to Wan Ja Shan brand vegetarian oyster sauce). Stir, then cover, steaming vegetables for 5-7 minutes.

5) Add in the rice, stir again, and it's ready to serve. Makes enough for 4-6 people.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Smooth Sabra-style hummus

I used to make my own hummus at home several years ago, before I discovered Sabra brand hummus at the store. It was so much creamier and smoother and richer than mine. However, it can be rather expensive, and I decided to look on the internet to see if anyone had approximated that texture at home, since the brand has many dedicated fans. After combining different ideas and approaches and working on my own flavorings, I've found a recipe I can't help but eat and eat.

1 15.5 oz can of garbanzo beans
1/4 cup almond butter (I'm sure you could use the classic tahini, too)
3 tbsp lemon juice (juice from 1 medium lemon)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water
1 rounded tsp finely diced kalamata olives
1 clove garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp chipotle Tabasco sauce
1 rounded tbsp finely diced kalamata olives

(My favorite olives are Mezzetta brand pitted kalamata marinated in Napa Valley cabernet, which have a slightly more wine-y and more subtle vinegar flavor than your standard option.)

1) Open can of garbanzo beans and cover with a half-inch of water in saucepan. Boil for 20 minutes. This is the first key to smooth hummus, as garbanzo beans are canned to have a crunch (for salads and such), and need to be further tenderized for blending.

2) Add the almond butter and lemon juice in the blender, and blend just these two ingredients first. This is the other key, which is to get the almond butter almost whipped in texture.

3) Add the olive oil, water, 1 tsp olives, salt, cumin, garlic, and Tabasco, and blend again. At this point the mixture should be rather liquid and flow smoothly.

4) Add half of the boiled garbanzo beans, stir into the mixture with a knife (with the blender NOT on the base, just to be safe), and then blend well.

5) Add the remaining half of the beans, stirring them into the mixture first, and then blending well. At the point the mixture should be thick but still move slowly in the blender. (If it's too thick and it's only blending at the bottom, add some more water.)

6) Just a note: I wouldn't recommend doubling this recipe, as a single recipe fills the blender halfway and I'm not sure the vortex of the blades would work on a mixture any higher. If you want to make a lot for a party or many guests, my recommendation would be to do it in batches.

7) Spoon mixture into bowl (getting as much as you feel comfortable scraping out around the blender blades), and then add the rounded tablespoon of kalamata olives and stir. If you can convince yourself to wait, chill for an hour or two for best taste. I very often dig right in!

Alternate flavoring option:
Substitute canned diced tomatoes, crushed into small pieces with your fingers, for the olives in both instances. This makes for a lighter, sweeter flavor that I like equally well. If you're having a party, make both!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pastrami-cilantro deli sandwich

I recently fell in love with reuben sandwiches, and attempted to make my own at home for cheaper. It can be hard to find corned beef at a decent price, though, and after making my own brisket and failing at it, I started substituting the cheaper pastrami. I also used sourdough instead of the traditional rye, since I found more uses for the rest of the loaf. But where I finally departed from the reuben and made my own sandwich was adding a layer of crunchy cilantro, and then dropping the sauerkraut to let it shine. Not as classic as a reuben perhaps, but a new family favorite definitely.

Ingredients (for four sandwiches):
1 round loaf sourdough bread
irish cheddar
thousand island dressing
1 bunch cilantro
8 oz package Hillshire Farms pastrami

1) Using a bread knife, cut eight slices from the center of the loaf. Toast all slices in toaster oven on low.

2) Slice irish cheddar cheese thinly and cover four slices with cheese. Toast again, using toaster oven tray to catch any cheese drips.

3) Lightly butter the four other slices, and place in oven under broiler until crispy.

4) Turn oven the crispy slices and add a layer of thousand island dressing.

5) Add generous layer of cilantro.

6) Heat the pastrami in the microwave for 90 seconds and add a 2 oz layer on top of the cilantro.

7) Place the cheesy slice on top of the pastrami, the lightly butter the top.

8) Broil until just crispy on top, then slice in two and serve!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cashew coconut oat cookies

It had been suggested to us to add flaxseed meal to some of our baked goods for Corin's sake, and I decided to take it a step further and emphasize the nutty, grainy flavor by adding cashews and oats, then livened things up with some ginger and coconut. (This took about ten different attempts to find the right balance between the ingredients, until I finally found what I wanted.)

You can make these with or without chocolate chips depending on if you want them granola-healthy or as more of a treat. (Corin won't eat them with chocolate chips, believe it or not.)

1/2 cup salted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill flaxseed meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup coarsely ground cashews
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

1) Mix together butter and brown sugar in a medium mixing bowl using a fork. Add egg and vanilla and mix again. Add the flours, flax seed, baking soda, salt, and ginger, shake bowl a little to combine the dry ingredients, and then mix together with fork.

2) Add ground cashews, oats, coconut, and chocolate chips, and mix again. (You might have to forgo the fork and use your hands as there are a lot of chunky ingredients here.)

3) Preheat the oven to 375°. Spoon rounded tablespoonfuls onto two baking sheets. (Recipe will make about 20 cookies.)

4) Press cookies flat, about as thick as the chocolate chips if you're using them.

5) Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes until browned at edges.

6) Cool for 5-10 minutes and enjoy warm with a glass of cold milk. (They store well in ziplock bags, too, of course, for any leftovers!)