Friday, June 13, 2008

Chap Chae - Korean-style clear noodles with vegetables

I'd had Chap chae many times at Korean and Japanese restaurants before I tried to make it myself, and I was delighted to discover how easy it is.

The most difficult part (which is barely difficult) is finding the right noodles. This recipe calls for bean thread noodles, also known as cellophane noodles, glass noodles or mung bean noodles. These can be a bit tricky to find, but I've substituted rice vermicelli and it's still very delicious.
Mung bean and sweet potato starch noodles look a little scary in the package. They're stiff and greyish purple, but trust me, they're delicious (and see-through!)

For the Sauce:
1/4 cup low salt soy sauce (or regular soy mixed with a little water)
1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 cloves chopped garlic
For the rest:
1/2 package bean thread noodles
1/2 tbsp sesame or vegetable oil for the pan
1/2 an onion, sliced
1/4 block of medium firm or firm tofu, sliced into strips
And a handful each of thinly sliced zucchini, carrots, pepper, snap peas, mushrooms, or any other vegetable you feel would be delicious in this mix.

Chop the garlic and combine all ingredients in a food processor. Process until blended.
Meanwhile, prepare the noodles according to the package directions. Mine had to sit in boiled water for 10 minutes.

Next, sautee the harder chopped vegetables (onion and carrot) and the tofu in oil until tender. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for another couple of minutes.

After all of the vegetables are done and the noodles are cooked, drain the noodles and add the noodles and sauce to the pan, stirring.

Stir everything together and continue cooking until it has combined and most of the sauce has been absorbed. I like to eat a bit when it's hot and a little later when it is room temperature. I've usually had it served cool, and the flavours are stronger when it's had a chance to settle.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Squash Gnocchi with OliveTomato Sauce

I love squash. Like, a 'let's move in together and star planning for our future' kind of love. I have tried to sneak it into a few recipes with varying degrees of success. This one was bang on.
I found a basic gnocchi recipe in 'The Joy of Cooking" and substituted mashed Kabocha squash for the potatoes.

1 1/2 c smoothly mashed cooked squash, cooled
1 cup (and a bit) of flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice or nutmeg
Combine all of the ingredients and stir. Turn out onto a cutting board and knead until smooth (it took me about 2 or 3 minutes.
Roll the dough into long ropes about an inch around. Then cut into half-inch pillow shapes.

Roll each pillow towards you with the back of your fork. You should create little grooves. This might be to allow for more thorough cooking, it might be to give them a uniform shape, whatever it is, this is how Nonna showed me, and so it's how I do it.

It would be nice to serve these with a butter or white sauce to show off their nice orange colour, but I made do with what I had on hand and made a sauce with leftover deli olives.

1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, halved
a handful of pitted olives, chopped
a couple of inches of celery diced
1/4 onion, diced
3 basil leaves, roughly torn
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
a shake of crushed dried chiles

Easy peasy. Sautee everything but the tomatoes and basil until things start to soften and get a little brown. Then add tomatoes and basil and simmer, stirring often, until it reduces to a 'saucy' consistency.

To cook the Gnocchi: Drop gently in boiling salted water. Stir gently. They're done when they float to the top.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Thai Green Curry

I searched for the simplest recipe for Thai Green Curry that I could find. I didn't want to buy too many 'one use' ingredients, and I was generally satisfied with the results.
Two problems I had with this recipe: first, for the paste, I needed to find Thai Basil. I went to Chinatown and picked what I thought was it. Then I asked the employee in the grocery store "Basil?"
and she replied "Basil."

It was mint.

So an extra trip to the grocery store was required. And now I have some mint that, hopefully, isn't destined for the trash.

Here's the recipe in case I lose it:
The ingredients:
For the paste : Makes about 1 cup
Hot green peppers: 5 ( I used serrano pepper)
Shallot: 1, chopped
Garlic: 2 pods
Lemon grass: 2 stalks
Galangal: Thumb-size piece (you can use ginger)
Green lime: 2
Cilantro: 1 cup, chopped
Thai basil: 6 leaves
Roasted coriander : 1 1/2 tsp
Roasted cumin : 1 tsp
White or black pepper powder: 1 tsp
Oil: 2 tblsp

This is what the past looks like in the food processor. Chop everything up, using only the soft insides of the lemongrass, and then blend until it's pasty. Don't forget the oil. I did at first, and it wasn't easy going.

For the Curry:
Coconut Milk : 1 can
Thai green curry paste: 3-4 tblsp
Pumpkin : 1 1/2 cups, cut in thick strips
Carrot: 1, cut in thick strips
Zucchini: 1, cut in thick strips
Snap Peas: a handful. Add them at the end so that they stay crisp.
Salt : 1 tsp (or to taste)
Inari: A handful, squeezed, rinsed repeatedly and drained. These are the tofu pockets that are usually filled with sushi rice, and are a good substitute for fried tofu if you don't like to fry (or if you're cooking during a heat wave like I was)
Next time I'd like to put in cauliflower and perhaps skip the pumpkin.

The curry was looking good, bubbling away. And then the pumpkin started to fall apart, and the curry went from a pale grey-green to a shocking orange. It also began to thicken up, and took on a grainy, pumpkin-y texture that I wasn't overly fond of.

This is the end result.
Verdict: Delicious. A bit too thick (no pumpkin next time) and not quite hot enough (next time use 4-5 hot green peppers)
Notes: This requires a few ingredients that come in bunches that I normally don't have a use for. Perhaps the next time I make this I will also make a Mexican or Indian recipe the same week to use up the leftover lime, cilantro and hot peppers.
Otherwise, a success.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

My First Post

I hope that this will be a place to put my recipes and food experiments.