Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Tag: recipe

Good Eats Returns!

It’s been a long while since I last posted. Life just took over! But I’ve missed blogging for a few reasons:

  • it helps keep me writing
  • I can document places I’ve been, food I’ve eaten and cooked, books I’ve read, thoughts I’ve had
  • it’s a good space for reflection

So I’ll start up where I left off, with some food and some travels.

Thanksgiving 2014 has come and gone, but not without some great eating! One highlight of this past few days of cooking and eating was having Dungeness crab, Vietnamese style. (At least, I think it’s Vietnamese style – the recipe comes from my Vietnamese friend!) It’s Dungeness crab season in the Bay area, and I hope to take full advantage of it.

Having grown up in Maryland, I’m still partial to Maryland blue crabs; but I’m learning to love Dungeness crabs, too, which isn’t very hard!

We got two big crabs for $6.99/ pound at 99 Ranch, the big Chinese supermarket out here. And then we used this video to kill the crab as humanely as possible. One adjustment to this video was that we left the crabs in the freezer for more like 30-40 minutes. I think even an hour would have been better. This was another good supplemental video that was helpful.

So here’s the recipe from my friend that we used:

Ingredients

  • 4 dungeness crabs = 6 pounds
  • two fist size knobs of ginger
  • two heads of garlic (small or medium size)
  • two bunches of scallions
  • 2-3 tsp fish sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar

Dungeness crab ingredients

Preparation

  1. Crabs – take off the shell.  Put the innards into a bowl (keep!!)  Cut up the body part into halves or quarters.  Keep all parts for cooking.
  2. Ginger – cut into 2 inch matchsticks
  3. Garlic – rough mince
  4. Scallions – 2 inch chop

Cooking

  1. Use big pot (wide bottom is better) with a lid.
  2. Heat oil.  Add garlic and ginger.  Saute for a minute or two.
  3. Add crab pieces.  Cook for a minute or two.
  4. Add fish sauce and sugar (may need to add more – taste the broth that develops from all the ingredients).  Toss crab to coat with developing sauce.
  5. Add crab innards.  Cook a few minutes, tossing if possible.
  6. Add scallions.  Turn heat down to medium.
  7. Cover with lid.  Check every so often, toss to makes sure all crab pieces get flavoring.
  8. Total cooking – 7-10 minutes, check that meat turns white.  Don’t overcook!

IMG_6886

We made the recipe with two crabs, and that would have been enough to feed three people, probably. Super simple and easy – the hardest was probably butchering the crab, but luckily I got someone else to do that (thanks, D!).

It’s good to have a filler to go with this since not everyone can eat enough crabs to fill themselves up, so I made some kimchee-bacon fried rice. I don’t really have a recipe for this, but I’ll write a narrative description here:

  1. Chop up well-fermented kimchee, bacon, and anything else you want to throw into the fried rice.
  2. Cook up the bacon to get it crisp.
  3. Add the chopped up kimchee with some kimchee juice and cook that up until the kimchee has wilted pretty well. Add some sugar, sesame oil, and soy sauce for some extra flavor.
  4. Add day-old rice. Stir it all around.
  5. Add an egg or two and stir well.
  6. Serve!

IMG_6887

Good post-Thanksgiving eats!

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Time for Some Biscotti

For many years now, I’ve been making a double batch of biscotti to give away as Christmas gifts to co-workers and friends.  I think it comes from a combination of anti-Christmas-commercialism and the fear of going shopping among the crowds and a little bit of laziness that has made me do this kind of gift-giving.  Also, I think my adult friends and family all have what they need or want, and I don’t know what to get anyone anymore.

Anyways, this is the best biscotti I’ve ever had in my life.  Hands down.  I was introduced to it by my dear friend in college.  Her mother would bake a batch and send it to her, and I was one of the lucky friends who got to have some!  We’d have morning coffee on Sundays, I’d supply the coffee with my trusty little Gevalia coffeemaker (illegally stashed in my closet along with my illegal rice cooker, hot water heater, candles, and toaster oven!) and she would supply the delicious almond-y treats.  Many a chilly Sunday morning was spent gossiping about the weekend’s goings-on and savoring the crunchy biscuits dipped in coffee.  One of my favorite college memories.

I finally got the recipe at some point.  Maybe this was after college, when I was missing the biscotti, not having been able to find its match in any store. Biscotti that I’ve bought is often like hard-dried bread.  And it’s not so tasty.  I don’t know what it is in this recipe – maybe the prominence of the almonds, the bit of cakey-ness that makes it not so dry.  It’s perfect with a hot cup of coffee or even warm milk.

So here’s the recipe.  Thanks for sharing, Mama H!

photo (1)

(double recipe amounts in parentheses)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup butter (2/3 cup)
  • 2 cup flour (4 cup)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (1 1/3 cup)
  • 2 eggs (4 eggs)
  • 2 tsp baking powder (4 tsp)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (2 tsp)
  • 1 1/2 cup almonds or hazelnuts, finely chopped (3 cup)
  • Glaze:
    • 1 cup chocolate chips (2 cup)
    • 1 tbsp shortening (2 tbsp)
    • Heat in small pan, low heat.  Stir till smooth.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Beat butter till softened.
  3. Add 1 cup of flour.  Add sugar, eggs, baking powder, and vanilla. Mix well.
  4. Stir in remaining cup of flour and nuts.  Mix well.  Resulting mixture should be a like a sticky dough.
  5. Divide dough in half.  Shape each portion into a tightly packed log (about 9″ x 2″).
  6. Place logs about 4″ apart on lightly greased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
  8. Cool logs on rack for about 30 minutes.  Drop oven temp to 325 degrees.
  9. Cut each log on slight diagonal with serrated knife into 1/2 inch pieces.
  10. Lay slices on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 325 degrees for 8 minutes.
  11. Turn slices over and bake another 8-10 minutes.10.  Cool slices on rack.  While cooling, prepare chocolate glaze.
  12. Dip cookies into glaze.  Let set.
  13. ENJOY!

So pass this recipe on!  It’s a little labor intensive, but SO worth it.  And my photo above shows the double batch yield.  Happy holidays!

Quick Chinese Noodle Dish

This is a dish I learned from a friend years ago.  Well, learned it in the way I like to learn my meals– by watching and asking, “what’s in this?”  So it’s not exactly as she makes it, but it fits my taste preferences.  Easy and delicious!

My friend calls it Gon Low Mein.  I call it Egg Noodles with Roast Pork and Chinese Broccoli.

What you need:ingredients

  • char siu sauce – a reddish, sweetish, tart sauce.  You can get this at your local Chinese market.  I like this brand.  Char siu is a preparation for pork, usually involving roasting.
  • egg noodles – any brand is fine.  I’m just showing you what I used.  I like this thicker noodle, but you can use the thinner version, too.  Also available at your local Chinese market, in the refrigerated section.  I only use fresh noodles, but I’m sure you could use dried egg noodles, too.
  • Chinese broccoli (gai-lan) – a leafy vegetable with a stalk that is similar to Western broccoli.  Sometimes you see little florets growing next to the leaves.  At your Chinese market– haven’t ever seen them at a Western market.
  • oyster sauce and sesame oil – for flavoring the noodles.
  • fried shallots (or onions or garlic) – not pictured here.  This is usually available in a plastic container, in the dried food section of the Chinese market.  They are so tasty, and although the dish is fine without this topping, I think it just takes it up a notch.

What you do:

  1. THE PORK:
    1. Get some pork.  A cut of your choice.  I’ve tried it with pork loin and country rib.  I think it’s good to use a cut that has a bit of fat on it.  It’ll yield a juicier meat.
    2. Put the pork in a bowl with some char siu sauce.  You want there to be enough sauce to slather the meat.
    3. And I sometimes add a dash of soy sauce and mirin to add more saltiness and flavor.
    4. Let the pork sit for a few hours or even overnight.  The longer, the better to get the sauce to seep into that meat!  See what it looks like in my previous entry.
    5. About an hour before you want to eat, roast the pork.  I have used my toaster oven successfully because I only have a few cuts of meat to cook.  You can also use a regular oven, of course.  I roast the pork at about 350-375 for about 30-40 minutes.  Halfway through, I flip the meat.
    6. After 30-40 minutes, I turn the heat up to broil (or a high temp) and roast the pork for about 7-10 more minutes to get a bit of a char on the edges.  Not necessary, but I like it.
    7. Note that cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of your meat.  Just use your best judgment here.  You want the meat to be nicely done but not dried out.
  2. THE NOODLES:
    1. Boil some water.
    2. Once the water is boiling, add the noodles until cooked, stirring occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking to each other or the pot bottom.
    3. Drain the noodles in a colander.
    4. Wash the noodles with cool water a little to get rid of excess starch, but not too much where the noodles get cold.
    5. Drizzle some sesame oil on the noodles to keep them from sticking.
    6. Also, add some oyster sauce to add flavor to the noodles.  You don’t want the noodles to be drenched in the sauce, but you want there to be enough flavor when you eat it.
  3. THE CHINESE BROCCOLI:
    1. Chop the broccoli – use the stems, too.  You might want to slice the stems so they cook more quickly.
    2. There are some options for cooking the broccoli – boiling, parboiling, steaming, stir frying.  I mix it up myself.
    3. This is what I did yesterday when I made the dish.  Steam the stems for a few minutes.
    4. Get rid of the water from the pot, and stir fry the stems in oil with some minced garlic and then throw in the leaves (also chopped).
    5. Add salt to flavor and stir fry to get some gloss on the leaves and cook them down a bit.  You can also add some oyster sauce and sesame oil at this point.  You want the stems to be al dente, still on the crunchy side.  All this should take just about 5-7 minutes.
  4. ASSEMBLING THE DISH:
    1. Get a nice deep bowl.
    2. Add the noodles into the bowl first.
    3. Add the Chinese broccoli on top.
    4. Slice the pork (after it cooks and you let it rest for a bit) thinly.  Then put some slices on top of the noodles.
    5. Sprinkle some dried shallots generously on top!
    6. Dig in!

noodles

Whew, writing out a recipe is harder than I thought!  These instructions make this seem way more complicated than it actually is.  I’d say the pork is the “hardest” part, but it’s so simple– just take some pork, throw some sauce on it, let it sit overnight in the fridge, and then roast it!  And the other ingredients are easy– boiled noodles, stir fried greens.

Give it a try!  And once you do it, it’ll be easier the next time.

A Study in Sourdough

I brought back a sourdough starter from New Zealand, from one of my homestays.  The starter is from a German woman, and I’m thinking she got it from Germany and brought it to New Zealand.  And then she gave me some dried up chips to bring back to the U.S.!  That’s something I love about sourdough starters– the passing it forward aspect.  I wonder how many households are using this same starter around the world?  And what’s cool is that all the loaves of bread, or other bread-related foods, all probably taste and look really different.

Here’s my sourdough starter, sitting in a mason jar after having been revived from a dried state back in December when I came back to the U.S. after my most recent travels:

starter

And here is a collage of some of the loaves I’ve made.  I’d say I’ve probably made close to a dozen loaves in the last months.  And each one has been different.  I haven’t quite hit upon the right combination of ingredients.  But I’ve learned a ton just from the process.  It’s always amazing what you can learn from doing something over and over and over again.  Like running– there are all these learnings from running that have been documented: Haruki Murakami wrote about these learnings (a great little collection of essays) and there are lots of blog postings about lessons learned from running.  Just type in those key words into your favorite search engine, and a slew of posts come up.

loaves

So here are my learnings from making sourdough bread using a sourdough starter.  Let’s start with the more practical, mechanical learnings.

  1. Managing a starter is a big part of the process.  And it’s not as difficult as one would think.  You just want to keep your starter bubbly and happy, and you can tell when it’s not happy. Happy = elastic, gooey, bubbly, white-ish, and yeasty-smelling.  If it’s grey, liquidy, and stagnant, then no good.  And the way to manage a starter is just to feed it flour and some water every few days.  More frequently if you leave it on the counter (like every other day or so) and less frequently if left in the fridge (once a week or so).  You keep it in the fridge if you don’t use it every week.  That’s what I do.  I make a loaf every 2nd or 3rd week or so, so I take the starter out of the fridge a few days before I want to make a loaf, feed it, and then use it.  And when I’m not making bread, I leave the starter jar in the fridge where the molecules just rest a bit.
  2. Pay attention to the starter but not too much attention.  It doesn’t need to be severely monitored, but it also likes some love every once in awhile.  That’s what’s great about a starter, it’s pretty low maintenance, like succulents which don’t need a ton of water or care.  I appreciate the low maintenance of this little organism.  It needs me but not too much!
  3. Just estimate measurements, but maybe start with a more exact recipe.  I’m more of a cook than a baker.  I like to use a recipe as a starting point and then make my adjustments, like adding more of one spice than another or substituting sour cream for yogurt or adding in different vegetables.  That’s why I can only do quick bake recipes like chocolate chip cookies or banana bread.  Anything that requires a lot of measurement and exact protocols is annoying to me.  It’s funny because I’m totally not like that in real life– I’m incredibly detail oriented and concerned with protocols and precision.  But when in the kitchen, I like to let that go.  It’s my chance to unwind and be free of the work-mentality.  So with sourdough bread, I started with a recipe, got comfortable with how the dough should look and feel, and then started to improvise from there.  I added a bit more honey or tried a different kind of salt or oil or flour.

And from there, the more meta-level learnings:

  1. Learn to let go.  As I said, I’m usually a bit of a control freak about things.  So making sourdough bread has taught me to be more free and improvisatory.  I’ve experimented with the recipe I started with, and just yesterday, I tried a completely new recipe, incorporating yeast along with the starter.  That resulted in a new texture to the bread.  I think I’ll try it again and add more salt and some honey.  Every loaf I’ve made, I’ve done something a little different.  I’ve had some success with some and some that weren’t so great (that went to the chickens!).  But I’m learning to go with the flow and be more flexible about bread-making, specifically and life, more generally.
  2. Make your own food.  I’m learning to look at the things I eat and see where I can cut back on processed, store-bought, ready-made consumables.  It’s really interesting to see how much you can “take back” into your own kitchen.  I’ve only bought two loaves of bread in the last six or so months.  And those were both when I had friends in town and was making bruschetta or something special that the sourdough bread didn’t quite work for.  Bread is my big project right now.  I’m not sure what other foods will come next in my journey of making my own food!  Any suggestions?
  3. Be in it for the long-haul.  Making bread is a lifelong process, I would say.  Because I’m not really using exact measurements and have been experimenting with different recipes, I keep playing around to find a really good loaf.  And even when I find that really good loaf, I’m sure I’ll keep maneuvering and wiggling to find another really good loaf made in a different way.  But I’m excited each time I put the loaf in the oven to see what will come out an hour later.  Besides the assortment of ingredients, things like climate, elevation, and water affect the bread, and that’s always variable.  So I can never come out with the same loaf twice.  But that’s part of the journey!

OK, I’ll leave it at that. I’m sure this list could go on and on.  But I like a series that just has three parts.  I’m still looking for good recipes for sourdough breads, so if you know of any, send them along!

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