Another Gen Tso Tofu

I do like Chinese American food, the sweet salty combination is very appealing. I’ve made many versions of Gen Tso’s tofu and this one may be my favorite. The sauce is adapted from a gen tso chicken recipe by Grace Parisi.

First crisp the tofu in your favorite way – today I pressed the tofu, diced it into 1 inch chunks and dredged it in 1 tbsp corn flour, 1 tbsp panko breadcrumbs and 1 tbsp sesame seeds. Then I pan fried the tofu in 1 tbsp oil till the tofu was browned all over. Air frying the tofu works well too.

In the same pan, add another 1 tbsp of oil, 1 tbsp of ginger and 1 tbsp of chopped garlic and 4 scallions chopped into 1 inch chunks. Add the sauce (1/2 cup vegetable broth, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp sriracha) till it starts to simmer. Make a slurry with 1 tsp of cornflour and 1-2 tbsp of water and add 1-2 tsp at a time till the sauce thickens.

Add the tofu and 1 tsp of sesame oil and toss.

Enjoy over rice

Japchae by Mangchi

So lately I’ve watched a lot of Maangchi- a Korean lady with a fabulous youtube cooking channel. Her videos are entertaining and educational- she cooks and talks just like grandma. Of course, Korean food is not known for its vast vegetarian options so when this potentially customizable one popped up- I was all on it. These noodles are very very different texturally- they are sticky and transperant and very chewy, not unpleasantly so but it was unexpected.

I had to order the sweet potato starch noodles from Amazon but I had everything else- well mostly. Here is Maangchi’s recipe and my version follows below.

Soak: 7-8 dried shitake mushrooms in 1/2 cup of warm water for 30 minutes. Soak 8 oz of the sweet potato starch noodles in cold water for 40 minutes

Protein: I used one block of frozen tofu (defrosted and squeezed and then crumbled). Marinate with 2 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp brown sugar and 1 tsp sesame oil for 15-20 min and fry up in a non-stick pan till browned.

Egg garnish: Beat 2 eggs with some salt and make a small thin pancake on the same non stick pan on very low heat. Cut into strips

Seasoning sauce: 1/4 cup soy sauce, 3 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp black pepper and 5 garlic cloves minced.

Now assemble and chop:

In a large pan: chop the soaked mushrooms, 8 oz of crimini mushrooms chopped into strips, 1 large onion in slices, 1 large carrot into matchsticks. Toss all the vegetables with 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 1/4 cup water.

Add 8 oz baby spinach on top- do not mix, snip the soaked noodles with scissors (this is impossible prior to soaking) and lay on top- do not mix. Pour seasoning sauce over this (yes- do not mix). Add a tight fitting lid and cook for 10 mintues on moderate heat. After 10 minutes – stir well and cook for another few minutes till the water is almost all absorbed by the noodles.

Decant into a large serving platter, add tofu and egg strips. Add 1 tbsp of sesame oil and 1 tbsp of toasted sesame seeds.

Serve with sriracha if you wish.

 

 

Chickpea pasta with spinach

This is a riff off a NYT recipe and is a true no-recipe recipe. It’s creamy, nutritious and delicious. The pasta water, the chickpea water and actual cream all make this a very luxurious dish.

Soak one cup of chickpeas for 8-12 hours and pressure cook for 15 minutes. Strain the chickpeas but keep the water.

In 2 tbsp of butter, add 1 tsp of cumin seeds and 1 tsp of fennel seeds. After they sputter, add the chickpeas and toast on mod-high heat till browned in part.

Add 3-4 cloves of finely chopped garlic and 5-6 oz of spinach. Add salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Thin out using some of the chickpea water.

Add cooked pasta of choice, add Parmesan cheese. Thin with pasta water if needed. Add red pepper flakes if you wish

Pound cake by Alton Brown

Somedays you need the comfort of a good old fashioned pound cake. This one from Alton’s lovely “I’m just here for more food” which is my most used cookbook works every single time! It is the buttermilk that gives this cake its super tender but still firm crumb. This cake is also sensational toasted a few days later (if it lasts that long)

I use a 10 cup bundt pan for this- but you can use any pan you wish- I’ve never tried cupcakes with this recipe but they should work fine as well- just go down on baking time. This is a good 1st cake recipe for kids or anyone new to baking.

Step 1 is essential  (several hours before baking): Bring 2 sticks of butter, 3 eggs and 1 cup of buttermilk to room temperature

Step 2: Heat oven to 325F and Cream 2 cups of sugar and 2 sticks of butter. This is the most vital step and my stand mixer makes this a breeze. Alton in his book explains that creaming means a) the mixture looks homogenous and fluffy b) you can still feel the individual grains of sugar between your fingers. Always scrape the bowl once

Step 3: Add the eggs one by one and add 1tsp of good vanilla extract. Beat on high for 3-4 minutes untill the mixture is well incorporated and fluffy. Remember to scrape the bowl.

Step 4: Add 3 cups of flour (14.5oz) and 1 cup of buttermilk to the mixture gradually. I add each in thirds- alternating the flour and the buttermilk. Scrape the blade and the bowl at least once to make sure you don’t have unmixed batter

Step 4: Pour into prepped bundt pan (I use Pam baking spray) and bake for an hour. Cool fo 15 minutes

This is delicious plain or with any toppings.  I served this last week with rasperry coulis (1 bag of frozen rasperries, 3 tbsp of sugar, the zest of one orange and 1/4 cup of fresh orage juice) and orange whipped cream (whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream with 1/4 cup of sugar and zest of one orange)

Simplest rajma rice : Kidney beans rice bowl

Rajma (kidney beans) rice bowl: My simplest rajma recipe. In your pressure cooker (electric or otherwise)- sizzle 3-5 cloves of garlic for a minute or two. Add one cup of soaked kidney beans and 3 cups of vegetable stock (I use better than bouillon) and 1 tsp of red pepper flakes. Cook for 15 min on high pressure. Corn: Add frozen corn in a skillet with some butter – cook covered for about 10 minutes till the corn is slightly charred. Top with salt, lots of pepper and 1 tbsp of butter. Make bowl: rice, rajma, corn and pickle.

Paneer Ghee Roast (Kerala Style)

I love South indian preparations- in both dry and curry form. But the techniques are so tedious- scrape cocount, grind to paste, dry paste- so on and on and on. This is my version of a much quicker dry roast. The masala will not be as smooth as a blender-ground masala but the flavor is spot on and this dish will be ready in 30 minutes.

Prep:

Chop: 1/2 a large onion diced (about 1 cup), 4-6 cloves of garlic, 3-5 kadipatta leaves (chopped fine)

Masala: mix together 2 tsp of  ground red pepper  (I used the Korean Gochugaru but Kashmiri red chillies  will work), 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp of turmeric, 1 tsp ground fennel seeds and 1/8 tsp ground methi(fenugreek) seeds. ( I used a mortar and pestle to grind the fennel and methi  to add to the powders)

Other flavorings: 2 tbsp tamarind paste (which I always have frozen) and 1 tbsp ground jaggery

Cook:

Cube 1/2 lb of paneer and roast in 1 tbsp of ghee on a low flame till lightly browned. Remove to a plate.

In the same pan, add another 1 tbsp of ghee, add curry leaves and onion. Cook till onion starts turning translucent.

Add masalas and roast till fragrant (around 1-2 minutes) without burning any of the ingredients.

Add tamarind, jaggery, 2 tbsp of yogurt and 1/4 cup of water. Cook for a minute and add paneer.

Cover and cook on low heat for 10-15 mintues.

Serve with dosa or rice or appam.

Tamago Sando (Japanese Egg Sandwich) and Japanese Milk Bread

Every expat or immigrant knows that there are dishes you crave when you go back home. Apparently in Japan, it is these egg salad sandwiches- with the softest bread and the simplest of dressings (kewpie mayo, salt and pepper), it is a taste of home for the Japanese. I wouldn’t know- I’ve never been to Japan but I do like egg salad and this was a snowy weekend project.

This recipe is in 2 parts- part one is the egg salad and part 2 is the bread. I have no idea if any of this tasted like the real thing but it was pretty tasty to us.

Egg Salad:

Mayo: All the recipes specifically call for Kewpie Mayo which I could have ordered off amazon or boutht at the Asian store. But instead- I improvised and landed up with something quite delicious (though likely not at all accurate). To 5 tbsp of regular mayonnaise, add 1 tsp of rice wine vinegar, 1 tbsp of sugar, 1 tsp of red pepper flakes, 1 heaped tsp of Dijon mustard, 1 tsp of nutritional yeast (in place of the dashi powder or MSG in most recipes), ½ tsp of granulated garlic and salt and pepper. Increase or decrease the quantities of the additives to your liking till the mayo becomes a delicious dip that  you repeatedly “taste” and then find a cracker to “taste” some more.

Boiled eggs: I love reading about boiling eggs. The serious eats encyclopedia entry on this is one of my favorite food articles. For hard boiled eggs- this works for me- start eggs in cold water and set timer for 15 minutes– the yolks are firm and a beautiful yellow wihtout being rubbery.

Combine chopped eggs with special mayo and 2-3 finely chopped scallions (because Japanese dish).

This is a delicious egg salad- good with any kind of bread but let’s now make the special super soft Japanese bread. Our old friend America’s test kitchen’s bread illustrated book will help us.

Fair warning- this is not a beginner bread, you need to have a fair idea of dough hydration and proofing times. But it isn’t croissants (laminated doughs hate me) –  you should try it. Bread flour is cheap- you can throw away your mistakes.

Start by bringing 3 tbsp of butter to room temperature (soft but not melted). The bread starts with a cooked flour and water paste (a Japanese roux) which leads to a very tender crumb. Whisk 3 tbsp of flour and 1/2 cup water will no lumps remain. Microwave covered, whisking every 20 seconds till the  mixture forms a stiff pudding.

Add the flour paste, 1/2 cup of cold milk and 1 large egg to your stand mixer and use the whisk attachment to blend till smooth (note to self- use blender next time).

Add 1.5 tsp of instant yeast and 11 oz (2 cups) of bread flour. Switch to the dough attachment and knead on low speed for 2-3 minutes till a sticky dough forms. Cover with cling film and rest for 15 minutes.

Add 2 tbsp of sugar and 1.5 tsp kosher salt to dough. Knead for 5 minutes, then add butter 1 tbsp at a time. Knead on medium speed for another 5 minutes till the dough leaves the sides of the bowl but still sticks to the bottom.

Transfer to a floured surface using a bench scraper and form a smooth round ball lightly coated with flour and tuck all the seams under the dough ball. Proof in a lightly greased container for 1-2 hours till doubled in size.

Shaping dough: take dough out onto a large floured area on your countertop ( I use a very large silpat on my countertop for this). Shape into a 24×4 inch rectangle. Now divide the dough using your benchscraper lenghtwise to get 2 rectanges 24×2 inches in size. Start rolling the 2 dough strips into tight spirals and place both side by side into a greased 8.5×4.5 inch loaf pan. Cover with cling film and proof for 1/2-1 hour till the bread rises to the lip of the pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes till the bread is a deep golden brown. Cook for 15 minutes, remove from pan and brush all over with  butter. Let bread cool for 2-3 hours before serving.

Slice and pile with egg salad above. Delicious with tomato soup.

Tofu and Cabbage Udon stir fry

I like stir fries – they are a fun, easy way to experiment with new flavors and textures.

This one needs a few speciality ingredients but I found all of them in my local Whole Foods

I tackle the stir fry prep first divided into veggies, protein, flavorings and garnish. This recipe is inspired from a Bon Appétit article

Veggies; half a small cabbage cut into big 2 inch or so cubes

Protein: Andrea Nguyen from Viet world kitchen talks up frozen tofu a lot – so I tried it. Freeze and defrost a block of firm tofu – it changes the texture amazingly – the water just drains out. Then crumble tofu into 1 inch or so jagged crumbles

Flavorings: 1 tbsp ginger, 1 tbsp garlic, the whites of 6 scallions and 1 tsp vegetable oil

Garnish: the greens of 6 scallions and 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Sauce: 1/3 cup mirin 1/3 cup soy sauce 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar and 1 tsp (or more) of sambal olek , 1 tbsp sesame oil

Boil a pot of water- add udon (14 oz) and cook according to package directions but a minute or two less. Cool immediately and drain

In a very hot non stick pan- add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil and cook the cabbage (tossing frequently) till charred in places and soft. Remove cabbage to udon bowl

In the same pan, add 1 tbsp vegetable oil and add the crumbled tofu with 1 tbsp corn starch just shaken over it. Cook over high heat till tofu is browned

Make a hole in the center, add the flavorings. Cook for 30 sec and then toss with tofu

Add cabbage, udon and sauce- coat noodles with sauce

Add garnish and serve with additional sambal olek

This is fairly nutritious and made about 5 servings for us (dinner and lunch the next day)

Portugese Egg Custard Tarts

When my favorite youtuber Babish released an egg tart video, I knew I had to make these. But unusually for me, I decided to go with the simpler approach of using store bought puff pastry rather than making my own puff (something I have tried and failed at in the past). These seemed to be delightful morsels of buttery crust with a jelly like custard interior and everyone online kept using superlatives to describe them. So instead of going to Portugal or actually finding a Portuguese bakery, we took these on as a snowy day weekend project inspired by this Melissa Clark NYT recipe. I also watched and re-watched cupcake Jemma make these, because she is lovely and soothing.  The trick seems to be keeping the pastry cold and using an extremely hot oven to develop a shatteringly crisp crust. These would be good with any filling – I plan to try lemon curd next.

Makes 24 small tarts- start 2 days before you actually wish to consume the pasteis de nata

Step 1: Buy some all butter puff pastry (I used Trader joes) and buy a mini muffin pan ( I used Sur La Table where I also spent an unnecessary amount of money buying cooking tchotchkes)

Step 2: Roll out half your puff pastry (about 7-8 oz) into a 13×13 inch square or an 18×9 inch rectangle. Start rolling into a log from the larger side- so you should have an 18 inch log about an inch in diameter. Wrap in parchment and chill for several hours (or overnight)

Step 3- divide pastry log into half and then quarters and then thirds to get 24 pieces, Press the flat discs down and then along the side of the mini muffin pan. Cover with cling film and chill

Step 4- make the custard

Step 4a: read the instructions multiple times so you don’t goof up and have to throw away your first 2 attempts- hey, eggs are cheap, it’s ok. In retrospect- I should have made this in the blender- notes for next time.

Step 4b: There are 3 parts to this custard- assemble the 3 parts first. A cinnamon syrup ( 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 a cinnamon stick and 1/3 cup water- heat till sugar dissolves- take off heat, discard cinnamon), 3 egg yolks and a flour paste (start with 1/4 cup of all purpose flour and 3 tbsp of milk- whisk in 1/2 cup of scalding whole milk-  heated till bubbles just form- this is tougher than it looks and requires quite a lot of upper body strength)

Step 4c: Add sugar syrup to the flour mixture and return to the heat- Whisk continuously for 5 minutes till mixture is thickened and paste like without any lumps

Step 4d: add some of the flour mixture to the egg yolks whisking continuously- then add more gradually till both are combined. If you do this correctly- you will NOT have scrambled eggs but a smooth custard. If any custard calls for straining- it is this one- strain it.

Step 5- You remembered to heat your oven to 500F right? and the cookie sheet is on the bottom 1/3rd- good!. Add custard to the tart shells and bake for 15-20 minutes till custard is puffed up and lovely with some char and the pastry is crisp

So this recipe is tough! I have made many custards from scratch and this one was difficult! Was it worth it? Yes! Did we finish 24 tarts in one sitting? Of course we did!

Marathi Ukad

When a maharashtrian child is sick, mother makes ukad – it’s a spicy version of baby food and in the same class of comforting chewy rice flour dishes as mochi and rice balls and kadbu but simpler

Step 1: whisk 1/2 cup rice flour, 1/2 cup sour yogurt and 2 cups of water today

Step 2: to 1 tbsp of oil, sputter 1 tsp mustard seeds, add 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 2 pinches asaefoetida, 2-3 curry leaves and 1-2 dried red chilies

Step 3: add rice flour mixture, chopped cilantro and 1 chopped jalapeño

Cover and steam on low heat for 10-15 min