Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Southwest Style Pasta Salad



Because if memory serves me right, everybody loves pasta salad. Especially now that the weather is warming up nicely in this good Northern CA. Did I hear someone say picnic?

And to be able to bring fresh, zesty, and healthy dish to the table that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, now that's just the icing on the cake!

Ingredients:
  • 12 ounces dry mini farfalle pasta, cooked al dente per package instructions
  • 1 can sweet corn kernels, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can capellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • Salt and pepper
Directions:
  • Place the first 8 ingredients in a large salad bowl.
  • Whisk together oil, lime juice, brown sugar, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper until well incorporated. 
  • Pour dressing over pasta and vegetables (you might not want to use all of the dressing), toss to combine, serve and enjoy!



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Crispy Fried Tofu



No, thank you. I don't like tofu you said?
Maybe it's because you never had tofu that's cooked right. 

Cooking tofu is not difficult, and if you follow the steps necessary, you might see them more often on your dining table. After all, it's delicious and it's a great protein that can be enjoyed by everybody.

1. Use the right kind of tofu for the recipe.  Depends greatly on what I'm cooking, most of the time I'm using firm to extra-firm tofu because they're easier to handle, hold their shape better, and don't crumble in your hand. You can also diced, sliced, and transform into whatever shape you want. Soft tofu is great for scrambles and stir-fries, while silken tofu is great for baking (try tofu pancakes!), creamy sauce, and whenever the recipe calls for it (a lot of Chinese and Japanese food use silken tofu).

2. Always, I mean always, press the moisture out of your tofu before cooking. When you buy a package of tofu, it is normally soaked in water. Not pressing the moisture out of them will add extra water to your food, that might result in soggy and watery food. You don't want that!
Line a plate with several layers of paper towel, place a block of tofu on top of the paper towels and put a few layers of ore paper towels on top of tofu. Place a plate on top of it, weigh it down with a can or other heavy object. Leave the tofu for a couple of hours, drain the excess water every 30 minutes.

3. Always season your tofu, as tofu sold here is naturally bland. The seasoning part can be done either before or after you paper towel drain the tofu, depending on what your cooking. In this recipe below, the tofu is marinated so it absorbs the flavor, then pressed to dry. Or you can also use seasoning rub, or dip into seasoned batter before frying. But nevertheless, add flavors to your tofu, because nobody likes bland food.

Good luck trying and let me know how yours turn out :)

Ingredients:
  • 1 block of firm tofu
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oil for frying
Directions:
  • Pour warm water in a large glass bowl, add salt and minced garlic into the water, mix until the salt is completely diluted. Add tofu into the brine, making sure that the block is completely submerged. Cover with plastic wrap, store in the refrigerator for 8 hours to overnight. 
  • Take the tofu out of the salt water, rinse with cold water. Place tofu on a plate lined with paper towels, and put a few layers of paper towels on top of it. Place another plate on top, weigh it down with a can or a heavy bowl. Let the tofu sit for an hour or more, drain the excess water every half an hour. Pat dry and cut into about 16 squares, 1/2-inch in thickness. 
  • Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 F. Meanwhile whisk the eggs in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, sesame seeds, chili powder, coriander, salt and pepper until well combined.
  • Dip tofu squares in egg, dust with seasoned flour, fry until golden brown and crispy. Transfer fried tofu to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess grease. Serve hot with sweet and sour dipping sauce, if preferred.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sichuan DanDan Noodles



If you like noodle soup and you like spicy food, you should definitely try this (and if you have never tried, why the hell haven't you?).
Dandan noodles/Dandanmien/Tantanmen hails from Sichuan province in China, known for their cuisine's bold flavors and spiciness. With its sweet pungent aroma, mouth-numbing and piquant flavors, all in delicious savory broth, the soups is literally an assault on your senses.
But a good assault. Because you will be addicted to this.
Because you will wake up the next morning and feel sad because you don't have any leftover.
Because you realize that your regular noodle soup just won't do anymore.

Ingredients:
For Sichuan Chili Oil (Hong You) aka happiness in a jar:
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1-inch fresh ginger, sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 stalks green onion, sliced
  • 4 star anise pods
  • 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons Sichuan peppers (preferably red and green mix), crushed
  • 4 tablespoons red chili flakes
For the noodle soup:
  • 1/2 pound pork, coarsely minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine/rice wine
  •  2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 4-5 tablespoons Pixian Doubanjiang/spicy broad bean paste (it looks like this)
  • 4 tablespoons sesame paste
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • Asian dried noodles
  • Cilantro for garnish
Directions:
To make Sichuan Chili Oil (Hong You):
  • Combine all of the ingredients in a sauce pot. Cook over medium heat and fry the ingredients until garlics and green onions are browned, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and continue cooking until the oil turns darker color. Remove from the stove and set aside.
  • Transfer oil to an airtight jar. Store in the cool part of the kitchen until ready to use.
* The leftover chili oil stores very well and can be used for other dishes such as this one.

To make the noodle soup:
  • In a large bowl, mix pork, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and rice wine until well combined. Set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.
  • Heat oil in a pot. Add pork and cook until brown. Stir in Douban and sesame paste, cook for about 1 minute. Add chicken stock into the pot, bring to simmer. Taste the soup, season with salt and white pepper if necessary.
  • In a separate pot, boil water and cook dry noodles per package instruction. Drain the noodles and divide into 4 individual bowls. Ladle the broth over the noodles, sprinkle with a lot of cilantro. Drizzle generous amount of chili oil before serving.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Quick and Easy Italian Wedding Soup


Click here to print the recipe

Mr. Wikipedia says that the term "wedding soup" is a mistranslation of the Italian language phrase "minestra maritata ("married soup")," which is a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meats go well together. 
But mistranslation aside, Italian wedding soup is one of my favorite dishes. Not only that the soup is full of healthy ingredients, it is easy to make and it's darn tasty.

There are many many versions of this soup, but 2 things don't change; meatballs and greens. In this version, I use turkey meatballs but feel free to use any kind of meat.
Same goes with the greens. Spinach, escarole, kale, swiss chard, any kind of green vegetable will work beautifully.
Since I honestly hate making meatballs, I always try to double or triple the batch and keep the unused meatballs in the freezer. They come in handy whenever I need them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 cup chicken stock
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, washed 
  • 1 cup dry pasta
  • 1 can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated parmesan for sprinkling
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  • In a large bowl, mix turkey, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper until well combined. Roll meat mixture into 1-inch balls, place them on a lined baking sheet (you should have about 30-35 meatballs), bake for 30 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
  • In a soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sauté until soft. Add chicken stock into the pot, bring to boil. Add beans and dry pasta into the boiling stock, cook for 5-6 minutes until the pasta is almost tender. Add meatballs, season the soup with salt and pepper, simmer for 1 minute. 
  • Stir-in the spinach, cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Ladle soup into individual bowls, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)



When my kids are craving for some fried chicken and they want it within 30 minutes, Kara-age is the way to go.
Unlike other types of fried chicken, Karaage doesn't take all day to make. Just a quick marinate, coat with potato starch, then deep fry to produce flavorful crispy fried chicken everybody will enjoy.
Drizzle with liberal amount of lemon juice before serving.

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb boneless chicken thigh, preferably with skin, cut into 2-inch pieces.
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1-inch fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup potato starch
  • Oil for frying
  • Lemon juice
Directions:
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine garlic, ginger, soys sauce, sake, salt and pepper. Add chicken pieces into the marinade, mix well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  • Heat the oil in the frying pan to 350 F. Dust the chicken in potato starch, fry in the hot oil until golden brown. Transfer the chicken to paper towel to absorb excess oil. Serve immediately while they're hot.