Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September Recent Eats

This is like the first time I've written one of these posts on the last day of the month (instead of a couple months later...). So proud of myself for being on top of it for once :)

One of my best friends from college came to visit! We went to happy hour at Marcella's, which has great food and one of the best deals in town. I dined here twice this month...tis too good.

Cheese platter with proscuitto. I'm not a huge cheese fan (weird right) but I will eat cheese at Marcella's for sure.

Pesto shrimp and goat cheese pizza, 'twas amazing. This is one of their best items.

Shrimp and grits at Skillet! I've been here four times now and I've always eyed the shrimp and grits but never got it before since it's quite pricy. But I had a friend in town and I had just finished exams, so I wanted to treat myself. So. Worth. It. This was crazy good.

Vietnamese fish spring rolls! Khoi and I steamed some fish and wrapped it with greens, vermicelli, and sauce in rice paper. So interesting -- I've never eaten fish or spring rolls this way. And this was so much tastier than those premade spring rolls that you can buy in Asian stores.

Honey walnut shrimp and green beans stir fried with XO sauce. 'Twas a delicious study break.

Gnocchi skillet with chicken sausage and tomatoes. This recipe only requires four (!) ingredients, is so easy to make, and is simply delicious. It's a little annoying in that the instructions ask you to cut the cherry tomatoes in half (sho much -.-) so I'm just going to skip that next time. This is definitely a dish to make again and again.

Peanut brittle! I was at Oktoberfest last weekend and a stand was selling really great brittle but they charged $4 for a teeny bag. I resisted and made a batch at home instead since I had all the ingredients on hand. This recipe is simple and perfect if you follow the instructions carefully. I don't own a candy thermometer but my results were still fab.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dan Dan Noodles

So this recipe isn't legit at all. It's adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown, and it calls for peanut butter and ramen noodles. Peanut butter and ramen noodles. But don't knock it til you try it. It reminds me of the dan dan noodles from Oodles Noodle & Dumpling Bar in Columbus, which isn't authentic at all but it's good comfort food. This is just that too, but a tad more refined.

Adapted from recipe by Alton Brown

  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 + 1 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp powdered ginger
  • 2 + 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp chili oil + extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 lb ground beef or pork
  • 1 stalk scallions + extra for garnish
  • 2 packs Shin Ramyun (you can try any ramen brand really, but this is my favorite)
  • A few stalks of bok choi (optional)
  • Peanut halves for garnish

For the sauce, combine peanut butter, 3 cloves minced garlic, ginger, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, Chinese black vinegar, chili oil, and chicken growth. Whisk well. For the meat, combine ground meat, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 clove minced garlic, and a stalk of sliced scallions. Mix well.

Boil some water to a boil, and cook two packs of Shin Ramyun noodles for about 2-3 minutes until softened (be careful not to overcook).

While you're prepping the noodles, you may as well brown your meat over medium-high heat on an adjacent stovetop.

Optional: When the noodles are almost done, add some bok choi leaves and cook for 30 seconds until the greens are tender crisp.

Strain everything. I separated the leaves and the noodles into separate big bowls, then tossed the noodles with a drop of sesame oil to prevent sticking. Put some noodles and bok choi in a bowl. 

Top noodles with peanut sauce and noodles, then decorate with peanut halves, sliced scallions, and a drizzle of chili oil.

Happy Belated Lunar Festival

I love mooncakes -- they're among my favorite Asian treats. The other day, I went on eBay and impulsively bought a mooncake press because why not. It was only $5 and to me, food presentation is just as important as taste so I wanted to make mooncakes that looked good. I ordered the press at the beginning of August and it took almost a month to arrive since it were shipped for free from Hong Kong so I didn't expect anything less, although I was a tad worried that it wouldn't arrive in time. Luckily it did.

Store-bought mooncakes are about the unhealthiest things ever (1000 calories of sugar and fat each??) and I don't think these are any healthier but I make room in my diet for these because they are delicious.  I looked up a bunch of recipes online but ended up coming up with my own adjusted recipe. They're filled with lotus seed paste, which I made from scratch a day in advance. You can also fill them with store-bought lotus paste or other fillings like red bean. 

The filling was incredibly delicious though, and totally worth making from scratch if you have the time/effort/blender. Here's what I did:
  1. Drain two cans of whole lotus seeds and remove any remnant germs/cores, since they would make the paste bitter. The seeds don't need to be soaked nor precooked since they're already soft enough.
  2. Put the seeds in a blender with a little bit of water and blend until smooth. The water is added to help make the paste smooth so minimize how much you add. You'll be cooking it out later.
  3. Add a drop of oil to a frying pan, turn the stove on to medium high heat, and add the blended lotus paste plus 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir well. Add 1/4 cup of oil in numerous additions -- I added about a third of it at a time, stirred and waited for it to incorporate, then added more. It may seem like a lot of oil but trust. You can taste test as you go and add more sugar as necessary. Cook until it's a thickened paste, then cool in the fridge and store in an airtight container until use.

For the crust, I combined 200 grams of all-purpose flour, 120 grams of agave (or you can use honey), 1 tsp water, 1/8 tsp baking soda, and 60 grams of oil. Mix the ingredients well in a bowl but don't over mix, then cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for about an hour in the fridge. Easy peasy.

When it's time to make the mooncake, preheat the oven to 350F. Measure out the paste and dough at a 2:1 ratio -- I did 60 grams lotus paste to 30 grams of dough. I flattened the dough out with my fingers onto plastic wrap (I don't have a rolling pin but you could use that), and rolled the lotus paste into a ball. The plastic wrap will make the next step easier and prevent the dough from sticking to your countertop.

Use the plastic wrap to gather the sides up, enveloping the lotus paste ball completely in the dough. Roll the ball a bit in your hands to help smooth it all out.

The ball should fit inside the mooncake press. If you don't have a press, you could just skip this step and bake -- it'll taste the same, but won't be as pretty.

Voila! I put the pressed mooncakes onto a lined baking sheet and put the tray in the oven.

Beat an egg in a bowl. After baking the mooncakes for 5-10 minutes, remove the tray from the oven and brush on the beaten egg. I messed up this part actually - the mooncakes should only be lightly coated with egg so that you don't ruin the design, so in the future I would remove extra liquid from the brush.

Return the mooncakes to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Voila! So pretty. They were gobbled up so quickly...but for best results you should let them soften in a sealed container for a day.

I made some snow skinned mooncakes a few days ago as well...these were okay but didn't hold a candle to the lotus seed dudes. I'm going to be sticking to my recipe and plan to make these quite often, even if there's no occasion :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

August Recent Eats

Green tea soft serve and mango mousse cake at Belle's Bread. I was so excited to discover this Asian bakery in Columbus, and would return in a heartbeat/ whenever someone is willing to drive me... -.-

Chirashi bowl at Tensuke Market. 'Twas decently fresh and just one of the most affordable chirashi bowls possible.

Mya's Fried Chicken with honey vinegar sauce. I've been obsessed with fried chicken recently, and heard that this is better than Hot Chicken Takeover (which I adore and have been to on numerous occasions) so I had to give them a try and dragged some friends with me. Verdict: delicious, but I'm still a bigger Hot Chicken fan.

More fried chicken! This time by Khoi and his roomies, using Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc buttermilk fried chicken recipe. This was amazing -- they should start their own fried chicken stand with this. Now I really wanna go to Napa to try the real deal and see how it compares ;P

Another Thomas Keller recipe: mussels with saffron and mustard. These were some of the best mussels that I've ever had, and it's just so awesome to make it at home because I could eat an unlimited amount puahaha.

Fried tilapia with mango salad and fish sauce. Recipe was made up. Pretty good.

Sticky rice with Chinese sausage, just like they make it for dim sum. I've been craving this for awhile, and luckily stumbled on the perfect recipe.

Strawberry rhubarb galette with salted caramel ice cream, because I had some frozen rhubarb casually lying around. Completely normal.

And finally in other news (and this is a September thing) I got my driver's license again finally! It's a long story but I had trouble transferring my previous license from out of state and had to take road test again, so I can finally get a car soon. Celebratory meal with ze boy at Skillet :)