Everyday Fried Noodles

Occasionally I get a hankering for a meal with sesame oil, soy sauce, chilies, and noodles.  When I read this recipe in the current issue of Saveur, I had to make it.  The article calls these everyday fried noodles or tian tian chao mian.  The carrots & onions are quickly cooked so as to soften rather than overcook; the ginger and garlic infuse the oil; and the napa cabbage and cucumbers give the necessary crunch. Soy sauce & rice wine are requirements of Chinese cooking and once sugar is added create a sweet & salty sauce.  I like to drizzle more sesame oil over the noodles moments before digging in.  These noodles make excellent leftovers -- just reheat with a little water or chicken stock to get things moving around the pan.
Note: I don't own a wok as the original recipe calls for this piece of equipment.  Instead I used a large stainless steel skillet -- it worked out just fine.
Everyday Fried Noodles

adapted from Saveur May 2010
serves 2-3 (or one person with leftovers)

 1/2 small seedless cucumber, peeled & julienned

Kosher salt, to taste

3 tbsp oil (canola or vegetable)

1/2 small carrot, julienned

1/4 - 1/2 onion, thinly sliced

1/4 pound (4 ounces) ground pork (or omit for a vegetarian dish)

2 cloves garlic, minced

Red pepper flakes, to taste

1 1" piece ginger, minced

1 1/2 tbsp. dark soy sauce

1 1/2 tbsp. rice wine

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1 cup Napa cabbage, shredded

5 ounces dried flat noodles, boiled & rinsed under cold water

1 tbsp sesame oil (plus more to serve)
Combine the cucumbers with a pinch of salt and let sit in a small bowl for 5 minutes.
Heat a large stainless steel skillet over high heat; add 1 tbsp oil and swirl to coat the bottom.  Add the carrots and onions and cook for 1 minute till softened.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
Return the skillet to high heat and add remaining 2 tbsp oil.  Add pork, garlic, red chili flakes (if using), and ginger.  Cook until pork is browned and aromats are fragrant.
Add soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, carrots, and onions.  Cook until vegetables are hot.
Add cabbage, cucumbers, noodles, and sesame oil.  Toss until hot.  Season with salt if needed.  Serve with a drizzle of sesame oil.

Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is one of those desserts that is either loved or loathed.  It gets a thumbs up or a thumbs down.  For those eaters that like the dessert, there is a cafe in Montreal entirely devoted to this bowl of rice, milk, sugar, and vanilla.  It is the 31 flavors of rice pudding - various toppings, flavors, and sizes.  I happened to thoroughly enjoy the snacking experience during my trip.

This recipe comes together in under an hour (longer if you count the cooling time in the refrigerator-I like my pudding very cold) and doesn't have complicated ingredients or preparations.  The original recipe served six people; I scaled down by 50%.

Rice Pudding
serves 3
adapted from Chef Jacques Boiroux, Darigold Fresh magazine (a free publication from a food conference)

1/2 cup pearl rice (short grain)
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean split and scraped)
zest of 1 lime (orange or lemon can be substituted)
1/2 cup sugar
2 ounces unsalted butter
grated nutmeg, optional
dried cherries or cranberries, optional

Cover the rice with cold water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and drain in a colander or fine mesh sieve.

Pour the milk and blanched rice into a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Add vanilla paste and lime zest to the milk and rice.  

Bring to a boil and simmer for 25-30 minutes, but stir often to prevent scorching.  

Add the sugar and butter to the rice and cook 5 minutes more.  If using a vanilla bean, discard it at this point.  Pour the pudding into a bowl or onto sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours.  Serve with dried fruit or cookies.

Roasted Potatoes with Romesco Sauce

According to the Food Lover's Companion, a romesco sauce is a classic sauce from Catalonia, Spain that is a mixture of finely ground tomatoes, red bell peppers, onion, garlic, almonds, and olive oil.  This version has some but not all of these ingredients.  Having never eaten the original Spanish version (but one day hope to), I enjoyed the slight heat from the chilies and the fruity olive oil on the roasted, crunchy potatoes.  Add a fried egg for a heartier meal.

Roasted Potatoes with Romesco Sauce
adapted from: Smitten Kitchen 
serves 1-2

Romesco Sauce:

3 ancho chiles
4 tablespoons raw almonds (or 2 tablespoons hazelnuts plus 2 tablespoons raw almonds; I couldn't find hazelnuts)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 slice country bread, about 1-inch thick
1/3 cup canned crushed tomatoes 
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 lemon
A splash of red wine vinegar 
Kosher salt

1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (small to medium)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 springs fresh thyme
1/2 cup Romesco sauce (see recipe above)
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

optional: fried eggs

Make the sauce: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove and discard the seeds and stems from the chiles, then soak them in warm water for 15 minutes to soften. Strain the chiles, and pat dry with paper towels. Meanwhile, spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, until they smell nutty and are golden brown.

Heat a medium sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoon olive oil, wait a moment (for it to heat) and fry the slice of bread on both sides until golden brown. Remove the bread from the pan and cool. Cut it into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

Return the pan to the stove over high heat. Add 2 tablespoon olive oil and the chiles and sauté for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often until the tomato juices have evaporated. Turn off the heat and leave the mixture in the pan.

In a food processor, pulse together the toasted almonds, garlic and fried bread until the bread and nuts are coarsely ground. Add the chile-tomato mixture and process for 1 minute more. With the machine running, slowly pour in the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil and process until you have a smooth purée. Don’t worry, the romesco will separate into solids and oil. Add the parsley, season to taste with lemon juice, red wine vinegar and more salt, if needed.

For the potatoes, place them in an oven-proof skillet and toss well with 2 tablespoons olive oil, bay leaf, thyme sprigs and a heaping teaspoon of salt. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast the potatoes until tender when pierced (30-50 minutes). Discard the bay leaf and thyme.

Return the skillet to stove-top and heat on high for 2 minutes. Pour in the remaining 1-2 tablespoons oil, turn the heat to medium-high and wait 1 minute more. Add the potatoes and smash them with your spatula or a fork until a little broken up. Season with salt and pepper and sauté them for 6 to 8 minutes until they are crispy on one side. After they’ve browned nicely on the first side, turn them until they color on all sides. Spoon the romesco sauce over the potatoes and stir. Toss in the parsley. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Optional add-on: Fry an egg or two and serve on top of the potatoes and sauce.

Do ahead: romesco sauce can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and kept in the fridge. Use the left-over sauce for chicken, fish, and sandwiches. Or just spread on a piece of toasted bread.

Savory Shortbread

One of my favorite bakeries is closed for a couple of months while it expands into a retail store.  This bakery makes heavenly vanilla
shortbread that probably consists of sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, flour, and eggs.

Twice a week it used to be just a stand at a local farmer's market selling (among other things) scones, sea salt caramels, brioche,
and said shortbread. Since the business has grown, the owners have shut down operations while they transform their business to an actual store-front.

I can't wait till the doors are open, and the vanilla shortbread will be for sale more than twice a week. Until then, this savory version will
suffice .. but its really good too. Instead of Kosher salt, I substituted lavender salt to compliment the rosemary and citrus.

Savory Shortbread
adapted from Food52
yield: 8 pieces (wedges)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I used lavender sea salt)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary (other options are sage or thyme)
zest of one small lemon & one small orange
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature

1. Put a rack in the center of the oven and heat it to 350 degrees. Whisk the flour and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, use your fingers to gently rub together 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the rosemary. Whisk this mixture into the flour.

2. Cut up the butter into chunks and add it to the flour, stirring with a fork to make a soft dough. Gently pat the dough into a 9-inch round baking pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork and sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of sugar evenly over the dough.

3. Bake the shortbread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it is golden and no longer looks at all wet. Using a very sharp knife, score into wedges while it is still quite warm, and let it cool completely in the pan before separating the pieces.  Try not to eat all the wedges in one sitting.

Roasted Garlic and Orange Guacamole

This is what happens when a recipe is made for a party: forgetting to take a final picture of the dish.  

The before and after garlic/onion/chile shot and the orange supremes were accounted for yet the final picture of avocado goodness was omitted.  Oops! It was a crowd pleaser, I promise.

This guacamole combines the roasted flavors from garlic and red onion, the heat from serrano peppers (or substitute one jalapeno), and the bright citrus punch from the orange and lime.  It is a twist on the traditional guac.  Make sure the avocados are really ripe (mine could have used another day) for a more creamy texture; plus the not-so-ripe avocados are a little harder to scoop with a spoon.

Roasted Garlic and Orange Guacamole

yield: 2 1/2 cups  adapted from: Season 6 of Mexico--One Plate at a Time 

A little vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 serrano chiles, stemmed
1 small red onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 medium-large ripe avocados, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 large orange 
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Turn on broiler.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, lightly coat with oil and lay the garlic on one side, the chile(s) and onion on the other. Place the pan under the broiler, turning the garlic and chile occasionally, and stirring the onion until soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  (You'll want to remove any pieces that brown more quickly than others.)  Place everything onto a cutting board and chop into small pieces and cool. 

With the side of a knife, work the garlic into a coarse paste.  Scrape into a large bowl and add the chopped onion and chiles, along with the avocado and cilantro.  Using a potato masher or large fork, coarsely mash everything together.

To cut supremes from the orange, cut the ends off the orange, stand the fruit on a cutting board and, working close to the flesh, cut away the rind and all the white pith.  With a sharp, thin knife, cut the orange segments from between the white membranes that divide them.  Cut the supremes in half and stir into the avocado mixture.  What is leftover from the orange can be squeezed into the avocado mixture for more citrus flavor.  

Taste and season with the lime juice and salt, usually about 3/4 teaspoon.  Scoop into a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate until service (which should be within a couple of hours).

How to use left-over rice: Ginger Fried Rice

Cooking rice can take a bit of time, and there is always the fear of burning or under cooking.  Why not use the leftover rice from take-out and re-purpose it for a brand new dish?  And, not just for savory meals, but the rice could even be used to make a dessert like rice pudding.  

This dish uses some basic Asian ingredients along with pantry items: leek, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil.  The fried egg is an addition that could be omitted, but I liked the extra protein.  Plus, this whole dish really doesn't cost a lot to make if the day-old rice is taken into consideration.  The meal came together very quickly, and the most time was spent slicing and mincing.    

Consider one egg and one cup of rice per person .. so if there are three people, use three cups of rice + three eggs.  I think this is the simplest ratio to remember.  

*I also added some left-over chicken, onions, and basil that made up the filling for some Thai lettuce wraps -- another flavorful take-out addition; use whatever is available*
Ginger Fried Rice

adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

Serves 1-2

1/4 cup (2 ounces) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and dried (*only had half of a leek)
1-2 cups day-old cooked rice (*used left-over white rice from take-out)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon sesame oil 


In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and salt lightly.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and leeks. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender but not browned. Season lightly with salt.

Raise heat to medium and add rice. Cook, stirring well, until heated through. Season to taste with salt.

In a nonstick skillet, fry eggs in remaining oil, sunny-side-up, until edges are set but yolks are still runny.

Divide rice among two dishes. Top each with an egg and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil. Sprinkle crisped garlic and ginger over everything and serve.

Lemon & Orange Olive Oil Cake

Grocery stores and markets are exploding with oranges and lemons.  There are so many kinds of oranges that it can be difficult to tell one type of orange from another.  Meyer lemons are plentiful and a special treat as this fruit is really a cross between a regular lemon and an orange -- two excellent fruits for the price of one.

This cake combines the fruity flavors of the citrus as well as the fruity-ness of the olive oil.  

Lemon & Orange Olive Oil Cake
yield: one-9 inch cake (serves 8 or 9)
adapted from Orangette 

1 small to medium orange
1 lemon (try a Meyer)
6 ounces raw almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
4 medium eggs
½ tsp. Kosher or fine sea salt
1 ½ cups sugar
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving (optional)

Place the orange and the lemon in a saucepan and cover with water. It is okay if the fruits float.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain and cool.

Preheat the oven to 325°F and position the rack in the middle of the oven. Put the almonds on an ungreased sheet pan and bake until they look golden and smell toasty, 10 to 15 minutes. When the almonds are cool, pulse them in a food processor until finely ground like the texture of coarse sand. 

Raise the temperature of the oven to 350°F and grease a 9-inch round pan.

When the lemon and orange are cool, cut the lemon in half, and scoop out and discard the pulp and seeds. Cut the orange in half, and discard the seeds. Put the lemon rind and orange halves in the food processor and process to a fine chop.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.

Combine the eggs and salt in a mixing bowl. Beat until foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar. Fold in the flour mixture. Add the citrus, almonds, and olive oil, and beat on low speed to just incorporate. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45 - 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack. Carefully remove the cake from the pan and allow it to cool completely.

Store the cake covered with plastic wrap at room temperature.

Three Onion Chowder

This chowder involves quite a bit of chopping: onions, leeks, garlic, shallot, celery, chives, and potatoes.  To save myself some time, I bought celery from the Whole Foods salad bar; when a recipe calls for so little, I never seem to find a solution to use up the left-over celery.  Another time saver is the Trader Joe's four ounce packages of cubed pancetta - I keep it in the freezer and throw the cubes into the pan without thawing.  Once all ingredients were chopped and ready to go into the pot, time flew by -- including the 30 minute waiting time with the heat turned off, the chowder took under an hour to make.  

Three Onion Chowder
serves 4-6 people adapted from Food52 

1 tablespoon butter
3 ounces pancetta, 1/4 inch dice
2 cups yellow onion, peeled and julienned
1 large leek, rinsed, white parts only, sliced into half moons
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup celery, 1/4 inch dice
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, minced
1 bay leaf
1 cup chicken stock + 1 cup water
2 cups half and half
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 dice
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

In a three quart Dutch oven, add the butter and pancetta and place it over medium heat to render the pancetta. Once some of the fat has been released add the onions, shallot and celery. Saute until almost golden. Add the leeks, garlic and thyme. Cook until the leeks are just becoming soft. Add the bay leaf, chicken stock, and water. Bring it to a boil and add the half and half and the potatoes. Bring the soup back to a boil and then immediately turn off the heat and cover the pot. Allow it to rest for at least thirty minutes.

To finish the soup reheat it but don't let it boil. Taste a potato to check and see if it is done and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If the potatoes are not done then cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in the chives and then ladle into cups or bowls.

How to Make Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese has many uses: filling for lasagna, ravioli, & cheesecake; spread on toasted bread with a drizzle of olive oil and a touch of freshly cracked black pepper; topped with granola and swish of honey; or dolloped on pizza.

The whey, a by-product of making ricotta, should be saved and used as a substitution for water or buttermilk in many recipes.

Making this all-purpose cheese takes a bit of time and a watchful eye.  The milk has to be brought up to temperature slowly as to not scorch (I was almost guilty of this when I left the kitchen).

Once the cheese is made, it can be stored (covered) for a week in the refrigerator.

Ricotta Cheese
yield: 12 - 16 ounces

½ gallon whole milk
½ teaspoon citric acid
¼ cup cool water
½ teaspoon kosher salt

-large pot
-fine mesh strainer
-heat resistant rubber spatula

Mix the water and citric acid together in a small bowl and stir until the powder is completely dissolved.

Pour your milk into a large and very clean pot. Add the citric acid solution and the salt to the milk and stir well. Put the pot of milk over a medium-low heat and slowly bring it up to a temperature between 185 and 195 degrees F. Do not allow it to boil. Stir often with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom to prevent scorching.

Curds begin to form, and they will be very small, like the size of poppy or sesame seeds. After a while the curds will separate from the whey and patches of greenish-yellow whey will appear in the pot. When the curds and whey are completely separated, the whey will not look milky. Test this by dipping a spoon in and pouring the liquid back into the pot; as it comes off the spoon check to see if the whey looks milky or if the liquid is more clear in between the particles of curd.

Once the curds and whey have separated, turn off the heat and leave the pot to stand for 10 minutes.

Prepare a colander by lining it with cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl.

Use a small fine mesh strainer to gently ladle the curds out of the pot and into the colander. Use slow motions so as not to stir up the curds. When you have ladled as much of the curd out as you can then pour the remaining whey through the colander and into another bowl to get the last bit of curd. Save the whey for a future use.

Tie the corners of the cheesecloth into a knot and hang the ricotta over a bowl to drain for 45 minutes to an hour or until it stops dripping. 

*Note: I forgot to add a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to make the cheese creamier (just my personal preference)

Oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruits, oh my!

Citrus season is upon us. 

And for that matter, so is avocado season.  That means guacamole!  But, that is a post for another day.

Because citrus is everywhere, these fruits can be used in a variety of ways to add some punch to favorite dishes.  Buy a bag of lemons and turn them into preserved lemons for salads, roasted fish, and vegetables.  Squeeze limes and freeze the juice for summer cocktails.  

Here are some ideas to use citrus this season: