Thursday, November 14, 2013

Japchae (Chap Chae) once again Korean

I have had a love for Korean food since living next to Lee, a Korean war bride, in the 70's.  She taught me a lot about Korean food and we have loved it ever since.

I went to my Korean grocer, GiGi, again this week.  The previous week I had purchased a sweet potato noodle salad that she had made and I wanted to buy the noodles so that I could make this myself.  She told me exactly how to prepare the noodles, etc., but I needed something on paper to read to accomplish this feat.  After all, I have a whole lot of German in me.

I found a recipe for Japchae and it was exactly what I bought from GiGi.  I was missing a few ingredients in my kitchen and not wanting to make another trip to the grocer, I improvised and I am completely satisfied with the results.

The noodles, made from sweet potatoes, have been the most fun food for me to work with in a long time.  They are glassy, dare I say worm-like, and completely simple to prepare.

Japchae (Chap Chae)
Adapted from The Steamy Kitchen and The Korean Table

8 oz. sweet potato noodles
4 oz. spinach (No spinach in the house so substituted fresh cilantro)
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, sliced
3-4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water and then stem removed and sliced
1 small carrot, cut into thin strips
1 stalk scallion, cut into 1 inch slices
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
Salt to taste ( I used some fish sauce)
1 heaping teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds (Omitted because still have not replenished my pantry)
Sriracha to taste

4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Cook sweet potato noodles in a large pot of boiling water for about 5-6 minutes.  Drain the water and rinse the noodles under cold running water.  Cute the noodles using a pair of scissors into about 6 inch lengths.  Set aside.

Heat up a pot of water and bring it to a boil  Blanch the spinach until wilted, about 1 minute.  Drain and rinse under cold water.  Cut into small pieces.  (I did not have spinach so added fresh cilantro from the garden at the end for greens.  Spinach would have been extra nice)

Heat up the oil in a skillet or wok and add the garlic, onion, mushroom, and carrot and cook for about two minutes.  Add the scallion and stir-fry for another minute.  Turn the heat to low and add the noodles and spinach into the skillet, followed by the sesame oil, the sauce and salt to taste.  Stir to combine well.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve at room temperature.  Add a few drops of Sriracha, just because we love it.

These sweet potato noodles can probably only be found in Asian markets. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Very Easy Sandwich Buns

The Trout and and I were very fortunate to meet Cathy from Wives with Knives this summer, and have lunch in her home.  As I have been thinking about that delightful day this week, I have also been looking at Cathy's blog and finding all sorts of inspiration to cook and bake.

I have been getting into a "funk" about baking lately.  It is always the same.  I do not need the extra calories, etc., but I do enjoy baking, a lot.  So, this is my second "Cathy" recipe in the last week and I have one more just off stage waiting for some ingredients to arrive.  The first one will be posted very soon.  It also was a winner. 

For quite a few years now, we will grill a ground beef patty and eat it like a steak..without a bun.  But when I saw how Cathy and several other bloggers were raving about these 1 hour buns, I just had to try.  It is burgers for us tonight AND with a very beautiful bun!!

I love baking bread, but have not had such good luck with rolls, etc.  It is just my stubbornness as I figured out today.  I have always been guessing the temperature of the liquid I add to the yeast.  Not a good idea.  Today I used a thermometer and it worked beautifully.

I did not have any sesame seed or poppy seed, but experimented with freshly cracked black pepper, coarse salt, and caraway seed.

Homemade Sandwich Buns
  Shared from Cathy at Wives with Knives

1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup butter
1 egg, room temperature
4 1/2 cups flour
1 package instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 beaten egg yolk
Sesame and poppy seeds for sprinkling on top before baking


Heat the milk, water, honey and butter until butter is melted.  Check temperature and let it cool to 120F.  Carefully beat in one egg.

Mix 2 cups of the flour, yeast,  and salt.  Mix into the milk mixture.  Stir in the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time.  Beat well after each addition.

When the dough pulls together, it will form a soft ball, turn it onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.  This should take about 5 minutes.  I used a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment then switched to the dough hook to knead.  Add a little more flour while mixing with the dough hook, a little at a time until dough is no longer sticky.

Divide the dough into 12-16 equal parts.  Use a kitchen scale to weigh the dough to make them come out even.  Small buns are about 2 3/4 ounces and a larger bun would be about 4 ounces.  Shape dough into smooth balls.  Flatten slightly and place on a silicone mat covered baking sheet.

Cover loosely with plastic film and allow to rise 30-40 minutes.  When buns are almost doubled bake at 400F for 10-12 minutes.

If desired, after buns have risen, brush tops with beaten egg yolk for a shiny glaze.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds or coarse salt before baking.  

Cranberry Tangerine Chutney That is Just Perfect

It seems I am always a little late to the dance.  With Thanksgiving around the corner and me still having a bag of frozen cranberries in the freezer from last year, I decided to try something new.  I searched and found a recipe that was posted back in 2009.  This recipe, once again, comes from Wives with Knives, my friend Cathy's blog.  She said it was a recipe from her mother and is one of Cathy's most treasured recipes.

A chutney!  I have loved chutney since my first taste of Major Grey's Chutney, back in the 70's.  When our daughters were young, I used to bake fruit with curry for a Thanksgiving side dish.  They never liked it, where the Trout and I loved it!

Cranberry Tangerine Chutney
  Shared with permission from Cathy at Wives with Knives 

3 cups fresh cranberries
1 large tart apple, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
3 Tbsp. candied ginger, chopped
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp curry powder (don't skimp...this is what makes it a chutney)
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 cans mandarin orange slices, drained

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  This keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator and will easily form a seal if poured, very hot, into small decorative jelly jars.  This filled about 4 jelly jars for me.

We have eaten on pork, chicken, mixed with cream cheese on a bagel or toast and also by the spoonful out of the jar.  Yes, it is that good!  What a beautiful hostess gift this would be during the holidays.  Thank you, Cathy, for sharing such a treasured recipe.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thai Beef with Basil

As our windows are open in Florida and we are enjoying lovely, breezy weather, our thoughts do go back to Montana where, today, they are having snow flurries and freezing temps.  We really are spoiled, only spending the perfect time of the year in that beautiful state.

However, today has been pretty special here at the home place.  We have replanted some of our herb garden and we do use it.  This morning there were omelets with fresh tarragon (have you tried it?), bagels and home-cured gravlax with fresh dill and for our Sunday dinner, we added fresh thyme to sauteed baby bella mushrooms to go along with a pre-salted steak and sauteed sweet onions.

I noticed how great the sage was looking, so we are planning our Thanksgiving dinner with that herb in mind also.  What would that be?

And we have basil growing in several different places.  We find it a tricky herb to keep flourishing in our garden, so by placing it in different locals, we seem to be more successful.

The November issue of Bon Appétit had a recipe that would take care of a lot of our basil.  We made a few changes, but still liked the outcome very much.  This is a simple dish that we will probably make often.

Thai Beef with Basil

Serves 4 from Bon Appétit

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 red chilies, thinly sliced
1 lb. ground beef  (we substituted ground lamb which we enjoyed)
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
3 cups fresh basil leaves, divided
2 medium carrots, julienned or coarsely grated
2 scallions, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, divided
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce such as nam pla or nuoc nam
1 tsp. sugar
Steamed rice and lime wedges

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add garlic and chile and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon and pressing down firmly to help brown until cooked through and nicely crisped in spots, 8-10 minutes.

Toss carrots, scallions, 1 Tbsp. lime juice and remaining chile, 1 cup basil leaves and 1 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl.

Mix soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and remaining 3 Tbsp. lime juice in another small bowl until sugar dissolves.

Top rice with beef and slaw and drizzle with soy dressing.  Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.  

This was a very flavorful dish.  I actually liked the ground meat instead of sliced meat for a change.  It is a quick meal and only 240 calories per serving.   We really did enjoy the ground lamb, but do want to try the ground beef the next time.  We love Thai food and this was an easy recipe to follow for a quick meal. 

We served it over Jasmine rice which absorbed all the juices.  We were a little disappointed that the basil taste was not stronger.  Perhaps, next time, more basil and leaving the leaves whole will do the trick.  Of course, a great red wine was served with this meal.