Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sichuan Shredded Beef with Peppers

 Thin strips of beef marinated in soy sauce stir-fried with colorful strips of bell pepper, thin slices of chile, and lots of garlic.  Makes for a delicious and colorful meal served over rice.

This is my very last post of the year.  I wish you all a very happy new year with lots of adventures in store for 2013.

Sichuan Shredded Beef with Peppers
Adapted from Step-by-Step Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 3-4

12 ounces flank steak

For the Marinade:
2-1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 small egg white
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1-1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 bell peppers 
4 garlic cloves
3 to 4 fresh hot red or green chiles
4 scallions
4 teaspoons Chinese rice wine veingar
2-1/2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons soy sauce
vegetable oil, for frying
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Cut the beef against the grain into wafer-thin slices, about 1/16 inch in width.  Then stack a few slices at a time together and cut the meat into thin strips 2-1/2 to 3 inches long.  Put the meat into a bowl.  Add all the marinade ingredients and mix well, ensuring that you break up the egg white.  Cover and leave to marinate for 1 to 2 hours, in the refrigerator.

Cut the bell peppers into long julienne strips, the same size as the beef.  Peel and finely chop the garlic.   Cut the chilies lengthwise into fine strips.  Cut the scallions into 3 inch lengths, then shred them lengthwise with the tip of a sharp knife into long fine strips.  

Combine the rice wine, vinegar, sugar, and soy sauces in a cup.  Mix well and set aside.

Put 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat about 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a wok over medium heat.  Add the bell pepper strips and stir-fry for 5 minutes our until crisp-tender; remove with a slotted spoon.  Add the beef, turn off the heat, and stir-fry beef until barely cooked through. With a slotted spoon remove the meat to a bowl and sprinkle the cornstarch over the meat.  Toss the meat to distribute the cornstarch.  Increase the heat on the wok to high and return the meat to the wok, stir-frying for about 1 more minute.  Drain the meat on paper towels.  

Add more oil, if necessary, to the wok and add the garlic.  Stir-fry the garlic for 30 seconds.  Put in the chiles, stir once, then add the scallions.  Stir quickly, then add the meat strips and bell peppers.  Stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the rice wine sauce.  Stir rapidly for about 30 seconds.  Serve over rice immediately.
Theme: Red and Green

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top Favorite Recipes of 2012

Two thousand twelve was a fun very year in the kitchen.  I made dishes from all over the world, including Mexico, Italy, Greece, America, Asia, and even dappled with some Indian cooking.  I spent quite a bit of time cooking the recipes of Tessa Kiros, Rick Bayless, and Madhur Jaffrey. The dishes below reflect a broad range of cuisines. Included below are everything from salads to sandwiches, appetizers to desserts, meats and seafood, quick and easy dishes, and long and lengthy dishes.  A combination of my personal favorites, my family's favorites, and some of my most popular blog posts of the year.  You'll find a little bit of everything here... breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. 

They aren't in any order...

click on the recipe title for the link to the recipes
These Cafe Tacuba-Style Creamy Chicken Enchiladas were one of my most popular blog posts this year.  I first saw this recipe at Vianney's blog, Sweet Life, and I copied her recipe exactly.  Vianney took a genius and time saving approach by layering her corn tortillas, much like a lasagna, in place of rolling her tortillas into enchiladas. I must say that I love this new approach to enchiladas and now layer all my enchiladas in the style of a casserole instead of rolling them individually.  This method is less messy, saves time, and I've come to notice that it's much easier to cut and serve.  I think people actually prefer it.  Score!  At any rate, this is a fantastic recipe and while it looks rich and comforting, it is actually quite healthy.  Layers of corn tortillas, with shredded chicken, and a lovely creamy green sauce (full of veggies) with a little cheese to top it all off.  A perfect family meal. 
Continuing on with the Mexican theme are these Crusty Black Bean Chorizo Subs, one of my personal faves.  It's no secret that I'm a complete bean fanatic, but these multitextured subs were a big hit in my home.  The crusty Mexican bolero roll, the creamy warm beans, the crumbled chorizo, the silky avocado, the sharp tang of the feta cheese and the zip of hot sauce all come together in one crazy flavor explosion.  I make these a lot when I'm home alone for lunch.
And then there were these Quick Fried Shrimp with Sweet Toasty Garlic.  I was supposed to share these shrimp with my husband and let's just say he got the short end of the stick.  I simply couldn't resist these little succulent garlicky shrimp.  These shrimp are heavenly.
Fried Risotto Balls, otherwise known as Arancini in Italian.  I made these little risotto balls at the very beginning of the year and I still remember how sinfully delicious they were.  Imagine a piece of mozzarella enveloped by a creamy tomato risotto then breaded and fried to perfection.  The crispy crunchy breading, the bright tomato flavor, and the ooey gooey melting cheese in the middle.  Oh my!  If you are a lover of cheese you will go crazy for these.
My Mom and I went absolutely insane for Giada's Scallion and Mozzarella Cornbread.  If you love cornbread you simply have to try this recipe.  This is a simple quick fix recipe that uses a few boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix, but it contains buttermilk for a tender texture and it's studded with salty green olives, sliced scallions, and loads of mozzarella.  It may sound like an odd combination of ingredients for a cornbread, but it is so moist, cheesy, and delicious.  The recipe fills an 8x8 baking dish and my Mom and I just about devour it all. 
Also from Giada's newest cookbook are these Baked Potatoes with Sausage and Arugula.  You may not think a red sauce with sausage belongs on a potato, but then you'd be missing out.  This red sauce is full of creamy mascarpone cheese and is beyond delicious on a baked potato.  My hard-to-please husband was a skeptic at first, but this is one of his favorites.  He's requested this one often and since it's a quick weeknight recipe it's easy to oblige.
Garides Saganaki, Greek for Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta, is another heavenly shrimp dish.  In Greece this dish is usually served as an appetizer, but in my home it was more of a main dish.  Since my husband doesn't really care for shrimp I usually test out the shrimp recipes with my Mom.  Mom and I chuckled as we inhaled these shrimp.  We were happy we were with each other in private because there was absolutely nothing ladylike about the way my Mom and I devoured these shrimp.  A hands down favorite for the shrimp lovers out there.
The kids favorite, and easily the most repeated recipe in my home this year, are these Easy Peasy Chicken Legs.  I've probably made this recipe about 20 times since I first made it back in June.  The kids go crazy for this crispy full-of-flavor chicken legs.  The recipe is so simple.  Season chicken legs (organic preferably) with olive oil and seasoning salt.  Roast at 400F for 30 minutes, flip over, roast another 30 minutes and you're all done.  Sometimes we use lemon pepper.  Sometimes we use Cajun seasoning.  Sometimes we make them plain for the kids and then toss them with buffalo sauce for the adults.  No matter which way we serve them they are a hit for all.  If I had to pick a favorite recipe of the year this would be it.  It's easy, it's economical, it's versatile, and it makes everyone in the house happy. 
 Barbecue Chicken Salad with Cornbread Croutons is about as American as you can get.  Everyone who tastes this salad claims it one of the best salads they've ever tasted. This salad has all the components of a good barbecue.  A tasty blend of iceberg and coleslaw tossed with coleslaw dressing, sweet corn, cheese, shredded barbecue chicken, and homemade cornbread croutons. This salad screams summertime.
If you're one of those people who rush around in the mornings then these Make-Ahead Muffin Melts from the Pioneer Woman are perfect for you. All you need to do is prepare an egg mixture, much like a simple egg salad, the night before (or on the weekend) and then in the morning you simply smear a little on an English muffin and toss it under the broiler.   A hot and satisfying breakfast in minutes!   I love that you can customize this to suit your tastes. 
One of my first forays into Indian cooking yielded these Delicious Chicken Bits courtesy of Madhur Jaffrey.  Thankfully this recipe was a smashing success!  The chicken is coated in a wonderful blend of aromatic spices.  My daughter goes crazy for this chicken, spices and all.  This dish is her personal favorite of the year and probably my second favorite recipe of they year.  I have made this recipe about 5 times since I first made them in the middle of October.  I've mentioned this recipe a couple times on earlier posts, but I highly encourage everyone to try these. 
Then came Jaffrey's Chicken with Garlic and Black Pepper and all of a sudden no one knew which Jaffrey dish they liked more.  My 11 year old daughter stands by her Delicious Chicken Bits, but my husband and I think we prefer this dish more.  Of course it all comes down to personal preference, but I think it's because this dish contains a large amount of garlic and we just adore garlic.  I made this dish very recently and with the holidays I haven't had a chance to make it again.  But I will.  Often.
Now for the sweet part, dessert.  I don't make too many desserts.  It's not that I don't like them.  It's actually because I like them too much.  This Creamy Mango Ice doesn't contain any cream or milk, but somehow manages to be ultra creamy, very refreshing, and so darn addictive.  I can still remember taking that first bite back in April.  Best of all, you do not need an ice cream maker to make this.
 And finally, I couldn't conclude this post without including this phenomenal Copycat Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark.  I loved this one so much.  If I could only make one holiday treat every year this would be the one.  The bark keeps for two weeks (although it will never last that long) and it is perfect for gift giving.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!  I look forward to checking out all your dishes in the new year!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Potato Pancakes with Spicy Korean Dipping Sauce

This is an appetizer that you can put together with basic pantry ingredients.  A little potato, onion, and egg come together to make perfectly golden crispy rounds that are brought to life with this Spicy Korean Dipping Sauce.  The sauce is salty, garlicky, spicy, and has great texture with the sesame seeds.  This is a unique way of serving potato pancakes and they were a big hit in my home.
 Potato Pancakes with Spicy Korean Dipping Sauce
Adapted from Step-by-Step Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
Makes 8 small pancakes
Serves 2-4

8 ounces russet potato
1/2 small onion, minced
1 egg
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 or 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Spicy Korean Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

In a medium bowl, add minced onion, egg, cornstarch, and salt.  Mix to combine. 

Grate the potato, or potatoes, and immediately add the potato to the above mixture. (You do not need to drain or squeeze the water out of the potato).  Mix the potato and cornstarch mixture until everything is combined.

In a cast iron skillet, or large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, drop the batter by rounded tablespoons into the frying pan.  Spread the batter out with the back of a spoon until the pancake is about 3 inches in diameter.  You should be able to cook 4 pancakes at a time.  Cook each pancake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until reddish brown.  Flip and cook on the second side for 2 to 3 minutes.  Serve hot with Spicy Korean Dipping Sauce.

Spicy Korean Dipping Sauce

1 small garlic clove, minced
1 scallion, cut into very thin rounds
1 small sliced chile, sliced thin
4 tablespoons soy sauce (preferably Japenese shoyu)
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

In a small bowl, mix all the above ingredients and allow to sit for up to 30 minutes so the flavors have time to blend.
Theme: Foods To Warm Up To

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chicken with Garlic and Black Pepper

 This is a really quick cooking stir fry dish that is delicious and so easy to make.  Tender chunks of chicken rubbed with a hearty dose of black pepper and then marinated in minced garlic, soy sauce, cilantro, a dash of sugar, and a pinch of chili powder.  Cooking the chicken in a wok over high heat ensures lots of irresistible caramelized edges.  This chicken is a flavor explosion and is excellent served over rice.
Chicken with Garlic and Black Pepper
Adapted from Step-by-Step Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 2 to 4
1 pound, skinless boneless chicken breast 
1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 large garlic cloves
1/2 packed cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or fish sauce if you prefer)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
 additional soy sauce or fish sauce for topping*
cilantro, for garnish*

Cut chicken into cube sized pieces and set aside in a medium-sized bowl.  Season the chicken with the black pepper, tossing everything together until it's combined well.  Set aside.

Peel and mince the garlic.  Finely chop the cilantro leaves.  Add the garlic, cilantro leaves, soy sauce or fish sauce, sugar, and chili powder into the bowl with the chicken and mix well.  Leave to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan or wok over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the chicken pieces, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until cooked through.  (I added a little soy sauce towards the end of cooking to help deglaze the pan). 
Garnish the chicken with cilantro and serve over rice.
Theme: Rice Is Nice!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Copycat Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark

Williams-Sonoma's Peppermint Bark.  If you've tasted it, then you know it's magical.  If you haven't tasted it, then you really need to.  This bark screams the holidays and it is so darn delicious and addictive.  For years Williams-Sonoma has been selling their peppermint bark for upwards of $30-40 per pound and people have been willing to pay good money for it because it is so darn delicious.  No need to pay big bucks any longer.  You can totally make this stuff at home.

This copycat recipe is spot on.  The real deal.  Worth it's weight in gold.  I'm not kidding.  Peppermint and chocolate are all the rage this season and I think you should seriously make this.  Ditch the cookies.  Give your oven a break.  Make this for yourself.  Eat the whole batch.  Then again, it's the season of giving.  Make another batch.  Wrap it up.  Gift it.  It definitely looks pretty all wrapped up with a bow.  People will love it.

Just please promise to use good chocolate.

Copycat Williams Sonoma Peppermint Bark
Adapted from Food Network 
Makes about 2 pounds
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

12 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces*
1 pound good-quality white chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces*
1-1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
3 candy canes or 12 round hard peppermint candies, crushed

*Note: To do this recipe right you really need to buy good chocolate.  Don't buy chocolate chips because they will not yield the same results.  Buy good quality chocolate in bar form.  I used 3 (4 oz.) bars of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate and 4 (4 oz.) bars of Ghirardelli white chocolate. 

Line a 9x13 inch baking dish with aluminum foil, shiny-side up; smooth out any wrinkles.  Heat 1 inch of water in a saucepan over low heat until steaming.

Put all but 3/4 cup of the semisweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Set the bowl over the saucepan of steaming water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and stir until one-third of the chocolate is melted.  Remove the bowl from the saucepan; keep the steaming water over low heat.  Gradually stir the reserved 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate into the bowl, a few pieces at a time, until all of the chocolate is melted.  Return the bowl to the saucepan, 5 to 10 seconds at a time, to help melt the chocolate, if needed.  Do not rush this step:  it should take about 10 minutes to melt the chocolate.

Wipe off any moisture from the bottom of the bowl.  Stir in 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract into the chocolate, then quickly pour into the prepared baking dish and spread in an even layer.  Firmly tap the dish against the counter to remove any air  bubbles.  Set aside at room temperature until almost set, about 10 minutes.  (Mine took a little longer to set.  I ended up putting it in the fridge for just a few minutes).

Meanwhile, put all but 1 cup of the white chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and repeat the melting process over the steaming water; dry the bottom of the bowl.  Stir in the remaining 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract; pour over the semisweet chocolate and spread in an even layer.  Sprinkle immediately with the crushed candy canes, gently pressing them into the white chocolate.   Set aside at room temperature until firm, about 1 hour.  Lift the bark out of the pan using the foil and break into pieces, or simply lift the bark out and cut into squares (this is what Williams-Sonoma does).  Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Surf and Turf Fried Rice

This is a new way to celebrate the decadence of surf and turf.  A flavorful and scrumptious fried rice with strips of tender and succulent filet mignon married with little chunks of shrimp, stir fried in a red pepper, garlic and shallot sauce, then mixed with fluffy rice to make for one very happy main course or side dish.  If it sounds promising, that's because it is.

This recipe calls for 4 ounces of any lean steak.  You could easily use a sirloin or strip steak, but I chose to use filet because I wanted guaranteed tenderness and I just felt like indulging.  You only need to buy one steak after all.  It might as well be a good one!

Surf and Turf Fried Rice
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Step-by-Step Cooking
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dish

1-1/4 cups long-grain rice
1 red bell pepper
1 shallot, or 1/2 small onion
2 small cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
4 ounces lean beef steak (I used filet mignon)
4 medium shrimp
2 cabbage leaves
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
chopped scallions, for garnish

Optional: 1 teaspoon of red curry paste and or red pepper flakes for added heat.    
                                         A few splashes of soy sauce

Put the rice in a bowl and wash in several changes of water, then drain.  Cover it generously with fresh water and leave to soak for 30 minutes; drain again.  Put the rice into a heavy-based pan.  Add 1-2/3 cup water and bring to a boil.  Cover the pan tightly, turn the heat to very low, and cook for 25 minutes.  Turn off the heat.  Keep covered and let the rice cool to room temperature.

Core, deseed, and coarsely chop the red pepper.  Peel and coarsely chop the shallot.  Combine the red pepper, shallot, red curry paste (if using), salt, pepper, chili powder, and red pepper flakes (if using) in a blender.  Blend to a smooth paste.  Add a few shakes of soy sauce, if desired.

Cut the steak across the grain into very thin slices.  Peel and devein the shrimp.  Cut into 1/4-inch wide segments.  Set aside.  Cut the cabbage leaves into very fine long shreds. 

Shortly before serving, set a wok over medium-high heat, then put in the oil.  When the oil is hot, add the spice paste from the blender.  Fry, stirring for 3-4 minutes until the paste turns dark red and the oil separates.  Add the beef and shrimp; stir and fry for 1-2 minutes.  Add the rice, breaking up any lumps with the back of a slotted spoon.  After breaking up the rice, go ahead and add the strips of cabbage, stir frying for a couple minutes or until the rice is heated through.  Garnish with scallions, and serve.

Theme: Potluck