Wonton Crackers

Another kitty visitor!

Can you tell I’m getting married on Sunday by the tone of my recent posts?  I certainly hope not.  I like to think I’ve been very calm and collected through this entire process.

How have I accomplished this you ask?  Well, I’m pretty sure that’s just the kind of girl I am.  I never imagined what my wedding would be like growing up; that’s not the kind of girl I was.  I was out getting dirty and playing sports or reading, but never daydreaming about what the centerpieces at my guests’ tables would look like or how big and fluffy my ball gown would be.

I guess what I’m trying to convey is that, this wedding has no standards to live up to, no dreams or wishes to disappoint.  For me, it will be what it will be, and as long as I actually get married and the people witnessing it have a good time afterwards, then it’ll be a great wedding in my mind.

And it all kind of starts tonight.  Tonight is Luke’s bachelor party.  Which leaves me at home, making crackers?  No, but I am preparing for something.  We’re having our friends over for a house party on Saturday, so while Luke’s out partying (don’t worry, my party is on tomorrow night), I’m planning, baking and cooking for Saturday.

Part of the spread will be dips, chips, etc, and since I’m getting into this whole DIY thing, I decided to make my own crackers.   Why is it that making something as simple as crackers can bring such joy?   I felt such satisfaction when I pulled these out of the oven, that it almost seemed unmerited.  But the crackers are crisp and tasty, so who cares.

Wonton Crackers

Adapted from Andrea’s Recipes

Makes 50-80 crackers*

1 package wonton wrappers
baking spray
2 large egg whites

Topping ideas:
coarse sea salt
poppy seeds
sesame seeds
black sesame seeds
cumin seeds
curry powder
garlic powder
chili powder
cinnamon + sugar

 Place oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°.

Take a stack of about 10 wonton wrappers and cut them in half into triangles. Leave the rest in the package so they don’t dry out. Lay the triangles on the baking sheet close together and cut more triangles as necessary to fill the sheet. Spray some canola oil on the triangles, then flip them over. Brush the top side of the triangles with the egg white.

Sprinkle on whatever combination of toppings you like.  I used leftover everything topping from this recipe.  Sprinkle spices first, then add seeds and salt. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown and crispy, about 7 to 9 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through. Remove and allow to cool on the pan, then keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

*You can always make this recipe using whatever amount of wonton wrappers you happen to have.

 


Pad Thai

As you can tell, I stuck to using up my fruit by baking them into sweet things.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t try fruit in a savory dish (I once made a pear & cheese quesadilla) but there were just so many tasties calling out to me.  Maybe next year I’ll branch out a little bit more.

For now, let’s take a quick break and talk about noodles.  Yes, I know I could fill a book talking about my love of noodles.  So let’s narrow it down a bit, shall we?

Pad thai.  That quintessential dish with its lightly sweetened sauce, soft rice noodles, crunchy bean sprouts and chopped peanuts.  There is a wonderful Thai restaurant in my hometown whose pad thai I have unequivocally endorsed as the best pad thai ever.  And I order pad thai every time I go to a place where it’s on the menu.  None have been better.  Not even my own rendition sadly.  But!  This is the closest I’ve come to recreating it, and believe me, there have been multiple attempts.

The key to pad thai’s sweetness lies in using tamarind paste, as well as sugar.  I would never trust any pad thai recipe that includes ketchup.  Pad thai is not red.  There is definitely no ketchup in a thai kitchen.  If you can’t find tamarind paste at your local Asian grocer, try Amazon.  It is truly a key ingredient in getting your pad thai to taste like it came from a restaurant.  I didn’t have bean sprouts on hand, so I only used scallions for garnish.  I wasn’t going to drive for 30 mins just to get bean sprouts.

Even without their iconic crunch, I loved every bite of this pad thai.  I can’t wait to make it again.

Pad Thai

Adapted from Cook Like a Champion

Makes 4 servings

2 Tbsp tamarind concentrate
2/3 cup hot water
3 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
¾ tsp cayenne pepper
4 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
8 ounces dried rice noodles about 1/8-inch wide
2 large eggs
¼ tsp salt
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
6 Tbsp chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
3 cups fresh bean sprouts
5 green onions, green parts only, sliced thinly

In a small bowl, dissolve tamarind concentrate in hot water. Stir in fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, cayenne and 2 Tbsp of oil and set aside. Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Soak until softened and pliable but not completely tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Whisk together eggs and 1/8 tsp of salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large skillet over high heat for about 2 minutes, or until it’s just beginning to smoke. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3-5 minutes or until cooked through and pink. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Off heat, add the remaining Tbsp of oil to skillet and swirl to coat. Add garlic and shallot and return pan to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes or until light golden brown. Add eggs and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula until scrambled, about 20 seconds. Add noodles and toss to combine. Pour the tamarind mixture over the noodles and increase heat to high. Cook, tossing constantly, until the noodles are evenly coated with the sauce. Add 1/4 cup of peanuts, bean sprouts, shrimp and all but ¼ cup of the green onions to the noodles. Continue tossing until well combined and noodles are tender, 2-3 minutes. If noodles are not yet tender, add 2 Tbsp of water to skillet and continue cooking.

Transfer to serving dishes and sprinkle with remaining green onions and peanuts.


Bulgogi Dumplings

Ohh, Wednesday already!  Check out my cute kitchen bunny!  She seemed to enjoy lying against the oven…until I turned it on.  Then back in the litter box she hopped.

I must say that I am very much enjoying her new house bunny-ness.  Girlfriend has an exact internal clock, and it brings me so much joy to feel the dainty brushings of bunny feet on mine while I prepare a little plate of veggies for her.  Sometimes she even follows me around when she thinks I have food for her.  Now if I could only train her to respond to her name…a task for another day I suppose.  Today, we’re making dumplings.

I should back up a second.  These dumplings are a fabulous fusion of Korean and Chinese cuisine.  You might have read the title and wondered to yourself, ‘Hmmm…what is bulgogi?’ (bull-gah-gee)  Well, I’m glad you asked.  I was first introduced to this dish by a Korean friend of mine who said he’d only give the recipe to the girl he would marry.  So I never got that recipe.

That being said, I’ve found some pretty good recipes on the Internet.  Bulgogi is a beef dish characterized by super thin slices of flank steak (or a similar cut) marinated in a sweet, yet savory sauce.  You have to try it to understand the true flavor of bulgogi.

I would absolutely recommend searching out a Korean restaurant if you want to give it a try.  Bulgogi is amazing.  Seriously.  Amazing.  And when you stuff the flavors of bulgogi inside a dumpling wrapper, things get even more amazing.

Added to the mix are also chopped scallions (of course) and chopped up bits of cooked vermicelli noodles (thin bean thread noodles).  The end result is umm…amazing.  I have made these twice now, and have been incredibly happy with the results both times.  Dust off those dumpling crimping skills and get to it!

Bulgogi Dumplings

Adapted from The Cooking of Joy

Makes 4-6 servings, about 4-5 dozen dumplings

1 bundle bean thread vermicelli (available at your local Asian market)
1 lb ground beef
3 scallions, roughly chopped
½ cup bulgogi marinade (also available at Asian markets or online)
1 Tbsp sesame oil

1 package dumpling wrappers

Soak the bean thread vermicelli in a bowl filled with hot water for 15 minutes.  While the vermicelli is soaking, use a food processor to mince the scallions. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Squeeze the excess water out of the vermicelli and use the food processor to chop into about 1/2″ pieces. Add to the mixing bowl.

Add the ground beef, marinade, and sesame oil and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Get your dumpling wrappers and a small bowl of water out.  Wet your finger and trace the edges of a wrapper.  Put a spoonful of the filling in the middle and fold in half.  Seal center portion of the joined edges. Pleat the edges together from right to left, making sure that the whole thing is totally sealed and place on the tray.  Repeat this process until the filling is gone.

To pan-fry the dumplings, heat a frying pan on high and add a Tbsp of vegetable oil once it is hot. Once the oil is hot, add the dumplings one at a time so that they are sitting upright. Once the bottoms are browned, add about a cup of water to the pan and cover it.  Let cook for a few minutes until the water is almost all gone. Remove the lid and let the rest of the water cook off.  Transfer the dumplings to a serving plate using tongs, and serve alongside soy sauce.


Five Spice Chicken & Mushroom Noodle Bowl

One more day.  One more day until this apartment ceases to be my home.  To me, moving is bittersweet.  You say goodbye to the old place you’ve grown accustomed to and felt comfortable in, and go onward to the new strange place that is home, but doesn’t feel like it yet.

When I went off to college, my mom sold the house I had grown up in and moved as well.  I was sad to leave that house, filled with countless memories, because it was the only home I had ever really known.

This will be the first house I can call my home since then.  Right now, it doesn’t feel much like home, littered with half-unpacked boxes and kitchen supplies stacked in various corners.  Maybe it’s because none of our furniture is there yet.  I mean, how can you have a home without a bed or sofa, or any chairs?  Or a cute little bunny to greet you when you get home?

So I suppose time is needed.  Time to acclimate to my new surroundings.  I’m excited.  I’m nervous.  I want noodles.  Noodles are my all-time comfort food.  I ate them practically non-stop in Taiwan (in between sips of bubble tea) and I pretty much eat them whenever possible.

This recipe is kind of an Asian mash-up, featuring Chinese five-spice powder aka my own personal MSG and udon noodles, which are Japanese.  I suppose I could have used lo-mein noodles.  Oh well.  This noodle bowl contains sautéed mushrooms and chicken rubbed thoroughly with five-spice powder.  Plus a classic sauce and of course, scallions.  Ah yes, comfort food at its finest.  Now back to packing.

Five Spice Chicken & Mushroom Noodle Bowl

Adapted from Better Recipes

Makes about 3-4 servings

8oz udon, lo-mein or other medium sized noodle

1 lb thinly sliced chicken breasts or boneless thighs

2 Tbsp Chinese five-spice powder

8oz button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced

¼ cup veggie or peanut oil

4 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp sesame seeds

¼ cup chopped scallions for garnish

Prepare your noodles according to the instructions on their packaging.  While the noodles are cooking, make the sauce and prep the chicken.

Whisk the soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar together in a small bowl; set aside.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken pieces with the five-spice powder, and rub it in well.  Heat half the oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the chicken and cook over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove to a plate and set aside, leaving the drippings in the pan.

Heat the remaining half of the oil and add in the mushrooms.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until lightly browned and tender, about 5-8 minutes.

Add the noodles into the pan, then pour the sauce over the noodles, stirring to coat.  Add the chicken back in and toss the mixture until the sauce thickens a bit, about 3-5 minutes.

Transfer the noodles to bowls and garnish with chopped scallions and sesame seeds.  Enjoy your comfort noodles!


Onigiri

Monday has arrived, so I want to share something fun to lighten the mood for this week.

Onigiri fillings

Onigiri.  Oh-nee-gear-eee.  Also known as Japanese rice balls.  Also known as a tasty, fun and interesting dinner.

They’re also great to snack on.  When I was in Taiwan, I would buy packaged onigiri at the nearest 7-Eleven practically every day.  Or multiple times a day.  Don’t blame me, there were 7-Elevens everywhere. 

When I went to Tokyo, I got to experience authentic onigiri.  Pure heaven, even if I can’t handle the more traditional fillings like umeboshi (pickled plums).  So I make mine with canned tuna.  (Which they do in Japan as well, so there.)

Luke’s were filled with a spicy mixture, while mine was mild.  I also sprinkled mine with furikake seasoning, a Japanese condiment, and wrapped them in nori (dried seaweed).  You can get furikake and nori at your local Asian supermarket, and if you can’t procure, the rice balls will still be great without them.

So if you’re feeling adventurous this week and want to try something new, I’d recommend onigiri.  It’s just so much fun to say and eat!

Onigiri (Japanese rice balls)

Makes about 10 rice balls (depending on how big you make them)

4 cups short grain (sushi) rice, cooked and cooled

1 can tuna, drained

2 Tbsp mayonnaise

2 Tbsp sriracha or other hot sauce

¼ cup hummus

2 sheets of nori, cut into 2” strips

furikake seasoning for garnish

Cook the rice according to the directions on the package, or in a rice cooker.  Let the rice cool completely before starting assembly.

While the rice cools, make the fillings.  In a small bowl, scrape out half of the tuna, add mayo and hot sauce and mix until evenly combined with a fork.

In another small bowl, mix remaining tuna and hummus (with a different stirring apparatus).

Before you begin working with the rice, make sure your hands are wet.  This will keep the rice from sticking to you.  When the rice is cool, use a large spoon or rice paddle to scoop out about ½ cup of rice.  Cupping it in your palm, flatten the rice out and spoon about 2 Tbsp of filling in the center.  Close your palm and use your other hand to bring the rice ball together.  You can also shape the ball into the traditional triangle shape, but I think spheres are much cuter.

Once the rice ball is firmly packed and no filling can be seen, wrap a strip of nori around the ball and put it on a plate.  Garnish with furikake if desired.

Continue this process for remaining rice and filling, and enjoy!


Beef Teriyaki

Finally, I get around the infamous grill pan post.  I know it’s taken me a while, but since I make so many meals/desserts/snacks/breads etc. to share with you all, I actually have so many photos that I’m posting about a month behind.

I know, it’s a strange fallacy that everything I post here I’m currently eating in my apartment, but I did have it at some point recently, so you can still trust my judgment.

Now, onto the beef.  I made this for Luke’s birthday, since I always make some kind of beef dish as his “special” meal, and we were very happy with how this turned out.  Minus the whole cleaning catastrophe.

All the char bits hardened onto my cast iron grill pan, and I guess it wasn’t seasoned well enough because those bits stuck on hard, and I’m now very apprehensive about using it again.  I say just wait until we move into the new house and get a proper grill.

The man plate.

Anyway, this beef tastes just like the teriyaki beef strips you get from take-out Chinese places (which I do love so much despite my normal ambivalence towards American Chinese food.)  The glaze is a perfect blend of sweet and savory, and I wanted to pour it on everything.  I served the beef over thin egg noodles and mushrooms, which I stir-fried with some of the extra sauce.  Luke dubbed it one of his best birthday meals.  I think that means it’s a winner!

Beef Teriyaki

Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Makes 3-4 servings

For the steak:

1 lb flank steak, trimmed of excess fat
1/6 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp mirin (or rice wine)
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp orange zest (I omitted this)
1 scallion, chopped, separated

For the sauce:

1/6 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sake or vermouth
1/4 cup mirin (or rice wine)
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp cornstarch

Cut your steak into inch wide strips, then cut the strips into pieces about 4 inches long.

Put the soy sauce, mirin, canola oil, garlic, ginger, sugar, orange zest and the white parts of the scallion in a resealable plastic bag. Shake to combine. Add the meat, press out the air and seal the bag. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (but no more than an hour), flipping the bag every 15 minutes to make sure the marinade coats evenly.

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat (400-450 F). Oil the grates lightly.  Or, if using a grill pan, place the pan over two burners set to medium high heat and grease the ridges.

While the grill/burners preheat, make the sauce. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce is syrupy, about 12 minutes. The sauce should be reduced to about 1/2 cup. Transfer all but 2 tablespoons of the sauce to a small bowl and set aside for serving.  (I set aside half so I could stir fry noodles.)

Remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the meat on the grill or grill pan and cook on the first side for about 3 minutes, or until well seared. Flip the steak and cook on the second side for 3 more minutes. Use half of the reserved 2 tablespoons of sauce to brush the top of the meat, then flip and cook for 30 seconds. Brush the second side of the meat with the remaining tablespoon of sauce, flip and cook for 30 seconds longer. Transfer the meat to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.

Garnish with the green parts of the scallion and serve with the reserved sauce over noodles or rice.


Pork Vindaloo

Why must the Internet flood my RSS reader with so many posts about grilling?  Damn you Memorial Day weekend and your heralding of summer grill time.

I am angry, obviously, because I do not own a grill, and am ever so jealous of those delicious char marks being paraded before my eyes.  Someday I will have steaks and pork chops that bear that quintessential mark of outdoor eating, but not this day.  Not this weekend.

So I do want I can.  And since I had some pork leftover from my moo shu pork, I decided to make a curry of sorts.  A very tasty curry, if I may.

I’d been waiting to start using the curry paste I bought ages ago from a local Indian market, so finally hearing the top pop open was music to my ears.  The rich aroma emanating from that little jar was so overwhelming, it made me want to cry.  Or maybe that was the spices irritating my tear ducts.

Either way, this curry is fabulously simple.  I paired it with some of my leftover moo shu pancakes, but serving it with rice or noodles would be great too.

Pork Vindaloo

Adapted from Food Figure

Makes 2-3 servings

1/2 lb pork tenderloin, cut into bite sized pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
a thumb sized piece of ginger, minced or shredded
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp red curry paste
1 cup diced tomatoes or 3/4 cup tomato sauce
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
1-2 cups water
2/3 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven or a large skillet with high sides, add oil and cook onions over medium heat.  Cook for about 8-10 minutes or until the onions are soft and starting to get some color.  Add the garlic, ginger, and curry paste and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the pork and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes or tomato sauce, brown sugar and vinegar. Add just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and turn the heat up to medium. Allow the curry to reduce for several minutes or until desired thickness. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove from heat and stir in the yogurt or sour cream. Serve beside or over your favorite rice, naan, noodles or on its own. Garnish with a few leafs of cilantro or parsley.