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.

Curried Shrimp Dumplings

I wish I could recount for you the first time I ever ate a dumpling.  It’s not that I fear it’s a boring story; no, quite sadly, I cannot recall my first experience with the little bundles of joy.

I can, however, remember the first time I ate dumplings that I made with my own hands.  Except for the skin of course…I’ve never been brave enough to make my own dumpling skins, not when I can buy them so cheaply at the local Asian supermarket.

Anyway, back to homemade dumplings.  Of course, I was in Taiwan, where my love for authentic Chinese food began.  I lived in an apartment with two other girls from my study abroad program, and each of us had a Taiwanese roommate.  Mine was named Alice.

Alice was a sweet, soft-spoken woman, who was always very patient with me, despite my constant questions about my new surroundings.  Since I was the only person in the without extended family living in the country (the other girls from the US were Asian-American), Alice and my other Taiwanese apartment-mates were amazing at making me feel welcome and eventually, at home.

One night, we decided to have an apartment bonding activity: dumpling making.  It was great fun, but let’s just say my first dumplings were not pretty, nor were they really edible, since I couldn’t get the pleats to stay together at first.  I managed to get a few to come out looking halfway decent, and I like to think they tasted better because I made them myself.  I am now a dumpling pleating pro, even though I turned these dumplings into little bundles.  They look so cute that way! Plus pleating a wonton wrapper is difficult.

These dumplings remind me of the curry dumplings I had in Taiwan.  I toned down the curry paste that the original recipe called for so that the shrimp wasn’t overpowered.  If you really want a bold curry taste, feel free to use more, up to 4 tsp.

Curried Shrimp Dumplings

Adapted from Everyday Food

Makes about 24 dumplings

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

2 scallions, thinly sliced

¾ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tsp red curry paste

1 tsp fish sauce

24 or so wonton wrappers

In a small skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of oil over medium-high heat.  Add ginger and scallions and cook, stirring, until scallions are slightly softened and mixture is fragrant, 2 minutes and remove from heat.  In a food processor, pulse shrimp until finely chopped.  Transfer to a bowl and add ginger mixture, curry paste and fish sauce; stir to combine.

Working with one wonton wrapper at a time, place a heaping teaspoon of the shrimp mixture in the center.  With a wet finger, moisten all edges of the wrapper, then bring all four corners together, pinching at the top to seal.  Repeat with remaining filling and wrappers.  Cover your completed dumplings with a kitchen towel while you work so they won’t dry out.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat the other Tbsp of oil over medium-high heat.  Add as many dumplings as you want to cook/will fit in the skillet, seam side up, and cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 1 minute.  Add about ½ cup of water to the pan, cover, and let it cook until the water is almost completely evaporated and the dumplings are tender, about 3 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium if the dumplings are browning too quickly.  Once they are cooked through, transfer the dumplings to a serving plate and serve with your favorite dumpling sauces.  I like to make a dipping sauce that’s 3 parts soy sauce to 1 part sesame oil.  Luke prefers plain soy sauce.

Thai Pumpkin Peanut Hummus

Even though it’s pouring, today’s gonna be a good day.  How can I be so sure you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  Today Luke and I have another cake tasting!  Yippee!!!

I know, I know, didn’t we settle the cake business like a month ago?  Yes and no.  Yes, we put down a deposit at a particular bakery, but on a second perusal of their menu, we realized there was wayyy too much cake that we didn’t taste the first time around.

And if we’re going to order a wedding cake, I best be able to taste any flavor I’m even remotely interested in, just to make sure I’m, I mean we, are getting exactly what we want.  So bring on the cake!

Which is a great segway into hummus.  But this isn’t just any hummus.  This is probably one of the most amazing hummuses (?) I have ever tasted.  The name might sound strange, but the complexity of the flavors is incredible.  Pumpkin, peanut butter and scallions might seem like weird ingredients for hummus, but trust me, it works.  It works so well I never want to eat a different kind of hummus again.  Well, almost never.

Needless to say, this has definitely become my go-to hummus recipe.

Thai Peanut Pumpkin Hummus

Adapted from Cara’s Cravings

Makes about 2 cups

1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and peeled (last step optional but so worth it)
1/4 cup all natural peanut butter
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp ground ginger
2 large scallions, chopped
2 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp salt

 Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.  Add water 1 Tbsp at a time if the hummus looks too thick.  Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro if desired and store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.  The hummus will keep for up to three weeks.

Moo Shu Pork

Growing up, you could never entice me with a pork chop.  Or any pork product of any kind, except maybe a hot dog.  Nowadays things seem to have reversed themselves.  I haven’t touched a hot dog in years, and other cuts of pork have never looked so good.

The one exception being bacon.  I despise bacon.  Boo all you want, but it won’t change my mind.  To me, bacon is gross, and that’s just the way it is.  But put a nice pork shoulder or tenderloin in front of me and I am ready to go.

We all know I love pulled pork.  Well, I also am really starting to like pork tenderloin.  I bought a 2-pound one when they were on sale one day, and threw it in the freezer until I could figure out what to do with it.

Not having a grill, and an unwillingness to repeat the cleaning disaster that is my grill pan, I knew there must be other ways to utilize this meat.

And oh lordy I found it.  Now, I have never had moo shu pork from an American Chinese restaurant.  I never had it in China as it is a northern dish and I was in Taiwan (which falls more into the Southern school of cooking).  So I have no idea if this is close in taste to “authentic” moo shu pork, but my goodness was it good.

The recipe also calls for making your own mandarin pancakes, so it’s intensive, but the final result is quite impressive and sure to delight.  Plus, it’s MSG free!!

Moo Shu Pork

Adapted from 2002 Cooking Light Annual Recipes

Makes 6-8 servings

For the pancakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup boiling water

1 ½ Tbsp sesame oil

For the pork filling:

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp rice wine or sake

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp cornstarch

1 ½ lbs boneless pork loin, trimmed and cut into 1x ¼ inch pieces

½ cup dried shiitake mushrooms

8 oz button mushrooms, sliced

½ cup scallions, sliced

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp peeled fresh ginger, grated

3 Tbsp rice wine or sake

3 Tbsp soy sauce

½ tsp cornstarch

½ tsp sugar

¼ tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp peanut oil (or any other veggie oil), divided

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 Tbsp rice wine or sake

½ cup hoisin sauce

1 Tbsp soy sauce

First, marinate the pork.  Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large Ziploc bag.  Add the pork, seal, shake to coat pieces and let marinate in the refrigerator for one hour, turning occasionally.  Remove pork from bag and discard the marinade.

While the pork is marinating, make the pancakes.  Combine the flour and water in a large bowl.  Stir until a soft dough forms, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes.  Shape the dough into a 1 ½ inch thick log.  Divide the dough into 14 or 16 equal portions.  Roll each dough portion into a 6 inch circle.  Brush one half of the pancakes evenly with the oil, then top them with another pancake, gently pressing them together.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Place 1 pancake stack in the pan and cook for one minute on each side or until slightly puffed.  Remove from pan, and cool.  Peel pancakes apart and repeat with the rest of the pancake pairs.  Set them aside to cool.

Continue to make the filling.  Combine 2 cups boiling water with the dried shiitakes mushrooms in a bowl, cover, and let stand for 20 minutes.  Drain, discard the stems, and thinly slice the caps.  Combine sliced shiitakes, sliced button mushrooms, scallions and ginger in a medium bowl, set aside.

Combine 3 Tbsp rice wine and next 4 ingredients in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk.  Set aside.

Heat ½ Tbsp oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add pork, and stir fry 3-5 minutes, or until no longer pink.  Remove pork from pan.  Add the remaining oil and add the vegetable mixture.  Stir fry for 5-8 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and have released their juices.  Add the eggs, and stir fry 30 seconds more or until softly scrambled.  Add the pork back in, and then add in the cornstarch mixture.  Stir fry for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.  Place pork mixture on a platter.

Combine hoisin sauce and soy sauce in a small bowl.  Spread a little of the mixture on each pancake, then top each with about ½ cup of the pork mixture.  Roll up and enjoy!

Pesto & Scallion Mac n’ Cheese

Sometimes you just need some comfort food.

Because you stubbed your toe on that stupid raised step into the kitchen that you know is there, but nevertheless you always seem to forget to pick up your foot that extra two inches.

Or maybe because it’s dark and rainy out, and that’s just a good reason in itself to do anything in the kitchen.

Or perhaps you whipped up an awesome batch of cupcakes, and wanted to top them with an equally awesome brown sugar marshmallow frosting.  Except no matter how long you hovered over your hand mixer churning away, the frosting never gets past the consistency of fluff, and so you give up and eat your cupcakes, slightly unsatisfied.

That’s reason enough for me to throw a nice, bubbly pan of mac n’ cheese in the oven.  And if scallions and pesto are added to the mix, my sad cupcake blues just melt away with each bite that feels like a hug in my mouth.  Excuse me, I have some more cheesy pasta to eat.

Pesto & Scallion Mac n’ Cheese

Adapted from How Sweet Eats

Makes 4-6 servings

4 cups pasta (smallish pasta works best, like elbow noodles, penne, rotini)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp flour

2 cups milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

10 oz grated cheddar cheese, and more for topping

pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup pesto

½ cup scallions, chopped (optional)

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot and cook pasta according to directions.  Make sure to cook it a few minutes short as it will cook again in the oven.

While pasta is cooking, heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once sizzling, add flour and whisk until smooth to create a roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until golden and has a nutty aroma. Add milk and cream, bring to a boil while constantly whisking. Reduce heat to low and add cheese, then cook for a few minutes while stirring until cheese is melted and mixture thickens. Add nutmeg, then taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Add pasta to a baking dish (I used an 8X8″) and pour cheese sauce over top. Stir to distribute sauce, then stir in pesto and scallions. Top with additional grated cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top is golden and bubbly.

Baked Cheddar Perogis

Luke and I have been doing research on universities in Massachusetts.  Turns out, if I want to get my Masters in the same discipline as my undergrad work, I have only two options.  In the whooooole state.

And yes, one of them is Harvard.  Ohhhhh boy….so really only one option, but a girl can dream.

I also registered for the GRE.  How I hate standardized tests, but we do what we must.

And I must share these perogis with you.  I can’t remember eating perogis before I made these, so I don’t have much basis for comparison, but I thoroughly enjoyed them.

The filling is made of mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese, and it’s encased in a simple dough then baked to golden perfection.  You could also pan fry them, but I was looking for a little less grease, while still maintaining a crispy shell.

And no, I didn’t forget: here’s your Hop Day with Izzy pic!  Happy Wednesday!

Nom nom nom.

Baked Cheddar Perogis

Adapted from The Bite House

Makes about 20 perogis

For the Dough:

 2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup sour cream
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1 egg
Pinch of salt

For the Filling:

2 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cup grated cheddar

chives and/or parlsey, finely chopped (I used scallions)
pinch of salt

 For the dough: Mix everything together with your hands or a mixer until you have a smooth dough. If needed, you can loosen it up with up to ¼ cup of cold water.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

 Meanwhile, make the filling: Boil the potatoes until thoroughly cooked, about 15-20 minutes.  Strain them and let stand for 5 minutes to let the extra moisture out.  Mash and add the cheddar, herbs and salt.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out the dough to about 1/8″ thick. With a glass or dough cutter, cut out 3″ circles, saving the trimings.  Put about 1/2 tablespoon of filling in the middle of each.  Dip your finger in water and pass it around the edges so the dough will stick together nicely.  Close the perogis making sure they are completely sealed. You can crimp the edges with a fork to ensure this.  Set them aside on a pan.  Repeat the process with the rest of the dough, rerolling as needed.

At this point you can put them in a bag with a dash of flour and freeze them.

Put the perogis on a lined or greased baking sheet and bake for 15-20 mins or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then serve with desired condiments.