Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Asian-Style Pasta with Peas, Peanuts and Cucumbers

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I'll be on my own for dinner much of this week, so I'm going to try making dishes that will feed one person without having leftovers to deal with. I'll be able to do that for most of the week, but I had to make an exception tonight. I had a quantity of snow peas that simply had to be used before they became fodder for the compost heap. I didn't want to waste them and couldn't bear the thought of another stir-fry, so I did a quick search for recipes where they might be used. I finally settled on this one for peanut noodles. It appears everywhere, but I think it was originally developed for Food and Wine magazine, and they should be the ones credited for its creation. While I have several excellent recipes for noodles of this type, they don't use snow peas and would not easily adapt to their addition. Because this recipe was an ideal solution to my "pea" problem I've ended up adding yet another recipe for peanut noodles to my repertoire. I can honestly report that this dish is fast, easy and delicious. I will make it again, although it presents some problems. Unlike most dishes of this sort, these noodles are served hot. The vegetables are added just before serving to keep them crisp-tender. Herein lies the problem. When the dish is reheated it becomes goopy and the vegetables become limp. That means leftovers will leave much to be desired. As written, the recipe makes four very generous servings. Try to manipulate ingredients so you have no leftovers to deal with. Barring that, have an impromptu pot luck and invite the neighbors to eat with you. Despite problems with re-heating,  those of you who make this dish will be pleased with the results. Here's the recipe.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Chinese-Style Chicken with Dried Mushrooms

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...This is another great recipe to add to your collection of quick and easy meals. While the mushrooms have to soak, once they are softened you can have the dish on the table in 10 minutes. The mushrooms are what give this dish its flavor. Chinese dried mushrooms (also called black mushrooms, dried shiitake mushrooms) have a meaty taste that enhances the flavor of any dish to which they are added. I use them often, and buy a large bag at a warehouse store so I always have them on hand. Most preparations that use dried mushrooms, also use their soaking liquid to add additional flavor. To maximize the flavor of dried mushrooms, it is important to soak them properly. Submerge them in hot water and make sure they soak long enough to really soften. I let mine sit for 30 to 45 minutes. If you plan to use the soaking liquid, remove any impurities by pouring it through a fine sieve, and, if you wish a still stronger stock, it can be boiled to reduce and concentrate its flavor. The rest of this recipe is child's play and you'll have no trouble making a great meal for your family. Here is how this Chinese-style chicken and mushroom dish is made.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

An Old-Fashioned Southern Cornmeal Pound Cake

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I think I've been cooking too long. I was at the meat counter this morning and found myself wishing for a new kind of meat. I'm tired of beef and pork and my patience with poultry is starting to fray, so I'd really like to expand my horizons. I'm perfectly willing to go where no man has gone before, at least in my kitchen, but I've found that's easier said than done. There aren't a lot of new recipes out there. There are, to be sure, scads of recipes to which new descriptors have been added. You know the kind I mean - Bacon Wrapped, Egg-Stuffed, Herbed Meatloaf with Tomato Fondue and Cumin-Flavored Goat Cheese. The thing is, no matter what they do to it, it's still meatloaf. Things in the dessert world aren't any better. I was looking for new cake recipes and found the only way I'd find them was to move back in time rather than forward. I had the good fortune to stumble on an old recipe in Eat Drink Film in an article that was written by Dianne Boate. She found a recipe for cornmeal pound cake in a regional cookbook called Vittles. As it happens, this old, but new to me, cake would make a perfect base for local berries that are appearing in our farm markets. I decided to give it a try, and I was pleased enough with the results that I am comfortable passing the recipe on to you. The cake has a unique texture and it makes a gutsy berry base. Here is how this old-time favorite is made.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016

Emeril's Asparagus Soup

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...The asparagus crop here in the Pacific Northwest appears not to have been hurt by our strange spring weather. I have so much of it that I've had to research ways in which to use it. I came across an asparagus soup recipe develop by Emeril Lagasse that sounded good enough to eat. It turned out to be that and more. The soup is decidedly understated and could be elegant if served in small cups or terrines. I opted to serve bowls of it as part of a salad supper. This is a creamy soup that achieves its smoothness without the addition of large quantities of milk or cream. No part of the asparagus is wasted in its preparation. Even the woody stalks are simmered to make the both in which the other vegetables are cooked. I will make this soup again during asparagus season. It would be prohibitively expensive at other times of year. The recipe can be halved or doubled depending on your needs. This soup would also be delicious with the addition of a good curry powder. Here's the recipe as it was originally developed.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Chocolate Cinnamon Cracks

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...It's been a while since I featured a recipe for cookies. The chocolate and cinnamon gems I'm featuring tonight are the result of trying to replicate cookies one we had on Whidbey Island last weekend. While I have to do more testing before I get it exactly right - or, alternatively, request the recipe from the innkeeper - my first effort produced a very nice, very chocolate cookie that's good enough to share with you. These crinkly topped cookies are delicious and I know all chocolate lovers will appreciate the chocolate and cinnamon combination. The cookies are simple to make, though the dough must be refrigerated before they can be formed and baked, so chill time must be factored into your baking plans. Couples and small families will especially like this recipe because the dough can be shaped and frozen in sensible quantities that can be baked at a later date. Here is how they are made.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Beef and Barley Stoup - Yes Stoup!

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...A heavy soup in May? Yes, I know it's unusual, but it seemed a logical way to use some of the beef stock that I made yesterday. Our weather has been unpredictable, and the Silver Fox has been assisting a friend  on a project that is physically exerting. I thought a hearty, robust soup would fill his hungry belly and replace the calories burned while digging out old shrubs and dead tree stumps. Those of you who have worked in old orchards,  know it's hard, heavy work, particularly in the rain. The dish I'm featuring tonight is heavier than a soup, but lighter than a stew, so I thought the word stoup, first coined by Rachael Ray, would best describe the entree I want to share with you. The recipe is straight forward and not difficult to follow. I've slightly altered a recipe I found on Food52 to accommodate the ingredients that I actually had on hand. Whether you call it a soup, stoup or stew, I think you'll find this to be a wonderfully satisfying meal. It's substantial enough for dinner and when served in slightly smaller portions, makes a wonderful stand alone lunch. I do hope you give it a try. Here is how this super stoup is made.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Stocking Up - Is it Broth, Stock or Bone Broth?

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...A dear friend is having a knee replaced today, and while a Western doctor will be performing the surgery, my bionic friend also consulted a practitioner of Chinese medicine to make sure all the bases were being covered. One of the latter's recommendations was the ingestion of bone broth soups both before and after surgery - the rationale being  a belief in Eastern medicine that "bone for bone"  speeds healing. I offered to make a homemade stock that could be used as a base for a variety of soups once his appetite has returned, and I promised to make my stock one with large quantities of marrow and other beef bones. There was a time when only cooking professionals could differentiate between a broth and a stock, but these days discussions of stocks, broths and bone broths has trickled down the culinary ladder, so that now even home cooks are expected to know the difference between the three. Here is the "skinny" as I know it.

Broth is water simmered with vegetables, aromatics, and meat, and can include some bones. It is cooked for a short period of time, usually 45 minutes to 2 hours, then strained and seasoned. The goal of broth is to use a combination of ingredients to create a light, flavorful liquid that can be enjoyed on it's own as a soup (or soup base along with other ingredients). Broth usually stays fluid when chilled.

Stock is water simmered with vegetables, aromatics, and animal bones, sometimes roasted, and sometimes with some meat still attached. It is cooked for a medium period of time, usually 4 to 6 hours, then strained. It is usually not seasoned at this stage. The goal of stock is to extract the collagen from the connective tissues and bones being simmered, which give stock its thick, gelatinous quality. When chilled, good stock should have the texture and jiggle of Jell-O. Stock is not served on its own; rather, it's used to deglaze a pan, or as a base for a rich sauce or gravy. Stock is also a great binder to use instead of cream or butter, or used in a broth-like manner (just add some water to it).

Bone broth is really a hybrid of broth and stock. The base is more stock-like, as it is usually made from roasted bones, but there can sometimes be some meat still attached. It is cooked for a long period of time, often more than 24 hours, and the goal is to not only extract the gelatin from the bones, but also release the nutritious minerals. It is then strained and seasoned to be enjoyed on its own, like broth.

As you scan the ingredient, you will see that a good brown stock/bone broth is fairly expensive to prepare. Its flavor, however, so far exceeds anything that is commercially available that I think you'll find it's worth every penny it takes to make it. The stock keeps for 3 days in the refrigerator and up to 3 months in the freezer. I do have a couple of cautions to share with those of you who will be making homemade stock for the first time. The stock will become cloudy if it is allowed to boil. This will not affect its flavor, but it will certainly spoil the appearance of the stock. You should also be aware that these stocks sour quickly if left at room temperature. It is important to cool the stock as quickly as you can and to keep it refrigerated until you are ready to use it in a soup or as the base for a sauce. You will also need a fine mesh colander and cheesecloth or a thin linen towel to strain the stock and free it from impurities. I do hope you'll give this recipe a try. Here is how I make my stock.

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