Friday, June 29, 2018

Flashback Friday - Shrimp Salad with Thai Flavors

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This post originally appeared on on June 8, 2012.

When the weather gets truly hot - up in the 90s - with high humidity, we don't really want to cook. Or eat, for that matter. Sometimes a nice cold salad is the best way to beat the heat. That, and cranking the air conditioning. 

I had a pound of shrimp in the fridge that was destined for either salad or cocktail, but I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do. When Mr Minx said he'd be happy eating PB&J, I was inspired to create a somewhat Thai-ish shrimp salad with peanut butter in the dressing.

Shrimp Salad with Thai Flavors

4 teaspoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 teaspoon lemongrass paste
1 lb shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined, cut into approximately 1/2" pieces
5 Peppadew peppers, diced, or 3 tablespoons chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon Thai basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
peanuts and Thai basil for garnish

Combine first ten ingredients in a large bowl. Mix in shrimp, peppers, and basil. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve on lettuce-lined plates or on a sandwich.

Serves 2-4

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Pastrami Sandwich Pasta

Despite only just learning how to make homemade pasta, I'm now getting fancy with it. I have found that I prefer forming pasta by hand than rolling it out with Kitchen Aid attachments. For one thing, I can sit while I'm working rather than stand in front of the counter, and my bad back appreciates that. For another thing, I find it more suited to my creative mind. Hand-forming pasta shapes is almost like making edible beads. (For those who don't know, I have a jewelry business on the side.)

A couple of weeks ago, I tried making cavatelli for the first time, with the help of Mr Minx. It worked out so well, I decided to buy one of those little grooved paddles used to make gnocchi and tried making malloreddus, aka Sardinian gnocchi. Only malloreddus are made with semolina, and mine are not; technically I have no idea what the things I made are called. Someone on Instagram suggested "gnocchi" or "gnocchetti," but doesn't that normally bring to mind the pasta commonly made with potato?

So what did I do to cause myself so much nomenclatural consternation? I used rye flour. And all-purpose wheat flour. And some ground caraway seeds. You see, I wanted them to taste like rye bread. I was feeling all clever and decided that rye pasta needed a mustard cream sauce and pastrami.

I would have preferred to use pastrami from a real Jewish deli, but I didn't feel like making a special trip. Boar's Head, Dietz and Watson, et. al., are just not the same thing, but they were as close as I was going to get. If you can get real pastrami (or corned beef), then by all means use the good stuff! As for the mustard cream sauce, I used a combination of spicy brown mustard and dried mustard, but you can use whatever you prefer in whatever amounts most please your palate. I used about a quarter cup of liquid mustard. YMMV. I had some smoked mozzarella in the fridge that I put on top, but I'm betting Swiss would be great and fit with the theme nicely.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the way the dish turned out and thought I'd share the recipe guidelines with you. Enjoy!

Pastrami Sandwich Pasta

For the pasta:
1.5 cups finely milled rye flour (I used Arrowhead Mills)
1.5 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, ground to a powder in a spice mill
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
About 1 cup water

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
Spicy brown mustard
Mustard powder
Sherry vinegar
1/4 lb pastrami, chopped
Cheese of your choice (I used cubed smoked mozzarella)
Parsley for garnish
Additional caraway seeds (optional)

To make the pasta: Place flours, ground seeds, and olive oil in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add most of the water and turn on the machine. After a few turns of the hook and scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula, check to see if the mixture seems too dry. If that's the case, add more water. If you add too much, the dough will make an unpleasant squishy slapping sound in the mixer.  Never fear! That can be fixed by adding more rye flour until the dough seems dryer yet holds together. (It is better to err on the side of dry than of wet.) Remove the dough from the bowl to a board and give it a few kneads. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Flour a cutting board and prepare some baking sheets with parchment. Give them a generous dusting of semolina or regular flour to prevent sticking. If you have a grooved gnocchi board, give that a light dusting, too. If you don't have one, don't worry about it; you'll just be making cavatelli instead.

Remove the rested dough from the fridge. Cut off small pieces of the dough and roll them into snakes that are a bit less than half an inch wide. Cut the snake into pieces about an inch long. Take each piece and roll into a hot-dog shape by pressing it with your first two fingers and rolling it toward yourself. A video really helps:

I actually use my thumb and roll the pasta away from me, but whatever works!

Place the pasta on the prepared baking sheets and toss with the flour. Repeat until all of the dough is used up.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until the pieces float and stay there, 3-8 minutes, depending on the size of the pasta. Reserve a bit of the cooking water to thin the sauce, if necessary.

To make the sauce: Heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Sprinkle onion with the flour and stir to combine. Let to cook a few moments before adding the cream. I wanted my sauce to be obviously mustardy, so I added about 1/4 cup of the brown mustard and a good teaspoon of the dried mustard, plus a few teaspoons of sherry vinegar to add the requisite tang. You may feel the brown mustard alone does the trick, so I suggest seasoning to your taste. Add half the pastrami to the sauce.

Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce, using reserved cooking liquid if the sauce seems too thick. Serve pasta topped with more of the pastrami, a bit of cheese, and some parsley. A sprinkle of caraway too, if you're as fond of the flavor as I am.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Flashback Friday - Pina Colada Cake

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This post originally appeared on on June 25, 2009.

When I posted my pineapple upside-down cake photos on Facebook, a friend responded with a recipe for a cake that contained crushed pineapple. I decided to make the cake for Father's Day, so added a rum glaze and flaked coconut. Dad loves a good pina colada.

Pina Colada Cake

1 ­ 20 oz can crushed pineapple and juice
2 c all-purpose flour
2 c sugar
1 c coconut
2 eggs, beaten
2 t vanilla
2 t baking soda

Rum Glaze
1/4 lb. butter
1/4 c. water
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. rum

Preheat oven to 350F. Place ingredients in large bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly blended. Pour into a well-greased bundt pan. Bake 30-40 minutes.

Prepare Glaze: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes (stirring constantly). Remove from heat and stir in rum. Drizzle glaze over cake. Allow time for cake to absorb glaze. Repeat until glaze is all gone.

The cake was a big hit. It was moist, despite not having any fat in addition to that in the egg yolks. It wasn't light and fluffy, of course, but somewhat dense. I wished the coconut flavor was more pronounced, so might try this again, removing the pineapple juice and substituting coconut milk.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Cauliflower Tikka Masala

One of the dishes we sampled at the new Topside at the equally new Hotel Revival was a dish of cauliflower flavored a la Indian butter chicken. It was really good, and reminded me that cauliflower would make a fine meat substitute in a similar dish, chicken tikka masala. So rather than fuss around like the restaurant did and fry the cauliflower separately, I just made straight-up cauliflower tikka masala. I've made the chicken version before, and used heavy cream for the sauce. This time, I used whole milk yogurt, which made it extra tangy and delicious.

Cauliflower Tikka Masala

2 teaspoons garam masala (divided use)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric (divided use)
1 teaspoon ground coriander (divided use)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (divided use)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided use)
5 tablespoons whole milk yogurt (divided use)
1 medium cauliflower, trimmed into florets
1 small onion roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1-inch chunk of peeled ginger, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus sprigs for garnish
Steamed basmati rice (for serving)

Combine first five ingredients in a large bowl. Remove half of the spices to a small bowl and set aside for later. Add three tablespoons of the yogurt to the spices in the large bowl and stir well to combine. Add the cauliflower florets. Using your hands, rub the marinade into the cauliflower (using a spoon won't cut it), and set the bowl aside at room temperature for at least half an hour.

Place the chopped onion, garlic, and ginger in a food processor and pulse to a paste. Heat a large skillet and add the vegetable oil. Add the onion puree and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture gives up its juices and is starting to look dry. Add the spice mixture and stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook the mixture until the tomato paste has darkened and the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes with juices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer the mixture, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat your broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and arrange cauliflower in a single layer. Broil for eight minutes, until cauliflower starts to blacken in spots. Turn the pieces over and broil for another 5-6 minutes.

When the cauliflower is almost done, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of yogurt to the sauce and stir well to combine. Toss in the cauliflower, stirring to coat it with the sauce. Turn the heat to low and cover the pan to allow the cauliflower to cook to your preferred texture (it will still be a bit crunchy when it comes out of the broiler, but that's the way I like it).

Serve with rice and cilantro garnish. A side of roasted okra is nice, too.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Flashback Friday - Fumetto #19 - Always Dieting Girl

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This post originally appeared on on March 22, 2012

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Friday, June 08, 2018

Flashback Friday - Where There's Smoke...

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This post originally appeared on on August 6, 2012
Some time ago, my brother bought us a stovetop smoker. This one, to be exact. We used it exactly once, to smoke some pork tenderloins. We neither burned the house down nor filled it with smoke, so I suppose the first experiment was largely successful. Except that the meat didn't taste particularly smoky. Recently, I got it in my head that I should put the smoker to use again, this time smoking some vegetables. The Fourth of July was coming up, and on that day we'd be eating beef burgers flavored with the smoke from the grill. Portobello mushrooms make pretty good burger substitutes and I wondered if they'd be even better when smoked.

Mushrooms, buns, and poblano peppers were purchased during our usual weekly trip to the grocery store and hung around in the fridge awaiting the weekend. And then Mother Nature struck, knocking out our power for four days. The mushrooms got packed up with the rest of the contents of fridge and freezer and were transported to Dad's place, where we lived until BGE got the electricity up and running (I think they saved our neighborhood for last). Rather than let the mushrooms dry out and go to waste, I chopped them up and used them to stretch a bit of frozen pasta sauce from our freezer (a bonus - doing so made for two fewer things to carry home later).

Once we were back in our own digs, I was determined to make the smoked mushrooms, come hell or high water. (The temperatures around here sure did feel like hell.) I also smoked some thickly sliced onion that became a sweet and tangy jam for topping the mushroom burgers. I was pretty pleased with the results. While the smoked mushrooms would never fool a carnivore, they made for a fine meatless supper.

Smoked Portobello Burgers with Smoked Onion Jam

4 large or 8 small portobello mushroom caps
1/2 onion, sliced thickly

Place mushrooms and onion in a stovetop smoker and smoke according to manufacturer's directions for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool inside smoker. When cool, remove mushrooms and set aside. Place onions in a saucepan to make the jam.

Onion Jam

smoked onion
olive oil
pinch salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

Add a teaspoon or so of olive oil and a pinch of salt to the saucepan of smoked onions. Cook on medium heat, stirring often, until the onions start to wilt and become translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in brown sugar and vinegar, turn heat to low, cover, and simmer an additional 20-30 minutes, until onions are very soft and have caramelized. If there's too much liquid left in the pot, raise the temperature and cook, uncovered, until the juices thicken. If the onions aren't smoky enough, stir in the smoked paprika.

To serve:
olive oil
sliced cheese (optional)
Hamburger buns
roasted poblano or red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
avocado slices

Heat a bit of olive oil in a large skillet and add mushrooms. Cook on both sides for a couple of minutes to heat through. Top with cheese in the last minute or so of cooking, if desired, and cover pan.

Spread a bit of mayo on each side of a hamburger bun and add a few strips of pepper. Place one large or two small portobello caps onto the peppers. Top with avocado (tomato is nice, too) and a spoonful of onions.

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Monday, June 04, 2018

Sparkling Ice Cocktails

When offered the choice between sparkling or still water in restaurants, I take still every time. Unflavored carbonated water isn't my thing, but I do like sparkling flavored beverages, as long as they are somewhat sweet. I always keep a bottle of what I call "fizzy water" on hand, mostly to dilute my orange or grapefruit juice. While I'd love to guzzle a big glass of juice every morning, 8 fl oz of OJ has about 111 calories, which are probably better used on an egg and half a slice of toast. Instead, I pour about 2 ounces of juice (with pulp!) in my glass and add a few ounces of no-calorie lime fizzy water. I'm so used to drinking it that way that straight-up juice doesn't seem quite right.

In addition to saving a few calories on juice, I like to use my water to top off a glass of booze, especially in the warmer months when I don't want as much alcohol in a drink as I might in the winter. I'll take a Manhattan in January, but in June I'd rather sip on a spritzer. And while my usual generic grocery store brand fizzy water is ok for such applications, I have discovered that Sparkling Ice is even better. It's flavored with actual fruit juice, so it tastes better than the stuff I used to use,  and contains vitamins and antioxidants in the form of green tea extract. Sparkling Ice is sweetened with Sucralose, which means it has sweetness but zero calories.

Sparkling Ice comes in 16 flavors. The Lemon Lime is my favorite, because it's the most neutral and versatile (IMHO), but I'm also fond of the Pink Grapefruit, Ginger Lime, and Coconut Pineapple. Combine any of those flavors with a little white rum and a lime wedge and voila! Instant cocktail! But you could also add fruit juices and fancier garnishes and make perfect party drinks, like the ones featured below.
Tropical Flower Punch

1 cup of coconut rum
1 cup of mango juice
2 cups of orange juice
¼ cup of grenadine
2 cups Sparkling Ice Coconut Pineapple
Edible flowers, for garnish

In a large punch bowl, combine the coconut rum, mango juice, grenadine, Sparkling Ice Coconut Pineapple and stir. Fill glasses with ice and ladle in the punch, garnish with edible flowers serve.

Citrus Punch

2 cups vodka
½ cup lime juice
3 cups pineapple juice
2 bottles Sparkling Ice Orange Mango
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 orange, sliced
1 blood orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
Pineapple slices

Pour the vodka, lime juice, pineapple juice, Sparkling Ice Orange Mango, and nutmeg in a large punch bowl. Toss in orange, blood orange, lemon slices and stir. Fill glasses with a ladle, garnish with fresh pineapple.

Pretty much any combination of liqueurs, juices, and Sparkling Ice would make a fine summer sipper. Try Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka with the Ginger Lime, your favorite Sweet Tea flavored vodka with Classic Lemonade, or anything else you can dream up!

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Friday, June 01, 2018

Flashback Friday - Sichuanese Cookery

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This post originally appeared on on July 22 2009.

Mr Minx and I went to H Mart last week to pick up some needed staples: Kewpie mayo; dark soy; noodles; Mexican chorizo. I also wanted to pick up some chile bean sauce to use in Sichuan cookery. You see, after reading Fuchsia Dunlop's excellent Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper, I bought her Sichuan cookbook, Land of Plenty.

The first thing I attempted was "ants climbing a tree," or, vermicelli noodles with ground pork.

I had eaten an excellent version at Grace Garden and wanted to recreate it. Unfortunately, this recipe didn't do the trick. My noodles were spicy and salty and that's about it - missing any nuance of flavors found in Chef Li's version. I kinda had an idea that would be the case, so I also cooked up a stir fry of scallops, langoustine tails (advertised as such at Trader Joe's but they sure taste like crawfish to me), oyster mushrooms, and gai lan (Chinese broccoli) in black bean sauce to go with. I love how gai lan is both bitter and sweet at the same time.

Next time I have a hankering for ants climbing a tree, I'll try this recipe. Or this one.

The second recipe I chose from Land of Plenty was for a family favorite, kung pao chicken. It was scrumptious, and my house now smells like a Chinese restaurant - sweet, meat, and garlic. I didn't use the "generous handful of dried red chiles" called for because 1) I didn't have them; 2) I like spicy food but I didn't want to hurt myself; I used cayenne instead. I'll definitely make this one again, maybe with shrimp next time.

Kung Pao Chicken (adapted from Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop)

4 chicken thighs, boned and skinned, cut into small cubes
2 large cloves of garlic, minced, and an equivalent amount of fresh ginger, cut into thin slices
5 scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated
2/3 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
cayenne to taste
Sichuan peppercorns

for marinade
1/2 t salt
2 t light soy sauce
1 t Shaoxing rice wine or medium-dry sherry
2 1/4 t cornstarch
1 T water

for sauce
3 t sugar
1 1/8 t cornstarch
1 t dark soy sauce
1 t light soy sauce
3 t Chinkiang or black Chinese vinegar
1 t sesame oil
1 T water

1. Place chicken in a bowl with marinade ingredients, set aside.
2. Combine sauce ingredients in small bowl. Add minced ginger. Set aside.
3. Heat a large skillet and add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. When hot but not smoking, add chicken and after chicken cubes have separated, add ginger and white part of scallions. Stir fry until the meat is cooked through. Season with cayenne and, if you have it, ground Sichuan pepper.
4. Stir the sauce and pour into the pan, continuing to stir the meat. When the sauce is thick and glossy, stir in the peanuts and remove from heat.
5. Garnish with scallion greens and serve with rice.

Serves 2 - 4, depending on appetite and side dishes.

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