Sunday, June 28, 2009

Whole Fish = Whole lotta good food!

For Father's day dinner I wanted to do something extra special. Since I just got back from Greece I had the Greek food I ate on the brain, including Greek salads and these really fresh grilled fish we had. I was so inspired that I ventured over to Tan-A for some shopping. They have some of the freshest fish I've seen. The tilapia is literally swimming in the tank. I wasn't sure the exact procedure to be had, but I saw the Red Snapper they had and knew that was the fish for me. I love snapper! If you've never been to an Asian grocery, you should find one and go, just for the experience. They have all kinds of meat cuts, short ribs, duck legs, and even more chicken feet than I've ever seen in one place at once. Stumped on the fish ordering protocol, I picked a couple out, and put them in the provided bag. Do I take them to the front as is? Do I need some sort of sticker and bar code? I don't know!! I was dismayed because they had the scales on and the last thing I wanted to be doing was scaling fish in my backyard. Scaling is hard work, and you get really gross in the process. Scales fly everywhere, you stink of fish and you get covered in slime. It's pretty gross. Anyways, eventually the minimally English speaking men behind the counter got to me, and I handed them my bag. They took it, weighed it, printed a label and asked me if I wanted it scaled. With elation I said yes, and he went to work de-scaling my fish for me. Success!!
Once at home, I took notes from the Leftover Foodie on how to prepare raw fish. I followed his lead and made two diagonal slits on each fish side, stuffed them and the cavity with garlic cloves, salt, cilantro and lime, and drizzled each one with olive oil and some more salt on the skin. Here are the stuffed fishes, ready for cooking! They're on my big jelly roll pan... those fish are HUGE!
Popped those babies on the grill for 8 minutes or so per side and VOILA! Unbelievable restaurant quality dinner, nice enough to make whoever is eating it feel super special. I served the fish with Greek salad (tomato, red onion, green pepper, olives, lettuce, feta, olive oil and vinegar), Corn (cut fresh off the cob, sauteed with butter, sugar, salt and pepper), roasted fresh garden veggies, a pumpkin and flax bread and a lemon caper chicken that my brothers love.
Overall, it was really good, and really special. A perfect tribute to the greatest dad on the planet, mine.
Pops, little bro and me, circa 1990

Saturday, June 27, 2009

DB: Bakewell Tarts

Ahh, the Bakewell Tart. A delicious combo of shortbread crust, sweet filling, and a light almondy cake (frangipane) on top. The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England. If you're not sure what a Bakewell Tart is, check it out on Wikipedia, the all knowing resource.
The recipe is pretty simple- a shortbread crust, jam, and frangipane. I made mine with kumquat jam I made, strawberry jam, blackberry jam and a couple of both kumquat and strawberry mixed for fillings. I also made tartlets in a muffin pan. They turned out pretty well. I have to say I don't love to eat them, but it was alright. As you can see from my pictures I overbaked the frangipane a bit, but the flavor was still good. Either way, the kumquat jam is amazing, so I'll give my rough estimation of the recipe. It was really a delicious experiment. If you haven't had kumquats you should try them. You can eat them whole, each one is little, the size of the end of my thumb about. They are bursting with citrusy goodness. The flavor is like combining lemon and orange together, but sweeter and more sour. Its hard to explain, but its amazing. Buy a container from the store sometime, you'll be happy you did!

Overall, a decent dessert, but I'm not itching to try it again. After reading Diana's reviews then maybe my problem was in the overbaking of the frangipane and I should try it again, but if mine came out how it was supposed to taste then I probably won't make it again. She's singing its praises majorly, so I may have to give it another go.
Check out all my fellow Daring Bakers here, and see their interpretation! Special shout out to my partner in kitchen crime, Diana of Thyme to Lime, and her Bakewell Tart interpretation!

Kumquat Jam
**all measurements are approximations, use your best judgement!
2 containers kumquats, sliced or roughly chopped
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

Put sugar, kumquats and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool, put in airtight jar, let cool. Enjoy!
So sad: Michael Jackson, hopefully he is finally at peace.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

DC: Oh how I love thee, sticky pot stickers

I was SUPER psyched to see Dumplings as this months challenge for Daring Cooks. I love to order these morsels as appetizers at Asian restaurants. Thin dough wrappers filled with countless combinations of sweet and savory, spicy and crunchy. I was in foodie bliss. I got started on this challenge early, because right now I am actually sitting in the airport on my way to Greece for ten days with a friend!! YAY! Talk about last minute posting. Anyways, back to the goods. These potstickers are SOO good its ridiculous. I could eat an entire batch. I literally had to restrain myself. I stuck with the original recipe provided, except I changed the pork to ground chicken, and made ground chicken ones and shrimp ones. The ground chicken ones were really good. The combination of spices was perfect, and I added a little bit of chili-garlic sauce to spice it up a bit. The shrimp ones were really phenomenal, little chunks of shrimp, crunchy morsels of water chestnut and some heat from that chili-garlic sauce. Delicious! They were SO good!!
The only thing is that stinks is the amount of time you have to put into the dough and actually making the dumplings! They're kinda time consuming, but worth the effort in this case. I would plan to make the dumpilings an entire afternoon so you're not rushed, especially if you're a one person team.

Here's the filling for the chicken ones... yumm
Pleated buns pre cooking
post pan fry
shrimp one in half. yum
Here's the recipe. I love these, and I will take the time to make them again!

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

pork filling:
1 lb (450g) ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried - rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 (55g) cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch


shrimp filling:
1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches - or just halve the filling recipe)
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for worksurface

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce

1 tsbp chili garlic sauce

1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Make the dough, Method 2 (my mom’s instructions): In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

[EDIT: 5/26/09] There have been two complaints posted about a dry dough and I realize that this rests in the problem of measuring flour which has a different density and hence weight for 2 cups depending on how you scoop it. That is why I also list the weight: 250g. Flour tends to settle over time, so when I scoop it out, I shake several cups' worth back into the container before taking a final scoop of soft, fluffy, flour and I get 250g for 2 cups. When you knead the dough, if it feels hard and dry, then you can add more water. [Warning: it will NOT be a soft bread dough, so don't expect it to be, but it shouldn't be a brick either.] It is perfectly fine to use more than the 1/2 cup listed in the recipe as everyone's climate and flours vary. Use your judgment - this is what being a Daring Cook is about. We are trying to cultivate a sense of intuition so that recipes are general guidelines from which you can expand your own style.

Both dough methods: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side (see images in post for how to fold pleats). Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.