Making Baked Baguette French Toast with Blackberry Sauce
So early it's still almost dark out. I'm near the window with coffee, and the usual early morning stuff that passes for thought. When I see the boy and his friend walking up the road to deliver the newspaper. They wear caps and sweaters, and one boy has a bag over his shoulder. They are so happy they aren't saying anything, these boys. I think if they could, they would take each other's arm. It's early in the morning, and they are doing this thing together. They come on, slowly. The sky is taking on light, though the moon still hangs pale over the water. Such beauty that for a minute death and ambition, even love, doesn't enter into this. Happiness. It comes on unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really, any early morning talk about it.
- Raymond Carver
BAKED BAGUETTE FRENCH TOAST with BLACKBERRY SAUCE (recipe from Dash and Bella, serves 4):
Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add the milk, vanilla extract, orange juice/zest, and salt. Whisk until foamy and pour over bread. Flip the pieces around every 10 minutes or so for 30 minutes in total to make sure both sides are soaking up the liquid. After the 30 minutes of flipping, you can also leave it overnight if you want to. It will have a soft, souffle texture when baked. The bread should be resting in a small pool of the liquid but not drowning in it. You might need to pour off a few tablespoons of the liquid if the bread doesn’t soak most of it up.
Make sure all pieces are cut-side up. Sprinkle brown sugar all over the top. Bake until the bread is puffed up and golden (30-40 minutes). You might need to throw it under the broiler for optimum crispy crunchy caramelized beauty. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with blackberry sauce or other toppings you like.
Making Kakiage Soba Noodles
I have noodles in my nostrils.
I have noodles on my nose.
There are noodles on my cheeks and chin
and dripping down my clothes
I've got more upon my forehead.
Some are sticking to my neck.
It's completely disconcerting.
I'm a noodle-covered wreck.
I can see them on my kneecaps,
and I know they're in my shoes.
(When I stand they're somewhat squishy
and I feel them start to ooze.)
There are several in my pockets.
There's a handful in my hair
And I'm pretty sure that some are even
in my underwear.
So try not to do what I did
(I'm a total nincompoop),
and don't ever fall asleep
while eating chicken noodle soup.
- Kenn Nesbitt.
Thankfully this isn’t chicken noodle soup, but it will warm you up nonetheless.
KAKIAGE SOBA NOODLES (serves 2):
[ 1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks + 1 small onion, sliced thinly + 3-4 green beans, cut into thirds, then cut the thirds into halves + 1 green onion, sliced lengthwise thinly + 1/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted + 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon rice flour or cornstarch + 1/2 cup ice cold water + 1 egg + 1/4 teaspoon baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt + + vegetable oil for frying + 2 bundles of soba noodles + 4 tablespoons Mizkan (bonito flavored) soup base + 3 cups of water + 3 radishes, sliced + 2 green onions, sliced thinly + 1/2 cup of pre-cooked or canned sweet corn + 2 egg yolks + dried seaweed, for garnish ]
Prepare the soup broth by heating up the water and bring it to boil. Add the bonito flavored soup base and boil for one minute. Add in the sweet corn (if you’re using canned sweet corn, drain and give it a good rinse with water) and the sliced green onion. Set aside.
Cook the soba noodles until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside in a bowl.
Heat the vegetable oil in frying pan to 350F.
In a bowl, sift the cup all purpose flour and baking powder. Add in the 1/4 cup rice flour and salt. In another bowl, gently beat the egg with the ice cold water. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined. The batter can be a little lumpy but it should be slightly runny.
Add the vegetables into a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon rice flour and coat the ingredients. Pour the batter over the ingredients and mix.
When the oil reaches 350F, take a scoop of the ingredients with a mesh sieve or spider catcher and let the excess batter drip off. Slowly slide the ingredients into oil. Keep the ingredients from separating by gathering them together with a chopstick during frying. Deep fry until golden-brown and put into a cooling rack (not paper towels!). Repeat with remaining mixture.
Reheat the soup broth. Divide the noodles into two bowls and ladle with the hot broth. Top with egg yolks, sliced radishes and the deep fried kakiage. Garnish with sliced green onions and dried seaweed. Serve immediately.
Making Brown Butter Shrimp Spaghetti with Dandelion Greens
For someone who cooks food, talks (in sleep too, apparently, as verified by the Sister) food, dreams food and eats [a whole lot of] food, there are a lot of staple ingredients I have yet to taste; kale, canned anchovies, watercress, ricotta cheese, capers, all dried herbs save for oregano and basil, butter beans, dandelion greens. Sometimes I convince myself that I know what these ingredients taste like, based on hours of
procrastinating, when I should be studying reading and extensive research. And in my head these informations stay, until one day when I finally taste the real thing.
As it happens to be, our small patch of garden is of the unruly sort. I think the last patron of the house had a green thumb, since there were already an eggplant patch and a papaya tree, if I’m not mistaken, when we took the place. Alas, it is now a weedy affair, with bushes I can’t identify threatening to take over. Weeds have grown through the cracks in the pathway and I saw a yellow flower that reminded me of younger days, blowing dandelion seeds across the wind. Now I’ve read one or two Kinfolk magazine to know that they’re edible, but what does it taste like?
Bitter. That’s a common word in all my searched results. Boil it twice, they say, to leech off the bitterness. Pair it with rich flavors, they say, cheese, bacon, cream, egg, bacon fat and more cheese. Perfect, I say, a new ingredient to cook in hearty ingredients to taste and commit to memory.
BROWN BUTTER SHRIMP SPAGHETTI with DANDELION GREENS (serves 4) :
[ 1 lb whole wheat spaghetti + 1 lb large shrimp, cleaned and deveined + 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter + 2-3 rashers of turkey bacon (or bacon) + 2 cups fresh dandelion greens, torn into 1” pieces + 4 cloves of garlic + 3 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley + 1 teaspoon chopped red chili + juice of 1 lemon + 3/4 cup panko, or regular bread crumbs + 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg + 1/3 to 1/2 cup parmesan cheese ]
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al-dente according to the package instructions.
In another pot, heat water to a boil and cook the dandelion greens for 5 minutes. Drain, and cook again in a new pot of water for another 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Chop the bacon and add to the skillet and brown. Take it out and set aside. Remove oil and fat until you have about two tablespoons left. Add in the breadcrumbs, nutmeg and 1 tablespoon of parsley. Stir occasionally until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
In another skillet, heat the remaining tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When the butter melts and begins to foam, give it a good whisk and add in the garlic and chopped red chili. Keep whisking until the butter begins to bubble and brown flecks begin to form at the bottom of the pan, about 5-8 minutes. Add in the shrimp and cook until they just turn pink. Add in the parsley and lemon juice and stir. Add in the dandelion greens and turn the heat to low.
Drain the pasta and toss it into the butter-shrimp mixture. Stir to combine, making sure all the pasta is coated in brown butter. Throw in the bacon and toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide into plates and top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Serve warm.
Making Moroccan Chicken with Eggplant Ragout
I’ve lost love which was fine, but realizing that it won’t ever come back in the form of friendship makes me sad. I’ve lost a feline companion to old age. He once sat with me while I challenge myself to see how much caffeine I can consume in one go (a large mug of black coffee and a large bar of dark chocolate affair that left me throwing up with a side of throbbing headache when the caffeine crashed). We’ve just gotten out of the woods with my mother’s illness and are now back home safely after two flights that were delayed. Twice. It’s exhausting and for the past few weeks it has gotten harder and harder to cook anything worthwhile. Until yesterday, when I found the kitten that used to hang around the house before we took off for the 17 day treatment. It has grown now. Sturdier, its meows less raspy. But still hesitant and eyes me with distrust, even with my rapidly blinking eyes and crouched stance next to the eggplant patch it cowers itself in.
I went inside and looked at the stacks of cans of tuna we left for the housekeeper to feed my old feline friend. I picked one of up pulled the tags and as I did, it felt like everything’s going to start to be okay. Why mourn things you cannot change? There is a perfectly ripe eggplant waiting to be picked, a scared and hungry kitten waiting to be fed and loved. A sliced olive salad in paprika oil from a salad bar last night waiting to mingle in a stew. I’ve left the candied ginger aside for another time and ice creams begone (for now, at least); I can’t keep up the fruity, cheerful charade. It’s time for some real cooking. I’m back, and I’m planning to make it worthwhile.
MORROCAN CHICKEN WITH EGGPLANT RAGOUT (adapted from this recipe, serves 4)
[ 3 tablespoons olive oil + 1 1 /2 pounds chicken legs, or any cuts you like + 2 small or 1 medium eggplant + 1 small onion + 4 cloves of garlic + 1/4 cup water or low sodium broth + 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with juices, or the same amount of chopped fresh tomatoes + 1/4 cup chopped or sliced green olives + 2 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice + 1 teaspoon sugar + 2 tablespoon minced parsley + salt + ground black pepper ]
Cut the eggplants and onion into cubes and mince the garlic. In a bowl, season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper and 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice. Toss to coat.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook for 8-10 minutes per side, turning once. Remove the chicken and set aside in a plate. Drain off excess fat until you have only 2 tablespoons left.
Add eggplant cubes to the pan and cook until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add remaining olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Increase the heat to high and add water or stock to the pan. Scrape up any browned bits and add in the the tomatoes, lemon juice and sliced olives. Season to taste and place the chicken top. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and cut a lemon wedge or two to serve on the side.
Serve immediately with bread or oven chips. Enjoy!
Making Vegan Strawberry Ripple Ice cream
Just going to say that this is my favorite so far. I think a more sour strawberry works better with the coconut cream, but any fresh or frozen will do just fine.
VEGAN STRAWBERRY RIPPLE ICE CREAM:
[ 2 cups coconut cream + 3 cups fresh strawberries + 1/3 cup raw honey or 3 tablespoon agave + 1/2 teaspoon agar-agar powder + 1 tablespoon cornstarch + 1 tablespoon sugar + 1 teaspoon lemon juice + 2 tablespoon water ]
Blend the coconut cream, 1 1/2 cup of strawberries, agar-agar powder, cornstarch and honey or agave in a blender until well combined.
Pour ice cream base into a bowl and freeze for 1 hour, stirring occasionally as it freezes to prevent crystals from forming.
Meanwhile, heat the rest of the strawberries, sugar, water and lemon juice in a large pan and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring regularly. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering, then continue to simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the fruit has broken down.
Give the ice cream base a final stir either with a fork or better yet, a hand held mixer until it smooth.
Take an airtight container and put half of ice cream and spread at the bottom. Take half of the cooled strawberry sauce and dump it on top. Repeat with the other half of ice cream and sauce mixture. Using a blunt knife, marble the ice cream and sauce lightly, then cover the container with a lid and freeze for 3-4 hours, or until solid. Thaw at room temperature for a few minutes before serving.
Making Vegan Matcha Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
There’s a slight change in the line-up of ice creams to be posted. It was supposed to be one involving candied ginger (and lemongrass!) but today the old and faithful “banana soft serve” trick is coming back with grassy matcha, a kick of peppermint and bites of chocolate. It takes virtually no time to make, so long as you have a food processor or high speed blender, which I don’t. If your blender is as desolate as mine, then whiz up the ingredients in batches. You can of course omit the peppermint and chocolate and up the coconut cream to 3/4 cup for the sole matcha flavor .
VEGAN MATCHA MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM:
[ 4 bananas, peeled, chopped and frozen + 1/2 cup coconut cream + 1/4 cup condensed rice milk (recipe here) + 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon matcha powder + 2 teaspoon peppermint extract + 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract + 1/2 cup mini dairy free chocolate chips or chopped chocolate ]
Combine two tablespoon of coconut cream with the matcha powder and whisk until there are no more lumps.
In a food processor (S blade attachment) or blender, blend all the ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Blend at high speed until smooth and thick.
Pour into an airtight container and fold in the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.
Freeze for at least 3 hours before serving. If it freezes solid, then leave to sit at room temperature for a few minutes until scoop-able.
Making Vegan [Coconut] Vanilla Ice Cream
When I was writing the first draft of this, I was waffling on and on about the different milk and cream alternatives you can use for a vegan ice cream base. Then I realized that the writing comes across as insincere, less personal. The truth is this: I’ve never made vegan ice cream before. I don’t wish to purchase pricey cashews and/or almonds and then soak them to make cream. I don’t have an ice cream maker. I don’t quite understand why raw sugar is considered superior to brown or white sugar (I’m pretty sure the body can’t tell the difference).
What I do know is this - that there is a universal recipe for a no-churn ice cream base consisting of heavy cream and condensed milk. With that in mind, I tried recreating it by using coconut cream and condensed rice milk (recipe below). I’m not oblivious enough to say that this tastes exactly like vanilla ice cream, but the coconut flavor itself is very subtle and if you amp up the vanilla by throwing in the real deal; as in real vanilla seeds from a real vanilla bean instead of drops of essence like yours truly, then it’s a pretty close approximate.
CONDENSED RICE MILK (makes 1 cup):
[ 2 3/4 rice milk (can be substituted with any non-dairy milk) + 1/2 cup sugar + 1/4 teaspoon salt + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ]
Simmer all the ingredients in a small pot on low heat for approximately one hour and 15 minutes while whisking occasionally. Don’t let the mixture boil aggressively; a very mild simmer is okay.
As the mixture reduces, lower the heat a bit more. In the last 10 minutes, whisk in the vanilla extract.
Transfer the condensed non-dairy milk to a container, cover and cools to at least room temperature before using.
VEGAN COCONUT VANILLA ICE CREAM:
[ 2 cups coconut cream + 1 cup condensed rice milk + 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1/8 teaspoon salt + 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder ]
In a big bowl, beat together coconut cream, arrowroot powder and condensed rice milk with a whisk or electric mixer until thick. Add in the vanilla extract and salt and whisk again until incorporated.
Pour the ice cream into an airtight container and freeze for at least 4 hours; checking after the first hour if any crystals has formed - if there are, give it a good whisk; before serving.
You scream, I scream “ [vegan] Ice cream!”.
Valentine’s day is coming around and I don’t know about you, but as a newly…detached homo sapien, I’m looking to indulge in smooth, creamy concoctions that’s almost guilt free and don’t require that much elbow grease.
So I present to you…5 days of no-machine vegan ice cream! It would’ve been 7 days but I was too preoccupied with things to notice the days dwindling by. Anywho, drop the flavors you want to see made and we’ll see what happens (and calling all vegans to chime in with any tips and tricks for making ice cream).
Making Honey Pan Roasted Butternut Squash Grilled Cheese
I love honey. I love any and all variaties of them. Clover honey? Sure. Black Forest honey? Bring it on. Honeycombs? Bring me some and we’re best friends. On the day that I finished my water-fast, I took a piece of white bread, slathered it with peanut butter and Nutella, folded it in half and set it on a small plate. I then drowned it in honey and ate it. With a fork. It promptly came back out after 15 minutes, because anyone who’s ever done a water fast knows that you need to ease back into food. I knew too, but that’s just how much I love honey.
I’ve never had butternut squash. I’ve had the old sugar pumpkins, yes, but never butternut squash. My mother’s feeling unwell so all she eats as her in-between meal snacks of grilled fish and porridge are bananas and steamed butternut squash. I sneaked a bite and now here we are. I had to cleave off a large chunk of her last butternut squash for this. Sorry not sorry (I’ll buy you another one, mother!).
The steamed bite that I snuck was tender and sweet, and while that tasted pretty good, I wasn’t sure it would work in a grilled cheese. So we’ll cook this like we would gyozas - by searing them over high heat before throwing in some water and covering the pan to make sure the buttery notes come through. This then gets tossed in a honey dressing with sultanas and sauteed onions. This mixture will work with any cheese, I think, including *cue dramatic music* processed cheese. So let’s stop the hate.
HONEY PAN-ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH GRILLED CHEESE (comfortably serves 2 to 3)
[ 1 small butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes + 2 tablespoon olive oil + 1 teaspoon honey + 1 clove of garlic, minced + 1 tablespoon lemon juice + a small handful of sultanas + 1 large onion + 4-6 slices of bread + cheese, type and amount of your choice + salt and pepper to taste ]
Slice the onion and saute in a pan or skillet over medium heat with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil until translucent and soft and brown in some parts. Season with salt and set aside.
Combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice and honey in a large bowl and give it a good whisk. Add in the sultanas and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Using the same pan, heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat and saute the minced garlic until fragrant. Toss in the butternut squash cubes to coat with the oil and turn up the heat to medium high. Cook for 3 minutes. Give it a gentle stir to make sure the all sides brown up, and cook for another 3 minutes. Add two tablespoons of water and cover up with the lid. Turn the heat to low and cook for another 2 minutes or until fork tender. Take off the lid and give it another stir to make sure all the water has evaporated.
Tip off the butternut into the dressing and toss to coat.
Built the sandwich by dividing and piling the butternut squash on top of 2-3 slices of bread. Top with cheese and another piece of bread and butter the outside of both bread. Cook in a pan or in a panini press until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.