Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sesame Garlic Edamame

Back in March when I was in Australia we ate at Wagamama for dinner which was such a nice surprise since I hadn't eaten there since 1996 when I was in college spending a semester in London. As a college student, I had never encountered anything so modern and cool as sitting on a long communal bench and having black-clad servers punching in our orders on handheld computers.

For an appetizer we ordered the Edamame with Chilli Garlic Salt which was a simple spin on traditional edamame plainly boiled and sprinkled with salt. I made a mental note to try and recreate it at home and it took three tries to get it just right. I realized after round one that I needed to use some oil to bind the garlic and chillis to the pods. Round two was somehow worse because the edamame still had water clinging to them which caused the oil to slide right off into the bottom of the bowl. However, when round three came around I persevered and took the time to dry the pods and then coat them with the chilli-garlic oil.

I thought that besides a final sprinkling of salt, a coating of nutty, toasted sesame seeds would be a welcome addition and I was right. These are addicting and go fast so feel free to double the recipe for a larger group.

To serve 4 as an appetizer:

  • 1 pound edamame in the shell
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Cook edamame according to package directions. Rinse under cold water to cool and allow to drain well. Lay out several sheets of paper towels and spread the edamame on them in a single layer. Cover with more paper towels.

Meanwhile, heat the peanut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and chilli. Cook, swirling the pan frequently until the garlic is just golden and fragrant.

Put the edamame in a large bowl. Pour the garlic oil over them and toss to coat them thoroughly. Add the sesame seeds and salt and toss again. Serve. These will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for a day or two.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mango Bread Pudding

Whenever I host book club I try and come up with a menu that will impress the girls but not be so tricky that I might end up hyperventilating early in the day before they arrive or worse, cry in the kitchen while they are all standing around, wine glass in hand.

This time around I selected my menu with various hors d’oeuvres type food in mind that I brought out gradually, some of which I was able to make ahead and it was a splendidly relaxed and successful evening. I went for a vaguely tropical theme and served: Spicy Margarita Raisins that called for raisins to be slowly cooked in a mixture of butter, crushed red pepper flakes, tequila, triple sec, lime juice and then coated in coarse salt. They were pretty amazing. I also served Rick Bayless’ Salsa Baked Goat Cheese, Norman Van Aken’s Black Bean and Tropical Fruit Salsa, Seared Shrimp with Lime Jalapeno Dipping Sauce, Sesame Garlic Edamame and for dessert, these Mango Bread Puddings.

These puddings were a great end to this sort of an evening because the individual portions aren’t overly large, they can be prepped ahead of time with minimal effort and the mango is an unusual but welcome fruit in this sort of dish. I can see upping the ginger factor by tossing in some minced candied ginger. And, this recipe can certainly be made in one large dish, just allow for a longer cooking time. You’ll know it’s ready when the bread is puffed and golden.

For 8 puddings:
  • 5 cups Challah bread torn into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 large, ripe mangoes, peeled and diced
  • Unsalted butter, softened, for greasing ramekins
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon demerara sugar
  • 1 cup whipped cream

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place 8 1-cup ramekins on a baking sheet. Lightly coat the inside of each one with the butter. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes and mangoes. Toss with your hands until evenly combined. Divide the mixture amongst the ramekins.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs brown sugar, vanilla and ginger. Carefully pour the milk mixture over each ramekin. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over each pudding. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until puffed and golden.

Remove from the oven, let cool for 5-10 minutes, and then dollop with the cold whipped cream and serve.

*The puddings can be assembled several hours ahead. Refrigerate the bread mixture and milk mixture separately and combine just before baking.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Grilled Lemongrass Beef Salad

I am so pleased to have Guestblogger John do his first ever post! This salad of his that he's perfected over the years is one of my most favorite things to eat. He's proven his friendship to me time and time again by substituting basil for cilantro (blech) whenever he makes this and has me over for dinner. John is also the source for my favorite Sangria and the best blueberry pie ever. --A Crafty Lass

Among the advantages of growing up in the Twin Cities is early instruction in the abundant virtues of Vietnamese cuisine. An old joke goes that every neighborhood in Minneapolis has at least two things: a Lutheran church and a good Vietnamese restaurant. Each, of course, has its own congregation of faithful.

That bit of Keillor-esque humor relies on exaggeration and cultural cliche but it's pretty close to the truth for me. I've had countless special occasions and informal chats over plates of chewy and crunchy shrimp summer rolls (Goi Cuon), herb-tossed rice noodle salads (Bun Cha), savory grilled meat and pate sandwiches (Banh Mi), and steamy, aromatic bowls of beef and noodle soup with all the garnishings (Pho). All of it dowsed with gallons of Nuoc Cham - the ubiquitous dipping sauce made with lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and hot peppers - and washed down with sweet, creamy iced coffee.

And through this culinary indoctrination I've come to know true bliss. Its physical location is somewhere between Jasmine Deli and Quang Restaurant on Nicollet Avenue. Mathematically transcribed, it goes something like this: Meat + Lemongrass + Fish Sauce + Garlic + Fire = Heaven.

That may sound exaggerated, but this recipe has the perfect summertime combination of fresh herbs, aromatics, heat, citrus, and charred, smokey meat. If you're not a red meat eater, it works just as well with chicken, shrimp, pork, and even tofu. (I'll have to take the Crafty Lass' word on that last one.)

For the Grilled Lemongrass Steak:
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, outer leaves discarded and root end trimmed
  • 7 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1- to 1 1/4-pound skirt, flank, or flatiron steak

Thinly slice the lower 6 inches of the lemongrass stalks and discard the rest. Puree with the garlic in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and blend well. Combine the marinade and steak in a large ziploc bag and refrigerate overnight.

For the Nuoc Cham Dressing:

Start with 1-1/3 cups of hot water and add 1/2 cup sugar and stir to dissolve. Then add:

  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 4 minced cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoon garlic chili sauce
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Stir well and set aside.

Grill the meat over charcoal for about 5-6 minutes per side. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Make a salad of torn bibb lettuce, bean sprouts, thinly sliced scallions, sliced or shredded carrots, peeled, seeded, and sliced cucumber, and chopped fresh mint and basil leaves. Dress it lightly with some of the Nuoc Cham.

Serve the steak over some short grain rice or rice noodles and sprinkle it with chopped peanuts. Garnish with the salad and some ripe cantaloupe or gala melon and serve it with plenty of Nuoc Cham on the side for drizzling.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer Sangria

Last night I was at Guestblogger Alita's house for a gathering amongst girlfriends and it was one of those perfect nights where we ate, drank, laughed hysterically and really enjoyed one another's company. Alita had a supremely delicious spread laid out when we arrived including: roasted red pepper and white bean dip, a cheese plate with my favorite mango stilton, fresh tomato crostinis, tortellinis with lemon creme fraiche dip, olives and the best sangria ever.

For nearly a decade, Alita and I have been making this sangria which originates from our good friend John. He served it at a birthday party for me many years ago and revealed that its goodness masks the fact that cheap red wine is the main ingredient. "Cheap" sort of insults this fantastic recipe so let's just say instead that the wine used is economically mindful.

Feel free to halve this recipe, or double it for an extra-large party, being careful of the fact that it goes down quick and the boozy fruit can sneak up on you in a major way. This sangria is easy, fruity, thirst-quenching and an essential summer party drink.

To serve a crowd:

  • 1/2 gallon cheap red zinfandel
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup triple sec
  • 1/2 quart orange juice
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 quart club soda
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint strawberries, stemmed and sliced
  • 10-12 ice cubes
Thoroughly chill all ingredients (preferably overnight). Combine wine, brandy & triple sec in a large punch bowl. In a separate bowl, stir the orange and lemon juice with the sugar until it's dissolved, then add the wine mixture and stir. Add the fruit and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Just prior to serving add the ice cubes and soda. Stir and serve immediately.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Thai Fried Rice with Green Mango & Tofu

There is an amazing family-owned Thai restaurant here in Minneapolis called Sen Yai Sen Lek where I had the best fried rice of all time. It had all the amazing flavors that Thai food is known for: sweet, salty, spicy...delicious. This particular fried rice dish stuck out because it incorporated two ingredients I hadn't had in this manner before: green, unripe mango and long beans cut into short lengths. Their version also incorporates fried, dried shrimp (so good!) and sweet caramelized pork.

My version took a few tries to get right and uses more conventional ingredients. I substituted standard green beans for the long beans and omitted the pork and dried shrimp using only tofu instead. The mango, because it isn't ripe, acts like an unusual vegetable, slightly sweet and fragrant.

I think the trick with this dish is to cut all the ingredients into uniform, small pieces so that every bite is a perfect bite. The crispiness of the shallots and the tart lime are perfect, and necessary, final touches. I find this fried rice to be totally addicting and without question, I could eat this often without ever tiring of it.

For 2-3 servings:
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 6 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into half-inch cubes and blotted with paper towels
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups cooked jasmine rice (preferably day old, cold)
  • 1-2 serrano or thai bird chiles, chopped
  • 1 cup green beans cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 unripe mango, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • 1 lime, quartered

In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar. Set aside.

In a large non-skillet or well-seasoned wok, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and saute, stirring occasionally, until golden on all sides. While the tofu is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a smaller skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot until deep golden brown, stirring often, being cautious to not let them burn.

When the tofu is done, remove it with a slotted spatula into a bowl and set aside. When the shallots are done, lay them out on a paper towel to drain and set aside. They will crisp up as they cool.

Add the egg to the large skillet or wok and scramble, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. Push it to one side and add the chiles and green beans, stir-frying until the beans are bright green, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir the ingredients together, cooking for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add the tofu back to the wok and stir everything together again. Pour the soy sauce mixture over the rice and stir, cooking for a couple minutes more. Taste, and add a bit more fish sauce if desired.

To serve, spoon the rice onto 2-3 plates, add the mango and limes on the side, sprinkle the shallots over the top and serve immediately.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Frozen Berry Pie in a Vanilla Walnut Crust

I'm so happy to welcome Guestblogger Alita back! It's been far too long. She and I have talked about how our mom's used to make a variation of this pie when we were growing up and so am thrilled that she took the same concept and used fresh, seasonal ingredients. --A Crafty Lass

This fabulously frozen berry pie has seen many variations in our house. It or something similar are always welcome when the temperature & humidity of a Minnesota summer keep me from wanting to make any type of dessert that requires the oven to be on for an hour or more.

This recipe was developed as I was staring at many quarts of frozen strawberries from an amazing U-Pick place near my family’s cabin near Ottertail Lake and at some point I decided I could & should use them for more than my soy strawberry banana smoothies! I remembered having a similar pie at graduation parties & summer BBQs over the years that was a little too pre-packaged/processed for my taste: pre-made graham cracker crust with an artificially flavored yogurt/cool whip filling. So I became interested in finding something similarly refreshing, yet less processed.

This more homemade version uses a nice combination of fresh strawberries & blueberries that nicely enhances the creamy, sugary base. The crust can be made of other types of crackers or cookies you prefer – we’ve used graham crackers & chocolate wafers in other variations. I think the vanilla wafer & nut combo is my favorite though. Pecans are a great substitute for the walnuts. Any combination of berries would be delicious, I like adding raspberries when they are in season. And as an added bonus, it is perfect to make a day or 2 ahead of when you need it… just remember to take it out of the freezer a little while to thaw slightly before serving.

This dessert is the perfect ending to a backyard BBQ and could be easily be made into individual portions in ramekins or a cupcake pan for a more sophisticated garden party. To dress the pie or individual dessert up a little, finish with some fresh whipped topping, pretty berries & a sprig of mint. Enjoy!

  • 1½ cups vanilla wafers crumbs
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 5 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1½ cups sliced strawberries
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup sour cream
Combine the vanilla wafer crumbs, walnuts, butter and vanilla in a bowl. Press the mixture into the bottom & sides of a regular 10” pie pan (a little slightly taller 9” pie pan works too). Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove & let cool.

For the filling, combine strawberries, blueberries, sugar & egg white in a mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until it forms soft peaks (could take up to 10 minutes). Gently incorporate the sour cream by hand. Pour the filling into the crust & place the pie in the freezer. Be sure to take it out a little while before serving so it’s not impossible to cut, it will freeze fairly solid. A dollop of whipped cream is always a good way to finish.

Note: If you use frozen berries, you can decrease the sugar to about ½ cup.