Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tofu with Hot Spring Egg (Onsen Tamago)

I have been head-over-heels with Japanese cooking recently. Japanese food is my all-time favorite cuisine but I never really ventured anything beyond making sushi, maki and teriyaki haha. However, a few months back, I came across Harumi Kurihara's cookbooks and it completely blew my mind away. Her recipes are a mix of traditional and contemporary Japanese food and not only did they not require a lot of different ingredients (more like a play on a few ingredients in different ways), the steps to create the dish is not too complicated.

Hence, I've been experimenting with her cookbook (bless my library that has her book) and am totally sold on the recipes! I've tried her gyudon (beef rice bowl), grilled mackerel with special sauce, hijiki salad, just to name a few. They are simply delicious! I am so going to get one of her cookbooks soon for my keeping! :)

I just love how Japanese food is so delicate, and can be made into really beautiful looking dishes. The above dish is one fine example of it, and the latest recipe I tried from her book. I hope you enjoy making it as much as I did! :)

Tofu with Hot Spring Egg (from Harumi's Japanese Cooking)

2 (12.3-oz) boxes soft silken tofu
4 hot spring eggs
1 teaspoon of dried fish flakes
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon sake
chopped green onions or chives to taste
grated fresh ginger to taste

To make hot spring egg (onsen tamago)
Put the eggs into a wideneck flask (or any other container that will hold heat) - make sure the eggs are at room temperature, not chilled.
Add boiling water to cover them and leave for 10 minutes. They yolk should still be runny with the white just cooked.

Drain tofu and wrap in paper towels to remove excess water.

Make the dressing by combining the dried fish flakes, soy sauce, mirin and sake in a microwave-safe bowl and cooking it in the microwave on medium for 2 minutes. Leave to cool and then strain. If you cannot obtain the fish flakes then use a little concentrated fish stock to give a slight fish flavor to the dressing.

*Note: I didn't have fish flakes on hand so I used a few (about 5) granules of dashi as a substitute. Also, I microwaves the sauce a wee bit longer cos I prefer a slightly thicker consistency.

Cut the tofu into 4 pieces and place one piece in each bowl. Scoop out a hollow in each one like this (I used a large block of tofu instead of cutting it up)

I love how cute it looks with that hole heh.
 Put a hot spring egg into each hollow:

Think I dug the hole a little too deep haha
Arrange the scooped tofu around the edge. Scatter some green onions on top and dab on a little grated ginger.

Pour the dressing over the tofu and serve.

And there you have it! Yummy yummy yum!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Balsamic Glaze

Nicely roasted.
Last month, while on vacation, I chanced upon The Pioneer Woman on television. If you don't know who she is, she is great blogger (and a very funny one) who writes extensively on food, recipes as well as snippets of her family and life on the ranch. I love her blog and her style of writing! :) 

As I was saying, she was preparing a holiday feast for her family and one of the dishes she made was roasted brussels sprouts with balsamic glaze. She made it look so easy and delicious that before long, I bought myself a bag of brussels sprouts just to try it.  

Roasted brussels sprouts by itself is already a lovely dish, with the vegetable caramelizing at the edges as it roasts. So, if you are looking for a shortcut, you can omit the glaze and the dried cranberries. But paired with the balsamic glaze, it does give it an extra oomph, making it a very suitable appetizer, with the right amount of acidity to further whet your appetite for the next course! :)

For this recipe, I used dried cherries because I don't have dried cranberries which was what the original recipe calls for. The cherries I had were quite tart so I would pair it with cranberries the next time instead because I believe that will lend itself a slightly sweeter flavor.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Balsamic Glaze (from The Pioneer Woman)

3 pounds Brussels Sprouts
1/2 cup Olive Oil 
Salt And Pepper
1 cup Balsamic Vinegar 
1/2 cup Sugar 
1 cup Dried Cranberries

Trim/clean Brussels sprouts, then cut them in half if desired (or you can leave them whole). Arrange on two baking sheets and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pepper and roast at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until brown.

Combine balsamic vinegar and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and reduce until very thick, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the roasted sprouts, then sprinkle on dried cranberries. Toss and serve immediately.
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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Compound Butter

I've always been very fascinated with compound butter. I love it when I eat out and my slab of steak came with a knob of compound butter on it because it is really a flavor enhancer for the steak (or chicken, fish, etc for that matter) and the flavor varies from restaurant to restaurant, dish to dish.

So, that day I bought some steak and thought, why not make my own compound butter from scratch? After reading several articles and recipes online for compound butter, I decided to use my favorite herbs and make a simple one. Nothing too fancy, since it was my first time making it.

Using a knife, mash the softened butter with the other ingredients.
I used 1/4 cup of unsalted butter softened at room temperature. Do not soften it in the microwave, cos the butter will break down into an oily mess - which is not what you want.

My added ingredients are: 1 large clove of garlic (minced), 1 teaspoon of fresh parsley (minced), 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice and a tiny pinch of salt. I love garlic, so I added a wee bit more. The good thing about making your own compound butter (as with all other recipes) is that you can adjust according to your taste so please taste a pinch before wrapping it up! Add more or less herbs, juice, etc to taste!

Roll them up with some cling wrap.

Twist the ends of the cling wrap as you would with a sweet, making sure it is compact all the way through. Try to not have holes and gaps in between.

There you have it. Store it in the fridge for a couple of hours for it to hold its shape.

Cut a knob out and put it on a good piece of sirloin like what I did!
The result was absolutely delicious and I can't believe how EASY it was. I can't wait to try other combinations next time! Other common elements that can be added are shallots, dill, thyme and even red wine - in varying combinations of course, not all at once!

I also baked some potatoes a couple of days later and stuck a knob of butter into the piping hot potato and it was delish! Don't bake the butter with the potato... just stick it in when the potato is cooked and out of the oven. Such an easy way to kick a dish up a notch!

So there you have it - easy, creamy, beautiful - compound butter!

Edit: As to how long this compound butter can last, I try to use it within a week since it has fresh herbs inside (some websites says more, some says less). If you want to prolong its shelf life, you can also put it in the freezer - but even then, I'd say no more than 2 weeks. But that's just me. Hehe. Since this recipe is so easy, I'd just make it in smaller quantities, hence the 1/4 cup butter measurement.

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Key Lime Cupcakes

I've been in the mood for all things citrus-y and sour lately. Must be passed on from my hubby's current obsession with clementines! We've been eating them by the handfuls!

And so, I was thinking of making cupcakes that day when I chanced upon this key lime recipe from Bon Appetit. It looked pretty simple, and all I needed was to get myself some key limes - which i love! :D Whenever I have hokkien mee I must spray it with a good dose of lime juice before tucking in. Same with mee siam. But of course I don't use key limes for them. The ones I use in Singapore have yellow centers, as opposed to the ones shown below.

Each lime packs quite a punch!
By the way, this cupcake recipe calls for buttermilk, which I don't have. The good news is, buttermilk can be easily (oh so simply!) made at home using normal milk and white vinegar. All you have to do is put one tablespoon of vinegar in one cup of milk and let it sit for 10 minutes. You'll notice the change in texture and there you have it - buttermilk! Save yourself from running to the store and getting a huge packet - the bulk of it which won't be needed for this recipe!

Just a note, I didn't use the cream cheese frosting from Bon Appetit's recipe. Instead, I used normal butter cream frosting, and added the juice of one lime and some lime zest, to taste. Also, I followed the recipe pretty closely and felt that it was pretty sweet. I wished the cake was more sour so I topped mine off with a lime wedge for that added punch! :)

Key Lime Cupcakes (from Bon Appetit)

Ingredients for Cupcakes

1 cup all purpose flour 
3/4 cup self-rising flour 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 1/4 cup sugar 
2 large eggs 
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel 
1/4 teaspoon neon-green food coloring 
3/4 cup buttermilk

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting  

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature 
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners. Whisk both flours in medium bowl. Beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar; beat to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then next 3 ingredients (batter may look curdled). Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions. Spoon scant 1/3 cup batter into each liner.

Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool.

For the frosting, beat all the ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Spread over cupcakes.

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Chicken Class

I had my second class at Fiore Market Cafe and this time round, we learnt how to make chicken stock! Wait, scratch that, we were supposed to learn how to make chicken stock, but Bill, the chef and owner of the cafe, had kindly taught us how to roast a chicken, braise beef shanks, make chicken, beef and vegetable stock AND two types of soup! Man, it was such an enriching class and I learnt so much, my pen was up in the air scribbling most of the time.

For those who are not familiar with Fiore Market Cafe, you can read the first class I had with them here, where I learnt how to make a few types of bread, as well as a short review on my favorite cafe in the world! :)

So yes, back to the class. I had a great time meeting new people, fellow foodies like myself who are interested in making wholesome food! I love how we get to witness the whole process, which allowed me to pick up small tips here and there on how to make broth, braise meet, etc. This was also the first time I interacted with Bill's wife, Anne, and she is just so friendly and humorous.

Below are some of the pictures I took at the class. Cooking classes are so fun... I can't wait to sign up for more! :D

Taking the meat off the bones of the beef shank.

The chef at work!

We learnt, we cooked and we ate heartily. What more can we ask for? :) I LOVE their roast chicken sandwich with pesto and cheese on focaccia bread (left).

Carrot soup, one of the two soups we made that day.
On another note, I went to the cafe yesterday and tried their roast chicken salad for the first time. I have been thinking about it ever since! It was just such a delicious plate of greens, topped with juicy roast chicken, maple-glazed bacon, blue cheese and oil-cured olives. I am a little apprehensive with blue cheese, cos some can be overpowering to me, but I loved the ones served on my plate. In fact, I ate my plate so clean, when Bill collected it, he said he has never seen a cleaner plate in his life. Haha!

Fiore Market Cafe
1000 Fremont Avenue
South Pasadena 91030
626 441 2280

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