Monday, August 29, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan (baked)

Its 'hurricane' day, and we were stuck at home thinking a hurricane was going to come. We were so excited about having a huge storm and strong winds, and the idea of just looking outside and being completely safe at home, but alas, no hurricane came and it was a huge disappointment.

Anyway, we got three large eggplants from the farmers' market yesterday for $1 a pound (really cheap!) and decided to make eggplant parmesan. I have no idea why eggplant parmesan is named as it is because the main cheese used in eggplant parmesan is mozzarella! Anyway, here goes!


Ingredients:
  • 3 large eggplants
  • 2 eggs
  • Italian breadcrumbs

Sauce:
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 5-10 basil leaves (or dried basil flakes)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano flakes

Method:
  • Before attacking the eggplants, make the tomato sauce by combining the crushed tomatoes, basil leaves (flakes), garlic powder and oregano flakes together. 
  • Bring to a boil, and then let cool.

tomato sauce
For the food prep, we have Jas, Mr Fix-it extraordinaire with the eggplants. Slice the eggplants, and remove the skin. (These big eggplants have a really tough skin, unlike the slimmer Chinese eggplants, which have a softer skin.)

Jas, Mr Fix-it extraordinaire
slice your eggplants
de-skin your eggplants
  • Then, set up a breading station. Station 1 - unbreaded eggplants; Station 2 - beaten eggs; Station 3 - Italian breadcrumbs and Station 4 - breaded eggplants.

breading station
breaded eggplants
  • Bake the breaded eggplants in the oven at 375F for 15-20min, or until they are slightly soft.
  • When the eggplants are baked, its time to assemble the eggplant parmesan. In a 13X9 baking dish, cover the bottom of the dish with tomato sauce. 
  • Add a layer of eggplants, and cover the eggplants with tomato sauce again. 
  • Repeat the eggplant and sauce layers until all eggplants and sauce are used. 
  • Cover with a layer of mozzarella cheese and some parmesan cheese. 
  • Add some basil leaves if you like. Bake the dish at 350F for 20 to 30min or until the cheese melts.


pre-baked eggplant parmesan
baked eggplant parmesan

Freezing Basil

So, its was 'hurricane weekend', affectionately called so because hurricane Irene was supposed to visit us - NOT! But since everyone thought that the hurricane was coming, I guessed the farmers decided to pull out their basil plants early, and sell it for cheap. At the Saturday farmer's market, we bought a basil plant for $2. Ridiculously cheap considering how huge the plant was, and how basil is rather expensive at the supermarket ($2.69 for maybe 10 leaves).

a lot of basil, for $2
What should I do with this much basil, and what do I do with the extras? In the end, I just made basil ice cubes. Freezing basil on its own makes the leaf turn black, and lose its flavor profile. Freezing it in water keeps the flavors of basil, but unfortunately not the texture of the leaf. However, I usually use basil in pasta and cook it down anyway, so the texture is not important.

We tore all the leaves into the ice cube tray and filled it with water. When it froze, we took out the basil ice cubes and stored it. When you need some basil, just take one out and defrost it. The water melts away and all that is left is just basil. Genius, right?

basil ice cubes

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Carrot Bread

Of course, we ran out of bread again. Yes, its easy to get bread from the supermarket, but the 'good-for-you' breads are very expensive, and really, its not that hard making bread at home. My only concern for making bread at home is the cost of  firing up the oven. However, since I was roasting that chicken in the oven today, and since it takes more or less the same amount of time to bake bread as to roast chicken, I put them both in together. 


So, I've made banana bread, flax seed bread, and so today I'm making carrot bread!

carrot bread

Ingredients:

1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon yeast
2 1/2 cups flour
1 carrot (shredded)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons flax seed meal

Method:

Activate your yeast in the warm water. Wait 5min or until they start bubbling before use.

To the yeast mixture, add all the other ingredients and mix. Set aside for at least 30min, until the dough doubles in size.

before mixing
after mixing
Put the dough in an oiled loaf pan and bake it in the oven at 375F for 40min.

baked and beautiful

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pork and Green Beans Stir-Fry

Stir-frys are awesome. They are fast to make, and are delicious. Good for those times where you don't quite have much time, like today. Today, I was setting up three smaller shelves as a pantry solution, stacking all three of them up on one another. Now, I have a 7 and a half feet high pantry, and all my pots, pans and baking things are in cupboards. Good!

Today, I did include a less usual ingredient in this stir-fry- salted egg! I ate the salted egg yolk while having porridge (congee) for lunch, and so I had the egg whites just lying around. Of course, salted egg is optional, but I love it.



Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound minced pork
  • 1/2 pound green beans
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 salted duck egg (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons dried small shrimp
  • 2 teaspoons lao gan ma black bean chili sauce


Method

  • Mince the garlic and small dried shrimp. Cut the salted duck egg into small pieces. Cut the green beans into 1-inch segments.




  • Fry the garlic and small dry shrimp in an oiled frying pan until fragrant.
  • To the frying pan, add minced pork and fry until cooked. Then add green beans, salted egg (optional), oyster sauce and water. Fry everything until the green beans are cooked. Turn off the fire.




  • When everything is cooked, mix in the lao gan ma black bean chili sauce and serve over steamed rice.


this is the lao gan ma black bean chili sauce

serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fruity Falafel Tacos

I really didn't feel like having any meat tonight, so I decided to make something with beans as beans are also a source of protein. I decided to make falafels, since they're quite easy to make and are delicious, because they are fried. A trip to the supermarket also yielded delicious red grapes, and we have a ton of tacos (both soft and hard tacos), and all sorts of organic veggies we got from the farmers market, and so I decided to put all these together. So, yes, we've got the fusion Mediterranean-Mexican thing going on, but it was so light and delicious, and an experiment gone right!

There are three parts to the meal - the grape salsa, falafels and the vanilla yoghurt sauce, which I also made. It seems like strange mix of things going on, but it really does taste delicious. Here goes!



Ingredients for Grape Salsa:

  • 1/2 cup red seedless grapes
  • 1/4 green pepper
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1/2 heirloom tomato
  • 1/4 seedless cucumber
  • 1/3 blood orange
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Dice the green pepper, small onion, heirloom tomato and cucumber, and put them in a large bowl. Halve the grapes and add them to the bowl. Mince the garlic and add it to the bowl too.




  • Squeeze the juice of 1/3 of a blood orange and add salt and pepper to taste.

grape salsa - done!


Ingredients for Falafel

  • 16oz can of chick peas/garbanzo beans
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons flour

Method

  • Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend everything together. The result should be a paste-like consistency.


  • Using a spoon, scoop up the falafel mixture and fry on medium-high in an oiled skillet. Flip the falafel after a minute and a half, and brown the other side.



  • When the other side is browned, remove falafel and place on a plate lined with a kitchen towel.


Ingredients for Vanilla Yoghurt Sauce

  • 3oz low fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 2 mint (or basil) leaves (chopped)
  • squirt of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • Add vanilla yogurt to a small bowl. Finely mince the 1/4 cucumber and add to vanilla yogurt. Add some chopped mint or basil.Squirt some lemon juice to the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. 



  • Mix everything together into a sauce consistency.



  • Finally, put everything together.
  • Lay out the soft taco (or hard taco, if you like those better) on a plate. Put some grape salsa on the taco. Stack two or three falafels on the salsa, and add as much vanilla yogurt sauce as you like. 


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Flax Seed Bread

We're out of bread again, and I wanted to make something that is healthy and delicious at the same time. We had flax seed meal sitting around that we often add into oatmeal which was a gift from Leah (thanks hunny!) so I decided to add that to the bread!




Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flax seed meal


Method:

  • Activate the yeast by adding the water to it. Let sit for 5min.
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the yeast and mix. Set aside for 45min to an hour, until the dough has doubled its size.



  • Bake in an oven at 400F for 40mins.

Chicken Primavera Aglio Olio

What in the world is chicken primavera aglio olio? Aglio e olio, is of course, my favorite Italian dish in the world - garlic, garlic, garlic! - pasta cooked in garlic and oil. Primavera often means the 'spring' season, and in food, pasta primavera means pasta and vegetables. Add that all together, we have chicken and fresh vegetables added in aglio olio.

Somehow, chicken primavera aglio olio is like Chinese fried noodles, because basically, it is a stirfry. Also, it is a full meal. You have your starch (pasta), protein (chicken) and veggies all in one plate, and boy does it smell good. I'm a garlic fan, and I will fry garlic in oil every day because it makes the house smell so good. So good!



Ingredients:

  • 5 cloves garlic (or more, depending on your taste) (minced)
  • 1 chicken thigh (deboned and cut into cubes)
  • 1 zucchini (sliced)
  • 1 carrot (sliced)
  • 1 broccoli (broken into small florets)
  • 1/3 pound (packet) pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • a dash of pepper
  • a dash of red chili flakes
  • grated parmesan/romano cheese


Method:

  • Boil pasta as per instructions on the box. (Or, you can be fancy and make your own pasta.) I used angel hair, because its thinner, cooks faster, and has more surface area of contact with the other ingredients, hence better absorption of flavors.


everything all ready to go!

  • Over a medium-low heat fry the minced garlic in garlic oil and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt until it smells good, and is on the verge of being golden brown. (I like to add salt to my garlic/oil mixture because it flavors the oil and makes the garlic bits very tasty.)


garlic, in the pan and smelling awesom

  • Turn up the heat to medium-high. 
  • Add the broccoli florets and fry until the broccoli changes to a darker green (about 30 - 45 seconds). 
  • Add carrots and chicken, and fry until chicken is whitish on the outside but still pink inside (about 1min-ish). 
  • Add zucchini and fry until everything is almost cooked.


really pink chicken
  • Add cooked pasta, 1 teaspoon of salt (more or less, up to your taste buds), dash of black pepper, dash of chili flakes and 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. 

zucchini and pasta added

  • Just before you serve, grate some fresh parmesan (or romano, if you desire something stronger) on the pasta and voila! Go eat!

and served!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Peanut Coated Tilapia Nuggets

Jason doesn't really like fish, and I don't either, but fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids which are good for us. Hence, by disguising fish as nuggets, maybe we'll learn to eat some fish, and diversify our diet a little.


Ingredients:

1 pound tilapia fillet (cut into nugget sized pieces)
2/3 cup roasted peanuts
1 cup crushed corn tortilla chips
1 egg
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
flour

Method:

Finely chop the roasted peanuts and add to the crushed corn tortilla chips. To this mixture, add salt, sugar and ground black pepper. Crack egg into a bowl and whisk. Dry all tilapia nuggets with a paper towel.

peanut and tortilla chip breading

Set up five stations for the coating/breading process - Station 1: uncoated tilapia nuggets Station 2: flour Station 3: eggwash Station 4: peanut/tortilla chips mixture Station 5: baking pan - then dip each piece of tilapia into the flour, eggwash and peanut/tortilla chips mixture. Bake at 400F for 15min.

nuggets done breading and waiting to go into the oven
baked and yummilicious!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

110921 Cook and Share a Pot of Curry!

I love curries. They're hot, spicy and delicious! Both my grandmother makes nonya chicken curries at home all the time. I also enjoy other curries such as Indian curries, Thai curries, Japanese curries, Indonesian rendangs and even the British curries that come in a packet. Curry has got to be the most international dish.

It's also "Cook and Share a Pot of Curry" day in Singapore. This is a protest movement that came up because a Singaporean Indian family had to stop cooking curry when their newly-immigrated Chinese neighbors couldn't stand the smell of curries. Read the news article here. I will also take out an extract, so lazier people can read it too.

Case 1: A family, who had just moved here from China, had resorted to mediation because they could not stand the smell of curry that their Singaporean Indian neighbours would often cook. The Indian family, who were mindful of their neighbour’s aversion, had already taken to closing their doors and windows whenever they cooked the dish, but this was not enough. 
“They said: ‘Can you please do something? Can you don’t cook curry? Can you don’t eat curry?’,” said Madam Marcellina Giam, a Community Mediation Centre mediator. But the Indian family stood firm. In the end, Mdm Giam got the Indian family to agree to cook curry only when the Chinese family was not home. In return, they wanted their Chinese neighbours to at least give their dish a try.

This is not right, and I am cooking curry today not because I am xenophobic, but because I am concerned that this new Chinese diaspora in Singapore is diluting what it means to be Singaporean. I am also disgusted at Singapore's foreign immigration policy, and how its affecting the lives of native Singaporeans. Racial and cultural tolerance is at the very core of how Singapore came to be, and it would be a real pity to let that special trait go now.

Here's my pot of curry. It is a Thai green curry with yellow patty pan squash, zucchini, carrots, onions and pork slices. Enjoy!

ingredients for green curry

Thai green curry

I love curry, and I also love my multi-cultural and multi-racial Singapore.

"For Freedom, For Justice, For Curry!"

Here's Mr Brown's video/song about the event, and some links to give you more information.




Thursday, August 18, 2011

Char Siew Bao 叉烧包

I love baos! It doesn't really matter if it's char siew (honey barbequed pork), yellow bean or red bean, I just love freshly steamed bao. However, Jason has been talking a fair bit about char siew, and since the one we had at a Chinese buffet was not quite up to standard, I decided to make char siew bao.

Obviously, here in the burbs of America, I can't find a local store that makes char siew that I can use. Hence I'll also have a recipe for the char siew, although it wouldn't exactly be what I would be doing if I were making my own char siew that is for eating, instead of stuffing it in a bao. This is because the char siew that is in the bao needs to be wetter, and diced smaller.



Ingredients:

Bao skin:
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
3/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable/canola oil
3 cups flour (white flour preferred. I used unbleached flour and everything came out slightly off-white.)
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder

Char siew filling:
3/4 - 1 pound chopped pork (a slightly fatty cut tastes particularly good)
1 small chopped onion (I omitted this because I do not like onions in my char siew)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons cooking wine
2 teaspoons brown sugar (or molasses) 
1 teaspoon five spice powder

Thickener (if needed):
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 teaspoons water

Method:

Activate the yeast by mixing it in the warm water. Wait about 5min or until it bubbles. Meanwhile, add the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, cooking wine, brown sugar and five spice powder to the pork. Let the pork marinate while you knead the dough. The pork can also be marinated before hand or overnight.

the pork is swimming in marinade (but it will absorb all of it in no time)

Add the yeast/water mixture to the flour, sugar, oil and baking powder. Mix well, and knead the dough for approximately 10min. Set the dough aside and wait for about an hour.



While the dough is rising, fry the chopped onions in some oil until fragrant. Add the marinated pork to the chopped onions and fry until the pork is cooked. If the pork looks soupy, add in the thickener (cornstarch mixed in water). Let cool.

char siew is cooked!

After an hour, remove the dough and knead again. Portion the dough into ~1/4 cup portions and roll the portions into a ball. Using a rolling pin, flatten the balls into a round pancake, about 4 inches in diameter. Spoon a tablespoon of filling onto the dough pancake and pull the corners together, and pinch it on the top.

char siew bao

Place the bao onto a piece of baking paper, and steam the bao in a steamer for 15min.

cooked - so yummy!