09 October 2008

Namesake Dishes, Part 1: Bok Choy & Friends

Ahhh, the serene calm of the kitchenscape. This is the kind of thing I signed up for: a true sense of freedom and release, the calm strength of creating something from the barest of raw materials. Like a freshly harvested box of corn starch, or a plastic tub of tofu, fresh off the vine. Er......

There, that's more like it.

Anyway, on the menu a few nights ago was a big question mark. Mel had been putting a lot of effort in the kitchen (and into this blog) for the past couple of days, so it was my turn to step up to the plate. I felt like a serious foodie that day. Since I had class and work all day, I spent all my free time thinking up a recipe for later that night. In the end I came up with this:

Bok Choy & Friends Stir-Fry

You'll need:
2 medium-sized heads of bok choy
1 head of napa cabbage
1 brown onion (chopped)
1 brick o'tofu (14 oz or so) (cut into cubic inch pieces)
4 sprigs of green onion (chopped)
3 cloves of garlic (roughly chopped/minced)
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp kecap manis (sweet soy)
2 tsp cornstarch
1/3 c. water
1 tbsp vegetable oil

(Disclaimer: these amounts were experimental, so don't be afraid to make little changes!)

-First off, combine the soy, sweet soy, oyster sauce, and the chopped garlic and green onions into a medium sized bowl. Stir them around a bit. Add the tofu to the bowl, then stir around again, making sure the get each piece of the tofu a turn in the sauce bath.

-Don't forget to start cooking the rice! For this dish I like to use brown rice because it soaks up the flavors from the sauce pretty well.

-At this point, I'd advise you to chop everything else. That way, you don't have to worry about how fast you'll have to go and you give the tofu a chance to have a first class soak.

-Chop the bok choy perpendicular to the grain of the stalk. I like to keep the pieces to about 1 inch in width. Separate the leafy bits from the stalky bits. I used only the leafy bits from the napa cabbage, and put them together with the bok choy leaves.

-Heat the vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Make sure the pan is hot, but not smoking.

-Toss the onions in for a little while to get them started, then after about a minute or two, put in the bok choy stalks. Toss them a little to spread the oil, but then don't touch them again for about 2 minutes.

-While waiting for the bok choy, mix the cornstarch and water in a separate cup.

-Add the leafy bits to the skillet and stir-fry for 1 minute or until you notice the leaves start to wilt.

-Add the tofu/sauce mixture and the water/cornstarch mixture and continue to stir-fry. (Some recipes call for some butter here, to add richness. Mine tasted good both with and without it, but if you do decide to add some, I'd say you don't need much more than 1/2 tbsp)

-Stir-fry for 2-4 minutes more, or until leafy bits are adequately wilted.

In the end, our tummies full of goodness and home cooking, we decided to try and cook more with kecap manis (a sweet soy sauce that is used a lot in traditional Indonesian cooking). The flavor of it adds a certain kick to dishes and is the only sweet thing I know that exclusively tastes good with savory foods. For now, though, our venture into the world of stir-fry left us very satisfied.



when jillian (aka the bff) was living here over the summer, she used to make chicken piccata alot. and i'd always take part in the eating. because it was something i had never really had before. and because it also taught me to like capers. oh those cute little pickled flower buds. yum. anyway, since jilly left at the end of august, i haven't had any chicken piccata, and therefore was feeling deprived. so i decided to make some. i just kind of did it from memory, after watching jilly make it several times.

mix some flour with a little salt and pepper, and dredge your chicken. i find its best to use thin-cut boneless chicken breasts. they cook significantly faster.

melt a tablespoon of butter or two in a hot pan with a little olive oil. once it's hot, add your chicken, and cook it for a few minutes on each side. it should turn a nice golden brownish color. once that's done, set it aside on a plate. 

add about 3/4 cup white wine (i've heard chicken stock is a good alternative if you're not a fan of cooking with wine), a couple of spoonfuls of capers, and about 1/3 of a cup of lemon juice. make sure you scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan as well. add the chicken back to the pan, and cook for 5 more minutes or so.

i think the dish goes great with pasta, although i'm sure it would be great with a side of roasted veggies or rice or pretty much anything else too.

i have to say, i think it turned out pretty darn good for a first try. although jillian's is definitely better. but maybe thats because i didn't have to cook it myself.... :)

08 October 2008

autumn is coming!

there's a candle that reminds me of autumn...it's called pumpkin spice. my mom gave me one a couple weeks ago, but its been way too hot to light it. so since its "technically" fall, i decided it's pumpkin time. i love all things pumpkin, with the exception of pumpkin pie. pumpkin bread, however, is my favorite. the recipe i used was pam's from 'for the love of cooking'.

at the end as i was adding spices, i realized i didn't have any ground ginger. i threw in some pumpkin pie spice instead, since it has a combination of ginger, nutmeg and cloves (all of which are in the recipe anyway).

the recipe was fantastic. roommates + boyfriend loved the bread. my only qualm with it was that the recipe only made one loaf. i'm doubling it next time. :)

07 October 2008

spinach, prosciutto & garlic pizza bagels

The Shining was playing on the "big screen" (read: in a lecture hall) on Thursday night, and so it was a race against time to think of something to make for dinner. We're trying really hard to eat out only once a week (good for the wallet and way healthier for us), and Friday night was going to be date night, so there was no "let's grab ____" solution. I went to go grab some fresh bagels at lunch, and saw they had pizza bagels on the menu...and voila! a dinner idea.

On the way home from work, I grabbed some mozzarella cheese, pizza sauce (TJ's has AMAZING pizza sauce), spinach and prosciutto.
My suggestion is to toast the bagels once before you put the toppings & sauce on, otherwise it gets kinda soggy. after that, roughly chop a couple of cloves of garlic, and the prosciutto. Throw the garlic in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil in it and let it saute for a few minutes. Then add the prosciutto and let it get crispy. Add the spinach at the very end, as it cooks really quickly. If you notice the mixture getting dry, rinse the spinach right before you throw it in the pan to add some moisture.

Add the sauce, cheese, and toppings to the bagels, and broil them until everything gets melty and golden.

The great part about this was the portability. We wrapped them in foil pouches and took them to the movie with us. Not messy at all. Although it did leave everyone in the lecture hall wondering what smelled so good... :)