Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lemongrass Beef and Noodles

Tonight for supper I made a Martha Stewart recipe that I have had success with before. I love Martha, don't get me wrong, but sometimes her recipes just suck. I don't know if they don't test them enough, or they have their ingredient proportions wrong or what, but often times they just bomb. Lemongrass beef skewers are pretty yummy and easy to make and both times I made them they turned out really well. The beef is served with rice noodles with scallions and herbs.

These two recipes are pretty easy to make and can be made in about 40 minutes. For the beef recipe you are supposed to skewer the beef on bamboo skewers before you cook them, but both times I made this I didn't skewer them and they turned out just fine. I also don't have a grill pan, so I used a frying pan. The first time I made the recipe I couldn't find lemongrass anywhere. I don't know if it was the time of year or what, but no grocery store around me had it. Eventually I found a tube of squeezable lemongrass, so that had to do. This time around I found lemongrass in my local grocery store. I didn't know what to expect with this ingredient as I had never seen it before. It kind of looks like a stick, and when you cut it open it smells just like lemons. I did make a few omissions/substitutions in this meal. The thought of fish sauce makes me want to hurl, so I used soy sauce instead. I also omitted the cucumber and mint, since cucumbers are gross and I don't like mint in savoury dishes.

The rice noodles are very easy to make. The vermicelli noodles only need 4 minutes to cook and have to sit until they are cool, so you can make them well in advance. For this recipe I couldn't find a Thai bird chile, so I used red pepper flakes. It probably wasn't the intended method of spicyness, but it tasted fine. I think Martha overestimates the produce selection at your local grocery store. Maybe bird chiles can be found in Bedford, New York, but not Ottawa! I omitted the fish sauce in this recipe as well and used soy sauce instead.

This meal is a nice change from our usually chicken and rice/potato combination. The beef has a nice flavour from being marinated in the lemongrass mixture and is delicious when wrapped up in Boston lettuce leaves. I look forward to eating this meal again for lunch at work! This recipe is both dairy free and gluten free if you use a gluten free soy sauce.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Apple Strudel

A few months ago I joined a baking site called The Daring Kitchen. On this site you can sign up to participate in monthly baking and cooking challenges. I was really excited to start, as this website would challenge my baking skills as well as my ability to adapt the recipes to be dairy free. After waiting to get approved, I was ready to start my first challenge.
The challenge for the month of May was Apple Strudel. It was pretty easy to make, but it took a while. First you make a fairly plain dough that has hardly any ingredients and let it sit for 90 minutes. Right before I rolled out the dough I toasted the breadcrumbs and peeled and cut the apples. I used Granny Smith apples since they are my favourite. The dough has to be stretched to 3x2, which seemed like it would be impossible, but it was really easy. The dough stretches under it's own weight, so no rolling pin was needed. All I did was hold it until it stretched and then Paul helped me stretch it to the size needed. From what I read, strudel dough when stretched should be thin enough to read a love letter through. Mine certainly was! The recipe says to use a cloth to stretch the dough out on. I didn't have a table cloth or anything to use, so I thought wax paper would be fine. WRONG! It stuck so bad that I had to throw the whole lot out. I started again, but this time I used a bedsheet and it worked perfectly!
I don't know if I would make this recipe again. It was delicious, but time consuming and I was pissed when I had to throw out the dough (even though it was my fault, not the recipe's). My dad suggested that instead of breadcrumbs I use graham cracker crumbs. That would be a good combination. In this recipe the only thing I had to substitute was margarine in place of the butter. I also omitted the rum and raisins, since raisins are nasty. If I was to make this recipe again, I think I would add more cinnamon.

Apple strudelfrom “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers
2 tablespoons golden rum
3 tablespoons raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (I used Granny Smith)
1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.
3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.
4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.
5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel doughfrom “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers
1 1/3 cups unbleached flour

1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.
2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.
4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Molten Chocolate Cakes

Molten chocolate cakes are my go to dessert when I can't think of what to make when company is coming. They look like a lot of work, but they are really easy. You can even make them in advance and keep them in the fridge until you are ready to have dessert. The ingredients are pretty simple and I usually have them on hand.

I recently made these for Mother's Day since my whole family loves chocolate. When I went to find the bittersweet chocolate, I noticed that I only had two squares left. The box also said that they contain milk ingredients, so I was really bummed. I really wanted to make them, but I didn't want to risk feeling sick. I found a bar of 70% cocoa chocolate and used that and topped the rest up with chocolate chips. I was a little nervous about using chocolate chips, but they turned out just fine! As for dairy free substitutions, I used margarine instead of butter and I scrambled to find bittersweet chocolate without milk in it. I guess finding dairy free baking chocolate will be my next mission!

I got this recipe from Martha Stewart. Her recipes seem to be pretty hit or miss, but this one hasn't failed me yet...even without having the right chocolate! The recipe says it only makes 4, but it makes 6 very nice sized cakes. I couldn't imagine how big 4 would be. I think my muffin cups would overflow with all of that batter in there. I usually serve these with a whipped topping and strawberries. Molten chocolate cakes with strawberries and cream (whipped topping....whatever) are the best way to end a meal with your family and friends!

*Food styling by Mark.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

$160 Baby Back Ribs

Why is this meal called $160 ribs? It's not because of an ultra expensive sauce made of obscure ingredients, or a very pricey rack of ribs. It's because while shooting this dish, my camera landed lense first in sticky, gooey barbeque sauce. Note to people taking pictures of their food, don't take your hands off the tripod...ever! After my camera took a nose dive into barbeque sauce, it needed to be totally ripped apart and cleaned, to the tune of $160. The bright side of this story is that the ribs were delicious, and I now am super paranoid about my camera while taking food pictures!
A few weeks ago I noticed that pork ribs were on sale, so I bought some and froze them until I found a good recipe. I found that recipe in my trusty Joy Of Cooking.This recipe was pretty easy. I had thought that ribs were a pain in the butt to make, but it really wasn't much trouble. First I used a Southern style dry rub on the ribs and marinated them in the rub and beer overnight. I flipped them a couple of times so that each side could soak in the beery goodness. I then covered the baking pan with foil and baked the ribs at 350 for an hour and a half. After that time, I drained beer out of the pan and basted the ribs. They needed to be basted every 10-15 minutes for an hour. After the basting was done, the ribs were ooey gooey and so saucy. The meat was really tender and not very fatty. I served the ribs with potato salad and corn bread. I used the Homesteader Cornbread recipe from Allrecipes, but I used soy milk instead of regular milk and I added crispy bacon and caramelized onions. Both sides were so yummy, but I dropped my camera in the sauce before I could get pictures of them.
I'll definitely make these ribs again. They were a big hit....unfortunately they were a big hit on my wallet as well!

Barbeque Sauce
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 cup cider or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1/4 cup chili powder, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 lemon slices

Simmer, stirring often for 5 minutes. Remove lemons before serving. It will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.

Southern Barbeque Dry Rub
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet or hot paprika
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon mace (I didn't have any, so I omitted it)
1/4 cup of salt
1/4 cup black pepper

I have used this rub on chicken as well. It makes 2 cups, which is enough dry rub to see you through the summer barbeque season.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Guinness and Steak Pie

I was reading another cooking blog yesterday trying to decide what I was going to make for Sunday supper. I read Closet Cooking often, and I've tried a few recipes from the fellow Canadians site.

I used his modified version of Jamie Oliver's Steak and Guinness Pie. Kevin (the food blogger) changed the recipe so that I can fit in a 9 inch pie plate instead of the original puffed pastry version. I'm still so-so at making pie crusts, so I used this recipe for practice. This time I only had to make the pie crust once! That's a big improvment for me.

This was the first savory pie that I have made and it was pretty good! The beef was tender from being simmered on the stove for 3 hours and the filling was hearty. The only changes I made to this recipe was to omit the cheddar cheese and thicken the sauce with a roux of margarine and flour. The roux consists of equal parts margarine and flour mixed together into a paste and then blended into the sauce. I'm glad I thickened the sauce because it was pretty watery on the stove. I placed the filling in a Classic Crisco Pie Crust double crust version and let it bake for 35 minutes.

It was a delicious supper! Paul and I both had seconds. This pie would be great during the winter as it is really filling and warm, but it was great on a warm May evening too! The great thing about this meal was that I didn't have to make any dairy modifications!