July 26, 2014

a taste of Indonesian food

A recent long weekend escape to a favorite destination led to another tasty food discovery. Another off the beaten path restaurant that we will surely be returning to. Tan's Asian Cafe serves Chinese food too but we went there particularly for their Indonesian menu. It was our first time to try Indonesian food and we loved it :-) The flavors are intense and complex, spicy hot but was made less overwhelming with a dose of sweetness and seasonings. My tolerance for spicy food is significantly lower than my husband's but I had no problem with the level of heat in these dishes.

Babi rica-rica, shown above and below, was spicy and very flavorful. In the menu, it's described as Manado pork cooked in a spicy and tangy red "rica-rica" sauce. The pork which was very tender must have been simmered for hours in a traditional blend of spices and seasonings.

Udang Bumbu Bali or Balinese Shrimp, shown above, skewered shrimp served with a rich delicious red sauce (shown below) that's spicy with a hint of sweetness.

I look forward to trying many other items in their menu when we come back. I'm intrigued with their noodles and soups particularly the Soto Ayam. The deep-fried appetizers we sampled were also very good. In the meantime, inspired by our food experience, I tried to recreate a well-loved Indonesian dish called Beef Rendang at home. It's coming up next :-)

July 20, 2014

croque madame

Salty ham, melted cheese and a runny fried egg with toast may be one of the best combinations for a comforting breakfast meal. However, the same basic combination, when elevated to another level, becomes Croque Madame. It's basically Croque Monsieur made more special with a fried egg on top. Bechamel sauce, which can be made ahead, plays an important part in this classic French sandwich.

Start off with a few slices of good quality soft bread. I used my favorite challah bread which I bake at home :-) To assemble the sandwiches, spread bechamel sauce on the bread slices then the layer ham and grated cheese. Pile a generous helping of grated Gruyere cheese on top.

Bake the sandwiches until toasted with the cheese melted and dripping along the sides, as shown above.

Top with fried egg and serve hot. Recipe for bechamel sauce can be found in The Kitchn website. As suggested, the bechamel may be adjusted to a slightly thicker consistency that's more spreadable than saucy.

June 13, 2014

cotton soft Japanese cheesecake

I've never made cheesecake before so it took me awhile to gain enough confidence to make this. This was the result of my attempt at making this version popularly called cotton soft Japanese cheesecake. It's also known as souffle cheesecake because of its fluffy and light texture. There are so much information available online so I had no problem researching about it. I went to YouTube, my favorite source of cooking and baking videos, to find demos on making it. As I've mentioned a few times before, the videos are very helpful. It will definitely not be the last time I bake this.

Using just one 8 oz block of cream cheese, this was not heavy and dense at all like regular cheesecakes. Gradually folding the beaten eggwhites into the cream cheese, butter and milk mixture resulted in a light-textured cake dessert.

Cotton soft Japanese cheesecake served with fresh sweet strawberries :-)

(1) The springform pan was greased and lined with parchment paper. (2) Just to make sure the water doesn't seep inside the pan while baking bain marie (hot water bath), wrap it in heavy-duty foil. (3) The light and fluffy mixture and (4) the finished product with very lightly browned top, shown in the pictures below. The technique of folding the beaten eggwhites into the cheesecake batter was very much like that of making chiffon cakes.

Interested in the recipe?

June 11, 2014

bibimbap ~ Korean mixed rice

This may not be the most authentic bibimbap since I didn't really have the complete ingredients but I tried my best to make up with the presentation :-) Bibimbap is a well-known Korean mixed rice dish. It usually consists of meat and sauteed vegetables then topped with egg. I find the concept very appealing as I've always liked traditional rice dishes like Spanish paella, Southern red beans and rice and many more. My bibimbap version had corn kernels, chopped shitake mushrooms, sliced kale (which I substituted for the spinach), julienned carrots, green and red bell peppers. The dried shitake mushrooms may be soaked overnight. All the vegetables were sauteed in a little sesame and vegetable oil. The colorful mix of vegetables looked quite appetizing arranged on top of the rice. Raw egg may be mixed in with the hot rice but I made fried egg instead, with the yolk still a bit runny. The rice dish may also be transfered and served in a heavy cast iron skillet, then heated over low fire until the underside gets lightly toasted and forms a crust. Just before serving, I sprinkled toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions for garnish and additional flavor. Mix the steamed rice, the vegetable toppings and the egg together before eating. Serve with kimchi, hot sauce or sriracha if desired.

For the most flavorful bibimbap meat (shown above), I marinated thinly sliced beef with finely chopped ginger, lots of chopped garlic, soy sauce, a little sesame oil and ground pepper. The beef was very aromatic so I thought it was best to pan-fry them outdoors using our handy electric wok. I fried the beef until well-browned and crispy.

my wok set-up at our screened sunroom :-)

June 1, 2014

summer salads

As the summer heat continues to become unbearable outside, there are days when we like to stay cool by doing less cooking. Here are a few refreshing salad ideas to welcome the summer season. Shown above, the addition of quinoa to this antipasto platter along with roasted asparagus, eggs and pickled beets, turned this salad into a healthier and well-balanced meal good for any day of the week.

Crunchy chicken salad with shredded oven-roasted or boiled chicken breast, green leaf or romaine lettuce, carrot strips, thinly sliced cucumbers, canned chickpeas (drained well) and red onions. Other favorite additions like bacon bits, toasted nuts and sunflower seeds may also be sprinkled on top just before serving.

Always refreshing, these summer rolls may have all kinds of meat and vegetable filling combinations. The more colorful, the better :-) Slice them thinly then cut into strips and toss together. Rice papers (sold in Asian markets imported from Thailand or Vietnam) are always to handy to have in the pantry. Soaked in lukewarm water for a few seconds until they become pliable, they make the ideal wrappers for the vegetables.

May 15, 2014

drop cookies

Very quick to make with a few basic ingredients, these retro drop cookies were exactly what I was reminiscing about. Many years ago, my mother's friend used to bake and share with us her old-fashioned chocolate drop cookies like those shown above. I never asked her for the recipe but now that I think about those chocolate cookies, I wish I did. Thank goodness for the internet, somehow I found a similar recipe. It was just a classic drop cookie recipe, nothing fancy and complicated. I adjusted the recipe and substituted a few ingredients to make a cinnamon chip version for my husband.

Interested in the recipe?

May 8, 2014

steamed tofu with diced chicken

I was struck by the beautiful presentation of this tofu dish when I first saw it featured in Nyonya Cooking website sometime ago. I knew I had to make it asap. Although having diced chicken in the original recipe, it may be adjusted to make it vegetarian.

Any combination of vegetables will work. For my version, I steamed the tofu with chopped bokchoy. I prepared the block of firm tofu by cutting it in half-inch thick slices. The tofu may be drained of excess water by setting the slices in a colander for a few minutes then laying them out on a flat surface (plate or cutting board will work) on top of papertowels then weighing them down with another small cutting board or plate. I usually do this when pan-frying tofu to at least prevent the oil from splattering. This step may not be necessary when steaming, however, I just followed the directions from Nyonya Cooking.

For the complete recipe and procedure, here's the link to the video and recipe at Nyonya Cooking website. She makes cooking look so easy with her many informative videos, recipes and ideas.