08 April 2009

Operation cleanout - Day 2 - Strawberry Ice Cream

... in a blender.

I don't have an ice cream maker, though after trips to Albert's I often dream of one. His roommate, Jen, makes by far the most innovative flavors I've seen, from curry ice cream (oh, it was delicious. don't knock it until you try), pear and gorgonzola ice cream, to various sorbets and other dessert-ish flavors.

Operation pantry/fridge/freezer cleanout (shortened to "Operation cleanout") continues ... this time with dessert on Day 2. Moving is extremely stressful, and hell, my lack of a Y chromosome may be what leads to my inherent comfort by sweets. Or, maybe I just have an affinity for them at certain times. We'll leave that up in the air.

ANYWAYS. I'm determined to at least lessen slightly my pantry / fridge / freezer contents (there's a lot, and I'm not looking for miracles) and had 1 carton's worth of heavy cream sitting in the fridge. I can't drink liquid milk as is, so I have to get creative. The result of this challenge: homemade strawberry ice cream ... made, in a blender.

Homemade Fruit Ice Cream in a Blender


10 oz. frozen (very frozen) berries ... I used strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream

Start by putting the fruit and sugar in the blender ... and pulse. And pulse some more ... This may take a while due to the frozen state of the fruit.

Once this starts to turn into a frozen slush, start to slowly add the cream, scraping down the sides. You may need to shake the blender a bit, depending on how much of the frozen fruit may get stuck in the blades. Once it starts doing it's thing, you'll know ... you can see from the outside the fruit go from slushie to a creamier texture.

You can freeze this up to a week, or serve immediately. Be careful, it melts quickly ... but oh so delicious.

Operation pantry/fridge/freezer cleanout - Day 1 - Miso Ramen

OK, news alert for those of you following Tales of a Test Kitchen (which may just be Steph ;) ) -- I'm moving. I'll soon be leaving my Back Bay kitchen to move essentially down the road, mayyyyybe a mile and a half away. Likely less.

Due to the pending move, I've restricted myself to basic ingredients bought at the market this weekend and what i only have in stock here. And after a month of very very heavy travel ... the pickins are SLIM. But, I like a challenge ... and this one forces me to do some research and be creative. The results ... delicious. Who'da known?

On to Day 1 of the challenge -- what to make for the week? I made walnut miso noodles over the weekend, have a ton of miso (does Super 88 sell small packs of miso? or just lifetime supplies. meezcha.)

So, on to cooking for the week. After a month of indulging in Brazilian and Asian delicacies, Tales of a Test Kitchen could use a little detox, and with the move, wallet-friendly dishes are added bonuses.

The result for Sunday's cooking... miso ramen with leftover walnut miso noodles from the potluck @ albert's, bok choy, ground pork and slightly spiced with thai chilis. So incredibly easy to do, yet so satisfying. This soup is up to interpretation, so feel free to alter. Here's what I used.

Miso Ramen

1.25 lb ground pork
roughly 2 cups chicken stock
entire bag of bok choy
3 Thai bird chilis - finely diced
Leftover walnut miso noodles (including chard and asparagus)
soy sauce
spring onions

To start, brown the ground pork with a little oil, diced garlic, and some soy sauce in a medium-deep pan, enough to cook down the bok choy in. Once that's browned, add the bok choy (rinsed, be very careful ... often carries some dirt) and about a cup of chicken stock. Eyeball it, you need enough to cook down the bok choy.

Meanwhile, head a pot of water until it's warm, but not boiling. Mix in 1/4 cup or so (to taste) of miso, whisking in until nicely combined. You want the broth to be flavorful, and everyone has a different taste for miso. Use accordingly.

Once bok choy is cooked down, add to miso broth.

Let these all combine, then add the leftover noodles. I diced up some spring onions to top the ramen, and grabbed my set of chop sticks. Dinner, finisimo -- with enough to last me through the week. :) And really, what's more comforting than a big bowl of miso ramen?

Walnut Miso Noodles with Spring Vegetables

I spotted this recipe over at 101Cookbooks and had to try. This past weekend brought just the occasion -- a potluck with the theme "Winter is over (hopefully)". The noodles seemed like a fitting dish, featuring some spring vegetables and also continuing my Asian kick a week after my travels. (What can I say, it's a touch eating habit to kick ;) )

The noodles were a hit, and a wallet-friendly dish. You can top the noodles with anything your little heart desires. I followed Heidi's lead on this and lightly sauteed some red chard stems that were absolutely beautiful, some spring onions, asparagus and toasted walnuts. And I have a bit of the dressing to spare, making it easy to whip up a batch during the week. Since you can top with anything you'd like, it's a fantastic way to feature certain vegetables or toppings.

The key to these noodles is the dressing. Mine came out like a slightly saltier version of a peanut sauce ... similar in texture. Absolutely delicious though, and seemingly healthy.

My only subs to Heidi's recipe were a) tripling the recipe b) adding a few thai bird chilis to the sauce and c) using Japanese vermicelli - a purplish brown noodle that really stood out. Other than that, recipe's pretty straightforward, and quick to make with a little multi-tasking with the food processor.

Have other ideas for toppings or variations? I'd love to hear them. Leave your recipe tweak in the comments :)

02 April 2009

Spaghetti All'Ubriaco for One

After spending practically all of March away or eating take out between trips, dinner options around here are slim pickins. I spotted this recipe for spaghetti all'ubriaco or "drunken spaghetti" on Serious Eats and dreamt of it all day. I had about 1/3 of a bottle of a Malbec sitting on the counter and decided to give it a go.

The result, a rich, but not too heavy purplish pasta with a little tang and heat from the pesto and pepperocinis. Meal completed with some simple greens and spinach with just a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar that RJ brought me back from Mendoza, Argentina (and dang, it's GOOD).

Oh, and one of my favorite beers, the only one left in my fridge - Dogfish I.B.A. Time to kick up the feet and relax for the night. Mission, complete.

Spaghetti All'Ubriaco

whole wheat spaghetti
equal parts red wine and water to cover the pasta
salt for pasta water
TB or so of basil pesto
4 or 5 pepperocini rings, or 1 whole pepperocini
2 cloves of garlic, minced
extra virgin olive oil

Heavily salt and the heat the water and wine in a pot until it reaches a boil. Cook the pasta, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick. Meanwhile, toast the garlic in the olive oil with the diced pepperocinis. When the pasta is done, drain so that there's still just a little bit of liquid, reserving the remaining liquid. Mix together with the garlic and pepperocinis.

Add the pesto to flavor, about a tablespoon. I added about 2/3 of a cup of the pasta water / wine since I didn't have any remaining wine (add raw wine if you have it), the simmered for a few minutes to let the flavors combine.

Annnnnnnd, serve. Delish.

National Grilled Cheese Month

Apparently April is National Grilled Cheese Month, which I could really go for right now amidst the weird post-travel jetlag cravings. I'm still weening myself off noodles and dumplings, resisting the urge to go to Hei La Moon for dim sum.

Maybe this is just what I need to kick the cravings (well, somewhat kick).

No photos just yet, though I will point you to an interesting grilled cheese sammy over at bitchincamero with capicolla, sweet gherkins, and Saint Andre cheese. M'mm, sweet gherkins remind me of the ones my Grandmother used to make for the summer. God I could go for those right now, too. Damn cravings.

Also reminds me of a tasty grilled cheese I made in the winter months of 2008, which was a crowd pleaser for those with a taste for jalapenos. It involved sweating some finely diced red onions and a hefty amount of diced jalepenos, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, then melted with grated Monterey Jack cheese and pressed. Easy breezy, but just what the doctor ordered, and perfect with a bowl of tomato soup for an afternoon relaxing in the Back Bay.

OK, now I'm on the hunt for the most creative and delicious grilled cheese sammys. This ain't yer old Velveeta back up ... Let's see what you've got. Stay tuned. :)

Interesting eats in Asia

(OK, so I didn't eat at the Temple, but it does help set the scene for this post. :) )

March has been a blur of hotels, planes and different continents, starting with my trek to Brazil for a wedding, then returning to Boston to do laundry and then hopping another plane to Asia. These tired bones returned late Sunday night / early Monday morning, hazy in the cabeza from the hours on a plane, time zone difference and the jam-packed week of speaking engagements throughout China Mainland and Taiwan.

I have to say though, there were some very, very interesting eats while in China - go figure. From experiencing Chinese breakfast in Qingdao and Beijing, to banquet style dinners served on giant lazy susans, to visiting "Snake Alley" in Taipei, I think I had a relatively comprehensive sampling of Chinese and Taiwanese food.

There's much to write about, as you can probably imagine, but for the time being, I'll just leave you with a few photos from Taiwan.

The photo below is a dessert soup-like substance made from red beans, rice and tapioca pearls. The tapioca and red bean combination made for a very rich, almost cocoa tasting flavor, though not too sweet. Red bean paste is a common staple used in desserts, this being just one variation, but also commonly used in cakes and pastries. Another delicious light dessert was something that looked like a pancake, filled with red bean paste, then topped with another layer of thin dough, encrusted with sesame seeds and served warm. Delightful. I even lugged back some of these red bean cakes (at RJ's request) to the states. Yum.

Very different from the dessert soup we had in Beijing, consisting of sticky rice balls and a syrupy substance ... extremely sweet. Food in Mainland China tends to be more noodle-heavy, slightly more oily and often sweeter, in terms of sauces and the like. The food in Taiwan consists of more rice-dishes, given their rice production, is fresher tasting with less sauce and oil, and consists often of more seafood dishes.

The night market we went to by Langshan Temple was a complete trip. We went at an off time so we didn't get to see the place bustling as it usually is, but did get to see the famous snake tanks (though no snake demonstrations). Thankfully, I'm told, no one asked me to drink snake blood or snake soup. Thanks indeed. This night market is just one of maybe 10 in Taipei city (or so I'm told).