Friday, August 30, 2013

Gorgeous Green Lemonade with Gingered Syrup

The August's heat in L.A. has been so brutally hot for the past few days.   It’s humid. It’s sticky hot. And it’s reminding me a lot of the weather in Thailand.     The unbelievably heat is so intense that I can get a tan instantly just by walking out to the patio for only less than a mere minutes.   And forget about the cooking.   Who would want to cook with the sizzling weather like this?    I’ve even lost my appetite to make something to eat.   Only thing I can think of right now in the mid-afternoon is a cool refreshing drink like lemonade.     However, to make lemonade more fun to drink, I’ve blended a handful of baby spinach to give a lemonade a gorgeous green color with the stimulating hint of ginger that makes the drink even more interesting.   

What can I say? I’m just having a love affair with ginger!  

Even though it’s just a lemonade with a green color, but I feel very sophisticated drinking this lovely lemonade.

Add rum and crushed mint…and you will have a lovely green mojito!    Agree? 
What you need:

1 handful baby spinach
6 cups filtered water
1 1/4 cups fresh squeeze lemon juice
3/4 cup simple gingered syrup - *see notes below
1 lemon sliced

How to:

- Blend baby spinach with 1 cup of water in the blender for one minute until it turns very fine, then strain the juice through the fine sieve and scoop out the foam on top.
- Transfer the spinach juice into the pitcher and add another 5 cups of wat

- Stir in lemon juice and the syrup into the spinach water to mix well
- Add sliced lemon and keep it chill in the fridge until ready to serve

* make gingered syrup by use 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar and 5 or 6 thin sliced of fresh ginger. Bring them to a boil just until the sugar is dissolved, take off the heat and let it sit to cool down. For better stronger flavor, leave it overnight.


Enjoy and stay cool!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pork Raad Nah with Crispy Noodle

The other day the hubby and I went to lunch at Thai restaurant, and the hubby wanted to order Raad Nah (Thai style noodle with gravy), which he did. He said that he liked the dish and was wondering if I could make it at home. Of course, I can make it at home. It is one of the easiest dishes anyone could make as long as you have all the not-so-required ingredients at home.

Thai Radd Nah with gravy usually uses fresh wide rice noodle which is the same type of noodle for making Pad See Ew. The noodles can easily be found at any Asian markets around L.A. However, don’t sweat small stuff. Any kind of noodle like rice noodle, egg noodle, instant noodle, spaghetti, linguini, or angel hair pasta can also be used to make this dish as well. The only thing you will be missed if you did not use the rice noodle is the aroma and the smoky flavor since the noodle has be cooked with dark soy sauce first before eaten with the gravy. Why I have to be specific with only rice noodle? You might ask. Because other types of noodles would not have the same result when cooked with dark soy sauce first. The smoky flavor that is.

But like I said – don’t sweat small stuff – because the gravy is the most important part of the dish anyway. And noodles without gravy wouldn’t be Raad Nah, would it?  

So, today I use fresh egg noodles which I’ve turned them to crispy noodle by frying them first. You don’t have to, but the crispy fried noodle makes the dish tastier, and it just simply replace the missing smoky flavor of rice noodles with soy sauce. 

As for the gravy, there is nothing difficult about that and don’t let the long list in the ingredients fool you, especially, the fermented soy bean that might sound odd. Fermented soy bean is very important to the dish, however. I’d say it is required but not necessary. It’s salty with smoky flavor that lends a distinctive flavor to the dish. But if you can find it, just skip it. It’s not a big deal but just less authentic, that’s all! Thai Raad Nah normally use Gailan or Chinese broccoli only for the dish, but you can use any vegetable you like as well as any kind of meat that you prefer.

Step 1. Fry noodles

4 oz. fresh egg noodle
1-2 cups vegetable oil for frying

: add vegetable oil in a deep frying pan and set over medium-low heat
: when the oil gets hot, fry the noodle into 3-4 batches, about one little handful at a time, and set them on the paper towel to absorb the excess oil, and set aside.

Fermented Soy Bean
marinade pork with oyster sauce 

Step 2. Make the gravy

16 oz. pork meat, sliced
1 cup washed snow peas
1 cup sliced shitake mushroom
1 cup sliced carrot
3 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
1/2 tbsp. fermented soy bean - optional
1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 cups chicken broth or water
Ground white pepper
2 tbsp. vegetable/canola oil
3 tbsp. corn starch
3 tbsp. water

***Optional condiments to serve with as needed: dried red chili flakes, vinegar, fish sauce, and sugar

How to:

- marinade the pork meat with oyster sauce for at least 10-15 minutes
- stir 3 tablespoon of water with corn starch and set aside.
- add the oil into the sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add garlic and stir until it fragrant, and then add pork meat and mushroom and cook for 5 minutes
- add 2 cups of chicken broth or water into to sauté pan followed by carrot and snow peas and seasoning with sugar, light soy sauce, and fermented soy bean (if used). Let it cook for another 12-15 minutes.
- when it’s thoroughly cooked, turn off the heat and ladle the gravy over the crispy fried noodle with a sprinkle of ground white pepper along with additional condiments as needed


Popovers and Honey-Cinnamon Fig Jam

Year after year, the three fig trees in my back yard keep producing tremendous load of figs. And the past few weeks, the hubby and I have been picking and giving them to friends and neighbors. Still, the figs just keep ripening more and more every day. And those who enjoy figs the most are birds and bugs.  

One early morning I woke up with the intention of just picking some figs for friends. But after two hours, I have ended up with 23 pounds of figs! OMG! What did I do with those figs? Easy answer. I made jam, lots of jam! I had made fig jam last year with Celeste figs. The jam paired perfectly on fresh toasted English muffins with the hint of honey and cinnamon that I’ve added into the fig jam. This time I decided to make fig jam with the same recipe but with the Italian black figs this time.

The Italian black figs gave the jam with a beautiful velvet red color but less sweet than the Celeste figs; however, it tasted wonderfully with these little lemony zesty popovers. The popovers are very easy to make.   I baked them in the regular muffin pan because I don't have a traditional popover pan which is deeper and gives the popovers more effectively in its heights.   They may also take sometimes to bake – with the rule of no peaking – but it worth the wait, especially, when having them fresh from the oven with a good jam


What you need:  makes 12 popovers

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk – room temperature
2 eggs – room temperature
2 tbsp. melted butter – cooled
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest

How to:
- Preheat the oven to 400’ F
- blend the entire ingredients in the blender just until they smooth
- fill the muffin pan about 3/4 in each and bake for 35 minutes until they turn light golden with no peaking or opening the oven to check
- serve immediately with fig jam (or your own favorite jam)


Honey-Cinnamon Fig Jam

What you need:

4 cups fresh Italian black figs, chopped
1 cups sugar
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp lemon juice + zest
1 tsp ground cinnamon

How To: 

 - Combine everything in the medium pan over medium heat.
- Cook until the sugar is melted, then low the heat down to simmer for another 30-40 minutes or until the fruit is softened and the liquid is thickened. Stir occasionally to prevent burn in the bottom.
- Fill the jam into the sterilized jars and keep in the refrigerator


Monday, August 12, 2013

Homemade Roasted Vodka-Marinara Sauce and Zucchini Ribbons for Meatless Monday!


I guess I just keep cooking my way through the summer with my plentiful crops until the time I have to go back to classes, lectures, and books. By then, I will be so busy and have little or no time at all for my cooking and posting. Meh!


Since the tomatoes from my small garden are still ripening and that I’ve been picking them every day. As a result, I have about 5-6 ponds in the baskets over the counter in my kitchen. If I don’t do anything with them now, it might has gone bad really soon. So, I decided to make marinara sauce with a touch of vodka, because pasta is on the menu for dinner tonight.
However, when I told the hubby about “Meatless Monday,” and that we will have zucchini as pasta with no meat. He looked at me and said, “There is no such thing meatless Monday and I think I want real pasta and real meat!” What can I say, he is the meat guy. I guess the “meatless Monday” idea is just for myself, then!

Marinara sauce is very easy to make with either using fresh or can tomato and with or without adding alcohol in it. And roasting tomatoes first is not necessary. But I like the roasted flavor of tomatoes which bring out the true natural sweetness from those gorgeous tomatoes.  

What you need:  for Marinara sauce: makes 3 1/4 cups

3 lbs. Tomatoes
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsps. Olive oil + more for drizzling over the tomatoes 
2 tbsps. Oregano leaves
2 tbsps. Basil leaves
3 oz. vodka
Sea salt, sugar, ground pepper, and dried red chili flakes to taste as needed
1/2 cup water or as needed
a handheld blender or blender or food processor

Zucchini ribbons:

1 medium zucchini – for 1 servings

: Cut use a vegetable peeler to shave zucchini to ribbons
: bring water to a full boil with a pinch of salt, then add zucchini ribbons and turn off the heat immediately. Let the zucchini ribbons sit in the hot boiling water for 1 minute, drain, and set aside.
: the zucchini ribbons can be done after making the sauce

How to:

- Preheat the oven to 400’F and cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil, set aside
- Cut tomatoes in half or quarters, lay them on the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, add onion and cook until it’s soften, add garlic and cook for a few minutes
- Add roasted tomatoes into the pan, oregano and basil leaves, and season with salt, pepper, sugar, and dried chili as your liking and add 1/2 cup of water (if the sauce gets too thick, put more water as your preferred consistency), and stir to mix well
- Turn the heat to low and use the handheld blender directly into the pot to blend the sauce just for a few time to break up the chunk ingredients. *Please be careful if used a blender or food processor since the sauce will be really hot.
- Add vodka into the sauce and Let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes
- Serve over zucchini noodles or pasta with toasts or however you desired


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Homemade Concord Grape Juice and the sidekick Tangy Grape Popsicles!


I have a “jam-swap” with Mary, the hubby’s former teachers who lives two block away from us yesterday.    Well, it was not exactly a “jam-swap.”   I gave the hubby one little jar of my Concord jam to give to Mary and she had given the hubby back two kind of jam she made another day – Plum jam and watermelon rind jam – and both were really good.      Wasn’t that awesome! 

I picked some grapes this morning, too, with a plan of making grape juice. I have never had homemade grape juice before and I knew that it would be a lot of work, especially with grapes that have lots of seeds. But that issue wouldn’t stop me because I wanted to know what the homemade grape juice tastes like.

I’ve collected six pounds of grapes to make juice. At first, I was thinking of squeezing the grape to separate skins and pulps just like when I was making the grape jam, but I was just too lazy to do that. So, I used the potato smasher to do the dirty work since I only needed the juice and not the skin and pulp like when making a jam.

Using potato smasher on the grapes was so easy and quick. The whole process was actually quick as the grape didn’t need to cook that long, but there’s a trick. When I was trying to strain the juice to separate from the skins and pulps, I had to use a regular colander first to get as much juice as possible and I didn’t have patient to wait for it to seep out.  


The juice came out looking murky!   So, I strained it again with a very fine sieve.   However, the juice was seeping out drop by drop!    Like I said, I didn’t have patient for that (and thinking “why I’m being so grumpy today!).       So, I pushed and stirred using a rubber spatula to help get the juice out as much and as fast as I could.      Yeah!   The juice came out quicker (with some pulp) and left some very fine pulp on the strainer, which I had save about one cup of it.     There’s no way I would toss it.  It was all the good stuff!    And the light bulb just lid up in my head thinking “popsicles!”      Why waste it, right?         

I had added more water and some sugar to the leftover pulp to make popsicles.   And let me tell you, the popsicles tasted so lovely with the tangy sweet flavor of grape.  Or I should say that this is one of the perfect popsicles for summer!      
Since my Concord grapes were so juicy, I didn’t need to add water or sugar into it.   The grape juice was very concentrative and intense in flavor that you might need to dilute it with some other liquid to soft it up a little if you want to make another drinks or cocktails.      And the color was also looking nicer and prettier with the dark purplish red of magenta     Oh my!   I just fell in love with the color of grape juice.    Purrrtyyyy!       


So, there I have 2 recipes in 1 post – the Concord Grape Juice and the Tangy Grape Popsicles, the sidekick!      Just loving it!    ^___^

What you need:   made 6 cups of juice

 6 lbs. Concord grapes
Big pot
A potato masher
A Colander and a fine sieve
Medium bowl, pot, or jug


Leftover pulp...for popsicles

How to:

- De-stem the grapes and wash
- Put the grape in a large pot and smash them gently with the potato masher to separate the skins and pulps

- Set the pot over medium heat. When it comes to bubbles, turn the heat to low and let it simmering for another 15 minutes so the skins and pulps get soft and break up, stir occasionally
- after 15 minutes, take off the heat and put it through the colander little by little, discard the skin and seeds.
- Strain it again through the fine sieve little by little, then you will have very fine pulp leftover from the juice. Safe the pulp to make popsicles if desired.
- Chill the grape juice in the fridge and serve however you wish.

The Tangy Grape Popsicles    makes 8-2 oz. popsicles
1 cup leftover fine grape pulp (from the juice above)
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice

- combine everything into a small sauce pan and set it over low heat just until the sugar has dissolved
- let the mixture cool down, then pour into popsicles mold and freeze them overnight before serving



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Concord Grape Jam

 Okay! This is my first gape jam, ever! And this is such a shame, because our one and only Concord grape vine has produced plentiful of beautiful grapes every year. I have done nothing with them but eating them fresh from the vine. The hubby and I could only eat so much and it’s always plenty of over ripened and dried grapes left on the vine. What a shame!

So, this year I have come to the conclusion that I needed to stop taking those grapes for granted and start to appreciate them more.   I will start with grape jam, and will make some extra to give to friends and family as a gift, too!    Just the ideas of making grape jam as a gift is instantly making me happy already! ^_____^

In no time, I found myself cutting grape for my jam project.   A few minutes later the hubby was yelling at me that the grapes were not ready yet and that I have to wait for a few days when the grapes’ skins get darker and ripen a little bit more.   

Oh well, I have already cut some 3 1/2 lbs. of grapes enough for making jam at the moment for the sample, because, you know, it’s my first time making grape jam!    So, excited!!!

I’ve received the grape jam recipe from Paul, my Uncle-in-law who lives in Belgium, which kindly translated the original recipe from French to English for me.   Thank you Paul!   However, the grape jam recipe Paul sent to me was using seedless grapes that don’t need to separate the grape pulp and skin.    But I have Concord grape with lots of seeds!    So, I used Paul's recipe for the guideline and searching for the grape jam recipe some more on the internet and youtube, and have found several of them with the same basic ingredients, with and without using pectin.   But there was one recipe that I found it interesting by using butter in the jam.    What butter would do to the jam? I wondered.   The only given explanation about using butter was to deter the foamy while cooking the grape.    Hmm…interesting!    The only idea came to me was that butter makes everything taste good!   Haaaaaa!
Though I did not follow the rest of the recipe, but I decided to add butter into my grape jam just wanted to satisfy my curiosity dying to know if the butter would work as claimed.   And yes, it worked!    It had prevented the foamy while the grape was boiling and simmering away.
Huh! Learn something new every day!

My grape jam came out so pretty and sweet with a little hint of lemon. Not bad, not bad as I am telling myself while spreading the freshly made jam on my toasted bread and licking my finger at the same time!   

What you need:   makes approx. 4 1/2 cups

 3 1/2 lbs. Concord grapes
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 medium lemon juice + zest
1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter

 How to:

- Pick grapes from the vine and wash away thoroughly any substances

 - Squeeze the grapes with your fingers to separate its skin from pulp and put them in separate bowl 

 - Bring the grape pulp to a boil in the medium sauce pan over medium heat and cook until the pulps are soften, about 5-7 minutes. Press the pulp through strainer and try to get as much pulp as possible, and discard the seeds

 - Meanwhile, in another medium pot, bring the grape skins into the medium pot with 1 cup of sugar, lemon juice and zest over medium heat and cook for 5-10 minutes
- Add the grape pulp to the gape skin pot, add another 2 1/2 cups of sugar and butter, and gently stir to combine

- Turn the heat to low and let it to simmer for another 20-25 minutes. Keep stirring occasionally with wooden spoon. The jam will look glossy and thicken when it’s ready. Or you can check if it’s done by running your finger through the back of wooden spoon and the line stay there
- Carefully pour the hot jam into the prepared sterilized jars and let the jam sit at least 6 hours or overnight to develop more flavor before used


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