Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Sauce Thickens

The cooking done during this post all occurred two weeks ago. To continue the Week that Ate Normality I made Maki's Miso-peanut Udon, and tried the sesame sauce again too. Oh, and Kale chips. I made Kale chips. The highlight has to be the miso container though. It's so chic! I was a little worried because it's Korean and not Japanese, and because it was right next to the red pepper paste and in the exact same packaging (only brown, not red). I will be saving this container and, even if I decide I hate miso, I will probably be going back to the store to buy more. And red pepper paste, I wanna a red lid too.

Recipe Bibliography:

       The dinner, as previously mentioned, was courtesy of Maki's first foray into publishing, while the Kale chips were inspired by Popartichoke (don't you just love that name? And her banner! . . . oh yeah, food).

Recipe Breakdown:

              The Miso-Peanut Sauce:

        This was a lot of fun to make, especially since it required an extra outing to my local International grocery store. How lucky am I that there's one located not ten miles from my house? The exotic ingredients purchased were Dehydrated Dashi Stock, Mirin, and Miso. The recipe also called for sake, but I couldn't find that in the store and I'm not really comfortable going up to people and asking where they keep their liquor. But, since I love the idea of cooking with alcohol (It makes me think of Christmas . . . weird? Yup) I substituted it with some white wine my mom had on hand.
     The preparation for this dish was pretty easy and straight forward. Even with my haphazard way of doing things (not measuring, kinda measuring, throwing in purple onions for green, etc.) things came together really well. The sauce is really strong though. Really. Reeeeeeeeaaaaaally. I was surprised by how spicy it was, not hot, but with a definite kick. The effect of the ginger, I guess, since the miso didn't taste spicy (are you allowed to eat miso raw? I couldn't help it. Strangely, it reminded me of cheese. Is it fair to call it bean cheese?). On top of the spicy notes there was the overwhelming taste of miso. Not overwhelming in a bad way, but as an objective measurement. The sauce, as suggested by its name, tasted like miso It was a little much for me, but I loaded the sauce on my udon too. Because the miso flavor completely masked the peanuts (unless you bit right into one) I'm assuming this sauce was another victim of my slap-dash cooking. Since the miso came in (the cutest ever) 15 oz. container I didn't bother measuring it out, but just scooped what I thought was enough into my mixing bowl. Culinary reminder: less can be added too, but more cannot be taken away.
            The Sesame Sauce:

       This time I actually measured, and things turned out a lot better. My dad seems to like this sauce (it was he who asked me to retry it) so this will probably come up in my kitchen again. As a side note, I served it with kale this time.

           The Kale Chips

      Yum. Baked leaves. I've actually seen this on a few sites, but when I saw it on Popartichoke I caved and put it on my mental list. I made two batches of this. This first highlighted why klutzes should not be in the kitchen. I drowned half the kale in olive oil and put so much salt on the leaves that they looked like a kid's crystal growing experiment after it was done baking. Because they were unevenly oiled they cooked at different rates, and of course the majority of them were to salty too eat. The surviving few, though, were intriguing enough to try again, only this time I grabbed a handful of that kale and rolled it in bacon drippings. Oh yum! Because these were oiled – er, greased – evenly they baked at the same rate, resulting in a light, crispy chip that disappeared in your mouth (my dad ate one and assumed it had been fried. I'm taking this as a complement). They tasted slightly of kale, but mostly of nothing, with the second batch having faint bacon overtones. My mom, and my aunt, voted them a success, but I don't think I'll be making them very often. I did let my chips sit in the hot oven longer than the recommended ten minutes, but then, I probably had more grease to cook off.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Winter Squash "stuffing"

It's finally starting to warm up around here, after weeks of threatening to snow but never quite getting on with it. Inside the kitchen, however, warm, stomach southing,  dishes are still being made. Monday the marked the beginning of Dinner Gone Wild. Exotic ingredients and unusual flavor combinations will be the norm this week. The menu was Winter Squash Bread Pudding, Beef Tips with Onion and Sage, and Blanched Spinach with sesame sauce.

Recipe Bibliography:

The pudding was inspired by the guidelines found in Urban Pantry, the steak bites were completely winged, and the sesame sauce was courtesy of Maki's Just Bento Cookbook.

Recipe Breakdown;

               The Pudding
       The basic idea for this was "pudding texture, dinner taste." To achieve this I used a bag of seasoned stuffing bread cubes (found stuffed in the back of the pantry, score!), two Acorn squash, sage, eggs, and milk. I infused the milk with the sage, just 'cause I like making things more complicated. Since the crumbs I used were already heavily seasoned I doubt this really made an impact on the actual taste of the dish. But it made me feel like I was cooking. The squash was very work intensive. I scrapped out the seeds, cut it into eighths, and cut the shell off before cubing it. I would love to try either pureeing it or just grating it next time (if I had a mandolin, maybe a thin julienne) so that the squash would have more of a chance to meld with the other flavors. The dish as whole turned out really well, though, so I'm putting this in my files as "worth perfecting." The only thing that really stood out was the name, no one seemed to like the idea of eating bread pudding for dinner ( or at any other time, which is just insanity. Bread pudding is awesome. End plug for Bread pudding/) I found myself switching to "squash stuffing," just to avoid the wrinkled noses.

             The Beef Tips
       This was really simple. I chopped up a purple onion lengthwise (wait, aren't they supposed to be red?), let it cook with some minced sage for a few seconds with a teensy bit of olive oil, and then added two sirloin steaks cut into bite sized pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper (the smallest mouth in the house belongs to the three year-old, though you wouldn't know it to hear her talk). I splashed a little bit of rice wine vinegar and red wine vinegar into the pan and let the meat cook until rare before adding some milk and cornstarch for a bit of a gravy. Just a little though, it's still too cold to go swimming.

         The Spinach and Sesame
    The spinach was really easy to cook, nothing to talk about there, just stuck it in some water and boiled. But the sauce stymied me. I used Tahini, because that's what my ethnic grocery store sold (no nerigoma, oh well). The sauce ended up having a near-perfection fore-taste and a bitterly-off aftertaste. Yuck. Edible, enjoyable even, but not a success. Since I sept-tupled the recipe I am willing to blame it on my math. Maybe the bitterness was because I put into too much tahini, or not enough sugar?