30 May 2012

Pupusa Journey

Pupusa: a fried cheese-stuffed corn meal patty with red tomato-y salsa (salsa roja) and vinegar-y cabbage and carrot slaw (curtido).  Origen: El Salvador.  Currently unavailable in the region I live in.

Except in my own kitchen.

(you'll see even more of these kinds of posts [noodle bowl, jiaozi, etc.] as I learn how to re-create some of my favorite foods that I can't buy where I now live)

No recipes today.  I'm still working out my technique.  Looking at the picture above, my mouth is literally watering.  The darkened flecks, the cheese oozing out the sides, the mound of pupusas waiting to be devoured . . . it all looks right.  But it's not quite.  My pupusas are too thick, and when your masa-to-cheese ratio is skewed, it just ain't right. You want them (well, I want them) to be thin enough that when you wrap up your salsa roja and curtido (see below) the thing bends delicately.  Mine tend to crack.  Well, learning to make pupusas by myself in the wilds of Pennsylvania was bound to be a journey.  And thanks to a recent trip to Virginia to re-stock my Maseca, the journey will continue.

21 May 2012

Vietnamese Noodle Bowl

So I used to work at this great cafe that made all sorts of yummy food from fresh, local ingredients, and my favorite was the noodle bowl.  Rice noodles layered with lettuce, herbs, carrots, and chicken and soaked with a sweet/sour/tart/pungent sauce.  YUM.  YUM.  I crave it.

Then I found a Vietnamese restaurant that made a killer noodle bowl (they should, right?) in a deeper bowl with smaller noodles, more finely chopped ingredients and marinated beef.  Oh wow.  I LOVED it!  

Well, too bad that the Vietnamese restaurant closed and I moved away from that town anyhow.  Sigh.  Here in central PA not so much Vietnamese food unless I want to drive an hour.  

As with the Chinese food, it's time to make my own.

Of course, I did what I always do and scoured the internet for recipes then made my own version of a noodle bowl with what I had on hand.  It turned out AWESOME!

Here's what you do:

1. Make the sauce (Nuoc Cham or Nuoc Mam): lime, water, sugar, fish sauce, garlic and a leeetle bit of sriracha

2. Cook the rice noodles, drain & rinse (you end up eating this at room temperature).

3. Cook any meat you want (I marinated some chopped pork tenderloin in a ginger/garlic/soy marinade and pan fried it)

4. Chop, slice, shred, crush, etc. the other ingredients and start layering:

    Lettuce (shredded--I think bok choy would be nice too)
    Cilantro, Mint (and Basil if available!)
    Carrots (shredded)
    Cucumber (shredded)
    Green Onion (sliced--I forgot to add it, and I could tell it wasn't the same!)
    Nuts (I used toasted sesame seed, but peanuts or cashews would be     
          yummy too!)
    Nuoc Cham  (I used this recipe and added sriracha and garlic)

I'm going to make this again sometime this week using marinated venison on top.  And I won't forget the green onions!  Let me know if you try making it and what you think.

08 May 2012

Bl[h]u[e]barb Pie

When we were in Virginia a few weeks ago I hastily harvested all the rhubarb I could get off our plants there.  I brought it back to Pennsylvania and stashed it in the fridge where it waited.  Waited.  Waited . . .   (It seems like this is a pretty common story on this blog--I somehow procure a special ingredient, then have to mull over how to use it for a week or so until the fear of it finally rotting away in the fridge catapults me into action).  

So, where were we?  Ah--waiting rhubarb.  So patient.  I finally started going through my favorite sources to find a good rhubarb recipe that would do justice to my (our) hopes that were about three years in the making--dreaming about, talking about, finding, planting, re-planting, waiting out the first season, and finally harvesting rhubarb!  When it comes to pies or cakes or cookies, I always check out my Mennonite cookbooks first.  I wasn't too inspired by the cooked fillings and the cliche strawberry-rhubarb combination.  Next stop--Allrecipes.com where I came across this.  I LOVE simple recipes that allow the main ingredients to "sing" as the author of the recipe says.  

After reading the reviews I decided to make a few changes.  And of course, I had to be short on one ingredient:  rhubarb.  The recipe calls for four cups, chopped, and I only came up with three.  Which is how it came to be Bl[h]u[e]barb pie.  Read on.

Bl[h]u[e]barb Pie (or Berry Berry Rhubarb)

Crust for 9-in. pie top and bottom (if you use a little lard---wowza!)
3 cups rhubarb, diced
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup sugar
6 TBSP all-purpose flour

Instructions:  Make your crust, roll out the bottom, place in pan, and let sit in the refrigerator while you chop the rhubarb.  Place an oven rack to the bottom-most position in the oven and preheat the oven to 450F, then go ahead and chop that rhubarb!  I actually diced it so the pieces were about the same size as a large blueberry.  Next, mix together the sugar and flour and scatter about a 1/4 cup onto the bottom pie crust.  Fill with your diced rhubarb and berries, spreading the berries evenly throughout.  Sprinkle the remaining sugar/flour mix over the fruit and top with another crust, cutting a vent (I made a curly "C" for our last name in case you were wondering what that design was on the opening picture).  Bake at 450F for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350F and bake an additional 45 - 50 minutes or until crust is browned to your liking.

Cook's word(s):  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  YUM.  First, the smidgen of lard I put in the crust must have done something miraculous because it was tender, flaky, etc., etc. every word that describes a delectable crust.  Next, the flavor was excellent--the blueberries added a sweet little twist, but there was also no mistaking the rhubarb.  And, finally the texture.  One of my complaints about fruit pies is how they ooze and puddle when you slice them.  Not so with this pie.  The flour must cook in to the juices so that when it cools to holds up under pressure, so that each slice is a nice, distinct even piece of the pie.  That's my girl.  A simple recipe, a seconds-worthy result.  What are you waiting for?  Don't think you have to use blueberries either because I bet this would be equally tasty with a cup of almost any berry: sliced strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or a combination (which is why I had the alternative name Berry Berry Rhubarb).  Go get cookin'!