Thursday, December 20, 2012


Every so often I get on a jag. I have been mulling over various things to do with one of my favorite bi-products. Bean curd-skin or yuba as it is known in Japanese cuisine. I adore a particular steamed pork filled concoction that I can never pronounce quite well enough to find out which chart it is on when I am out for dim sum. Usually with patience I spot bamboo streamer containing what is called sin zuk gyun.

It is the outer skin that left me percolating with Ideas. I have cut the skins into strips that then got dropped into my Chicken Noodle Soup, now sans noodles. I have crisped them in the oven to be broken over salads in lieu of croutons. Then I decided to continue my playtime with bean curd-skin, and make an Asian-esque burrito. I bought frozen sheets that defrosted very quickly, and then made a ground chicken mixture rolled like I would for a burrito, and into the oven.

The were a hit with my in-house testing team and me, which is great because I am always trying to get Hokan to eat more soy.  I am not done with this product for there is a lasagna and Moroccan pastilla coming to a dinner table near you.

Asian Inspired Wrapped Chicken - serves 6
6-ounces rice noodles
1-pound ground chicken
2-tablespoons minced ginger
3-garlic cloves - minced
1- large shallot – minced
8-ounces chopped bamboo shoots
¼-cup chopped cilantro
¼-cup soy sauce
3 sheets tofu skin (approx. 6-ounces total weight)
1-tablespoon sesame oil

Soak the noodles in a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes, and then drain. Cut up the noodles into 2-inch pieces.
Thoroughly combine the noodles, chicken, ginger, garlic, shallots, bamboo shoots, cilantro and soy sauce.

Layout a sheet of the tofu skin on a clean work surface, and place a third of the chicken mixture on the bottom third to about 1-inch from each side. Fold in the sides, and roll the chicken mixture up. Continue with the remaining tofu skin and chicken mixture.

Pre-heat the heat to 400-degrees.

Place the rolls on a baking tray, and brush them with the sesame oil.

Bake in to the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Slice each roll into thirds and serve warm.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

And toss

It is cold. Well, it is relative given I am not in the north where the nights almost guarantee a frost, if not a hard freeze. Here on the boarder of the frost-free zone I am still actively going out daily to harvest the elements of our meals. Beets, radishes, turnips, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli and cauliflower flourish until brought into the kitchen.

I am also amazed that my lettuces are still sprouting leaves and only one or two of the have shown signs of wanting to bolt. I have diligently snipped from a variety of possibilities whenever I go to make a salad – a little oak leaf: red and green, curly green, red romaine and crimpled lolla rossa get mixed together.  I have been making sure they continue to sprout new leaves to replace the ones I steal. On the half dozen evening when I knew the temperature was going to drop to the frost line, or worst, I have blanketed those tender leaves with a billowy high-tech cloth that thwarts freezer burn so come the morning sun I am not furlong due to a wholesale loss. But here is the rub – I married someone who does not share my enthusiasm for salad greens. Why didn’t he tell me that before I agreed to the better or worst proviso? I do realize I am among a rarified group that adores a bowl of baby greens, washed and spun dry so their sweet, bitter, spicy tones aren’t diluted. Is it so weird that I envy a rabbit’s dinner? Though unlike my furry little friend I do like a good dressing from a simple tossing of lemon juice and fruity olive oil punched with a suspicion of salt flakes to creamy concoctions emulsified with blue cheese or avocado.
While tossed greens are welcomed on my table anytime I do question Mother Nature and her timing. Why cannot these leaves flourish during the heat of summer as well when tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are ample, and that way I just might be able to get my spouse to eat more greens?  

Vanilla Infused Dressing - yields approx. 1-1/4 cup
1/4-cup champagne or white balsamic vinegar
1/2-cup fresh lime juice
2-teaspoons vanilla extract
2 to 3 drops Tabasco
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2-cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients together and whisk till well combined.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

a little cake

Now that Thanksgiving has been completely digested, including leftovers that got reincarnated into soup, croquettes and of course, sandwiches and the hyperbolic mania of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a note on an accounting spreadsheet I can think about the next holiday that is descending upon us.

I will actually be cooking a Christmas Feast this year for my Swedish spouse, and ideas are spinning around. It should not be that difficult to transform someone with Ukrainian Jewish roots into the prefect Norse host. I am going my research, and seeking advice from my mother-in-law. I still have twenty plus days, no panic and until then there are other parties to prepare for and batches upon batches of cookies to be made. This is my favorite part of the holidays -- all the cookies you get to consume. These little cakes speak to the most basic pleasure in all of us – our all-too-often forgotten inner child. Though for me that child never like chocolate chip cookies – way too pedestrian. I could not stop myself from eating way too many of my mother’s apricot rugelach. Today, a batch of macadamia/white chocolate is a basic comfort, but for this holiday I am going with a pistachio/lavender biscotti. In part because this twice baked cookie has a good shelf life, and a large batch has you prepped for a cookie swap at a moments notice.  I had a hefty lavender harvest earlier in the year, and looking at my jar of lavender sugar and dried buds I felt compelled to include them in the festivities.   

I may not have a cookie sprinkled with holiday jimmies but they will standout as I probably will later this month serving the Christmas smorgasbord.

Pistachio Biscotti - yields approx. 3 dozen
1/2-cup whole shelled pistachio - roughly chop
2 cups plus 2-tablespoons flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8-teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter
¾-cup sugar
2 eggs
1-tablespoon orange juice
1-teaspoon orange blossom water
2-teaspoons crushed lavender buds

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Cream the butter until light and fluffy in a standing mixture or with a hand held beater.  Add in the sugar and beat for a few minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each is thoroughly incorporated before the next addition.  Mix the orange juice, orange blossom water and lavender into the butter.  Add the flour mixture into the butter and work until just combined.  Then mix in the pistachios. 

On a lightly floured surface form the dough into four logs, and then place a lined baking tray.  Bake the cookies in the oven for approximately 25 minutes, or until the logs are golden brown and set.  Let cool slightly, and then slice the logs into ¼-inch pieces on an angle.  Place back on a baking tray and bake again about 15 minutes to dry out.  

You may want to turn the cookies over in order to insure that both sides dry out well.

Pistachio Bisc