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Thai Red Curry Chicken

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (4 oz.) Maesri brand red curry paste
  • 1 can (13.5 fl. oz.) Chef’s Choice brand coconut milk, divided
  • 1.5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thigh
  • 1.5 lb. green beans, potatoes, or kabocha squash
  • 3 tbsp Tiparos brand fish sauce, divided
  • Thai basil or kaffir lime leaves (optional)
  • Palm sugar (optional)

Preparation:

  • Clean chicken thoroughly, trim fat, and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • Rinse the green beans if using.  Trim the edges and cut into 2-inch pieces. If using potatoes or squash, rinse, skin, and dice them into 1/2-3/4″ cubes.

Cooking:

  • Set a large pot over high heat for 1-2 minutes.
  • Scoop the thick layer of coconut cream from the top of the can, approximately ½ cup.  Stir until half of the cream evaporates, being careful not to burn it.
  • Add the curry paste and 1 tbsp of fish sauce.  Stir until the mixture thickens again being careful not to burn it.
  • Add the chicken and stir occasionally.
  • Add the remaining 2 tbsp of fish sauce when the chicken is almost cooked through.
  • When the chicken is done, add the green beans if using and cook until the beans turn bright green. 
  • Add the remainder of the coconut milk and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for 1 minute. If using potatoes or squash, add them now, and cook on low heat until they become soft.
  • If using basil or lime leaves, toss them in just before serving.
  • If using kabocha squash, sprinkle in a bit of the palm sugar to taste.
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P is for Pupusa

Another coworker I will always remember is Celina Benavides, whose beautiful name befits her beautiful person.  This is my tribute to Celina, a native of El Salvador.

“Let’s get pupusas,” Celina says.

“I’ve heard of those.  What are they?”  I ask.

“They are made of masa and then fried like a tortilla.  Yeah, they’re sort of like thick tortillas,” adds Sylvia, helpfully.

“So they’re chewy and dry like a tortilla?” I press.

“No, not quite,” is the reply.

“So they’re thick and chewy like flat bread?” I try again.

“No, not quite.”

“So they’re thick and mushy like tamales?”  I am undaunted.  “Like cornbread?  Or polenta?”

“No.  No.  No.”

“What do you eat them with?” I ask.

Curditas, a pickled cabbage.”

“Pickled cabbage?  Like sauerkraut?  Like kimchi?”

“No.  No,” and finally, “I’ll bring you some tomorrow.”

Persistence pays off, I tell you.

True to her word, Celina rushed into the office a few days later, arms laden with fragrant bundles.

Each pupusa is about ¼” thick and is filled with cheese, refried beans, chicharrones (fried pork skin), or some combination of the three.  Pupusas are like fried tamales, soft and mushy with sharply salty center.  They are topped with curditas and a thin tomato sauce, almost like a very mild salsa.  They are more like Chinese pickled cabbage than like Korean kimchi — lightly marinated, freshly pickled and made with the normal cabbage rather than napa.  I tasted vinegar, red chili flakes, cabbage, carrots and onion.  My coworker noticed oregano.  Other than the oregano, the similarity to Chinese pickled cabbage is striking.

Another similarity between pupusas and the food I grew up with is the pupusa itself.  Consider the two pictures below.  The photo on the right is of ho dduk, my father’s favorite Korean street food, a fried cake made of sticky rice and filled with cinnamon, sugar and nuts.  The photo on the left is the pupusa, a cake made of white cornmeal and filled with savory items instead.  Food knows no boundaries, be they geographical, national, political or ideological.

M is for Mexican Mole

Since I began my first full-time job last June, I have had the pleasure of getting to know many blessed souls.  One in particular is Sylvia Sosa, whose spirited personality has earned her the nickname “Sylvia Saucy.”  While Sylvia is quite “saucy,” I will remember her more for her generosity, which spills out of her large heart and blesses those around her.  A fellow foodie and a native Chicagan, Sylvia’s family is originally from Mexico, and she has shared her wonderful (edible) heritage with me.

Julia made mole in college, which was my first experience actually tasting the nutty stew, almost curry-like in consistency, but I first read about it in Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate.  The book was actually my brother’s high school assigned reading, but I (four years his junior) picked it up one afternoon and couldn’t put it down until I finished.  Needless to say, I didn’t understand much of the storyline, but I do remember being fascinated by Esquivel’s use of recipes to both provide structure as well as further the plot of the novel.  I would like to read it again sometime.  Mole was the dish that caught my attention because in my culinary repertoire, chocolate and chicken were not complementary ingredients.

So when Sylvia told me she had made mole over the weekend and has brought some to share, I was very excited.  The sweet, salty and nutty stew was rich and complicated, and I astonished her by finishing my portion and asking for more.  I requested the recipe, and so here it is.  I have yet to make this myself, but I will update when I do.

This is my tribute to Sylvia Sosa, a memorable character in my life.

Red Chicken Mole

ingredients
Chicken breast
1 jar Dona Maria brand red mole paste
1 jar Bueno Rogelio brand red mole paste
¼ cup sesame seeds
5 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 heaping tbsp peanut butter
½ disk Ibarra brand Mexican chocolate
1 slice white bread
1 corn tortilla
Oil for frying
1 or 2 garlic cloves

preparation
Simmer chicken breast in salted water.  Add garlic cloves.  Once chicken is cooked, remove from water and cool.  Shred once chicken has cooled.
Add both jars of mole to about 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Use enough liquid to create a thick, soupy consistency.
Deep fry tortilla until crispy.
Pan fry bread until crispy.
Toast sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.  Do not use any extra oil.
Adding a little at a time, use a blender to create a paste from the tortilla, bread, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and peanut butter.  Add just enough chicken broth to make a paste.
Add the paste and chocolate to the mole mixture and bring to a boil.  Mix thoroughly.
Add shredded chicken and simmer for 20 minutes on low heat.
Serve with Mexican rice and warm tortillas.

Mexican Rice

ingredients
2 cups rice
1 medium tomato, diced
1/3 small onion, finely diced
1/3 green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves crushed garlic
¾ small can tomato sauce
About 2 heaping tablespoon Knorr chicken bouillon seasoning
Large pinch cumin powder
Large pinch ground pepper

preparation
Brown the rice about 1 tbsp of oil.
Add the tomato, onion and bell pepper, stirring for1 minute.
Add the tomato sauce and stir for 1 minute.
Add 4 cups of water, bouillon powder, cumin, pepper and garlic.
Taste the broth and add extra seasonings if needed.
Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Uncover and stir.
Cover again and cook for 10 minutes or until rice reaches desired consistency.

I made some cupcakes this week and turned to my most trusted references for help.  Billy’s Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcake recipe, found here, is interesting in that you cut the butter into the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients.  Most cake recipes require 5 minutes of creaming butter and sugar, but Billy’s technique is reminiscent of scones, soda bread and biscuit.  I like it because you do not need to leave the butter out to soften as the butter warms when cubed.  I also like that some cupcakes get actual chunks of butter.  I modified the original recipe by decreasing the sugar and increasing the vanilla.  Overall, they had a cake-like texture similar to teacakes, very different from the chocolate cupcakes below.

Billy’s Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes about 30 cupcakes

1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.

2. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.

3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about two-thirds full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.

4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter. Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

I also made some matcha cupcakes by substituting 2 tablespoons matcha powder for the vanilla extract in Billy’s Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes.  These were everyone’s favorite by far.  I would, however, like to experiment with a softer green tea cupcake with a more tender crumb, similar to the moister chocolate recipe below.

These cupcakes were decadent with an intense chocolate flavor, but I found them too salty.  I modified the original recipe by decreasing the sugar and the salt.

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

makes 36 cupcakes/adapted from Epicurious

3 oz. (1/2 cup) fine-quality semisweet chocolate
1 ½ cups hot brewed coffee
2 cups sugar
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
3 large eggs
¾ cup canola oil
1 ½ cups well-shaken buttermilk
¾ tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line cupcake wells with fluted paper liners or butter cake pans and line with parchment paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In another large bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer until thickened slightly and lemon-colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed, bracing yourself against puffs of cocoa-and-flour dust, until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans. Bake in middle of oven 20 to 25 minutes for cupcakes, or 50 to 70 minutes for larger cakes, until a tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool cakes completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and remove cupcakes, or invert larger cakes onto racks. If making larger cakes, carefully remove wax paper. Cakes may be made one day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Stained Glass Jello

These jewel-like beauties were made by my dear friend Julia, the one who introduced me to mochi cake, Berkeley Bowl, Naan ‘n Curry, and the world of good eats in general.  Graced with an eye for beauty as well as a discerning palate, she is the inspiration for many of my edible projects.  This recipe for Broken Glass Jello, which I prefer to call Stained Glass Jello, comes from here.

Stained Glass Jello

ingredients

4-3 oz. boxes Jell-O
1-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 envelopes Knox gelatin

preparation

Dissolve each box of jello in one cup boiling water.  Pour into a container and chill until firm (at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.)
When firm, cut each batch of jello into small blocks.  Carefully mix the blocks in a 9 x 13 pan.

Sprinkle Knox gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water.  Once the gelatin blooms, add 1 1/2 cups boiling water to fully dissolve the gelatin.  Add the condensed milk, stir and cool.  Pour the condensed milk mixture over jello cubes and chill overnight.

Note: Julia said she would double the condensed milk later next time as we all felt there was not enough of the precious creamy gelatin.

Floating Pastries

Yogurt Cake

Gâteau au Yaourt

– 2 eggs
– 250ml (1 cup) whole milk plain unsweetened yogurt (if you use two 125ml or 4oz tubs, you can use them to measure out the rest of the ingredients)
– 200g (1 cup) sugar (you can use an empty tub of yogurt and measure the equivalent of 2 yogurt tubs if you used the 125ml or 4oz kind)
– 80ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil (or a bit less than 1 yogurt tub)
– 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 4 yogurt tubs)
– 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla paste/extract
– 1 tablespoon light rum

Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F), line the bottom of a round 25-cm (10-inch) cake pan with parchment paper and grease the sides. In a large mixing-bowl, gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil, and rum. In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and blend together — don’t overwork the dough. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let stand for ten minutes, and transfer onto a rack to cool.

Courtesy of this beautiful blog.

I use 1/2 brown sugar, plain nonfat yogurt, and add any fruit I have on hand.  I serve it warm with more yogurt or vanilla ice cream.