Monday, June 24, 2013

Silken tofu salad with ginger and mint

One of my favorite chefs is Kylie Kwong. Her take on Chinese cuisine is authentic as well as interesting. Out of the many recipes of hers which are a part of our regular dinner repertoire, this cold tofu salad is truly worth sharing. Extremely simple, but with a little twist using aromatics and spices to take it a level above ordinary.

She uses cold tofu, shredded spring onions and shredded vegetables dressed with a hot oil dressing to make this wonderful summertime salad. This is a perfect make ahead dish - pour the hot dressing just before serving. I have adapted it slightly and omitted the spring onions and substituted chili oil for freshly sliced red chilis.

Silken tofu salad with ginger and mint
1 small cucumber
1 small carrot peeled
14 oz silken tofu chilled
2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh mint leaves
Pinch of Sichuan pepper salt

2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
½ tablespoon fresh peeled ginger, cut into julienne
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon malt vinegar (substitute is rice vinegar)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 tablespoon peanut oil (substitute is grape seed or canola oil)
  1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a heatproof bowl. Heat peanut oil in a small frying pan until moderately hot, and then carefully pour over dressing ingredients to scald them and release their flavors. Stir to combine and set aside.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, finely slice cucumber and carrot length-ways into ribbons and then into a fine julienne or use a julienne peeler.
  3. Take tofu from the refrigerator and immediately invert into a shallow bowl. Carefully cut into 8 equal slices width ways and top with cucumber and carrot. Pour over dressing and garnish with mint, Sichuan pepper salt and serve immediately. 

Serves 3 to 4 as a first course

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Quinoa, zucchini and black eyed pea cakes with Romesco sauce

Delicious first and healthy next is how I would describe these cakes. The texture of these cakes comes from the quinoa, freshness and moisture from the zucchini and the black eyed peas buzzed in the food processor binds it all together. I used canned black eyed peas, but the next time I make this, I would prefer to use dried black eyed peas, soaked in hot water for an hour or more and then boiled and drained. Canned black eyed peas had a metallic taste which was masked by the addition of herbs and spices. But if you have the time, go ahead and use the dried peas.

Quinoa, zucchini and black eyed pea cakes with Romesco sauce

1/2 cup quinoa
1 medium zucchini - a slim one with not so many seeds
1 14 oz can black eyed peas (this one had salt)
1 teaspoon roasted cumin powdered
1/3 cup finely crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeƱo (more or less depending on your tolerance for spice)
1 small clove of garlic, peeled, and coarsely chopped
Canola oil for pan frying
Kosher salt
  1. Wash the quinoa in a sieve to remove the bitter coating. In a 1 quart saucepan,  add the quinoa with 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cover and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa cool.
  2. Grate the zucchini and set aside.
  3. Add the chopped onion, jalapeno and garlic to the food processor and give it a quick buzz to break up the aromatics into small pieces. Now add the drained black eyed peas and pulse till it is a paste and incorporated with the aromatics. Remove to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add the grated zucchini, cooled quinoa, cumin powder and crumbled feta and mix by hand. Taste the mixture to check for seasonings and adjust according to your taste.
  5. Form into little cakes 3/4th inch thick and 2 inches round and lay them out on a sheet tray to be  refrigerated for an hour before frying. This step helps to firm up the cakes, so they don't crumble while frying. Cover the tray with cling wrap before putting in the refrigerator.
  6. When you are ready to fry, heat a non-stick griddle over medium high heat and add a thin layer of canola oil just enough to glaze the griddle. Gently lay the cakes in a single layer and cook without flipping for 3 minutes without flipping them over medium heat. Check if the bottom is brown and flip them to brown the other side. Cook for another 3 minutes on the second. Remove when the cakes are golden brown on both sides. 
  7. Serve with Romesco sauce. (Recipe below).
Makes 14 2 inch patties

Romesco sauce (my version)

1 large roasted red pepper, skin and seeds removed
1 small clove of garlic
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put all the ingredients in the food processor except for the olive oil. Blend to a coarse mixture. Now slowly add the olive oil through the tube and continue to pulse to emulsify the sauce. Taste for seasoning.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Belgian waffles with sweet corn, cheese and scallions

Waffles are a popular breakfast item in our home, but they are the sweet kind and for a long time were store bought. One weekend,  we wanted to eat something savory, but without too much work. Savory waffles were a nice thing to make with very little effort.

Belgian waffles are my favorite kind of waffles - the main difference is that they use yeast and less eggs. And the waffles are more crisp. If you don't like Belgian waffles, you could make these waffles with your favorite waffle recipe as well. I use King Arthur flour's Belgian waffle recipe without the maple syrup for savory waffles and it works well every time. The addition of the corn, adds texture to the waffle and a little pop of sweetness in a savory way when combined with cheese, dried red chili flakes and the scallions.

Since this was a last minute effort, I did not have a salsa or a sauce to serve the waffles with. If you plan ahead, please serve with a tomato, onion and cilantro salsa or a Romesco sauce. Both would work well with these waffles.

Waffles with sweet corn, cheese and scallions
1/2 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn
2 skinny scallions trimmed and finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese (or more)
1/2 recipe King Arthur flour Belgian Waffle recipe
  1. Prepare the waffle dough as per the King Arthur flour Belgian Waffle recipe. You need to keep it at room temperature for the yeast to work its magic.
  2. While the yeast is working,  finely chop the scallions - both white and green parts. If you are using frozen corn, wash them in hot water to remove the ice. If you are using fresh corn, remove the husk from the cob and the stem. Then placing the base in a bowl, use a paring knife to shave down the sides and kernels will collect at the bottom of the bowl. 
  3. Once the waffle dough is ready, add the corn, chopped scallions, dried red chili flakes, salt and shredded cheese to the dough and mix lightly. 
  4. Preheat the waffle iron and add half the dough to the pan and cook as per the instructions on your waffle iron. If you are using the stove top iron, then the best thing is to preheat both the plates separately on two burners for 2 minutes on medium heat. The cook each side for 3 minutes over medium heat. The waffles will be golden brown and crisp with still a little bit of softness remaining.
  5. Serve with a tomato salsa or a Romesco sauce.
Makes 8 quarters

Note: If you don't own a waffle iron, a stove top waffle iron is a wonderful thing to own. It fits easily in a drawer and requires no counter space. Since it is non-stick the waffle comes out easily and it is a breeze to clean.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Roasted Sweet Potato salad with Asiago Caesar dressing

Sweet potatoes (not the orange yams) are absolutely delicious roasted as roasting concentrates the flavor of the potato. I toss them with sweet Vidalia onions and roast together. Once slightly cooled, I combine the potato and onion mixture with finely sliced sun-dried tomatoes, and toss them with some lettuce drizzled with caesar dressing and sprinkled with roasted pistachios. The combination of flavors ie. sweet, sour and salty is perfectly balanced by the addition of the creamy dressing.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Asiago Caesar Dressing
2 medium sized Japanese sweet potatoes (red skin with white flesh)
1/2 large Vidalia onion (this is a sweet onion)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Scant 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil)
2 handfuls of organic baby lettuce mix
2 tablespoons roasted shelled unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
Caesar dressing to serve ( I used an anchovy-free dressing) [substitute with Ranch if required]
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. 
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Similarly, peel the Vidalia onion and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
  3. Toss the cubed potato and chopped onion mixture with olive oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Lay them out in a single layer on a light weight baking sheet. (You want the potatoes to caramelize and not steam).
  4. Place the baking sheet in the middle rack of the oven and cook for 20 minutes till the potatoes begin to caramelize and the tips of the onions turn brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to the salad bowl.
  5. Cut the sun-dried tomatoes into thin strips and mix with the warm potato and onion mixture. 
  6. Add the coarsely chopped pistachios to the mixture as well. When cool, add the lettuce and toss.
  7. Serve with the dressing on the side for each person to drizzle as much as they like.
Serves 4