Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Zucchini Lasagna

N: I'm gonna make a lasagna using zucchini and no pasta!
B: That sounds weird. Is there going to be meat in it?
N: Yes.
B: Hmm, ok. As long as it has meat, this has potential then...
Inspired by recipe from Chow, but it was overly complicated so I have greatly simplified it (ie no need to bake zucchini twice, sautee mushrooms in one pan, then sautee artichokes in another pan separately... who's got time for that!? Not this medical student!)

The sauce is definitely worth making though, and this recipe actually makes a little extra (it's a double batch of the original recipe) for later use.

When I baked it there was extra liquid, but once I drained it, it was fine (and after I refrigerated it and ate it as leftover, the held its shape nicely). Next time, I might use tomato paste instead of crushed tomatoes for presentation, but I thought the consistency was perfectly fine eatingwise

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (28 oz-ounce) can crushed tomato (tomato sauce is too watery)
1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, finely chopped
red pepper flakes, pepper, Italian seasoning, kosher salt, to taste
3/4 lb ground beef

16 oz ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3 zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, and sautee for a few minutese until beginning to brown. Add the garlic and spices and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Stir and simmer until the sauce has slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. 

Cook the ground beef on stovetop with salt and pepper until just browned. Add meat to the sauce

Slice zucchini lengthwise into very thin slices. 

To assemble lasagna, layer 1/2 the zucchini slices, 1/2 the ricotta mixture, 1/2 the mozzarella, then add meat sauce. Repeat layering with remaining zucchini slices, ricotta, mozzarella and meat sauce. Spread mozerella evenly over the top

Bake for 45 minutes.
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Friday, September 20, 2013

Cannoli Cups

Cannolis are a Sicilian pastry which are tubes shells of fired pastry dough (cannoli means "little tube") filled with cream. I'm not a huge fan of them, but I saw the cutest photos in Pinterest and just had to test it out. One of the med school groups asked me to make a dessert and I though this would be a great opportunity, especially since my high school friend Alyssa came to visit that weekend (I blame HER for getting me in Pinterest! ALL her fault!!)

Making true Italian cannoli shells is arduous, so I tried this shortcut recipe from Gimme Some Oven. I have to admit, I had low expectations, but baking wonton shells actually looks pretty good (tastewise, baked wontons don't have much flavor. Alas, you can't beat frying)
pretty sprinkles! <3
Unfortunately, I had problems with the consistency of the filling. I had to freeze it to get it stiff enough to hold its shape but definitely not pipable. I saw some recipes with mascarpone cheese or cream cheese; I'd go with those to thicken it. And I probably use higher fat ricotta cheese (not fat free) to make less runny.

1 package wonton wrappers
1 container (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar (to taste)
3 oranges zested
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
semisweet chocolate chips and sprinkles
powdered sugar (for dusting)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Press wonton wrappers dusted with powdered sugar into a muffin pan to form the “cups.” (Be sure that the corners do not fold in!) Bake the cups for 10 minutes until the wrappers are golden brown. Remove and let cool.

To make the filling, stir together the ricotta cheese and confectioners' sugar using a spatula. Add vanilla, orange zest, and cinnamon.

Freeze to stiffen the filling then scoop into the shells (~1 hr). Top with sprinkles and powdered sugar.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

White Wine Peach Sangria

My high school friends, Jo and Cristina, visited me for the weekend again, and they brought a bottle of peach white wine from Fredericksburg, a cute little town in Texas Hill Country.
We were preparing this sangria recipe from Shop hemline for watching a movie when I discovered my roommate didn't have a wine bottle opener after all; she always opened her wines at a friend's house. She said try our friend and neighbor, Lisa, since she had just bought wine 2 days before.

Chef Uy: Lisa, do you have a wine bottle opener I could borrow?
Lisa: Oh dear. Do you need a wine bottle opener to open a wine bottle?
Chef Uy: Um yes, you do.

I called 4 other friends but no one had any wine bottle openers.

Jo: Don't you med school people drink??!

Anyways, we had to knock on six or seven neighbor's doors before finding one. Mission accomplished.
I'm not a huge alcohol drinker in general, but I really liked this sangria. A lot. For the next several days, I soaked my extra peaches and nectarines in it to absorb the flavor before eating it.

Hmm, this might be a game changer regarding my stance on alcohol's horrible taste.

1 bottle white wine
1 cup peach schnapps
1/2 cup frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
2 nectarines, sliced thinly
1 cup green grapes

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher. Cover and chill at least 2 hours or overnight. The longer it soaks, the more the wine absorbed the fruit flavors and vice versa!
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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fresh Vietnamese Summer Rolls

After every vacation on the way home from the airport, my family ate at this tiny hole in the Vietnamese restaurant (the only Vietnamese restaurant even remotely close to us). We ate nothing but phở and fried spring rolls. My sense of Vietnamese cuisine was, thus, rather limited. 

B's mom is an expert in Vietnamese cooking. For B, taking me home was a big deal. A ginormous deal. Well, when that day came, she cooked up a storm for me. B told me his mom took great pride in her food, so my job was to eat a lot and compliment her on everything. I replied, "I think I can do that."

According to my guys friends, they said meeting the parents was indeed a big moment and I should be nervous. I told them, I was looking forward to eating non dorm food. Clearly, my priorities were in order.
His family tried to show me the techniques of wrapping summer rolls. However, I like to put a lot of stuff and it didn't fit very well, so they were hideous. His mom's were beautiful, and she rolled one after another for me. I ate them all of them like a goldfish and was very full.

(This was before I found out these were appetizers and there were 3 more courses of food).
Anyways, recently I wanted to make some on my own since I happened to have all the ingredients on hand. They're not hard to make, but I still can't resist overfilling them, so they're still as hideous as when I tried the first time years ago! 

Recipe adapted from Not Enough Cinnamon.

rice wrappers
cooked shrimp, peeled
fresh mint leaves
lettuce leaves
basil leaves
1 cup cooked rice vermicelli, cold
fresh bean sprouts (optional)

4 tbsp rice vinegar
4 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp grated carrots

Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

Completely submerge the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the plate. Put shrimp, lettuce, vermicelli, and herbs. To roll, fold sides inward, then tightly roll the rice paper. You have your completed summer roll! Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Combine all ingredients for sauce (may microwave sauce so sugar dissolved more easily). Dip summer rolls in sauce and enjoy!
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is an Arab salad commonly seen in Middle Eastern restaurants. Traditionally it's made with bulgar (don't ask me what that is), tomatoes, cucumbers, finely chopped parsley, mint, onion, and garlic and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. 

This is a variation from Simply Whole Kitchen. As an experiment, I've made a goal to each month buy an ingredient I've never used before: I was super excited to try radishes, Italian parsley (I didn't know there were different types!), pink beans, and cherry tomatoes.

It's easy to make, but the only pain is chopping everything up. And I was so tired of chopping by the end that I forgot to add tomatoes and mint. The nice thing about salads is that you can add (or not add) whatever you want.

Chef Uy: What do you think of my Quinoa Tabbouleh?! Doesn't it look pretty?!
B: Looks...uh, healthy.

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
red wine vinegar, to taste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro and/or mint
1 can white or pink beans, drained
6 or 7 radishes, chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 can black olives, chopped
1/4 c roasted pistachios
crushed red pepper

Put the quinoa a rice cooker and cook according to directions (2:1 ratio for water:quinoa). 
Remove from the heat and let rest. Toss the warm quinoa with the oil, lemon juice, and garlic.

Just before eating, add the remaining ingredients and toss gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more oil or lemon juice as needed, then serve.

Optional: I don't think it's supposed to have dressing technically, but I couldn't resist adding my extra chimichurri sauce from the tri tip steak
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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tri Tip Steak with Chimichurri

My mom makes this amazing steak with an even more amazing chimichurri sauce. I ate this first in a Thai restaurant, but it's actually an Argentinian dish.

I love my meat. The rarer and bloodier the better.  I bought my steak and was pumped. 
Alas, I overcooked it. There's some pink, but not pink enough for me! Rawr.

I'm not as good with cooking meat and didn't estimate the time like I wanted. B suggested pan searing it and then broiling in the oven to try match the grill. I pan seared them and felt like it was enough, but went ahead and broiled them for about 5-10 minutes which was too much given my small cut of meat. Next time I would just pan sear - not only does that keep it bloody, it's also less dishes to wash too!

Tri Tip Steak with Chimichurri

1 lb tri tip streak
extra virgin olive oil

Chimichurri Sauce:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 cup packed cilantro
2 tablespoons lemon juice
red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

Marinate the steak in olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper for at least an an hour. While marinating, prepare sauce.

Chop parsley, garlic, and cilantro as finely as possible (or use a food processor). Mix red wine vinager and olive oil in a bowl. Add lemon juice, red pepper, and pepper to taste. Add chopped herbs and garlic to the sauce and stir.

Preheat oven to 415°F.

Pan sear the tri tip streak on stove top on high, flipping after 30 sec on each side. Put in oven for 5 minutes to cook the inside, checking to make sure it remains rare. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Slice thin, against the grain. Serve with chimichurri sauce.
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Peanut Butter Cheesecake With Pretzel Crust

My sister always looks for the richest desserts for the family and this is no exception - it's basically a Reese's peanut butter cup cheesecake. This recipe was huge, so we half batched it (thank goodness). Adapted from Taste of Home.
Fun tip: freezing cheesecake always gives perfect slices...plus it tastes infinitely better
The pretzel crust is certainly interesting and gives a salty balance to the sweet cheesecake; however it doesn't hold that well together, perhaps since it doesn't absorb the butter as much.
Can you believe this pie is a half batch? Filling should be twice as high!
The salted peanut topping matches the pretzels' sweet salty mix. We actually didn't have enough peanuts, so we hand picked peanuts from our mini packets of trail mix. Normally I'm not a fan of salted nuts (since nuts in bulk are always salted, I actually "wash" them in water then re-roast them in the oven!). But my sister forgot that we were half batching, so we need all the salted peanuts we could to counter the sugar (fortunately she reduced the sugar for the "full batch" amount). I thought it was still a sweet, but my brother thought it was great.

1/2 cup crushed pretzels
6 tablespoons butter, melted

2 1/2 packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup peanut butter chips + semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped unsalted peanuts

In a small bowl, combine pretzels and butter. Press onto the bottom and 1 in. up the sides of a pie tin. Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 7 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add peanut butter and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs; beat on low just until combined. Stir in chips. Pour over the crust. Return pan to baking sheet.

Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until center is almost set. Remove from the oven; let stand for 15 minutes (leave oven on).

For topping, in a small bowl, combine the sour cream, peanut butter and sugar; spread over filling. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake for 5 more minutes.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Freeze overnight, then serve. 

Notes: I turned the oven off and used the remaining heat the finish baking the topping.
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How to make Almond Meal // Accidental Homemade Almond Butter

So we were trying to make macarons, and to be cheap, we decided to grind our own almond meal. We didn't quite get almond meal, but we did get almond butter, unintentionally (alas, we needed to start over with a new batch of almonds to try make the almond meal again).

Chef Uy: Keep sifting whatever you grind and whatever doesn't pass, process again.
*twenty minutes later*
Chef Hans: I'm sifting Play Doh... 
Chef Sherbert: *looks online* Hey, guess what! If you grind almonds with a food processor, then you might get almond butter!
Chef Hans: Hmm ... this is pretty oily looking actually...

Almond Meal
1 cup slivered almonds

Finely grind roasted almonds in a food processor, a little at a time. Sift almonds into a bowl; whatever does not pass, return to processor and continue grinding and sifting.

Notes: Supposedly, a blender or clean coffee grinder works even better than a food processor to male almond meal since you're less likely to end up with butter.

Chef Hans also says that grinding a little at a time is much faster than dumping everything at once. All from exprience -- hence us failing and moving on to almond butter. 

Almond Butter
1 cup slivered almonds
sugar or honey, to taste
cinnamon, to taste

Finely grind 1 cup roasted almonds in a food processor, and blend into a smooth paste. Add sugar or honey and cinnamon.  Store in the refrigerator, in an airtight container.

Notes: It will take a while before the almonds start forming a paste. You can add some oil to help it blend. 
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