Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pretzel Dogs

Pigs in a blanket - just in time for football season. The time of trials which can transform even the sweetest gentleman into a raging Hulk. Nothing like a a few interceptions to make a bunch of grown men cry (or forgot all their English except for a few choice four letter words).

According to B, the problem with watching sports is that they set up the tone for the week. 

B: ARRRRGHHHH &*^(SE#$A$% THAT FUMBLE!!!!!!! The Niners are gonna lose, and the Giants lost earlier already! This is going to be a horrible week!! *sob*
I just leave him to watch the TV while I do my work, but I can hear everything through the walls.

B: WHATTTT IS GOING ON!!!!?? *%$SD#*H^#*$HK*&J!!
N: I'm assuming your team is losing?
B: No, we're totally winning!
N: Oh, if we're winning, I assume you'd sound, uh... happier.
B is a huge sports fanatic, in case you couldn't tell. He already wants to decorate our house in Lakers colors and name our first kid after Kobe Bryant.

B: *strutting around in Niners attire* Our kids one day will be Niners fans and you'll be a Niners fan one day too. In fact, when you're proven your knowledge, I'll knight you with your own Niners jersey!
Chef Uy: Yay.
I admit, these pretzel dog babies take time, but they're so cute! A shortcut is to use premade dough or ready made hot dog buns - however, pretzels are way better in my opinion. Pretzels require a washing soda or lye treatment to get their traditional "skin" and flavor through the Maillard reaction (ie browning). Recipe from Joy the Baker.

Now excuse me, I have to do my homework *cough* look up the statistics of Peyton Manning so I can have a knowledgeable debate with B on whether he's the greatest QB of all time. Let's see if I pass this dissertation defense.

Pretzel Dogs

1 ½ cups warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

4 hot dogs, cut in half
about 7 cups of water
1/2 cup baking soda
1 large egg, beaten, with a splash of water
salt and pepper for topping

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine warm water and sugar.  Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and set aside for 5 minutes.  The mixture will begin to foam and froth.  If it doesn’t, throw the mixture away and start again with new yeast.

Once the yeast and water is frothy, add the flour, salt, and melted butter.  Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until well combined.  Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, creating a ball of dough around the dough hook.  Beat on medium speed for approximately 4 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl.  The dough will be soft, pliable, and just a bit sticky.  That’s perfect.  Scrape any residue out of the bowl and coat the bowl with a bit of vegetable oil.  Place the dough back in the bowl, sprinkle with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and store in a warm place to rise.  Allow dough to rise, until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Place baking racks in the center and upper third of the oven.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and lightly brush the paper with oil.  It’s important to brush the parchment paper or the pretzels will stick!

Combine water and baking soda in a large pan (8 quart is fine) saucepan and bring to a boil.

While the water comes to a boil, turn the dough out onto a clean, slightly oiled work surface.  Divide dough into 8 or 16 pieces, depending on how large you’d like your pretzel dogs.  8 pieces of dough for whole hot dogs.  16 pieces of dough if you’re doing to slice the hot dogs in half.

Start with the fingers of both hands in the center of the dough, and roll, moving your hands outward as you roll.  Roll the dough along the oiled surface until you have about a 24-inch or 12-inch piece of rope (depending on how large your piece of dough was… the more dough the longer the rope).

Wrap pretzel around a hot dog, making sure to seal the ends.

When water has come to a boil, gently lower a few pretzel dogs into the boiling water.  Boil for 30 seconds.  Remove carefully, using a flat, slotted spatula.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Brush boiled pretzels with beaten egg, and add coarse sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Bake until deeply golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for a few minutes before serving warm.

Soft pretzels are best enjoyed the day they are made.

If you’re not going to enjoy all your pretzel dogs, double wrap them in plastic wrap and store in the freezer.  When ready to serve, transfer out of plastic and into a piece of foil.  Wrap well and bake in a 350 degree oven for 12 minutes, or until heated through.

Read More »

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lemon Pesto Penne

It's crunch time. Shelf exams for Internal Medicine are coming, argh!

I can't believe after 3 months, I'll have finished IM. Perhaps it's just been so long since I took a shelf exam, but the burden of studying constantly (oh hello there Uworld Qbank and Step Up to Medicine) has definitely left me with "medicine fatigue." It's a good thing this is the only 3 month core we've got - although I certainly wouldn't want to take the shelf if I only had 2 months to study.
IM had made it tough to cook, photograph, and post recipes, but here's a nice quick one. I'm not a huge pasta fan, but this Lemon Pesto Penne adapted from Pinch of Yum was too simple and pretty to not try.

And right now I'm all about simple in my life (the "pretty" part... well that's gone a bit by the wayside *cough*).
My style of cooking has lately been "hmm what random foods do I have and what can I do with this hodgepodge of ingredients." I had the pasta, the artichokes, the tomatoes and the pesto to use up. The basil I beheaded from Joe the Basil. The broccolini took a little more effort to find, but it's well worth it (waaay better than normal ordinary broccoli).

I made a big batch and there ya go - healthy easy food for the whole week. B doesn't understand how I can eat the same food for seven meals, but I'm a girl who's all about on simplicity while on internal medicine!

Lemon Pesto Penne

8 ounces whole wheat penne
1 cup broccolini
1 cooked chicken breast, cut into strips (optional)
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup canned artichokes, drained
14 cup pesto
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup baby spinach
pepper to taste

Cook the penne al dente according to package directions. Add the baby broccolini to the pot of boiling water for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking until it becomes a bright green, then remove and place in cold water to blanch. Drain and return to the pan over medium high heat.

Sautee the tomatoes, broccolini, chicken, artichokes, pesto, half the parmesan cheese, and lemon juice with the pasta in the pan for 1-2 minutes. Add the spinach, and toss until spinach is just cooked. Top with remaining parmesan and pepper when serving.
Read More »

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nectarine and Prosciutto Pizza with Basil and Honey Balsamic Reduction

So we all lose things every once in a while. Well, I tend to lose stuff in series, and I think my scatterbrainedness has reached a whole new level of epic fail this time around.

I had a few hours downtime after dropping my laptop at Apple for repair. I didn't want to drive home and back since it was far, so I decided to shop to H-E-B, our major grocery, since they had a sale for nectarines, and I've had this nectarine and prosciutto pizza on my to-do summer meals list forever. Fruit, Italian meat, and balsamic honey with three types of cheese? Sounds like a winning combo!
As I got out of my car, I was wearing a work dress and realized I had no pockets. Well, I wasn't going to stroll around the produce aisle in a white coat (filled with hospital microbes), and I was definitely not going to wear my giant red backpack. So I figured I'd carry my keys and phone wallet in my hand.

Well that turned out to be one hot mess - I was walking out of H-E-B with my groceries to my car when I realized my car keys were missing.
I (calmly) checked the cashier and retraced my steps in the entire store, and saw nothing. I went to the lost and found section and got nada. I asked the manager to make an announcement on the intercom - no luck.

My apartment keys, white coat, stethoscope, ipad, and books were all stuck in my car. Of course, my phone only had 3% battery left, and I had no charger, so my calls and texts had to be rationed. At that moment, my roommate texted me she had driven back to her parent's home for the weekend, so I was on my own. I scribbled down on a coupon all my friends' phone numbers to prepare for when my phone died. To make things better, I needed my car to get to work the next day - I soooo did not want to wake up at 5am to walk miles to the hospital in the dark.

B: Don't you have a spare car key?
Chef Uy: Erm... my spare car key is actually attached to my main car key...
One and a half hours of frantic searching ensued. I upturned all the ribeye steaks, threw aside the all the yogurt tubs, tossed eggplants left and right, trying to see if I dropped my keys anywhere. I retraced the whole store about over and over.

The managers were useless and shrugged their shoulders, walking away. Only one was sympathetic, and suggested I store my paid groceries in their industrial fridge and borrow his phone to call a lock breaking company. I gave up and called; they told me I'd have to wait 30 minutes and the lock break would cost $50, which I agreed. In defeat, I also called a friend to rescue me from the grocery.

The whole time, I had managed to stay cool, but as the manager patted my shoulder and asked if there was anything he could do to help, I let myself squeeze a few tears of anger/shame/frustration/man-I'm-so-stupid for about 30 seconds.

Well, I made one last effort, and lo and behold, I found my keys in the *drumroll* sock pile - from when I tried on a pair earlier. There was no way anyone would have ever found it.
Of course my friend arrives that second as I call to say "um, never mind, I found them in the socks," and I quickly cancelled the lock company. I grab my groceries, rush to Apple literally two minutes before closing, and arrive home in utter exhaustion. I immediately separated my spare keys, and swore I'd never lose any keys again.

So, here, I present my hard won nectarines from that grocery fiaso in my Nectarine and Prosciutto Pizza (adapted from Cooking Classy) This pizza is really delicious, but it'd be even more delicious if I didn't have to undergo that ordeal to obtain the ingredients.

PS. Of course, I lost my apartment keys, mailbox keys, and gate clicker a mere two days later (and I wasn't so lucky to find them this time, so I had to replace ALL of them *sadface*) Told you I lose things in waves.

Nectarine and Prosciutto Pizza with Basil and Honey Balsamic Reduction

1 pizza dough, homemade or store bought
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
4 oz prosciutto
1 cup ricotta cheese
5 oz fresh mozzarella, diced into small cubes
1/2 asiago cheese, shredded
2 nectarines, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 500 degrees, with your pan or stone inside to heat.

Meanwhile, microwave in 30 second increments balsamic vinegar and honey, stirring mixture in between, to thicken (or you can thicken in a small saucepan over the stove).

Stretch and roll out your dough on a piece of parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil and garlic evenly over top of crust, then layer prosciutto over crust. Dollop the ricotta over pizza, and sprinkle with mozzarella cubes and asiago cheese. Layer your nectarines  evenly over pizza. Season with pepper. Transfer pizza on parchment to preheated pan or stone in oven. Bake 12-15 minutes until edges are golden.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with fresh basil, and drizzle with honey balsamic reduction (store left over reduction in fridge). Cut into slices and serve warm.
Read More »

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dragon Fruit Sorbet / Ice Cream

Pitaya (aka Dragonfruit) was on sale so I couldn't resist trying it. I always try to buy a random ingredient I've never used before and see how it tastes. There's no crazier looking fruit than this cactus fruit. You can find them from the Americas and East/Southeast Asian countries. Interestingly, the pitaya flowers only bloom at night, so they rely on nocturnal pollinators such as bats or moths.
There's an interesting legend talking about the nickname "dragonfruit". The fruit was created thousands of years ago by fire breathing dragons. During a battle, the dragon would spew the dragon fruit just before death in a battle. After the dragon was slain the fruit would be presented to the Emperor as a coveted treasure and sign of victory. Sources from Wiki and California Rare Fruit Growers
The fruit is gorgeous - I had to gasp when I cut this open. I've seen the white fleshed kind, but this magenta color is just eyepopping. More nerdy fun facts:  Eating red-fleshed dragon fruit (such as Costa Rican Pitaya) may result in a harmless reddish coloration of the urine just like beets.
The inside looks kinda like a kiwi. For its vibrant wild appearance, the taste very bland like a melon or kiwifruit.
I wanted to make my dagonfruit into a pretty sorbet and serve it inside the skins. If you want a true sorbet (non dairy) you can omit the coconut cream, but I enjoy the tropical flavor and the extra creaminess. I kicked up the flavor with a splash of lime. Magenta and lime is such a pretty color combination. There is zero food coloring - it's all natural!

Alas, it's so hot so it started melting quickly - better lick it up quick. It also gives your lips a gorgeous rose red color, so no need for lipstick that day, hehe.

Dragon Fruit Sorbet / Ice Cream

2 dragon fruits
2 Tbsp sugar, to taste
3/4 cup light coconut milk
juice of 2-4 limes
1 1/2 cups crushed ice

Cut the dragon fruit in half and scrape out the flesh. Save the outside for serving.

Blend the dragon fruit flesh, sugar, coconut milk, lime juice, and ice until smooth. You can adjust to make it creamy and more like ice cream by adding more coconut milk, or make it a true sorbet by reducing / eliminating the coconut milk. Adjust sugar to taste depending on how ripe your fruit is.

Following the directions for your ice cream maker, transfer this mixture into it and churn for about 25-30 minutes. Eat as soft serve, or place in freezer for addition 2-3 hours so it firms up.

To serve, scoop the sorbet into the dragon fruit bowls. Enjoy!
Read More »