Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hmong Tropical Fruit Cocktail with Coconut Almond Gelatin

Hmong Tropical Fruit Cocktail with Coconut Almond Gelatin

My knowledge about the Hmong and their culture is very limited overall.  However, my interest in their culture has been alive and well since I read Anna Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures years ago for a class I took.  It is one of my all-time favorite books, and I will never forget it.  I found the experience of the family in the book fascinating (and heartbreaking) and loved how the author intertwined the Hmong history into the story. 

I was delighted when, a couple of months ago(?), I ran across Sami Scripter and Sheng Yang's Cooking from the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America on Elise's (from flickr photostream: Hmong Cooking with Sheng Yang.  I don't think I even looked at any of the photos, instead going immediately to find the book on Amazon.

I've been reading from the cookbook in bits and pieces since I received it.

There were several recipes I planned to try before this one.  However, the other day I came home from Mitsuwa (our local Japanese market) with several types of fruit and this pushed the other recipes to the backburner.

The kumquats especially reminded me of the following passage in the book under a headline, "Fruit - Sour, Salty, Hot and Sweet":

"...Hmong people like to eat fruits that are naturally sour, such as unripe plums and mangos, and fruits that have been enhanced with salt, lime juice, and hot chilies."

[I love unripe plums!  The kind that are so tart that you can't help but scrunch up your face a bit.]

This dish is actually a combination of two recipes from the book: Tropical Fruit Cocktail with Almond Gelatin and Coconut Gelatin.  Since I try to avoid dairy, I opted to combine the two to make this dessert for our family.

The recipes called for agar-agar powder, which I did not have.  I used plain gelatin instead and the result was delicious, but not visually optimal.  The coconut milk had separated a little bit, leaving part of the gelatin clear.  Although I could assume that I miscalculated something while combining the recipes, I think the separation occurred because I moved it part way through the gelling stage -- perhaps a little too abruptly :)

Thankfully, the taste was consistent throughout and showed no sign, taste wise, of the separation.

Just sweet coconut with a noticeable hint of almond flavor (I only used 1/2 of the extract called for in the recipe).

This gelatin was my favorite part of this dessert!  Especially paired with the kumquat.

The Tropical Fruit Cocktail with Almond Gelatin recipe suggested using either canned and/or fresh fruit, so I decided to use a bit of both.  Dragon fruit, lychee, kumquat and canned pineapple rings (diced).

Kumquats (cut in half and deseeded, skin left on) and Lychee (pit and rind removed)

Dragon fruit (diced)

Final dessert, with some pineapple juice poured over the top.

If you're familiar with Hmong cooking, or just enjoy desserts of this type, I'd love to hear feedback.

I'd also like to hear if something in this dish, either in the way I combined the gelatin recipes and/or fruits used, makes this dish into something non-Hmong.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

BBQ Sauces, Mops and Rubs

BBQ Sauces, Mops and Rubs

This project has been on my mind for awhile -- ever since I read "A taxonomy of American barbecue sauces" on

Over the years, I have seen many articles, t.v. shows and books about barbecue, but there was something about Craig "Meathead" Goldwyn's list that I couldn't get out of my head.  I just knew that eventually I wanted to try all of his recipes.  I just couldn't decide where to begin and couldn't get past the "everything" part.  So, a couple of months ago, I decided I'd make a bunch of his sauces/rubs/mops the weekend before July 4th and we'd try some out. 

I guess I would have done it sooner (like Memorial Weekend), but I just didn't have that kind of time (due to studying for the "baby bar" -- which thankfully is now over).  I suppose I could've done them one a time and enjoyed them sooner, but I really just loved the idea of doing them all at the same time and being able to notice the variety of ingredients used.

Also, there are many other recipes as well as a ton of great information on Craig's site.  If you enjoy barbecue, defiinitely check it out.

So this is how my weekend began.  I attemped to gather up everything I might need.

I managed to miss adding horseradish, kosher salt and cayenne pepper to the table for the photo. If I missed anything else, I've now forgotten what they were. 

To keep this post as short as possible, I am going to just post a link to the recipe on Craig's site and a setup/finished picture of each, with minimal comments by me.

I know this post is kind of long, so I thought I'd post a picture of all the sauces/mops and rubs (now jarred) up front. 

Columbia Gold

Kansas City Classic Barbecue Sauce

Grownup Mustard Sauce

East Carolina Kiss & Vinegar Barbecue Sauce & Mop

I forgot to take a finished photo of this one, but you can see it in the "all jarred" up photo :)

Lexington Dip

Texas Barbecue Juice  (I still need to make the Texas Dry Rub/"Big Bad Beef Rub" to go with this one)

Tennessee Hollerin' Whiskey Barbecue Sauce

I took a set up photo of this, but the file was not readable.  I wanted to note that I used Maker's Mark for the bourbon in this recipe.  My husband is a single malt scotch drinker and isn't too fond of bourbon and I simply just don't care for either very much :)  So, I chose to use Maker's Mark because one of my dear friends is a big fan.  I have been concocting a sangria bearing her namesake in my head for months, using - you guessed it - Maker's Mark.  I will have to get that recipe out of my head and onto the table, and serve it with this sauce!

I also wanted to note that after this sauce was finished and I tried it, I thought the flavor was outstanding.  I can't wait to put it on something!  Of all the sauces, this was the one I expected to enjoy the least, but I think it will end up being my favorite one.  I love when that happens!

Big Bob Gibson's White Barbecue Sauce

Meathead's Memphis Dust

Rendezvous-style Rub

Note: For this rub, even after reading the directions in the recipe, I wasn't sure what to do with the whole spices.  So I crushed them all before mixing them together. 


We'll be trying out these sauces, rubs and mops over the next few weeks, and I'm sure I'll do a post or two about how they turn out for us. 

In addition, we plan to barbecue Santa Maria style in the near future, which I'll be writing about.  We were introduced to it a few years ago by our dear friends who live up there.

I love it that there are so many great barbecue styles!

Do you have a favorite?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pickled Onions

Pickled Onions

Sometimes you start out with a particular outcome in mind, and another emerges.  Five days ago, I ended up posting Spiced Pickled Red Pearl Onions because I messed up my Spiced Malt Vinegar by putting too much sugar in it.

What I intended to make are these onions. (Please pardon the glare on the photo - I'll replace it tomorrow with a better one).

Here's a picture of the onions, after they had been in the salted water for 24 hours, and rinsed.
The recipe for the vinegar is the same as that used in my Spiced Malt Vinegar post, except for the amount of sugar used.  This mix used 1/2 cup of sugar instead of a cup.

I had many more onions than I had spiced malt vinegar, so for the last jar, I sliced as many onions as I could fit, and filled the rest of the jar with the last of that vinegar.

For the remainder of the onions, I made another batch of spiced vinegar using cider vinegar as my base instead of malt. All the spices remained the same.
While preparing these onions, I was thinking about many other pickling and/or onion posts others have made, and I thought this would be a good time to share them.

A recipe I intend to make is Roasted Cipollini Onions in Thyme from the White on Rice Couple's site.  I've been dreaming about those onions for a month and a half! 

And then there is Hank's post from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, "Why Pickle Onions?".  I've yet to have ramps (pickled or otherwise!), but they are on my list of things to try, thanks to his blog.

I've still yet to make do chua from the Tea & Cookies blog. What I want to do is have this on my husband's pulled pork sandwiches with a mustard cabbage slaw.  That's my ultimate food fantasy for the moment, and I'm afraid to think about it too long or it might never happen, right? :)  I'll be so happy if it is half as good as I am thinking it will be!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Osso Buco (Braised Veal Shin) with Goat Cheese-Saffron Orzo

Osso Buco (Braised Veal Shin) with Goat Cheese-Saffron Orzo and Green Beans

While shopping with my Mom a couple of days ago at the 3rd Street and Fairfax Farmer's Market, I saw these at the butcher.  
 I hadn't had Osso Buco for awhile, and had never made it at home.

I immediately began to imagine the way the house would smell while it was cooking, and purchased them straight away.

After looking through several of my Italian cookbooks, feeling certain that I had seen a recipe for this in one of them, I was surprised to finally find it in Ferrara's Little Italian Cookbook (which I have mentioned here before).  In the past, I never paid much attention to where I got which recipe; it was enough to know I had it "somewhere" in my collection.  Now that I mention where they come from, I realize I cook from this cookbook more than any of my other Italian ones, at least so far.  Not bad since I bought this book at a yard sale years ago, probably for ten cents or a quarter (it was truly loved, even before it met me).  You should see it now after the additional years of me pawing over it, and I wouldn't resell it for many dimes or quarters :)

I adapted the recipe a bit from theirs. 

In a large heavy saucepan, put 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup of "my" butter (I used a substitute: Earth Balance)

Rinsed and patted the veal shins dry.  Coated them with flour (1/3 cup flour and 2 teaspoons salt and several generous twists of black pepper).  Put them in the melted butter/oil.
 Browned veal on all sides.
When all the meat is browned, turn them onto their side to keep the marrow from running out during the cooking process.  Which I left like this (see above picture), which might not technically be the side :)  But it didn't make any sense to me to turn it the other way, and this way seemed to work just fine.

After the meat was browned on all sides, I added 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, 1 overflowing cup of chopped onion, 3 chopped cloves of garlic, and 3 sliced carrots. 
[The original recipe called for much less onion, less garlic and less carrots, plus salt and celery.  I left the celery out because my husband is not a fan and I added more salt to the original flour mixture instead (knowing I'd lose a good portion of the salt in the unused flour).] 

Covered this mixture and cooked over high heat for 10 minutes.  Be sure to shake the pan from time to time during this time to keep things from sticking/burning on the bottom.

Then I added 1/4 cup white wine, 1 cup chicken broth, and 1 cup tomato sauce, then simmered for approximately two hours.  You want the meat to be tender but not falling off the bone.
 Just before serving, an additional clove of garlic and some fresh parsley was tossed on the osso buco. 

We served the Osso Buco with what I'm calling Goat Cheese-Saffron Orzo and green beans. 
The Osso Buco was very tender and flavorful.  I'm not usually a big meat eater, but I finished all the veal in this dish.  I think I alternated between the taste of the carrots with the veal and the green beans, trying to decide which I liked more, and before I knew it-- they were both gone! 

They were both so good!

For the orzo:
I put the orzo on to boil in half chicken broth and half water.  As an after thought, I sauted some onion in another pan and then added it the orzo while it boiled. 

Then I prepared a sauce.  I put about 1/4 cup of chicken broth in a sauce pan and crumbled all of this cheese into it...
...and simmered it until it thickened a little.  After I mixed it with the cooked and drained orzo, I added some saffron and canned button mushrooms.

After the orzo was cooked, I had drained the chicken broth/onion water into another sauce pan to boil the green beans (this worked out very well - man, those beans were good!).  Since the water was already hot, I knew this wouldn't take long, but it also bought my cheese sauce a little more time to come together.

In this picture, the cheese sauce looks a little runny, but it wasn't. I just hadn't mixed all the orzo in at this point.  The orzo was good, but next time I will skip the saffron and the mushrooms.  Neither had a chance to really compete or develop in this dish, and their flavors were mostly lost.  Perhaps due to the serious quantity of cheese?? :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lemon and Basil Tart

Lemon and Basil Tart

This tart was made from a recipe in The BloggerAid Cook Book (Changing the Face of Famine), which I learned about on Cynthia's wonderful blog, Tastes Like Home.  You can find a link to the book on her site. 

I purchased this cook book for two reasons.

The most important being that 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to the School Meals Program of The United Nations World Food Programme

The second is that the recipes in the book come from bloggers from around the world.  I knew I'd probably get introduced to many new bloggers' recipes, and I was correct.  Each recipe comes with a link address/url to the respective blogger's blog. 

I have perused the book many times and have lost myself several times while reading the notes the bloggers submitted along with their recipes.  I find what they have to say both inspiring and heartwarming.

I have many cookbooks which I love to read from, and some of them I never (or rarely) cook from.  I keep them because they inspire me and I love the stories told in them. 

This is a cookbook I will enjoy reading -- and cooking from.  I currently want to make at least 20 of the recipes in this book! 

My absolute love of all things lemon helped me decide where to start.  That, plus my basil plant is currently doing exceptionally well.

In this recipe, the basil is infused into the water that is used for the filling.

This is my first ever tart.
I messed up the top a bit though.  I made this very late last night and put plastic wrap over the tart to cover it, allowing it to get just a bit too close. 
This flavor was spot on for me, very lemony with just a hint of sweetness.  I used a little more lemon juice than the recipe calls for though, so if you prefer yours not quite so tart, just stick to the recipe and you'll be fine :)

Note: the blogger who submitted this recipe to the cookbook is Solange, who's blog is Pebble Soup.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Spiced Pickled Red Pearl Onions

Spiced Pickled Red Pearl Onions

After my recent adventure with making spiced malt vinegar, I opted to use it to pickle some red pearl onions.  
My favorite (raw) onions to use on hamburgers in the summer are red onions.  I thought it would be interesting to try them with pickled red onions.

As mentioned in my previous post, the spiced malt vinegar mixture I made recently is extra sweet.

Therefore, I expect to use some toppings on my burger which will counteract or enhance the sweetness, depending on my mood on the day of use :)

I'll let you know how they come out!

Spiced Malt Vinegar

Spiced Malt Vinegar

This is a variation of the spiced vinegar mixture I normally use when making pickled onions for my husband, while basically following the recipe in Edmonds Cookery Book (New Zealand's No. 1 Cookbook, Sure to Rise).

I say "variation", but that's just a nice way of saying that "I really I messed it up this time."  Rather than just a normal change such as I used this ground spice for that whole spice, or what have you, or other variation in spices one might not notice....


I used too much sugar.

Double the amount, to be exact.

This may not end up being a bad thing, but it certainly changes who this spiced vinegar is for, and what will be pickled by this mixture.

It won't be used to make onions for my husband, that's for sure.  Way too sweet for him.

But it might be perfect for me.

Amounts used:
1 litre malt vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon each whole black peppercorns, allspice, and cloves.
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
1 1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 inch ginger root (which was halved, just to keep the spices separated, for the photo)

Everything gets boiled together for 10 minutes.

You can either strain this right away to get the chunky stuff out, or allow the mixture to sit for a day or two to allow the flavors to meld together.

Either way, be sure to strain it before using it to pickle anything -- or storing it for use later.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Father's Day Potato Salad

Father's Day Potato Salad

I have two memories of horseradish from my youth.

One involves a game my brother and I played many times with another brother and sister duo we knew.  They were the kids of some of my parent's oldest friends. 

I don't remember all the rules of the game, but I believe it revolved around the game of Spades, played as teams.  Usually boys against the girls, of course.  We were kids :)

The losing team would have to eat whatever the other team chose from the contents of the kitchen.  It was always pretty straight forward, either a food or drink.  But, keep in mind, we were the siblings of the other side, so we knew each other pretty well, to say the least.  So we knew what to serve -- or we thought we did, anyway.

The game was pretty tolerable until the day they made one of us eat a tablespoon of straight horseradish.

That day sucked.

But we were too smart to let the boys know. :)

We, thereafter, convinced them that the thing we hated the most was yellow mustard (but we secretly didn't mind all that much).  

We would grimace and contort our faces to no end when we had to consume mustard from then on.  We could've won a Grammy, I'm sure.

Anything to avoid anything to do with eating any amount of horseradish, let alone an entire tablespoon of it.

You see, horseradish, for me at least, was something my father enjoyed and had tried to get me to try on many occasions.  Many times, long after I had given it a "try" and immediately hated it :)

Needless to say, I've slowly come around to it, after 30 something years.

I thought about calling this "Mickey's Potato Salad", but he never tried it.  And my Mom's always been the potato salad maker in the family.  For good reason.  Her's is very good.

So this is my Father's Day Potato Salad.

This is the first Father's Day I'll spend without my Dad, but I'll never spend another without this potato salad.

I created it just to remind me of him.

Perhaps you'll enjoy it, too  -- if you enjoy a little horseradish in your life.

Which I do now...

so long as it is in stoneground mustard form.  :)

Four red potatoes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 green onions
1 hefty tablespoon stoneground mustard
1 hefty tablespoon mayonnaise

Scrub the potatoes with a vegetable brush.
Peel two of the potatoes, leave the skin on the other two. 
Cut potatoes into quarters.
Put potatoes into a large saucepan.
Cover potatoes with water, and add the two sprigs of rosemary to the water.
Bring water to a boil and boil the potatoes until they are just soft enough to poke with a fork; not quite as soft as you might make them for mashed potatoes.
Drain the water from the pan.
Remove the potatoes to a bowl or plate and allow them to cool.  Don't worry about removing the rosemary yet, just let it hang out with the potatoes.
Once the potatoes are cool, put them in the refrigerator for awhile (20-30 minutes).

Prepare the green onions.  Wash them, remove any loose skins and chop off the tops.  Then slice into rounds, as thick or thin as you prefer.

When the potatoes are cold, remove them from the refrigerator.
Remove the rosemary sprigs and any loose pieces.
Dice the potatoes into bite-sized pieces.

Put the potatoes and the green onions into a bowl.

Add the stoneground mustard and mayonnaise.

take a minute to think about something that makes you smile inside,

and then mix everything together. 
My Dad always piled his plate high and let everything mix together. :)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sweet Potato Leaf-Lemon Cucumber Stir-Fry

Sweet Potato Leaf-Lemon Cucumber Stir-Fry

This dish was inspired by a vendor I met this week at our local farmer's market.

We had gotten into a conversation about some lemon cucumbers I had picked up in his stand.  I had never eaten a lemon cucumber before, so I was asking him if he thought they would be good pickled.  He said he didn't think so because they are sweeter than regular pickles. 

After five or six questions about the lemon cucumbers, he offered to cut one open so I could try it.  I told him that wouldn't be necessary, and then admitted I planned to buy them no matter what his answers had been.

I hoped this would get at least a smile, and it did.  He's now my favorite vendor at the market because he gets my sense of humor :) 

We continued to talk about some of the other items he had for sale (and just vegetables in general) until another customer had come up to purchase some type of greens.  I didn't see what type they were, but I asked him how he normally cooks them anyway.  Partially just to keep the conversation going and I was just wondering if I'd discover anything new.  I did -- but not in cooking technique.

He turned my attention to another stack of greens and said they were his favorite and added that they aren't as bitter as the other ones.

I said, of course, "What are they?"  Because I'd didn't recognize them.

"Sweet potato leaves", he said.

Then he told me he just sautes them with some garlic.

Sounded pretty standard, but I was sold....

....I had to give them a try.


About an hour before making this dish, I cut up a few tomatoes from our garden.  I also cut up some left over grape tomatoes that needed to be used.  I dumped them all in a dish and covered them with balsamic vinegar.

When I got ready to put the dish together, I got out most of what I needed and took this photo.
[Sweet potato leaves, green beans, balsamic tomatoes, asparagus and lemon cucumber]

I read online that it is good to boil the leaves for a couple of minutes, then put them immediately in cold water before cooking them further.  Something about them having a bit of an oily texture if you don't?  If that's not necessary, I'd appreciate it if someone would let me know.   Since I wasn't sure, I did as suggested.  After they were in the cold water for about 30 seconds, I emptied out the water and left the leaves in the bowl until I was ready for them.

I used the leaves as seen in the photo.  I cut the green beans into thirds, and the asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces.  I cut the lemon cucumbers in half and then sliced them 1/8 inch or so thick.  

Once the vegetables were prepped, I put some grapeseed oil in my wok and let it heat up.

I tossed in about two tablespoons of prepared chopped garlic and sauted it for a minute.

I added the asparagus and green bean, and sauted over high heat for two minutes.

I grabbed the sweet potato leaves and gave them a few good shakes to make sure more of the water got removed.

Then I tossed the leaves into the wok, along with the lemon cucumber and balsamic tomatoes (along with only about a tablespoon of the vinegar).

I sauted everything for another two minutes, then removed it to a serving dish.

I prefer my vegetables on the firmer side, so if you don't, you may want to saute this dish a little longer.

We enjoyed this dish, but will probably use non-stick spray instead of the oil next time.  We didn't feel it added anything extra.

The balsamic tomatoes stay though - they were really good in this dish.