July 29, 2011

Asian Spare Ribs

Every now and then I crave spare ribs. Tender, juicy and (let’s be honest) fatty pork ribs, lacquered in a sticky, sweet, spicy sauce.

If this sounds appealing, then look no further because I have the perfect recipe for you. This recipe takes classic Asian ingredients – rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, scallions, soy sauce, Hoisin sauce and Sriracha – and combines them with ketchup and brown sugar to make the most finger-lickingly delicious barbecue sauce you have ever tasted!

And talk about easy. I have read so many convoluted recipes for spare ribs. Some tell you to boil them first, to cook off the excess fat. Have you ever tried to pull a rack of slippery ribs out of a vat of boiling water? I have, and it’s not pretty. Other recipes have you cooking them for hours, some with the additional directive to turn the ribs over every 20 minutes during cooking.

This recipe is simple. The sauce comes together in minutes in the food processor. You marinate the ribs in the sauce and then throw the ribs in the oven for a few hours. Drain the excess fat out of the pan (a turkey baster works great for this task) and you’re ready to eat.

For the sauce, start with your ginger, garlic and scallion.

Chop up the ingredients

And then pulse them as finely as you can in a food processor.

Add the remaining ingredients – ketchup, hoisin sauce, Sriracha, rice vinegar and brown sugar – and puree until the sauce is smooth.

Now take your spare ribs and pat them dry. Trim off any excess fat and cut the racks into smaller portions if you need to in order to fit them in your baking dish.

Pour the sauce over the ribs and massage it into both sides of the ribs. Refrigerate the ribs overnight.

Cook the ribs for at least 2 hours, or until the meat is tender and practically falling off the bone. Cover your pan with aluminum foil for the first 1 ½ hours of cooking, then remove it. Drain the excess fat out of the pan. You can use a spoon or turkey baster for this job.
Garnish your ribs with sesame seeds and serve!

Asian Spare Ribs

Recipe adapted from Heather Christo Cooks

2 racks of St. Louis style pork spare ribs
For the BBQ sauce:
4 scallions, roughly
3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into slices
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup ketchup
1 cup Hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp Sriracha
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Sesame Seeds for garnish

1.      In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the scallions, ginger and garlic.
2.      Add the ketchup, Hoisin sauce, Sriracha, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar and soy sauce. Puree into a smooth sauce.
3.      Set the spare ribs on a large sheet pan covered in a sheet of foil.

4.      Spread the sauce on the ribs, on both sides.
5.      Cover the whole sheet pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
6.      Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
7.      While the oven heats up, let the meat come up to room temperature.
8.      Cook the spare ribs at 325 degrees for about 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the meat easily pulls away from the bone and the sauce is caramelized. Drain the excess fat out of the pan.
9.      Let the spare ribs rest for a few minutes before serving. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Serves 6

July 26, 2011

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

I grew up in New Jersey so it’s almost a cultural imperative for me to like pasta with red sauce. And believe me, I do. I love big a bowl of spaghetti topped with meatballs and marinara sauce.

But sometimes I like to change it up. Maybe try a sauce that’s not tomato based. Or make a pasta dish that features veggies instead of meatballs.

I recently came across this recipe and it’s a keeper. The recipe calls for roasting cauliflower, which brings out its sweetness and intensifies its rich, earthy flavor. It does the same for the garlic that you roast right along with cauliflower. Toss in some pine nuts and a spritz of lemon juice to liven everything up and you’ve got a knockout pasta dish for when it’s not a red sauce kind of night.

You start with a step that seems tiresome but is really worthwhile. Separate a head of garlic into individual cloves, then immerse them in boiling water. This kick starts the cooking process and makes peeling the cloves so much easier.

Remove the garlic cloves from the water and peel.

Cut the cauliflower in florets. Toss the cauliflower and garlic together on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Roast until the garlic and cauliflower are lightly browned all over and darker brown in some spots. These browned spots are going to give you tons of flavor.

Toss the cauliflower and garlic with your cooked pasta. Squeeze some lemon juice on top, then sprinkle pine nuts and parsley over the whole thing. Enjoy!

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

Based on the recipe from Ina Garten’s How Easy Is That?

To toast pine nuts, place them in a dry sauté pan and cook over low heat, tossing frequently, until lightly browned (about 6-10 minutes).

1 head of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed, cut into florets
4½ Tbsp olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup minced fresh parsley (I used chopped chives, which is what I had on hand)
3 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 oz. fresh (refrigerated) linguine

1.      Preheat oven to 450° F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the garlic cloves. Boil for 15 seconds. Fish out the cloves, peel and cut off any brown parts. Cut the largest cloves in half lengthwise. Keep the water simmering.

2.      On a sheet pan, toss the cauliflower with garlic, 3 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Spread mixture out in a single layer and roast for 20-25 minutes, tossing twice, until the cauliflower is tender and garlic is lightly browned.

3.      When the cauliflower is about 5 minutes away from being done, season the water with salt and some olive oil. Toss the pasta into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water, then drain and put pasta in large mixing bowl.

4.      Scrape the cauliflower with garlic and pan juices into large mixing bowl with pasta. Add remaining 1½ Tbsp. olive oil, parsley, pine nuts and lemon juice. Sprinkle with another ½ tsp. salt. Toss everything together, adding pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce.

Serves 4

July 22, 2011

Mocha Icebox Cake

This is the easiest dessert you’ll ever make and everyone will love it. If you can whip cream and layer ingredients into a serving bowl, you can make this dessert.

Picture this: clouds of mocha-flavored whipped cream nestled in between chocolate wafers. The wafers soften overnight in the fridge, transforming from crisp cookies into soft, cake-like layers. The mocha cream tastes like tiramisu, but at a fraction of the time and effort.

You can even play around with this recipe to suit your tastes. For example, I love tiramisu but I almost never order it in restaurants because the coffee keeps me awake all night. In this dessert I used decaffeinated coffee powder instead of instant espresso. If mocha’s not your thing, leave out the coffee and substitute Godiva liqueur for the Kahlua. If you can’t find chocolate wafers, use Oreo cookie bottoms or chocolate chip cookies. Make this into a single, large cake. Or layer the ingredients into individual ramekins like I did.

To make the cake, gather your ingredients.

Place all of your ingredients except for the cookies into a mixing bowl.

Whisk the ingredients until the mixture forms firm peaks.

Place alternating layers of cookie and mocha cream in a ramekin or springform pan. Begin with a layer of cookie...

...and end with the mocha cream.

Refrigerate overnight to give the cookies a chance to soften.

Garnish with some cocoa powder and dig in!

Mocha Icebox Cake

2 cups cold heavy cream
12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp instant espresso powder (I used decaffeinated instant coffee powder)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 (8-ounce) packages chocolate chip cookies (I used one package of Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafer cookies)
Shaved semisweet chocolate or cocoa powder, for garnish

1.      In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, coffee liqueur, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks.
2.      To assemble the cake, arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8-inch springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. (I break some cookies to fill in the spaces.) Spread a fifth of the mocha whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream. Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. (Instead of creating one large cake, I layered the ingredients into individual ramekins. Each held three layers.) Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
3.      Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. If you make individual portions, serve these cakes right in the ramekins.
4.      Sprinkle the top with the chocolate, cut in wedges, and serve cold.

Serves 8

July 18, 2011

Goan Shrimp Curry

My mom has an awesome recipe for shrimp curry. It’s not terribly difficult, but it takes a little more time and effort than I can put in on a busy weeknight.

Unfortunately, my cravings for a home-cooked Indian meal don’t usually coincide with the amount of time I have to cook that day. That’s when I need to compromise.

And that’s where this recipe for Goan prawn curry comes in. The recipe is by Madhur Jaffrey, from her book At Home with Madhur Jaffrey. Unlike many other Indian recipes, this one doesn’t have a long list of ingredients. I generally have frozen shrimp in my freezer and a can of coconut milk in my pantry and the other ingredients are staples in my house.

The recipe is simple and straightforward. You just sauté the shallot, add the spices and coconut milk, then simmer the shrimp in the curry.

I have to admit, the recipe suffers a little for its simplicity. The shrimp would be tastier if they were marinated in spices before cooking. Sautéing the shrimp before adding them to the liquid would help to bring out their flavor. And the curry would taste more complex if it called for a puree of ginger, garlic, green chilies and cilantro.

But then it wouldn’t be a weeknight meal anymore, would it?

Start with chopped shallot and some shrimp. I usually have frozen shrimp in my freezer that I defrost when I need it.

Sauté the shallots until they are golden brown.

Add the spices and sauté until you can really smell them.

Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes to let the coconut milk thicken a bit and really pick up the flavor of the spices.

Add the shrimp and simmer until they are just cooked. Don’t overcook your shrimp or they will become tough.

Season the curry with salt and lemon juice and serve over rice.

Goan Shrimp Curry

Recipe minimally adapted from At Home With Madhur Jaffrey

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 medium shallots, peeled and finely chopped
½ to 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground paprika
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
½ tsp sea salt, or to taste
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste

1.      Heat the oil in a heavy pot and set over medium high heat. When hot, put in the shallots. Cook until the shallots are light brown in color.

2.      Add the cayenne pepper, paprika, black pepper, and turmeric. Cook briefly until they are fragrant.

3.      Add the coconut milk and bring the curry sauce to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4.      Add the shrimp, sea salt, and lemon juice. Stir and cook on low heat until the prawns just turn opaque. Season the curry with sea salt and lemon juice, if necessary.

5.      Serve the curry with rice.

Serves 3 to 4

July 14, 2011

Fresh Egg Pasta

Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks' July hostess. Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine. She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with!

I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of making fresh pasta. It ranks up there with filleting a fish, deboning a chicken and making a pie crust.

So when I saw this month’s Daring Cook’s Challenge I was excited. I would being forced to confront my fear and find out one way or the other if I was up to the challenge.

The one condition I set down for myself was that I wasn’t going to buy any specialized equipment. The challenge specified no motorized pasta machines, but manual pasta rollers were within the rules. I had no idea how the pasta was going to turn out and I didn’t want to invest the money (or kitchen space) in a piece of equipment I might never use again.

I read several recipes for fresh egg pasta and the ingredients were the same: flour, eggs, salt. Maybe some water. That’s it. I finally settled on the recipe for fresh egg pasta from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. He had some useful background information and enough detail to help guide me through.

I followed the recipe as best I could, wishing I had an Italian nonna to stand over my shoulder and tell me if the dough felt right, how much to knead it and how thin to roll it.

Instead I used my judgment and hoped for the best. I didn’t need a pasta roller after all. I was able to roll out the pasta dough pretty thin with a rolling pin. And the combination of a pizza cutter and ruler made quick work of cutting the dough into strips. I later learned that there are precise definitions for the different pastas. Mine fell somewhere between tagliatelle (1/4 inch wide) and fettuccine (1/2 inch wide).

The noodles cooked up firm but tender. The thinner ones became beautifully translucent. I figured since I’d gone through the trouble of making fresh pasta by hand, I’d splurge a little on the sauce. So I tossed them with Ina Garten’s recipe for truffle butter, which you can find here.

The pasta was delicious. I’m not saying it would have passed an Italian nonna’s test. But for a girl whose grandparents hail from India, they weren’t half bad!

Egg pasta dough contains three ingredients, four if you count water. To begin, put your flour in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the salt and one egg.

Beat the egg and gently begin to incorporate some of the flour.

Add another egg and repeat.

Add the third egg and incorporate all of the flour.

Gather the dough into a ball and put it on a lightly floured surface.

Knead the dough for a couple of minutes until it is smooth.

Cut the dough into six pieces and work on one piece at a time.

Roll out the dough until you get it as thin as possible.

Then cut it into strands. I was able to make reasonably uniform pieces with a ruler and pizza cutter.

I placed the strands on a sheet pan and dusted them with a little flour. I put them in the fridge until I was ready to cook them.

To cook, just put the noodles in salted, boiling water. 

Cook until the noodles are done to your liking.

Toss with sauce and serve! Buon appetito!

Traditional Egg Pasta Dough

Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman in How to Cook Everything

2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
A few drops water, if needed

1.      Mound the flour on a smooth countertop, or place it in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the salt. Then break in an egg, beating with a fork and incorporating a little of the flour. Beat in another egg and repeat, until all the flour is mixed with the eggs. Gather the mixture in a ball.

2.      Turn the dough out onto a dry, lightly floured work surface and knead until it is smooth, just a minute or two. Add water by the half-teaspoonful if the mixture is dry; add flour if it is sticky. This should be an easy dough to work. Cut the dough into 6 pieces; wrap 5 pieces in plastic. (I put the extra pieces in the fridge until I was ready to work with them.)

3.      Roll the dough out with a rolling pin until it is as thin as you can make it.

4.      Cut the dough into strips or whatever shape you’d like.

5.      You can cook the pasta immediately. (I sprinkled a little flour over it and let it dry out for several minutes before covering it with plastic wrap and placing it in the fridge. I cooked it later in the day.)

6.      To cook, add the pasta to boiling, salted water. Cook until al dente. (Mine took 5 minutes.)

Note: In his book, Bittman tells you how to make the dough by hand and in a food processor. I’ve only included the by-hand recipe, which is the one I followed.

Serves 3 to 4 as a main course

July 11, 2011

Green Grape and Almond Gazpacho

Remember the days when Food Network actually aired cooking shows? There’d be Sara Moulton, earnestly explaining how to roast a chicken. Then Emeril would come on and BAM! out a jambalaya. These days if you turn on Food Network in the evening all you get is cooking competitions. But we’re not talking Iron Chef. No, it’s Cupcake Wars and Chopped and those unending Food Network Challenges featuring sulking pastry chefs making skyscrapers out of Rice Krispies treats.

So imagine my surprise when I turned on Food Network the other day and saw someone cooking. And the recipe was oddly interesting – green grapes, scallions, milk, almonds and lime juice all whizzed together in the blender to make gazpacho. Maybe it was the novelty of seeing someone cooking on the Food Network, but I was hooked.

I decided to give the recipe a try. The only change I made was to substitute almond milk for the soy milk to bump up the flavor of the almonds. It was good. Out of fairness I have to say that my grapes were on the tart side so, not surprisingly, my soup was too. With sweeter grapes, I think I’d have liked it a lot more. I also think I’d strain the soup before serving next time, to catch the little bits of grape peel.

Overall, this soup is a winner. It’s cool and refreshing, satisfying but not overly filling. It’s a healthy, easy, no-cook soup that really hits the spot on a hot day.

This recipe is from a show called 5 Ingredient Fix. Guess how many ingredients it has?

Blend the milk and almonds for a couple of minutes. The mixture won’t ever get completely smooth because of the ground almonds.

With the blender running, add the grapes, a few at a time, then the scallion and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to puree until everything is well blended.

You’ll end up with a beautiful, green soup.

Refrigerate for a few hours before serving to make sure the soup is completely chilled. Garnish with almonds, scallions and sliced grapes.

Green Grape and Almond Gazpacho

Minimally adapted from a recipe by Claire Robinson

2 1/2 cups seedless white grapes, plus more finely sliced, for garnish (make sure they're sweet!)
1 cup regular soy milk, chilled (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped, plus more thinly sliced, for garnish
1 lime, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper 

1.      Put the almond milk and almonds in the jar of a blender and puree until very smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes.
2.      With the motor running, slowly add the grapes, scallions and lime juice; season with salt and pepper and puree until well blended.
3.      Strain soup through a sieve.
4.      To serve, pour into a small bowls and garnish with sliced grapes, scallions and slivered almonds.

Note: Gazpacho can be served immediately but is even better if refrigerated until very cold. Stir well before serving.

Serves 4