Monday, March 25, 2013

Ketjap Manis

Ketjap manis is a staple in our house. I make it once every month or two and we store it in an old soy sauce bottle. Kept refrigerated, it keeps for up to three months. You can buy it at an Asian store or market but I think the homemade version has just a bit more kick and flavour to it. We use it in our saute and peanut sauce recipes and our girls love it over plain rice. (So do we.) Typically we use it several times a week, whether livening up rice or adding it to an Asian sauce we've made. (Try our Ginger-Cilantro Chicken.) The recipe I use for it remains true to Diane Beans' recipe from a TWR cookbook.

  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
Combine sugar and water in sauce pan. Simmer over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to high for about five minutes. Reduce to low and add remaining ingredients.

Ginger-Cilantro Chicken

Ginger-Cilantro Chicken, paired here with Astragalus-Mint tea
Two of our favourite spices to use are ginger and cilantro. They blend beautifully with each other and give us some of our favourite meals. We often use a dab of this and a bit of that as we cook, frequently incorporating Asian spices and blends into our cooking. I made this Ginger-Cilantro Chicken the other day and decided to write down the amounts as I went so I could replicate it more exactly later. This is the result:

  • 1 TBsp lemongrass
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Sriracha to taste
  • 1 cup ketjap manis
  • 1 TBsp orange peel
  • Approximately 1.5 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and diced
  • 2.5 cups of water
  • 2 TBsp cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup freshly washed and cut up cilantro
  • Snow peas
  • Chicken 
I started by putting the lemongrass, salt, pepper, sriracha, ketjap manis, orange peel, and ginger all into a wok and simmered them together for a few minutes. Then I added the water, chicken, and snow peas. When those were just cooked, I mixed in the cornstarch, thickening the sauce just a bit, and tossed in the fresh cilantro. I don't remember if I used fresh garlic this time or not, but I have in the past and it's tasted good. I ate my chicken and sauce over white rice noodles and paired it with some soothing jasmine tea (my favourite), but my husband had his with some astragalus-mint tea for staying power and energy.

This really was one of my favourite meals of recent weeks and one I plan to make again in short order.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ginger-Mint Marinade with a Twist of Apricot

Tonight I tried out a new recipe, tweaking it a bit as always. I've had it written out in my album recipe book for a long time and I'm not sure where I originally got it. A magazine, perhaps?

  • Beef or chicken (I used steak tonight since we didn't have good beef to cube for kebabs)
  • About a cup of fresh mint
  • About a cup of apricot jam
  • An inch and a half to two inches of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • Two tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 6-8 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Sriracha sauce to taste
  • 1/2 cup brandy
I mixed everything together (except the meat) in my grinder, adding in a generous amount of sriracha. Then I popped the steaks in a Ziploc,  poured the marinade in, and left them for seven hours. (I meant to do 24 but didn't get around to it last night. The meat still turned out wonderfully flavourful.)

It was really simple to throw together and tasted wonderful at the end. Andrew grilled the steaks and I used the leftover marinade to make into a sauce for the steak itself by bringing it to a boil before serving it. We had it with fresh green beans and baked potatoes and the sauce went great over both the meat and the potatoes.

The original recipe used peach jam instead of apricot (I only had apricot on hand), no brandy, no sriracha, and called for 2lbs of lamb, serving it with grilled tomatoes, peppers, and onions. I modified the recipe for what I had on hand without a store run and doubled some of the ingredients (the mint, ginger, soy, and garlic). (Well, actually, I quadrupled the garlic.)

All in all, it was a fantastic meal and easy to put together.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chicken Scampi

The very few times I've been to Olive Garden (twice with my husband, three times with my best friend) I've ordered their chicken scampi. (Okay, all but once. And that once I got a seasonal pasta dish that was...interesting. And okay. But I wouldn't get it again. [And it wasn't good enough to remember the name of.])

A few weeks ago, Andrew and I had the house to ourselves (no guests, no extended family) and I was wondering what on earth to make for dinner. We just didn't seem to have anything in the house to make something good. But then I started thinking, hmmm... peppers... garlic... rice noodles... chicken... why not try my hand at chicken scampi?

Make sure you very thinly slice the peppers.
I looked online at half a dozen recipes to get a basic idea and see what variations were out there, and then picked and chose and hobbled ingredients together by taste. What came out... absolutely scrumptious. I'll never buy scampi from Olive Garden again.

(Note: I made scampi for dinner tonight and thought to get photos of the process. We were so eager for dinner to start, though, that I forgot to take pictures of the end result before it was decimated at the table. I also only had white wine and it wasn't nearly as good as with the red shiraz.)

Here's the rough recipe:
Garlic and spices simmering in the butter

-1 cup butter
-4 to 6 heaping tablespoons of fresh, minced garlic (sometimes I've used pre-minced, sometimes I've done a full bulb of fresh garlic...or two)
-2 heaping TBsp chicken bouillon or the equivalent
-3/4 cup red wine (my favourite has been a nice shiraz)
-2.5 cups white sauce (butter, flour or cornstarch, and milk)
-1 TBsp sambal oelek or crushed red peppers
-black pepper to taste
-fresh sweet peppers, thinly sliced
-cooked chicken (I roasted a whole chicken in the oven beforehand and used two cups of the shredded meat to mix in with the scampi sauce)
-angel hair noodles
Keeping the peppers and onions separate

Melt the butter in a saucepan or large wok. Add garlic, pepper, bouillon, and wine, simmering for 30 minutes. Stir it occasionally. In the meantime, whip up a white sauce. Combine the simmered butter and the white sauce after the 30 minutes are up. Put a pot of water on to boil for the noodles (make enough for four servings) and get that going.

Andrew's peppers and onions cooking together
In a separate pan, simmer peppers (and onions, if you like-- they make me sick but Andrew and the rest of my family love them, so I always do a separate dish for myself with none) in butter or olive oil. Once the peppers are almost tender, add the shredded chicken and stir.  Combine it with the sauce mixture and spread it over the noodles once they are finished cooking and drained. Serve dinner hot with your choice of wine.

The almost-finished sauce

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bryndzové Halušky

One of Andrew and my favourite dishes to eat from Slovakia is bryndzové halušky. I posted a recipe to halušky a paprikaš earlier, and the recipe for the halušky (a cross between a noodle and dumpling) is the same for both foods. Once you make the halušky, if you have access to bryndza (a sheep's cheese) you simply melt it along with bacon and bacon grease into the halušky. However, if you live anywhere near me, you don't, so I use a mixture of butter, feta cheese, and sour cream. The end result is a passable imitation of bryndza. I stir it into the halušky and add plenty of crumbled bacon as well as a fair amount of bacon grease. Stir it all together and serve as a meal of its own. It's quite heavy and fills you up faster than you expect, but is it ever delicious!

Warning: this is a very different taste and texture than most western palates are used to. 

Dobrú chut'!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Warak Inab

For years one of my favourite dishes has been "warak inab," or stuffed grape leaves. I first had them in Jordan when I was 16, made by the mother of a friend of mine. My favourite non-Slovak restaurant in Slovakia made them wonderfully, and I've hunted for years for a good recipe. (As well as grape leaves-- not so easy to find in small-town Tennessee.) When my Mom was here last summer for Hadassah's birth, we tried a recipe she and my sister found online. Not so very good. Tolerable, but not good

The thing is, there are tons of recipes for stuffed grape leaves out there. Some of them are Greek, some are Jordanian, and some are I-don't-even-know. Back in the spring, I picked up some grape leaves from The Fresh Market in Chattanooga and ordered two Middle Eastern cookbooks that I'd had a hankering for for awhile. One of them, The Middle Eastern Cookbook by Maria Khalifé, had the recipe that I used to make some warak inab today. 

Here's her version:
  • 1 lb 2 oz vine leaves
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into thick slices
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into thick rings
  • 1 medium tomato, cut into thick slices
For the stuffing:
  • 12.5 oz (4 cups) parsley
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • salt to taste
  • .5 tsp white pepper
  • 5.5 oz (3/4 cup) short-grain rice, rinsed and drained
  • 3 medium tomatoes, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 fl. oz (1/4 cup) lemon juice
  • 3 fl. oz (1/3 cup) olive oil
Here's how I used and adapted her recipe:

  • 2.5 cups of fresh parsley, chopped up. (Don't use the stalks.) 
  • 5 small tomatoes and 1 medium sized one, chopped up
  • salt, to taste
  • white pepper, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup butter (I was out of all forms of oil)
  • 3/4 cup jasmine rice, uncooked
  • 8 oz of Jimmy Dean sage sausage (I would have used some ground beef instead but I didn't feel like defrosting any from our freezer and I had the sausage handy in the fridge), uncooked
I combined the parsley, tomatoes, lemon juice, and butter and then blended them all together in my food processor. I didn't blend for too long because I wanted to have some chunks left while getting a finer consistency than I could achieve through merely cutting the parsley and tomatoes with a knife. Then I dumped it all back into my starting bowl, added a fair amount of salt and both peppers, and poured the rice and sausage in. I mixed it all up, washed up, and got out the grape leaves. You're supposed to pull them out and drop them in boiling water for a few seconds, but I didn't. Instead, I pulled them out of their jar and, one at a time, spread them out with the protruding vein side up (subtle difference, but it's there). Make sure you have no stems attached. At the base of the leaf, right above where the stem begins, I added a spoonful (more or less, depending on the size of the leaf) of the stuffing. I then folded in the sides of the leaf and rolled it up-- firmly but not too tightly. 

When all the stuffing was used up, I placed the bundled leaves face down (the flap-side down) in a pan, covering the bottom. I had a few layered on top as well. Then I covered the bundles with water, placed a small plate on top of the bundles in the water to help them keep their shape, turned on the burner to high, and let the whole thing boil for about a minute before turning it down and covering the pot to simmer for an hour.

If you try this, you'll know it's done when you try one and the rice is soft. Scoop the warak inab out of the pan and place on a plate. Some people serve it chilled, but I like mine warm. Dobrù chuť!

Finished product

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Halušky and Paprikaš

I got a text from my brother, Stephen, this afternoon (I didn't see it until late tonight) asking for my recipe for halušky and paprikaš. Halušky is standard fare in Slovakia, which is where we grew up. It's fairly simple to make, although a lot of people use potato in their halušky rather than just flour: 
  • flour
  • 1-2 eggs
  • salt
  • milk
It completely depends on how much I want to make as to how much flour and milk I put in. I want the consistency to be thick but wet, easy to drop down into the boiling water to cook. I usually set a large pot to boil before I start mixing ingredients simply for the sake of timing. Once the water is boiling and everything is mixed together (add a pinch of salt and some oil to the water), I use my halušky grater to cut the halusky into the water. I'll periodically stir the water to make sure the raw dough isn't sticking on top of the cooked halušky. Once the halušky floats, it's done. Use a slatted spoon of some form to gather the cooked halušky up.  

To make the paprikaš, I start out with a basic cream sauce:

Depending on how much you want to make, you can adjust the flour/milk ratio. For Stephen's use, he'd probably want to start out with half a cup or so of flour in a bowl. Slowly add milk to it until you can stir easily. Don't add too much too quickly or you'll end up with lumps. Add just enough at first that you can start stirring it in but that you still need to keep adding it in order to get everything wet. Once all the flour is thoroughly mixed in, add another cup or two of milk. Put it all in a pan on the stove and heat up, stirring regularly. (You don't want the milk to scorch.) Add paprika, salt, and pepper to taste. Sometimes I'll add chicken bouillon as well. (You can add chicken into this whole sauce if you'd like.) When you're finished, add sour cream to the sauce for a smooth finish.