Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Little Irish Flavor

I started a side business selling cupcakes in December. So while I've been doing a lot of cooking, I have not had much of a chance to blog about it. Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, I thought I would talk about Irish Soda Bread. I loved it when I had it in Ireland and have been trying to find a recipe to duplicate it for a while. I finally hit upon it when I made this Julia Child recipe with a a twist. The original recipe had all white flour but I found that if I substituted 2 cups of whole wheat flour, it gave me just the right flavor and consistency.

Irish Soda Bread is great because it's really easy to make. There is no kneading and no waiting for it to rise. In fact, it's better the less you do to it. I just barely combine all of the ingredients, shape it into a rough ball and bake it. It'll last for a few days if you wrap it with a piece of cloth and store it at room temperature.

So here's my recipe:

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375. Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the buttermilk and blend until the mixture starts to come together. On a floured surface, place the dough and knead 10 times. Shape into a ball and place on a greased baking sheet. Cut a cross into the top 1/2 inch of the ball and bake for 50. Cool the bread and then serve with butter and your favorite jam.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nothing says Christmas like Vietnamese Eggrolls

Someone requested my recipe for Vietnamese eggrolls. My mother wrote up her recipe several years ago and gave it to me when I went off to college. These are the eggrolls that I remember her making when I was growing up. Since then, she has changed her recipe quite a bit. She now uses pork instead of turkey. I have stuck to the old recipe and really enjoy it.

My mom can make a batch of these in one evening for work potlucks or to give to friends. I usually make a lot of them at once, so I only make them once a year for my annual Holiday party.

I used to cut the vegetables by hand but that took a long time. If you have a food processor, it cuts the prep time in half. You can find most of the ingredients in a regular market. However, the wood ear mushrooms and eggroll wrappers are usually found in Asian markets.

I also make a vegan version of these rolls by replacing the turkey with 2 slabs of firm tofu that I have broken into pieces. After I have mixed the ingredients, I allow them to sit in a strainer overnight to leech out some of the water. This makes the rolls easier to cook and they are less likely to break apart. To seal the rolls, I use a mixture of water and flour rather than egg. And I make a dipping sauce with soy sauce.


2 lbs cabbage, shredded
3/4 lb onion, shredded
4 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 bag bean thread or rice vermicelli noodles, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and cut into strips
1/2 oz dried wood ear mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes, rinsed and then chopped into strips
2 lbs ground turkey
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs salt
1 tbs black pepper
1/6 tbs MSG
2 bags eggroll wrappers
1 egg, slightly beaten
Vegetable oil

Mix all of the ingredients together up to MSG. The wrappers are frozen and need to sit on the counter for a couple of hours to thaw. To wrap, place a wrapper in front of you on its point so that it looks like a diamond. Put 1-2 tbs of the mixture on the top third of the diamond. Shape the mixture into a longish tube. Fold in the sides. Fold the top point down over the mixture and continue to roll the wrapper until you have about 1/4 inch of wrapper left. Smear that part with some egg and roll the wrapper over to seal.

This recipe makes 50 eggrolls. You can make make the mixture and wrap the rolls one day ahead. If you're stacking the rolls for storing overnight, be sure to slip in some wax paper to keep the top stacks from sticking to the bottom.

When you're ready to fry them, heat a pan with at least 2 inches of oil in it to 275 Fahrenheit. Drop in a few rolls and cook them until they are golden brown on the outside. To make sure they are cooked through, you can cut into one and if the cabbage is translucent, then the roll is done.

I serve these rolls with a dipping sauce made with equal parts fish sauce, sugar, water and white vinegar. Mix all of the ingredients together until the sugar is fully dissolved. You can add shredded carrots and sliced garlic for more flavor.

To make a meal, you can serve cut eggrolls on top of a bed of rice noodles with shredded lettuce, carrots, basil, mint and bean sprouts with the dipping sauce on the side.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pork Chop Redux

I created a pork chop recipe in Paris from flavors that I remembered sampling when I lived there several years ago. Since returning to the States, I have had occasion to refine the recipe. Since friends have been asking for it, I thought I would write it up with ingredient amounts and whatnot.

Pork Chops with Mushrooms and Creme Fraiche Sauce

5 pork chops, thin-sliced
salt and pepper
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced (I usually use cremini, but you can really use anything)
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
1 cup creme fraiche*

Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle salt and pepper the pork chops. Heat up a cast iron skillet or heavy duty metal skillet until very hot. Sear the pork chops until brown on both sides. Take care not to cook them too long or they'll dry out, especially if you're using boneless. Take the pan off the heat. Remove the pork chops. Return pan to medium heat, add olive oil and chopped garlic. Saute until fragrant, then add the mushrooms. Cook them down until the is very little liquid. Add white wine and cook until the mixture reduces a little. Stir to deglaze the pan. Stir in the creme fraiche. Cook until it thickens. Add the pork chops for a couple of minutes turning to coat with sauce. Place the pan in the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking the pork chops.

*Creme fraiche is really easy to make with a little time. You take two cups of heavy whipping cream and mix it with two tbs of buttermilk. Stir together. Cover the container and set at room temperature overnight until the mixture thickens to the consistency of sour cream. Then you can refrigerate and use. Alternatively, if you're strapped for time, or simple don't want to make creme fraiche, you can substitute sour cream in the recipe. It comes out a little more acidic that way.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Back home again

IMG_3976[1], originally uploaded by anna.purna.

So we're back in DC. I've been busy applying for jobs...or not so busy, depending on the day. I've been doing a lot of cooking and home projects. This is my latest one so far: a jewelry display for my necklaces. The patterns come from papers (bags, giftwrap, random scraps) that I've accumulated over the years. That was the most fun part. That and using the power tools to cut the dowels and drill the holes.

Friday, July 25, 2008

More music

Check out Jacob's performance at the Placard Headphone Festival in Paris. http://feeds.feedburner.com/scallopshell
A big thank you to Chris

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Books I've read while on this trip

Can I just say that I love the Kindle. I brought along so many books and only have to carry one. Since I don't have to read for school anymore, I've been happily reading for pleasure. Thus far, I've read:

- the entire Harry Potter series
- The Omnivore's Dilemma
- In Defense of Food
- May's issue of The Atlantic
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- 3/4 of The Blue Fairy Book

What can I say? I have a fondness for children's literature. And I really wanted some reading that was the opposite of what I had been reading for the last two years.

Right now, I'm reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States and a new book we picked up in Cairo called Taxi which collects the stories and musings of taxi drivers in Cairo.

A complaint about the Lonely Planet Guide to Rome

The maps in this book, which was published in 2008 were really bad. Jacob and I got lost several times looking for sites that were marked on the map and coming up on random buildings housing something else. It was quite frustrating and put us off Lonely Planet for the near future.