Monday, August 23, 2010
Summer is almost over and as a warm weather lover, I'm a bit sad about the impending change of season. However as a food lover, I look forward to the braised and stewed dishes in the cooler weather. I have purchased some short ribs for barbecue; however since the last couple of days have been raining, I thought I should just try braising them instead.
Braising is one of the cooking methods I love. This method is usually used to cook larger and tougher cuts of meat. It involves using both dry and moist heat. What I mean is the food is seared or browned in high heat, then add just enough liquid to cover half of the meat then simmer for hours to enrich flavor. I also love this method because after the long hours of simmering, it leaves you with a wonderful sauce. For this braised short ribs, I used some Chinese spices such as star anise to enhance the flavor. There are endless possibilities and most of the braising dishes could be done ahead of time. You could make this over the weekend and warm it up during the week so there is no need to cook after a long day at work.
Braised Beef Short Ribs (this recipe serves 2)
1 1/2 pound of beef short ribs (4 pieces)
2 small onions (sliced)
3 pieces of scallions (cut in one inch pieces)
3 pieces of ginger (cut 1/4 inch thick)
2 cloves of whole garlic
2 star anise pods
1/2 tspn of light brown sugar
1/4 tspn of Szechuan peppercorns
1/4 cup of Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
2 cups of beef stock or broth
1 large piece of daikon or couple pieces of carrot (sliced 1/2 inch wide)
1/4 cup of Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pat dry the short ribs and season with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy bottom pot or a dutch oven, add half the oil, seared the meat on both side (a few minutes each side) and set aside. In the same pot, add garlic, ginger and scallions, saute until fragrant. Add remaining oil then add onions. Saute the onions and season with salt and pepper, cook until transparent. Add the wine and let it cook for a few minutes until the alcohol is cooked through. Then add beef stock, star anise, peppercorns and light brown sugar. Put the meat back in the pot and lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Skim the surface with a spoon to get rid of some of the fat. Then take the meat out, strain the liquid. Put the meat, daikon (or carrots) back in the pot and cook for another hour until the meat is fork-tendered. Serve it with mash potatoes, rice, noodles or soak up the sauce with bread.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I love pasta or any type of noodles; it is my ultimate comfort food. So it was no surprise when I fell in love with this dish many years ago in Rome, it was love at first bite. The best part, it is so simple to make but so delicious. I make this sometimes when I'm home after a long work day and don't want to spend hours cooking. I also find myself making this when I have nothing in the fridge and in between grocery shopping as I usually have eggs, cheese and some type of cured pork product in the fridge. I try to stick to the traditional recipe, but this time I used whole wheat spaghetti instead.
Whole Wheat Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Serves 4)
1 lb of whole wheat spaghetti or any long pasta
6 oz of pancetta - diced (if pancetta is not available, substitute with bacon)
1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Romano
1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 eggs (preferably at room temperature)
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 tspn of chopped parsley
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil (make sure the water taste like sea water to ensure the pasta is seasoned). Cook the pasta in the salted water for about 10 minutes or until al dente, do not overcook the pasta. To prepare the sauce, saute the pancetta with olive oil until it's cooked and the fat is rendered about 5 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and cheese together and set aside. Once the pasta is done, reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water, drain the pasta and add to the pan with the pancetta, stir well. Remove the pasta off the heat then add the egg mixture as the hot pasta would cook the eggs, but be sure to add the eggs off the heat so the eggs don't scramble. Stir the pasta well with the sauce and if you find the sauce is too thick then add the pasta water a little at a time to thin out the sauce and adjust its consistency. Add the ground pepper and parsley and serve immediately.
I love the creaminess of the egg and cheese sauce that coats the pasta. It tastes so velvety and along with the crispiness of the pancetta makes this pasta so luscious. It brings me back to Rome every time I eat this. If you want a taste of Rome, give this Carbonara a try!
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
After months of hearing great things about the newest Fairway that opened in Westchester county, I finally visited this past weekend. It is a playground for food lovers to touch and smell all the freshest produce, bake goods, seafood, specialty cheeses and organic products. The space is enormous and it took me over two hours to comb through each aisle. The employees there were so nice and attentive. I definitely plan to visit again in the near future.
While I was at the seafood counter, I immediately was drawn to the bright red color of the wild Sockeye salmon so of course I had to get some. Since the fillet was so fresh, I wanted to cook it simply. Then I remembered I had some Israeli couscous at home (wheat-based pasta that shape like round pearls), and a packet of dried mushrooms so I thought I could make a mushroom risotto to serve with the salmon.
Pan-seared Wild Sockeye Salmon (Serves two)
2 4 ounces of wild salmon fillet with skin on
1 tbsp of olive oil
Sprigs of dill for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
Mushroom Israeli Couscous Risotto
4 oz of Israeli couscous (1/2 of package)
1 ounce packet of the dried assorted wild mushrooms (porcini, shitake, black and oyster mushrooms or your favorite variety)
3 cups of water
1 tbsp of unsalted butter
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp of chopped dill
Hydrate the dried mushrooms in 3 cups of boiling water, let the mushrooms seep with the heat off for at least 15 minutes. Strain the mushrooms, reserve the broth and keep warm. Chop mushrooms into small pieces and reserve. Add the butter and oil to pan and saute the onion until it's transparent, season with salt. Add mushroom pieces, saute until tender and season with salt and pepper. Add the couscous, toast it then add 1 cup of the mushroom broth and cook it like a risotto. Keep stirring until the liquid is absorbed then add 1/2 cup of the broth. Repeat steps until the couscous is cooked, about 15 minutes.
When the couscous is almost done, heat a pan with medium to high heat, add olive oil when the pan is hot. Season the fillet generously with salt and pepper, then once the oil is heated, place the fillet skin side down and press it down gently with a fish spatula so it cooks evenly. Let the fillet cook until you see the bottom two thirds of the fish color turns from red to pink (about 4 to 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish). Gently turn the fish over and finish cooking the other side for another minute. Then take the fillet out and let it rest. To finish the couscous, taste and adjust seasoning. Then fold in the feta cheese and dill. Top sprigs of dill on the salmon and serve with the couscous.
The saltiness of the feta and the freshness of the dill compliment well with the intense mushroom flavor of the couscous. What I love about Israeli couscous is it could be eaten hot or cold. So if you decide to make more than suggested in this recipe, you could add some baby arugula, lemon juice and olive oil and toss it as a salad for another meal option.
As to the salmon, the crispiness of the skin adds a great texture to the tenderness of the fillet. It's a full-flavored salmon and it was delicious. To my surprise, my husband who is not a fish eater devoured his fillet and is now requesting more fish in his diet!