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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tomato Cream Sauce

My sister graduated with a bachelor's degree in culinary arts and this is one of the awesome recipes she obtained while in her program. Everyone I know loves it and it is so easy and simple to make. Even some of my friends who hate tomatoes, love this recipe. (Metro is the cheapest place I've found for cream) I love this recipe because it is really quick, but looks gourmet. Make sure you serve it with some kind of bread because you will need something to soak up the extra sauce with- you won't want it to go to waste! My husband has joked that he would lick the extra sauce off the plate if he didn't have bread to eat with it. 

1 tbsp butter
1 ½ cup diced tomatoes
1 ½ tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp dried basil
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
2 cups heavy cream
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp water
Salt to Taste (1- 1 ½ tsp)

Melt butter.

Sauté the tomatoes and garlic in butter for about 5 minutes until soft.(I absolutely adore this garlic press from IKEA. Everyone should have one. You have know idea how well it works and how much time it saves me.)

Add basil and oregano.
Deglaze pan with cream.
Puree in blender and then return to pot and simmer until thickened.
Add salt.
The cream in China is UHT cream and it is thinner than fresh cream So to get the sauce thicker, I will take it off the heat, add a little cornstarch mixed with water(1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water) and then put it back on the heat and let it thicken for a few minutes.

Serve over pasta noodles. (Tip: Drain pasta but never rinse the noodles. Rinsing noodles washes off the starch. Sauce will stick to the pasta better if you do not rinse the starch off of them)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cilantro Spicy Rice

Mexican food is one of the easiest things to make from scratch in China. They have an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, onions. In the US, in the west where I'm from, we have a restaurant chain called Cafe Rio. This is my take on the cilantro rice they serve there- My sisters and I think it's even better than the rice at Cafe Rio.
This rice is only mildly spicy. I do not really like spicy stuff and I absolutely love this rice. Both my kids will eat it plain so that tells you it's pretty mild.

1 1/2 cups rice
½ hot green pepper, diced
½ red onion, diced
½ cup cilantro
3 cloves garlic
2-3 tablespoons water
salt or chicken bouillon

Cook 1 ½ cups dry rice in a rice cooker or on the stove. You can add a little chicken bouillon to the water if you want.
In a small saucepan, sauté the diced hot pepper in a little water until tender. Do not drain.
Add to the rest of the ingredients, and pulse in a blender until everything is chopped and well blended. (You might have to add just a bit more water to get everything to blend well)

Add to cooked rice and stir until well combined. Add salt to taste.

*Note: Thai rice works best with this recipe. This makes a great side dish or filling for soft flour tacos.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pumpkin Bagels

Back in the days when I worked as a dental assistant, one of the offices I worked at happened to be right across the street from an Einstein Brothers Bagel Shop. My favorite time of the year was right around Halloween because they always had pumpkin bagels and gingerbread cream cheese at that time. Well, I have yet to attempt gingerbread cream cheese(someday I promise I will) but here is the recipe I created for pumpkin bagels in Shanghai. (I used fresh pumpkin-available at any Shanghai wet market. See my previous entry on baking pumpkin if you've never done it- it is so easy, healthier and way cheaper than the stuff in a can)

Pumpkin Bagels

3/4 cup pumpkin (mine was a pretty soft puree)
1 cup luke warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger (you could easily sub fresh grated ginger)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp yeast
5-6 cups flour

In a large bowl add pumpkin.
Dissolve sugar in lukewarm water and add to bowl.

Add sugar water mixture, salt, spices, and yeast.
Stir well.
Add 3-4 cups of flour and stir to combine ingredients. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough is too stiff to stir.
Knead in bowl or on counter for 8-10 minutes (I like to put on a show on the portable dvd player and get in my upper arm workout while I'm listening to something :) Keep adding a little flour at a time if dough is sticky.
Cover and let rise until doubled in size. 1 1/2 -2 hours.

Deflate by turning over in bowl a few times. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. This will make shaping easier.
Divide into 16-24 balls depending on size preference.
Let rise 1/2 hour (Don't let them rise too much- it will seriously affect the texture of the top of your bagel if you do)
Using your floured finger, make a hole in the center of each bagel.
Pick it up and give it a little spin around your finger.
Meanwhile in a saucepan or wok (I actually like my wok best) heat 2-3 inches of water. Dissolve 2 tbsp brown sugar and 1 tbsp white sugar in the water. Heat until boiling.
Working in batches boil 6-8 bagels at time. Two minutes on the first side, then flip. Then one minute on the next side.
I use a bamboo chopstick to flip the bagels and to take them out of the water.
After the bagels have boiled transfer them to a parchment lined baking sheet. Parchment paper is not essential, but it makes it so much easier to get them off the pan. Cooking spray just doesn't work that well. The bagels have a tendency to become glued to the pan. Parchment paper solves this problem.
Bake at 215°C or 450°F for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
Enjoy toasted with cream cheese!

Baking Pumpkin

Fresh pumpkin is very easy to use as a substitute for canned pumpkin. In China it is much cheaper to use than canned and it is available all year round. I use it in muffins, bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin donuts and pumpkin praline dessert.
You can find it at the grocery store or at the vegetable markets. I find that the butternut squashy looking pumpkin has a very sweet flavor while the squash that looks like a small orange pumpkin is less sweet and has more intense squash flavor.
Begin by trimming off the cut end of the squash. I always cut off the bottom 1/2 inch because I don't know how clean it is after being cut at the vegetable market.
Next cut off the stem end.
Cut in half and then either using a knife or a spoon remove the "guts" or the soft inner part of the pumpkin.
Use a knife to trim off the outer rind of the pumpkin.
If necessary, use a vegetable peeler to get all of the outer skin.
Cut into wedges and place in a baking dish. Add 1/4 inch of water to the bottom of the pan.
If you want a really soft puree you can cover it with tin foil before you bake it. (This is okay if you are using the pumpkin in muffins or breads- just subtract a little liquid or add a little extra flour to compensate for the liquid) If you want to use it for pumpkin pie or other desserts leave the pumpkin uncovered until the last twenty minutes of baking- then cover with tin foil to prevent burning.
Bake at 375˚ for 45min to 1 hour.
Remove from oven. Let cool uncovered. Drain water.
If I want the puree really fine I will put the cooked pumpkin in the blender and blend it. If I'm using it for bread I will sometimes just stick the cooked pumpkin pieces in a plastic ziploc bag and smoosh it up in there or use a fork to mash it!
Use it for your pumpkin favorite recipes.