Friday, February 28, 2014

Roasted Rice Cakes with Scallion Oil


Last November my husband and I visited Shanghai, the fastest growing city in the worldIn the midst of this mind bogglingly immensity, we nibbled a bowl of noodle that had an arresting, deep flavor that I thought must have come from with some exotic mushrooms, but was merely caramelized green onions.  

Back home, the taste of those noodles lingered with me. I consulted Fuchsia Dunlap's Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, and found her Shanghai Noodles with Dried Shrimp and Spring Onion Oil, which she describes as "a southern Chinese equivalent of the Italian spaghetti all'aglio, olio e peperoncino." As I read more, I realized that caramelized onions of all types are an integral condiment in many Asian cuisines, adding a deep umami layer of flavor. Thus started my obsession with crispy fried alliums. 

These spring onions and their fragrant oil make a wonderful topping for a bowl of noodles, but they can also transform Korean rice cakes, which I recently found fresh, rather than frozen, at the Sunrise Asian Market in Eugene. 

I'd read about fried, rather than braised rice cake in David Chang's 
recipe from Momofuku, and indeed this method of cooking them makes the cakes puff up into delectable treats with a toasty exterior and soft, chewy inside. These are delicious as a snack (perfect for an Oscars party) topped with sriracha sauce and the fried scallions.

These roasted rice cakes also make a wonderful base for a riff on kimichi fried rice, tossed with kimchi (my latest batch was made with red cabbage) and topped with a fried egg. And of course, sprinkled with the fried scallions.

Roasted Rice Cakes with Scallion Oil
1 bunch scallions
1/4 cup canola oil
1 lb fresh rice cakes

serving suggestions
sriracha sauce
fried egg

1. Trim the scallions. With the flat side of a chef's knife, smash the white parts of the onions and then cut them into 2 inch sections. 

2. Heat the oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add the scallions, lower the heat slightly, and cook, stirring off and on, until they turn a deep golden brown, but be careful not to burn them. When they are done, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and reserve in a bowl.

3. Return the wok with the oil to a medium high heat and add the rice cakes. Cook, stirring off and on, until they become browned and puff up in size. You can eat them like this, sprinkled with a pinch of salt, a drizzle of sriracha sauce, and the crispy scallions. Or, stir in a couple of spoonfuls of kimchi into the wok and cook until heated through. Serve with a fried egg on top, along with the fried scallions.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Leftover Oatmeal Apple Sauce Muffins

I was traveling for just a few days this past week, but seemed to miss out on all sorts of important events at home: a valiant loss in an OBOB battle, a dramatic playground fall that required a trip to the nurse's office, and an ambitious, last minute project fair presentation. Even after a short trip, it takes a couple of days to get caught up on the latest jokes, bedtime book story lines, and the status of food supplies.

So after a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast of teff and flaxseed oatmeal, it felt satisfying to roast up a couple of aging apples and use the apple sauce, along with the leftover oatmeal, in a batch of mini muffins to pack as snacks for the week.

I adapted a recipe for banana cereal muffins from Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain, described by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette as "a garbage disposal-style recipe" in the best sort of way. In went our leftover oatmeal, the roasted apple sauce, and even the end of a tub of sour cream. Out came some very tasty muffins, pictured here with my daughter's spelling list from last week, including the words "anxious", "whether", "succeed", "business", and "companion", which seemed to form an accidental poem about the mixed emotions of traveling away from home.

Leftover Oatmeal Apple Sauce Muffins
adapted from Kim Boyce Good to the Grain, described here
makes about 28 mini muffins
roasted apples sauce
2 apples, cored and peeled 
1 tsp butter
pinch of salt

muffin batter
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup soft white flour
1/2 cup red fife flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon

1. To prepare a small scale, accelerated version of this apple sauce, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel and core two apples and cut each into about 24 pieces. Arrange in a small baking dish, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and dot with about a tsp of butter. Roast for about 25 minutes until the apples are soft and just a bit charred. Mash with a potato masher, leaving it a little chunky. This should make about a cup of sauce. You could also substitute a cup of store bought apples sauce or two to three very ripe bananas, mashed.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffins tins (enough for 28 mini muffins or 12 regular muffins).

3. In a large bowl or a standing mixer, cream together the butter and the brown sugar until very creamy. Mix in the sour cream (or use 2 more Tbsp of butter, as in the original recipe). Mix in the egg, then the cooked oatmeal, the apple sauce, and the vanilla extract.

4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Bake for about 24-28 minutes for mini muffins, or 35-40 minutes for regular muffins, rotating the pans halfway through, until they are nicely browned on top and a fork comes out clean. Best eaten warm or reheated for a few minutes in a toaster oven.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Rye-Cocoa Gougeres

The snow and ice storm that swept through Eugene last weekend may have forced us to hold dinner by candlelight, but in general it put a chill on Valentine's Day planning. Still, a little celebration is in order, and as a twist on the endless chocolate sweets, I can recommend these savory rye flour and cocoa gougeres from Chad Robertson's Tartine Book No. 3. I made these with Lonesome Whistle Farm rye, skipped the fancy piping (beyond my skill set) or egg wash (too lazy), and we had these alongside a comforting pot of leek and potato soup. The rye and unsweetened cocoa give these a deep, slightly bitter flavor that is a nice complement to the richness of the dough. A delicious treat to make for your sweetie this Valentine's Day.

Rye-Cocoa Gougeres
from Chad Robertson's Tartine Book No. 3
yield: four dozen gougeres
Rye-Cocoa Pate a Choux Dough
310 ml/ 1 1/4 cup nonfat milk
140 g/ 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp fine sea salt
166 g / 1 cup plus 3 Tbsp whole-grain dark rye flour
15 g/ 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
250 g/ 5 large eggs, at room temperature 

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, butter, and salt and place over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture comes to just under a boil. Add the flour and cocoa all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the mixture has formed a smooth mass, pulls away from the sides of the pan, and some of the moisture has evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a heatproof mixing bowl.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix at medium high speed or vigorously by hand with a wooden spoon, incorporating each egg before adding the next. When all the eggs have been added, the mixture will be very thick, smooth, and shiny. Use immediately.

115 g/ 3/4 cup grated Comte or Gruyere cheese
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh marjoram
1 1/2 tsp minced thyme leaves
1 recipe Rye-Cocoa Pate a Choux Dough

Egg wash
50 g/ 1 large egg
pinch of fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add 75 g/ 1/2 cup of the cheese, the pepper, the marjoram, and the thyme to the pate a choux dough and stir well with a rubber spatula to incorporate.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch tip. Pipe 1 inch rounds onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart, or use a spoon to drop the dough into 1 inch mounds.

To make the egg wash: in a small bowl, whisk together the egg and salt. Lightly brush the top of each dough mound with the egg wash , then top with the remaining 40 g/ 1/4 cup cheese, dividing evenly.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffed, golden brown, and light for their size, rotating the baking sheet after 20 minutes to ensure even browning. Serve warm. You can also cool completely and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for a few days. To serve, recrisp for 5 minutes at 350 degrees.

Note: you can form the gougers on a baking sheet, place in the freezer unto, frozen, and then transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 1 month. Bake them straight from the freezer on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Brush the tops lightly with egg wash, sprinkle with cheese before baking, and increase the baking time by about 10 minutes.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mushroom Meatloaf with Sun Dried Tomato Glaze

The polar vortex has reached Eugene. Snow days, icy roads, and chilly temperatures call for staying put and cooking up comfort food. This meatloaf fits the bill, flavored with pungent mushrooms and fresh herbs, 

and topped with a homemade ketchup from sun dried tomatoes.

With cold winds howling outside, nothing could feel cozier than this classic American supper of meatloaf with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy

But polar vortex or not, the day after baking meatloaf I am always reminded that its best justification is in sandwiches, piled high with spicy greens, or layered like pâté into decadent tofu banh mi.

Mushroom Meatloaf with Sun Dried Tomato Glaze

for the meatloaf
1/2 cup dried mushrooms
3/4 cup boiling water
1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 small carrot, grated
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground beef
1 egg
several springs of fresh oregano, thyme, and sage
1 cup bread crumbs
plenty of salt and black pepper

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (not in oil)
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder or to taste
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
pinch of salt

1. Place the dried mushrooms in the boiling water to soften for at least 15 minutes. Heat a small skillet over medium low heat. Melt the butter and add the shallots. Cook until glassy, then add the grated carrot, and cook for another few minutes until the aromatics are soft. Reserve. Once the mushrooms are softened, chop them very finely and reserve the mushroom-flavored water. 

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Prepare a loaf pan by greasing its bottom and sides with olive oil. Put the ground meat in a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use your hands to mix. Combine in the egg. Then mix in the shallots and mushrooms. Pluck the fresh herb leaves from their stems and tear them into the mixture. Add the breadcrumbs and gently mix to combine. Now pour in the reserved mushroom-flavored water and gently incorporate into the mixture. Dump the meat mixture into the prepared loaf pan and gently pat down to even the top.

3. To prepare the glaze, combine the sun dried tomatoes and water in a small saucepan and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and chili powder, vinegar, and salt and simmer another minute until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow the sauce to cool and the tomatoes to continue to soften for another 10 minutes or so. In a mini mixer, food processor, or blender, process the ingredients into a paste. Reserve.

3. Bake the meatloaf for 20 minutes at 300 degrees, rotating halfway through. Remove the meatloaf and spread over the glaze. Check the internal temperature, which should be about 100 degrees at this point. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the internal temperature is 140.  Cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.