Friday, March 30, 2012

Parmesan Cheese Crisps

Here's how I used my new Silpat baking mats for the first time:

All I used was parmesan cheese, a silpat mat (on a baking sheet), and an oven (preheated to 375 degrees).

I started by grating some parmesan cheese - 6 tablespoons per batch. Pre-grated cheese will still work (not the stuff in the green can made by Kraft but the stuff from the cheese section of your grocery store) but it's more economical to buy a block and grate it yourself.
And here's the lovely Silpat. It's made from silicone and it's awesome because look - I'm using it to bake some cheese. Can you even imagine doing that straight on a naked cookie sheet?
I placed about 1 tablespoon of cheese on the mat and spread it around to make a flat circle and repeated until there were six discs of cheese. Then I put it in the oven and let it bake for about 8 minutes until it started to brown a bit. I made sure to babysit the cheese crisps, checking on them often to make sure they weren't burning.
I immediately peeled them off of the mat and placed the crisps on a serving platter. They start to harden rather quickly so if you want to curl them around the handle of a wooden spoon, you should do that right away. However, I served them as little chips.
And enjoy! The crisps should be light and crunchy and taste like Cheez-Its, but better.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Stuff

While coming down from my Istanbul holiday high, I decided to get myself a little treat to perk myself up. I went on Amazon and made a few necessary kitchen purchases.
I bought:
  • 2 Silpat baking mats (non-stick, easy clean up, AMAZING - I've been coveting one for years, ever since I first started watching food network, back in middle school)
  • 1 13" offset spatula (I usually use a butter/jam spreader to frost my cakes but now I can be more professional)
  • 1 cookie scoop (for perfectly uniform cookies that bake evenly)
  • 1 pastry scraper (since my use of yeast dough has escalated)
I'm so excited to make good use of all of my new toys!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chicken Souvlaki Pita

I have an updated chicken souvlaki pita post if you're interested in prettier photos and a slightly altered recipe that's just a bit more delicious.

Souvlaki is a Greek way of cooking smaller pieces of meat or vegetables on a skewer. Though my recipe wasn't made using skewers, I'm still calling it souvlaki. Poh-tay-to, poh-tah-to.

You can buy your own pita but I made my own. Why? Because I can't seem to find delicious flatbread pitas at the grocery store; only pita pockets. It's a bit time consuming - you'll need to give yourself two hours to make them - but it's worth it. The following recipe yields 4 pitas.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Turkish Travels, Giritli Restoran

For our final meal in Istanbul, we went to Giritli. We were started off with a seafood orzo and then brought out an assortment of 15+ mezes to enjoy with some fluffy bread. And since beer and wine were unlimited, I had myself a glass of each.
We were also served an eggplant rollatini, fried calamari, and grilled octopus tentacle before our main dishes. For my entree I had sea bass while D had some other fish - I couldn't quite understand the waiter. Afterwards, we were given some little pastries (which the waiter called finger muffins) and a sesame paste with apple. I also had apple tea and we were given shots of homemade strawberry liquor.
It was a really delicious meal and a fancy way to conclude our trip.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Turkish Travels, Park Fora

Our most expensive meal in Istanbul was at a restaurant called Park Fora. It's located right on the water and has a display of fresh fish on a table in the entryway. The fish display kind of stunk up the foyer though.
We ended up eating a bunch of little appetizers and everything was so delicious. They brought us bread with really fruity and delicious olive oil, stuffed mussels, potato croquettes, and grilled squid with a really rich, amazing saffron sauce. Everything was really delicious.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Turkish Travels, Cappadocia

On our fifth day in Turkey, we took a day trip out to the Cappadocia region - think cave hotels. For breakfast, we had chicken nuggets and curly fries at Arby's and some desserts from Hafiz Mustafa (bought the evening before). I actually ended up having an allergic reaction to one of the baklava pieces - I believe there were peanuts in them even though I was told it was made with hazelnuts. Thank goodness my allergy isn't fatal!
Once we arrived in Cappadocia, we took a shuttle to the town we were going to explore, Göreme. We were feeling hungry so we went and got lunch at Kale Terasse. I had the "beef with vegetables cooked in a pot" while D had "chicken with vegetables cooked in a pot." The dish came with rice and a salad and they gave us some pita bread on the side as well. The food was fabulous! Probably the best Turkish meal I had the whole time I was abroad.
Later in the afternoon, after we explored the Open Air Museum, I was feeling peckish so while D indulged in some cookies and tea, I had the kebab dish that's cooked in a clay pot. They bring this enclosed clay pot to your table and crack it open; it's really cool. The kebab wasn't as delicious as what I'd had for lunch but it was still really yummy. Plus, that whole thing with cracking the pot open was fun.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Turkish Travels, Hafiz Mustafa

Hafiz Mustafa is a bakery chain that sells all sorts of baklava and Turkish delights. Even if you're not a dessert person, it's worth going to a Turkish delight/Baklava bakery just to see how beautiful the desserts are.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Turkish Travels, Street Food

Sightseeing all day really takes it out of you so one night, we decided to just grab some street food and take it back to our hotel to enjoy. We stopped by one of the places close to our hotel and ordered a chicken pita sandwich and a chicken platter and an extra order of fries. Then we got a bottle of soda from the nearby grocery and walked back to our room. The chicken was really delicious and the sandwich was great but our fries were cold, which was a huge disappointment. However, in the end, our meal only cost about $3 (USD) so it was worth it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Turkish Travels, Nightlife and Hangovers

We decided to go dancing on the weekend so Friday night we went out to dinner and then headed to Supperclub. For dinner we ate at Cezayir, which was a really cute place. It's half outdoors, half indoors and the tables outside are surrounded by trees and cats roam free. It definitely had a fantasy/Alice in Wonderland vibe to it.

We were given little round rolls to start with and we each decided to have a glass of the house white wine. The wine wasn't fantastic but I didn't mind drinking it. For our entrees, I had pasta with sea bass, salmon, tomatoes, and basil while D had bacon carbonara. Both were decent and satisfying. For dessert we had this fudgy, chocolatey torte. It was super rich but not too heavy.
Afterwards, we took a taxi to Supperclub, which is kind of like Pacha in that it has locations all over the globe. The Turkish nightlife experience was v. different. Drinks were incredibly strong - even cocktails meant to taste sweet and gentle (like a mojito, for example) would kick you in the face with its alcoholic pungency. There were some DJs spinning fun music but no one was dancing! It was super strange. However, D and I danced and had fun.
The morning after, however, was not a pretty sight. Those strong drinks did kick us in the butts so we needed some really comforting hangover food. After a bit of internet research, we found a Korean restaurant within walking distance of the hotel called Seoul Jeong Restaurant. We headed over and indulged in the food we know best. I had ramen while D had yukhaejang. It definitely hit the spot and pulled us out of our funk so that we could go and explore the city some more.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Turkish Travels, Bab-i Hayat & the Spice Market

For lunch on our second day, we headed to the Spice Market area and decided to eat at the restaurant that was built above the entrance to the market. According to our Lonely Planet guidebook, there was a significant amount of renovation and structuring required to make this restaurant possible. The tiled decor, chandeliers, and windows overlooking the market made this a really beautiful place to eat.

As far as the food, I had meat kebab with yogurt while D had the meat pitta. The kebab was super flavorful and heavily spiced but I didn't care much for the presentation. It was sitting on a huge pile of yogurt covered bulghur, which was a bit too much for me. I would've preferred to portion the yogurt onto my kebab myself. The meat pitta was interesting but not really our cup of tea, as far as the spice palate goes. D didn't really enjoy it all that much. However, the staff were really friendly and happy and the prices were reasonable.
After lunch, we headed downstairs and into the market to peruse the shops. The spice stalls were crazy colorful and really gorgeous. There was a lot to see and take in and pretty much every Turkish Delight stall was giving out free samples.

We didn't leave the market empty-handed though. I bought a box of Turkish Delights (the yummiest pistachio-filled ones and some Turkish coffee. We actually happened upon the stall unexpectedly because we smelled the coffee and just followed our noses. It smelled incredible and we knew it was good because there was a huge line (of actual Turkish people, not tourists) waiting to buy some.
delicious coffee
Turkish Delights! Stall owner vacuum sealed it for me
so it would still be fresh when I returned home
pistachios galore
The Spice Bazaar is a definite must-see/do if you are ever in Istanbul.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Turkish Travels, Yeni Marmara Cafe

Turkish coffee is quite popular but Turkish tea is just as delicious. If you go to the Spice Bazaar, you'll see lots and lots of loose-leaf teas for sale. On our second day in Istanbul, we decided to go to a cafe which is normally open-air and overlooks the water. However, due to the colder weather, it was closed off with tarps. The tarps were clear though, so we could still see the lovely view of the water.

We sipped on some blackberry tea, which was sweet and lovely.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Turkish Travels, Raymond Hotel Breakfast

Our hotel provided free breakfast each morning (as many of the hotels in Istanbul do) and it was interesting to see what Turkish people eat for the most important meal of the day.

Usually, the breakfast buffet consisted of an assortment of bread (white, wheat, and rolls) and spreads (jams, jelly, marmalade, and nutella). There were also hard-boiled eggs with an extremely vibrant mustard-colored yolk. Sometimes there were scrambled eggs, which had a creamy consistency - it was quite interesting. They also served Turkish cheeses, some sort of salad, various luncheon meats, and sliced cucumbers. French fries made a frequent appearance as well. And one morning, we were surprised with gözleme, which are like filled Turkish crepes. There was always Turkish coffee and tea available as well as a Tang-like orange juice and a cinnamon-y cranberry juice.

I didn't like Turkish breakfast as much as I love English breakfast or Irish breakfast (which are almost identical) but it was filling and kept me energized throughout the day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Turkish Travels, Paşazade

Last week, I was on holiday in Istanbul. I'm going to spend the next few blog posts highlighting the foods I got to enjoy while on break. :)

For our first meal in Istanbul, we headed to Paşazade, which was a short walk from our hotel.

We were given bread and three different spreads - one was couscous-based, another was cheese-based, and the third was olive-based. My travel cohort and I wanted something kind of fresh so we shared a veggie salad, which was just cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives tossed in olive oil and balsamic. And for our main courses, D got grilled seasonal fish (they didn't specify what kind) with zahter (like pilaf) and I had papaz yahni, which was a sea bass stew.

For dessert we had the baklava with vanilla ice cream. The baklava was really delicious. The phyllo dough was crispy and light and it wasn't overly sweet. The ice cream had a strange texture - kind of like playdoh - but the vanilla flavor was a lovely accompaniment to the baklava.

To finish, we were given some Turkish delights, which I would compare to Jujube gumdrop candies, if you've never had them.

The waiters were dressed up in velvet vests with stars on them, which we thought was kind of kitschy and tacky. And they were a bit too attentive - which most people would think is good service, but we thought it was overbearing and kind of annoying.

Overall though, it was the perfect start to our holiday in Turkey.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

In college, I used to love eating cinnamon raisin toast with nutella on it. Lately, since I've been on a baking kick and I've been using recipes that require dry-active yeast all the time, I decided to make my own cinnamon raisin bread. You could easily make this a chocolate chip bread by substituting chocolate chips for the raisins and cocoa powder for the cinnamon.

Ingredients [makes two (2) 9" x 5" loaves, this recipe can be easily halved]:
1 package yeast (2 teaspoons)
2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees, no warmer)
1 teaspoon sugar

5 cups flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raisins
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Prep time: 30 minutes
Rise time: 1 hour x 2
Bake time: 40 minutes
Start by blooming the yeast in water with a bit of sugar. Once it's frothy and foamy you'll know the yeast is alive and kicking and you're good to go.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hodduk - Korean Sweet Pancakes

I have an updated post with prettier photos and a convenient recipe page (these older posts don't have recipe pages), if you're interested.

Hodduk (alternate spellings: hoddeok, hotteok) is a Korean pancake with a sweet filling in the center. Typically, it has a filling of brown sugar and peanuts but I'm allergic to peanuts so I substituted walnuts. But you could use hazelnuts or pecans or almonds or leave the nuts out altogether if you're not a fan.

You can find "kits" with the ingredients to make hodduk at any Korean grocery store but I think making it from scratch is easier and I like that you can customize it. Besides, it's so simple.

Makes 4 pancakes:

Bloom the yeast in the warm water with the sugar and let sit for 5 minutes until frothy so you know that the yeast is alive. Mix together the flour and salt to combine and then add the wet ingredients. Stir with a fork or wooden spoon until it comes together then knead by hand for 10 minutes until the dough is elastic, firm, and no longer sticks to your fingers. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with saran wrap, and leave in a warm place for 2 to 3 hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Blueberry Compote

I made another tofu cheesecake last weekend and wanted to make it a little more festive so I decided that a blueberry compote would make it delicious. It's super fast, easy, and you only need 3 ingredients.

Ingredients [6 servings]:
4.4 oz container of blueberries
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon honey
(optional) 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
(optional) pinch of salt (really brings out the flavors)
Add all of the ingredients to a saucepan, stir, and let it heat up over low heat until a few blueberries burst, juices come out, and they look glossy.
Serve over cheesecake, vanilla ice cream, or any other dessert that deserves it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kimchee Jun (Pancakes)

Kimchee pancakes make a great appetizer or snack. My sister and I still fight over the pieces with the most kimchee in them (that rivalry began when we were kids) because they're just so delicious. It's an easy and quick recipe that only takes 10 minutes to complete.

Ingredients [makes 2 large pancakes or 4 small pancakes]:
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped kimchee
2 tablespoons Korean hot pepper paste
Oil for frying

Take all of the ingredients, minus the oil, and stir together until it forms a batter. Add more water if it's too stiff.
Add a bit of oil to a frying pan over medium heat and spoon in the batter and spread it out using the back of a spoon or spatula. Let it cook for three minutes before flipping over. Finish cooking on the second side for 1 to 2 minutes.
Serve and enjoy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fish Tacos

Remember I said I'd do more posts on fish dishes? I love fish tacos - they're fresh, flavorful, and delicious.

1 filet per person - tilapia, snapper, cod or any fleshy, firm, white fish is good
lime juice
4 plum tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 jalapeno
1/2 avocado per person
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vegetable Soup & Sandwich

I love having soup and a sandwich for lunch in the winter. It's hearty and comforting and warms my insides. I especially love grilled vegetables on a sandwich and I particularly love vegetable soup.

Ingredients [serves 4 to 6]:
1 aubergine or eggplant
1 corn cob
3 or 4 kale leaves
1 potato
1 bell pepper
1 zucchini
1 carrot or handful of baby carrots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 cans of vegetable broth (each can is 16 oz)
1 can of diced tomatoes (16 oz)
1 small can of lima beans (8 oz)
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon oregano
5 or 6 basil leaves
lots of olive oil
1/4 cup of pasta (something small that works well in soup)

+ 1 loaf of french bread
+ 4 tablespoons of goat cheese
+ 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
+ 3 or 4 basil leaves
+ 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Monday, March 5, 2012

Korean-Style Pork Ribs

These ribs are an ode to my mom. She used to make these as a treat for my sister because she was a picky eater as a kid. However, my sister did love barbecue sauce so she loved these ribs.

Ingredients [serves 4]:
1.5 lb package of pork ribs
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang)
1/2 teaspoon canola oil (or any neutral flavored oil)
1 jalapeno. halved and sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped

To make the sauce, I started by chopping the garlic roughly and cutting the jalapenos into half-moons. Then I added a little oil to my saucepan along with the garlic and jalapenos. I let them cook for a little bit until the garlic started sizzle. Then I added in the barbecue sauce and hot pepper paste, stirred, and let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes. Because there's vinegar in the barbecue sauce, the jalapenos take on a pickled-flavor and they're so yummy.
Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. And I boiled some water and let the ribs cook for about 5 minutes. Boiling the ribs first prevents them from getting burned in the oven since the barbecue sauce contains so much sugar. After the ribs were done, I drained them and made sure they were pretty dry before dipping them in the sauce and coating them. Then I put them in a foil-lined sheet pan (for easy clean up) and put them in the oven for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through.
The ribs are ready when the sauce starts to caramelize a bit. Dig in and remember to serve with plenty of napkins.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fish is Brain Food

Sometimes after weeks of indulging in my cravings for fries, cholesterol-filled lobster, and decadent desserts, my body needs to recover by eating something a little more waist-friendly (but still delicious, of course). I haven't done much posting on fish - in fact, the only post I can think of is my mushroom risotto which I made with some baked tilapia. But that has got to change because I love fish because 1) it's so delicious and 2) it can offer some major health benefits.
Broccolini (from a previous post), tilapia seasoned with salt and pepper and lemon, wild rice made with butter and chicken stock
My mom ate tons of fish when she was pregnant with me and I've loved fish since the beginning of (my) time, even as a kid. I always say that it's brain food and that's why I was so smart when I was younger. Proof? I started speaking before my first birthday - I mean full sentences - in fact, I used to freak out my relatives; they thought it was creepy that I was so small, yet talkative. I memorized dozens of my bedtime books (The Poky Little Puppy was one of my favorites) so I'd pretend to be reading (and again, freak out my relatives) but I'd also catch my dad trying to skip past a few pages and skimping on story time! And as a two-year old, I was strong enough to lift giant metal containers filled with kimchee. I'd drag it from the kitchen so that I could sit on it while watching television - I don't know why. Anyway, my point is that fish makes you smart, helps your memory, and makes you strong!

As of late, I find my memory to not be as sharp as it used to be (I blame it on a combination of my love of wine and no longer being in school and actively using my brain for learning) and I'm a klutz and I break bones/sprain muscles rather easily. So I think I need to eat more fish this year and come up with some good recipes.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hobak Jun - Korean Fried Zucchini

This is a super easy banchan (side dish) that I love to make when all we have is rice and kimchee.

1 zucchini, sliced
1/3 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Add the pepper to the flour and then coat each zucchini "coin" in the flour. Then beat the egg with the salt and dip each zucchini "coin" in the egg. Heat a frying pan with a bit of oil and fry on each side until brown.

Serve with a dipping sauce.
Sauce: 1 tablespoon soy, 1/4 teaspoon rice wine vinegar, a few drops sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

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