Sunny Side Japanese Noodle Soup

Again with the Madhur. Why don’t all my fans stop asking for my recipes and just buy (or get from the library) this seminal, awesome cookbook? I keep digging into it and finding simple, delicious dishes.

That said, I often make changes or simplifications to the recipes, which is what I post here. Below is my version of Poached Eggs on Japanese Noodles (p. 523 of her book), a recipe my seven year old chose for me to cook today.

4 fresh eggs
8 asparagus spears
12 medium white mushrooms
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
8 cups stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
4 – 6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup sake (or dry white wine)
14 ounces udon noodles
8 tender green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut on a slight diagonal into thin ovals
black sesame seeds
fresh ground pink peppercorn

Crack the eggs carefully into a bowl and set aside. Cut off the bottom 1/3 of the asparagus, then peel the bottom half of the remaining stalk. Wash the asparagus spears and cut them into 2″ pieces. Place them in a bowl of cold water; set aside.

Cook the udon according to directions (if the udon is fresh this often means a gentle boil for just a few minutes). Drain and rinse, tossing with a bit of oil.

Wash the mushrooms and blot dry with a cloth. Halve them lengthwise through the stem. Place the oil in a medium stockpan and set it to high heat. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and stir for a minute (this should partially carmalize them). Turn off the heat, then add 2 tablespoons of the stock, 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and the sesame oil. Cover and turn the heat up to a gentle simmer for five minutes. When finished, lift the mushrooms out using a slotted spoon and place in a warm (170 or so) oven.

To the remaining stock add the sake or wine, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for one minute. Taste and correct the seasoning, adding more soy sauce or sugar if desired. Simmer three more minutes and add the carrots, green beans, and asparagus. Set to a low simmer and time about seven minutes or until desired tenderness.

While the veggies cook, poach the eggs. Take a 9″ cast iron skillet and add about an inch of water and a splash of oil. Heat until it’s at an active simmer, and carefully pour the bowl of eggs. The eggs should start to curdle and poach in the water. Cover if desired, making sure the boil does not get too active. Depending on how well you like your eggs done (we like the whites firm and the yolks still a bit soft), remove the pan from heat when they are finished.

Set out 4 large bowls and add noodles, then the stock and veggies. Top with mushrooms, one egg, and garnish with pink peppercorn and black sesame seeds. Delicious!

General Tsao’s Tofu

Not sure if you like tofu? How about tofu deep-fried in a delicious sort of spicy, sweet glazed doughnut? Best served over sticky-rice alongside matchbook carrot pickles. Sliced cucumber and peanut sauce complete the meal.

1/4 cup and 1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup and 1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup hot broth
1 lb. firm tofu
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brewer’s yeast
1 cup vegetable oil
5 -6 chives
6 Thai chilis

In a medium bowl combine 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water. Mix together. Add garlic, ginger, sugar, 1/4 cup soy sauce, and white wine vinegar. Add broth and whisk together. Set aside the sauce or refrigerate until needed.

Slice the tofu into pieces about the size of a domino. In a large stockpot, whisk the 1/2 soy sauce, pepper, and egg. Place the tofu in the egg / soy sauce mixture, mix carefully, and allow to marinade at least twenty minutes. Then stir in the 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1/2 cup flour, and brewer’s yeast. Add a splash of oil to help separate tofu and stir to coat.

Heat the vegetable oil in a cast iron pan over medium high heat. Add the tofu, using a slotted spoon or fork. Fry until crisp and brown on each side, then set aside on a cloth-covered plate to drain.

Wipe out the pan and return to heat. Add a splash of oil and dice the Thai chiles and chives very small. Add these to the warm pan.* When these have heated through, add the sauce and stir. As this warms, add the fried tofu and stir until thickened. Serve immediately.

*You may want saute the thai chilis separately as a sort of choka to pour on top later. The sauce as-is is probably too hot for most little ones.

Basic Sandwich Bread

This makes the kind of sandwich that’s obviously homemade – a soft, tender bread that almost melts in your mouth. Is also very good toasted, in a strata, or used as french toast.

1 cup warm water
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon yeast
1 cup wheat flour
3 – 4 cups white flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 eggs
1 stick butter, softened

Mix the water and cream, then whisk in the honey and yeast. Allow to foam up a bit while you gather the other ingredients. To the yeast mixture add the wheat flour, about half of the white flour, the salt, eggs, and butter. Mix together, breaking up the butter. Add the remaining flour gradually until the whole mass of dough scrapes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. The dough should be semi-firm, with a tacky texture (think the back of a Post-It note). Knead about 10 minutes, adding small amounts of flour as required. Place in an oiled bowl and allow to rise until double in size, 1 to 2 hours. Punch down, divide, briefly knead and place into two oiled loaf pans, or shape into two peasant-style loaves and put on a baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 350. When hot, add the loaves and bake about 40 minutes or until dark golden brown. Do not over- or undercook! Allow to cool a bit in the pans before turning out on a rack. Can be eaten hot or saved.

You Can Do It Dolmas!

We all know dolmas – in America we come across them bottled or canned or in salad bars, grape leaves wrapped around spiced rice often redolent of dill. I’ve never cared for them much but of course, when you can make them yourself you’re much more likely to find the mix you like.

This lovely entree – which can easily be made ahead, or in stages – comes to us by my standby favorite cookbook, Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. The original recipe is on page 394 and is called “Swiss Chard Leaves Stuffed with Sweet-and-Sour Rice”. I don’t know – the title wasn’t catchy to me. However, in reading the recipe I knew I had to try it. I made a few changes and they were delicious – although I am not nearly as good at rolling items like this as my husband is!

For the filling:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup short grain rice
2 large whole allspice
1 teaspoon dried mint
10 pink peppercorns
2 tablespoons dried cranberries, diced small
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 chive, diced small
1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

About 12 ounces fresh Swiss chard
A few lettuce leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Set the oil over medium-high heat in a saucepan. Add the rice and stir until just beginning to toast. While you are waiting, take the allspice and grind using a mortar and pestle; add the mint and pink peppercorns; crush. When rice is ready, add cranberries, pine nuts, chives, and sugar. Cover and cook for 10 to 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Set aside to cool.

Wash the chard leaves. Cut the stem off (you can save for later use), and split the larger leaves, cutting out the vein if necessary. Blanch these in hot water until just wilted. Roll about 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice filling in each leaf, ideally about 2 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Line a cast iron pan with lettuce leaves and arrange the dolmas, packed tight. If necessary, pile a second layer on top of the first. When all dolmas have been rolled, mix the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, and salt; pour over the dolmas carefully. Place a lid or plate on top of dolmas to keep them from moving, then simmer about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature or in the fridge. Optionally, serve with lemon wedges.

Cabbage Rolls, Part Deux

I believe these are slightly easier to make than my other cabbage roll recipe. I can never roll the leaves nicely for the others – my husband does this for me. Rather than leaves, the following are wrapped in a dough similar to calzones and the rice is omitted.

You can make the dough and tomato sauce ahead. After kneading the dough, cover and place in the fridge for four hours to overnight. Remove it a few hours before you want to bake the cabbage rolls and allow to return to room temperature. Then proceed with the dividing and shaping.

You can also skip the tomato sauce and serve with ketchup instead.

I plan to try a vegetarian filling next. Ideas are welcome!

For the sauce:

2 cloves garlic, small diced
2 15 oz. cans whole tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons brown sugar
2 bay leaves

For the dough:

4 teaspoons yeast
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons salt
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I often substitute a cup of wheat)
2 tablespoons oil

Filling:

1/2 head cabbage
1 lb. natural beef
juice of one lemon
garlic powder to taste
salt and fresh ground pepper

In a medium stockpot, saute the garlic in oil briefly. While the garlic cooks, coarsely chop the whole tomatoes and add them and their juice to the pot, along with the salt, sugar, and bay leaf.

Whisk the yeast in the warm water. In a separate bowl, add 5 or 5 1/2 cups flour and salt. After the yeast proofs (it should froth and smell great), add the oil and flour / salt to the yeast mixture. Mix in bowl, adding small amounts of flour until you can scrape the bowl more or less clean. Turn out to a lightly floured surface and knead 5 to 8 minutes. The dough should be relatively firm but still “heal” easily as you knead. In the empty flour bowl, add about a tablespoon of oil. Add the dough ball, turning to coat. Place in a warm, draft-free place and allow to rise 1 to 2 hours.

As the dough finishes its first rise, turn the oven to 450. Wash and dice the cabbage. Add with a bit of oil to a roasting pan and cook, about 15 to 20 minutes until part of the leaves are crisping. While this cooks, brown the beef in a skillet and drain. Mix cabbage and beef, then add garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Set aside.

When the dough is done, divide it into 12 equal portions. Form each portion to a ball, then roll out into a circle about 7″ in diameter. Add 1/12th of the filling to the center of the circle and fold up edges, twisting closed. Set on a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 425 and let rolls sit for 20 minutes or so while oven heats. Bake 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with sauce on the side or poured on top.

(Simple) Mexican Rice

I love the rice at so many of the restaurants around here. It’s fluffy and tasty, something warm and fragrant to stuff into steamed tortillas. My other Mexican Rice recipe is a little less of a “comfort food” item, a little more impressive for guests, and a little more time-consuming to make.

If you like you can add some blanched and diced veggies when you add broth and tomato sauce, or some frozen vegetable mix. Adjust water accordingly.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
12 ounce can tomato sauce
14 ounce can broth

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown. While rice is cooking, sprinkle with garlic salt and cumin. When rice is brown stir in tomato sauce and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Deep Chocolate Brownies

This is Epicurious’ recipe, unaltered. They make a very chewy, dense brownie, and with the size of the pan, rather thin.

I believe there’s no point to owning a double-boiler. I use a mixing bowl over one of my soup tureens.

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
8 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked)
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 large eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 13- by 9-inch baking pan.

Melt butter and chocolate in a 3-qt heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. Whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time until mixture is glossy and smooth.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt, then whisk into chocolate mixture until combined. Spread in pan and bake until middle looks just wet – before the edges are crispy – about 25 to 35 minutes.

Barbecue Tofu Sandwiches

No really. These are delicious, crazily-so.

1 pound extra firm tofu
1 egg
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
1/2 cup broth (veggie, chicken, or beef)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 fresh sage leaves, snipped very small

canola oil
peanut oil, butter, or extra virgin coconut oil

For barbecue sauce:
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Hamburger buns
lettuce & tomato

Slice the tofu to resemble patties – about 3/8″ thick. Combine the egg and yogurt and whisk; add the broth. Marinade the tofu patties for 2 hours or overnight.

Mix up the barbecue sauce ingredients. Heat on the stove to a boil, then turn heat off.

Combine the flours, yeast, salt, parsley, cayenne, and sage. Heat the oil(s) in a skillet on medium to medium high heat. Fry the slices of tofu until golden on each side; drain on a paper towel. Smother with barbecue sauce and serve immediately on fresh buns with lettuce, tomato, and sauce of choice.

Dinner Rolls (or Hamburger Buns)

I couldn’t come up with a name for how delicious these rolls are. I mean they are so incredible. Let’s put it this way: last year I made this huge Thanksgiving meal, the works, and everyone talked about the rolls.

Tonight I made these for barbecue tofu burgers – delicious!

1 cup milk
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup honey
1 medium egg
2 teaspoons salt
3-1/2 to 4 cups white flour
2 teaspoons yeast

In a saucepan combine the milk, butter, and honey. Heat and stir, allowing it to get pretty warm but not hot. In another bowl put all but about a half cup of the flour. In separate “corners” of the flour pile, add the egg, salt, and yeast. When the milk is ready, combine all and stir. Mix in flour until it pulls off the side of the bowl.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Cover the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes. This relaxes the gluten, and allows it to rise slightly.

After resting the dough, form it into small balls (this recipe makes about 8 hamburger buns). Flatten slightly and arrange the balls on a oiled baking sheet or a baking stone. Cover them with a cloth and allow them to rise in a warm place for about an hour. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Chicken Tetrazzini with Broccoli

I have a reputation for always cooking from scratch Рbut in this case, naughty-like, I use the outr̩ yet very common kitchen shortcut: condensed soup. I should point out this meal has tons of sodium, is high fat, and likely bad for you.

1 pound spaghetti or long pasta
2 heads broccoli
2 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream soup (celery, broccoli, asparagus, mushroom, chicken – whatever your bag is, baby)
2 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup butter
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cook and drain the spaghetti according to directions; set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and boil broccoli for five minutes; drain, shock in ice water bath, and drain again. Set aside.

Put cooked spaghetti into 9×13-inch baking dish. Place chicken and broccoli on top of spaghetti.

Preheat oven to 350. In medium saucepan heat together soup, water, butter, and bouillon. Bring to a boil and then pour over the pasta and chicken. Put shredded cheese (to taste) on top and press down a bit.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. You can also make this ahead and cool in the refrigerator. Increase baking time until hot and bubbly all the way through.