Saturday, March 29, 2008
I'm still unemployed at the moment, and A. has been off to work ALL day, EVERY day since I quit my job. It's me, the dog, and the cat rattling around in our apartment. Technically, this is supposed to be dissertation time, but I can't get out of the kitchen! I've been experimenting with dishes I've already made, seeing if I can make them better, and I've got a few new recipes to try out. So, I redid the vegetable tart (originally posted Sept. 8), and it came out MUCH better. So much better that A. agreed that I could serve it if ever my vegetarian friends come over for dinner.
I also went to Chinatown and bought my own Thai-style mortar and pestle FINALLY. I used it to make laksa, and the results are so vastly improved that A. said I could make it for her Singaporean friends. Heavens! I am improving my leaps and bounds. So, disregard the post of Sept. 24, though I will leave it up, and do this instead (if you have a mortar and pestle):
Rempah (rempah is a shrimp paste):
some dried prawns
2 slices lemon grass
15 slices blue ginger
2 T. belachan
1 T. turmeric
Put everything but the turmeric in your mortar, and with a circular, not-too-forceful motion, grind it in to a paste. When it's all paste-like, stir in the turmeric. This is ingredient #1 for the rest of the recipe.
Now I'm guilty of that thing that drives me nuts in A.'s mom's emails--she doesn't put how *much* of the ingredients to put it. Well, sometimes it's not that important; if you hate bean sprouts, don't put them in, if you LOVE bean sprouts put a bunch in. Either way. I've consistently neglected to put the shredded cucumber on top, but A. hasn't complained about it. OK, onward!
Rempah (see above)
2 C. water (or shrimp stock, which you can make from the heads and shells of the boiled prawns)
2 cans of coconut milk
1 lb. Prawns or shrimp - peeled and boiled
Fishballs - boiled
A handful of mung bean sprouts - boiled
Beehoon (rice vermicelli) boiled and rinsed in cold water
Cucumber (for garnishing) - shredded
Laksa leaf (daun kesom) - wash and shred
Stir fry the rempah, adding a little sprinkle of water now and then to prevent burning. When the rempah is very fragrant (after a few minutes) add the rest of the water (or stock). Stir over medium-low heat. Pour in the coconut milk, stir and simmer. When hot, add the boiled prawns and fishballs. In the menatime, put your boiled and rinsed noodles into three to four big bowls. To serve, ladle the laksa over the noodles, garnish with sprouts, cucumber, and laksa leaves. Serve with chopsticks and a big spoon.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Just in time for Passover--a flourless chocolate torte that I love. A. was not so crazy about this recipe, but I'm going to have to go ahead and recommend it anyway because I'm so pleased with it myself. Having just quit my job under horrid circumstances, I needed a chocolate fix quick, and so I turned to Stephanie Jaworski on the the Joy of Baking website. I love her biscotti recipes, so I turned to her help with my emotional and culinary crisis this week. This torte did not let me down in my time of need. I made a few small changes to suit what I had on hand. Stephanie J.'s recipe calls for an optional ganache, but I didn't have enough chocolate on hand to do that.
1 C. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
9 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped into small pieces
6 eggs, separated
1 C. white sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (substitute: 3/4 tsp. vinegar)
First, separate your eggs--yolks in one bowl, whites in another--and set them on the counter to warm to room temperature.
Chop up your butter and chocolate. Using a double boiler, melt together the chocolate and butter together. Or, if you don't have a double boiler (like me) put a few inches of water in a big pot and your butter and chocolate in a smaller sauce pan, and put that sauce pan into your big pot. It's a little ad hoc, but my chocolate did not burn.
While your chocolate is melting, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 C of sugar for about 5 minutes until it's smooth and light yellow. Add the vanilla and keep beating. Stephanie says to use the paddle attachment on your beater, but I don't have one. Regular beaters did me just fine. Beat in the melted chocolate.
Now, clean your beaters, or get out new ones. In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until foamy, then add the cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is very acidic, which is what your egg whites need to get really fluffy. I can't find it at my grocery store, so I just use three times as much vinegar to get the same effect. Sprinkle the remaining sugar in a little at a time. Stephanie says here to use a whisk attachment, but I don't have one of those, either. Again, regular beaters seemed OK enough.
Gently fold the egg whites mixture into the chocolate mixture. Don't overmix--use a spatula or wooden spoon.
Pour the torte batter into a greased, parchment-papered cheesecake pan. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes in a 350 degree oven. It will rise up during baking, but when you take it out it will collapse in the middle. A. didn't like the way it looks, but I figured I'm eating it, not hanging it on my wall. As far as tortes go, mine was pretty attractive.