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January 31, 2011

Watermelon Cake

This is a no bake, sugarless, fresh cake for my sweet on a special lovely day. This is a Hart to Hart entry for the hearty fun contest from the lovely blog Cuocicucidici. Here's how it's made.

Start by carving an outline of your imagined design on top of the watermelon. Making everything as symmetrical as possible. With this project you will need different knives to cut out the pulp easily without over carving.

Always  carve one design completely before doing the next. Like the seven roses first and then figure out the arrangement of the next which are ten hearts.

Use all three colors of the fruit. The green skin serves to highlight the hearts looking three dimensional. If you carve beyond the white pith you get deeper red.

Finish with simpler or smaller patterns to keep the focus on the main theme which are the hearts.

When done, plan to the present it on a platter with other decorations like carved zucchini leaves, carrot and green daikon flowers if you wish.

Enjoy Amore!

January 28, 2011

Kumquat Candy for the Love of Panna Cotta

The kumquats are now in season, in time for the Chinese New Year. This fruit plays an important part in Chinese tradition, presented to usher the New Year. The kumquat has another name in Chinese that rhymes with gold and luck. The shape of the fruit is a symbol of unity and perfection and the leaves symbolizes wealth. Everyone who eats this fruit will be insured of good fortune, prosperity and happiness. Well, here is your chance to give it a try or at least taste it. I made candied kumquat for the panna cotta, not traditional but very delicious! Here is how to make the candy.

Pick the kumquat and wash them thoroughly then slice them thinly and removing the seeds that you find.

Don't fret if you miss some seeds for they are edible too. I arranged them to look nice before they are candied.
For 1 cup of sliced kumquat boil 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Boil the water and sugar 5 minutes  and add the kumquat and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the citrus and let the syrup thicken a little bit then return the sliced fruits into the pot to simmer for 2 minutes. Put in a jar or bowl and set aside to use for many recipes.
The candied kumquat can keep up to 2 weeks. Enjoy using it on toast or toppings for cakes. I am going to use it on my favorite Italian dessert. I love to make panna cotta because it is so good and easy to make. I will  garnish it with this beautiful candy. By the way, I am entering this dessert for the lovely blog Cuocicucidici's HART-to-HART-MY CONTEST. I hope they like it as much as I like to eat it. I made the panna cotta with 1 cup of whole milk and 1/2 cup of heavy cream boiled with 2 tbsp of agar agar flakes, 2 tbsp of sugar and some drops of vanilla extract. Put into a heart shaped pan and cooled.

This delicious but pale panna cotta will turn to exquisite and bright gold with the candied kumquat.

Enjoy Amore!

January 24, 2011

Pad Thai - Bangkok Street Food Finds its Way to My Kitchen

Incredible and delicious food is relished and experienced far and wide throughout Thailand but the city streets of Bangkok stand out as a foodies' paradise. Locals and tourists go for the delicious and perfectly prepared food and enjoy one of the country's finest dining experience that  is very affordable street level cuisine. The more popular ones have tables and roll-up doors and open-air kitchens where you can watch your food prepared in minutes. I learnt some favorite dishes from my last visit there and my number one choice is Pad Thai. I have seen it prepared and served in a variety of ways and chose the ones I liked the best. Here is how it found its way to my kitchen.
The most popular pad thai is made with tamarind sauce. It is made with 1/2 cup each of tamarind pulp, palm sugar and fish sauce. Boil with 1 1/2 cups of water until reduced to thick soup and strain. You will only need about 4 tablespoons of the sauce for a pad thai for 4 and you can save the rest for another cooking. You can use thick soy sauce and white vinegar if you can't get tamarind. Here are the ingredients you need to cook in this sequence and order I have tried with good results.

Sautee finely diced garlic and red onions in some peanut oil until fragrant then add diced salted radish, all 3 tablespoon each. Stir for one minute more.
Throw in 8 shrimps and sautee for 2 minute then add grilled tofu about 1 cup. You can add more if you like.
Stir fry for 1 minutes more on high heat. Add more oil if needed.
At this point you can add the rice noodles that have been soaked for 20 minutes or so, about half a pound.  Add a cup of water to steam the noodles soft. Toss with two wooden spoons to mix well. Test the noodles for doneness. Then push the noodles to one side to make space for the eggs to fry.

Break the 2 eggs and fry them to make scrambled bits. Then toss with the noodles well.

Add 4 tablespoons of the tamarind sauce and toss. Taste and add more seasoning if needed.
Toss in cilantro, bean sprouts and garlic chives, at least a handfull of each.

Stir and toss a couple more times and turn off heat and mix half a cup of roughly chopped roasted peanuts for crunch. The pad thai is now ready to serve. Here are a couple of ways of  serving  it from one of the most popular street pad thai place in Bangkok.
Scramble 2 eggs and swirl in a hot wok then put a serving of pad thai in the middle and wrap it with the thin omelette.
 Hold down a plate to cover the omelette and flip the the wok to properly remove it without tearing.

Serve it any way you want and garnish it with any raw vegetable you prefer like green onions, lettuce or cucumber. Squeeze some lime juice or sprinkle toasted chili flakes for zest and spicy flavor. Enjoy!

January 20, 2011

Flowers in Winter - A Picture that Grows on You!

There are no flowers growing in the garden in the dead of winter so I had to force it by making them myself for an outdoor party. Finally we have one week of sun in January. We are going out to enjoy the outdoors and pick the flowers and eat them too. Flowers that don't wilt for days or before they do, can stir-fry them in a wok for a quick meal. They are after all carrot, daikon, beet, and radish flowers. The phoenix that is of red and orange carrots will add color to the stew. Here are some of the vegetables I carved for this crowded picture.

The carrot is a year round vegetable and the fresh ones are best for carving. I use a homemade knife that I am really comfortable with. Just long enough to manipulate it and do strokes like a pen.

I love to work with green daikon for its lovely color.  These look more like succulents than flowers, I think.

The watermelon radish is only available from October until early January and is the most colorful of all. They can have different shades of red like ruby or magenta. The golden beets have also very nice yellow hue and the daikon is of course completely white. The red beets are the last ones to carve because they stain a lot. I soak them in water and blot them dry before putting them with the rest.



January 17, 2011

Vietnamese Galantine - Boneless Stuffed Chicken

This is a Vietnamese dish similar to the French galantine but not in taste. This delicacy is actually sold in Vietnamese markets in the same way charcuterie or cold cuts are sold in other countries. Served as an appetizer or side dish with a sauce called Nuoc Cham. I have seen it sliced and arranged attractively on a plater of lettuce with tomatoes and radish roses. It was served with rice and also French bread. The  Nuoc Cham is made with 1 hot red chili pepper, 1 garlic clove and 2 teaspoonful of muscovado sugar pounded together into a paste and mashed with 1/4 of lime, juice and pulp. Dilute with 2 1/2 tablespoon of water and season nicely with fish sauce. I usually make more sauce whenever I'm serving the whole chicken.

This exciting sauce is often if not always served just like salt and pepper at every Vietnamese meal. If you have not tried this yet, make it to suit your taste, gradually adding the ingredients sparingly. It's best enjoyed when made fresh.
To make the stuffed chicken you will need the meat of 4 chicken legs with thigh chopped in big cubes and marinate with chopped 4 garlic cloves and 2 shallots, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 1/2 tsp. fish sauce, 1 tsp. granulated sugar and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. The marinated chicken will be stuffed in a 3 pound boneless chicken sewn and steamed for an hour.

Bone the chicken the easiest way you know how and stuff the bird and seal with twine or skewer. I use bamboo skewers because they are easier to removed when cooked.
Steam the chicken for an hour on high heat. Make sure to line the steamer with any vegetable leaves to prevent skin from sticking at the bottom. When cooked, let cool completely before slicing. Plate it with the garnish the way you like. I arrange it the way I remembered it presented to the table the first time I tasted this.

 Serve with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers or radishes. The best way to eat this by wrapping and dipping everything in Nuoc Cham.


Art is in the Kitchen

Art is in the Kitchen
Arthur Escoto

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Napa, California, United States