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Twice is Nice: Panang Tofu

October 15, 2010

Last week I was visiting my grandmother in Pennsylvania. She loves
panang tofu, since there aren't any Thai restaurants near her house I
thought it would be fun thing to try making for this round of Twice is
Nice.  I found this recipe from Bon Apetit
Emma's Cooking Notes
Surprisingly I stayed fairly true to the recipe, the only thing was
that my uncle had a lot of nice veggies growing in the garden so I took
some liberty with the vegetables.  There were certain things I couldn't
resist adding like a beautiful acorn squash, and green beans, and fresh
tomato.  I also used fresh chili pepper instead of chili sauce, and
honey instead of brown sugar.  All the panang tofu I've had in Thai
restaurants uses fried tofu, which is so rarely done well, so I really
appreciated how the tofu in this version was just cubed and added to
the sauce.
 Sophia's Cooking Notes
I made this dish the other day and was really captivated by it.  My
mother is undergoing chemotherapy right now, and we are strictly
cooking healthy dishes (not really a deviation from our norm, but we
are even more particular these days).  Through reading books on cancer
prevention, diet has become a major theme in our lives, as we are all
learning from her experience.  Spices like turmeric, garlic, and ginger
are all anti-inflammatory, and we try to use them more and more in our
cooking.  So when Emma suggested this dish, I was more than happy to
give it a whirl.  I used chicken instead of tofu, because we had a
roast chicken in the fridge that we didn’t want to waste.  Instead
of serving it over rice, I soaked wide rice noodles in warm water and
tossed them in the end.  The result was a rich, interesting dish that
was healthy and really satisfying.  The shallots, garlic, and ginger
with the turmeric, cumin, and peanut butter was a combination that I
don’t think I had quite tasted before, and I really loved how they
developed together.  I will definitely be making this over and over.  I
also recommend serving it with the rice noodles.  They might seem
intimidating, but all you really have to do is soak them for a few
minutes, and add into the curry pan at the end of the simmering

Twice is Nice: Ricotta

September 21, 2010
Ricotta, just after the curds have been separated from the whey...

Ricotta is such a delicious addition to sweet and savory dishes-- it has to be one of my favorite dairy products by far.  I don't know why but for years I have wanted to try making it at home;
I also don't know why it took me so long to actually try it-- so I
thought Sophia and I could both make it for Twice is Nice
and see what happens.  If you like following instructions there is a really thorough recipe on Saveur's website for making ricotta: How to Make Ricotta at Home

Also!  We have some good recipes using ricotta in the archives if you decide to try making some too:

Ricotta Toasts with Pink Peppercorns and Honey

Ricotta and Herb Stuffed Tomatoes

Crustless Italian Ricotta Cheesecake

  Sophia'sRicottaSophia'sRicottaSophia's Cooking Notes:

Emma suggested we make ricotta this week for Twice is Nice, and I loved the idea.  I was a bit intimidated, because I had never made ricotta before, but it also didn’t seem like the most difficult process in the world.  I chose to make goat milk ricotta, just because I am a big fan of goat milk, and rarely consume cow’s milk.  I thought it would also be a good comparison to Emma’s recipe.  I used a recipe that said to mix apple cider vinegar with the goat milk after it gets to 175F.  I think that this is because goat milk is more homogenous than cow’s milk, and needs help to separate.  Once I poured in the vinegar, the curds and whey separated like oil and water.  It was like magic in my pot. I ladled the curds into a cheesecloth-lined bowl and let it drain. I was only supposed to let it sit for a few minutes, but I let it sit for a bit longer, which resulted in a dry, more rubbery consistency of ricotta.  I would have let them sit for only a minute or two, to leave them creamy.  The recipe also recommended adding melted butter and baking soda.  I did not do that, and I was happy with my product regardless. Here the ricotta is pictured with slow roasted plums, honey, and almonds.

Stuffed ZucchiniStuffed ZucchiniEmma's Cooking Notes:

I have been looking at a lot of ricotta recipes to see the different approaches to making curds, finally deciding to try buttermilk for my first ricotta making venture.  My
ratio ended up being about 1:3 buttermilk to regular milk. The curds were really fine, I can get a bit nervous and impatient sometimes so at first I didn't think it was working, the milk came almost to a boil and I lowered the heat and took a fine tea strainer and swept it through the pot-- I was happy to discover that it actually did work, they were just so fine that it wasn't immediately apparent- good lesson for me.  They were really tasty and we ended up eating several spoonfuls before I managed to make a couple stuffed zuchhinis with the rest... we mixed fresh herbs and onions with the ricotta and baked them in the oven for a bit.  This has to come with a confession... I really want there to be a reason to make ricotta at home, a reason like "it's so much tastier when I make it at home" but in all honesty-- I didn't notice that much of a difference between mine and storebought ricotta... Luckily trying to make it at home is fun, so that can be the reason.

A Whole New World: Kimchi At Home

September 10, 2010
My First Attempt at Kimchi Jigae

As some of you may already know, I've been a kimchi addict since the sixth grade.  Historically my cravings have been satisfied by semi-regular visits to local korean restaurants wherever I might be (Oregon, DC, Cairo, LA, NY, etc.).  This summer, as money has been a bit scarce and I haven't gone out to eat as much, I have taken to periodically buying tubs of kimchi from the asian grocery store.  A week ago I decided to finally take the plunge and try making it myself at home.  I don't know why I never tried before, I think I somehow thought that it was such a specific and perfect food that to do it right would take some hidden knowledge that no recipe could provide.  Well that was shameful and erroneous thinking because surprisingly my kimchi tasted just as good as any other kimchi.

Inspired by my newfound skill, three days ago I decided to take it one step further and try making kimchi jigae (kimchi stew).  I looked up a few recipes to get an idea of how it's done, then looked up how to make gochujang (korean red pepper paste-- surprisingly easy to do at home), and set to work, making a few additions with things I found in the garden: zucchini and young pac choi.  That was lunch on Tuesday, today is Thursday.  I had the leftovers for breakfast on Wednesday, made up a second batch for my boyfriend on Wednesday night (he said it was better than the one he tried from the Korean restaurant), ate the leftovers for breakfast this morning, and made another batch this afternoon. I realize I might have created a monster, but I don't get sick of it, in fact it's all I want to eat.  In fact, as I write this I'm realizing for the past two days I haven't eaten anything else at all, which sounds unbalanced, but I love it and now I can make it at home.

I didn't follow an exact recipe for anything, but should anyone wish to try here are the rough steps I followed:

Kimchi (I used the "Cut and Jumbled Cabbage Kimchee" recipe from the Kimchee cookbook as my guide):

1 napa cabbage cut up into 1 inch pieces

1/2 chinese radish cut thinly in various cube and wedge shapes

- toss these in salt, cover with water, and let sit for 4-5 hours. 

- Mix together:

1/4 cup fish sauce

1 tblspoon rice flour dissolved in 3/4 cup water (boil until rice flour dissolves, let cool)

2-3 tablespoons each of red chili powder (fine) and red chili flakes

5 cloves of garlic minced

2 inch cube of ginger also minced

-After the cabbage and radish have soaked in the salt water for enough time, drain and rinse, twice.

-Toss the drained cabbage with the sauce and place in a large ceramic container, cover with a plate, or bowl, making sure all surface is covered and there's not a lot of air.  Then place the whole thing in a cool area of the house and leave it alone for 3 days. (This is a quick kimchi, but it tastes great)


Red Pepper Paste

I followed this recipe for gochujang sauce fairly closely I think (didn't measure anything, kept adding til it tasted right).


And finally the Kimchi Jigae... I looked at these two recipes: 1, 2 and this is what I did:

chopped 1/2 an onion

minced 5 cloves of garlic

minced an inch cube of fresh ginger

-I added these ingredients to a pot with a little bit of oil, after it had cooked a bit I added:

half a shredded zucchinni

as much kimchi as I wanted

2 cups of water

a couple spoonfuls of the gochujang sauce

sliced tofu

-Let it all simmer, when it seems thick and tasty add some kimchi juice for tang.... and then enjoy (every day until you're sick of it, or more moderately)!





something beautiful in the garden

July 26, 2010
Morning dew on the baby lacinato kale

I haven't posted anything in a very long time, but I'm finally home in Oregon and feeling a bit settled after so many months of travel.  The last time I wrote I was in Greece eating wild greens, (that trend continues back here where amaranth leaves have been our wild-green spinach substitute of choice).  After Greece there was a whirlwind road trip through Europe- full of food memories both good and bad. High point: trucker's lunch in France.  Low point: Cold can of ravioli at an Italian gas station.  Desperate times...  After the epic drive it was off to Iraq to start filming for a documentary I'm working on about agriculture in the region: more here So because of all that the garden got started a little late this year... but things are finally starting to sprout and bloom. I took the above photo of my young lacinato Kale the other morning because I love the decorative dew drops lining the leaves. Hopefully I will be able to start eating things very soon...   

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