Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 02/2010

« May 2013 | Main | July 2013 »

13 posts from June 2013

06/28/2013

~Thai Red Curry w/Chicken, Asparagus & Tomatoes~

IMG_9305If you are a lover of Thai food, you've been enjoying this week on Kitchen Encounters.  I've been sharing what I know about, and my recipes for, three Thai curries.  This means that Joe and I have been eating fare from one of our all-time favorite cuisines, and, if you've never tried Thai food, more specifically Thai curry, hopefully I've inspired you to do so very soon!

It's T.G.I. Thai night here on Kitchen Encounters!!!

IMG_8760Last Friday I posted ~ Demystifying Thai Curries:  Green, Red & Yellow! ~. The starting point for every Thai curry is Thai curry paste, and, in Thai cuisine there are three, which are identified by color:  green, red and yellow.  Each one is a pulverized blend of fresh ingredients and herbs, which balances the classic Thai flavors:  hot, sour, sweet and salty.  This post, which can be found in Categories 8, 15 & 16, or by clicking on the Related Article link below, explains in detail how the three differ.  Once you understand that, you can mix and match proteins, fruit and/or vegetables with a curry paste to suit you and your family's taste like I do!

IMG_8954Curry pastes are traditionally made from scratch in the Thai home kitchen using a mortar and pestle to pulverize the ingredients, which extracts the essential oils and fully develops the flavors.  Let me suffice it to say, a food processor or a blender is not a viable substitute for this ancient tool.  I do have my own recipes for making Thai curry pastes the traditional way, and, I promise to post them in the future!

IMG_9146Nowadays, busy cooks (Thai cooks included) purchase curry paste at their Asian market. That being said, savvy modern cooks and Thai cooks add a few things to store-bought curry to brighten up and personalize the flavor, which is what I'm doing today!

IMG_8913Thai curries are quite easy to make and are a staple in Thailand.  They range in consistency from soupy to slightly stewlike and are ladled over steamed jasmine rice or rice noodles.  In many homes they are eaten on a daily basis and made from ingredients growing around the house.  They typically contain less protein than we Westerners (including me) often add, and, they are an economical, healthy part of the Thai diet!

IMG_9114On Sunday I posted my recipe for ~ Thai Yellow Curry w/Shrimp, Scallops & Pineapple ~ (pictured just above).  On Tuesday, I made ~ Thai Green Curry w/Beef, Bell Peppers & Onions ~ (pictured here).  Today, I'm making my ~ Thai Red Curry w/Chicken, Asparagus & Tomatoes ~ (pictured just below).

All of the recipes can be found in Categories 3 & 13, or by clicking on the related article links below!

IMG_9299Today's red chicken curry recipe, a bit more stewlike in consistency, is one that I was taught to make back in 1993 by a Home Economist from Thailand who was living in State College with her husband Fu.  In the three years that Kanya lived here in the USA, she and I became foodie friends, and, I had the priviledge of learning how to combine Thai ingredients in order to balance the classic four Thai flavors -- Hot, Sour, Sweet & Salty -- in authentic  Thai-style!

Try some Thai:  Red Curry w/Chicken, Asparagus & Tomatoes!

IMG_91682  tablespoons sesame oil

6  tablespoons Thai red curry paste (1, 4-ounce can)

1  cup very-thinly sliced green onion, white and light green part only

2  tablespoons minced, fresh garlic

2  tablespoons minced, fresh ginger

2  13 1/2-ounce cans coconut milk, well shaken (Note:  Shake can to mix the coconut milk.)

6  tablespoons crunchy-style peanut butter

1  tablespoon fish sauce, preferably Squid brand

3  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce, preferably Golden Mountain brand

1  tablespoon palm sugar (light brown sugar may be substituted)

4  kaffir lime leaves

2  cups 1 1/2" lengths tender, fresh, thin, asparagus spears, no woody stalks

2  cups grape tomatoes

1  15-ounce can straw mushrooms, well drained

8 cups steamed jasmine rice (4 cups uncooked rice) (1 1/4 cups steamed rice per person)

1 1/2  cups whole, unsalted, stir-fried peanuts, coarsely chopped for garnish

2  tablespoons additional sesame oil, for stir-frying peanuts

6  tablespoons chiffonade of fresh Thai basil, for garnish

IMG_9182~ Step 1.  Prep the chicken:

2  pounds chicken breast tenderloins, trimmed of any visible white tendons, very thinly sliced across the grain into 1/2"-3/4" chunks

Note:  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves may be substituted with no compromise in taste, but, they will not produce the same fork-tender extra-soft texture that chicken tenderloins do.  If using boneless breasts, slice them at a 30 degree angle into 1/4" slices.

IMG_9158 IMG_9151~ Step 2.  In a stir-fry-type pan, place 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and peanuts.  Over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a large slotted spoon, stir-fry until the peanuts are golden brown. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside until cool enough to handle, then coarsely chop them.

IMG_8778 IMG_8180~ Step 3.  In electric rice steamer, steam rice according to directions. When rice is finished rake through the rice, to separate the grains, and allow to remain in "keep warm" setting until serving time.

IMG_8815 IMG_8808~ Step 4.  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, stir sesame oil and curry paste together over low heat.  When the paste begins to bubble and become fragrant, add the onion, garlic and ginger.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly until the vegetables begin to soften, about 1 minute.

IMG_9191 IMG_8827~ Step 5. Add the coconut milk, peanut butter, fish sauce, soy sauce, palm sugar and lime leaves.  Stir to thoroughly combine.

Adjust heat to a gentle, but steady simmer and continue to simmer the curry, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes.  It will reduce slightly.

IMG_9213Note:  Technically, it is time to add the chicken, then the vegetables, but, at this point I like to turn the heat off, cover the pan, and let the curry steep for 1-2 hours or longer. This really develops the flavor of the curry, and what's not to like about that?  You can prepare this entire meal, just short of the last 15-18 minutes of cooking several hours in advance of serving.  Remove and discard the kaffir lime leaves. Return the curry to a gentle, steady simmer and proceed with the recipe as  directed below:

IMG_9248 IMG_9217                                       ~ Step 6. Add the chicken and stir to thoroughly combine.

IMG_9242Allow to simmer gently, but steadily, until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes or longer.  Be sure it's cooked through!

IMG_9259 IMG_9255~ Step 7. Add the asparagus, grape tomatoes and straw mushrooms.  Once the mixture returns to a simmer, continue to cook until the asparagus is just tender and the tomatoes are just short of bursting open, about 2-3 minutes.  Note:  The cooking of these two vegetables is important. Watch them carefully!

To serve, portion a generous cup of rice into each of 6 warmed serving plates or bowls and generously ladle the chicken curry over the top.  Garnish with basil chiffonade and peanuts:

IMG_9323Thai Red Curry w/Chicken, Asparagus & Tomatoes:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  stir-fry-type pan; large slotted spoon; paper towels; cutting board; chef's knife; electric rice steamer; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides

PICT0004 PICT0042Cook's Note: To learn how to make another one of my curry recipes, which I posted back in 2010 (and a big favorite of many or our Thai-eating friends, go to Categories 3 or 13 to find ~ Thai Red Pork Curry w/Steamed Jasmine Rice ~!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)  

06/25/2013

~ Thai Green Curry w/Beef, Bell Peppers & Onions ~

IMG_9089The Thai curry world is a wonderful one and I've decided to spend this last week of June sharing what I know about them with you.  Joe and I love Thai food.  Over the past 20 years I've eaten a lot of Thai food, researched Thai food, and, developed a nice repertoire my own Thai-style recipes.  My Thai obsession started back in 1993 when I became friends with a Home Economist from Thailand.  In the three years that Kanya and her husband Fu lived here in State College, PA, she taught a series of Thai cooking classes, which Joe and I both attended.  She, Fu, Joe and I struck up a friendship, and their world of Thai food became our world of Thai food!  

IMG_8753On Friday I posted ~ Demystifying Thai Curries:  Green, Red & Yellow! ~.  The starting point for every Thai curry is Thai curry paste, and, in Thai cuisine there are three, which are identified by color:  green, red and yellow.  Each one is a pulverized blend of fresh ingredients and herbs, which balances the classic Thai flavors:  hot, sour, sweet and salty.   This post, which can be found in Categories 8, 15 & 16, or by clicking on the Related Article link below, explains in detail how the three differ, and once you understand that, you can mix and match proteins, fruit and/or vegetable with a curry paste to suit you and your family's taste like I do!

IMG_8913Thai curries are quite easy to make and are a staple dish in Thailand. They range in consistency from soupy to slightly stewlike and are ladled over steamed jasmine rice or rice noodles.  In many homes they are eaten on a daily basis and made from ingredients growing around the house.  They typically contain less protein than we Westerners (including me) often add, and, they are an economical, healthy part of the Thai diet!

IMG_9113On Sunday I posted my recipe for ~ Thai Yellow Curry w/Shrimp, Scallops & Pineapple ~ (pictured just above). Today I'm making my ~ Thai Green Curry w/Beef, Bell Peppers & Onions ~, and, Thursday, I'll be posting my ~ Thai Red Curry w/Chicken, Asparagus & Tomatoes ~. All three of these recipes can be found in Categories 3 & 13, or, by clicking on the Related Article links below!

IMG_8954Curry pastes are traditionally made from scratch in the Thai home kitchen using a mortar and pestle to pulverize the ingredients, which extracts the essential oils and fully develops the flavors.  Let me suffice it to say, a food processor or a blender is not a viable substitute for this ancient tool.  I do have my own recipes for making Thai curry pastes the traditional way, and, I promise to post them in the future!

Nowadays, most busy cooks (Thai cooks included) just purchase high-quality curry paste from their Asian market.  That being said, savvy modern cooks and Thai cooks add a few things to their store-bought curry to brighten up and personalize the flavor, which is what I'm doing today, and beef, with it's full flavor, is a great complement to my chunky, spicy and sweet green curry!

IMG_8978Try some Thai:  Green Curry w/Beef, Bell Peppers & Onions!

IMG_89894  tablespoons sesame oil

6  tablespoons Thai green curry paste (1, 4-ounce can)

2  tablespoons minced, fresh garlic

2  tablespoons minced, fresh ginger

2-2 1/2  cups 1 1/2" chunked green bell pepper

2-2 1/2  cups 1 1/2" chunked red bell pepper

2 1/2-3  cups 1 1/2" chunked yellow or sweet onion

2  13 1/2-ounce cans coconut milk, well shaken (Note:  Shake can to mix the coconut milk.)

1  tablespoon fish sauce, preferably Squid brand

3  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce, preferably Golden Mountain brand

2  tablespoons palm sugar (light brown sugar may be substituted)

4  kaffir lime leaves

8  cups steamed jasmine rice (4 cups uncooked rice) (1 1/4 cups steamed rice per person)

2  cups whole, unsalted, stir-fried cashews, for accompaniment and garnish

2  tablespoons additional sesame oil, for stir-frying cashews

6  tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves, or 6 fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish

IMG_8995~ Step 1.  Portion and prep the beef:

2  pounds steak, trimmed of any chunks of fat, the highest-quality you can afford, very thinly sliced across the grain no thicker than 1/4" (2 pounds of steak after trimming fat) 

IMG_8789 IMG_8781Note:  My preference for steak in this recipe is tender, well-marbled cuts like Delmonico (rib eye), NY strip, and, yes, even tenderloin works great.  I avoid tough cuts like round or flank steaks.

~ Step 2.  In a small stir-fry-type pan, place the additional 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and the cashews. Over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a large slotted spoon, stir-fry until the nuts are golden brown.  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside to drain and cool until serving time.

IMG_8778 IMG_8180~ Step 3.  In an electric rice steamer, steam the jasmine rice according to the package directions. When rice is finished steaming rake through the rice, to separate the grains, and allow to remain in "keep warm" setting until serving time.  

IMG_9006 IMG_9005~ Step 4.  In a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan, stir the sesame oil and curry paste together over low heat.  When the paste begins to bubble and become fragrant, add the garlic and ginger.  Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring constantly until they begin to soften, about 1 minute.

IMG_9017 IMG_9013~ Step 5. Add the chunked bell peppers and onions.

Stir mixture to thoroughly combine.

Increase heat to medium-high.

Stir-fry, stirring constantly, until the vegetables just start to soften, about 3-4 minutes.  

IMG_9037 IMG_9024~ Step 6. Add the sliced beef and stir to thoroughly combine.  

Stir-fry over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the beef is just short of being cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  Beef should still be slightly pink.  Do not overcook.

IMG_9066 IMG_9040~ Step 7. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, palm sugar and kaffir lime leaves.  Stir to thoroughly combine.  

Adjust heat to a gentle, but steady simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes.

Portion a generous cup of steamed jasmine rice into each of 6 warmed serving bowls, ladle curry over the top.  Garnish with cilantro and stir-fried cashews.  Serve immediately: 

IMG_9129Thai Green Curry w/Beef, Bell Peppers & Onions:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board, chef's knife; stir-fry type pan; large slotted spoon; paper towels; electric rice steamer; 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides

PICT0047 PICT0042Cook's Note: To learn how to make another one of my curries (and a big favorite of our Thai-eating friends), go to Categories 3 or 13 to find ~ Thai Red Pork Curry w/Steamed Jasmine Rice ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

06/23/2013

~ Thai Yellow Curry w/Shrimp, Scallops & Pineapple~

IMG_8930This happens to me every Summer:  By the end of June, I need to step away from marinades, dry spice rubs, barbecue and steak sauces, and, grilled food in general for a couple of days. Yesterday, I roasted a chicken and served it with some freshly-steamed broccoli, cauliflower, rice and gravy. "Winner, winner, comforting chicken dinner!"  It was just what the doctor ordered. Today's change-of-pace prescription is for a party in my mouth.  I making a Thai yellow curry!

Thai curry ("gaeng" being the Thai word for Thai curry) is not the same as Indian curry.  "Karee" is the Thai word for "curry in the style of India" ("kari" being the Indian word for "sauce").  

IMG_8913Unlike Indian curries, Thai cooks simmer their curries for a much shorter period of time and use a much bigger ratio of fresh ingredients and herbs to dry spices or spice blends, which get pulverized to paste form (curry paste).  The only two curry dishes in Thailand that are based upon dried herbs and spices are Massaman and Panang curry, and, those are not my focus today. Curry is a staple dish in Thailand, and, in many homes it is eaten on a daily basis and made from ingredients growing around the house.  It typically contains less protein than we Westerners (including me) often add to it, and, served over rice, it is an economical, healthy part of the Thai diet.  There are countless Thai curry dishes and recipes, and, they are culinarily unique because there is nothing identical to them anywhere on the world's table!

The starting point for every Thai curry is curry paste:

IMG_8753A bit about the three Thai curry pastes and curries in general:  Thai cooking is all about balancing hot, sour, sweet and salty. In Thai cuisine there are three curry pastes which are identified by color:  green, red and yellow. To learn about their similarities and differences, read my post ~ Demystifying Thai Curries: Green, Red & Yellow ~ in Categories 8, 13, 15 or 16! 

PICT0047Thai curries range from soupy to slightly stewlike and are served with or ladled over steamed jasmine rice or rice noodles. They all contain a protein of choice: chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, tofu or duck.  They all contain fruits and/or vegetables too. Here are the most common examples:  bell peppers, broccoli, Thai eggplant (not our American eggplant), green onion, mango, pineapple, pumpkin or squash.  It's common for any curry to contain or be garnished with Thai basil or cilantro and/or chopped or whole, toasted peanuts or cashews...

IMG_8789... which, in true Thai-syle are stir-fried.

In a small stir-fry-type pan, place:

2  tablespoons sesame oil

2  cups whole, unsalted cashews or peanuts

Over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a large slotted spoon, stir-fry until the nuts are golden brown.  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool!

IMG_8954Curry pastes are traditionally made from scratch in the Thai home kitchen using a mortar and pestle to pulverize the ingredients, which extracts the essential oils and fully develops the flavors. Let me suffice it to say, a food processor or a blender is not a viable substitue for this ancient tool.  I do have my own recipes for making Thai curry pastes the traditional way, and, I promise to post them in the future!

Nowadays, most busy cooks (Thai cooks included) just purchase high-quality curry paste from their Asian market.  That being said, savvy modern cooks and Thai cooks add a few things to their store-bought curry to brighten up and personalize the flavor, which is what I'm doing today, and, I love the flavor of mild, creamy yellow curry combined with delicate white fish or seafood!

IMG_8978Try some Thai:  Yellow Pineapple Curry w/Shrimp & Scallops!

IMG_87992  tablespoons sesame oil

6  tablespoons Thai yellow curry paste (1, 4-ounce can)

1  cup very-thinly sliced green onion, white and light green part only

1  tablespoon minced, fresh ginger

2  13 1/2-ounce cans coconut milk, well shaken (Note:  Shake can to mix the coconut milk.)

1  8-ounce can crushed pineapple, in 100% pineapple juice

1  tablespoon fish sauce, preferably Squid brand

3  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce, preferably Golden Mountain brand

1  tablespoon palm sugar (light brown sugar may be substituted)

4  kaffir lime leaves

2  cups chunked fresh (not canned) pineapple chunks

1  cup baby corn 

8  cups steamed jasmine rice (4 cups uncooked rice) (1 1/4 cups steamed rice per person)

2  cups stir-fried cashews, prepared as directed above, for accompaniment and garnish 

6  tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves, or, 6 cilantro sprigs, for garnish

IMG_8381 IMG_8387~ Step 1.  Portion and prep the seafood:

24-30 extra-jumbo shrimp (16-20 count), peeled & deveined, tails on (4-5 shrimp per person)

12-18 large sea scallops (2-3 scallops per person)

IMG_8778 IMG_8180~ Step 2.  In an electric rice steamer, steam rice according to the package directions. When rice is finished, rake through it, to separate the grains.  Allow to remain in "keep warm" setting until serving time.

IMG_8815 IMG_8808~ Step 3.  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, stir the sesame oil and curry paste together over low heat. When the paste begins to bubble and become fragrant, add the onion and ginger.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly until the vegetables begin to soften, about 1 minute.

IMG_8834 IMG_8827~ Step 4. Add the coconut milk, followed by crushed pineapple, fish sauce, soy sauce, palm sugar and lime leaves.

Stir to thoroughly combine.  Adjust heat to a gentle, but steady simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

IMG_8853Note:  Technically, it is now time to add the shrimp, scallops, pineapple and optional baby corn, but, at this point I like to turn the heat off, cover the pan, and let the curry steep for 1-2 hours or longer.  This really developes the flavor of the curry, and, what's not to like about that? You can prepare this entire meal, just short of the last 5-6 minutes of cooking several hours in advance of serving.  Remove and discard the lime leaves, return the curry to a gentle simmer and proceed with the recipe as directed below:

IMG_8882 IMG_8865~ Step 5. Add shrimp, scallops, pineapple and baby corn.  Adjust heat to a gentle, but steady simmer. Once the mixture returns to a simmer, continue to cook until the seafood is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Portion rice into each of 6 warmed serving bowls and ladle curry over the top. Garnish with cilantro and cashews:   

IMG_8945Thai Yellow Curry w/Shrimp, Scallops & Pineapple:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  stir-fry type pan; large slotted spoon; paper towels; electric rice steamer; cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides

PICT0004 PICT0042Cook's Note: To learn how to make another one of my curry recipes which I posted back in 2010 (and a big favorite of many of our Thai-eating friends, go to Categories 3 or 13 to find ~ Thai Red Pork Curry w/Steamed Jasmine Rice ~!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

06/21/2013

~ Demystifying Thai Curries: Green, Red & Yellow! ~

IMG_8753Thai curry (gaeng" being the Thai word for Thai curry) is not the same as Indian curry.  "Karee" is the Thai word for "curry in the style of India" ("kari" being the Indian word for "sauce").

IMG_8913Unlike Indian curries, Thai cooks simmer their curries for a much shorter period of time and use a much bigger ratio of fresh ingredients and herbs to dry spices or spice blends, which get pulverized to paste form (curry paste).  The only two curry dishes in Thailand that are based upon dried herbs and spices are Massaman and Panang curry, and, those are not my focus today.  Curry is a staple dish in Thailand, and, in many homes it is eaten on a daily basis and made from ingredients growing around the house.  It typically contains less protein than we Westerners (including me) often add to it, and, served over rice, it is an economical, healthy part of the Thai diet.  There are countless Thai curry dishes and recipes, and, they are culinarily unique because there is nothing identical to them anywhere on the world's table!

The starting point for every Thai curry is curry paste!

A bit about the three Thai curries:  Thai cooking is all about balancing hot, sour, sweet and salty. In Thai cuisine there are three curry pastes which are identified by color:  green, red and yellow.

PICT0047Thai curries range from soupy to slightly stewlike and are served with or ladled over steamed jasmine rice or rice noodles.  They all contain a protein of choice:  chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, tofu or duck.  They all contain fruits and/or vegetables too. Here are the most common examples:  bell peppers, broccoli, Thai eggplant (not our American eggplant), green onion, mango, pineapple pumpkin or squash.  It's common for any curry to contain or be garnished with Thai basil or cilantro and/or chopped or whole, toasted peanuts or cashews...

IMG_8789... which, in true Thai-style are stir-fried.

In a small stir-fry-type pan, place:

2  tablespoons sesame oil

2  cups whole, unsalted cashews or peanuts

Over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a large slotted spoon, stir-fry until the nuts are golden brown.  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool!

Curries differ in how each balances hot, sour, sweet and salty:

Hot comes from green, red or yellow chile peppers.

Sour comes from lemongrass, tamarind, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice and/or lime zest.

Sweet comes from palm sugar, coconut milk and/or coconut cream.

Salty comes from fish sauce and/or shrimp paste.

IMG_8745Thai Green Curry Paste:

"Semi-Hot-to-Hot & Sweet"

Green curry can be and tends to be just as hot as red curry, except green chiles are used in the preparation of the curry paste instead of red chiles.  However, green curry, regardless of the heat, has a definite sweetness to it not associated with red curries, which comes from the addition of a healty dose of palm sugar (similar to light brown sugar).

IMG_8743Thai Red Curry Paste:

"Hot"

Red curry is made from a spicy blend of pulverized red chiles, garlic, shallots, galangal root and shrimp paste.  The red curry paste is made using the same ingredients as the above mentioned green curry paste, with the exception of red chiles in place of green chiles. In Thai households, the proportions of the ingredients are adjusted to suit that family's taste.

IMG_8765Thai Yellow Curry Paste:

"Extra-Creamy & Mild"

Yellow curry paste (similar in appearance to red) is less spicy than other curry pastes.  In addition to coconut milk, coconut cream is sometimes added to yellow curry to make it even richer and creamier. Its hint of sweetness and subtle spice comes from palm sugar and cinnamon.  It gets its color from yellow chiles along with the vibrant yellow spice, turmeric.

Now that you understand the difference between these three curries, you can mix and match proteins, fruit, and/or vegetables with a curry paste to suit you and your family's taste like I do!

IMG_8954Curry pastes are traditionally made from scratch in the Thai home kitchen using a mortal and pestle to pulverize the ingredients, which extracts the essential oils and fully develops the flavors.  Let me suffice it to say, a food processor or a blender is not a viable substitute for this ancient tool.  I do have my own recipes for making Thai curry pastes the traditional way, and, I promise to post them in the future!

IMG_8815Nowadays, most busy cooks (Thai cooks included) just purchase high-quality curry paste from their Asian market.  That being said, savvy modern cooks and Thai cooks add a few things to their store-bought curry to brighten up and personalize the flavor!

The Thai curry world is indeed a wonderful world!

IMG_8978"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

06/18/2013

~ Cooking Broccoli or Cauliflower in a Rice Steamer ~

IMG_8720It's no secret that my husband Joe and I adore Asian food.  For that reason, investing in a rice steamer about 15 years ago was a "no brainer".  I use mine about twice a week, there are many posts here on KE with instructions for steaming rice, and, over the years I've sung the praises of this countertop appliance while teaching many cooking classes.  It wasn't until yesterday, while demonstrating how to make my ~ Easy Thai-Style Broccoli & Jasmine Rice Patties ~ on TV, that I learned some folks don't realize a rice steamer cooks broccoli and cauliflower too!

That recipe can be found in Categories 4,13, 14 & 20, or, click on the Related Article link below:

IMG_8295"The broccoli in your patties is perfect.  How did you cook it?" 

IMG_8178It was a serious question from a member of the WHVL camera crew, and, this is the type of question I love because:  it gives me a pulse for information I've obviously taken for granted that obviously should be shared.  Sometimes, the obvious eludes me.  My grandmother used the phrase, "can't see the forest for the trees" to describe this syndrome.  At times, I am so immersed in the complexities of the culinary world, I overlook how important the simplicities are!

I love steamed broccoli and cauliflower, and, I love them all year long!

IMG_8654These two veggies share a common ancestry:  they're members of the cabbage family.  Both can be carved into florets, with broccoli looking like "little trees" and cauliflower like "puffy little clouds". Both have been grown in Europe for centuries, but neither were grown in the USA until 1925. Nutritionally they both offer a lot, and, while I know raw vegetables provide more nutrients than cooked ones, I like both of them better when steamed, and, my electric rice steamer cooks both perfectly!

IMG_8705Some foodies claim the two can be used interchangeably.  All sorts of things are wrong about a proclamation like that.  When I want broccoli, I want broccoli, when I want cauliflower I want cauliflower, and, sometimes I like them tossed together too, but, if one of my recipes calls for broccoli, PLEASE don't substitute cauliflower and vice versa (unless I say you can).  These two soulmates DO differ in taste and texture.  They deserve to be used appropriately, not interchangeably, and more importantly, one needs to take into consideration what culinary application and cuisine each one of them is being served!

IMG_8646Cutting broccoli into florets (pictured above) is pretty self-explanatory. Begin by cutting the stalk (bottom) off and then slice what's left into desired-sized florets.  

IMG_8643To cut the cauliflower into florets, use a sharp knife to remove the core.  Then, remove the green leaves, then begin slicing what's left into desired-sized florets.  Both of these tasks take about 5 minutes each.

IMG_8670You will need:

1  pound broccoli florets and/or,

1  pound cauliflower florets

Do not steam a combination of both. Steam them separately and toss them together after steaming.

IMG_8196Place enough water in the rice steamer to coat the bottom by 1/4". In my 10-cup Zojirushi steamer this requires:

3/4  cup water

IMG_8671Add either the broccoli or the cauliflower. Close the lid and turn the steamer on.

IMG_8200 IMG_8680Continue to steam, until desired degree of doneness is reached, opening the lid to check on the progress every minute or so after the first 6 minutes of steaming.

Note:  Give the veggies an occasional stir  when you open the lid.  This insures they steam evenly.

Turn the rice steamer off.  Do not allow them sit in the "keep warm" setting because it will continue to cook them.  Using a large slotted spoon, transfer to a serving bowl, toss with a few pats of butter, some freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, and, serve immediately:

IMG_8718Cooking Broccoli or Cauliflower in a Rice Steamer:  Recipe yields 4-6 side-servings of either steamed broccoli or steamed cauliflower.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; electric rice steamer; large slotted spoon

PICT0676Cook's Note:  If you are a lover of raw broccoli, I have a salad recipe that is perfect to serve at your next picnic or barbecue.  You can find ~ Fresh Broccoli Salad w/Bacon, Havarti & Chicken ~ in Categories 2, 4, 10, 17 or 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

06/16/2013

~ How to: Properly Skewer Food for Grilling Kabobs ~

PICT0017The Summer grill season is in full swing, and unless I miss my guess, I'll attend a picnic or a barbecue sometime soon to find the host or hostess struggling and fumbling to keep the food on their kabobs under control, meaning:  keep the ingredients from irritatingly spinning around on the skewers when they try to turn them over to cook them on the second side.  Depending upon the circumstances, sometimes I offer my help and advice, other times "not so much".  When do I? Always when asked and usually because the cook is a novice willing to learn a new technique. When don't I?  When the cook boasts experience while I watch his or her grill go up in flames!

IMG_8601I've seen self-professed seasoned pros screw up their skewers!

IMG_4251Before the actual skewering of the food, here's a bit of "kabobbing" advice:  Determine the ingredients prior to choosing a type of skewer or the actual skewering of the food. Always prep, season and/or marinate your protein, fruit or vegetables according to the recipe directions, keeping your food uniform in size.  If the recipe is unclear (and there are a lot of them out there), error on the side of the food being prepped a bit too large rather than a bit too small, keeping 1"-1 1/2"-sized pieces as a general rule.  Skewer ingredients without overcrowing them on the sticks, alternating proteins with fruits and/or vegetables, to enhance the flavors as they cook.  All grills cook differently, so take this into consideration when following a recipe too.  Remove one kabob from the grill and slice into it, to check it for doneness, prior to removing all kabobs from the grill.  

IMG_8611After you have prepped your ingredients:  Kabob on!   

IMG_8360Choose your weapons:  The skewers can be any length.  The ones pictured here are 11" long. They can be metal or bamboo.  If you are using bamboo, soak them in a bowl of tepid water for about 30 minutes prior to using them.  This will prevent them from catching on fire over the intense heat of the grill. If your skewers are metal, make sure the handles are heatproof. This will prevent the handles from melting to the surface of the grill!

41W5WXTFRML._AA160_Learn the technique: The trick to skewering food so it does not irritatingly spin around on the skewer when you try to turn it over to cook on the second side is: double skewer your ingredients. Pushing two skewers held about 1/2 apart, simultaneously through the food stabilizes it.  This means, you'll need twice as many skewers as the recipe calls for...

IMG_8368...unless you own "double skewers". I invested in a high-quality set of 12 metal ones because they can be washed and reused.  That being said, for convenience, if you're transporting food or feeding a really large crowd, you can buy bamboo ones (pictured above) too!

Another option is to use wIMG_8596ide, flat metal skewers, which solve the spinning problem, but fail dismally with particularly watery proteins, fruits and vegetables, like scallops, peaches and zucchini.  I've also been displeased with them when grilling chunks of beef and lamb too.  While the food does not spin around on them, the metal gets so hot, they overcook these foods in the center. Watery foods end up with mushy centers, and, foods you want to serve rare or medium-rare, end up medium or well done.  For these types of food, choose wide, flat bamboo skewers instead!

On the other hand, the metal is great conductor of heat and is fantastic for proteins and solid vegetables, like chicken and potatoes, that should be cooked through and/or soft in the center!

Are there exceptions to this "double skewer" rule?  Of course!

PICT0008 PICT0005Yes, shrimp are the first exception to the rule. Because they can be threaded onto the skewer at two points, where the tail meets the meat and a second time through the thickest part of the body, they will remain stable with just one skewer.  If your adding other cubed meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables to the skewer with the shrimp, the exception is negated.

IMG_8575The second exception to this rule is long, sometimes pounded/flattened, pieces of meat or poultry, like pork or the chicken tenderloins pictured here.  They can be threaded onto the skewer just like a needle through a piece of fabric!

In my humble opinion, I'd rather be safe than sorry, and, double skewering, whether it be with 2 single skewers or 1 double skewer is the superior way to skewer food!

Whoa Nellie!  Look at these 17" x 1" skewers:

IMG_8628FYI:  "Kabbaba" is the ancient Aramaic word for "to char" or "to burn".  It's no accident that medieval Persian soldiers, who used their swords to grill their food over open fires in the field are credited with inventing "kabobs".  There is no need to double-skewer anything if you are using these.  I am now officially armed and dangerous!!! 

IMG_8523How to:  Properly Skewer Food for Grilling Kabobs:  Recipe yields instructions for skewering proteins, fruit and/or vegetables for kabobs.

Special Equipment List:  metal or bamboo skewers, single or double, flat or round, long or short; protein, vegetables and/or fruit; marinade (optional); cutting board; knife, vegetable peeler, pastry brush, tongs, etc.; barbecue grill

IMG_8381Cook's Note:  I've pictured a lot of shrimp today and I get asked this question often:  Why do upscale restaurants leave the tails on shrimp?  People complain that the tails are an annoyance.  There are three reasons.  #1.  In the event the diner can enjoy the shrimp whole, it serves as a convenient "handle". #2.  The last bite of shrimp, where the meat meets the tail, is the most succulent tasty bite of shrimp.  #3. This is an indication you are being served the best shrimp in the best way possible.  Restaurant chefs and savvy home cooks always adhere to this practice!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

06/13/2013

~ Open Sesame: Asian Shrimp & Scallop Skewers ~

IMG_8523Every time I make this recipe I can't help but think fondly of two of our former tennis friends: Hank and Becky Yeagley.  Joe and I met both of them at the Penn State Tennis Center and we four became great and good friends.  They both biked, hiked and played tennis well into their '80's, Hank coached his granddaughters soccer team, and, when Joe put the grass tennis court in our backyard (a very big deal here in Central, Pennsylvania), they came here often to play a couple of sets of doubles with us on the easy-on-the-knees cushioning that a grass court provides. Over the years, our court has been a great source of enjoyment for us and our many tennis friends. It's seen some high-powered action by professionals, semi-professionals, collegiate coaches and players, USTA officials, tennis teachers and club level league players, but, some of my fondest memories are of Hank and Becky and those relaxing afternoons we spent on and off the court! 

PICT4679Joe just gave our court its first of many weekly mowings (w/a special greens mower) and a dousing of necessary fertilizers.  In two weeks, this is going to be a lush, green carpet and the reason for a lot of fun-filled outdoor entertaining. Whenever we have players on the court, off the court there's a cooler of beverages and snacks in the gazebo. Occasionally, we host an outdoor dinner party afterward too!

PICT4696June 15th is our annual, official: grass court opening day!

Or, at least we strive for June 15th. Due to the past few days of rain, I doubt we'll be on court this weekend, but, I'm going to celebrate anyway with my official grass court tennis season opening-day cocktail. You can find:  ~ June 15th:  It's Time for Mel's "Big Pink Drinks" ~ in Categories 10 or 11!

Women adore these drinks and Becky was no exception.  Because they are pink, men underestimate them, and Hank was no exception. In addition to the cocktails,  I always made these appetizers, especially for Hank, because he loved them:

Sesame Shrimp & Scallop Skewers!!!

Besides being easy to prepare, this recipe, as written, makes a lot, and, I'm posting it as such because it's one of my go-to recipes when I'm having 12 friends for a get-together! 

IMG_837248  extra-jumbo shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and deveined, tails-on

24  large sea scallops

6 tablespoons sesame seeds, more or less

1/2  cup Thai seasoning soy sauce, preferably Golden Mountain brand

1/2  cup lime juice, preferably fresh, but in this application high-quality organic, not-from-concentrate, bottled lime juice works just fine too

1/2  cup sesame oil

1/4   cup minced, fresh ginger (4 tablespoons), about a 3 1/2-ounce piece of unpeeled ginger

4-6  cloves garlic, run through a garlic press (1 tablespoon)

2  fresh limes, sliced in half

additional lime wedges, for garnish

minced cilantro or cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce and additional soy sauce, for dipping or drizzling

IMG_8360

~ Step 1.  Choose your weapon:

The skewers can be any length.  I'm using 11" skewers today.  They can be metal or bamboo. Because my sesame shrimp and scallop skewers get broiled*, not grilled, there is no need to soak bamboo skewers in water for 20-30 minutes.

The trick to skewering food so it does not irritatingly spin around on the skewer when you try to turn it over to cook on the second side IMG_8368is: double skewer your ingredients. Pushing two skewers through the food stabilizes it.  This means, you'll need twice as many skewers as the recipe calls for, unless you own "double skewers".  I invested in 12 metal ones (instead of bamboo) because they are reusable.

*Why the broiler and not the barbecue?  Because the shrimp and scallops will be sprinkled with sesame seeds.  On the barbecue, sesame seeds burn before the seafood has a chance to cook through.  The heat of the broiler controls the temperature perfectly!

PICT0006~ Step 2.  Choose your seafood:

PICT4056Whether I am barbecuing or grilling, I recommend using big 16-20 count shrimp and large even-sized sea scallops.  

Why?  Because in the dry heat of the broiler or the grill, the "big guys" stay succulent and juicy in the center.  Even if you shorten the cooking time, to accomodate smaller shrimp and scallops, dry heat causes them to become rubbery and chewy.

Peel and devein the shrimp as directed above, leaving the tails on.

IMG_8394~ Step 3.  Prepare the marinade:

IMG_8391Peel and chop the ginger into 1/2" chunks and place them in the work bowl of a mini-food processor fitted with a steel blade.  

Using a series of 30-40 rapid on-off pulses, finely mince the ginger (just short of pureeing it).

You will have 1/4 cup (+ or - a bit, minced ginger.  Use all of it.

IMG_8402 IMG_8407~ Step 4. Double two, 2-gallon food storage bags to form one sturdy bag.  Do this because the shrimp tails are sharp and will poke holes in one single bag.  Add the soy sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, ginger and garlic.  Add shrimp and scallops.  Close bag, and toss until seafood is evenly coated.

Place bag in the refrigerator to marinate for 1 hour, stopping to retoss about every 15 minutes. Do not marinate longer than 1 hour as the acidic lime juice will render the seafood mushy.

IMG_8415~ Step 5.  Line 3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans with parchment paper.

~ Step 6.  Remove seafood from refrigerator.  On each of 12, 11" "double skewers", alternate 2 shrimp and 1 scallop.  Repeat, placing a total of 6 pieces of seafood on each skewer.  Place 4 skewers of seafood on all pans. Sprinkle tops with sesame seeds.

IMG_8439~ Step 7.  One-at-a-time, broil each pan of shrimp and scallop skewers, 4-5 inches underneath the heat, until the seafood turns white and semi-firm, about 3 1/2-4 minutes, per side, removing from oven, to turn them onto the second side to broil, only once (7-8 total minutes). Remove from oven, squirt fresh lime juice over the tops and set aside to cool 1-2 minutes, to allow residual heat (from the hot skewers) to finish-cook them to perfection.

Serve with lime wedges, minced cilantro or sprigs for garnish, and, Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce and soy sauce for dipping or drizzling.  Whether you serve the seafood on or off the skewers is your choice.  For suggested accompaniments, read my Cook's Note below and stack 'em up!

IMG_8562Open Sesame:  Asian Shrimp & Scallop Skewers:  Recipe yields 12, 11" skewers of seafood.  If served with accompaniments, this recipe will yield 12 main-course servings.  If serving as appetizers with dipping sauce, this will yeild 18 servings of 4 pieces of seafood each.

Special Equipment List:  mini-food processor; 2, 2-gallon food storage bags; 3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 12, 11" "double skewers" or 24, 11" skewers; tongs (to flip hot skewers over onto the second side)

IMG_8341 PICT0009Cook's Note: As pictured above, I like to serve my sesame shrimp and scallop skewers accompanied by my recipe for ~ Easy Thai Style Broccoli & Jasmine Rice Patties ~, along with some grilled pineapple slices.  

I grill the fresh (not canned) pineapple slices several hours in advance.  I prep the patties while the seafood is marinating, then fry them while the seafood is broiling. You can find this easy recipe in Categories 1, 4, 13, 14 or 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 

06/11/2013

~ Thai-Style Broccoli & Jasmine Rice Patty-Cakes ~

IMG_8284I've been making this easy Asian side-dish for more years than I can remember and the recipe was inspired by no one except myself.  It was born out of my knowledge of and love for Thai food on a day when I was taking some leftover ingredients out of my refrigerator, namely:  cooked broccoli and steamed rice (and not enough of either to singularly yield more than a semi-respectable nibble for one person).  Then it occurred to me to combine them together, add a few Thai flavors from my pantry, bind them together with a beaten egg and saute them in a skillet (in the same manner the Thai folks make their fish cakes).  It was a worthy experiment, because I no longer rely on leftovers to make these and I'm writing a blog post to share the recipe with you!

These aren't true-Thai cuisine, I just refer to them as such because we love them so much!

IMG_0137Like their distant cousin, the potato pancake, my broccoli-rice patties can be served (along with the right topping) as a vegetarian meal or as a side-dish to grilled or steamed fish or seafood.  Under the proper circumstances they make a great foil for a knife-and-fork appetizer as well.  They're pictured below, all by themselves, drizzled with my recipe for ~ Would You Like Sweet Chili Sauce With That? ~.  The recipe  is in Categories 8, 13 or 20!

IMG_82364  cups steamed jasmine rice, at room temperature (2 cups uncooked rice) (Note:  This recipe works best if the rice has not been steamed and refrigerated overnight.)

4  cups steamed and chopped broccoli, at room temperature (12  ounces large, 1 1/2"-2" fresh broccoli florets) (Note:  Chop the steamed broccoli small but not so small that it is unrecognizable as broccoli.)

1/2  cup very thinly sliced green onion, white and light green part only

1/4-1/3  cup minced fresh cilantro leaves (4-6 tablespoons)

4  extra-large eggs, at room temperature

3  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce, preferably Golden Mountain brand

1  tablespoon Thai fish sauce, preferably Squid brand

1 1/2  teaspoons ground ginger*

1/2-3/4  teaspoon garlic powder*

1/2  teaspon sugar

1/2  teaspoon cayenne pepper

5  tablespoons pancake & waffle mix (Note:  This works so much better than plain flour.)

4  tablespoons peanut oil and 2 tablespoons sesame oil, for frying

freshly ground sea salt, for topping finished patties

fresh lime wedges, for topping and garnish

minced cilantro leaves or sprigs, for topping and garnish

Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce, for dipping or drizzling

* Note:  I've tested this recipe using fresh garlic and ginger, but, the result is this:  fresh doesn't cook properly.  The rice patties cook just 3 minutes per side and in that time, fresh garlic and ginger simply don't have time to mellow and exude their flavors evenly throughout.  It is for this reason, I made this small compromise and never looked back!

IMG_8193~ Step 1.  Using the cup/measure from the rice steamer, place rice in steamer.  Do not use a standard Pyrex-type 1-cup measure.  Using the same measuring cup, add two cups of water to the rice.  Briefly stir, close the lid and turn the steamer on.  When the steamer turns itself off, rake through the rice, to separate the grains, transfer to a 4-cup food storage container, partially cover and set aside  to cool.

IMG_8200~ Step 2.  Using a Pyrex-type 1-cup measuring cup, place 3/4 cup water in the rice steamer.  Add 12-ounces of large (1 1/2"-2" sized broccoli florets.  Close the lid and turn the steamer on.  When the steamer turns itself off, transfer the florets to a large cutting board, chop them into small bite-sized pieces, transfer to a 4-cup food storage container, partially cover and set aside to cool. How easy was that!

IMG_8226~ Step 3.  Prep the green onion and cilantro as directed and set aside.

IMG_8209~ Step 4.  In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, soy sauce, fish sauces, ground ginger, garlic powder, cayenne and sugar until smooth. Whisk in the pancake mix to form a drizzly batter. Set aside 5 minutes.

IMG_8247 IMG_8237~ Step 5.  In a large bowl, combine the rice, broccoli, onion & cilantro.  Fold in the batter.

IMG_8257~ Step 6. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside 30-45 minutes.

IMG_8276 IMG_8264~ Step 7.  In a 12" skillet, heat the peanut and sesame oils together over medium heat.  

Using a 2 1/2" ice cream scoop as a measure, place seven firmly-packed 'balls' of rice mixture into the hot oil.  Using your fingertips, lightly press down on the top of each ball to form 7, 3/4"-thick patties.

IMG_8281 IMG_8268~ Step 8. Saute over medium heat, until golden, about 3-3 1/2 minutes per side, turning only once. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.   Season tops with a grinding of sea salt.

IMG_8310Fry the last 5, in the same oil, as directed.

IMG_8295Note:  Do not over-fry or over-brown.  Ideally, these should be lightly-browned and slightly crispy on the outside with dense, moist centers.  They are quite hearty.  

Warning:  Over-frying will result in a hockey puck texture!

Serve warm garnished with fresh ciliantro a squirt of fresh lime juice and a drizzle of sweet chili sauce:

IMG_8341Thai-Style Broccoli & Jasmine Rice Patty-Cakes:  Recipe yields 12, 2 1/2" round, 3/4"-thick, 3-ounce patties, or, 4-12 servings, depending upon how you are serving them (an appetizer, a side-dish, or a vegetarian main-dish). 

Special Equipment List:  electric rice steamer; cutting board; chef's knife; whisk; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop; paper towels

PICT2723Cook's Note: As I mentioned above, broccoli-rice patties are similar to potato pancakes in that they can be served in a variety of ways.  They might come from two completely different cultures, but they're equally delicious and satisfying!  

My recipe for ~ Leftover Ham? Please Pass the Ham and Potato Pancakes ~ can be found in Category 9!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 

06/09/2013

~ Rainy Day Sunday Fun: Deep-Fried Strawberries ~

IMG_8169The weather forecasters have been spot-on this weekend.  It's been raining since Friday and we've been told the skies aren't going to start to clear until Tuesday afternoon.  This means I've had to switch blogging gears from outdoors to indoors for a few days.  Joe suggested we deep-fry some chicken wings for our weekly Mad Men dinner this evening.  I got the deep-fryer off the shelf and filled it with fresh, clean oil while he took the short drive to Sam's Club to pick up a big package of wings.  When he got home, he put the wings on the counter, then placed a 2-pound box of strawberries down beside it.  I giggled when I saw the strawberries and the wings sitting next to the deep-fryer because it conjured up a unique, blast-from-my-past foodie memory:  

Something my mother never taught me!

Be still my heart:  Batter-Dipped, Deep-Fried Strawberries!

IMG_8122I wish I remembered more specifics, but, my encounter with deep-fried strawberries was unplanned, accidental and brief.  It was back in the early 1980's and we were driving through Georgia in a rental car (I was tagging along on one of Joe's business trips) when we started seeing signs for a strawberry festival.  We had some extra time, so we stopped at this street fair full of shady tree-lined streets and lots of friendly people. In the midst of this 'strawberry heaven', I came across a booth with a large gathering of people around it (always a sign that the food this vendor is selling is exceptional).  Five minutes later Joe and I were eating a basket full of batter-dipped, deep-fried strawberries coated in powdered sugar!  

PICT0012May is officially National Strawberry Month, but June is when we start seeing really good ones in our Central Pennsylvania grocery stores and local farmer's markets. The berries Joe brought home today are exceptional:  large, even-sized, firm and sweet.  I just can't resist sharing this off-the-beaten-path (which is how I came across it), out-of-the-ordinary extraordinary recipe with you.  Crispy on the outside, soft and sugary sweet on the inside... the perfect sweet treat for a rainy Sunday afternoon!

IMG_80022  dozen, large, 1 1/2"-2", firm, ripe, not over-ripe, strawberries

1  cup pancake & waffle mix, for dredging

1 1/2  cups pancake & waffle mix, for batter

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/4  cups tonic water or club soda, plus up to an additional 1/2 cup (Note:  I like the tangy flavor the quinine in the tonic water adds to the batter.)

IMG_8006corn or peanut oil, for deep-frying

confectioners' sugar, for dusting finished strawberries

freshly whipped cream, for dipping fried berries into (optional)

~ Step 1.  Rinse the berries, pat them dry in paper towels and arrange them in a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish that has been lined with 3-4 layers of additional paper towels.

IMG_8010~ Step 2.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the 1 1/2 cups of pancake mix, sugar and tonic water, until a smooth, drizzly batter is formed.

Set the mixture aside for about 3-5 minutes, to allow the batter to thicken.

Add additional tonic water, only if necessary, until the batter is drizzly again.  How easy was that!

IMG_8025~ Step 3.  Place 1 cup of pancake mix in a small mixing bowl.

IMG_8028Working in batches of 6, raise the leaves up off the surface of each of 6 berries and place a skewar through the center of the hull deep into the center. Dredge in pancake mix, without coating the leaves.  Shake, to allow excess mix to fall back into the bowl.  Note: Keeping the leaves uncoated makes for a prettier end presentation.

IMG_8044 IMG_8043~ Step 4. Dip the first dredged berry into the batter. Once again, give it a shake to allow excess batter to drip back into the bowl. Again, and for the same reason, do not coat the green leaves.  It's time to deep-fry.  Read the following technical (technique) directions (Steps 5 & 6) carefully:

IMG_8075~ Step 5.  Slowly and gently lower the strawberry into the basket of a deep-fryer of oil that has been preheated to 360 degrees according to manufacturer's instructions.  As you batter-dip and add each one, twirl the skewer in your fingertips to swirl the strawberry around in a circle for about 5-6 seconds.  This will result in an even coating on your berries. Close fryer lid and cook all six until golden, about 2 1/2-3 minutes. Remove fry basket from fryer. Using the skewers as handles, transfer berries from fryer to the paper-towel lined baking dish.

IMG_8103~ Step 6.  Repeat this process until all strawberries are deep-fried, removing and reusing the skewers as you go.  While one batch is frying, skewer and dredge another. One-at-a time, dip each berry into the batter just prior to lowering it into the deep-fryer and swirling it in the the oil (as directed above). Repeat this process, working in batches of 6 berries each, until all berries are coated and fried.  Dust each batch of deep-fried strawberries with a light coating of powdered sugar as they come out of the deep-fryer and serve ASAP.

These are like eating strawberry pancakes only with more strawberry than pancake...

... I like them with warm Vermont maple syrup for breakfast or brunch!!!

IMG_8122Rainy Day Sunday Fun:  Deep-Fried Strawberries:  Recipe yields enough batter to coat 2 dozen large, 2"-2 1/2" strawberries.

Special Equipment List:  13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; paper towels; 12, 6" wooden skewers; deep-fryer

PICT0026Cook's Note:  For another one of my unique and delicious strawberry and chicken pairings, you might want to try ~ Quesadillas:  Grilled Guajillo Chile Chicken Thighs w/Vidalia Onions, Black Beans & Queso Fresco ~ topped with my recipe for ~ Sweet Heat: Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Sauce, or:  Summer Strawberries Never Tasted Sooooo Good! ~.  Both recipes can be found in Category 13 or 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

06/07/2013

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (6/07/13) ~

Culinary Q & A #2TGIF.  I don't usually start my Friday Culinary Q&A's with this cliche, but, in the case of today, I mean it: Thank God It's Friday.  Joe has decided to come home from the office early, it is going to rain off-an-on all weekend and we are going to relax after a most hectic, but productive week:  I shot my 42nd Kitchen Encounters episode for WHVL-TV, Joe planted both of our vegetable gardens, cut and lined our tennis court, and, we got the HVAC for our house fixed!

PICT4679Executing all of these tasks in the span of 4 1/2 days took quite a bit of schedule juggling and with them behind us, we are now looking forward to some fun Summer tennis get-togethers and the fresh produce those gardens are going to supply. Now, before I put my feet up, watch a few movies and listen to the raindrops fall, this question got e-mailed to me from a reader and I chose it for this week's Friday Q&A!

PICT3963Q.  Audry says and asks:  I'm not a highly-skilled cook, but, I like to cook and because of your step-by-step pictures, I would try to make almost anything you post.  My in-laws are coming for Father's Day. They love seafood and my father-in-law loves scallops. I've never bought or eaten them.  What should I buy and how should I cook them?

Also, why don't more websites post step-by-step photos?  Don't they know what a big help it is

PICT3972 PICT3467 PICT3494A.  Kitchen Encounters: Thank-you for the nice compliment Audry.  I've always believed that a picture is worth a thousand words, and, when it comes to cooking, step-by-step photos are worth much more.  They are an essential tool for teaching and learning.  Sites that do not post them often times do not post their own recipes, or worse, don't want to take the time to take the photos.  Then, there are others (usually published authors) who whine about bloggers like myself who do the work their publishers won't pay for (step-by-step photos), which is stealing their thunder (and losing them revenue because, nowadays, people want more than just a pretty picture, a list of ingredients and a few vague directions to accompany a recipe.)  Photos don't cost money, photographers do.  Bloggers don't hurt published authors, published authors who have never done anything but churn out cookie-cutter recipes with no heart and soul attached to them hurt themselves.  Photographing the actual cooking process of a dish is very time consuming, and, a lot of extra work, but, it pays off in the end.  It's gratifying to know that going the extra-mile for my readers is appreciated!

Bottom line:  Tested recipes with step-by-step photos are indeed a higher-end publication.

PICT4056Scallops are shellfish, mechanically similar to clams, and the round part we all eat is the abductor muscle that hinges the two shells together. Because they do not survive long out of water, they are sold shucked.

Bay scallops, (the small ones) are about 1/2" in diameter and come about 100 to the pound.  Sea scallops, about 1 1/2" in diameter, come about 30 to the pound.

They both range from pale ivory to creamy pink in color, and, when properly cooked produce sweet, succulent meat, with the small bay scallop being slightly sweeter.  As with all fish and shellfish, they should be kept refrigerated and used within one or two days of purchasing.

PICT4032Scallops are at their best when cooked as briefly as possible and are best suited for simple cooking methods like sauteeing, broiling or poaching, although breading and deep-frying is quite good too.

I like and use both bay and sea scallops, but (for the most part) don't ever use them interchangeably:

I add the small bay scallops to seafood soups and stews or poach them and serve them chilled on or in seafood salad.  

As for the large sea scallops (pictured here), I like to broil or saute them and serve them as a main course.  My general rule is "keep in simple", meaning:  no heavy breading or overpowering sauces, which, in my opinion, just mask their delicate, sweet flavor.

Audry, since this is your 'maiden voyage' cooking scallops, might I suggest you make your father-in-law my recipe for ~ Broiled Wild Sea Scallops w/Broiled Brown Butter ~.  You can find the recipe in Categories 3, 20 or 21.  This recipe is easy to prepare and elegant to eat!

PICT3574Enjoy your weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away... or e-mail me directly!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipes, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

06/05/2013

~ Avocado Cups Filled w/Asian-Twisted Tuna Salad ~

IMG_7925My longtime girlfriend and fellow foodie Patricia told me about this recipe this past Saturday. Whenever we two get-together for a cocktail, a portion of the conversation always revolves around food, local foodie news, and, what we've been cooking in our two kitchens.  We know each others foodie likes and dislikes inside and out.  We agree on almost all things foodie, and even when we don't, we disagree with pause, because we know it's just a matter of personal taste.  Pat noticed a bowl of avocados on my countertop and told me about a "spoofy little avocado-tuna salad" she's become addicted to.  Whenever Pat says, "Mel I know your gonna love this", I proceed to giving whatever it is a try at the earliest possible date.  Today is that date!

IMG_7903I did give the original recipe a "tweeking", and, after Pat reads my thought process, I don't think she is going to have a problem with it. The original, from a cookbook she owns, used diced red onion and jalapeno pepper, and, none of the flavorful lime zest.  I chose to use green onion, wasabi paste and all of the zest, because I wanted a clean sweep of authentic Asian flavor throughout.   I mixed my wasabi and lime zest with the mayo to concoct:

Wasabi-Lime Mayonnaise!

If you're a lover of Asian flavors, avocado & tuna salad...

... don't wait 10 minutes to try this 10-minutes-to-make meal!

IMG_78851  12 1/2-ounce can solid white tuna, packed in water, well-drained and broken into chunks, your favorite brand (2 cups of chunked tuna) (Note:  It goes without saying that if you have some leftover rare-grilled Ahi tuna, it would be a fabulous substitution in this recipe.)

1  cup peeled, seeded and diced 'seedless' cucumber

1/3  cup very-thinly sliced green onion, white and light green part only (5-6 tablespoons), reserve green tops for garnish 

1/4  cup minced cilantro leaves, no stems included

3  tablespoons mayonnaise

1-2  tablespoons wasabi paste, more or less, to taste (Japanese horseradish)

zest & juice of 1 lime, add 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice to the tuna salad & reserve the rest

1  tablespoon Thai seasoning soy sauce

1/4-1/2  teaspoon sugar (optional) (Note:  Pat likes it without, I like it with.)

1  teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

3  ripe Hass avocados, sliced in half and pitted, to form 6 avocado cups

freshly ground sea salt

additional toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

very-thinly sliced green onion tops, for garnish

Thai pickled ginger, for accompaniment (optional)

IMG_7898 IMG_7893~ Step 1.  In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon of Wasabi paste. Continue adding Wasbi paste until you get a zippy tang that suites you.

6a0120a8551282970b0192aa3a7bfd970d-320wiZest and juice the lime.  Add the zest to the mayo mixture.  Set juice aside.

IMG_7918 IMG_7910~ Step 2. Prep and place all ingredients (except for the avocados and garnishes) in a large bowl as you work.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold until mixture is thoroughly combined, being careful to keep the tuna in large chunks.  Transfer to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate, 1-2 hours or overnight.

PICT4952~ Step 3.  Slice the avocados from pole to pole (lengthwise around the perimeter).  Give the two halves a gentle twist, to separate them.  The pit (which in reality is a seed that can be planted to grow an avocado tree and is another blog post) is easily removed by holding the pitted half of the avocado securely in the palm of your hand.  Using a chef's knife, give the pit a somewhat forceful tap with the center of the knife blade.  Then, one gentle twist of the knife and voila:  the pit is out.

~ Step 4.  Do not remove the peel from the avocados.  Place the "avocado cups" on six plates. Paint the tops with the remaining lime juice and top with a VERY light grinding of sea salt. Portion 1/2 cup of chilled tuna salad on top of each.  Garnish with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onion tops.  Enjoy a most delightful, refreshing Summertime lunch.

'Avocado green' never tasted so good!

IMG_7930Avocado Cups Filled w/Asian-Twisted Tuna Salad:  Recipe yields 3 cups of tuna salad and 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  colander (for draining tuna); cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; large rubber spatula; 1-quart size food storage container w/tight fitting lid; pastry brush

IMG_4783Cook's Note:  Much like its cousin egg salad, tuna salad is often referred to as the "mainstay of everyones childhood" or the "lunch staple of the office generation". Almost all of us can relate to that!

My recipe for ~ Creamy, Chunky & Crunchy "Classic" Tuna Salad ~ is in Categories 2, 14, 20, and, to get my recipe for ~ Simplicity: Creamy, Crunchy "Classic" Egg Salad ~ just click on the Related Article link below! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

06/03/2013

~ Please Pass the Bourbon Burger 'n Steak Sauce ~

IMG_7802Joe and I both love a high-quality, perfectly-grilled, rare- medium-rare steak that can hold its own on a plate without embellishments.  I'm the rare part of the equation, Joe is the medium-rare part.  That being said, we both like steak sauce too, however, our approach to saucing steak differs.  When I eat a great steak, I want the sauce in a bowl to the side.  I'm what is known as a "dipper".  Sometimes I want to savor just the succulent meat, and, sometimes I want to plunge it into the warm sauce.  When Joe eats a great steak, he wants sauce on top of it.  Joe is what's known as a "drizzler".  Joe likes each bite of steak commensurably covered with sauce!

It's June!  Start your steak-lovin' grillin' engines...

PICT2640 PICT2616Put on your steak grillin' apron!

PICT2605Choose one and grill it!

PICT2726~ Mel's Top 5 Tips for: Grilling 5 Perfect Steaks ~ is in Category 10 or 15! 

... and making steak sauce is easier than deciding what to buy!

0604131006One walk through the steak sauce isle of the grocery store is proof of that.  Joe took this photo in one of our Giant Food Stores just this morning.  I won't lie, four of these have earned a permanent place on the condiment shelves on the door of my refrigerator (pictured in the Cook's Note below).  In addition to these, I do have a few go-to steak sauce recipes in my repertoire and this one is my spin on a recipe published by the Weber Grill folks!

IMG_7718

 

3-4  tablespoons butter (3 tablespoons if using a round-sided saucier, 4 tablespoons if cooking in a flat-bottomed saucepan

1  cup finely-diced yellow or sweet onion

2  large garlic cloves, run through a garlic press

1 1/2  cups chili sauce (1 1/2, 12-ounce bottles chili sauce)

1/2  cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4  cup bourbon whiskey, your favorite brand

1/4  cup white rice vinegar

3  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce

1  tablespoon Chinese hot mustard

3  tablespoons firmly-packed dark brown sugar

IMG_7558 IMG_7556~ Step 1. Melt the butter over low heat. Add the diced onion and pressed garlic.  Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very soft and just beginning to brown, about 6-8 minutes.  Do not over-brown the onion or the garlic.

IMG_7722 IMG_7727~ Step 2. Add all of the remaining ingredients as listed. Stir to thoroughly combine.  

IMG_7739Adjust heat to a slow, gentle, but steady simmer and continue to cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally...  

IMG_7762... the sauce will be reduced, deep in color and nicely thickened.

IMG_7598~ Step 3. Turn the heat off, cover the pan and allow mixture to steep for 1-3 hours, to allow all of the flavors to marry.  This is an important step. Trust me, the longer this sauce steeps, the better it gets!

IMG_7771~ Step 4.  Technically, the warm sauce is ready to use, but, if you don't like your sauce with a slightly-chunky consistency, which my family insists I don't mess with, feel free to transfer the mixture to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  With motor running, process until pureed and smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a food storage container and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.  Gently reheat on stovetop or in microwave prior to serving!  Yum-a-licious... 

IMG_7830Please Pass the Bourbon Burger 'n Steak Sauce:  Recipe yields 2-2 1/4 cups.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; garlic press; 3-quart saucier w/lid, or a 3-4-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; food processor (optional); 2-cup food storage container

PICT0005Cook's Note:  Always keep food safety in mind.  My post ~ "Refrigerate After Opening?"  In My Opionion... Yes! ~, is one you should read and is in Categories  8, 15 & 16.  Thanks for listening!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commmentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

06/01/2013

~ Kansas City BBQ Sauce: Sweet, Spicy & Smokey~

IMG_7624I'm a sauce-a-holic.  I think almost everything tastes better with a perfectly executed sauce on top of it, underneath it or to the side of it.  In the culinary world, I think a saucier (a person who has devoted themself to the art and science of saucemaking) is the most valuable person in the kitchen.  Simmer down... think about it a moment.  From appetizers to desserts in every cuisine, a simple or sophisticated sauce not only enhances food, it'll mask a minor mishap or a mistake!

IMG_7538Yesterday, my husband grilled three racks of baby-back spareribs.  Trust me when I tell you, he had no mishaps and made no mistakes.  They were perfectly executed:  crispy on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth tender on the inside with just the right to-the-tooth chew-off the bone too...  

PICT0002... spot-on and seriously perfect!  

PICT0009First, the rubbery silverskin was corrrectly removed from the back of them, then, they were were seasoned with ~ Jesse's Smokin' Rib Rub a la Jesse's Mom (Mel) + (My Tips and Techniques for Gas Grill Smoked Ribs ~.   Pretty much everything I know about grilling ribs is in this post and you can find it in Categories 8, 10, 15 & 17!

Joe's ribs were a masterpiece & deserved a KC-style BBQ sauce!

IMG_7684Kansas City has a style of barbecue all its own.  It evolved from the Kansas City, MO, barbecue pit of Henry Perry in the early 1900's.  He operated his business out of a trolley barn located at 19th and Highland Street in an African-American neighborhood.  Perry served slow-cooked ribs on pages of newsprint for 25 cents a slab. Perry was a native of the Memphis, TN area, which is why Kansas City and Memphis barbeque styles ended up being so similar:   Meat, poultry and even fish is smoked at a low heat for a long period of time over a variety of woods and then covered with a thick, tomato- and molasses-based sauce.  

The biggest difference between the two styles sometimes seems subtle to outsiders like me, but highly-recognizable to Kanses City locals:

KC-style lovers use quite a bit more sauce than Memphis-style lovers , and KC-style sauce is the perfect balace of sweet and spicy.  It leaves you with a pleasing, peppery afterglow in the back of your mouth, and, because it spends so much time at the barbecue being slathered on the finshed meat as it comes off the fire, it takes on a hint of smoke flavor too.  Here's a rundown of what goes into most homemade versions and my family's ultimate favorite concoction:

IMG_7550

3-4  tablespoons butter (3 if using a round-sided saucier, 4 if cooking in a flat-bottomed saucepan)

1  cup finely-diced yellow or sweet onion

2-4  large cloves garlic, run through a garlic press

1  12-ounce bottle chili sauce (1, 12-ounce bottle = 1 cup chili sauce)

1  cup ketchup

6  tablespoons full-flavor molasses

6  tablespoons firmly-packed dark brown sugar

6  tablespoons apple-cider vinegar

2  tablespoons yellow mustard

1  tablespoon chili powder

1/2  teaspoon smoked paprika

1  teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/4-1/2  teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, to taste

1/4-1/2  teaspoon hickory-flavored liquid smoke, to taste

IMG_7558 IMG_7556~ Step 1. Melt the butter over low heat. Add the diced onion and pressed garlic.  Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very soft and just beginning to brown, about 6-8 minutes.  Do not over-brown the onion or the garlic.

IMG_7573~ Step 2.  Add all of the remaining ingredients, as listed, but, when you get to the cayenne pepper and liquid smoke, only add 1/4 teaspoon of each initially.  Stir to thoroughly combine.

Note:  After the sauce has simmered for 15 minutes, taste and add more of either or both the cayenne and liquid smoke, to taste.

IMG_7579~ Step 3.  Adjust heat to a slow, gentle, but steady simmer and continue to cook for 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning, as directed above, after 15 minutes.  

IMG_7598Turn the heat off, cover the pan and allow mixture to steep for 1 hour, to allow all of the flavors to marry.

IMG_7600~ Step 4.  Technically, the warm sauce is ready to use, but, if you don't like your sauce with a slightly-chunky consistency, which my family insists I don't mess with, feel free to transfer the mixture to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  With motor running, process until pureed and smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a food storage container, store in the refrigerator (up to 2 weeks) and gently reheat prior to serving!

Tonight we're slathering it on Joe's perfectly-grilled chicken:

IMG_7643Mel's Homemade Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce:  Recipe yields 3 cups.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; garlic press; 3-quart saucier w/lid, or a 3-4-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; food processor (optional); 1-quart food storage container

PICT0023Cook's Note:  For one of my fruity-flavored BBQ sauce recipes, check out ~ Sweet Heat:  Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Sauce, or:  Summer Strawberries Never Tasted Sooooo Good! ~ in Categories 6, 8, 13, 20 or 22, or, for one of my savory BBQ sauce recipes:

6a0120a8551282970b014e8859dfc0970d-800wi~ Mel's Spicy Honey-Mustard BBQ Sauce for Pork ~ is in Cats. 8, 10 & 22! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 3013)