Monday, May 31, 2010

The Spinach Twins

In the past couple of weeks, Porgy and I have been watching Julia Child's The French Chef DVDs that we checked out from the library. One of the episode on the 1st DVD is called Spinach Twins - where Julia Child and Simone Beck made a Frenchified Spinach, Mushroom and Ham Turnover.

Since there was no recipe on the DVD or on the PBS website and I could not find one anywhere online, I had to watch the episode a couple of time to make sure that I got the recipe down. At the end I decided to improvise a little bit since I did not want to have the cream sauce on the side and, since I dethawed both puff-pastry dough (by mistake), I doubled the ingredients and ended up with two very delicious Spinach Turnover.

2 16oz frozen chopped spinach, dethawed and drained well
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 to 1.5 cup heavy cream
2 garlic, finely minced
8 oz Crimini mushroom, quartered
8 oz ham, cubed
1.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 egg

  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Saute the garlic and mushroom with 2 tablespoons of butter for 8-10 minutes. Set aside.
  • Saute the ham with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 5 minutes or so. Set aside.
  • Squeeze the water out of one handful of spinach at a time. Make sure the spinach is well drained so it won't make the puff pastry soggy. Set aside.
  • Saute the chopped onion with 2 tablespoons of butter for 8-10 minutes until a little bit caramelized.
  • Lower the heat, add in the flour and milk and stir vigorously with a wire-whisk. Keep mixing until the mixture is boiling and thicken up.
  • Add in the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well.
  • Add in the heavy cream, a little at a time while whisking until the cream sauce is not too thick. I think I used about 1 cup of heavy cream.
  • Add the grated Gruyere cheese and mix well.
  • Stir in the spinach into the cream and cheese mixture. Set aside.
  • Roll the pastry dough into 1/4-inch thick on a floured surface.
  • Glaze the dough with an egg glaze (1 egg lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water).
  • Put about 4 tablespoons of spinach mixture on half of the dough, saving 1-inch border.
  • Add a layer of the saute mushroom and ham and then top again with the spinach mixture. Smooth the top with a spatula.
  • Fold the dough over to cover the spinach, mushroom and ham. Lightly press the side to seal it and use fork tighten it.
  • Glaze the top with with the egg glaze and make a diagonal pattern using the fork.
  • Repeat the process with the 2nd pastry dough (if you decide to make two of them). However, if you don't want to cook them right away, do not glaze the top with the egg glaze. You only glaze the top just before you bake them.
  • Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

White House Fruit and Oat Bars

Continuing my attempt to eat and snack healthier, I decided to make White House Fruit and Oat bars. They are perfect for mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks and definitely are better than opening up a bag of chips or candies.

9 tablespoons grapeseed oil, plus extra for brushing pan
3 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup mixed seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
pinch of salt
2 cups mixed dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries, apricots, etc.
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon or cardamom

  • Heat oven to 350 F, line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil, letting a few inches hang over side of pan. Brush with oil.
  • Spread oats and sees on another baking pan and toast in oven just until golden and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes, shaking pan once.
  • In a saucepan, combine oil, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt. Stir over medium heat until smooth and hot.
  • In a mixing bowl, toss together toasted oats and seeds, dried fruit and cinnamon (or cardamom. Pour hot sugar mixture over and stir until well combined.
  • While mixture is warm, transfer to prepared pan, pressing into pan evenly with an offset spatula.
  • Bake until brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack and let cool completely. Using the overhanging foil or paper, lift out of pan and place on a work surface. Cut into bars, about 1.5 inches by 3 inches.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pasta and Asparagus in Mustard Sauce

I got the idea for this mustard sauce from a Julia Child's show where she made a simple salad dressing using mustard. After watching, I thought to myself that it probably make sense to tweak her mustard salad dressing to become a pasta sauce by adding some heavy cream. Since I didn't have any heavy cream, I had to use corn starch dissolved in water. Although it still tasted good, I think it would be so much better if I had used heavy cream.

1 package of dry Penne pasta
1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1.5-inch sections
2 shallots, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 links of sausage, sliced
1/2 cup pitted French black olives, cut in halves
1/2 cup of dry white wine or Vermouth
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of corn starch dissolved in 3/4 cup of water
(or 3/4 cup heavy cream)
salt & pepper

  • Cook the Penne pasta according to the package's direction.
  • Two minutes before the pasta is cooked, add in the asparagus into the boiling water.
  • Drain well and rinse over cold water.
  • In a large pan, saute the minced shallot and garlic with olive oil until fragrant.
  • Add in the sausage and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add in the black olive and the dry white wine and cook for another 3 minutes until the alcohol is cooked through.
  • Mix the mustard and the corn starch solution (or the heavy cream) in a small bowl and add it to the pan, cook until it boils again.
  • Return the pasta and asparagus to the pan and add in the chopped green onion.
  • Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Geesh... I can't believe that it's almost end of May already, time definitely flies by quickly. Although I had been cooking plenty of interesting dishes, I didn't have the time to blog them because I had been pretty busy with other things. Since I kind of feel bad about neglecting this blog (don't ask why), I promise that I'll try to be more diligent.

I had been thinking about Rawon (an Indonesian black beef soup) since I had a small portion of it a my sister's place in Indonesia a few months ago. Here is my family's version of this dish courtesy of my Mom.

2 lb beef stew meat
6 large garlic cloves
10 shallots
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
10 black nut (kluwek), rinsed and soaked in warm water
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1-inch galangal, peeled and bruised
4 kaffir lime leaves, bruised
1 stalk lemongrass
2 bay leaves, torn in half
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1 red chili, cut into strips
vegetable oil
3 green onions, chopped
hard boiled eggs
bean sprouts

  • Cook the beef stew meat cubes in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes to help the meat becomes tender quickly without having to simmer the soup for hours.
  • Take out the meat cubes and save the strained beef broth.
  • Using a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, shallot and coriander seeds in batches with some salt and white pepper. Put the mashed-up mixture into a food processor, add in the turmeric powder, kluwek meat, grated ginger and red chili flakes and grind/puree until smooth.
  • In a heavy bottom pan, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over a medium heat and stir fry the spice paste for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
  • Add in the galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and torn bay leaves and stir fry some more for a couple of minutes or so.
  • Add in the cooked meat cubes, mix well so the cubes are coated with the spice paste and cook for a minute or two.
  • Add in enough strained beef stock (or water) to completely cover the meat plus an extra inch and cook until boil.
  • When the soup is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and let simmer for 30 minutes or so until the spice flavor is absorbed by the meat.
  • In the mean time, you can make several hard boiled eggs and blanch the beansprouts (optional).
  • Add the chopped green onions and red chili strips and adjust seasoning by adding salt, pepper or palm sugar accordingly.
  • Serve over rice with halved hard boiled eggs, blanched beansprouts and shrimp crackers (if you have any).

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Meatballs and Spaghetti

Since I have been nothing but Asian dishes in the past couple of weeks, I decided to be nice to Porgy and make him Meatballs and Spaghetti using Ina Garten's recipe. Instead of using a mix of ground beef, pork and veal, I used half ground pork and half breakfast sausage from Fatted Calf and added some chopped basil to the meatball mix and to the sauce.


For the meatballs:

1 pound ground pork
1 pound uncooked breakfast sausage
1 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan

  • Place the ground meats, bread crumbs, parsley, basil, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork.
  • Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 18-20 meatballs.
  • Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil.
  • Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs.
  • Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.
  • For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  • Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  • Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.
  • Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and top with grated Parmesan.

Sour Cream Banana Bread

Since I had a few very ripe bananas and some left over sour cream that needed to be used as soon as possible, I made this Sour Cream Banana Bread using a recipe from Although it is a little bit simpler than my previous banana bread post because it does not have any chopped toasted walnuts or brown sugar crumb toppings, it still tastes pretty darn delicious.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/4 cups)
1/2 cup sour cream

  • Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
  • Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter and dust it with flour, tapping out the excess.
  • Whisk together 2 1/4 cups flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl to aerate and break up any lumps. Set aside.
  • Place sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes.
  • Add bananas and sour cream and mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
  • Turn batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, the top is golden brown, and the bread is pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Slide a knife around the perimeter of the pan, invert to release the bread, and cool completely on the wire rack before serving.
  • Note: I used an additional 1/4 cup of flour than the original recipe because the mixture was a bit too liquid-y.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Indonesian Ginger Chicken

It was my turn to cook (which I do maybe three times a year) and you can never go wrong with Ina Garten. After looking through her most popular recipes on Food Networks website, I settled on #12 Indonesian Ginger Chicken since after all VW is from Indonesia.

It turned out OK, but I was disappointed with the overall flavor because it was a little weak and needed more flavor - even after VW added more seasonings like sweet soy sauce, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, and chili. Maybe finishing the chicken off on the grill would have made a world of difference?

1 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sweet soy sauce
1/4 cup minced garlic (8 to 12 cloves)
2 shallots, finely minced
1/2 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger root
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 Thai green chile (whole, not cut)
4 whole chicken legs
2 halves chicken breast

  • Cook the honey, soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, garlic, shallots and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted.
  • Arrange the chicken pieces in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan, skin side down, and pour on the sauce.
  • Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.
  • Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F, place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Uncover the pan, turn the chicken skin side up, and raise the temperature to 375F.
  • Continue baking for 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh and the sauce is a rich, dark brown.
  • Suggested additional step: Finish off the chicken on a grill skin side down or on a broiler skin side up for a couple minutes until the skins are a little bit charred.