Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mochi Herb Cakes

Our mom made these yummy mochi herb cakes. I can't tell you what the herb is because it's a family secret. Just kidding, I just don't know what it's called. It looks like a weed and has tiny yellow flowers, and we picked it by the fence surrounding the golf course at Blackberry Farm. But you could probably use any herb that tastes good with mochi.

To make them, put mochiko, finely chopped herbs, a pinch each of salt and sugar, and water in a bowl, and mix until it forms a ball, adding water as needed. Form into small patties and brown 1-2 minutes per side in a skillet with some oil over medium high heat until translucent all the way through.

Bran Poop Muffins

They look like poop, help you poop, and taste like...anything but poop! At just 150 calories each, these muffins are nothing like the gummy “healthy bran muffins” that are hard to swallow. No, these babies are gloriously tender and moist with a fragrant orange hint from the zest, and have a lovely bran texture. The secret lies in the use of pureed dried fruit, banana, and yogurt. Only ¼ cup of brown sugar sweetens these muffins, which are flavored with the natural sweetness of dried fruit and banana. Walnuts rather than raisins stud these muffins with crunch and flavor, contrasting well with the toasty, lightly sweetened muffin flesh.

Do not fill the wells until heaping full; the batter will spill out of the tin and onto the oven floor, infusing your kitchen with forest fire scent. If you don’t have raisins, you can easily substitute any dry fruit such as apricots, cranberries, or blueberries with equally delicious results. Be careful to toast bran until just fragrant, and not let it burn.

Bran Poop Muffins

Makes 12

2 cup (125g) wheat bran
1 cup (120g) dark raisins or other dried fruit
1 cup, plus 1/2 (370ml total) cup water
1/2 cup (120g) plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 tsp of fresh orange zest (unsprayed)
1 banana, mashed
1/4 cup (50g) packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil (canola works well)
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 cup (65g) flour
1/4 cup (35g) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray with nonstick spray.

2. Spread the wheat bran on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for six to eight minutes, stirring every 3 minutes so it cooks evenly. Be careful not to let the bran burn; remove bran after you smell a lovely toasted aroma. Let cool for 5 minutes.

3. While the bran is toasting, heat 1 cup (135g) of the raisins with 1/2 cup (120ml) of the water. Simmer for ten minutes, or until the water is all absorbed. Puree the raisins in a measuring cup with an immersion blender (food processor or blender work too) until smooth.

4. In a large bowl, mix together the toasted bran, yogurt, 1 cup (250ml) water, then mix in the raisin puree, orange zest, brown sugar, and mashed banana.

5. Stir in the oil, egg and egg white.

6. Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and pour into wet ingredients. Stir gently with rubber spatula until the ingredients are just combined.

7. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling the tins all the way but not mounding the batter (batter may overflow onto oven floor and burn). Because muffin tins can vary in size, don’t try to make exactly 12 muffins; just fill the tins to the top. Sprinkle the tops with chopped walnuts, if using.

8. Bake for 21-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in one of the middle muffins comes out clean (a few tiny dry crumbs are okay, but no mushy stuff).


Broad beans - sweet and delicious! Aren't they cute?
Steamed artichokes. Did you know that artichokes have a substance that inhibits our sweet receptors, and that the next bite of food we take sweeps these guys off of the receptors, and that this resets our sweet receptors and makes us perceive sweetness? Isn't that cool? No wonder food tastes sweet after a bite of artichoke.
Fresh chopped scallions from farmers market...mmmm
Blanched bok choy. Nature is so beautiful, no?

White Chocolate Chunk Almond Cookies

We've made a lot of cookies, and these are some of the best. We mistakenly left out the white sugar, and made the cookies with just brown sugar. This worked even better because the chunks of super sweet and milky white chocolate chunks provided greater flavor contrast to the nuttier, less sweet (but still decently sweet) nutty buttery cookie. If you like white chocolate or almonds, or butter, you have to try these! Use good butter - Clover organic is the one we used, and we think it really made a difference by producing a richer, fuller butter flavor.

White Chocolate Chunk Almond Cookies (adapted from "Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies" from Cook’s Illustrated May/June 2009)

1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

14 tablespoons (1¾ sticks) unsalted fresh organic butter

½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar (we forgot to add this and it was still delicious)

¾ cup (5¼ ounces) packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon table salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1¼ cups white chocolate chunks

¾ cup chopped almonds, toasted (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whish for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use a #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet.

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10-14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Lunch at Apple

Yummy salad with organic fruit, and a made-to-order thin crust brick oven pizza topped with rosemary potatoes, ricotta and another-cheese-I-can't-remember-the-name-of, and roasted tomatoes.

Black Bean, Tomato, Apricot Salad

Pre-chopped romaine lettuce that comes in a bag is disgusting. But if you buy it fresh and cut it yourself, it's nutty, crisp, and fresh. (Ain't I profound? If it's fresh, it's fresh) Throw in some plump organic raisins, quartered farmers market sweet cherry tomatoes, toasted slivered almonds, sweet black beans, and chopped dried Turkish apricots. Why Turkish, you say? I wish I had a smart answer but the truth is that they were on sale.

Nuo Mi Fan (sticky rice)

Quite possibly one of the most delicious things on Earth. Just steam some sticky rice with yi ren mi (I think it's called coicis seed in English) in the pressure cooker for 1 hour and let it sit in there for another hour to allow everything to get really soft and happy. Then add something nutty, sour, salty, sweet, meaty, and fresh. Here's the breakdown:

peanuts - toasted and crunchy (nuking them in the microwave for a minute or two usually does the trick)
pickled mustard leaves stir fried with pork belly meat, soy sauce, miso, and sugar
cilantro and scallions
sugar and salt, to taste

You can also add chili oil, Chinese sausage, thin egg strips, pickled radish, and anything else that strikes your fancy.

Asian flavoring agents

Ready to be wrapped up and thrown into the hot tub! With a nice fatty chunk of pork belly. Why am I writing in fragments you ask? Good question my friend. That is because this is a very fragrant pouch of happy flavoring agents! Ho ho, I am too funny.

By the way, if you wanted to make one for yourself, just combine a bay leaf, some star anise, scallion white parts, sichuan peppercorns, dried red chili pepper, shiso (perilla) leaf, cilantro ends, cumin, fennel, and this Chinese spice (the round white things in the bottom left) called "kou ren." Wrap it all in a triple layer of cheesecloth, tie it, and throw it into a pot of water with whatever you want to add deliciousness to. Sorry, that does not include your hubby.

I don't want to give it away in the title!

What is this? Of course you are stumped! Now don't even try to pretend. Nope, that's not right. Here's another hint:
Give up? Thought you would. Never in a million years would you have guessed that it is a...(drumroll please)...fig! Haha, got you, no? What do you mean it was obvious? You cheated didn't you? You little crook...