Sunday, April 3, 2011

Asian 5-Ingredient Fix

I was watching 5 Ingredient Fix by Claire Robinson the other day and she kind of cheated because she made this one steak with 5 ingredients, and then another sauce with 5 ingredients, and slapped the two together. Whoa, if kindergarten serves me correctly I think 5 + 5 equals 10, no? Pretty sneaky there, Claire! Well anyway, a lot of Chinese stir fried vegetables are easily 5 ingredients or less, and very delicious. The above shot is burdock root (gobo) with carrots, and uses dried chilies, oil, salt, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. The dish below combines garlic, the skinny cousin twice removed of broccolini, oil, and salt. That's like 3 ingredients not counting salt! Trust me, it's so delicious. The inherent sweetness of the veggie really gets to shine in a simple dish like this.

The trick to making it taste good? You gotta make sure your oil is hot and well flavored with garlic before adding the veggies, and then you need to flip the veggies constantly while you cook over high heat to make sure you cook it evenly and distribute salt and oil well. And of course, take it off the heat when it's just bright green and done, not overcooked and yellow and gross.

Tofu Chawanmushi

This healthy, silky smooth version of chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg) includes tofu and the rich flavors of toona, shiitake, dried shrimp, and Chinese pickled vegetable. We used the tender shoots from the toona tree in our backyard. It's hard to describe the flavor of toona...imagine a really intense, meaty, mushroomy, bacon-y, soy-saucy, savory and almost salty, saliva-inducing flavor packed into a tiny leaf. Got it? Good for you!
A garnish of freshly cut scallions from the Farmer's Market and a drizzle of seasoning sauce provide the perfect flavor contrast to the egg.
These were super easy to make, and you can add your own variations simply by switching out the flavoring components. The original recipe called for fresh shrimp which we didn't have on hand, so we just used dried shrimp (pre-soaked in water). Fresh shrimp probably would have been devilishly good. Otherwise, you just blend together 1 package of tofu, 2 eggs, 2 Tbsp shitake water (the water you have left after soaking shiitake; if you don't have this, chicken stock would work beautifully) and add a little bit of chopped shiitake, chopped pickled vegetables, etc. Cover with plastic wrap and steam for 13 minutes or until just set (don't over steam!) The sauce for topping is just a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, and mirin in a 3:2:1 ratio, and you can garnish the cups with fresh cilantro and scallions.

Trail Mix Cookies

These are a slightly healthier version of regular cookies because they have reduced butter, oats, and whole wheat flour. They are still a treat though! Using melted butter helps encourage gluten formation, developing a chewier cookie. It also enables you to use less butter (only 5 Tbsp for 24 cookies!) because melted butter is easier to incorporate into the dough.
The cinnamon and brown sugar flavors combine perfectly with the oats, nuts, and dried fruit, producing a very flavorful cookie with great texture. Next time we will try toasting the oats to bring out their flavor more, and perhaps replacing some of the brown sugar with white sugar to cut back a little bit on the molasses notes and allow the oats and nuts to have their moment on the flavor stage. (Note: if you do this be sure to flatten the cookies a bit because they won't spread as much due to the reduced brown sugar; also, they will be less chewy)

Trail Mix Cookies
3/4 cup unbleached AP flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup of old fashioned oats (toasted)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 large egg
5 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup - 1 cup packed brown sugar*
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, almonds, or pecans
1/4 cup dried cherries, raisins, or cranberries
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds

1. Mix together flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl.
2. Beat egg and brown sugar with melted butter and vanilla extract.
3. Fold the flour mixture and butter mixture together, and then fold in the mix-ins.
4. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, depending on whether you like your cookies soft and chewy (underbake them) or browned and crunchy (bake just shy of burnt).

*if you like sweeter, chewier, moister cookies, then use 1 cup. If you like less sweet, crunchier cookies then use 1/2 cup - but be sure to flatten them a little bit before baking because they will spread less.