Monthly Archives: January 2016

Spicy Minced Chicken Noodles

 

I live in the San Gabriel Valley, the Asian food Mecca of Southern California. San Gabriel Valley is home to some of the best Chinese food outside of China. There is wide array of regional cuisines like Sichuan, Cantonese, Hunanese, etc. In addition to Chinese food, you can find Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Burmese, and even food from Borneo. From soupy dumplings to Hainan chicken, one will never run out of food options. One of my favorite noodle dishes out here is the minced pork noodle, made with a fermented bean sauce. Every restaurant has their own version, but it is always made with ground pork. I created my own version with organic ground chicken and spiced it up a bit. I use a chili pepper sauce made in San Francisco and noodles made nearby in Commerce (where I’ve actually visited the factory).

I tested this noodle dish at my office and it was a hit, even among those that don’t like spicy food. I may not be Chinese, but I have become very familiar with Chinese flavors, and based on the response I got, these noodles are as good as any noodle dish in the San Gabriel Valley. Once you have all the ingredients ready, the dish takes less than 20 minutes to whip up, but be sure to read the whole recipe in advance, as almost every step is 3 minutes or less and you’ll be moving quick! But don’t let that scare you off – once you make this dish, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it!

Serving Size: 2 large bowls of noodles

Ingredients

2 tablespoons of oil
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
8 ounces of organic ground chicken
1/2 cup of finely chopped choy sum leaves* or spinach leaves.
2 tablespoons of finely chopped preserved turnips*
2 tablespoons of chili pepper sauce*
2 tablespoons of organic soy sauce
1 tablespoon of Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of Chinese five spice
1 teaspoon of sugar
3/4 cup of homemade chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth (cold)
2 teaspoons of organic cornstarch
12 ounces of fresh Chinese wheat noodles (medium thickness)*
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Fresh cilantro leaves
Chinese chili oil (optional)

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Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.

2. Meanwhile, heat a wok or a large sauté pan on high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil.

3. Add the minced garlic. Sauté for 15 seconds.

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4. Add the ground chicken. Sauté for 3 minutes, breaking up the meat.

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5. Add the choy sum. Sauté for 1 minute.

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6. Add the preserved turnips. Sauté for 30 seconds.

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7. Add the chili pepper sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, five spice, and sugar. Sauté for 1 minute.

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8. Add cornstarch in the chicken stock, making sure your chicken stock is cold. Mix well and and pour directly into the wok, stirring the meat. Cook until the sauce boils and thickens. This should take about 3-5 minutes. Turn off the heat.

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9. Take the fresh Chinese noodles and put in the boiling water. Follow the cooking directions on the package. The brand I use takes 2.5 minutes.

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10. Drain the noodles but don’t rinse. Divide the noodle into bowls.

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11. Pour a generous amount of meat sauce over the noodles. If using, drizzle a tablespoon of chili oil over the sauce. Garnish with chopped green onion and cilantro.

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12. Serve immediately.

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*Here are photos of some hard to find ingredients I used in this recipe. Also, I added a picture of the choy sum before it was chopped up. You can find all these ingredients at a Chinese grocery store:

 

Meyer Lemon Bars

When I go to a bakery or cafe, I usually don’t select lemon bars for my sweet treat. I find most lemon bars too tart and sweet. Also, the traditional shortbread crust a little too tough. Now Meyer lemon bars on the other hand, are delicious, slightly tart with a hint of sweetness. Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter than regular lemons because they are a hybrid of lemons and mandarin oranges, requiring less sugar when when making Meyer lemon bars. Meyer lemons are also brighter yellow in color and have a thinner skin, giving the bars a neon-like color.

My Meyer lemon bar recipe has half the sugar of other lemon bar recipe. Some recipes put in the zest directly in the curd. I liked the added flavor from the zest, but then curd didn’t have the smooth texture. By infusing the lemon zest in the lemon juice, and then discarding the zest did the trick. I also add cornstarch to the crust to make it more crumbly. That way it didn’t feel like I was biting into a hard cookie. When Meyer lemon season comes along, I bake a couple of batches: one for my family and one for my sister-in-law. My sister-in-law doesn’t like anything with lemon flavor, but loves these lemon bars. I think that’s a good indication that this recipe is pretty good. Happy baking.

Baking Spray
1 1/4 cups of Meyer lemon juice (about 5-6 Meyer lemons)
1 Tablespoon of Meyer lemon zest
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (12 Tablespoons) – soften
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon of organic cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/8 teaspoon of Kosher salt
Powder sugar for dusting

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1. Coat the bottom and sides of a 13″x 9″ baking pan with not a nonstick baking spray. Set aside.

2. Add the lemon zest to the lemon juice. Set aside.

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3. Heat the oven to 350°.

4. In a stand mixer, add the butter and 1/2 cup sugar and beat on medium speed until creamy (about 3 minutes).

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5. Add the vanilla extract and beat for 30 more seconds.

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6. In a small bowl, whisk the 1 1/2 of flour, cornstarch, and the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Set the mixer to the lowest setting and slowly add the flour mixture half a cup at a time.

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7. The mixture will come together and look like small peas. Turn off the mixer.

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8. Using your clean hands, form a ball. Then flatten it and place it directly in the greased baking pan, pressing down until the bottom of the pan is evenly covered with the dough.

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9. Using the tines of fork, prick the dough and several places. The will prevent the dough from rising and forming pockets.

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10. Place the baking pan in the freezer for 10 minutes.

11. Remove the baking pan from the freezer and put it directly in the oven. Bake for roughly 30-35 minutes until slightly golden.

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12. Place on a rack to cool.

13. Turn up the oven heat to 350°.

14. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the 1/2 cup of flour, baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

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15. Add all the eggs into the flour mixture. And whisk until the mixture is smoot, but don’t over whisk.

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16. Add the 1 1/2 cups of sugar and whisk again until smooth.

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17. Place a sieve over a bowl, and pour the Meyer lemon juice and zest mixture into the sieve. Discard the Meyer lemon zest.

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18. Add the Meyer lemon juice to the egg, flour, sugar mixture. Whisk just until the juice is incorporated.

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19. Pour the Meyer lemon curd mixture over the baked crust.image20. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the center is set and edges are golden

21. Cool on a rack for about 30 minutes.

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22. Cut into 24 squares. Place the squares on top of a cooling rack. Place a parchment paper underneath the rack.

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23. Dust Meyer lemon bars generously with the powder sugar. Dust only the ones you will be serving the day of and refrigerate the rest for up to three days. Dust remaining with powder sugar right before serving. This prevents the lemon curd from absorbing the powder sugar during refrigerating.

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Blackberry Meyer Lemon Scones

I have always been a fan of English Afternoon Tea, not to be confused with English High Tea, which is hearty meat and potatoes tea. During afternoon tea social events, you would find a nice pot of tea, finger sandwiches and, of course, scones. Most of the scones served at afternoon teas were dry and the only way to make to them go down was to spread plenty of jam and clotted cream on them and chase them with some tea. I thought to myself, “There has to be way to make tender scones.” Then I was asked to host a tea party for a bridal shower. It was the perfect opportunity to work on my scone recipes.

I tested several scone recipes and one from Cook’s Illustrated had an interesting technique. Their trick to making the scones tender is using grated, frozen butter in the dough instead of cutting squares of cold butter into the flour mixture. Not only was it a great short cut, but it made the scones perfectly tender. It was pure genius. I took that recipe and a tweaked it a bit and then added blackberries and Meyer lemons. What better time to share this recipe than during Meyer lemon season! The scones are jammy and buttery with a crispy exterior. You won’t need extra butter, jam or clotted cream with these scones. Just serve them with tea or coffee. Enjoy!

Blackberry Meyer Lemon Scones

Yield: 12 scones

2 sticks of frozen unsalted butter (you will only use 4 ounces grated).
1 cup of fresh blackberries (or your favorite berries) – Freeze for at least 2 hours
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 3/4 cups of Sonora wheat flour or unbleached all-Purpose flour
1/4 cup of spelt flour
1/2 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of freshly grated Meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 tablespoon of Meyer lemon juice
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
Crystal sugar (for sprinkling)

1. Line one large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Take the frozen sticks of butter out of the freezer. Using a box grater, grate on the largest holes. Grate about half of each stick. Place the grated butter back into the freezer. Save remaining ungrated butter for another use.

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3. Take the frozen blackberries out of the freezer. Using a serrated knife, cut them in half. Put them in a small bowl and toss them with the two tablespoons of sugar. This will make the blackberries jammy when you bake the scones. Set aside.

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4. Whisk the milk and sour cream in a small bowl. Set aside.

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5. In a large bowl, add the flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Take the frozen grated butter and toss into the dry ingredients until the butter is evenly distributed and no clumps are present. Do this quickly and don’t handle the butter too much.

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6. Stir the Meyer lemon juice into the milk and sour cream mixture and pour into the flour butter mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold until the mixture comes together.

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7. Generously flour your work surface.

8. Take the dough and knead quickly a few times, just until the dough can be rolled. It is important that you don’t overwork the dough or the scones will become tough.

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9. Roll out to a 12” x 12” square and then fold in thirds and the fold in thirds again. This process will help create layers.

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10. Place on parchment-lined plate or tray and place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes or until it gets cold.

11. Heat oven to 425°.

12. Remove the dough and again roll out to a 12” x 12” square. Take the berries and distribute them evenly throughout the dough, pressing them in. Then roll the dough tightly, securing the berries inside like in a jelly roll and then flatten.

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13. Using a serrated knife (cleaning the knife with a paper towel in between cuts), cut the the long rectangle in half, then each rectangle in thirds. You should have 6 smaller rectangles. Cut each small rectangle on a diagonal to form 2 triangles.

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14. Place the scones on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with cream and sprinkle with crystal sugar.

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15. Place the baking sheet with the scones in the the freezer for about 5 minutes.

16. Remove the scones from the freezer and place in the oven on the center rack. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, then turn the broiler on high and broil for 1-2 minutes until the top is golden brown. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

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17. They are best the day of, but you can keep them in an airtight container for up to three days.

Walnut Pesto Rice Bowl

Now that the New Year is here, one of resolutions on many people’s lists is to eat healthier. Here is a vegetarian brunch dish that is easy to assemble. The inspiration behind this dish comes from the sorrel pesto rice bowl from Sqirl Cafe and Bakery in Los Angeles. Their unique and delicious rice bowl is made with organic brown rice, sorrel pesto, picked radishes, preserved Meyer lemons, sheep’s feta, hot sauce and a poached egg. This dish is so popular that people will wait in line for well over an hour to order it and, on the weekends, it is almost impossible find an open table at the restaurant. To avoid the long wait in the lines, I decided to create my own version.

My pesto bowl is made with a walnut pesto recipe. I prefer walnuts over pine nuts because they have a better flavor and nutritional value. I also added lemon zest and lemon juice to mimic the sorrel flavor for this recipe. I’m not big fan of feta so I used goat cheese in mine, but you can use feta instead if you prefer. This recipe only make two bowls, but you can always double the recipe if you want to feed a family. Here is to healthy start for the New Year! Enjoy!

Walnut Pesto Bowl

Serving Size: 2

3 tablespoons of chopped yellow bell pepper, small dice
3 teaspoons of white vinegar, divided
2 small red radishes, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt
2 farm fresh eggs
1/4 cup of walnut pesto, plus extra for serving (recipe below)
2 1/2 cups of cooked organic brown rice (short grain)
1 ounce of goat cheese, crumbled
2 basil leaves, julienned for plating
Jalapeño hot sauce for serving, optional
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. In a medium pot, bring 5 cups of water to boil. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add the diced yellow bell pepper, 2 teaspoons of white vinegar, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Remove as much of the liquid as possible, squeezing the liquid from the bell peppers. Set aside.

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3. In another small bowl, add the thinly sliced red radishes, lemon juice and a pinch of Kosher salt. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Remove as much of the liquid as possible, squeezing the liquid from the radishes. Set aside.

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4. Once the pot of water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Crack the eggs one at a time into the water. Make sure you leave enough space in between the two eggs so they don’t cook together. Poach for about 2 minutes or until the egg sets but the center is still soft and runny. Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.

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5. Add the cooked brown rice to a medium bowl, making sure it’s hot. (If not, heat in the microwave with a damp paper towel over it.) Add the walnut pesto and mix to combine.

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6. Divide the pesto rice into two bowls. Garnish with the radishes, crumbled goat cheese, chopped quick pickled yellow peppers and top with the poached eggs. Sprinkle some chopped basil, sea salt and freshly grated black pepper. Add a little extra pesto or jalapeño sauce, if using. Serve immediately.

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Walnut Pesto

1 1/2 cups of organic basil leaves
1/4 cup of toasted walnut, chopped
1 garlic clove (thinly sliced)
1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
2 tablespoon of lemon juice
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
Red pepper flakes (optional)

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1) In a blender or food processor, add the basil, walnuts, garlic, cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, pinch of salt, pepper and a couple tablespoons of oil in a blender. Pulse a few times. You made need to use a rubber spatula to push down the basil leaves.

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2) Keep the lid on but remove the plastic cap. Turn on the blender (or food processor) and slowly add the remainder of the oil in a slow stream. Blend until the pesto is smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as needed.

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3) Transfer to a bowl. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to one week.

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