Who moved my wok?

Two best friends, one kitchen, endless possibilities.

Archive for the month “October, 2011”

Best winter soup, ever.

Winter here is scarier than 1930s gangsters chasing us.

We’re preparing to hunker down and hibernate for winter here in Beijing, so we thought it was time for a delicious, hearty winter soup.  A twist on Italian wedding/lentil soup, this creation kicks with flavor and sticks to your bones to boot, so as the temperatures drop and we barricade ourselves inside for the next four months, we hope you’ll enjoy this soup as much as we did.

We ended up not using the spinach, but it could have been a nice addition.

As with most of our dishes, you can throw in whatever veggies you have lying around.  On this day, we happened to have celery, carrots, (a mildly hot) red pepper, lentils and cauliflower.  We wanted potatoes or something starchy to anchor this soup, but we were out of potatoes so we decided the cauliflower would be a nice substitute.  That is, until about halfway through the prep I went sniffing around the refrigerator to discover some cooked, undressed, rotini pasta noodles that I had made and not used all of earlier in the week.  So naturally, in they went.

The ingredients lineup.

To start, throw the chopped celery, carrots, and red pepper into your soup pot with a half a tablespoon of oil to begin to saute.  After about 3 to 5 minutes, add 4 cups of water (our soup pot is small — until tonight when we go to Ikea!!) with 1.5-2 tablespoons of instant veggie stock mix (or 1 veggie bullion cube).  Then throw in one tablespoon ground black pepper, salt to taste, two to three tablespoons of tomato paste, two table spoons of ground garlic powder and a sprinkle of thyme.  Then add one can of cooked lentils and your cauliflower.

This will all need to come to a boil, so let cook for about 30 minutes.  After it comes to a boil, add in the cooked pasta and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

This soup is so savory and filling, it needs no garnish.  Just a big spoon.  So sit down by the fireplace (or room of candles since we have no fireplace), turn on your favorite movie, and enjoy!



Pad Thai Fusion.

Our beach. I want to go back.

After eating delicious Thai food on a beach for a week in Koh Samui, we became obsessed with Thai noodles, but none of the Thai restaurants in Beijing could even come close to what we had experienced in their motherland.  Savoring the tastes and flavors we devoured and committing them to memory, we (ahem, Elizabeth) wracked her brain and scoured the Internet to come up with a recipe that would be an ode to our favorites from the island while putting her own twist on it.  Thus, Pad Thai Fusion was born.  This particular version of it is a bit of a combination of two other noodles we have made before, and I think it’s the best one yet.  Prepare yourselves for some deliciousness.  ALLERGY WARNING: THIS CONTAINS PEANUTS AND PEANUT BUTTER.  I’m talking to you, Amy Dobrzynski.  Please make adjustments if you have allergies or other aversions to nuts; this recipe can be just as delicious with less of the nuts and more of the other stuff.

First, boil noodles.  Any noodles.  We buy noodles from our Chinese grocery store, so we can’t actually read what kind they are, but they are flat and about the width of fettucini.  Put these noodles aside, and maybe run some water over them so they don’t stick.  Then, bring out the wok to saute the veggies.  Use whatever vegetables you have fresh and available.  In ours, we used broccoli, carrots, snap peas, red peppers, green peppers and of course, bean sprouts, because what is Pad Thai (Fusion) without bean sprouts.

Throw those veggies, minus the bean sprouts, in the wok with a smidgen of oil, half a teaspoon of garlic powder and two tablespoons of soy sauce to begin cooking.  Then,whip up the peanut sauce, which consists of 2-3 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter with hot water to dissolve it.  After 5-7 minutes of cooking the veggies, add in the noodles, the peanut sauce and more soy sauce if you want.  Let these all cook together for another 3-5 minutes, and during the last minute, throw in the bean sprouts.

I love this dish because it’s packed with tons of colorful, good-for-you veggies and bursting with flavor.  It balances the nutty, full flavor of the peanut butter sauce with the savory soy sauce and the tang of the citrus, coming together for a delectable treat you will love.  It isn’t your traditional pad thai, but it sure is tasty!  Serve up in a nice little bowl, garnished with chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro, and any kind of citrus wedge.  Prepare to eat until you’re in a food coma.  YUM.

Sooo yummy!

Curry Fusion.

Our lovely dinner guests: Jen (left) and Blaise.

We love ethnic foods and we love mixing them together, so today’s recipe is curry fusion.  While many think of this dish as Thai or Indian, the curry paste we’re using for a base in this one is Japanese, mostly because it was the only one at the time with no animal products in it.

Admittedly, I was a little intimidated to make curry on my own.  While I was exposed to the gamut of ethnic foods growing up, we rarely cooked these at home.  However, Elizabeth tends to be fearless in the kitchen and had already mastered making curry.  And, since it’s one of our favorite dishes to make when it gets cold, I think I’ve gotten the hang of it, too.

The basics for our curry.

Here is a photo of the main ingredients we used.  We started with half a package of Japanese curry paste; we used half for a few reasons: 1) it’s spicy so we like to dilute it a little. 2) We like more creative license in creatng our dishes. And 3) it allows us to make the most of our more expensive, foreign ingredients since we are trying to stick to a budget.  We also used, garlic (our favorite ingredient of all time), curry powder, turmeric powder, a little salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar.  Also VERY important is the coconut milk.  To me, it’s not curry unless it’s coconut.  However, I know some people don’t love coconut, so feel free to use whatever non-dairy substitute you like, though I would recommend going with plain ones unless you want your curry to taste like vanilla, chocolate or strawberry.
One of my favorite things about curry is that it’s kind of an “everything but the kitchen sink” sort of dish.  While potatoes, carrots and cauliflower are generally the staples, you can throw in whatever vegetables you have lying around that need to be used.  In addition to the veggies already listed, we added celery and green pepper for color, and because they were there and we try not to waste food.  

First, we throw the veggies into our wok with a teaspoon or so of oil to begin cooking.  As they start to warm, we add the curry paste and the coconut milk and continue adding the other spices until we achieve the right taste and color.  I usually like the milk to come almost to the top of the veggies, but you can add more or less depending on how much sauce you like.  Continue adding in spices until you get the taste you’re going for.  You can make it spicier, sweeter or more savory, depending on  your personal tastes.

The finished product!

While we generally prefer our veggies fresh and al dente, curries should be a bit softer.  Let the curry simmer on the stove (sometimes for 30 minutes or more, depending on cooking heat — I use medium to medium-high) until the veggies, particularly the potatoes and cauliflower, get a little mushy.  Once you deem it ready to eat, spoon it onto a plate of rice, place it next to a glass of white wine, and enjoy!

Delicious home-baked cookies, courtesy of Blaise & Jen's toaster oven!

And so it begins…

After dreaming up this blog and all of the delicious delicacies sure to follow, it’s finally time to get started on it.  In the coming weeks, we’ll feature delicious food, guest chefs and maybe even a little Iron Chef competition between friends, so keep an eye out for all the excitement about to happen. To keep such competitions fair, Elizabeth and I will simply be wine, ahem, taste-testers.  First up: Fusion Week.  YUM.

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