Sunday, November 23, 2014

Smoked Trout (Truite Fumée) and Guacamole Panini (makes 2 sandwiches)



I rarely make sandwiches to eat at home. Perhaps I see them as food that one would take for picnics, work lunches or on long road trips. However, for lunch I decided to make a hot sandwich using some left over food items and my panini press. The result turns out to be a quick tasty meal. The truite fumée (smoked trout) is from a quaint village known as Kamouraska, Quebec, located in the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region.  This small village has been named one of the Most Beautiful Villages of Quebec.

If you live in the United States, you celebrate Thanksgiving with a turkey, and have left over meat you can add that instead of fish. You can build on this sandwich by adding sliced tomato and lettuce or whatever extras you prefer.

Ingredients:

About 1/2 to 1 recipe of Guacamole
About 4 Tbsp sour cream
6 oz smoked trout or salmon, break into bite size pieces
4 pieces of bread or baguette
A panini press or a grill pan

Method:

Spread the guacamole, sour cream and trout or salmon over the bread pieces. Put the bread pieces together and place in a panini press or grill pan until golden brown.

*Portsmouth, New Hampshire had an interesting art event these past 3 days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) called Portsmouth Arts Tour.  Fourteen artists came together and opened up their home studios for the public to view and/or purchase their works. There was an amazing amount of talent on display in painting, photography, jewelry, textile collage, stonewares, colored porcelain pots and more.  I was able to meet with a few of the artists to see their amazing works. If you have a chance you may want to visit these artists' websites. Steven Zoldak and Maureen Mills (hand thrown stoneware and porcelain) at www.sliptrail.com. Stacey Durand (paintings and prints) at www.staceydurand.com. Karen Orsillo (colored porcelain pots and jewelry) at karenorsilloporcelain.com.  Neil Troost (fine art photography) at www.TroostArtPhoto.com. Thank you Steven and Maureen for opening your home for a beautiful and amazing show!  Thank you Karen for sharing your expertise and jewelry tips with me! Thank you Neil for the lovely cards!

Steven Zoldak and his beautiful hand-thrown stoneware and porcelain
(Portsmouth, NH, 2014)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chilled Cactus Limeade (serves 1-2)




Cactus limeade is a refreshing and colorful drink.  Instead of adding ice I chilled my drink in the freezer for about 20 minutes.  

add all ingredients in a bottle and shake
Ingredients:

3 Tbsp Cactus Pear Juice I (1st batch)
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 to 2 cold cups water

Method:

Mix all ingredients together or place all ingredients in a bottle and give it a few shakes.  Chill and drink.

*Adjust the ingredients to your taste.  May add ice if interested.
*You may purchase the cactus pear fruits in some local grocers.  Recently I noticed these fruits for sale at Hannaford Supermarket in New Hampshire but they were expensive at $1.99 each.  I have seen some for sale at Haymarket (Boston) in the past and they were a lot cheaper.  However, I have not been to Haymarket for a long time so I have no idea if the vendors are still selling them.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Maui Gold Smoothie (makes about 4 cups, serves 2)

pineapple and apple banana smoothie
Although Maui pineapples are grown on the island they are quite expensive when they are sold by the pound. I have found a place that sells reasonably priced whole pineapples when I was on Maui. Crates of the prized sugary sweet pineapples, hence the term "Maui Gold", can be found at the entrance of the Ulupalakua Ranch Store (located in the upcountry). My husband and I came across these pineapples on our last trip. We stopped by to purchase a drink and I searched the store for them. I was disappointed when I did not see any. However, as we were leaving a man came with several crates of them. As he was dropping them off he commented that they were just harvested from the field. I was happy to pick out a couple of beautiful looking ones. Once back to where we stayed I prepared them, placed them in plastic bags and kept them in the refrigerator until ready to indulge. These are delicious however they are eaten.

young pineapple
crates of Maui Gold pineapples
(these are sugary sweet!)
Ingredients:

1/4 prepared pineapple
4 apple bananas or 2 Williams bananas
1 C milk (may substitute with soy milk)
4 ice cubes

Method:

Put everything in a blender and puree until well blended.
  
*Add yogurt or even ice cream to this for a richer smoothie.  Depending on the size of your blender you may need to divide the ingredients and pulverize the contents in 2 batches.

ariel view of Maui (2014)
ariel view of Maui coast (2014)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Shrimp Crackers (Bánh Phồng Tôm)


My husband and I love eating these giant rectangular shaped shrimp crackers or chips (known as bánh phồng tôm in Vietnamese) that are made in Sóctrăng (Vietnam). They are usually a creamy color with a prominent taste of shrimp. You can buy similar ones in Asian grocers, they are often found as round and small in various colors. However, I think these are pretty bland in comparison to the ones from Soctrang. It takes less than a minute to deep fry them. You can microwave them but the texture is not as consistent as frying. They can be enjoyed alone or as a base for appetizers or even a garnish.

Shrimp Crackers (Bánh Phồng Tôm)


Ingredients:

Shrimp crackers or chips (bánh phồng tôm)Oil for deep frying

Method:

Heat oil in a pot or pan until hot.  Drop one in at a time.  Once it is fully expanded then flip it over and cook the other side.  Overall cooking time about 20-30 seconds.  Remove from oil and let drain on a paper towel.

*Sometimes I break these chips or crackers into smaller pieces prior to cooking in order to make appetizers as seen below.  However, it's quite impressive to fry the whole piece since it will expand to twice it's original size!

truffle-lemongrass kangaroo on shrimp chips
chipotle Maine crab meat and fried beet on shrimp chip

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts with Ground Pork (serves 3-4)

stir-fried Brussels sprouts with ground pork
I have never seen a whole stalk of Brussels sprouts for sale in a grocery store before.  When I saw them I knew I had to buy one especially when they were so fresh looking.  Since I took it home I already got 2 meals out of this one stalk and still have a bunch more left.  I have bacon and ground pork so I incorporated them into this dish.  I boiled the Brussels sprouts in a little water to help soften them and to decrease my overall cooking time.  Just know that this process will definitely stink up your house!  I guess I need some competition for my durian odor!  

I have to admit, it was years ago but looking back it seems like yesterday, when I did not know how to cook these sprouts.  I had never eaten them before and had never seen anyone cooking them.  When I first knew about these I thought, how cute, these look like baby cabbages!  I thought I could quickly stir fry them like most vegetables.  How silly and to be honest, they came out tasting awful and inedible.  I was not able to sink my teeth into any of them!  I think I just threw the whole thing out. Talk about a big waste of food, money, and time.

My father-in-law who was born and raised in Holland remembers fondly his Dutch mother scoring the ends of the sprouts in an X in order to let the bitterness out during cooking.  I now do this when I cook whole sprouts in honor of this woman who I have never met.  Whether it truly takes the bitterness out I cannot tell.  

Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts with Ground Pork (serves 3-4)

Ingredients:

30 (about 1.3 lbs) Brussels sprouts, trimmed the ends, halved, washed well
2 tsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
4 oz sliced bacon
1/2 lb ground pork, break into bits
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
10 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated, washed well, cut off stems, sliced
1 cup Brussels sprouts liquid*
1 Tbsp good chicken powder

Method:

1) In a large pot over high heat, add the Brussels sprouts and enough water to just cover them.  Once the liquid boils turn the heat slightly lower and cover the pot.  Cook about 5 minutes or until the sprouts are somewhat soft to your liking.  Remove the sprouts into a bowl and reserve about 1 cup of the liquid*.  Discard the rest of the liquid.
2) Turn heat to medium high.  In the same pot add oil, garlic and bacon.  Stir occasionally and cook for about 2 minutes.
3) Add pork and cook about 2 minutes, stir occasionally.
4) Add carrots and mushrooms.  Cook about 5 minutes, stir occasionally.
5) Add sprouts, sprouts liquid, and chicken powder.  Cook for about another 1-2 minutes.

stalk of Brussels sprouts

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Durian and Coconut Ice Cream (makes 1 1/2 quarts)

durian and coconut ice cream with chopped almond
When I first started blogging (back in August 2012) I made durian ice cream as I reminisced about eating it during my childhood years in Vietnam.  It was my uncle who took my 2 brothers (Dân, aka Miến and Sơn, aka Sua) and me on his 100 cc motorcycle to a nearby city (Sóc Trăng), located about 3 miles from our small village in Ngã Ba An Trạch for this special treat.  Of course back then none of us wore helmets or fell off the bike (at least not to my knowledge).  Perhaps it was pure luck that we all survived such trips.  As children when we were told by a grown up to hang on we hung on! One of my brothers, usually Sua gets to sit in front of my uncle. While the two older (Miến and I) were on the back.

Recently I took a bus to Boston (South Station) to see my husband who was there for several meetings.  Going to see my husband means I had to walk through Chinatown.  I stopped into one of my favorite sandwich (bánh mì) shops called Mei Sum (located at 26 Beach Street, Boston, MA). Usually 2-3 women run the front end dealing with customers.  These friendly women speak Cantonese, Vietnamese, and English.  One of them can speak Teochew (another Chinese dialect that I passively know).  There are a few tables and chairs for customers to sit.  Most of these customers are elderly Chinese men socializing with each other while sipping coffee or tea.  Visiting this shop always reminds me of my late grandfather and his friends enjoying  the same activity every morning at their local coffee shop (in Vietnam).  This place sells excellent bánh mì, shrimp or beef rice rolls in small styrofoam containers, cakes, pastries, dumplings, coffee and tea.  A few years ago I learned that they sell prepared frozen seedless durian by the pound.  One of the ladies proudly informed me that they use the same durian to make their cakes.  If you like what some people called the king of all fruit or stinky fruit then you may want to try their delicious durian cake!  For any special cakes you may want to call ahead and put in an order.  I have been shopping here for years.  When they saw me this time they quickly informed me that my husband was in earlier to buy some bánh mì (which I already knew).   However, they did not think he bought their fresh rice rolls so I bought a box of the shrimp and a frozen durian package.

In the past I made durian ice cream using heavy cream.  This time I replaced dairy for coconut milk for anyone who may be lactose intolerant or may not have access to heavy cream.  This non-dairy durian ice cream tastes almost the same as the one that I made using heavy cream.  It helps that the durian fruit is creamy in texture.  This time I used less sugar (1/3 cup vs 1/2 cup).  I like to add crushed roasted nuts on top similar to how it is served in Vietnam.  I don't get too excited by ice cream in particular but I eat this despite it being completely firmed.  I quickly took a few photographs as my husband commented, "I can smell it, it's very strong."  Yet, he ate half of my prop.  I guess it was not that bad after all!

Durian and Coconut Ice Cream (makes 1 1/2 quarts)

Ingredients:

3 cups store bought or home-made coconut milk
1/3-1/2 cup granulated sugar (or according to your taste)
2 large eggs
1 pound prepared seedless durian (less if desire), thawed in refrigerator if frozen

Method:

1) In a blender, puree durian and about 1 cup of coconut milk together until well blended.
2) Put the rest of coconut milk in a medium size pot over medium high heat.  Once the liquid starts to bubble turn heat down slightly to a simmer, stir occasionally for about 4-5 minutes.
3) In a bowl whisk eggs and sugar, and tempering this with some of the hot liquid (do not scramble the eggs).
4) Pour the pureed durian into the pot and cook, stir occasionally for about 4-5 minutes.  Add the tempered egg and sugar.  Turn off heat and let everything cool completely.  Refrigerate the contents until chilled.
5) Stir the chilled item together and process in your ice cream maker for 30 minutes or according to your manufacturer's instruction.
6) Pour the ice cream into a container and put in the freezer for at least 4-6 hours until firm or overnight.

Breakfast Oatmeal with Pineapple Berry and Coconut Sauce (4 servings)

breakfast oatmeal with pineapple berry
and coconut sauce
breakfast oatmeal with pineapple berry and coconut sauce
I have a little left over pineapple and berry compote and came up with this oatmeal dish for breakfast.  I mainly made it for my husband since he likes this sort of food.  If you want to have something warm and fruity this may be a good and healthy meal to try.  It's inspired by a dessert that I grew up eating.  However, in this case it's not overly sweet like most treats.  If you are interested in turning this into a delightful sweet morsel then add more sugar into the oatmeal and pineapple berry compote. 

My husband said his mother used to make hot oatmeal for the family when he was growing up especially during the cold winter months.  Most of the time she would add a little brown sugar, raisins, fresh berries or cut fruits.  I always enjoy hearing stories of how certain food or meals provoked happy memories from the past.

Oatmeal

I used Steel Cut oatmeal imported from Ireland (it came in a tin can).  It was recommended by several friends.  I followed the can's instruction and made a portion using 1 cup of oatmeal with 4 cups of boiling water.  Reduce heat to a simmer (uncovered) for about 30 minutes or until thicken. If you want to make it a dessert you can add some sweetener (such as sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup, honey, etc) in this. Instead of water you can substitute with milk, soy milk, coconut milk or even half water and half milk.  Use what you have or prefer.

Pineapple Berry Compote
pineapple berry compote
I made this Pineapple Berry Compote for crepe filling but I realized there are many uses for it.  I decided to add it to my oatmeal for look and taste.  

Coconut Milk Sauce

This coconut milk sauce is a basic sauce that I grew up eating.  It is used in dessert and some savory appetizers or on some street food items.  Even though it is used on desserts salt is added instead of sugar.  This is how my mother makes her sauce.

1 C coconut milk
1 tsp of cornstarch mix with 1 Tbsp water
A pinch of salt

Breakfast Oatmeal with Pineapple Berry and Coconut Sauce (4 servings)

You can arrange this dish however you prefer but this is how I made mine.  Spoon some cooked oatmeal into a cup or bowl.  Drizzle a few spoonfuls of coconut milk sauce over it.  Top with the Pineapple Berry Compote.  Sprinkle with some sesame seeds or nuts and indulge in this morning treat!

Happy Veteran's Day!
(Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, USA)

Pineapple and Berry Compote (filling for 6-7 crepes)

pineapple and 3 berries compote (next day)
I have a few dried berries that I have been meaning to use.  The pineapple from my local grocer does not have the same sweetness as Maui Gold (grown on Maui) but it came out delicious with the 3 types of berries.  I made this so I can experiment with making more sweet crepes.  However, this compote or sauce has many uses other than for these delightful treats.  You can add this to yogurt, ice cream, or oatmeal to name a few.  It can be eaten cold or warm.

Pineapple and Berry Compote (filling for 6-7 crepes)

Ingredients:

1/2 of a large prepared pineapple, diced or chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar (or to your taste)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried wild blueberries
6 oz fresh raspberries
1 tsp of cornstarch and 1 Tbsp of water mixture (thickener), optional

Method:

1) Add the pineapple, cranberries, blueberries and sugar to a small size pan or pot over medium high heat.
2) Once the liquid starts to boil, turn heat slightly lower to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
3) Add raspberries and cook for another 5-7 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
4) Add cornstarch and water mixture, stir a few times and turn off heat.

cooking compote on the stovetop
*If you prefer the compote to be thicker add a little more cornstarch to the water.
*The pretty red color came from the fresh raspberries.
*Any leftover compote can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to a week.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Spicy Frog and Lemongrass (serves 2)

spicy frog and lemongrass
Frog and lemongrass is a popular dish in Vietnam especially in the Mekong Delta where frogs are abundant...at least they were when I was a child. I remember going to the market with my mother or grandmother and there would be bamboo buckets containing hundreds of small live frogs for sale. These were mainly used for fishing baits. At the same market there were other larger frogs for sale, but for cooking. My brother, Dan and I used to fish often as children in Vietnam in the many hand-dug ponds (by my father and a few hired workers) on our property. My father released many baby fish in them so we have plenty of fish to catch and eat. We had so many ponds that we (children) would stake claim on these (ponds). Without much thought to our usual routine we hooked the frog by the thigh and throw the line in the water. Soon a large fish would bite, sometimes we both had to pull it out of the water (since some are too large for me to pull myself) and then bring home to our mother. We only would catch enough for one meal since we did not have refrigeration. Looking back the idea of using live frogs for bait seemed unusually cruel, even though it's not any different than using live fish to hook another larger fish as we do here in the United States. As an adult I returned to Vietnam a number of times and I have never seen any small live frogs for sale. I often wonder the reason for this.  Perhaps they have become extinct or people are no longer using them for baits due to over fishing.

I remember my mother bought the larger frogs at the market to cook. Years ago you would buy whole live frogs and then you have to prepare them yourself when you get home. My mother skinned the frog and gave it to me.  She taught me to wrap the skin around a tin can and sun dry it. The drying process in the tropical heat is quick; the exact time I do not recall. Once completely dried the skin becomes taunt making a nice drum. I had few toys as a child and this was something I remember making many times with much enthusiasm. 

Nowadays both here in the States and in the Mekong Delta (Vietnam) many of the large frogs are already prepared when you buy them from the market. In Vietnam often time you will find 2-3 live skinless and headless frogs at the market tied together per bunch. Why live? So the customers walking pass can see with their own eyes their true freshness. I am sure it's not a scene for everyone. Even I have a hard time looking at them. All I can say is that if you plan on visiting some food markets in some parts of Asia be prepared to be very upset and even horrified. Perhaps if you are prepared for the worst then nothing you see will be all that bad. I bought my exceptionally large frog legs in frozen packages from a store in Boston called Savenor's. They came in 2 pairs per package, weighing 0.59 and 0.75 pound. I have no idea how these frogs got so large....and frankly I am afraid to ask! I thawed them in my refrigerator overnight and dejointed the legs into pieces for easy cooking. Frog legs are very lean and quick to cook. Here is my spicy frog and lemongrass that I ate with couscous and Brussels sprouts...which is not a typical way for me to eat it. I normally eat this with rice and some other greens to dip into the sauce. However, I had a whole stalk of Brussels sprouts and tricolor couscous that needed to be eaten. 

large frog legs (from Savenor's market in Boston)
dejointed frog legs
onion wedges, chopped lemongrass and garlic
Spicy Frog and Lemongrass (serves 2)

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp of olive oil
1 large lemongrass stalk, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 small onion, peeled and sliced in wedges
4 pairs of large frog legs (came to 1.3 lbs), washed, drained, and dejointed
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp good chicken powder
1/2 tsp home-made or store bought sate chili sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp of sesame oil
1/2-1 tsp home-made or store bought sate chili sauce oil (or use according to your taste), garnish

Method:

1) Heat a pot or pan over medium high heat. Once the pot or pan is hot add oil. Add lemongrass, garlic and onion. Saute about 4-5 minutes.
2) Add frog legs.  Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes (try to keep the larger pieces as close to the bottom of the pan or pot to help them cook through).
3) Add oyster sauce, chicken powder, sate chili sauce, sugar, black pepper and sesame oil. Cook for about another 5 minutes or until the largest piece of frog is cooked through.
4) Remove from heat. Drizzle sate chili sauce oil on top.

*I am not going to tell you that frog legs taste like chicken. However, if you do not want to use frogs or have no access to frog legs then you may use chicken. It's best if you can use chicken thighs with the bones in.

a stalk of Brussels sprouts
spicy frog and lemongrass served with
tricolor couscous and steamed Brussels sprouts
I posted this set of sculptures in the past.
I like it because it reminded me of Dan and me
fishing back in the days when we lived in Vietnam...
this guy looked just like him when he was little and
he was always the one that caught the fish!
*There are many ways to eat this delicious Spicy Frog and Lemongrass dish besides the traditional way. You can remove the frog meat and make nice sandwiches. You can use toasted baguette pieces to dip into the sauce or even eat it with some rice noodles.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Crepes (Savory and Sweet Batter)--makes six to seven 9-inch crepes

home-made fig sauce crepes
(the background is a scarf from my friend,
Cindy who passed away
last year...thinking of you, my friend...)
moose crepes
You can make nice thin crepes using a regular non-stick pan. However, I have a crepe pan and it makes beautiful thin crepes. You can use a crepe stick to spread the batter--just be gentle and quick when you are doing this. However, you can also use your wrist and swirl the pan quickly in order to coat the entire pan with the batter. It does take a little practice to make round and thin crepes.
 
Once you have made a few crepes you can estimate how much batter you will need for each one. Initially you can pour the batter into a small container and use this as your measuring device for consistency. I normally use a medium size ladle. The initial crepes may not look so good but they are still tasty so don't discard them. You can pour your filling on top and eat them! Also, if your crepe is not perfect, roll the worst looking side first and no one will know except you. I tend to cover my crepes instead of flipping them to cook the other side. Sometimes I like to dust my sweet crepes with some confectioner's sugar (also known as powdered sugar or icing sugar). I put about 1/2 a tablespoon of powdered sugar in a fine strainer about a foot over my dish and tap the edge. If I have herb and flowers available then I use them for garnishes. These item (s) make a nicer presentation.

I normally use all-purpose flour to make my crepes. However, one day I ran out of it and substituted cake flour since that was available in my kitchen. This works equally well. You can make more crepes by doubling the ingredients in this recipe.
 
Crepes (Savory and Sweet Batter)--makes six to seven 9-inch crepes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup milk (1/%, 2%, skim, low fat, or whole milk), plus 1-3 Tbsp if needed to thin the batter
1/2 cup cake flour or all-purpose flour
2-3 chicken eggs (2 large or 3 small), room temperature, lightly beaten
A pinch of salt (optional)
A little oil of your choice or butter (to wipe or grease the pan)
**Add a tsp of sugar, if desired (for sweet crepes)
**Use any filling you prefer**

Method:

1) Pour milk into a medium size bowl. Stir flour in slowly while whisking to blend the ingredients together. Stir in eggs and salt (and sugar if making sweet crepes batter). Cover and let the crepe batter rest in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes before using.
2) Heat a pan over medium heat. Grease the pan as needed (I normally dab a piece of paper towel with some olive, canola, or vegetable oil and wipe the pan surface with this).
3) Once the pan is hot, stir the batter a few times to incorporate all ingredients and add a ladle (roughly 4 tablespoons) of batter in the pan. Use your wrist to swirl the pan quickly to spread the batter evenly. Any extra batter in the pan can be pour out of it and back into the batter bowl. Cook for about a minute. Either flip the crepe gently or cover the pan and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute.
4) Remove the crepe from the pan and add the filling (of your choice), roll or fold the crepe (in half or quarters). Repeat the process until all the batter is gone. Any time your batter gets too thick then add a little more liquid (about 1-3 tablespoons) to help thin it out.

*If you add another 3 tablespoons of liquid to the crepe batter then you can easily make 7 crepes with this recipe.
*When I was on Maui I had access to a large organic fig tree with many fruits. I would harvest a gallon bag of ripe fruits at a time, washed, halved each fruit and cooked them (about 1/2 hour) without adding water or sugar. Once it was cooled I kept this sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week. When ready to eat I spooned out what I needed. For the crepe sauce (as seen in above photo) I added a little sugar, a mixture of cornstarch and water (to thicken the liquid) and heated it. My husband enjoyed adding a little of the plain fig sauce to his breakfast yogurt. I used some of the plain fig sauce to make delicious smoothies.


figs (Maui, 2014)
figs and leaves (Maui, 2014)

Home-Made Passion Fruit Ice Cream (makes 1 1/2 quarts)

home-made passion fruit ice cream
with a sprinkle of roasted candle nut
I have never had lilikoi ice cream and was interested in making it.  Lilikoi is a Hawaiian term for passion fruit.  Chanh leo is a Vietnamese term literally means climbing lemon.  Once these vines start growing they are hard to control.  My friend Donna (who is a master gardener on Maui) tells me these can be seen as invasive species since they can grow out of control.  My husband and I harvested these fruits on Maui and I cooked the juice into a syrupy sauce.  On this trip I was able to produce a large bottle.  I have been making many ramekins of creme brulee for family and friends with this same bottle.  Now I am using up my remaining cup.  This batch of passion fruit syrup is more tart than usual so I had to add more sugar.   Despite all the sugar in this recipe, the ice cream has a creamy sorbet-like taste.  Feel free to adjust the sugar according to your taste.   The beauty of making your own dessert such as ice cream is that you can definitely adjust the amount of sugar to your preference.  I rarely eat the ice cream sold in local grocers or ice cream shops since I find it to be too sweet for my taste.  Having an ice cream maker is a huge bonus. I can make all kinds of ice cream and get to enjoy every bite!

There are many varieties of passion fruits.  This variety that I use are green when unripe and turn yellow when ripened.  It is best to use only the ripened fruits since they are much sweeter.
  
passion fruit (lilikoi in Hawaiian)
flower with green (unripe) fruit
in the background
green (unripe) passion fruits on vine
juicy seeds from ripened passion fruit
passion fruits
(extremely sweet variety)
passion fruit flower
(another variety)
Home-Made Passion Fruit Ice Cream (makes 1 1/2 quarts)

Ingredients:

1 cup whole milk 
2 cups heavy cream
2 eggs
1 cup lilikoi syrup
3/4 cup granulated sugar (add more or less depending on the tartness of your passion fruit syrup)

Method:

1) In a medium size pot over medium high heat, add milk and heavy cream.  Stir occasionally until just boiling, then turn down heat to a simmer and stir occasionally for about 4-5 minutes.  Remove pot from heat.
2) Whisk eggs in a medium size bowl, and temper this with hot milk/heavy cream.
3) In a small pot over medium high heat, add passion fruit syrup and sugar.  Stir until the liquid is well blended and the sugar has completed dissolved.  Remove and add to egg/milk/heavy cream mixture.  Let the contents cool completely, cover and chill in a refrigerator.
4) Stir the chilled liquid and process in your ice cream maker for 30 minutes or according to your manufacturer's instruction.
5) Pour the ice cream into a container and put in the freezer for at least 4-6 hours, overnight or when it firms up.  Once firm you can start eating.  Although it's pretty creamy and delicious as is!

*My husband loves ice cream and he eats most if not all of the store bought ones.  The last time we bought some I saved the container in my cupboard and used it to pour my ice cream mixture in.  This recipe fits exactly 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream.
*Instead of passion fruit you can experiment with other type of fruits.  You can blend your favorite fruit (s) with some whole milk to get a smooth consistency.  Or you can also add some chunk fruit (s) for texture.  Depending on the sweetness of your fruit (s) you may not need much sugar.  I made durian ice cream in the past and this turned out very tasty.  I love the creamy taste of durian so I overloaded on this fruit!  Of course you don't have to go overboard with this stinky fruit (that some people claim).
*Also if you want your home-made lilikoi syrup to last longer, keep it in the freezer.  

that's me on the slopes of Wildcat (New Hampshire)
(photo courtesy of my husband, Paul)
here I am with friends, Karen and Jim
(photo courtesy from Paul)
Paul, Karen, Jim and a few other skiers
here my husband and friends (Karen and Jim)
waited patiently for slow-poke me to catch up...
skiers in red
*The few photos above were taken when my husband and I skied (at Wildcat) with our friends Karen and Jim last Winter (2014).  If you enjoy skiing with a beautiful scenery I would highly recommend you try this place out.  It took me forever to make a single run.  I was in awe with its beauty but also because I was very slow.  I actually carried my Nikon SLR in my backpack during the whole day. Glad I did not fall bad enough to do any major damage to my camera!
*addendum: I added a few more photos of passion fruits/flowers.

Moose Spätzle (serves 3)

delicious moose spaetzle
(photo taken by android phone)
I still had some thawed ground moose so I decided to make a sauce to use up some of the other ingredients in my kitchen.  I made spätzle to go with this sauce since it was quick, easy, cheap and light.  We invited our neighbor, Inge over for a late dinner.  My husband made a nice fire to keep us all warm and toasty.  We are lucky to have a  fireplace.  We certainly made good use of it since we bought our home!

Also thank you Holly for the tasty moose meat.  It has certainly forced me to be a little more creative with my meals!  

Spätzle (makes about 15 1/4 oz)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup cake flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1 egg, room temperature, lightly beaten

Method:

1)  In a medium bowl whisk all the dry ingredients (flour and salt) with water.
2) Add egg and mix well until all ingredients are blended.
3) Let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes.
4) In the meantime heat a large pot with 5 cup water (may add a pinch of salt if desire) over high heat until the water boils.
5) Turns heat to medium high and use a large pan or colander with large holes (about 1 cm or 3/8-inch in diameter) to place on top of the pot.
6) With a flexible spatula take a small amount of dough and force through the holes.
7) When the dumplings float to the top, scoop them out to a clean bowl.
8) Continue this process until all the dough is gone.

Moose Spätzle (serves 3)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 oz pancetta, diced
1 lb ground moose meat
10 oz white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 lb tomatoes, deseeded and diced
10 oz spinach, washed and sliced in strips
1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp of fish sauce (or according to your taste)
A large pinch of freshly ground black pepper
A small handful of chopped parsley leaves
One batch of prepared spätzle (see recipe above)

Method:

1) Heat a large pot over medium high heat.  Once the pot is hot add 1 tablespoon of oil, garlic and onion.  Saute for about a minute.
2) Add pancetta and saute about a minute.
3) Scatter in the moose meat and 1/2 tablespoon oil.  Cook for about 2 minutes.
4) Add mushrooms and tomatoes, saute about 1-2 minutes.
5) Add spinach and stir occasionally for another 5 minutes.
6) Add fish sauce, pepper and parsley.  Cook for about a minute.
7) Add the spätzle and mix everything together.  Cook for another minute or until everything is heated thoroughly.  Turn off heat.

*I served this dish with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and it was delicious.
*If you do not have access to moose meat you can easily substitute this with another ground meat.
*You may use salt instead of fish sauce; add according to your taste.


addendum:  This is the next day's meal.
The liquid has been absorbed but still very tasty.
I sprinkled grated Parmesan cheese and
some chopped parsley for a prettier presentation.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Moose Crepes (makes six-seven 9-inch crepes)

my moose crepes--photo taken by an android phone
(the Dutch coffee cup was a gift from an aunt and uncle from Holland,
the snow flake tray came from my mother-in-law)
After visiting my parents I stopped to see my good friend, Holly and her family in Durham, Maine. We have been friends since middle school. We grew up in a small town in Maine living less than half a mile from each other. She is now a seasoned Nurse Anesthetist (she makes a living putting people to sleep!). She and her husband raised three very beautiful and polite children in a gorgeous home located on a river that I refer to as a lake based on its size. When I visited she took me to her children's school where her youngest boy and his grade were parading with their costumes (most were amazingly creative). Her son was dressed as a ninja. I thought that was exciting since I have never experienced this when I was his age.

Holly had some moose meat in her deep freezer that she shared with me. I was happy to just have a tiny piece but she ended up giving me 3 frozen bags. She received the meat from her hunter brother-in-law. While I was there I had a peek at her pantry to see what I can do with some of the meat. I sauteed the ground meat with some onion, parsley and added store bought jar of tomato sauce that I found. Her adventurous 8 year old daughter has never eaten moose before but seemed excited by the prospect of eating it. Since I have never eaten moose either I had a little taste. The meat is not at all gamey. It was tasty and lean as I had suspected. After I left, Holly said she made pasta shells, pour the moose sauce over them and sprinkled grated Parmesan cheese on top. She said it was "delicious".

When I got home I came up with the idea of using ingredients that I like in a savory crepe. So here are my moose crepes! Perhaps next time I visit Holly and her family I can make this for them. Thank you Holly and family for the tasty meat!


A) Savory Crepe Batter (makes seven 9-inch crepes)

Ingredients:

1/2 C whole milk, plus ~3 Tbsp if needed to thin the batter
1/2 C cake flour or all-purpose flour
2-3 chicken eggs (2 large or 3 small), room temperature, lightly beaten
A pinch of salt (optional)
A little oil or butter (to wipe or grease the pan)

Method:

1) Pour milk into a medium size bowl. Stir flour in slowly while whisking to blend the ingredients together. Stir in the beaten eggs and salt. Cover and let the crepe batter rest in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes before using.

*I find that it is best to make the batter first and let it sit while I make the filling. By the time the filling is done then I can use the batter.

B) Moose Crepes Filling (enough to fill 6-7 crepes)

Ingredients:

1-2 tsp olive oil
1 finely grated garlic clove
1/2 small white onion (1 oz), finely diced 
1 oz sliced pancetta (may substitute with good bacon or omit)
2 oz sliced white button mushrooms (may substitute with another type if interested)
3 oz sliced spinach (about 15 large leaves)
1 medium size tomato (3 oz), de-seeded and diced
6 oz ground moose meat (break into small pieces)
Sea salt to taste
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Leaves from 3-4 sprigs of parsley (about 1/4 oz), chopped (half for cooking and half for garnish
1 tsp cornstarch and 1 Tbsp water mixture (keep separate in a small bowl)

Method:

1) Heat a medium size pan over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot add oil.
2) Add garlic and onion. Saute for about 30 seconds to a minute or until onion is translucent.
3) Add pancetta and saute about 30 seconds.  
4) Sprinkle in moose meat and cook about 2 minutes.
5) Add tomato and mushrooms. Stir occasionally for about a minute.
6) Add 1/2 of the spinach. Once it is slightly wilted add the rest.
7) Add salt to taste, a pinch of black pepper and half of the parsley.  
8) Add cornstarch and water mixture, stir a few times and turn heat to low. This will help thicken the filling a little.

*You can roughly portion the filling out (while it is still in the pan) so you can have an idea of how much you want in each crepe. This way your crepes will have roughly equal amount. I saved a little bit of filling to add to the top of my finished crepes for presentation.

C) Making Moose Crepes

1) Heat the pan over medium high heat. Grease the pan as needed (I normally dab a piece of paper towel with olive, vegetable or canola oil to grease the pan).  
2) Once the pan is hot, stir the batter a few times to blend all ingredients and add a ladle (about 4 tablespoons) of batter in the pan. Use your wrist to swirl the pan quickly to spread the batter. Any extra batter in the pan can be pour out of the pan and back into the batter bowl. Cook for about a minute. Either flip the crepe gently or cover the pan and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute. Spoon the Moose Crepes Filling (see recipe above), add cheese (I added 2 thinly sliced brie for each crepe) if interested and roll or fold the crepes (in half or quarters). Repeat the process until all the batter is gone. If your batter gets too thick then add a little more liquid (~1 to 3 tablespoons) to help thin it out.
3) Spoon a little of the filling on top of the finished crepes and sprinkle chopped parsley over them if interested.

*Once you have made a few crepes you can estimate how much batter you will need for each one.  Initially you can pour the batter into a small container and use this as your measuring device for consistency. I normally use a ladle.
*The initial crepes may not look so good but they are still tasty so don't discard them! You can pour your filling on top and eat them! Also, if your crepe is not perfect, roll the worst looking side first and no one except you will know about the imperfections.
*I tend to cover my crepes instead of flipping them to cook the other side.
*I like crepes because they are so versatile. I can use the same batter to make both savory and sweet ones.  With sweet crepes I add a little sugar to the batter. I find that I can make nice thin crepes using a regular non-stick pan. However, I have a crepe pan and it also makes beautiful thin crepes. You can use a crepe stick to spread the batter--just be gentle and quick when you are doing this. It does take a little practice to make round thin crepes. Another easy way without the crepe stick is using your wrist and swirl the batter to coat the pan quickly. It works great and you do not have to spend the extra money on this tool.  
*I normally use all-purpose flour to make my crepes. However, one day I ran out of it and substituted cake flour since that was available in my kitchen. Maybe there is some subtle differences but honestly I cannot tell. This time I used whole milk for my batter. In the past I have used 1%, 2%, skim, and low fat milk. You can probably use soy milk but I have never tried. This time after making my first crepe I ended up adding 3 more tablespoons of milk to get my batter thinner. You can make more crepes by doubling the ingredients in this recipe. This recipe (batter and filling) is enough for 2 people.
*My good friend and former Nurse Practitioner coworker, Deb asked me the difference between all the different salt.  Here is a good salty link for you!  http://authoritynutrition.com/different-types-of-salt

Monday, November 3, 2014

Broccoli and Crab Soup (makes about 9 cups)

When I visited my parents recently my mother gave me some fresh Maine crab meat that she hand-picked.  She mentioned the last time she purchased  live crabs was 10-gallons and it took her 2 days to picked out the meat!  If you have never removed meat from a crab before I recommend you try just a few to start and see how far you get.  She already sauteed the meat with a little oil, garlic, scallions and salt in order for it to have longer shelf life and specifically told me to use it for a quick banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches).  However, I have almost 2 pounds of broccoli that I had washed and prepared in my refrigerator and needed to use up before they turn yellow.  We had our first snow (flurry) yesterday here in Seacoast New Hampshire and the weather is getting quite chilly, so hot soup is on my mind.  My parents on the other hand live in the middle of Maine and got over a foot of snow!  I know the last few postings have been on soups.  Just to be clear, many of my blog postings are not on real time.  This soup is inspired by cream of broccoli but without the cream.  Although my husband tells me it turns out very tasty, I would not recommend making this for a dinner party... unless they are your closest friends or family!  The broccoli bits can get in between your teeth.
Sauteed Maine Crab Meat
Sauteed Maine Crab Meat (enough to fill 2 banh mi)

Ingredients:

2 tsp oil
1 small scallion (green part only), chopped
1 garlic, minced
~8 oz crab meat, discard any shell and cartilage pieces
A pinch of salt or a squirt of fish sauce (more or less according to your taste), optional

Method:

1) Add oil to a heated pan. Once the pan is hot add scallion and garlic.  Saute about 30 seconds to a minute.
2) Add crab meat and salt or fish sauce (if interested), saute gently for about 1-2 minutes.

*This Sauteed Maine Crab Meat has many uses.  It is a great filling for delicious whole banh mi or as mini banh mi appetizers.  You can also put a little on sliced cucumber, crackers or banh phong tom (shrimp chips) for other tasty appetizers.
broccoli and Maine crab soup
Broccoli and Maine Crab Soup (makes about 9 cups)

Ingredients:

1 tsp oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 lb 12 oz prepared broccoli crowns and stalks (keep crowns and stalks in separate piles), washed*
5 cups water (or use no salt or low sodium chicken broth)
Sauteed Maine Crab Meat (see recipe above)
1 1/2-2 Tbsp fish sauce (use more or less according to your taste)
Freshly ground black or white pepper, optional

Method:

1) Boil water or broth in a medium to large pot, blanch broccoli stalks for about 3-4 minutes then scoop them out and set aside.  Add broccoli crowns and blanch for about 1 minute then scoop them out and set aside.
2) Remove pot from heat and let water or broth cool.
3) Heat a small pan over medium high heat.  Add oil once the pan is hot.  Saute onion and garlic for about 2 minutes and set aside.
4) In a blender add 1/2 of blanched broccoli, 1/2 sauteed onion/garlic,  and 1/2 cooled water or broth. Puree this until well blended.  Repeat for the other half of broccoli, onion/garlic and water or broth.
5) Use the same pot (for blanching broccoli) and pour the blended mixture into it.
6) Heat the pot over medium high heat and add Sauteed Maine Crab Meat (see above) and fish sauce.  Avoid letting the contents boil.  Once everything is heated thoroughly turn off heat.  Add freshly ground pepper to individual bowl if interested.

*I prepared my broccoli crowns and stalks by cutting the stalk off each crown.  I peel the outer layer of each stalk since this layer is tough.  I also peel the outer layer at the base of each crown.  I store them in a plastic bag and refrigerated.  When ready to use I take them out and wash a few times. Sometimes when I am busy I prepared broccoli and other vegetables ahead to save time later.
*If you want to make this creamy without adding dairy add 1-2 cups of coconut milk to step 6.

my mother usually purchases
1 or 2 five-gallon buckets of
live Maine crabs
from her fishermen friends
*There are many great advantages to living near the coast in the Northeast.  One is over time you get to establish a good relationship with some very hard working fishermen who still go out for their catch so we can have access to the wonderful fresh seafood!  My mother worked with some of them (when she was working for the paper mill in Bucksport).  This is their hobby and also something to bring home extra income.