Friday, April 24, 2015

Not My Mother's Meatloaf (makes 2)

not my mother's meatloaf
These are definitely not my mother's meatloaves! I did not grow up eating them. Growing up in Maine my family ate almost all home-cooked Teochew/Vietnamese meals made by my mother usually from scratch. Occasionally she would make us "American" foods such as spaghetti with a chicken tomato sauce, her style of burgers or some meals my brothers wanted to eat but she would recreate with her own healthier ingredients. I think I ate my first meatloaf slice as an adult in some restaurant but it was bland and dry. Usually it was not something I remember wanting to eat again soon. I think the first time I ever ate a good one was from my mother-in-law's kitchen. Hers was quite moist and tasty!

I saw a ground beef/pork/veal mixture at my local grocery and thought it may be time to make some meatloaf of my own. This is what I came up with using some of my leftover ingredients; days old French bread, red onions, scallions, and parsley. The result is super moist meatloaf and my husband agreed it was quite delicious! We ate the smaller one with steamed rice and fresh vegetables.


meatloaf mixture
Not My Mother's Meatloaf (makes 2)

Ingredients:

2 cups combination of cubes and crumbs mixture (made from old bread)
2 cups milk
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion (or 1 1/4 cup chopped)
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 tomato, deseeded and chopped (or 2/3 cup chopped)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp black pepper1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp dried parsley, hand crushed
3 Tbsp ketchup (plus 1-2 Tbsp for the top of each loaf)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2.2 lbs of ground beef, pork, veal mix

 Method:

1) In a large container add milk to the bread crumbs and cubes to soften them.
2) In a small skillet or pan heat oil and add onions and scallions. Cook until the onion soften.
3) Add the cooked onions and scallions to the bread mixture.
4) Add tomato, egg, pepper, salt, parsley, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix everything well.
5) Add the meat mixture and gently mix until everything is incorporated. Avoid over mixing.
6) Divide the contents into 2 and pour the mixture into 2 pans (I used 8 inch x 8 inch and 6 inch x 3 inches).
7) May smear 1-2 Tbsp of extra ketchup on top of each loaf if interested (I used 2 Tbsp for the 8 x 8 inch and 1 Tbsp for the 6 x 3 inch).
8) Bake the loaves in a pre-heat oven at 350 degrees F for about 45 to 50 minutes or until done.
9) Broil for about 2 minutes to brown the top slightly.
10) Turn off heat and let the pans sit in the over for about 15 minutes to let it cook further.
11) Remove from the oven and pour as much of the liquid out as you can and reserve some of the juice.
12) Baste the top of each loaf with a little of the liquid to keep it moist and serve while still warm.

*I kept an extra pan with some water on the bottom rack in the oven to humidify the oven.
*After baking the loaves will shrink a little.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Baked Scallops (makes 2 appetizers)


I have a bad habit of serving people food that I cooked without prior tasting. Luckily for me so far no one seemed to mind! Last night I made 4 of these dishes but failed to taste them. So today I decided to make a few more so I could check it out myself. This is a simple way to serve up fresh off-the-boat scallops. I particularly prefer these scallops to be on the rarer side. If you would like these to be more cooked then you can bake them a little longer. Remember that if you overcook these they will be tough. I like to use the scallop shells to serve these but if you do not have any available you may use any shallow oven safe dishes. 


these must have tasted OK!
Baked Scallops (makes 2 appetizers) 

Ingredients:

6 oz sea scallops, tough muscles and sand removed, washed, sliced horizontally into 2-3 thin slices
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed, finely chopped
1/2 cup diced sweet onion (or about 1/2 medium onion)
1/4 cup chopped scallions, green part only (or 2 scallions)
1 tomato, de-seeded, diced
1 Tbsp chopped sun-dried tomato
A sprinkle or large pinch of crushed sea salt (or to your taste)
A sprinkle or pinch of sugar
A sprinkle or pinch of freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 1/2 to 3 Tbsp of salt free seasoned bread crumbs
A large pinch of chopped fresh or crushed dried parsley leaves
Lime or lemon juice, optional

Method:

1) Preheat the oven at 450 degrees F.
2) Divide the prepared scallops into 2 and scatter these slices in an even layer on the bottom of each dish.
3) Heat a pan over medium high heat.
4) Add oil once the pan is hot. Add garlic, onion, and scallions. Saute about 4 minutes or until the onion is soft.
5) Add tomato, sun-dried tomato, salt, sugar, pepper, and paprika and saute for about 4 minutes or until the tomato is cooked and slightly thickened.
6) Pour the contents over the scallops to make a second layer.
7) Mix the bread crumbs with the parsley leaves. Sprinkle this over the tomato and scallop to make a third layer. May sprinkle with a little extra salt and pepper over the top if interested.
8) Bake the dishes on a cookie pan at 450 degrees F for about 3-4 minutes until the liquid starts to bubble.
9) Turn the oven to broil and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden brown.
10) Remove from heat and drizzle a little lime or lemon juice over the top right before serving if interested.

*I freeze these fresh scallops to help eliminate some of the bacteria before thawing and eating them. To read more about the safety of eating raw or lightly cooked seafood please go to Simple Scallop Ceviche for the web links.
*I will try using other seafood such as shrimp, lobster, crab meat, fish or a combination of seafood for interest and taste the next time I make this. I may even add some sausage and turn it into an entree instead of just a little appetizer.
*Below are 2 photos that I took from walking around in Portsmouth, New Hampshire yesterday. These blooms are a good sign indicating that Spring has finally arrived to this part of the country!!

purple bouquet
magnolia blossoms

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Seared Scallops over Sauteed Tofu Noodles (serves 2-3)


There are many advantages of living near the seacoast. For me one of the best is accessibility to fresh seafood. My favorite scallop vendor is F/V Rimrack and they are located in Rye Harbor, New Hampshire. I feel lucky that Captain Mike still goes out regularly for fresh scallops. If you are interested in fresh off the boat scallops you may contact them directly by visiting their website at http://www.rimrackfish.com/

While shopping at my local grocery I came across these tofu shirataki macaroni shaped noodle substitute. These are marked as gluten free, no cholesterol, vegan and non-GMO certified. I have never seen these before and thought I would give it a try. They turned out to be quite tasty. They are a nice change from pasta or rice. These are not as soft and easy to break apart as other types of tofu. They contain soybeans and yam flour so they have a firmer texture. 

Sauteed Tofu Noodles

Ingredients:

1-2 Tbsp of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1/4 cup chopped scallions, green part only
5 oz (or about 10) asparagus, tough base discarded and cut into 2-inch lengths
5 oz (or about 8) baby bella mushrooms, julienned
1/2cup of cold water mix with 1 Tbsp of cornstarch
2 bags (8 oz each) Tofu Shirataki Macaroni Shaped Noodle Substitute
1 oz fresh baby spinach
2 tsp of chicken broth base powder (preferably non-MSG)
1/8 tsp salt (or according to your taste)

Method:

1) Heat a large pan over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot add oil.
2) Add garlic and scallion. Saute about 30 seconds.
3) Add asparagus and mushrooms. Saute about 2 minutes.
4) Add water with cornstarch. Saute for about another 3 minutes.
5) Add tofu, spinach, broth, and salt. Stir occasionally and cook for about 2-3 minutes or until the spinach leaves wilt.

Seared Sea Scallops

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp oil (vegetable or canola)
1/2 pound of scallops, removed the tough muscles and washed well, dried them with clean paper towel or cloth, sprinkled both sides lightly with salt and black pepper (if interested)

Method:

Heat about 2 Tbsp of oil over medium high heat. Add scallops (avoid overcrowding them) and fry them over heat for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until lightly golden. Serve these scallops on SauteedTofu Noodles (see recipe above).

*You may grate some Parmesan Reggiano or your choice of cheese before eating if interested.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Simple Scallop Ceviche (serves 2-3 small appetizers)



Today I visited my favorite scallop vendor located in Rye Harbor (New Hampshire). Last night I placed a scallop order via email from Padi, co-owner of F/V Rimrack. This morning she called to confirm. I drove out to the harbor to meet her and she gave me a bag with my name on it. It has been awhile since I last purchased these fresh and sweet tasting scallops. Her fisherman husband, Captain Mike returned from sea last night with a new batch. Most of the time customers like me would line up with coolers as Mike returned with his fishing vessel after a day's catch. Honestly I don't know many places around here that offer fresh off the boat seafood. Padi mentioned this afternoon that she knows only a handful of fishermen still active in the local New Hampshire coast. I wonder how many of them will remain active over the next 5 years. While I was there I met someone who came with a huge cooler and walked away with nearly 15 pounds of the shucked scallops! Well, if it takes an hour drive (for this woman) to get these then you might as well make it worthwhile!

I have made many ceviche dishes over the years. Here is a pretty simple one requiring very few ingredients. It is colorful and tasty.

freshly harvested scallops from New Hampshire
simple scallop ceviche
Simple Scallop Ceviche (serves 2-3 small appetizers)

Ingredients:

1/2 pound scallops, side muscle removed, washed, diced
1 tomato, de-seeded, diced
About 8 whole thin slices of red onion, cut half
1 scallion, green part only, chopped
Juice from 2 limes
A sprinkle of crushed sea salt to taste
A sprinkle of black lava sea salt, garnish (optional)

Method:

In a medium size bowl add scallops, tomato, onion, and scallion. Pour lime juice over the contents and mix gently with a spoon. Sprinkle sea salt and gently mix everything. Garnish with lava sea salt if interested.

a peaceful scene from beautiful
Rye Harbor (April 2015)
*Below are a few links from http://www.seafoodhealthfacts.org/ regarding the safety of eating raw or lightly cooked seafood. These were provided to me by Doris Hicks, Seafood Technology Specialist. Thank you Doris!

http://seafoodhealthfacts.org/seafood_safety/practitioners/parasites.php
http://seafoodhealthfacts.org/seafood_safety/patients/parasites.php
http://seafoodhealthfacts.org/seafood_safety/doctors/parasites.php
http://seafoodhealthfacts.org/seafoodqa/18.php
http://seafoodhealthfacts.org/seafood_safety/practitioners/handling.php

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Coconut Candies

Vietnamese coconut candies
One afternoon in between customers (at Minh Chau Restaurant) my cousin Sieu Hui (aka Tu Hue) and I made coconut candies. This beautiful and tasty home-made treat is even more special when some of your ingredients are home-grown and home-harvested! One of the staff helped by removing the flesh from four medium aged coconuts (that were harvested from the back of the restaurant) and slicing the meat with a peeler. These coconuts must mature just right. They cannot be too young or too old. The very young ones do not have much meat and the very aged ones are too tough. Sieu Hui harvested a handful of pandan leaves from the same land. The process that took the most time was removing the flesh and slicing it. Using a peeler makes the slices even and pretty. After this tedious process the rest is more fun. We added sugar to the sliced coconut and then stirred it over moderately high heat until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Once the moisture has nearly disappeared we had to be quick; requiring us to stir the contents constantly and rapidly over low heat until the coconut slices are completely dried with a residue of sugar on them. 

Coconut Candies

Ingredients:

1 kg (2.2 lbs) of coconut slices
1/2 kg (1.1 lbs) of sugar
About 10 fresh pandan leaves, washed well and cut into 3-4 inch lengths
Food color (optional)

Method:

1) Add the sugar to the coconut slices. Stir well and let it marinade until the sugar has melted. Best left at room temperature for about an hour.
2) Add color to the sugary slices if interested (we divided the slices and its sugary liquid in 2 pots to make white and pink). Add pandan leaves.
3) Cook under medium high heat until the liquid comes to a boil. Stir frequently. May turn heat down slightly but let the liquid simmers until somewhat dry. Decrease the heat to low and keep stirring constantly to prevent the sugar or slices from burning. Remove from heat once the coconut slices and sugar are completely dried. Bag the slices once they are cooled.

marinading coconut slices in sugar
my cousin Sieu Hui (Tu Hue) happily
stirring the pots using both hands
keep stirring, the slices still glossy and moist looking
getting there, keep stirring
the slices appear very dry = done
here is beautiful freshly
made coconut candies
these are too time consuming to make or else
we could sell them at her restaurant
A few helpful and useful tips:

 *Once the sugar has melted you can taste and check to see if the sweetness is according to your liking.
*We added just a little bit of color (about 1/8 teaspoon) to 1/2 of the batch. The food coloring that we used, red Wilton Icing Color. After mixing the color in everything has a light pink color. However, after cooking down the liquid the slices became a pretty brighter pink. The white is the natural color of the coconut.
*The whole process of cooking the candies may take up to 40-60 minutes. Once the liquid has absorbed and evaporated remember to turn the heat to low to keep the coconut slices from burning or turning yellow. Initially you do not have to be as quick. Once the candies start to get dry and you have turn down the heat you must be very quick and constantly stir them until they are completely dried. We used chopsticks to stir.
*These coconuts are not too young or too old. Avoid buying any coconuts that are dried and brown since the meat will be too tough. These old coconuts are usually good for extracting for the milk. Honestly I am not sure where you can buy these type of coconuts in the United States...unless you grow your own or know someone who grow them.
*You can extract pandan leaves for the green color if interested instead of using fruit coloring. You may purchase pandan leaves in the freezer section of some Asian markets.
*I prefer to leave the dried pandan leaves in the finished product for interest. Some people remove them after the candies are done.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Pan-Fried Pork Chops (serves 3-4)


I have never appreciated how bones are cut until I visited Vietnam. In An Trach Market where Ah Ma (grandmother) lives the meat vendors there use an ax to cut the large (pig) bones. This leaves tiny bone fragments on the meat and sometimes embedded in the meat. These can be quite sharp and dangerous. Back home in the States I visit my local market and I feel fortunate that I can get perfectly cut bones that are smooth to the touch. 

Since I was unsure how salty my marinade was I tried pan frying a small piece to sample it. This way I can still adjust my ingredients accordingly before I let my marinade sit too long. My husband and I agreed it was tasty but not too salty. If you do prefer a saltier taste then you may adjust it to your taste buds. I also want to pan-fry the pork chops to retain some of the moisture. 

Once cooked I let the pieces rest about 5 minutes (to allow the juices to stay inside the meat) before slicing them against the grain. The sliced meat is great on rice/noodles, in soup or sandwiches. 

sliced pan-fried pork chops with rice noodles
and fresh vegetables
sliced pan-fried pork chops in home-made egg noodles
sliced pan-fried pork chops with brown rice and vegetables
Pan-Fried Pork Chops (serves 3-4)

Ingredients:

2 1/2 lbs sirloin end pork chops (or 3 pieces about 1-inch thick cut)
2-3 Tbsp dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine
2 Tbsp honey
3 garlic cloves (about 1 Tbsp grated)
About 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/8 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

Method:

Mix all ingredients and pour over the pork chops. Rub the pork chops to coat the marinade evenly. Let the meat marinade for about 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Once removed from the refrigerator let the meat return to room temperature. Pan fry over medium heat until cooked thoroughly, about 10-12 minutes. Partially cover the pan as needed or use a splatter guard (to keep the oil in and to cook faster).

*For a quick clean-up and easy storage I used a zip-lock bag to marinade my pork chops.
*I prefer pan frying the meat using a cast iron pan browning my meat nicely.
*It's April and there is no hint of Spring in the Seacoast of New Hampshire yet. Below is a photo that I took from our most recent snow fall. 

recent fresh snow (3-inches to be exact)
in seacoast New Hampshire(April 2015)