Friday, March 2, 2018

Vegetarian Pho

Have you ever looked at a recipe and at first glance thought "Oh, Hell no! That's too much work!", but then actually decide to make the recipe and in the end it seems like a piece of cake? Well that was this recipe for me. What seemed like a lot of steps ended up being quite manageable, and even more manageable if you make the broth ahead of time.

I found the recipe on, and set out collecting ingredients. Once I made the broth the first time, however, I realized it really wasn't difficult. There may be more steps than my cooking usually calls for, but I found myself making it again a week later on a rainy day when I was doing other things around the house. Once everything is in the pot you just leave it and go on about other housework. Now I have several containers frozen for a quick meal in the future.

All of the ingredients for the broth. I'm back and fourth on the dry shitake mushrooms. They certainly add flavor, but they are quite chewy in the finished pho.

Garlic, cilantro stems, dried shitake and fresh shitake stems start the broth base in the pot.

Toasting the spices.
And broiling the onions, shallot, and ginger.
Throw everything together and add 16 cups of water, bring to a simmer, and simmer away for about an hour.

All the good, steamy smells. After the hour you strain the broth through a double layer of cheesecloth.
As the hour is coming to an end, slice your mushroom caps and finely chop the ginger and shallot.
You can also get your rice noodles softened.
The mushroom-hoisin mix ready to go into each bowl, followed by the strained broth.

Topped with sprouts, carrots, radish, cilantro, lime and more hoisin and chili sauce. The dumplings I made looked ugly, but were pretty good as well. I'll post them separately.

So, so good. The review from Contractor was "Will eat again!" which is high praise. Next up I need to tackle my sushi rolling skills.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Getting Out of the Cold

This week, as January was coming to a close and spring actually looks to be somewhere on the horizon, I stopped to check on the tropical plants and have a brief respite from the still frigid temperatures. I also needed some banana leaves for steaming some dumplings, so the banana plants were cleaned up a bit in the process. 

Seeing everything growing so well, even if getting a little leggy reaching for sunlight, has me ready to get everyone back outside and into the warm weather.

The Meyer lemon brought back from Florida last year is doing amazingly well. I can't wait until all of these fruit begin to ripen.
A new papaya is growing!

And there are multiple flowers blooming and budding out, as well as quite a bit of new growth.
This guy has long been believed to be another Meyer lemon. However, I'm not so sure anymore.

There is a ton of fruit on the plant, and I guess to get that orange-yellow color of a Meyer lemon it has a ways to go, but I'm beginning to think it might be a limequat. Although the fruit is probably too big for that. At any rate, there are about 25 fruits on this tree.
Also exciting is that the avocado tree I brought home from Logee's last April seems to be about to bloom.

Small clusters of buds are set in several places, and I cannot wait to see them bloom!

In the "Winter Garden Annex" all of the elephant ears are slowly growing, waiting to really go to town once they are back in the garden.

One of the "Stingray" elephant ears.

All of the agave are doing well. This is a two year old "pup". I also just added to the collection, although the latest addition is still at my home on South Calhoun.
And I didn't forget the banana leaves! The dwarf Cavendish bananas we grow have yet to fruit, but at least are useful! The largest might get divided up this year, we will have to wait and see.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Vegetable Lo Mein

In an attempt to eat something more interesting than pasta or lime-rice rice bowls, I decided to broaden my vegetarian repertoire and make vegetable lo mein. Now, it isn't technically vegetarian since I used oyster sauce, but it's close enough to my personal rules of  "conscientious eating" (I should probably talk about that some time) that I don't care. I used this recipe from Food&Wine, and although it is for "Vegetable Chow Mein", I used lo mein noodles so changed the name of the recipe and created a post title.

I've made this twice, once with hot and sour soup, and once with vegetarian avgolemono (for a sort of Around the World meal). Both times were great, but since I always throw the entire packet of noodles in rather than weighing out the 8oz the recipe calls for, I suggest making sure you double the recipe for the sauce.

Next up on the attempt list - sushi!

Prepping all the ingredients ahead of time is essential for stir fry. I ended up adding more than this once I decided to double the sauce recipe.
(4 Tbs Soy sauce, 4 Tbs oyster sauce, 2 Tbs hoisin, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp brown sugar, and 4 Tbs water)
I cook the noodles and then drain and toss with oil before I start to stir fry.

Using a jar to shake the sauce makes it easy to make ahead. If it begins to separate just shake it up. I grabbed some sprouts out of the fridge that I had forgotten about, and added more broccoli and peppers to the mix.

Garlic, ginger, and onion.

Adding the other vegetables.
The noodles are on standby until the vegetables are tender.

Then mix it all up with the sauce. I tried to flip it in the wok. Then Contractor tried to flip it in the wok. He claims to have succeeded although the mess that flipped onto the clean dishes in the sink made me think otherwise.
The first time around was classic Chinese take out. I used this old recipe for the soup but used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

The second go around consisted of the vegetarian avgolemono and some Brussels sprouts (See? Totally Around the World) I roasted and tossed with lemon juice and Mike's Hot Honey. If you haven't tried Mike's Hot Honey you must! It's great with cheese and crackers, just crackers, just cheese, on the tip of your finger, etc. So, so good.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Last Minute Holiday Side - Creamed Spinach Gratin

I was going to make this for Thanksgiving, but then it seemed too complicated to "serve immediately" when I was across town and driving it to my parents. So I stuck to my tried and true recipe for Brussels sprouts (that post is from so long ago #babyblogger) and left the ingredients to this in the fridge. When I actually got around to trying it out I realized I could probably follow the recipe right up until sprinkling the breadcrumbs and putting it in the oven ahead of time so I could travel with it and bake it there. The plan is to test this theory this Monday for Christmas dinner.

Until then, try it! I ended up having it for a solid vegetarian dinner. The recipe is in the December 2017 issue of Martha Stewart Living.
Because there are quite a few steps, it's best to be prepared.

Butter melting.

Breadcrumbs toasting. I didn't have any Panko, so I made some out of regular bread and dried it out a bit in the warm pan before adding the butter.
The spinach I cooked and chopped ahead of time.
Adding the flout to the shallots and butter.
And then adding the milk and whisking, and whisking, and whisking until it thickens.

My little Guernsey pottery ramekins were the only thing I bought at the Elephant's Trunk Flea Market when I was staying in New Milford back in October. They are perfect for mise en place.

Added the butter to the breadcrumbs and let them get toasty after turning off the heat.

Sauce is thickened.

Now I honestly could have eaten this mixture right here after the spinach went in. I held back, however.

I ended up short on breadcrumbs, so I added grated Parmesan to the top.

Absolutely delicious. It totally deserves a place on your Holiday table!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Repurpose Those Pumpkins!

It's always hard to resist the small pie pumpkins at the grocery store. This year I had five of them to decorate the apartment, as well as assorted gourds and squash (the squash are still awaiting a use). Last week as the switch to Christmas was beginning, I grabbed the pumpkins and, as I usually do every year (OK, sometimes I just toss them into the garden for the squirrels), roasted them in the oven for pumpkin puree.
The pumpkins and some florist mums and gourds decorated the top of the bookshelves in my living room.

With the stems snapped off, the pumpkins were sliced in half and the seeds and "guts" were scooped out while the oven was preheating to 400 degrees.

In they went for an hour or so.

Honestly they were in for about an hour and fifteen minutes. They collapsed after I took them out, which was great, because once they were cooled the skin just peeled right off.

Ready for the Cuisinart!

Sometimes you have to pulse, open to push the pumpkin down, and pulse again.

This was after I switched out bowls halfway through when I realized I would need a larger one.

Next step - place in a cheesecloth lined colander to drain overnight or up to four days. You can see how wet and almost fluffy it is in this picture.
Four days later and it is much more dry and condensed.
I am always surprised at how much water drains out of the puree. Make sure you only use pie or sugar or other smallish pumpkins to make puree. The big Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins are too watery and thin fleshed.
Part of the packaged puree for the freezer, and more that didn't fit the first time draining in the fresh cheesecloth lined colander.

 Now the only question now is what to make with all of the puree?