Archive for February 2008

Chinese Beef Chow Fun with Broccoli

February 28, 2008 | Chuck
Beef and Broccoli Chow Fun

Over the last few months, we've been cooking a lot of Vietnamese food. And the word, "vietnamese", in the tag/ingredient cloud (below on the right side) has grown larger, dwarfing the "chinese" tag. That's fine with me, but Hungry Bear wants to end this trend and make sure her peeps' food is more represented on SND. So yesterday, she made beef and broccoli chow fun (chao fen).

We both love chow fun, but rarely order it at restaurants because it's just too damn oily. If you have access to a good Chinese/Asian supermarket and can get your hands on fresh rice noodles (he fen or haw fun), beef chow fun is best made at home. Prepared with fresh ingredients, minimal oil and Chinese broccoli, dare I say chow fun can be a healthy, balanced meal. It's sad Chinese food prepared in most restaurants is greasy, salty and generally bad for you, whereas traditional Chinese cooking can be healthy and flavorful.

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Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce

Hungry Bear and I were snowboarding in Whistler the last five days. We had a great time on the slopes and relaxed in a very posh hotel with a ski concierge service... talk about being pampered! But after five days of eating ski resort food, Hungry Bear had a major craving for rice and I needed something spicy. I was definitely going through chili pepper withdrawal, especially from my homemade Vietnamese chili garlic sauce (tuong ot toi).

I grew up using Huy Fong's Rooster sauces — Sriracha chili sauce in pho and other soups, and tuong ot toi in just about everything else. Over the years, as my heat tolerance grew, I began eating fresh chili peppers and trying out other hot sauces. But I've never found a really good hot sauce. Most were too vinegary, too smokey or generally overpowering. All I wanted was heat to enhance my meal and not interfere with the flavors of the dish.

These days I just have a fresh chili pepper or some homemade chili garlic sauce with my food. My parents started making their own tuong ot toi around ten years ago. They wanted something hotter and fresher than the Rooster sauce. The end result was an habanero chili garlic sauce that is a blast of pure heat with a wonderful floral aroma. The sauce is not cooked and is a simple puree of chili peppers, garlic, salt, sugar and vinegar.

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Tofu Chocolate Chip Cookies or Energy Bar?

February 18, 2008 | Chuck
Tofu Chocolate Chip Cookies

The first time I was offered a tofu chocolate chip cookie, I made a funny face, probably the same look that some of you are giving me right now. With a little hesitation, I took a bite and much to my surprise, the tofu cookie was really good. Ever since then, I've always looked forward to eating the cookies made by our friend, Jeanne. In fact, I like them so much, I've made football game bets with Jeanne, pitting her tofu cookies against my chewy chocolate chunk cookies.

The recipe was created by Jeanne's friend, a certified nutritionist, who wanted to make a healthy alternative to traditional chocolate chip cookies. Butter is not used in the recipe and is replaced with peanut butter and cream cheese. In addition to the soy protein from the tofu, the cookies are made with high-protein egg whites and the aforementioned peanut butter. Lower glycemic index (GI) oat flour is used instead of all-purpose flour. The oat flour is also higher in protein and is gluten-free.

We made the tofu cookies for the first time last week and used white whole wheat flour instead of oat flour, which we couldn't find at the local supermarkets. We thought about using all-purpose flour, but decided to stay true to the healthy intent of the recipe and went with the whole wheat. The tofu cookies were good with predominant flavors from the whole wheat, peanut butter and Valrhona 61% chocolate chunks. I don't think anyone would be able to tell that the cookies contained tofu.

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Goi Cuon with Peanut Hoisin Dipping Sauce

February 13, 2008 | Chuck
Goi Cuon with Peanut Hoisin Dipping Sauce

Vietnamese fresh spring rolls? Summer rolls? Salad rolls? What do you call these things? It's goi cuon in Vietnamese. The literally translation is salad (goi) roll (cuon). Whatever you call them, they are light, refreshing and delicious. Most restaurants serve salad rolls with nuoc cham, a fish sauce based dipping sauce, but did you know, it's ten times better with a spicy peanut Hoisin sauce.

A few weeks ago, Hungry Bear had a major craving for goi cuon after Nikki, a.k.a. Canary Girl, asked me to share my recipe. My version is a common shrimp and pork salad roll recipe that most Viet people make. As long as the ingredients are fresh, especially the lettuce and herbs, the salad rolls are going to be good.

I made goi cuon this past Sunday night as part of our Vietnamese/Chinese New Year celebration dinner with our SND friends. Every time I make a batch of salad rolls, I have more respect for my mom's ability to crank these things out. They are easy to make, but time consuming to prep and roll. My mom can probably roll 2 or 3 batches in the time I can make one. Next time, I'm just going to do the prep work and we'll have a salad roll rolling party.

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Spicy Crab Cakes

February 11, 2008 | Chuck
Spicy Crab Cakes

Crab or lobster? Which crustacean do you prefer? I'm a crab person, without a doubt. Yes, it's more work to eat crabs, but crab meat to me is more flavorful and sweeter. Each summer, when I lived in Delaware, we would get a bushel of Old Bay seasoned Maryland blue crabs and a keg of beer and have a crab eating fest. Hungry Bear is sick and tired of hearing this story every time someone brings up blue crabs, so I'll stop reminiscing now.

Through the years, I've looked for a good crab cake recipe and tried out many of them. I've tried recipes with fillers of white bread, saltines and breadcrumbs. I've tried ones with eggs, mustard, mayonnaise, Worcestershire, Old Bay and many other ingredients. In the end, my favorite recipes were the ones with simple ingredients that didn't overpower the taste of the wonderful crab meat.

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