Saturday, May 9, 2009

First day of summer and recipes

Yesterday was my first free day; I had exams and papers and presenations all week, but Friday was free. And so, I cooked. I decided to make some rosemary chickpea soup. I've recently acquired this blender (c. 1978?) so I decided to mix (all of) it up in there. Danger. Luckily it worked out better than expected, and, luckily, I was smart enough to put a towel over the top of it before turning it on. It's a great soup, one of my favorites, and it's super easy and quick. Highly recommended.

That was lunch. A friend was coming into town for dinner, and we were going to go out to eat, but then I remembered it's graduation weekend around here and everyone's parents are here taking their darlings out to dinner, so I called that off and made Pad Thai instead.

Basil Curls

This is my favorite Pad Thai recipe (and the only one I've ever made, so that's not really fair, but it's good). It is adapted from, of all places, The Joy of Cooking. First, a word of advice - this is one of those recipes where you should probably adhere to mise en place Having all of these things set up before you start will really help; this is stir-fried so once you get going you can't really stop.

serves 4 (heartily)
the hardware:
  1. 2 cutting boards (or chop all your veggies first or clean it in between)
  2. 1 wok or skillet + vegetable or peanut oil
  3. cooking utensils of choice (separate ones for the raw shrimp/chicken if you use it)
  4. 1 one cup pyrex liquid measure
  5. 1 large plate
  6. 4 small plates
  7. 1 small bowl for eggs
  8. 1 soup bowl size bowl for shrimp/cornstarch/sesame oil
  9. 1 heat-resistant pot or bowl for noodles
  10. 1 colander
  11. large serving platter
the goods:
  • 1 t cornstarch
  • 1 t toasted sesame oil
combine the above in a bowl that's large enough to fit all of your 
shrimp in, I usually eye-ball it with no problem

mix with cornstarch/oil
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1/2 c green onions (roughly chopped - the JOC suggested 1.5 inch long pieces - I don't ever put 1/2 a cup because that's a ton; I just buy one bunch and use whatever I get out of it.)
  • 2-3 chilis (red if you can get them - use your judgement here about the seeds and ribs)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic (minced, the JOC says 2 T)
put the 3 above on a small plate or in a bowl
  • 4 oz firm tofu (drained, cubed, 1/2 inch) - you can substitute chicken if you're not into tofu
put on small plate or in a bowl
  • 1/4 cup Thai fish sauce* (nam pla - you can use soy sauce; it won't taste the same but still good)
  • 1/4 lemon juice (sometimes I use part or all lime juice)
  • 3 T sugar
mix the 3 above (I usually do it in a liquid measuring cup)
  • 1/2 c bean sprouts
  • 1/3 c roasted peanuts (roughly chopped)
  • 1/4 c fresh basil (chiffoned)
  • 1/4 c fresh cilantro (chopped or not)
  • 2 t dried shrimp, ground (optional, I've never used these; you have to get them at an Asian market I believe)
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 t black pepper
put the above on a larger plate (the JOC suggests doing this in a clockwise manner, with each ingredient separated - it makes it more ceremonious, but I think you could just dump them in at the same time)
  • 6 oz rice noodles
Before you start on the stir fry you need to submerge these in hot water. The JOC says to let them soak for 20-30 minutes. I did that the first time and they were mushy. I find 5-10 minutes is more like it; I like them al dente.
  • limes and peanuts for garnish
*this is easy to make vegetarian. just use a whole package of firm tofu instead of shrimp and soy sauce instead of fish sauce

the game plan:
  1. peel, chop, mix etc.
  2. your shrimp are supposed to hang out in the cornstarch for 15 minutes or so, so I like to do that first
  3. the noodles also need to soak for at least 5 minutes (and they go in the stir-fry, so you need to do that early on too, just don't forget about them)
  4. heat oil on medium high to high in wok (JOC says 1/4 cup, which I think is absurd, I use like a T); don't let it smoke
  5. cook shrimp until they are almost done - you're going to add them back later and you don't want them tough - this won't take but about a minute if your oil is hot enough - remove shrimp to a (clean) plate
  6. if you use the chicken, I would go ahead and cook it now, thoroughly, removed to clean plate
  7. add more oil if necessary, cook eggs (Do this like you're scrambling them; keep them moving. Remove them to the chicken plate before you think they're done, they will continue to cook, and they are going back in later.
  8. clean out your pan if there's egg residue and add more oil (a few Ts) and allow it to heat up
  9. add the garlic/onion/chilis plate
  10. stir constantly allowing garlic to begin to brown
  11. add tofu (if using) stir for a few minutes until it begins to get color
  12. add noodles, stir to coat
  13. add fish sauce/lemon juice/sugar, stir well, coating noodles
  14. add shrimp and eggs (and chicken), stir
  15. add all the ingredients on the plate (either in clockwise order, stirring in between, or just dump), stir well
  16. DONE - remove to a large platter/bowl (I usually just take it off the heat...but a serving platter sounds fancy doesn't it?)
  17. enjoy with plenty of lime juice and peanuts

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