Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Peppermint and Spearmint

Cool and refreshing bursts of green

These pungent herbs may cause you to initially think of chewing gum and breath mints. Peppermint and spearmint (from the plant family Lamiaceae) have very similar flavor characteristics—a combination of pepper and chlorophyll. Spearmint is more subtle and cooler than peppermint, which tends to be stronger. Chefs can distinguish between spearmint and peppermint since peppermint has arrowhead-shaped leaves that are greenish purple in color. Meanwhile, spearmint has rounder leaves that may be greenish gray in appearance.

There are more than 20 different species of mint with peppermint and spearmint being two of the most popular kinds. The Ancient Greeks used mint in several recipes for its medicinal and odiferous qualities. We recommend buying fresh mint that has a deep and vibrant green color that’s free of discoloration and blemishes. Mint leaves contain vitamin A and vitamin C. Jazz up an old salad recipe by adding fresh mint leaves. Also, infuse a pot of hot tea with mint flavor by adding three or four mint leaves. Can you think of any other uses for mint?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Turkey Breast

A healthy cut of meat to gobble about

Whether thinly sliced in a cold cut sandwich or slow roasted—there’s a lot of flavor in this white, lean, and sizeable cut of turkey. Chefs can also slow cook turkey breast in a crock pot. We also suggest adding chopped turkey breast (instead of chicken) to any soup or chowder. Turkey fans who favor dark meat instead of white may be won over by its low-fat content. Whole or boneless turkey breast is sold in the frozen section of your grocery store. Popular brands include Butterball and Jennie-O. Also, look for pre-sliced, roasted, or smoked turkey breast in your grocer’s deli.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Turkey Breast W/ Mint and Annatto

Dress it up with zesty flavors

The Mixed Stew altered this recipe, turning it into a one pot meal. Annatto, mint, and tomatoes enhance the braised turkey breast in this dish. Also, turkey breast is one of the healthier cuts of poultry, which is a plus in our book. Here is our rendition:

What you will need:

1 frying pan with lid
1 wooden spoon
1 medium-sized bowl
1 1/2 cups water at room temperature
1 medium-sized bowl
2-3 lbs turkey breast
1 yellow onion, diced
2 tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon annatto powder
6 (scant) loosely packed stemmed dried chiles de árbol
8 fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 cup hot water
1 small bowl
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cooking and Directions:

Place turkey breasts in small bowl with olive oil, garlic, onion, annatto powder, with salt and pepper. Mix well. Allow turkey breast to marinade for at least 1 hour. Next, place 6 chiles in bowl with hot water. Let peppers soak for 30 minutes to rehydrate. Drain soaked chiles and chop. Set aside. Heat frying pan on medium-high heat. Place annatto-seasoned turkey breast, onion, and garlic in pan. Let onion turn translucent while stirring to prevent garlic from burning. Grill and brown turkey on all sides. Add tomatoes, room-temperature water, and chiles. Lower heat to medium-low and cover. Let everything slowly simmer for 35-40 minutes. Finally, sprinkle with fresh mint leaves.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Field Trip

Gianni’s Italian Bistro: Arbutus, Md.

This charming Italian bistro has a lot going for it. We ordered traditional favorites, such as the Spaghetti and Meatballs and Fettucini Carbonara to sample the quality of their menu items. Both are reasonably priced at $ 9.95. The meatballs are big, succulent, and homemade. They’re topped with a rich red tomato sauce that’s sweet and thick. Meanwhile, the Fettucini Carbonara is light, creamy, and infused with the smoked bacon flavor of pancetta. The servings are huge, so we ended up taking home significant portions of both pasta dishes. And yes, Gianni’s serves wine and beer for any patrons who need something more than soda or iced tea. The Mixed Stew crew is going back to Gianni’s to sample more of their Italian fare. After all, Gianni's previous stint was in Baltimore's Little Italy so he's got the goods for good food.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday's Side Dish: Fried Green Tomatoes

Golden juicy and tangy medallions

Every bite is a yummy combo contradiction of a flaky crust and a young tomato’s tart flavor. Fried green tomatoes can make a very good appetizer or satisfying side dish, even for breakfast. This is classic American comfort food that even captured the spirit of a Hollywood movie. Here is our rendition:

What you will need:

3 medium-sized green tomatoes, sliced into ¼ to 1/3 inch circles

1 fork

1 frying pan

1 big dinner plate

¼ cup cooking oil

1 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking and Directions:

Combine cornstarch, garlic powder, salt, and pepper on dinner plate. Mix well. Heat frying pan on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Next, take tomato slices and dredge on both sides in cornstarch mixture. Heat frying pan on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add cooking oil to hot pan. When oil is hot, Now, place dredged tomato slices in oil. Let tomatoes fry on each side for 3-5 minutes. The fried green tomatoes should have a light and golden brown crust. Serve immediately. Try it with our dijon mayo chive spread on the side or thousand island dressing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Chives

A flavorful relative to the big O

This herb is known for its long and thin green leaves and subtle onion flavor. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are the smallest members of the onion family. Marco Polo brought the chive plant to Europe from China. There are several species with either flat or tubular leaves that can grow to 50 cm tall. Asian markets can sell larger chive stems for stir fries that we first tried in a dish made by the Chinese-American mother of a good friend in San Francisco. Chives look like scallions; however, they are skinnier. Chefs can chop up this herb and use it to garnish and add color to almost any dish. If you don’t have green onion, chives will do in a pinch for almost any recipe. Look for chives all year long in any major grocery store. This little herb is a good source of Vitamin A.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday's Cupful: Dijon Chive Mayo

Sandwiches get some zing with a slick hit

What better way to make a plain sandwich a little more intriguing than to use a mayo-based dressing? We’ve combined mayo with minced chives. There’s a flavorful clash between light and creamy mayo and tangy chives. A bit of Dijon mustard offers a "wow factor" and yet helps bring out the flavors of any savory or vegetable ingredients that accompany this sauce. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 small bowl
1 spoon
3 tablespoons mayo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
1 teaspoon sugar (or Splenda)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation and Directions:

Combine all ingredients in small bowl. Mix well. Serve dressing on sandwiches or with any fresh salad. Do you have a special sauce for sandwiches?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Tasty Tomato Sandwich

A cool and refreshing healthy bite

The Mixed Stew thinks this yummy sandwich is just right for the hot summer months with tomatoes in season. We’ve selected the freshest ripe and red ones for this sandwich. There’s a hearty spread that is a blend of mayo, sliced chives, and Dijon mustard to enhance the tangy tomato flavors in every bite of this refreshing sandwich.

What you will need:

1 butter knife
1 small cutting board
1-2 tablespoons Dijon mayo w/ chives
2 multi-grain bread slices (hearty bread recommended because of moisture from tomatoes)
4-5 ( ¼ inch wide) slices, ripened tomato
Salt and pepper to taste Preparation and Directions:

Lay out both bread slices for building a sandwich. Spread Dijon mayo (w/ chives) on both slices. Next, pile tomato slices on top of spread mayo, so that the mayo is completely covered with tomato. This guarantees that there’s a slice tomato in every bite. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Finally, close sandwich.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Garden Variety

Getting taller, creepy and crawly

Our tomato and eggplant plants’ flower buds have appeared. The bok choy have matured, and we’re in the process of harvesting and cooking them in some dishes. The squash and cucumber vines have started creeping and crawling. We like the lovely yellow buds, which will soon turn into vegetables. The slow pokes of the garden have to be the Thai pepper plants. There’s a lot to look forward to, and we’ll keep you informed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thursday’s Side Dish: H-Mart Spicy Tofu

Heat up your tastebuds with this block
We spotted this specially prepared tofu at H Mart some time ago. Years later, we’re still enjoying it. The cooks deep fry large pieces of firm tofu and then season them with hot pepper, green onion, and kimchi spices. Every bite of this Korean banchan enhances the flavors of other dishes that comprise any meal. We recommend serving it cold. Each container is reasonably priced at $ 3.99 for 8 pieces that are about the size of a deck of cards. Look for this food item in H Mart’s prepared foods department or at any Korean grocer, such as Grand Mart or Lotte Market.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday's Helping: Tofu

A nutritious block that soaks up flavor
This food item takes an acquired taste, since it’s rather bland, odorless, and flavorless. It's usually off-white in color with a cheese-like appearance and consistency. Tofu is made from coagulating soy milk and then pressing the curds into blocks. It’s used in many Asian cuisines and originates in China. The Chinese have been making and eating tofu for centuries. More recently, cooking and eating tofu has become popular among vegetarians in the West.

Tofu tends to absorb and carry the new flavors in any dish; consequently, look for tofu in both savory and sweet dishes. There are three main varieties: soft, silken, and firm tofu. Soft tofu works well in soups or mixed food dishes. Silken tofu is often pureed or good in mix dishes. Chefs can use silken tofu to make soy-based (non-dairy) ice cream—a healthier alternative to regular ice cream. Firm tofu holds its shape well when cooked and can be grilled.

Shoppers can now find packages of tofu in the produce section of most mainstream supermarkets. Also, look for rare varieties or specially prepared kinds of tofu in your local Asian grocery store. One example is puffy tofu, which is light and airy. Tofu contains little fat and a lot of calcium, protein, and iron.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday's Cupful: Black Bean Sauce

Spicing up a dish with a pungent allure
In some cases, a smelly character can be a real turn-on, or maybe not. Black bean sauce offers one of those love-it or hate-it flavors. Look for jars of black bean sauce in the International Foods Aisle of major grocery stores. This sauce is made from fermented black bean paste or douchi in Chinese. This is one of Chinese cuisine’s oldest food ingredients and it dates back to the Han Dynasty. Makers must steam, ferment, and salt soy beans. The entire process causes the beans to turn black. The end product has a pungent, spicy, and tasty sauce. Chinese chefs use this sauce in stir-frys and for flavoring fish. Popular brands include Lee Kum Kee, Kame, and Dynasty. A little goes a long way when it comes to black bean sauce since it possesses such a strong and salty flavor.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday's Bread Bowl: Mapo Tofu

Hot and spicy goes a long way

Mapo tofu originated in the Szechuan province of mainland China. The key seasoning ingredients are chili garlic sauce and black bean sauce. Firm tofu absorbs the yummy and savory flavors. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 frying pan w/ lid
3 tablespoons cooking oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup yellow onion, chopped
1lb ground pork
1lb firm tofu, diced
2 tablespoons black bean sauce
1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water

Cooking and Directions:

Heat pan on medium-high heat. Add oil. Throw in garlic and onion. Let them sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add ground pork. Let meat brown while stirring. Throw in tofu pieces. Lower heat to medium. Next, add black bean sauce, sugar, chili sauce, and water. Cover with lid. Let everything simmer for 5-8 minutes. Finally, add cornstarch and stir to avoid lumps. Remove pan from heat and serve immediately. Garnish with sliced green onion.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday's Last Spoonful: Field Trip

Lily’s Mexican Market: Columbia, Md.

We’re happy that we’ve found this ethnic food market. Lily’s Mexican Market has shelves stocked with Mexican/Latino specialty food items. Chorizos, homemade corn tortillas, tres leches cake, and hot sauces can be found. But that’s not all. Look for the charming eatery at the back of the store. The menu has yummy platters, which includes authentic pork belly (or chicharrón) and beef tongue tacos. The pork belly is deep fried, so expect a crispy crunch in every bite. Try the pork tacos al pastor for a real treat. Tacos run about $2.50 each and the platters start around $9.50. Drop by Lily’s in Columbia, Md., for good Mexican carryout.

Lily's Mexican Market
6490 Dobbin Road
Columbia, MD 21045

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thursday's Side Dish: Quinoa and Peas Medley

A cool combo to accompany a meal

A double dose of healthy ingredients combined with dry soup mix is an easy dish. The green peas add color and sweet flavor to steamed quinoa that’s been spiked with Lipton Recipe Onion Soup Mix. This is a healthier option compared to carb-loaded steamed rice or mashed potatoes.

Here is the recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 medium-sized sauce pan with lid
2 ½ cups water
1 packet Lipton Recipe Soup Mix (Onion flavored)
1 (14 oz) package Arrowhead quinoa
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons olive oil

Cooking and Directions:

Combine water, quinoa, olive oil, soup mix, and peas in sauce pan. Stir well. Cover and place sauce pan on stove at medium-high heat. Bring everything to a rolling boil. Stir again. Return lid and lower to medium-low heat. Let ingredients simmer and cook (like rice) for 15-20 minutes. Finally, remove pot from heat and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Helpful Hint: Add 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or ¼ cup golden raisins to give a flavor twist to this dish.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday’s Helping: Peas

Green with vitamins a plenty
They’re the small and round morsels that may have made you cringe while you were a child. The sweet flavor of this all-natural ingredient can sweeten up any savory dish. Peas are a member of the legume family. The plant is scientifically known as Pisum Sativum and the growing season runs during the spring and summer months. The actual peas are the plant’s seeds, which develop inside a pod. Three main varieties of peas are available on the market: garden peas, sugar snap peas, and snow peas. Peas are one of only a few legumes that can be sold fresh. If selecting fresh peas, the pods should be crisp and snap without bending. Only five percent of the world’s production of peas is sold fresh. The majority is sold frozen or canned. Cooks can steam, blanch, boil, and stir-fry this ingredient. Peas are a good source of protein and dietary fiber. They also contain vitamins C, K, and A.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesday’s Cupful: Pork Belly Cut

Look for the marbling in this fatty slab

Let’s face it. Pork belly doesn’t really bring on a smile from people looking for an elegant dinner; in fact, the marbling can cause cringes in most fat conscious eaters. The Mixed Stew crew admits that we do crave a pork belly dish every once in awhile. This cut of meat ranks high in Korean and Chinese cuisines. We've had it at Spanish tapas restaurants too. Butchers obtain this fatty piece from the pig’s abdomen -- right between the ham and picnic cuts of meat. Most people become familiar with pork belly from eating bacon. Besides braising, we also recommend roasting this cut until the skin turns crispy.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Braised Pork Belly w/ Peas

Rich meat with a little splash of color

Mmm... go ahead. Be brave. If you haven't tried pork belly, this recipe is a fine introduction to the rich, buttery, decadent cut. The cooking process draws out the luscious qualities of the fat. The sweet flavor of peas enhances the tasty flavors of the savory ingredients that constitute this yummy entrée.

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 frying pan with lid
3 tablespoons cooking oil
2 lb pork belly, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup water
2 teaspoons tapioca starch
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 (16 oz) bag frozen peas
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking and Directions:

Heat pan on medium-high heat. Add oil. Next, toss in salt, pepper, onion, and garlic. Stir and let everything cook until onion turns translucent. Add in pork belly. Then, toss in ginger. Let meat brown for 3-4 minutes while stirring. Now, pour in water. Cover and let ingredients braise for 35-40 minutes. Empty bag of peas into pot. Return lid and let everything simmer for another 10 minutes. Finally, add tapioca starch to liquid while constantly stirring. The sauce should thicken to a gravy-like consistency. Serve immediately.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday's Last Spoonful: Tapioca Starch

A product of the cassava/ yuca plant

This ingredient is used to thicken and flavor desserts, such as puddings and pie fillings, in Southeast Asian cuisines. The starch is made from repeated washing and then wet grinding the tuber roots of the cassava plant. Three qualities make tapioca starch preferable to cornstarch in some recipes: Tapioca starch thickens at a lower temperature, remains stable when frozen, and lends a glossy sheen to sauces. So basically, it's quicker to cook, more reliable after freezing, and makes sauces pretty. Tapioca starch completely dissolves when used as a thickening agent. Choose Tapioca starch works quickly so choose it to quickly correct the consistency of a sauce right before serving since it tends to work quickly. Sweetened tapioca has a flavor that’s very similar to vanilla. If you've ever tried tapioca pudding, you'll understand. Look for this ingredient at your local Asian food market or gourmet foods supermarket.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thursday's Side Dish: Ahu

A sweet and soothing dessert soup

This coconut dumpling soup often found at parties in Guam is actually made for anyone who likes coconut and has a sweet tooth. This version of Ahu is made with manha (young coconut), sugar, water, and tapioca starch. The combination of tender young coconut flesh and cooked tapioca starch combine in a sweet and rich soup that can be served warm or cold. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 large stock pot
2 quarts water
1 (16 oz) bag of frozen young coconut (macapuno) strings in syrup
1 (12 oz) jar young coconut sport balls in syrup
1/4 cup sugar
½ cup tapioca starch

Cooking and Directions:

Put stock pot on burner and add water and set to high heat. Bring to a rolling boil. Lower heat to medium and gradually add macapuno bag and jar of coconut sports balls with syrup to boiling water while constantly stirring. Mix in tapioca starch and sugar. Lower heat again and let everything simmer for 15-20 minutes. Ahu should reach a bisque-like consistency but with lumps from the tapioca starch and macapuno. The lumps are part of the character of the soup. Remove pot from heat. Serve in cups or small bowls.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wednesday's Helping: Macapuno

Sweet young coconut flesh flash
Macapuno lovers like the soft texture, coconut flavor, and sweetness of this ingredient. The use of macapuno (man’ha in Chamorro) in their native cuisines has created a commercial industry within Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands regions of the globe. Macapuno works well in ice cream, candies, and other deserts. Macapuno is made from the soft flesh of young and immature coconuts. The flesh is simmered in water and sugar until the mixture’s consistency resembles syrup. The concoction is cooled and ready for packaging. Commercial farmers in the Philippines have gone a step further and developed mutant coconuts that produce more and better macapuno. The flesh of these coconuts is softer than regular coconuts. Look for macapuno sold in bottles, cans, and frozen packages at many Asian markets. In The Mixed Stew's Ahu recipe, a jar of macapuno may be subtituted for frozen young coconut strings packed in syrup.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tuesday's Cupful: Apigige'

A hand-held coconut treat from the Pacific

A rubbery texture and bland appearance initially makes apigige’ uninviting; however, you can’t judge this Guam delicacy by its cover. The Mixed Stew crew grew up eating these unique Chamorro treats in Guam. They are fairly simple to make and thanks to the growing diversity of U.S. communities, the ingredients may be found at Asian grocers, especially Filipino markets. The main ingredients are young coconut, grated cassava, and sugar. There are variations to the recipe. It's almost a homecoming of sorts for a Chamorro to see cooked apigige’, which come wrapped inside banana leaves and are grilled. Yes, un-wrapping these treats is part of the experience. Here is our recipe:

What you will need:

1 large bowl
1 large plastic spoon
1 (16-oz) bags frozen cassava, grated
1 (24-oz) jar of young coconut (macapuno) strings packed in sweetened syrup
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 (16-oz) bag frozen banana leaves
1 nonstick griddle-grill or large cast-iron fry-pan

Cooking and Directions:

Thaw banana leaves and grated cassava in their bags overnight in fridge. Clean and rinse banana leaves. Let dry. Cut dried banana leaves into 5 inch wide pieces. They should be at least 6 inches long -- full depth. Set aside. Next, combine cassava, coconut (with syrup), and sugar in large bowl. Mix well into a thick batter. Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of paste-like batter into centers of banana-leaf pieces. Spread mix into roughly 4 inch x 1.5 inch rectangles. You don't want the apigige' to be too thick. Carefully fold and roll like flattened burritos. If necessary, use long, thin strips to tie ends down so mixture doesn't spill out. Heat griddle or fry-pan on medium heat. After surface is hot, place wrapped apigige’ on surface. Let apigige’ cook on each side for at least 3-5 minutes. The cooked apigige’ should puff up and thicken and the banana-leaf wrapping should burn slightly on the outside. After removing from heat, let the apigige’ rest and cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. This recipe can make up to 25 apigige'. Store leftovers in the fridge.