Sunday, August 13, 2006

A new book

This summer a friend gave us a copy of a great new cookbook, Modern Asian Flavors, by Richard Wong. His recipes reflect his Shanghai roots, as well as his own American upbringing (the peppers stuffed with ground turkey were a real mystery to me until I read that his mother made them with pork -- no one likes turkey here). The book starts off with half a dozen sauces which are great for dipping, marinades, and so on, and he incorporates them in other recipes throughout the book. I like that; to learn to make one thing and then learn how to use it several different ways seems supremely efficient. I've been browsing through and drooling over the gorgeous pages this weekend. I'll let you know when I make something.

I've also been baking a bit this past week: whole wheat French bread (not in the bread machine, believe it or not), and caramel shortbread covered with a layer of Trader Joe's dark chocolate. Like a Twix, only better (because where can you buy a 9"x14" Twix bar?). Recipes to follow, once I get my boy in school tomorrow. (Sigh.)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sourdough English Muffins

Yes, English muffins! I had never seen them in Taiwan (except served up in an Egg McMuffin), until, that is, our Bible study met at Donna's house last May, where she set before us a tray of hot-from-the-skillet sourdough English muffins. Heavenly.

Here is her recipe, which came from her friend Pat. The starter Donna gave me has a long history, going back to an Alaskan miner. There are many sourdough-starter recipes on the Web; once you've got one working, give these a try. No oven required.

Sourdough English Muffins
(About a dozen)

Mix together
1/2 cup starter
1 cup milk
2 cups flour

and cover loosely; set at room temperature overnight.

In the morning, mix with above
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup flour

Turn out on a floured board. Knead in an additional
1/4 cup flour
(or enough to keep dough from being too sticky). Knead lightly 2-3 minutes. Roll out 3/4 " thick and cut with a cutter (a wide drinking glass will do the trick, too -- dip the rim in flour to keep it from sticking). Place 1" apart on cookie sheet sprinkled with

Cover and set 45 minutes. Cook in dry skillet 8-10 minutes, until golden brown on each side and sides are no longer shiny.

Buying info:
The starter will need to be made ahead, but will only require water, flour, and maybe some sugar (recipes vary). Walason's has all-purpose flour (with the green label), as well as cornmeal (center aisle, near the giant tins of baking powder). Baking soda is in the same aisle. The cornmeal really does help keep the muffins from sticking to the cookie sheet and the skillet. Use the rest to make polenta.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Pork Tenderloin with Curried Fruit Sauce

This has been a standby of mine for several years; I remember making it in the newly-remodeled kitchen in our first house, and it has served well ever since. Pork tenderloin is cheap and readily available in Taiwan, as are all the other ingredients. It's not exactly company fare, but it's homey and appeals to grown-ups and kids alike (it's not spicy at all).

Pork Tenderloin with Curried Fruit Sauce
From On Rice by Rick Rodgers
(Makes 4-6 servings)

In a shallow dish or gallon-size baggie, combine
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

and dredge or toss
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork tenderloin, cut into 1/4 inch thick medallions
until well-coated in the flour mixture. Shake off excess flour. Cook in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, in
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
until lightly browned on both sides. You will probably need to do this in two batches; add more oil as needed. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the skillet, heat
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
and add
1 tart apple, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped

and cover. Cook until the onion is golden, about five minutes. Stir in
2 garlic cloves, minced
and cook, uncovered, for 1 minute. Add
2 teaspoons curry powder
and stir for 30 seconds.

Stir in
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 ripe banana, chopped

Return the pork to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the apple is tender and the sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

until cornstarch is dissolved. Add to the skillet, along with
1/3 cup raisins
and heat gently, without boiling. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, garnish with
Chopped green onions
and serve immediately, over rice.

Buying info:
Pork tenderloin is available at most grocery stores, except perhaps the really small ones. If you're not sure what you're looking for, the tenderloin is about the same dimensions as a rolling pin (without the handles): long and narrow. Costco sells them in a 3-pack, but the price is reasonable wherever you find them; much cheaper than in the U.S., and without any injected saline or flavor-enhancers which seem to be all the rage in American meats now. Taiwan pork is also quite safe, as it does not harbor trichinosis. As for yogurt, you can use homemade, of course, or use Yoplait low-fat plain drinking yogurt (which is a little bit sweet, but works fine in this recipe). Yoplait is everywhere; check your local 7-11. Curry powder is not too hard to find: Walason's, Costco, and Dollars all carry it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Buttermilk Soup

This recipe has been in my mom's family for several generations; it comes via her father's mother, and now Cole has tried it and promised to carry on the tradition (although to be honest I only told him it was tapioca pudding -- I knew that he, like most people, would have a hard time getting past the name). He liked the sweet and tangy flavors, though, and I hope you will, too. Best served warm.

Buttermilk Soup

In a large saucepan combine
1 1/2 quarts buttermilk
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup tapioca

and cook until tapioca is clear, stirring constantly.

In a bowl combine
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten

and mix thoroughly. Add to buttermilk mixture, and continue to stir over low heat until thick.

Add salt and cinnamon to taste.
Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top of each serving.

Buying information:
Hmmm... I've never made this in Taiwan because buttermilk is not available. I have just sent away for a catalog, however, from the Yogourmet company, from whom I buy my yogurt starter, as I see they also sell a buttermilk starter. I will update you once I have more information. Tapioca is available at Walason's, I believe.


Our visit home is at an end -- we fly back to Taiwan tonight -- so I thought I'd post a couple recipes that we enjoyed while we were here. This one is for a fudge recipe my mom and Nora made yesterday; Nora struggles with the word fudge, so boodge it is. (The original recipe is called Niegemann Fudge, to give proper credit.)


In a large saucepan, melt together
1 1/3 cups chocolate chips
1 cube butter

Remove from heat. Add
2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat with electric mixer until smooth. Add
Chopped nuts, to taste

Pour into buttered pie plate or shallow dish to firm up. Refrigerate leftovers, if there are any -- this is a smooth, truffle-like fudge, and won over even the toughest fudge critics in our family. It was gone by bedtime.

Buying info:
All ingredients are available at Walason's (chocolate chips are in the coolcase with the whipping cream). Costco has Tollhouse chips in bulk, if you plan on making a lot of boodge, er, fudge.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Plain yogurt

I have made several batches of yogurt in the last two weeks – for giving away, for showing friends how to make their own, and for eating and baking with here at home. Yogurt making is not an exact science, which is apparent if you do a Google search on the topic. Still, once you make a successful batch you're likely to do it the same way ever after. Here's my technique; try it, and then tweak it to your own liking.

Plain yogurt
Makes one litre

In the top of a double boiler, whisk together
1 litre whole milk
1/2 cup full cream powdered milk

and bring to 180ºF, or just below boiling.

Set pan of milk aside and let cool to 110ºF. (You can accelerate this by setting the pan in cool water.) Place a lid over the hot water in the bottom of double boiler, and set into a towel-lined camping cooler; drape with another towel & close cooler. This will be your incubator.

As milk cools, skim off any film that forms. In a small bowl, dissolve
1 packet dried yogurt starter or 2 tablespoons fresh yogurt
and return mixture to the pan of milk; stir thoroughly to combine.

Pour mixture into very clean container, cover, and set in the cooler next to the pan of hot water (drape towel over both to make a tent). Close cooler. Check yogurt after 4 hours; if texture is to your liking, place in refrigerator to stop process. If thicker or tarter yogurt is desired, leave in cooler for up to 7 or 8 hours.

Use as a sour cream substitute, a buttermilk substitute in baking, or enjoy on its own (it's especially good with a sprinkling of brown sugar or a bit of honey).

Buying info:
I like the "High Quality Milk" brand here in Taiwan, but use whatever milk tastes good to you. I have used both low-fat and full-fat powdered milk with similar results, so again, choose what you like. Yogurt starter is available at health food stores in the States as well as by mail-order (Yogourmet is a popular brand). Here in Kaohsiung a friend found dried starter at a health food store in the Zuoying district (on Fumin, just south of Mingcheng Rd., very near the Finnish restaurant). Look for the little green box in the cooler at the back left corner of the store.

Other hints:
This yogurt will keep well for at least a couple weeks. After you dig in, you may notice some separation of the whey; pour this off or mix it back in, depending on how thick you want to keep the yogurt (or use the back of the spoon to level off the yogurt each time, and you won't have the problem in the first place). I like my yogurt quite thick, but for a thinner product reduce the powdered milk by half or more.

For future batches, freeze several 2-tablespoon portions in an ice-cube tray and label them "first generation." When you're ready to make more yogurt, remove a frozen starter cube and allow it to come to room temperature while the fresh milk is heating. Use as for fresh yogurt, above. This process can be repeated once more (this time labeling the frozen yogurt "second generation"). Do not freeze the third generation, however; start over, or use another first of second generation frozen cube. Be aware, the yogurt will be tarter with each succeeding generation.

[Revised 4/6/07]

Friday, April 28, 2006

Italian bread

If you have a bread machine, give this recipe a try. It goes together super fast with just five ingredients, and makes a nicely-flavored loaf for toasting, sandwiches, or serving warm with butter at dinner time.

Italian Bread
(2 lb. loaf)

In your bread maker, combine
1 1/3 cups warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups aerated bread flour, spooned into measuring cup
2 teaspoons dry yeast

Set machine for 2 lbs, medium crust.

Let cool for about 45 minutes before serving (if you can wait that long -- I never can).

Buying info:
I like Spanish olive oil (but I'll still call this Italian bread); Walason's and Dollars have a good selection at decent prices. Extra virgin gives a nice flavor and aroma. New Zealand sea salt is available in several grinds at Dollars (on the foreign foods aisle, with the Japanese salts). Yeast is available at Walason's in vacuum-packed blocks; store in an airtight container in the fridge. Bread flour is also available at Walason's, in the bag with the blue label. I think it actually says "Bread Flour" in English on it now. As far as aerating the flour, I just give it a good stir with a wire whisk before filling up the measuring cup each time. Without this, you will end up with a larger quantity of flour per cup and probably a tougher loaf. Obviously, don't tap the cup to settle the flour; just run a chopstick across to even the top.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Savory French Toast

If you made the pizza recipe below, you might be saying to yourself the next day, "Hmm... now what do I do with all this leftover prosciutto?" I haven't made this recipe in Taiwan, but in the States it was a great brunch or late supper dish – very easy, good flavors, and super fast. I would use Trader Joe's Rosemary-Sea Salt bread, as well as their Quattro Formaggio cheese blend. No TJ's here, though, so I'll have to think about how to adapt it as I go along.

Savory French Toast

In a shallow bowl combine
2 eggs, beaten
Splash of milk
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of dried basil, rosemary or other herb (optional)

Dip into the mixture until soaked through
4 thick slices of bread, preferably homemade or rustic-style

In a large pan over medium heat, cook till golden brown on bottom; flip. On top of each slice place
1 slice prosciutto (whole or torn)
Sliced tomatoes (optional)
3-4 tablespoons shredded cheese: parmesan, gruyere, romano, or a combination of these

Cover pan while cheese melts and bread browns, 3-4 minutes. Serve hot, with fruit or a green salad.

Buying info:
Costco used to carry Pugliese bread, but I haven't seen it lately. They do sometimes have other hearty loaves. I'm always on the lookout for decent bread; most bakeries are disappointing in that department. The proscuitto, as I mentioned in the pizza recipe, can be found at Jason's Market or at Dollars (at the Bolker St. stand). All three cheeses are available at Costco, but to buy them all at once would be prohibitive. Smaller portions should be available at Dollars, Jason's, and other stores with a deli counter. The whole dish could be simplified by substituting sliced ham and cheddar, and it would probably be great, just not as dressy. Sounds good, though, especially with some eggs on the side. Mmmm... makes me hungry.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Pizza night

We had some friends over for pizza dinner last night. We topped frozen pizza rounds with ham and pineapple; sausage, onion, and black olives; and sausage, mushroom, and green olives. These all had red sauce & lots of mozzarella – really tasty. The fourth one was different, though, and went like this:

Prosciutto & Feta Pizza

Preheat oven to 425º. Lightly brush
One large pizza round

Olive oil

Top with
1 or 2 slices prosciutto, torn
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Fresh ground pepper

Bake on a pan or preheated pizza stone for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle
One clove garlic, minced or pressed
over the top.

Return to oven for three or four minutes. Let sit briefly before cutting.

Buying info:
I get pizza rounds and feta cheese at Walason's, mozzarella at Costco (it's a giant bag, but you can freeze it), and prosciutto either at Jason's Market at Hanshin Department Store or at the Bolker St. kiosk at Dollars, right across from the McDonald's ice cream stand.

Other hints:
Fresh mushrooms and tomatoes give off a lot of moisture when they cook, and can make the pizza soggy. For the tomatoes, squeeze or pick out most of the seeds. For mushrooms, my mom came up with this solution: place sliced mushrooms on a paper towel in the microwave and cook at 100% power for 30-45 seconds. Much of the moisture will be drawn out.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Baked Tarragon Chicken Breasts

This would go nicely with the polenta (below). It's flavorful, and goes together really quickly. I find with the smaller chicken breasts here in Taiwan that the cooking time is a bit shorter than the original recipe calls for (30 instead of 35 minutes). This recipe is easily doubled or halved – just use a pan that will hold the chicken snugly in a single layer.

From Maryana Vollstedt's What's for Dinner?:
Baked Tarragon Chicken Breasts (serves 4 to 6)

Preheat oven to 350º.

In a lightly oiled baking dish (8"x11" or so), place
6 boned and skinned chicken breast halves

In a small saucepan (for stovetop) or small bowl (for microwave) melt
2 tablespoons butter

Whisk in
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
3 tablespoons dry white wine (or vermouth)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, or 1 teaspoon dry tarragon, crumbled
1/2 tablespoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Pour over chicken. Bake, uncovered, until chicken is no longer pink in the middle, about 30 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

Buying info:
Walason's has dried tarragon, dijon mustard, lemon juice, and vermouth (in the green bottle that says "Martini"). The vermouth is a great substitute for any recipe that calls for dry white wine, and while it's not much cheaper (at least here) than a bottle of sauvignon blanc, it is shelf-stable, so you can always have some on hand.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Polenta, quick and easy

I'm still working out how I'm going to organize my recipes here – I want to archive by subject, not date – but I might as well start posting so I have something to work with. This is one of my favorites, a microwave polenta recipe that takes less time to cook than a pot of rice and only requires one stirring (stove-top polenta has to be stirred for half an hour). For the uninitiated, polenta can be described as a cornmeal mush, but it's much better than it sounds. Serve it as a side to chicken or pork, or top it, like pasta, with something saucy; it easily takes the place of mashed potatoes, and can be seasoned to suit your entree (different cheeses, some herbs, lots of pepper - whatever). It was originally an American Indian dish, borrowed by the Italians, who now claim it as their own.

I buy a nice coarse cornmeal at Walason's bakery supply here in Kaohsiung. Dollar's carries it in their bulk foods bins; Taisuco used to sell it in bags, but I haven't seen it there in a long time. Any cornmeal will work, but the local stuff is preferable to the finer cornbread-style grind that you can get in the states – better texture.

This is from Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet:
Soft Polenta (serves 3 or 4)

2-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon sea salt (less if using table salt)

in an 8-cup glass measure or med. glass bowl. Cook on high for 5 min. Stir, cover loosely w/paper towel, and cook 5 minutes longer.

Remove from oven, uncover, and stir in
2 tablespoons butter
a pinch of fresh-ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons cheese (fresh-grated parmesan, goat cheese, sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack) or additional butter

Let stand 3 minutes; serve hot.

Please note: microwave recipes do not always double or halve easily. If you want this in a larger or smaller portion, please say so in a comment and I will provide.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Coming soon...

Everything you want to know about cooking (well, my cooking, anyway) in southern Taiwan.

This should be fun.