Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Picture of Health

Okay, yogurt sans brown sugar would be a tad bit healthier, but this photo makes my mouth water so it makes the cut. I posted my recipe for plain yogurt ages ago, and still make it the same way: combine a litre of whole milk and 1/3 cup milk powder; heat it to 180ºF; cool it to 110ºF; add yogurt or yogurt starter; keep in a warm place for about six hours; refrigerate to stop the culturing process; enjoy. For all the details, see the original post.

If you are in Taiwan or somewhere else where truly plain yogurt is hard to find or prohibitively expensive, it really is worth giving this a try. I use my yogurt in any recipe that calls for buttermilk (corn bread, muffins, pancakes), and as a substitute for sour cream, both in recipes (coffee cake) and as a topping (burritos). Scoop it into a lined mesh sieve set over a bowl in the fridge for a few hours or more, and you have farmer's cheese (the volume will reduce by up to half). Add herbs, fresh minced garlic, a bit of lemon juice and some ground pepper, and you have a fabulous spread for crackers, sandwiches, or veggie sticks. Make a sweet version with honey and cinnamon and you have a high-protein breakfast spread.

Go nuts! It's good for you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Papaya and Coconut Chicken Salad

Check out this Better Homes and Gardens recipe for Papaya and Coconut Chicken Salad. Here in Taiwan papayas are plentiful, and even if you don't like them, as I generally don't, this might change your mind. I made it a couple weeks ago and loved it. I didn't add blueberries, but they would add a nice bit of color if you had some on hand. This has nice flavors, all found here locally but not usually combined this way.

If you don't have cider vinegar on hand, use any light-colored, slightly-sweet vinegar, and do add the cayenne or ground red pepper to balance it out. Dried coconut can be found at Walason's -- ye dze fen, if you have to ask for it. Theirs is not overly sweetened, so it works nicely in this dish. This only requires a small oven, and you could easily prepare the chicken in advance and assemble the salad at the last minute. Enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ground Beef and Squash Picadillo

I've been reading an issue of the New Yorker from last fall, their food issue, and I was amused by Anthony Lane's skewering of a T. S. Eliot character who is able to conjure a supper from next to nothing. Anthony proceeds to make a good point, that eggs do in fact have culinary limits, but I do have my own in-a-pinch recipes -- kitchen conjuring is a challenge I relish more than dread -- and I had to pull one out of my sleeve on Saturday night.

The occasion was a potluck supper for some former teachers who were back in Taiwan for a visit. I knew this was coming, I knew I needed to bring something, yet somehow, at 4:30 (90 minutes before the party, which should be nearly an infinity when one is armed with a whole book of thirty-minute recipes) I only just started to think about what I might bring. "On Rice" came to mind, and suddenly a vision of half a squash, bought on a whim last week and still resting comfortably in my fridge, made all the switches click in place, and Ground Beef and Squash Picadillo was on its way.

In a large (12") nonstick pan, brown
1 1/4 lbs ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

Drain off excess liquid and add
1 1/2 cups beef broth
2 Tablespoons tomato paste (or 1/4 cup tomato sauce)
1/3 cup green olives (halved if they are particularly large)
1/3 cup raisins

Season with
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
salt & pepper

Bring to a simmer. Layer on top
Half a large squash, or one acorn squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Cover the pan and let the squash steam for 15 to 20 minutes. Check seasonings and serve over rice.


Do take five minutes and toast the cumin. The aroma and flavor are greatly improved, and when you crush the little seeds before adding them to the dish the whole house will smell exotic and lovely.

Fresh ground beef is no longer for sale at Costco; other stores may carry it, I don't know. I have switched to buying the Australian beef patties in the Costco freezer -- for this recipe I used five patties.

I seeded my squash half with a grapefruit spoon and then sliced it crossways into C-shapes (not with a grapefruit spoon). With a sharp knife it's not too hard to remove the long strip of peel before slicing the squash into cubes.