Monday, June 28, 2010

DIY: Radishes In Miso Sauce

Chez Noonie got a new camera lens and wanted to take a close up of something under appreciated and often unnoticed. Then I received some radishes in my weekly CSA loot and soon after set my sights (and tastes) upon them. Radishes are overlooked at the supermarket. They are sold for next to nothing and often just act as a salad garnish that most people shunt aside in their search for more sumptuous morsels.

Truth is, they are attractive, warm, tasty, and it's worth paying attention to them. Radishes add terrific color to any dish. Their peppery skin adds a kick to anything from a salad to a sandwich to a side dish; when peeled, they are sweet and yielding, and make great eats. Also, they keep fresh in the fridge for a long time, making them a go to when everything has gone wilted. Finally, radishes are good for you. They are full of Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper and Manganese, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Folate and Potassium. So listen up readers, because this recipe is worth trying.

I adapted this from a big oven recipe that calls for daikon radish, which is probably much easier to prepare. But it worked fine with garden variety red radishes, just a little more peeling involved. A few notes on it:
  • Red radishes require a lot of cleaning. Use a vegetable scrubber if you have one on hand, and clean it with the same rigor as you would a potato.
  • The original recipe called for serving it with chopped cilantro or nori, which I am sure would be nice. I decided to chop the discarded skins and let them pepper up the dish a little.
  • Make this a full dinner by poaching some sliced chicken with the radishes and serving with noodles.
  • You could also reserve the radish leaves and serve the above suggestion on top of them.
  • I am a big fan of the light miso for vegetables; any kind would likely work, but I think that the light miso, especially given the radishes high sugar content, works beautifully.

Braised Radishes in Miso Sauce
1 bunch of red radishes (10 - 12)
1 tbsp miso light paste
1 small chili, sliced (I used a jalepeno)
1 tbsp sugar

  • Peel the radishes and reserve the peels. Chop the radishes into thin circles and set aside. Chop the peels finely and set aside.
  • Simmer the water. Add the radishes and cook on simmer until soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add chili, miso, and sugar. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Strain the radishes and place on a platter. Sprinkle with chopped peel and serve.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On The List: Cacao Beans (And The Best Iced Mocha, Ever)

Cacao beans are just so improbable. Take a look at those smooth brown pods, and the last thing you would think is, 'oh,, they can be transformed into a delicious chocolate treat.' Visually, they are ho hum at best - like tan tear drops. As far as taste, lets say that eating them in the raw is about as tasty as chomping on an evergreen. These things are bitter. Chalky. Get this thing out of my mouth bad.

And yet they feel so good. I had heard many claims that they are full of anti-oxidents and provide an incredible energy boost. When I can stomach them, this has been all true, but the upfront costs are high and, well, yucky. There had to be a better way to get my kicks.

Enter iced coffee. Is there anything more summer than a glass of iced coffee? Yeah, there's the fruit and the warm breezes and all that jazz, but at the end of the day, at least for me, iced coffee is the pause that refreshes. And mocha, well that is just heaven on earth. Now imagine a mocha that sources caffeine from the cacao beans, and not just the coffee. One with tremendous health and nutritional content. Fewer headaches, less cravings, just an energy boost and tasty drink. I started to experiment with the two and came up with the below recipe. It bookends as a great way to start the morning and then later at end the day as a cocktail.

A few quick tips on this recipe:
  • Like your mocha STRONG? Double brew this brew. Complete the recipe, then pour it back in the machine and re-filter the whole thing. Do not expect to sleep for a while.
  • You can make this with 100% ground cacao beans. It tastes like very light brown chocolate water. Add some cayenne and you have a real boost, but this is an acquired taste.
  • For cocktails, add 2 - 4 tbsp vodka, chocolate liquor, Baileys, or Sambucca.
Cacao is the basis for all things chocolate. It is fermented, dried, roasted, tread upon (by human feet more often than not), and treated before becoming Godiva. The beans are the purest state of chocolate, and therefore highly touted by the raw crowds and chocoholics everywhere. Often, it makes it way to the super foods list because of its antioxidents and high vitamin and mineral contents. Grown largely in the tropics of South America and West Africa, from which fair trade and organic beans are available, cacao is poised to be one hot commodity, the next latest thing.

You can find raw cacao beans in your local health food stores, but I like to buy them online, as they seem fresher, especially from places that sell them in bulk like nutsonline. They are a bit pricey, but last for a long time and are very efficient, especially when ground.

Enjoy, and please comment below on your experiences with cacao, coffee, and cocktails.

Iced Mocha Coffee
3 tbsp finely ground raw cacao beans
6 tbsp ground, decaf coffee
48 oz (8 cups on the coffee machine) fresh, cold water

  1. Mix the cacao and coffee grinds together
  2. Add grinds to your coffee machine.
  3. Add water. Brew.
  4. Fill a pitcher with ice. Pour hot coffee in the pitcher over the ice and allow to chill. Add more ice if necessary.
  5. Serve with cream and sugar/simple syrup.

Serves 6

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sweet: Blueberry Lime Tart

Blueberry and lime are like unknowing lovers destined to be together, who keep missing each other due to circumstances beyond their control. One is sweet, the other sour. Like all great love stories opposites attract, come together with great passion, and merge into one. Tart, that is.

I've had blueberry lime desserts floating around in my head for months now. I wanted to do a pie but never can get the juices to manage themselves properly - blueberry pies are messy by nature because of the fruit's high juice content. When cooked, blueberries yield tremendous volumes of juice, which in turn run all over the place. The only way to manage them is with a thickener like corn starch or meringue powder, and I hate adding stuff like that unless absolutely necessary.

A betty or slump or other deconstructed cake was also on my list of ideas, but I wanted something with a little more finish, to showcase it a bit. And then I sat down with my best friend and fellow baker Debbie. And she came up with the idea of a tart. Brilliant - the blueberries don't need to be baked, so less mess. The lime flavors burst from the lime curd and crust. And the best thing about this tart is that once you've made the lime curd and crust, it comes together in less than 10 minutes. It looks impressive, tastes great, and lends a real sense of occasion to any event.

Some suggestions for this recipe:
  • Consider using wild blueberries if you can find them. They are smaller, a little more tart, and make a charming presentation.
  • Be patient with the lime curd. It takes a while, truly 12 - 15 minutes, to come together. Like whipped cream, you'll know it when you see it. And btw, lime curd is yellow. Because egg yolks are the main ingredient.  Don't let it throw you off.
  • Don't use any bowls or pans made with reactive materials, like copper. It doesn't do well with acids.
  • If you want to go really nuts, make blueberry lime curd. Heat about 1/2 cup of blueberries with 1/8 cup sugar in a small pan. Let the juices burst from the berries. Strain, cool, and reserve the syrup. Swirl into the lime curd. Add to tart shell after removing foil and weights.
  • If you want to go completely over the top, add 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tbsp of lime zest to 1 cup heavy cream, and whip.  Fold whipped cream into the lime card , then swirl in the blueberry syrup, then add to tart shell after removing foil and weights. No need to top with blueberries, although you can serve them on the side. Fabulous.
This is food for lovers, not small children.  Tuck them into bed, light a few candles, and come together to enjoy a terrific day end finale.  Enjoy every nibble.

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)
2 tbsp finely grated lime zest
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt

Lime curd
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup lime juice
3 tbsp lime zest
Pinch of salt
6 egg yolks

3 pints of blueberries
1/4 cup red current jelly

Make the crust:
  • Melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat.  Add 1 tbsp zest and let stand for 5 minutes. 
  • Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Pour the butter into the bowl slowly, stirring with a fork as you go. When dough comes together, transfer to a tart pan and press it in evenly. Prick with a fork throughout. 
  • Cover with foil and pie weights/beans, and bake for 2o minutes. Remove foil and weights, and then bake for another 10 - 20 minutes, until light brown.  Remove and cool on a rack.

Make the lime curd:
  • Melt butter on medium in a saucepan.
  • Remove from heat and add sugar, lime juice, lime zest, and salt.  Whisk, and then whisk in yolks until smooth.
  • Cook on low heat, whisking constantly.  This takes about 12 - 15 minutes.  It is ready when it has thickened enough to leave a trail on the back of a wooden spoon.  You will feel it thickening as you whisk. Do not allow this to boil.  
  • Strain immediately.  Cool to room temperature and then chill. 

Put it all together:
  • Heat red currant jelly on low heat in a small sauce pan, until liquefied. Remove from heat and reserve.
  • Pour the lime curd into the cooled tart. Scatter blueberries across the top of the lime curd. Brush blueberries with red currant jelly. Chill and serve.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Win A Copy of Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods

edible bookShopping and eating locally are not as straight forward as they should be. It is far more convenient to buy a banana for 10 cents that traveled 1,000 miles to my stomach than it is to find and purchase an apple from a farm less than 30 minutes from my house. There's a lot of reasons for this. Subsidized agriculture. Cheap, foreign oil. Treasury Desks.

Moreover, once local food is found, it can be equally challenging to know what to do with it. Not all of us are a whiz with Asian Greens or Chard, and learning to cook with all things local can be quite a learning curve. Moreover, learning how to clean, store, and prepare local food is a pickle; it is not shelf-stable and does not confirm to common convention.

I can't change the big stuff, but I can try to manage myself. My contributions are simple, and I do what I can. Most nights I cook. I shop at the farmers markets and take Umami Girl's advice seriously. We helped to found a CSA. But at the end of the day, I need to start building more resources to help support my goal to eat locally.

Enter Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods. For those of you familiar with Edible Magazines, available for free across the country, get ready to enjoy. The book divides up nicely by geography, drilling down on what is available where, who sells it, how to store it, while all the way telling stories and making learning fun and breezy. Then there are the recipes for using these local foods, which are fabulous. They are separated by season, with notes on location. Finally,the photography is impressive as it is instructional. All in all one of the best books on eating locally that I have come across in my searches.

Want to win a copy? Comment below and tell me more about how you are trying to eat locally. What are you challenges, peeves, triumphs, and stories? Contest ends June 30, 2010. Winner will be chosen randomly and notified shortly thereafter.

Friday, June 4, 2010

DIY: Sesame Noodles

No, they don't have to come from Joy Luck.

Sesame noodles are easy to prepare, last forever in the fridge, and are ready in under 15 minutes. Bring them to a party and you will be the favored guest. Bring them to the dinner table, and you will be graced with ooh's and ah's befitting a far more elaborate meal. Served cold with a some veggies, chicken, or tofu, it's one of my favorite summer dishes.

This recipe comes from The Black Dog Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook, one of the best seasonal cookbooks I've ever used.  I love their pictures, stories, and recipes, and recommend it highly.

A couple of things to keep in mind when making this dish:
  • It makes a lot of sauce.  A LOT of it.  My advice is to let the noodles sit and chill in the whole thing for an hour or two, so they absorb the sauce.  Then strain the noodles and save the remaining sauce for just about anything under the sun including roasted vegetables, marinades, or even another batch of noodles.  The sauce should last for 2 weeks in the fridge.
  • You can really pair this with just about anything, but I think a firmer companion is your best bet.  Such as the aforementioned grilled chicken, extra firm tofu, shrimp, cucumbers, carrots, or celery.  These choices all complement the soft texture of the noodles, and also provide a nice cling for the sauce. 
  • Feel free to make peanut noodles by swapping peanut butter for tahini, and peanut oil for sesame oil.  Same measurements apply. 
  • Got picky eaters or folks with allergies?  Reserve a portion of the cooked noodles, slather them in butter, grated cheese, and pepper.  Top with whatever you were going to use for the sesame noodles and you have happy campers and cookers. 
Leave the Peking Duck for the Chinese restaurants; this recipe is one to make and cherish in your own kitchen.  Enjoy.

Sesame Noodles
Adapted from the Black Dog Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook

1 lb fresh or dried egg noodles
1 cup tahini
1 cup hot water
1 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider or rice wine vinegar
1/4 - 1/2 cup chili oil, to your preference
2 tbsp dark sesame oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 scallions, chopped

Grilled chicken
Broiled tofu

  1. Cook egg noodles per package instructions. Drain and strain. Add a drizzle of sesame oil to keep from sticking.
  2. Pour tahini and hot water into a large bowl, and whisk until smooth.
  3. Add grapeseed oil to the bowl.  Whisk.  Add tamari/soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar, one at a time, blending with a whisk after each addition. 
  4. Add chili oil and taste for spiciness. 
  5. Add sesame oil and garlic.  Blend. 
  6. Add noodles to sauce and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes.  Serve with scallions and whatever else pleases you.

Serves 4