Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Asian Noodle Bowl with a Sweet Southern Flair


One of the gifts that I am most proud of is finding a guitar teacher for my husband.  He actually loves the theory and the rules of playing and is really enjoying the instructor/consultant I found as his Christmas gift. When he first started, he would go for lessons on Saturday morning, and was usually wedged in between the kid who didn't want to be there, and the kid who really wanted to be there but had not practiced.  All of this to say, one Saturday morning on his way home from guitar lessons, sweet hubs decided to go peruse our local asian market.  It is a great one, by the way.  We tell all our friends about it and often take out of town visitors there to eat.  They have an ENTIRE AISLE OF NOODLES! Simply put, it's awe inspiring.  He bought a sampling of several kinds of noodles, fresh, frozen, dried, Soba, ramen, lo mein, etc.  So we have been trying each of them in several ways, and I wish I could tell you a favorite, nope.  They are ALL good.
I started making noodle bowls a few months ago and really love the simplicity and endless possibilities as to what you can add. I saw someone add an egg to the boiling noodles and watched it poach in the water as the noodles cook (best with fresh/frozen noodles that cook quickly) until it was the perfect little pearl in the sea of broth and noodles!
I will keep this short and sweet, and you're gonna be amazed at how easy it really can be!

NOODLE BOWLS
2 boullion cubes (Good ones, I use Knorr low sodium)
4 cups water
Corn (We  had leftover from roasted corn from the weekend)
1.5 Cups of chicken cubed (This is great for a rotisserie chicken)
Asian Noodles - look for the ones that are soft or frozen, (a trip to the asian grocery is fun, but not necessary - you can find these at your local grocery)
2 Eggs
Chinese 5 spice, just a dash (optional)
Toppings - Scallion, Cilantro, Sprouts, Sriracha, Jalapeno, Avacado - what every makes you happy!

In just one pot, bring the water and boullion to a boil with a dash of the Chinese 5 spice  (if you are a purist, use chicken stock and season it) add in the corn, chicken, and noodles. Let it return to a slow boil and carefully break 2 eggs into the boiling mixture then put the lid on the pot and remove from heat when eggs poach and look opaque.  
NOW for the fun part - building the bowl!  
Transfer the noodles to 2 large bowls, then the eggs, then pour over the broth, corn, chicken mixture.  
I love mine topped with Scallions, Cilantro, Spicy Sprouts, and Jalapeño.  
Helpful hint - if you like your "soup" a little thick, while it is boiling, mix 2 tsp corn starch into 2 T water making  a "slurry" and pour into boiling pot.  Stir.  
This can be modified to suit all kinds of items you have in your fridge on any given day!
I'd love to hear how you made it your own!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fantastic Fresh Fruit Shrubs

When I first heard someone discussing "shrubs", I immediately thought of a plant. It turns out that it's not even close. Here's the quick rundown of the history of the shrub. In times where refrigeration was not common and markets were not as plentiful fresh fruit was only available for limited seasons. At the end of the season, to preserve and utilize all of the fruit, people would often make drinking vinegar - or shrubs. Now that we are in the era of the hipster and craft cocktail renaissance, they have come back into vogue. The best part is that there are lots of uses for shrubs, and for those that are drinking a little bit of cider vinegar every day for the health benefits - a shrub is a delicious way to do that. They can also be combined with olive oil for a wonderful summer salad dressing, or added to water or soda for drinking. There are a great many classic cocktail recipes around that call for shrubs, and now you will know how to make your own!
When researching how to make shrubs, I found several methods. You can combine the fruit and sugar and cook it, strain it, and add the vinegar.  Or you can use the cold method that I will detail below and it really makes the fruit flavors brighter. Also - this is a great way to use fruit that is a little too ripe, or as in the strawberry one I made, use the tops (even the green part!) that you would ordinarily just discard.
FRESH FRUIT SHRUB
1 Cup Fresh Fruit (I made 4 batches; Strawberry, Cherry, Peach, & Blueberry/Basil)
1 Cup of Sugar 
1 Cup Cider Vinegar
Time

Yep, that's it.  
Cut up the fresh fruit, it doesn't have to be pretty, fancy, or even peeled.
Put it into a large jar with the sugar.
At this point you can mash it, or just put the lid on it and shake it.
Put in the refrigerator for 3-4 days
The sugar will break down the fruit and become a syrup
After it has had time to break down, put the syrup and fruit through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup. I used a wooden "muddler" to press out all of the syrup, but you could just as easily use a wooden spoon.
Once you have collected all of the syrup, add 1 cup of cider vinegar for every one cup of fruit, and stir.
Place into jars or bottles and keep in a cool dry place or refrigerate for longer lasting results.
Although they are amazingly tasty at this point, it is good to let the flavors "marry" by letting them sit for another 24 hours at least. 
Be adventurous! I added basil to the blueberry one and think it may very well be  my favorite.  Next up is Plum Rosemary.   
At the moment, I've mixed the peach one with a bit of soda water and ice and it is delicious and refreshing. I can't wait to use them in dressings, marinades, and even a classic cocktail or two!
From left to right; Blueberry Basil, Cherry, Strawberry, and Peach Shrubs

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cool as a Cucumber - Tzatziki

I have never liked yogurt - until I went to Greece. Greek yogurt changed my life. It has more protein than regular yogurt, and a thick creamy consistency, and if you even begin to question the validity of probiotics (especially when traveling) you should just enter that into the search engine of your choice and prepare to be amazed.
It wasn't the plastic container of sour creme looking white stuff that changed my mind, it was the Tzatziki - that they served with EVERYTHING! Something about the warmth of the sea air and the coolness of the yogurt and cucumber.  Did I mention that they often served it with french fries cooked in olive oil?  Yep.  That.  
So, now, I make my own, and in the summertime there is always some around.  
I went to the farmer's market this weekend, and found some very early fresh cucumbers and needless to say Tzatziki was the first thing on the agenda. A long time friend asked for the recipe and I thought I'd share it with y'all as well!

TZATZIKI

1 Cup Greek Yogurt 
1/2 Cup Sour Cream (You can use Greek Yogurt here too, but a little SC adds a creaminess)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Small Cucumber 
1 Scallion Chopped (Optional)
1 small clove garlic, minced (Optional)
Dill Weed
1 T Lemon Juice or White Wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Partially peel the cucumber and cut off one end (it will help with not grating your fingers off to have an end to work with)
If you have "gastro" issues with cucumbers - cut the cucumber in half and remove the seeds from the middle with a spoon.  This will cut down on the "gastro" reaction, I'm just gonna leave it at that.
Grate the cucumber on a cheese/box grater onto several layers of paper towels
Spread the cucumber out over the paper towels, and sprinkle with a small amount of salt & allow to sit for about 10 minutes. (This is called "sweating" and it will pull water from the cucumbers so that your Tzatziki doesn't wind up thin and wimpy, most often this is done with squash, eggplant, and cucumbers and makes a huge difference)
In the meantime mix the Greek Yogurt, Sour Cream, Chopped Scallion, Garlic, Dill Weed, and Lemon Juice together in a bowl.  Then stir in the grated cucumber.  
Adjust the additions (salt, pepper, dill, garlic, scallion, lemon) to your taste. If you want to be very fancy, stir in some lemon zest.  
Now, if you haven't eaten it all (I usually double this recipe) put it in the refrigerator for about an hour. This keeps several days in a well sealed container and gets nothing but better as the flavors meld.  
Serve with chopped crudités, or pita chips, or (if you want to pretend you are in Greece) Olive oil french fries.  



SCIENCE/BEAUTY NOTE - Ever wondered about the astringent properties of cucumber? After adding the cucumbers to the Tzatziki, fold the paper towel in half so that the sides with the salt/cucumber on them are touching (you don't want the salt part to touch your skin) and wipe a small part of your skin with the "cucumber extract". It is cool and refreshing. (Don't do this if you are allergic to cucumber, and be sure to rinse it off)