Sunday, January 31, 2016

Miso Soup with Chorizo, Mushroom, Lotus Root and Arugula

     Noodle House Miso Soup Special #1!   
     Many restaurants offer a few chef's specialty Miso Soups on the menu along with traditional Japanese recipes.  Asian style buffet restaurants usually offer 10 to 20 garnishes for Miso Soup, so customers can jazz up it up to their own liking.  Street food truck operators and trendy modern noodle house chefs really come up with some crazy Miso Soup ideas.  Miso Soup is a great creative medium, because an endless variety of food items can be added to increase interest.
     I always make Miso Soups the old fashioned way.  I never use Instant Miso Soup products.  Miso Soup is so easy to make, that an instant miso mix really is not necessary.  The difference in time between the two methods only amounts to a few minutes.
     Today's Miso Soup creation would probably do good on a noodle house lunch special du jour board!  Both traditional items and a couple of interesting European ingredients are combined in this recipe.  The Spanish Chorizo adds a zesty paprika spiced pork flavor that goes well with shiitake and enoki mushrooms.  Arugula is a spicy lettuce green that has a black pepper flavor.  Fresh lotus root adds a little bit of crunchy carbohydrate texture to the mix.  This soup is interesting enough to appeal to a wide range of guests!

     *This entire recipe yields about 2 1/2 cups!

     Spanish Chorizo:
     Spanish Chorizo is usually made with an edible casing and it is much less fatty than Mexican style chorizo.
     Place a small chorizo sausage on a roasting pan.
     Roast the sausage in a 325ºF oven till it is fully cooked.
     Allow the sausage to cool.
     Cut 5 thin slices of the chorizo and set them aside.
     *Save the rest of the chorizo for another recipe!
     Iriko Dashi:
     Some of the liquid will evaporate when boiling, so extra water is needed at the start of the recipe.  It take only about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of soup to fill a large soup bowl.
     Boil 3 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped rinsed salt packed dried wakame seaweed.
     Add 1/3 cup of small sun dried anchovies.
     Boil the broth for 10 minutes.
     Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Discard the fish and seaweed.  (Or turn it into a snack salad recipe!)

     Miso Soup with Chorizo, Mushroom, Lotus Root and Arugula: 
     Step 1:  Place the sauce pot of dashi broth over medium heat.
     Add 1 thin slice of lotus root.
     Add 1 thin sliced fresh shiitake mushroom.
     Gently boil the soup till the lotus root starts to become tender.
     *Check the volume of the broth after boiling.  The volume should be about 2 1/2 cups.  Add a little water if the volume is too low.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 2 teaspoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 2 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add the reserved 5 thin slices of roasted chorizo sausage.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Simmer for 2 minutes.
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of red miso paste while stirring.
     Stir till the miso paste blends with the broth.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the soup into a large soup bowl.
     Try to expose the lotus root and a little bit of the other ingredients on the surface of the soup.
     Step 5:  Float a small bunch of trimmed enoki mushrooms on the surface of the soup.
     Float about 12 baby arugula leaves on the surface of the soup.
     Place a few thin bias slices of green onion on the soup.

     This is a nice tasting Miso Soup du jour!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Ramen Pastira with Ham and Provolone

     Italian Style Ramen Pastira  
     Creating some wild gourmet ramen noodle recipes is something that I do.  I am a college student, so I know what it is like when the funds run dry.  All I can say is that more often than not, Ramen Noodles are college student survival food.   
     I figured that an Italian style Ramen Noodle Pastira might just be a pretty good idea.  College students on a low budget will like the idea of Ramen Pastira, because one portion will leave the tummy feeling so full, that hunger may not return till the next day.  This gourmet ramen entrée can be made for a total food cost of less than $1.75, so this qualifies Ramen Pastira as one of the heaviest low budget meals of them all!

     Pastira is an old traditional Italian recipe that originated in Napoli.  Many Italian immigrants in New York City have sentimental memories of Pastira, because it was the only meal that they could afford to make when they first landed in this country.  
     Traditional Pastira is made with eggs, cheese and pasta.  Pastira is a baked pasta that is cut into portions before being served.  Serving Pastira with tomato sauce is an option.  As one can imagine, because Pastira is so dense, that it sits in the tummy like Lead.
     Pastira can be jazzed up with extra ingredients to make it it a little fancier.  Adding expensive gourmet items to Pastira is an option, but this would clash with the traditional low budget theme.  Adding a small amount of something cheap, like ham, vegetables or a bargain priced local cheese, will add plenty of flavor while retaining the poor folk's food theme.  
     "A la minute" Tomato Sauce: 
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.  (Enough for 1 Ramen Pastira.)
     This is a smooth tomato sauce that only takes little time to make.  The better the canned tomatoes, the better the sauce will be.  Imported Italian canned crushed San Marzano Tomatoes are the best and they are costly, but sometimes they are on sale for a bargain price.  San Marzano Tomatoes are so tender, that they require very little cooking time.     
     Step 1:  Heat 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic is a light golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 3/4 cup of imported Italian canned crushed San Marzano Tomatoes.
     Add 1/2 cup of tomato puree or tomato juice.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Bring the sauce to a very gentle boil, while stirring.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat low.
     Gently simmer till the excess tomato juices have reduced and the sauce is a medium thick tomato sauce consistency.  
     *Stir the oil into the sauce once every five minutes.  (The oil must be stirred into the sauce regularly so it combines with the tomatoes.)
     Step 5:  Remove the pot from the heat and let the sauce cool.  

     Ramen Pastira with Ham and Provolone:
     This recipe yields 1 gourmet ramen entrée!
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of ramen noodles in boiling water till they are tender, but not too soft.
     Drain the hot water off of the noodles.
     Immediately shock the noodles in ice water, while stirring, so they gain a chewy firm texture.
     Drain the water off of the noodles and set them aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Set the onions and garlic aside to cool.
     Step 4:  Place 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of fine grated Romano Cheese.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add the reserved sautéed garlic, onions and the olive oil from the pan.
     Step 5:  Whisk the egg mixture till it is blended.
     Step 6:  Add the reserved ramen noodles to the egg mixture.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Place the ramen noodle Pastira mixture in a small non-stick sauté pan that is brushed with olive oil.  Be sure that the Pastira mixture is an even thickness.
     Step 7:  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of grated provolone cheese over the uncooked Pastira.
     Place 2 to 3 ounces of thin ham strips on the Pastira.
     Place 5 or 6 dollops of the thick tomato sauce on the Pastira.
     Sprinkle 2 more tablespoons of grated provolone over the Pastira toppings.
     Step 8:  Bake in a 325ºF oven till the eggs are fully cooked and the cheese melts. 
     Use a rubber spatula to slide the Ramen Pastira with Ham and Provolone onto a plate.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     This gourmet ramen noodle creation is tasty and filling! 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Spam Musubi Roll

     Spam Musubi!
     Sushi does not refer to raw fish or any kind of protein.  Sushi is sour rice.  Before the age of refrigeration, cooked rice occasionally was left to sour in a container or in a banana leaf.  In tropical heat and humidity, rice quickly sours with minimal risk of contamination from dangerous pathogens.  Naturally soured rice often accompanied steamed or fresh seafood.   
     Sushi Rice has its origins in Southeast Asia and many say that sushi was created in Southern China.   Eventually, soured rice was introduced to Japan, where it was given the name sushi.  As sushi became highly regarded, new levels of sushi perfection were established.  Eventually only the finest fat grain white rice was considered to be the best rice for sushi.  When and where sweet vinegar started to be used to imitate the flavor of naturally soured rice is not clear, but many food historians say that this practice started in Korea or Japan.  The goal when making modern sushi rice is to mimic the flavor of naturally soured rice and nothing else.  

     Spam Musubi was created in Hawaii by Japanese home cooks during WWII when seafood was in short supply.  There were literally mountains of canned Spam that were stockpiled in Hawaii during the war years and Spam turned into a local favorite.  Spam was highly regarded by Hawaiians, so Spam Musubi eventually became one of Hawaii's number one food specialties.  

     Sushi Rice: 
     Short grain rice for sushi is usually a top grade rice.  When steamed, the grains of sushi grade rice are translucent.  Short grain sushi grade rice also is sticky enough to hold its shape when pressed.
     When a bag of short grain rice is labeled as "Sushi Rice," the rice grains are pre-polished.  Polishing the rice is usually done by stirring the dried rice under cold running water till each grain of rice is polished smooth.  This process can take up to an hour, so machine polished Sushi Rice products are a nice convenience.  If the dried rice grains in a bag of Sushi Rice look polished smooth, then the rice is ready to use.      
     It is best to buy a bottle of sweet vinegar for sushi making, if you are making sushi for the first time.  Using a sushi vinegar product will help a cook to become familiar with the sweet and sour flavor balance. 

     *Preparing 1 cup of short grain sushi rice is more than enough for today's recipe.

     Steamer Method:  
     If you have a rice steamer, then follow the directions for the proportion of water needed for 1 cup of short grain rice.  

     Pot Method:  
     If you have no steamer, then use a proportion of 2.1 parts water to 1 part rice.  
     Bring 2 1/4 cups water to a boil in a sauce pot.
     Add 1 cup of sushi grade short grain rice.  
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.  
     Cover the pot with a lid.  
     It may take 22 minutes for short grain rice to become tender, instead of the usual 20 minute rice cooking time.
     Cooling Sushi Rice:
     The technique of controlling the rate that sushi rice cools is the key to making great sushi rice.  A thick wooden bowl is used to cool the rice.  The wood becomes warm and it holds a constant proper temperature, while the rice is tossed with sweet vinegar.  The wood also absorbs some of the excess moisture that would normally evaporate, so it helps to keep the rice moist. 
     Step 1:  As soon as the rice is cooked tender yet not too soft, place the rice in a thick cedar sushi rice bowl (or any thick wooden bowl).  
     Immediately start stirring the rice from the bottom up, so it cools evenly at a controlled rate.  
     Step 2:  While the rice is hot, sprinkle just enough sweet sushi rice vinegar on the rice to give it a delicate sour flavor.  (About 1 tablespoon per 2 cups of cooked rice.)
     Continue tossing and stirring the rice till it stops steaming.  
     Step 3:  Let the rice sit and become sticky, by allowing the rice to gradually cool undisturbed in the wooden bowl.  
     Step 4:  Keep the sushi rice at a room temperature for up to 4 hours.  Keep the sushi rice covered, so it does not dry out.

     Teriyaki Sauce with Black & White Sesame:
     Heat 1/4 cup of water over low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 3 tablespoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon black sesame seeds. 
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin syrup consistency.  (This only takes a few minutes.)
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.

     Spam Musubi Roll:
     This recipe yields 1 Spam Musubi Roll.
     Covering a bamboo sushi mat with plastic wrap is a good idea.  This creates a non stick surface and it protects the mat.
     Step 1:  Cut 2 long rectangular strips of Spam that measure 3/8"x3/8"x4".
     Place the Spam on a roasting pan.
     Warm the Spam strips in a 300º oven till they become hot, but not browned.
     Keep the Spam strips warm on a stove top.
     Step 2:  Place 1 sheet of roasted nori seaweed on a sushi rolling mat.
     Spread 3/8" thick layer of sushi rice on the near end of the nori sheet on the sushi rolling mat.  The rice layer should be about 3" wide.  (Be sure to spread the rice evenly and leave a portion of the nori sheet bare on the two opposing edges, so the bare nori sheet can seal the sushi roll.
     Step 3:  Place the 2 warm Spam strips about 1/3 of the way up on the sushi rice, so they are end to end and stretch across the width of the mat.  
     Allow the moisture from the rice to dampen the nori sheet for a few seconds.
     Step 4:  Dampen the sealing flap of the nori sheet, by spreading a few drops of water on the bare roasted nori sheet.
     Step 5:  Use the mat to roll an even cylinder shape. 
     The Spam Musubi roll should look like an even long cylinder shape with the Spam in the center.
     To create a flat bottom on the Spam Musubi roll, srch the sushi roll mat over the roll and press to create a "D" shape. 
     Spam Musubi Roll Presentation:
     Step 1:  Place the Spam Musubi Roll on a cutting board.
     Cut the roll into slices that are about 3/8" to 1/2" thick.  (Wet and clean the knife blade before cutting each slice.)
     Step 2:  Arrange the Spam Musubi slices in a circle pattern on the center of a plate,. 
     Place a bed of roasted red bell pepper strips in the center of the circle.
     Place a carrot flower garnish on the roasted red pepper bed.  (Carrot flowers are fairly easy to make.  Refer to a basic garnishing knife skills book, if this garnish is unfamiliar.)
     Place something green or yellow in the center of the flower.  (A piece of broccoli looks nice.)
     Step 3:  Drizzle some of the Teriyaki Sauce with Black & White Sesame on the plate around the Spam Musubi.
     Drizzle a little bit of sesame oil on the plate.
     Step 4:  Sprinkle a few pinches of thin bias sliced green onion top over the sauces.
     Serve with wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger on the side.

     Viola!  A nice looking modern Hawaiian style Spam Musubi Roll presentation!        

Friday, January 15, 2016

Egg Flower Watercress Soup

     Soothing and Delicious! 
     The spicy black pepper flavor of watercress is perfect for flavoring an Egg Flower Soup.  Egg Flower Soup is the literal Chinese translation of Egg Drop Soup.

     Egg Flower Watercress Soup:
     This recipe yields 1 large bowl of soup.  (About 2 1/4 cups)
     Egg Flower Soup can easily be made to order.  Egg Flower Soup that sits in a terrine for an extended amount of time will lose character.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 2 1/2 cups of rich chicken broth.
     Bring the chicken broth to a boil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 pinch each of these spices:
     - white pepper
     - sea salt
     - Chinese five spice powder
     - turmeric
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Step 2:  Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water in a cup to make a slurry.
     Add just enough of the cornstarch slurry, while stirring, to thicken the soup to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Stir till the soup thickens.
     Immediately reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Step 3:  Whisk 1 large egg and 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch together in a small mixing bowl.
     Pour thin streams of the egg mixture across the surface of the soup.  Zig-zag the egg streams while pouring the eggs to get several egg ribbons to form.
     *Do not stir or disturb the eggs, till the egg ribbons become firm!
     Step 4: Add 1/4 cup of watercress leaves and small watercress sprigs.
     Allow the soup to simmer for 30 seconds.
     Step 5:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the soup into a large soup bowl and serve.
     No garnish is necessary.

     This is a delicate tasting Egg Flower Soup with just the right amount of watercress zest!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Squid and Sun Dried Anchovy Ribbon Noodle Soup

     Healthy Soup!     
     It is funny how some people react to the word "anchovy."  Mediterranean anchovies are salted, dried and packed in oil.  Good Mediterranean anchovy products taste great.  The problem is that low quality Mediterranean style anchovy products have a strong fishy flavor that some folks never get over after one taste.
     Sun Dried Anchovies from Southeast Asia have a mellow umami flavor and they are not salty at all.  When cooked in a broth, sun dried anchovies add a rich umami fish flavor.  When reconstituted, sun dried anchovies look like tiny fresh fish.
     Squid and Sun Dried Anchovy Ribbon Noodle Soup: 
     This recipe yields 1 large bowl of soup.  (About 2 1/4 cups)
     Step 1:  Place 2 3/4 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 16 sun dried tiny anchovies that are about 1" long.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse chopped rinsed salt packed dried wakame seaweed.  (Salt packed wakame is soft and it is not dried crisp.)
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Gently boil till the anchovies and wakame become tender.  (About 10 minutes.)
     Step 3:  Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese 5 Spice Powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground turmeric.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of coarse chopped bok choy.
     Gently boil till the bok choy starts to become tender.  (About 2 minutes)
     Step 5:  Add 1 small portion of fresh wide sliced ribbon egg noodles.  (Sliced wonton wrappers are fine for this soup.  Cut the wonton wrappers into 1/2" wide strips.)
     Gently boil till the noodles gain a firm texture.  (About 1 minute)
     Step 6:  Add 3 ounces of sliced squid.
     Gently boil for about 30 seconds.
     *After gently boiling for the length of this recipe, the finished soup should have a volume of about 2 1/4 cups.   Add a little water if there is not enough broth. 
     Step 7:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Ladle the soup into a large soup bowl and serve.
     No garnish is necessary.
     Soups like today's recipe are made to order and they are served immediately after they finish.  This is a good tasting healthy noodle house style soup!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Dry Cure Sausage Banh Mi

     Banh Mi!
     This is not a traditional Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwich, but the flavors go well together.  Greek Lovcka and Italian Soppressata are not considered to be official Vietnamese Banh Mi lunch meats, but as far as modern street food is concerned, anything goes!
     For those who demand Asian style sausage, there are plenty to choose from.  If you wish to use a good traditional Asian style sausage for today's recipe, Chinese Sweet Dry Cure Sausage is a good choice.

     Canned lunch meats are most often used to make Banh Mi.  Canned lunch meats were introduced during the French occupation of Vietnam as army rations and trade goods.  Fresh made meats are traditional too.  Steamed meat, stir fry meat, roasted meat, BBQ, meatballs and meatloaf are usually offers at Banh Mi shops.  Canned pâté, sardines and tuna are offered too.
     Vegetarians need not fret, because there are many veggie Banh Mi options too.  All sorts of pickled fresh or pickled vegetables are used to make Banh Mi.  Steamed, chilled, roasted or fried tofu is traditional too.
     There are a few required ingredients for making Bahn Mi.  Mayonnaise is used on just about any lunchmeat or canned meat Bahn Mi.  Banh Mi are almost always garnished with Daikon Radish, carrots and aromatic greens or fresh herbs.  Pickled vegetables or sliced fresh chile peppers are optional garnishes.  The American style lettuce, tomato and onion sandwich garnish is not used at all.
     The size of a Banh Mi baguette is smaller than a standard French baguette.  Traditional Banh Mi Bread is a baguette that is made with half wheat flour and half rice flour.  This creates an interesting light bread texture.  Many Banh Mi shops use traditional French baguettes and this is good too.
     Basically, as long as the featured ingredient is Vietnamese or a fusion of Vietnamese and French then it qualifies as a traditional Banh Mi fodder.  Anything else is considered to be a modern trendy ingredient.

     The main idea of Banh Mi is to keep the choice of meat cheap and only use a small portion of meat, so the price of a Banh Mi sandwich remains a good bargain.  The small amount of meat is also in keeping with the snack sandwich theme of Banh Mi.  Customers usually order several different kinds of Banh Mi when having a meal.
     At most Banh Mi Shops, the price of a sandwich ranges from $2.50 to $4.00.  Some shops even offer a "Buy 5, get one free" deal.  The only way to make a profit on Banh Mi is to keep the food cost low and to make high volume sales.  I have stood in line at a busy Banh Mi shop around lunch time and I have seen each customer order between 5 and 25 Banh Mi to-go.  Ordering a bunch of Banh Mi sure is a thrifty way to feed the crew lunch on the job site!
     Dry Cure Sausage Banh Mi:     
     This recipe yields 1 Banh Mi Snack Sandwich.
     Any dry cure sausage can be used to make this sandwich.  Lovcka and Soppressata taste good together.
     Step 1:  Cut a lengthwise slit into one side of a banh mi style mini baguette sandwich roll.
     Pry the roll open with your fingers.
     Remove some of the bread pith with your fingers.  (The pith can be saved for other recipes.)
     Step 2:  Spread some mayonnaise on the bread.
     Place a few small aromatic lettuce leaves and Vietnamese herbs on the bottom half of the sandwich. (Arugula, watercress and cilantro are good choices.)
     Place a few thin slices of soppressata on the lettuce.  (About 3/4 ounce.)
     Place a few thin slices of Lovcka on the sandwich.  (About 1 ounce.)
     Step 3:  Place some marinated daikon radish strips on the lunch meats.  (Vacuum sealed bags of marinated daikon radish are available at Asian food markets.)
     Sprinkle some thin match stick cut peeled broccoli stems over the radishes.
     Sprinkle some thin matchstick cut carrots over the broccoli and radishes.
     Place a few large diced pieces of bermuda onion on the sandwich.
     Step 4:  Place the banh mi sandwich on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with tiny lettuce leaves and mild pickled chile peppers.  (I used Greek Yellow Fefferoni as the garnish.)
     Place a Hopia Hapon (adzuki sweet bean paste cake) on the plate as an accompaniment.  (Hopia Hapon are available at Asian markets.)
     This Dry Cure Sausage Banh Mi Sandwich tastes great!