Magazines for the Taste Buds: Top 5 Cooking Magazines

food magazineIf you are guilty of watching Food Network on a daily basis, you have indeed earned the foodie label. If you visit restaurants and attempt to dissect each seasoning nuance, you’ve got a discerning palate. Finally, if your ultimate goal is to cook well enough to land on an episode of Cut Throat Kitchen or Chopped, you need these 5 magazines. Continue reading

It’s been a while…

Finally, I started blogging again. This time around, I created a space which is more like a personal photo blog. Yes, can’t quit taking pictures. How about cooking? Still loves it but can only do food photography occasionally If you have time, you are most welcome to visit me at Droplets.

Strawberry Bubble Tea and Sweet & Salty Popcorn

Relaxing Sunday afternoon, mostly overcast sky with lucky sunny breaks in between, I revisited Finn Slough, a place not so far away from where I live, a tiny community with distinct looking wooden houses built along a marshy river bank. Every time I go there, I can’t stop imagining how life would be like in the old days when it was still a robust fishing village. The Finnish fishermen may be long gone, but what’s left are the remnants that merged with the landscape to create a unique place. Here are some of the pictures taken.

After a joyful afternoon with some new photos to process, I’d like to have something fun and refreshing as snack. Got a box full of local strawberries the other day. They were so juicy but still a bit tart. I also have some tapioca balls that I wanted to try out. So, I make some strawberry bubble tea, with all natural ingredients, no artificial milk and fruit powder as in a lot of other recipes suggested.

Recipe: Strawberry Bubble Tea
Serve 2

Ingredients:
1 cup strawberries, washed and cut into halves or quarters
1 ripe banana, cup into 1″ pieces
1/4 cup cooked tapioca balls
1/2 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup strong tea, cool in the fridge if freshly brewed
3 Tbsp sugar syrup (mix 1/2 cup white, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 cup water, simmer until sugar melted)
2 Tbsp sugar or honey (optional)
ice cubes (optional)

Instructions:

Put all ingredients except tapioca balls in the blender. Process until smooth. Put tapioca balls in a glass first and then pour in the blended mixture. If prefer ice cold drink, put a few pieces of ice cubes in.

Easy enough, right? Just a few tips to make it right:
The strawberries I have are still quite tart. So, to reduce the sugar that I have to put in, I put in a banana. It increase the sweetness and also the creaminess of the drink.

There are a few different brands of tapioca balls in the Asian market. I bought the one that is vacuum sealed and made in Taiwan, where bubble tea originated. And cook it according to instruction on the package. The process usually involves cooking the balls in boiling water for 15 to 30 mins and then steep in the boiled water for another 30 mins. Adjust the timing to get the chewiness texture that you want.

As the sweetness of the berries varied, adjust the additional quantity of sugar or honey to suit your own taste

Last week I went to the farmers’ market and bought some kettle corns which were so good that me and N finished a big bag in no time. Of course, I will try to DIY so that we can have a continuous supply of it at home. We always use the Alton Brown method of making popcorn and season it with different spices after cooking. How to incorporate sugar is a different story because you want the sugar to melt. The Rachael Ray recipe solves the problem: to put in the sugar with the popcorn in the oil before it pops. The popcorn came out perfectly cooked and tasted just like the one in farmers’ market.

Recipe: Sweet and Salty Popcorn

Ingredients:

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Utensil required:
A good quality big stainless steel bowl, around 10″ in diameter.
Aluminum foil to cover the stainless steel bowl, poke a few holes on it for ventilation
Oven mitts

Instruction:

Heat oil over medium heat in stainless steel bowl until just before smoke comes out. You can test the hotness by putting a piece of popcorn kernel in. When it pops, the oil is ready.
Add popcorn kernels and sugar in the oil all at once. Cover the bowl with the piece of holey foil.

Put your oven mitts on and start shaking the bowl continuously. After a 20 to 30 sec., the popping starts. Yes, there is a bit of exercise involved. It will take a few minutes to have the kernels all popped. But don’t stop shaking until the popping sound gradually dies down. Turn off the heat.
Season the popcorn with salt.

Caribbean Chicken Wings

Finally got some time to finish off this post!. Once again, I rely on the food and its taste and color to make the bad weather go away. I am getting tired of this gloomy wintery spring. I want the bright and blooming sun, not the timid and shy one. I believe this Caribbean chicken can perform its magic. The sweetness and spiciness compliments each other perfectly, with the use of the citrus to brighten up the flavor, these chicken wings are scrumptious and addictive. Don’t be scared by the long list of ingredients. Just gather all the seasonings and put it in the food processor and the marinate is done. You do need some time to marinade the chicken, but the reward for waiting is big. The cooking process is hassle free. What can be simpler than baking and glazing!

I hope you will enjoy this easy recipe and let’s hope for better weather everywhere!!

Recipe: Caribbean Chicken Wings
Adapted from Sunny Anderson’s recipe on Food Network

Ingredients:

1 jalapeno, chopped (if you want it not so spicy, remove the ribs and seeds; use habanero if you want it spicier)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp lime
2 Tbsp orange juice
2 lb. chicken wings

Directions

Process all ingredients in except chicken wings in the food processor until smooth. Reserve 1/2 cup of marinade. Marinate chicken with the remaining marinade for at least 6 hours or overnight in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a piece of aluminium foil on the baking sheet and then put a bacing rack on top of it. Put the chicken onto the rack. Bake the chicken for 20 mins.Discard the marinade.

While the chicken is baking, heat up the reserved marinade in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Reduce the marinade by about 1/3 or until it is slightly thickened. It takes about 10 mins.

Take out the chicken after the first 20 mins of baking. Brush it with the glaze. Increase oven to 400F. Bake chicken for another 15 to 20 mins, until cook through. Keep an eye on it in the last 5 mins to avoid the chicken to be over-cooked, or burnt.

Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce

Lemon and chocolate desserts are two types of desserts that I love dearly. Lemon cheesecake is especially light and refreshing. Well, ‘light’ in terms of its flavor and month feel. But it still a cheesecake. To cut down the calories, I made four small lemon cheesecakes. I put the other three in the freezer and will test out different toppings later. The original recipe is using the classic lemon curd as topping. But I wanted to use up some of the frozen blueberries that I still have from last season, so I made this sauce that compliment the lemony flavor impeccably.

Recipe: Individual Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce
Modified from Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham & Alison Miksch
Make four 4″ wide, 1″ tall cheesecakes

Ingredients

Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

2/3 cup sugar
2/3 Tbsp lemon zest
2 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream (better to use full fat ones)
1-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs

Blueberry sauce for 1 cheesecake
A handful of fresh or frozen blueberries, approximately 1/3 to 1/2 cup
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp or more water

Directions:

For the crust:

Place the rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F.

Stir graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Mix well. Press crumb to the bottom of four 4″ wide non-stick spring form pans. To get a cleaner edge, use the bottom of a small spoon to press the crumbs firmly together and clean up the edges.

Bake the crust for 8 to 9 mins, or until the crust is set. Remove crust from oven and place it on the wire rack to cool.

For the filling:

Reduce oven temperature to 325F.

Boil a kettle of water to use as water bath for baking.

Process the sugar and lemon zest together in a food processor until the sugar turns yellowish and the zest is finely ground.

Using a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese in medium speed, until light and fluffy. Add the sugar-lemon mixture gradually and continue beating until smooth. Scarp down the side occasionally. Add the sour cream an lemon juice, beat until combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until fully incorporated. Don’t over beat the batter after the eggs are in.

Wrap each of the spring-form pans with foil to prevent water from the water bath to go in. Pour batter into spring-form pans and then put them in a small roasting pan or tray. Put the pan in the oven. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until water reach halfway of the height of the spring form pans.

Bake for 35 to 40mins, until the surface of the middle part of the cake is still jiggly and the surface of the cake loss the grossiness. Don’t over bake. The internal temperature of the cake should be around 160F to 165F.

Take the cakes out from the oven and water bath and let them cool on the wire rack When they are completely cool, remove the foil. Refrigerate them for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Remove the ring of the spring-form pans. Serve it plain or with your favorite sauce or toppings.

For the blueberry sauce

Heat sugar, blueberry and water together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolved and the sauce reaches a consistency you like, about 4 to 6 mins. Mix in the lemon juice off heat. Let it cool down before serving on top of the cheesecake. Adjust the taste and consistency by varying the amount of sugar and water.

Red Rice, Beef and Beans Burrito

My mom used to call me “rice bucket” when I was a kid. In Chinese, that means a person who like to eat a lot of rice. I could have lots of plain rice with just a little amount of other food. Rice was not a side dish to me, it was my main dish. But, this was no longer true. Having too much rice in the past made me opt for other type of staple food whenever possible. Until one day, I found out that there were so many other ways to cook different types of rice in other parts of the world. The result is usually extremely flavorful rice with distinguished texture depending on the type of rice you use. Having rice is not boring anymore. And once again, I become a “rice bucket”.

One of my favorite types of rice is Mexican red rice. I love the tomato flavor with a bit of spiciness from the jalapeno. To make a complete meal and also to please N, I usually make the bean and beef burrito. But at anytime, I can just have the red rice by itself.

The following recipe is coming from Cook’s Illustrated. I have tried a few red rice recipes. The amount of tomato and onion is just right in this recipe, not too overwhelmed. As usual, the measurement showing is half of the recipe as this was how much I made. I have also modified the cooking method. This is a straightly stove-top method, in contrast with the oven method in the original recipe. But perfect cooking rice turned out every time!

Red Rice (Mexican Rice)

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, September 2004
Serve 3 to 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

1 1/2 ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
1/2 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 1/2 medium jalapeno, minced
1 cup long grain rice
1/6 cup canola oil
2 gloves of garlic, minced
1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup minced cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges for serving

Directions:

Process tomatoes and onion in food processor until smooth and thoroughly pureed, about 15 seconds. Transfer mixture into measuring cup. There should be around one cup of mixture. Pour one cup of chicken broth into mixture. Put it aside.
Rinse rice through strainer under cold running water for 1 to 2 mins, drains and put it aside.

Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium-high eat, about 1. When you put 3 to 4 grains of rice in the pan and the grains sizzle, the oil is ready. Add rice and saute, stirring frequently, until rice is translucent and light brown, about 5 to 6 mins.
Reduce heat to medium. add garlic and jalapeno, saute for a min.
Add the tomato mixture, tomato paste and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover the rice and let it simmer for about 10 mins, until water is mostly absorbed by the rice.

Uncover and let it cook under low heat for another 8 mins.
Remove from heat, cover and let it stand for 5 mins.
Fluff up the rice with a fork, stir in minced cilantro and serve.

The following is a really quick and easy way to make beef with beans to accompany the rice in the burrito. I am not sure if this is authentic or not, but it certainly taste good.

Beef, Bean and Rice Burritos
Adapted from Bon Appetit, found on epicurious.com

Ingredients

1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp ground cummin
3/4 14 oz can black beans or pinto beans, rinsed, drained
1/2 14 oz can beef or chicken broth
1/2 can diced green chilies
2 green onions, chopped

Red rice, see above recipe

Directions:

Heat heavy 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add beef and cook until brown, breaking up clumps with wooden spoon, about 4 mins.

Add chopped onion and garlic, cook until onion is transparent, stirring frequently, about 3 to 4 mins.

Stir in cumin and cook for 1 min. Add beans, broth and green chilies. Cook until beans are softened, about 10 mins. Press and crush beans with back of spoon, continue to cook until beans are creamy and thickened, about 5 more mins. Mix in green onion.

Assemble burrito by wrapping in a tortilla with any combination of beans, red rice, cheese, salsa, gucamole and sour cream.

Blueberry Drop Scones

When I was young, I owed very little. All my precious things could be put in a shoebox. They were some stickers I exchanged with my friends, some letters from friends, some cassett tapes and sheet music with songs I loved. I told myself at that time that, they were the things that would be taking with me if there was a fire at home.

As you grow older, your belongings grow with you as well. Besides the basic necessities, I have all these things spread around the house. I’m amazed that during the last 20 or so years since I started to earn my own money, how much properties I have accumulated. Piles and piles of clothing, shoes, books, magazines, cds, dvds. Some of the stuffs are hiding in the corner of the closet, some tend to form clutters around the house. I looked around and began to wonder, how much of these stuffs I truly treasure, what are the stuff that I would be taking with me if there was a fire in the house. I realized that, I still have just a shoebox of things. The shoebox may be a little bit bigger, like the one for boots. All the stuff I loved when I was a kid should still be in the box. Plus additional items from friends and family. That’s it! I seem to have spent a lot and own a lot now, but in the end, only a shoebox of things is all I need to keep!

The blueberry scones I made today is quick, simple, and no fuss cooking. It’s a drop scone and no shaping and cutting of the dough is required. I have been making this for several years and N doesn’t seem to get tired of it. With the use of buttermilk, minimum amount of butter (2 oz) is required but the dough remains moist. I wish everyone will try this!

Blueberry Drop Scones
Adapted from recipe of Tyler Florence from Food Network

Ingredients

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2oz (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk*
1 egg
2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries*

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Sprinkle and toss 1/2 tbsp flour on blueberries and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Spread cubes of butter on top. Cut in butter using a pastry blender until the butter pieces are coated with flour in pea sides and resemble crumbs. You can also do this step in a food processor. Just process the butter in flour in 5 to 10 one-second pulse.

In another bowl, mix buttermilk with egg. Then add to flour mixture. Mix until just incorporated. Don’t over mix the batter. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Be careful not to work it to hard because the blueberries can easily bruised.

Drop large tablespoons on an ungreased cooke sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 mins until brown

*Kitchen notes:

Original recipe uses only all purpose flour. As usual, I tried to incorporate as much whole wheat flour in baking as possible. And this is one of the recipes that it works
.
You can replace buttermilk with cream, of course. Or you can substitute buttermilk with 3 Tbsp buttermilk powder and 3/4 coup of water.

Every summer I would freeze 2 or 3 bags of blueberries when they are at their peak. The scones taste the best when the blueberries are sweet and juicy.

The original recipe is with orange glaze. I never made the glaze because I don’t want the additional sugar. I think the scone is delicious just by itself.

Salmon, Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Took an afternoon walk. The warmth of the late summer evening sun was soothing and comforting. All my stress accumulated through the week disappeared.

You don’t have to travel far to find beauty. This community farm around my neighborhood looks differently under different lights and weather.

Wish the summer color can last forever.

After the walk, I made this simple soup for the evening. With the abundance of salmon in Vancouver this year, this is a quick and delicious way to make use of the fish. I especially like the lemon zest and juice added at the end. It freshen and lighten up the soup. Please don’t skip it!

Recipe: Salmon, Shrimp and Corn Chowder
Adapted from Epicurious.com, original author Mary Karlin
Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 stalk of celery, cut into 1/2″ slices
2 unpeeled small red potatoes, cut int 3/4″ cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2-3 green onions, coarsely chopped, including the green parts
1 ear of corn, cut out the kernels
2 cups fish or chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
1 lb salmon fillets, skin and pin bones removed, cut into 1″ pieces
8-10 shrimps, shelled grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp minced fresh dill

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the celery for 2 mins. Add potatoes, salt and pepper and cook, saute and stirring occasionally for about 3 to 5 mins.Add green onions, corn and 2 cups of stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 12 mins or until the potatoes are almost tender.

Add half and half, uncovered, simmer until potatoes are completely soft, about 3 mins. Stir in salmon, shrimps and lemon zest. Simmer gently until the seafood are cooked through, about 3 to 4 mins. Add more stock as needed. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle dill on top when serve.

(P.S. This post had been in progress for a while and only until now did I have time to complete it. Fall is upon us now. But the memory of summer still stays on…at least in the pictures)

Fresh Berry Tarts

Just finished two rounds of golf today (Sunday). An “All You can Golf” day for $25 at a nearby golf course has given me so much excitement and disappointment, so much fun and frustration, and so much joyfulness and soreness. Absolutely love this game! You have to be in focus in every single shot. You have only one chance to hit each shot. Clear your mind, relax and feel your body movement, try to duplicate what you have learned from driving range practice, but do not over-think;. swing and hit with a rhythm, and when you hear a sharp and crisp metal sound, your chance of having a pretty good shot is high. But the problem is, I cannot clear my mind and relax that easily, and I cannot hear that nice metal sound all the time. But yet, you learn from your game. When you screw up a shot, it’s not the end of the world. You leave your disappointment behind, focusing on the present, try your best to recover. Knowing how to recover from bad situation is just as important. At the end of the rainy day, my hair was all messy and my pants were soaking wet, I met some nice people on the course and I spent some good times with N.

These fresh berry tarts are wonderful embellishments for a great day. You can use any of your favorite combination of fresh berries or fruit. My first choice is blueberries and raspberries. Their sweetness complement each other really well and they look gorgeous together. But raspberries were nowhere to be found yesterday, so I substituted with strawberries. This combination is also delicious.

The recipe is coming from the cookbook Tartine, a birthday gift from my sister-in-law a few years ago. I put it aside for the longest time until last Christmas, I made chocolate cookies out from this book, and they were out of this world. From then on, I was hook on the book. Not only are the details of the recipes worth reading, the kitchen notes are especially useful because those are tips from a bakery. To supplement all these, the pictures are gorgeous that I never get tired of looking at them again and again.

I specially like the easy-to-handle tart dough and the light but delicious pastry cream of this recipe. I will share the simplified version of the recipe below. Please get the book for the full version.

Recipe: Fresh Berry Tarts
Adapted from Tartine

Sweet Tart Dough

Ingredients:

9 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Egg wash (optional)
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp water
salt pinch

Directions:

Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and salt at medium speed until smooth.

Add eggs. One at a time. Mix until smooth before adding another. Scrape the side of the bowl occasionally.

Add flour all at once and mix at low speed until just incorporated.
On a lightly floured surface, pour out the dough. Divide the dough into four equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball and then into a disk about 1/2″ thick. Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325°F
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into 1/8″ thick and cut out pieces of 1″ to 2″ bigger than your tart pan or tart rings. Transfer the dough to the tart pan and apply slight pressure to the bottom and side of the pan.

Put the pastry shell in the fridge and chill for 15 minutes or until firm.

Dock bottom of the tart shell with a fork, making holes around 2″ apart.
If using 31/2″ tart rings, bake for 10 mins. Mix egg wash ingredients.

Take out the tart shell and brush the bottom and side lightly with egg wash. According to the book, this can seal the bottom and the side of the tart shell to avoid the tart shell to get soggy that easily.

Put the tart shell back to the oven and bake for another 20mins, or until lightly browned.

* Kitchen notes:
The baking time I posted here is based on my personal experience. For some reason, the baking time suggested in the book is a lot shorter. If you are trying the recipe for the first time, please watch out for your time. It may vary depends on the size of your tart pan.

As mentioned in the book, this dough is very forgiving. You can gather scarp pieces and roll it out many times and the dough is still good.
You can also freeze the unused dough.

Pastry Cream

Ingredients:
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 tsp salt
3 to 4 tbsp cornstarch, depends on the consistency you like
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1 tbsp pieces

Directions:

Place a fine-mesh sieve on top of a bowl. Put it aside.
Whisk together cornstarch and sugar. Add eggs and whisk until smooth.
Add milk to saucepan. Scrape beans out of vanilla bean pod and add to milk. Add salt. Cook milk over medium-high heat and bring to just under a boil. Stirring occasionally to avoid milk solid sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.

Slowly laddle 1/3 of hot milk to egg mixture, whisking continuously. Pour the egg-milk mixture back to the hot milk in the saucepan. Cook the hot egg-milk mixture over medium heat. whisking continuously, until the custard is as thick as lightly whipped cream, about 2 mins. It is very easy to get over cook at this step. When you can see a few slow bubbles or start hearing bubbling sound coming from the bottom of the pan, it is time to remove the pan from the heat.

Immediately pour the hot egg custard through the sieve into the bowl.
Let cool for 10 mins. Stirring occasionally to release the heat and prevent a skim from forming.

When the pastry cream cool to about 140°F, whisk in the butter, one piece at a time.Whisk until smooth before adding another piece. Cool the cream before using. Put a plastic wrap right on top of the cream to prevent skin forming.

Assembling:

Spoon pastry cream into tart shell. Put your favorite berries on top.
If you like, you can brush the fruit with some apricot glaze. To make the glaze, put some apricot jam and little bit of water into a saucepan over medium low heat until the jam dissolved. Strain the jam through a sieve.

 

 

Pad Thai and Mango Smoothie

We’ve been having a streak of good weather in Vancouver lately. Blue sky, light breeze, 20-ish temperature; all the complains of gloomy cold wet weather in early summer were gone. On days like these, it is very hard to keep working in the office. All you think about is to get through the week as quickly as possible so as to enjoy the weekends outdoor. This is also not the good time to sit in front of the computer retouching pictures and composing blog posts. Yes, I admit that I’m a little slow in updating my post. But, in times when I’m not blogging, in between working and golfing, I’m still actively seeking inspiration for photography, trying out new recipes and thinking about what to eat and what to post.

Just when I was being a bit too laid back, the folks at food52 did a nice writeup on this blog. That is a big encouragement to me. I hope I can keep up my work and continue to put up posts with food that I love and pictures that are interesting to look at, not just once. (That is my goal!)

Back to food. Does hot summer and spicy hot food go together? Yes, it does. Especially when it is accompanied with a refreshing cold fruity drinks. Pad thai is probably the most popular Thai dish other than Thai curry. I love the sweetness, sourness and spiciness, all come together to form a complex yet balanced flavor. Don’t be scare by the long list of ingredients. It does take a while (around 40mins including time spent on roasting peanuts) to prep all the ingredients. But once you have all the prep work done, the actual cooking time takes about 10mins only. As for the drink, mango is sweet and aromatic, with a hint of banana and milk, this drink needs no sugar if all the fruit are ripe. And, it takes just a few seconds to whip up.

Recipe: Pad Thai
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, August 2002

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp tamarind paste*
3/4 cup boiling water
3 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp canola oil
8 oz. dried rice sticks, about 1/8″ wide*
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
12 oz. medium (31/35) shrimps, peeled and deveined
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
1 medium shallots, minced (about 3 Tbsp)
1 red Thai chili pepper*, minced
2 Tbsp dried shrimp, chopped fine (optional)
6 Tbsp chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
3 cups bean sprout
3 medium scallions, green parts only, sliced thin on sharp bias
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (optional)

Directions:

Making sauce:

Rehydrate tamarind paste by soaking it in 3/4 cup boiling water for about 10 mins. Strain it through a strainer, pushing the pulp fibers to squeeze out the juice.
Mix fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and 2 Tbsp oil with the tamarind extract. Set it aside.

Preparing rice noodle and eggs:

Soak the rice sticks in hot tap water (not boiling) for 20mins, until they are softened and limp but not fully tendered. Drain and set aside
Beat eggs with 1/8 tsp salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Stir-fry:
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a 12″ skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking, about 2 mins. Add shrimps and sprinkle 1/8 tsp salt on the shrimps. Cook, toss occasionally, until shrimps turned pink and opaque with brown edges, about 2 to 3 mins. Remove the shrimps and set aside.

Add 1 Tbsp oil to skillet. Add garlic, shallot and chili pepper. Cook over medium heat, stir continuously, until fragrant, about 1 min, add eggs to skillet and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until scrambled and barely moist, about 20 sec. Add noodles, dried shrimps, toss with tong or 2 wooden spoons to combine. Pour fish sauce mixture over noodles, increase heat to high, and continue to toss all the ingredients with the sauce.

Add 1/4 cup peanuts, bean sprouts, all but 1/4 cup scallions, and cooked shrimps over noodles. Continue to cook and toss, until noodles are tender. , about 2 mins.
Dish out the noodles. Sprinkle remaining peanuts, scallions and cilantro on top. Serve immediately.

*Kitchen notes:

The tamarind paste I bought came in a plastic package and was marked “Product of Thailand”. You can buy it in most Asian stores. If you cannot find tamarind paste, you can substitute it with 1/3 cup lime juice according to Cook’s Illustrated although I never tried this before. The tamarind gives the dish a distinct sour flavor that I think is hard to replace with any substitution.

The rice stick I used was also came from Thailand. They came in S, M, and L size. I use M most of the time, but this time I used L which is about 1/4″ wide.
In the original recipe, 3/4 tsp of cayenne pepper is used in place of the thai chili pepper. You can add the cayenne to the fish sauce mixture if using.

Recipe: Mango Smoothie

Ingredients:

2 ripe mango
1/2 ripe banana
Some milk (2%)

Directions:
Coarsely chopped mango and banana. Add milk. Process with a regular or hand held blender until smooth. Adjust consistency with amount of milk. You can start with 1 cup milk first and add more if you want the drink to be less thick.