Happy Easter!! (2019)

No, you’re not having a flashback to four months ago.

I just realized that I never posted the meal for this past Easter.

Which was a shame, because I made a delicious Tuscan bread and vegetable soup called “ribollita” for starters …

… baked lamb chops seasoned with rosemary and garlic, risotto and asparagus for the main and vanilla “cake for one” filled and frosted with a vanilla buttercream and decorated with Easter jimmies for dessert. A simple lemonade spiked with raspberries and blackberries to wash it down.

Easter cake

It’s been so long since I made the soup that I can’t remember which adaptation I used of the four recipes I have saved in my Italian folder. Based on the pictures of the ingredients in the photo folder for the soup, I’m guessing this one. Though I didn’t use canned beans but cooked cannellini beans from dry.

Home made croutons were used both in the soup itself as a thickener and, seasoned, as a garnish that was stirred in just before serving. If you like your croutons crunchy, serve a bowl of the croutons on the table and let each diner add their own.

 

 

It was a great meal … even in retrospect.

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Nikuman (Japanese Steamed Buns)

I still have a backlog of recipes/posts to share but got very excited about today’s bake so it jumped the queue. I’ve got several recipes for steamed buns (Chinese bao or Korean jjinppang) in my recipe archives but I went to my favourite YouTube channel, TabiEats, for a small batch of buns, especially as I was able to use up a container of leftover runza filling (shredded corned beef, sauteed red cabbage and shredded cheddar cheese) for them.

It’s also a very fast recipe … no yeast proofing, a few minutes to knead, 30 min bulk proof, shaping and a final 20 minutes to final proof. Steaming took only 15 minutes and my buns were ready to eat. I didn’t bother with the squid ink variation so I added a total of 1 tbsp of vegetable oil to the dough in the kneading step.

Before proofing and after steaming

I had about 360 gm of dough so I divided it into six equal portions. There was a lot of filling (about 300 gm) but I shaped into tight balls and used it to fill the buns. There was a high filling (a bit under-seasoned) to bun ratio which was a plus.

REVIEW: Highly recommended recipe. There’s nothing I’d do differently.

Dango, Mochi and Mochiko Flour

I thought I had it straightened out in my head … dango were Japanese confections in which (sweet glutinous) rice flour was mixed with water (and some sugar), kneaded and shaped into balls, boiled, threaded onto skewers in 3-5 pieces, and basted with soy sauce or topped with sweet red bean (anko) paste, as in mitarashi dango. Grilling the balls before topping was advised to get the maximum flavour out of what can be relatively tasteless, chewy balls.

Chichi Dango

Of course, there were exceptions like in the tricolour hanami dango (pink, white and green), which are served without a sauce to allow the colours to shine. Although one can use food colouring to get the respective colours, for the pink colour, strawberries pureed with sugar and added to the dango mixture adds both flavour and colour, while for the green colour, matcha powder serves the same function.

For dango, one of two particular types of rice flour may be used, mochiko and shiratamako. One of the blogs I read suggested that the latter was preferred but, since I could only get the former, that’s what I used for my experiments.

Mochi was more confusing. I read that the difference between dango and mochi was that the latter was made with cooked sweet glutionous rice which was pounded to make the mochi base after which sugar was added for flavour.

And then I ran across several recipes in which mochiko flour was used, for convenience. Cooking style varied as well. I’ve seen the mochi ‘dough’ cooked in a pot on the stove and, my favourite, microwaved mochi. There are many delicious Japanese confections called mochi, including the most traditional one in which cooked mochi dough is wrapped around a ball of anko paste. Other delicious fillings include sesame paste and ground peanut paste (NOT peanut butter). For a very special mochi, called “strawberry daifuki”, a whole ripe strawberry is covered with a thin layer of the anko and then wrapped in the mochi dough. The most recent, and likely westernized variation, wraps frozen balls of ice cream in the cooked mochi dough. When mochi ice cream started appearing in my local grocery store, I knew I had to actually try to make one of these confections.

I started with the simplest version of dango I found, a Hawaiian variation called “chichi dango” which is served for celebrations. I used a recipe that I found on the Youtube channel TabiEats for the dough but cooked it in the microwave using the power/timing suggestion on another Youtube channel, emmymadeinjapan. One of the chichi dango recipes I researched substituted coconut milk for the whole milk for added flavour. As I had some in my freezer, and only 2% milk in the fridge, I thawed the coconut milk quickly and used it in my recipe.

In the first picture, the dango ‘dough’ is mixed and ready to microwave. In the 2nd, the dango after 2 minutes in the microwave

Cooked dango turned out onto the cornstarch and patted out into a rough square. Then, the dough was flipped over before cutting with a plastic dough scraper, a freebie from my recent banneton purchase..

My cutting needs some work … oh well, there were lots of irregular scraps for sampling

Cooking: The video said to cook the mochi dough at 600 watts for 2 minutes, then to stir, and cook for an additional 40 seconds. My microwave power output is 900 watts at 100% power so I calculated that I should use 70% power (100% x 600 W/ 900 W = 67%) to achieve the same result. I stirred and ‘tasted’ the dough after 2 minutes. The ‘grainy’ texture and consistency led me to cook the dough for another minute. Although the consistency was better, the dough still tasted grainy. I ended up cooking the dough for a total of 5 minutes, which was probably too long on reflection.

REVIEW: The cooled and cut slices of chichi dango were a bit rubbery in texture but quite tasty and not too sweet. The chalky taste of the starch was a bit off-putting at first, but after brushing most of it off, I made my way through about a third of the dango, starting with the trimmings. I hope to leave enough to allow my nephew to taste it when he comes over some time next week. But that may not happen.

Craquelin Cream Puffs with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

The basic cream puff may be dressed up in many ways.

In this post, I used Chef John‘s recipe for ‘crack’ cream puffs in which a crunchy sugar cookie type topping is placed on a larger than usual cream puff before baking.  I also made the vanilla bean pastry cream to fill the puffs but skipped the chocolate base for the puffs because, unlike my friend Dolly, from the ‘koolkosherkitchen’, I’m not that big a chocolate fan.

Cream Puff with a Craquelin Topping – Taste tested the freshly baked cream puffs filled with French vanilla ice cream as I hadn’t made the pastry cream ahead of time and it took several hours to chill and set fully.

Vanilla bean pastry cream

Preparation … craquelin topping made and the template drawn on parchment paper as a guide for piping the cream puffs.

Cream puffs with their craquelin topping ‘lids’

Baked cream puffs … I normally make a dozen cream puffs with the same amount of choux pastry.

REVIEW: Well written cream puff recipe with very good results. I did have some size issues with the puffs which were almost twice as large as I usually make. I prefer nibbling on a couple of smaller puffs with some time between rather than having to eat one giant puff at one sitting. Also, the crunchy/cracky topping gets soggy on thawing if you need to freeze any leftover cream puffs.

As to the vanilla bean pastry cream recipe … it was an easy recipe and not overly sweet which was good, but, as with many pastry cream recipes, I didn’t find it firm enough for my taste.

Picspam: Ground Beef … Meatball Sub and Loaded Hamburger Patty

One more ground beef post because it’s a very versatile protein source.

I couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted to make so I split up the one pound bag of ground beef into meatballs and a quarter pound burger patty.

Pan fried the meatballs and made a couple of meatball subs on home made sub/hoagie rolls.

If desired, you can brush the sliced and scooped out hoagie bun with garlic butter and toast lightly or leave plain before adding the meatballs and sauce, topping with grated Mozzarella or Provolone cheese and broiling until the cheese has melted.

The other quarter pound was shaped into a burger patty, pan fried and paired with a fried egg, a couple of strips of crispy bacon, a slice of American cheese and a home made hamburger bun.

 

Ground Beef … Soup, Rice Bowls and Burritos

For the last few months, I’ve backlogged a number of new recipes I’ve tried and old recipes I’ve repeated with slight changes which I’m posting below. The theme to anchor these dishes … lean ground beef was used for each recipe.

Cabbage Roll Soup – This is a new one. Shredded coleslaw mix was used as the base for this delicious soup. The recipe used elements from several recipes I found on line with substitutions designed to use things I had in my pantry and/or that I liked.

Cabbage Roll Soup – serves 8

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 lb/227 gm lean ground beef (or pork or ground turkey)
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced *
1 large carrot, chopped (1 1/4 cups)
2 1/2 cups coleslaw mix
1 cloves garlic, grated or finely mince
4 cups beef broth
1 cup tomato/spaghetti sauce
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup pureed tomatoes
~1 tbsp packed light brown sugar (to taste to cut back on acidity of the tomatoes)
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dried paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano or 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh
1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh
1 bay leaf
4-6 tbsp raw long-grain white rice
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
water, as needed

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

* Used 3 tbsp sauteed diced onion from freezer

Heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.

Add ground beef, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring and breaking up beef occasionally, until browned. Transfer beef to a plate lined with paper towels while reserving 2 tbsp of the rendered fat in pan, set beef aside.

Add onion and carrots to pan and saute 1 minute, then add coleslaw and saute 2 minutes, then add garlic and saute 1 minute longer.

Pour in beef broth, tomato sauce, tomatoes, brown sugar, Worcestershire, paprika, oregano, thyme and bay leaves. Return beef to soup mixture.

Season soup with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a light boil, then add rice, cover pot and reduce heat and simmer until rice is cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes.

Stir in up to 1 cup water or more beef broth to thin as desired (it will thicken as it rests and become almost like a stew), then stir in lemon juice and parsley.

Serve hot.

Mapo Tofu – Szechuan style ground beef, tofu and broccoli dish, served over long grain rice. I’ve made variations of this dish in the past.

Soboro Don – Japanese rice bowl topped with seasoned ground beef and peas. Recipe adapted from this one.

Beef and Bean Burritos – Seasoned ground beef with home made black bean refried beans. Top as desired.

Dorayaki (Japanese “Pancake” Sandwich)

Dorayaki is a delicious Japanese snack or confection which traditionally consists of a sweet red bean paste (anko) sandwiched between two ‘pancakes’. Slightly different versions of the recipe may be found on several blogs but this is the first one I ran across some time ago, on Nami’s “Just One Cookbook” site. It uses the Mochiko (sweet rice flour) that I mentioned in the previous post though I HAVE seen a recipe which used all purpose flour.

I made a half batch of the recipe, and, even though I forgot to add the water, which I figured out after the fourth pancake, I still ended up with some edible, though misshapen early results. The final six pancakes, after I added about half of the amount of water listed into the remaining batter, were perfect.

Dorayaki with Sweet Red Bean Paste

The pancakes are easy to make though you DO have to be careful about the cooking temperature (medium-low is definitely advised) since the sugar and honey can burn quite easily if you exceed the temperature suggested. Moderation in the amount of filling is also necessary. Too much and you won’t be able to shape the pancakes around it and gently ‘pinch’ the edges closed. I used a ‘coarse’ sweet bean paste with some bean pieces left in it to fill the pancakes. Definitely use the plastic wrap to help in the shaping.

  

I used red bean paste (purchased) for the filling, because I like the taste, but if you can’t get it or don’t like it, and want to try something else, a thick pastry cream, crunchy peanut butter and Nutella and very lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit are alternative fillings.

Senbei (Japanese Rice Crackers)

I recently visited two different Asian grocery stores and came home with a treasure trove of staples for future, mostly Japanese based, goodies.

Mochiko, is a sweet rice flour used for dango, mochi and, this post’s focus, “senbei” or savoury Japanese rice crackers. The same recipe was found on several web sites so I’ll post a link to only one.

Senbei

For additional umami, wrap your cracker in a strip of toasted nori.

Furikake (rice seasoning) was added to the dough before it was kneaded into a compact ball.  To ensure even sized crackers without weighing out each one individually, I cut the ball of cracker dough in half and then cut each half into eight wedges.

To make sure that the final cut was accurate, I formed each of the eight wedges into a ball (~16 gm) and then cut it in half before rolling it into a final hazelnut-sized ball (~8gm). The balls were placed between two sheets of sturdy plastic (a freezer bag cut along the two sides works well) and pressed flat with the lid of a large canning jar. I ended up with 32 thin disks (2 1/2-3″ in diameter) which were baked at 350 deg F for 8 minutes before being flipped over and baked for another 8 minutes until lightly golden.

For a final flourish, the oven was turned off, and the crackers were brushed with a mixture of soy sauce (aged, dark soy sauce or regular) and mirin and returned to the turned off oven for another 3 minutes. After cooling the tray on a rack for 15 minutes, the cool crackers may be stored in an air tight container to maintain crispiness, though you’ll nibble on these simple, but ‘morish’ crackers quickly enough that they won’t go soft.

REVIEW: Delicious and well worth making even if a bit time consuming. One batch of the dough gave me 32 crackers, which weighed about 170 grams.

Newfoundland Jam Jams

This jam filled sandwich cookie is a copycat of a commercial cookie produced by the Purity Factories in Newfoundland. The same recipe is found on several web sites. The one I found first and used is here. Even though there’s no ginger used in the cookie dough, the finished cookie tastes similar to gingerbread cookies, probably due to the brown sugar and molasses.

I used some apricot jam inside the first tray I made.

For the second tray, I tried to emboss some cookie balls with a maple leaf. Sadly the design disappeared during the baking. They still tasted delicious.

The maple leaf ’embosser’ was lightly dipped in flour before being used. I found that I needed to refrigerate the dough balls before attempting to emboss because they softened quickly at room temperature and stuck to the embosser. I was quite happy as I placed the baking sheet into the oven.

Disappointing result … no design.

Review: Tasty and easy to make. If you don’t want to fiddle with a filling, you can just roll out and cut out the cookies. Or, shape the dough into one inch cookie balls and flatten with the tines of a fork before baking. You can also roll the cookie balls in sugar and use the base of a glass to flatten them.

Umeboshi Onigiri (Sour Plum Rice Balls)

Umeboshi are pickled sour ume, a fruit often identified as a plum though it is more closely related to the apricot. They are most commonly eaten with rice which mellows their salty and sour taste. Purple leaved perilla, which colours the ume red, is sometimes added during the salting process. A more modern preparation of umeboshi includes honey to slightly sweeten the finished fruit. I thought I’d dip my toe in the umeboshi pool so I bought the latter.

Recently, I visited a local Japanese grocery store and came home with some goodies including a container of the honey version of the umeboshi and made a batch of umeboshi onigiri.

Clockwise from the top: Adzuki beans, mochiko (sweet glutinous rice flour), katsuobushi (shaved dried bonito flakes) and umeboshi with honey. The sushi rice was purchased from my local grocery store chain because the price was better (8 kg for $13.99).

I DID make a traditional triangular shaped onigiri with the pitted umeboshi in the center but my preferred presentation was made by adding diced umeboshi to the cooked sushi rice and shaping the rice into rounds. Normally one shapes the onigiri using dampened hands sprinkled with salt to season and help in the preservation of the onigiri. However, the salty umeboshi added to the rice eliminates the need for the additional salt.

For the sushi rice cooking instructions, check out previous sushi and onigiri posts.

Whole and pitted umeboshi

Umeboshi onigiri served on home grown green perilla (shiso) leaves.

The onigiri may be wrapped in a half sheet of nori, along with a perilla leaf for flavour, wrapped with plastic food wrap and frozen for quick meals. Or, if you like your nori crispy, wrap the onigiri separately and add it to your lunch box/bento along with a half sheet of nori. You may serve the onigiri with a bit of soy sauce, if you prefer.

Spoiler Alert: Mochiko flour is an ingredient in a number of sweet or savoury Japanese treats. Just sayin’