Thursday, May 28, 2009

Zucchini Boats with Purée of Parsnip

Can I just say that I love Julia Child? Ok, I know that must sound really cliché coming from a food blogger, but I am seriously in awe of the woman. I found some video clips of 'Baking with Julia', where in each episode she bakes with a featured guest chef. I have been watching these clips during my lunch breaks because I pretty much have to be eating while I'm watching them, otherwise it's just painful -- the cakes, breads, and cookies are totally stomach-grumbles and drool worthy. Anyway, it is so much fun to watch Julia on these shows. She is always asking questions, nibbling on the ingredients, and saying things about how cooking is great because you can eat your mistakes. I can attest to that -- many mistakes have been eaten in my kitchen.

Since zucchinis are now available at the farmers market here, I decided to try this recipe from Julia Child's Menu Cookbook. I modified it slightly to cut down the calories (I know, I know, Julia probably would not approve), but the result was still delicious. I guess I don't expect anything less from a Julia Child recipe.

Zucchini Boats with Purée of Parsnip (adapted from Julia Child)

For the Zucchinis:
  • 5 medium sized zucchinis, halved lengthwise
  • olive oil for brushing
  • salt, pepper
Remove the pulp from the zucchini(I resereved the pulp and added it to the purée). Place the zucchini in a pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook 5 minutes. Remove and wipe down excess water with a paper towel. Brush all over with a bit of olive oil.

For the
  • 1 1/2 lb parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Tb cream
  • 1 Tb butter
  • pulp from zucchini (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Place the parsnips in a pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook about 15 minutes, until tender.
Purée parsnips (and zucchini pulp) in a blender or food processor until very smooth.
3. Place the purée in a double boiler. Add cream, butter, salt, and pepper. Cook on double boiler, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes.

To assemble:
Fill each zucchini piece with a generous amount of
purée. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Carrot Halwa

Every time I make an Indian dessert, I realize how different they are than most American desserts. For one thing, I don't know of any traditional Indian desserts that are baked -- most likely since back in the day, the typical Indian household didn't have an oven. This means almost all Indian desserts must be cooked on the stove, under a watchful eye, with a good deal of care and patience. Arrghh patience!! Patience -- or I guess impatience -- is the bane of my cooking life. But I will overcome. I will learn to be patient. Otherwise, I can say goodbye to homemade Indian desserts, and plenty of other culinary treats.

Carrot halwa is a sweet Indian dessert and a good recipe to test my patience. Although it does require a bit of stove top watching, it is a really easy recipe with only 6 ingredients.

I've only made it a few times and always following a recipe I found online. But I never achieved the tasty halwa I was wanting, UNTIL...last night -- when I decided to experiment with the recipe and try a few new things. The result was exactly what I was looking for -- a rich and creamy halwa that is not too sweet but very flavorful.

Carrot Halwa (serves 4)
  • 2 cups shredded carrot (about 5 medim-large carrots)
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 2 Tb ghee or butter (I made my own ghee: recipe here )
  • 1/2 tsp finely ground cardamom
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 Tb paneer or ricotta (I used ricotta, but I think paneer would be even better)
  • handful of chopped, roasted cashews (optional, but so good)
1. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, cook the carrots, milk, ghee (or butter), and cardamom, stirring occasionally, until the carrots have soaked up all the milk. This will take at least 30 minutes. Be very careful not to let the milk burn, stirring the mixture will help.
2. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, paneer (or ricotta), and cashews.
3. Serve warm or when cooled.

Jasmines are very popular in India and fortunately they also grow in California. I picked these flowers from the jasmine bush in my garden.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Alton Brown's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

Last week I finally tried Alton Brown's the Chewy (Chocolate Chip Cookie) recipe, and let me tell you -- it is GOOD. So good.

The recipe is not unlike this one but uses all bread flour. What I really liked about these cookies, is that they were still chewy and delicious days later.

I made the cookies a bit smaller than what AB suggests and baked for about 10 min and at 350 instead of 375 (I have to be extra careful with my oven since it is crazy and likes to lie). They were insanely gooey and rich out of the oven, and still rich and chewy the next day.

My only complaint is that they might have been a tad too greasy. I think next time I will cut down on the butter by about 1/4 cup. Aside from that, I think this might be my new favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. If you are looking for the perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie, I highly recommend this one!

Alton Brown's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F (I baked at 350).

2. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

3. Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Chill the dough (I chilled it for about 1 hour), then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet (mine were smaller so I fit about 8 per sheet). Bake for 14 minutes (I baked for about 10 mins) or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Zim Zim and Kung Pao

This will probably the strangest title I will ever give a post. But it makes perfect sense -- I promise. I realized that I have been slacking on posting about trips (which was really supposed to be what half this blog is about), so I decided to do a joint post: trips and chips. Well just one trip, and actually the following recipe doesn't have any chocolate chips -- so I guess it's a trip and non-chip post. Still with me?? <...crickets chirping...>

Let's start with the trip. A few weeks ago I went for a day hike near the coastal range mountains, here in Northern California. The weather was great and sights were beautiful.

Here is a shot of Zim Zim Creek.

Ok, now for the food. I found this great recipe for Kung Pao chicken on Rasa Malaysia, but made a few changes. I used tofu instead of chicken , and made some substitutions for some of the ingredients I didn't have. The recipe calls for peanuts, and I guess this is a staple ingredient of the dish, but guess what? I didn't have any -- so I substituted cashews, and I am so glad I did. I also added some fresh snow peas and zucchini. The end result was really delish and I think the cashews were a nice touch.
Kung Pao(ish) Tofu (adapted from Rasa Malaysia)
  • 1 1/2 lbs of tofu, drained, and cubed (see my tofu draining notes below)
  • 3 tablespoons roasted cashews
  • 8-12 dried red chilies
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 slices peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 2-3 zucchinis, diced
  • 1 stalk scallion (chopped)
  • 1 recipe marinade (see below)
  • 1 recipe sauce(see below)


  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon peanut oil


  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  1. Marinate tofu with the marinade for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat up a skillet wok with one tablespoon olive oil and stir-fry the marinated tofu until browned. Dish out and set aside.
  4. Add in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until hot.
  5. Add the ginger and garlic slices and quickly stir fry. Add the dried red chilies and stir fry with ginger and garlic for 3 minutes.
  6. Add in the snow peas, and cook for about 4 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes until the vegetables are just tender.
  7. Add in the tofu and stir.
  8. Add the roasted cashews and continue to stir for 2-3 minutes.
  9. Add the sauce and stir continuously until all ingredients are coated with the sauce.
  10. Add in the scallions and stir evenly.
*Tofu prep: Since I'm not a fan of mushy tofu, I like to drain as much water out as possible. To do this, I first freeze the tofu for a few hours (or overnight), then thaw it on the day I'm ready to use it. Something about the freezing and defrosting allows the water to drain out more easily. Finally, after it's done thawing, I put it on a plate with a towel over it and set an iron skillet on top. I usually add more weight by placing some large cans on in the skillet. The result is a firmer tofu with a heartier texture. Me likey. Try it!
Also, for all the tofu haters: the bf had the chicken version of this dish and also enjoyed it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

The New York Times recently posted an article on whoopie pies. I hadn't even heard of whoopie pies until a few months ago, but after drooling over some pictures, I decided to have a go at some whoopie action. I had some frozen homemade pumpkin puree which I wanted to use up, and since I can eat chocolate chips with pretty much anything, I decided on pumpkin chocolate chip whoopie pies.

I started with a pretty simple recipe for pumpkin cookies and tweaked it a bit to make it healthier. Then I added chocolate chips and a cream cheese filling (so much for healthy).

These cookies were really good. The subtle pumpkin flavor and spiciness of the cookies were a nice contrast to the tartness of the cream cheese filling. And the chocolate chips added a nice texture, as always.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies (makes 15 pies)

Pumpkin cookies (makes 30 cookies, adapted from George Duran):
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper

Cream Cheese Filling:
  • 4 oz Cream Cheese (I used Neufatchel)
  • 3/4 confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate chunks
For Cookies:
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.
2. Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
4. Slowly stir in the flour mixture into the batter. Mix just until all the flour mixture is incorporated. Stir in the chips and pecans.
5. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cookie comes out clean. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.
For Filling:
Using a mixer, beat together cream cheese and sugar. Stir in chocolate chips/pieces.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cheddar and Green Onion Cornbread

Cornbread is really simple, yet healthy and so so good. Classic comfort food. What is really great about it is the endless possibilities of additions that work deliciously with the simple corn flavor. This time, I tried cheddar cheese, green onions, and crushed red pepper. I shredded some cheddar cheese, which made the cheese flavor very subtle. I think next time I will chop it up instead of shredding it to really bring out the flavor. The green onion and crushed pepper were a great touch. I like to make this bread in an iron skillet because it gives it a great crispy crust while keeping the center moist.

Cheddar and Green Onion Cornbread (adapted from Joy of Cooking)
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tb sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 1/2 Tb butter, melted
1 cup milk (I've used 2% and skim, both would good results)
4 green onions, sliced
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (next time I'll use coarsely chopped)
1 Tb crushed red pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. If making this in an iron skillet, place the skillet in the oven while it preheats.
2. Stir together the first 4 ingredients (dry). Stir in the next 3 ingredients (wet). Gently stir in the green onions, crushed red pepper, and cheddar cheese.
3. Pour batter into heated skillet. Bake for 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.