spicy barbecue shrimp and tofu salad bowl with tzatziki sauce

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This salad bowl is as filling as it is nutritious. I added the shrimp and reduced the tofu because Andy must have meat or seafood with dinner. My becoming vegetarian for Lent has been very hard on him. To make this completely vegetarian, leave out the shrimp and increase the tofu to 1 1/2 cups. It’s a very satisfying dish either way and the addition of the tzatziki sauce is cooling.

Spicy Barbecue Shrimp and Tofu Salad Bowl with Tzatziki Sauce
Serves 2

Tzatziki Sauce
1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
2/3 cup Japanese cucumber, seeded and diced (Note: Japanese cucumber is milder than regular cucumber)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 oz or 2 heaping tablespoons of fresh dill or 1 teaspoon of dill seeds
1 1/2 oz or 2 heaping tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1 oz (about 2 tablespoons) white vinegar, or to taste
1 oz (about 2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until well blended. The mixture should be slightly thick. If additional thickness is desired, increase the cucumber. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the bowls
1 cup extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry
1 1/2 cups large shrimp, shelled, deveined, tails on (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for the baking sheet
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup sugar snap peas
2-4 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 cup brown rice, cooked
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Make the tzatziki sauce. Whisk all ingredients except salt together in a small bowl until emulsified and well-combined. Taste and add salt. Set aside.

Make the bowls. Slice tofu into 1/2 inch slices. Slice into 1 inch cubes.

Heat the oven to 400˚F/200˚C. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up, then lightly coat foil with olive oil.

In a medium bowl, combine paprikas, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and stir to combine. Pour in 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and stir to combine. Add the tofu and shrimp, if using, and gently stir to evenly coat.

Place the broccoli and sugar snap peas on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat. Spread in an even layer, making room for the tofu and shrimp, if using. Place tofu and shrimp, if using, in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast tofu and veggies for 15 minutes.

Drizzle tofu and shrimp, if using, with barbecue sauce and toss to combine.

Divide rice, vegetables, tofu (and shrimp) between 2 bowls. Drizzle with tzatziki sauce and garnish with cilantro. Serve warm.

crystalline coconut cream pie

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In this pie, coconut is the star. There is coconut in the crust, in the pastry cream in the center, and decorating the whipped cream on top. Based on the triple coconut cream pie  from Seattle’s Dahlia Bakery, I’ve adapted this recipe by using crystalline coconut, dried sweetened coconut meat instead of the dessicated coconut normally used in desserts. Called maprao kaew (literally “glass coconut” in Thai) it is a soft, chewy, lightly sweet snack, and tastes like real coconut.

 

Crystalline Coconut Cream Pie
Makes 1 9-inch pie

Coconut Pastry Cream
1 cup (235 ml) whole milk
1 cup (235 ml) UHT unsweetened coconut milk
1-2 cups (75g to 150g) finely shredded crystalline coconut (use more or less as desired)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (113 g) caster sugar or vanilla sugar (I reduced the sugar to 100 g)
3 tablespoons (25 g) all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, room temperature (72˚F)
2-4 teaspoons rum (can add up to 1 tablespoon, if desired)

Combine the milk and coconut milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture develops bubbles around the edges. This is called scalding the milk.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and flour until well combined—no lumps. Temper the eggs. This means that while whisking the egg mixture, pour 1/3 cup of the scalded milk into it. Then add this egg mixture to the saucepan. Whisk over medium-high heat until the pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until the mixture is very thick, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Add the butter and whisk until it melts. Add the rum. Mix in the shredded coconut. Pour the pastry cream into a clean bowl set inside a larger bowl filled with ice water. Stir occasionally until cooled. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools. DO AHEAD: one day before baking the crust.

Coconut Crust
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 cup (37g) finely shredded crystalline coconut, loosely packed
8 tablespoons (110 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed

Cut the coconut into half inch dice. Process in a food processor until finely shredded then scrape into a large bowl. Add flour, sugar, and salt and stir to combine. Sprinkle cold butter over and use a pastry blender to work butter into flour until mixture resembles a coarse crumb. Gradually add water, drizzling 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir to combine. After adding 1 tablespoon water, pinch a piece of dough. If it holds together, do not add any more water. The dough will not come together in a ball and will be quite loose.

Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the coconut dough onto it. Pull the plastic wrap around the dough, forcing it into a rough flattened round with the pressure of the plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes to an hour before rolling.

Baker’s Note: Chill the pie pan too!

To roll the dough, unwrap the round of coconut dough and put it on a lightly floured board. Flour the rolling pin and your hands. Roll the dough out into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Occasionally lift the dough with a dough scraper to check that it is not sticking. Add a bit more flour if it seems like it’s about to stick. Trim to a 12-13 inch circle.

Baker’s Note: Rolling the dough out between sheets of waxed paper, parchment, or plastic wrap eliminates the tearing and stickiness of this fragile dough, and makes transfer easier.

Transfer the rolled dough to a 9-inch pie pan. Ease the dough loosely and gently into the pan. You don’t want to stretch the dough to fit otherwise it will shrink when it is baked. Trim excess dough to a 1-1 1/2 inch overhang. Turn the dough under along the rim of the pie pan and use your fingers and thumb to flute the edges. Freeze the pie shell for 15-20 minutes while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F/200˚C. Place a piece of parchment in the pie shell, with sides overhanging the pan, and fill with dried beans. This prevents the pastry from puffing up while it is baking. Bake the pie crust for 10-15 minutes or until the pastry rim is golden. Remove the pie pan from the oven and reduce heat to 350˚F/175˚C. Remove the paper and the beans. Return the pie crust to the oven and bake for another 10-20 minutes, or until the bottom of the crust is golden brown. Be careful that the edges don’t burn because of the coconut in the dough. Remove from the oven and allow the pie shell to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Baker’s Note: Crumple a large sheet of parchment paper then fold it out into the pie shell. Pour in the beans. The crumpled shape will fit the pie shell better.

Whipped Cream

2 cups whipping cream, chilled
3 tablespoons granulated or caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
1/2 teaspoon powdered unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water and heated for 5 seconds in the microwave (optional)

Chill bowl, whisk, and measuring cup for at least 1 hour. Pour chilled cream into the chilled bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the chilled whisk attachment. Turn the machine on to Level 3 and whisk for 1-2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla, if using. Turn the speed up to 4-5 and whisk until soft peaks form. Stop the machine and remove the whisk. Turn it upside down. The cream should be soft and curl over on itself. Re-attach the whisk and continue whisking on Level 4-5 until stiff peaks form. Because cream can “weep” if it is not eaten right away, you may wish to stabilize the cream with gelatin. Slowly add the dissolved gelatin and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.

Baker’s Note: A vegetarian alternative is to make a whipped cream icing made with cream cheese instead of gelatin.

Whipped Cream Icing

Ingredients
1 8-oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup white superfine/caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or rum extract
2 cups heavy cream, chilled

Preparation
Combine cream cheese, sugar, and extracts on medium-low speed in a stand mixer. While the mixer is running, gradually add the cream. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form. This could happen quickly so watch carefully.

Assemble the Pie:

Scrape the chilled pastry cream into the cooled crust. Smooth the top with an offset spatula. Spread about a cup of the whipped cream on top of the pastry cream, mounding it slightly in the center. Spoon the remainder of the whipped cream into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe cream in mounds all around the outer edges of the pie.

For Garnishing the Pie
1 1/2 cups (55 g or 2 oz) thin slivers of crystalline coconut
4-6 oz good white chocolate to make 2 ounces of curls

Slice the coconut into thin strips (julienne). Lengths will vary and that’s okay. Sprinkle crystalline coconut strips in the center of the pie. Use a vegetable peeler or a small knife to scrape about 2 ounces of white chocolate to make curls. Sprinkle curls on top of the coconut strips.

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sweet and spicy shrimp with rice noodles

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It’s Lent and I’m scouring my recipe collection for ideas for meatless meals. I found this in the folder 300 calorie dinners, and it had shrimp and veg in it. So. I adjusted the recipe to taste because I don’t like spicy food but Andy does. It’s always easier to spice food up than it is to take spice away, so I reduced the pepper. Let him add pepper himself, and he does, with a free hand. I added sweet peppers, made the Thai chili optional, and substituted sugar snap peas for snow peas.

Sweet and Spicy Shrimp with Rice Noodles
Makes 4 servings

Marinade for the shrimp
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon ground fresh chili paste (e.g. sambal oelek)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) shelled deveined shrimp

Noodles and Sauce/Seasonings
Half a pack (about 4 oz) of uncooked flat rice noodles or rice sticks, thin kind
1-2 tablespoons peanut oil (I used rice bran oil)
2 tablespoons chopped unsalted cashews (I used salted)
4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 green Thai chili (optional)
Half a medium bell pepper (can combine red, yellow and/or green)
3/4 cup matchstick-cut carrots
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed (can use snow peas)
3/4 cup fresh organic bean sprouts

In a medium bowl, mix together the marinade. Add just enough of the chili paste as you can handle the heat. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Set aside on the countertop until ready to use, about 30 minutes, while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

Cook noodles according to package directions. I cooked the noodles in boiling water for 2 1/2 minutes on medium high, then off the heat and let them soak in the hot water for another 2 1/2 minutes. Drain into a colander. Rinse in cold water and drain again. Set aside.

Cook’s Note: The key to this dish is to have the noodles al dente, so don’t forget them. If you do, they become gummy and pasty, and you will have to toss them out.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the oil to the pan, swirling to coat. Add the cashews, garlic, ginger, and chili, if using. Stir-fry until fragrant and garlic begins to brown. Remove cashew mixture to a small bowl and set aside.

Increase heat to high and add up to a tablespoon of oil to the pan if there is none left in the pan. Add the sweet peppers, carrots and salt to the pan. Stir fry about 2 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp tender. Add the shrimp with the marinade. Stir-fry 2 minutes or until the shrimp become opaque. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in noodles and sugar snap peas, cook for 1 minute. Use a pair of tongs to toss the noodles to coat them in the sauce. Return the cashew mixture to the pan. Add the bean sprouts and cook until heated through, tossing frequently. Serve at once.

 

festival: Jamaican cornmeal dumpling

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Festival is a fried cornmeal dumpling from Jamaica that is eaten with savory dishes like ackee and saltfish or escovitch fish. We like to eat fried dough with highly spiced food because it takes some of the edge off the heat. The first time I tried to make them they were like little rocks–rock festival without the music! It is hard to find a tested recipe for this dumpling so I developed my own. It only makes 12 dumplings but there are only 10 in this picture because I ate two. This batch came out soft and tender. So good! Festival is best eaten the day it is made, but it can be warmed up the day after in a low oven and still taste great with leftover ackee and salt fish. Or escovitch fish.

Festival or Jamaican Cornmeal Dumpling
Makes 12 dumplings

1 1/4-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
3/4-1/2 cup cornmeal*
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of nutmeg, optional
1 tablespoon butter, chilled
1/2 cup cold milk or ice water, plus more if needed
Oil for frying

*Use more flour and less cornmeal for a more tender product.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar, and nutmeg (if using). Cut in the butter. You should get a texture like coarse sand. Add milk gradually, and if extra is needed, add a tablespoon at a time, kneading until the dough is soft and elastic, and the sides of the bowl are clean.

On a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a cylinder and cut it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a cigar shape with tapered ends.

Pour 1 inch of oil into a skillet and heat it until small bubbles cover the bottom of the pan. Fry the dumplings in the hot oil until golden brown all over, turning them frequently, about 4 minutes. If using a 10 inch skillet do 6 dumplings at a time. Drain fried dumplings on paper towels. Serve with escovitch fish or ackee and saltfish.

 

multigrain bread

After several weeks of experimenting with this bread recipe and watching videos on kneading bread dough, I’ve come to understand this recipe and most importantly, how to work around the challenges of bread baking in Thailand. It’s hot and humid here which affects the chemistry of flour, yeast, and water. My everlasting exasperation was with this dough’s horrible stickiness. I have tried swapping bread flour for all-purpose and I can’t say it made any difference in the stickiness of the dough. I have tried reducing the liquid 10% to compensate for the humidity. No appreciable difference. I decided to accept that this dough will probably always be sticky for me considering my kitchen’s location. Lessons learned that recipes never tell you:

  • Resist the temptation to add more flour just because the dough is sticky. Sticky dough is a nightmare: it sticks to you and the countertop leading to despair that it will never come together. But it will come together eventually, so I must be patient! I found that the slap-and-fold method works very well with sticky dough. Besides, it’s fun to slap the dough on the countertop. Here’s a video demonstration of the technique. 
  • Rising dough needs time, so the times given should be taken as a guide, not a rule of thumb. I’ve learned to let the bread rise go longer than the recipe has stated when it didn’t rise as expected. That said…
  • Always go by how the dough looks and feels. Trust your experience with the dough. For instance, I’ve kneaded dough for 20 minutes rather than the 8 or 9 minutes stated in the recipe because the dough was still sticky.
  • Personalize the recipe. Don’t be afraid to innovate. Take notes and learn from your experience with the dough. Your kitchen and where you live are unique so your bread recipe is as individual as you are!
  • Baking bread and enjoying it is a very subjective experience.

Multigrain Bread
Remember this is a rough guide:
Minutes to prepare: 40
Resting time: 5 hours 40 minutes (includes cooling)
Minutes to cook: 35
Yield: 2 loaves

177 g (1 1/4 cups) 5 or 7 grain hot cereal mix
2 1/2 cups boiling water (due to humidity, I reduced water 10% to 2 1/4 cups)
360 g (3 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (can substitute bread flour 1:1 but doing so may change the product’s texture)
170 g (1 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour (called hard wheat here)
1 tablespoon table salt
4 tablespoons golden honey
4 tablespoons (59 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds or 1 cup flaxseed (optional)
3/4 cup chopped almonds, walnuts, or pecans (after sifting out the powder and tiny pieces) (optional)
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats or quick oats

Egg wash
1 egg, lightly beaten mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Place cereal in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add boiling water and stir. Let cool to 100˚F about 20 minutes to 1 hour. Whisk flours with salt in a large bowl and set aside.

Add honey, melted cooled butter, and yeast to the cooled cereal. Stir to combine. Attach the bowl to a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn it on to speed 1 and add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time. Knead until the dough forms a ball and clears the sides of the bowl, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stop the mixer. Remove the bowl and dough hook from the mixer, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest 20 minutes. The dough may be very sticky but do NOT add more flour. Using a plastic dough scraper, turn the dough out on to an unfloured board. Knead the dough, working through stickiness because it WILL come together eventually. Continue kneading until the dough no longer sticks to the work surface or to your hands.

Do the windowpane test. Cut off a walnut-sized piece of dough and stretch it as thin as possible. If it stretches without tearing and is translucent when held up to the light, the gluten is developed and kneading it is done. It is time to add the nuts/seeds.

Dust the work surface very lightly with flour and place the dough on it. Dust the top. Flatten and stretch the dough into a rough rectangle and sprinkle half the nuts/seeds on top. Press them into the dough. Fold up the dough in thirds, horizontally, like a letter. Turn the folded dough vertically and press the dough flat again with your fingers. Sprinkle the remaining nuts/seeds on top, pressing them into the dough. Fold up into thirds again. Knead the dough for a few minutes to disperse the seeds/nuts evenly. Use the dough scraper to scrape up any bits of dough and seeds/nuts, and knead again. Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly dust it with flour.

Grease a bowl with 4 quart capacity. Put the dough ball into the bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic and a towel and put in a warm draft-free place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 45-60 minutes. Because of the whole wheat flour in the dough, it will not rise to the top of the bowl but to about two-thirds of the bowl.

While dough is rising, adjust the oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 375˚F/190˚C. Spray two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside. I like to use pans with a dark finish which absorb heat and contribute to a more even rise during oven spring. Set pans aside.

Transfer risen dough to a lightly floured work surface. Pat it into a 9×12 inch rectangle. Using a dough scraper, cut the rectangle in half so you get two pieces 9×6 inches each.

You’re going to roll one half tightly into a cylinder. Starting from the short side, roll until you reach the end. Pinch the seam closed. Tuck in the dough sticking out of each end and fold a bit of the top over to cover the end and pinch it closed. Roll the cylinder lightly on the board to smooth it. Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Brush the tops of the loaves with egg wash. Pour 1/2 cup rolled oats into a large plate and press the brushed top into the oats. Don’t roll it. Center the loaf in a prepared pan and lightly press down all over the top to make sure the bread will rise evenly. Repeat with the second loaf. Cover loaves lightly with plastic and a kitchen towel and let rise until almost doubled in size, 30-40 minutes. The loaves should rise 1-1 1/2 inches above the rim of the pans.

Bake until the loaves reach an internal temperature of 200˚F, about 35-40 minutes. If the loaves darken too soon, tent them with aluminum foil, and reduce heat to 350˚F/175˚C.

Remove loaves from oven and cool in the pans 5 minutes on wire racks. Remove the loaves from the pans and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Becoming Bread

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Loaf with Almonds: Height was good with an open crumb.
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Boule with Flaxseed: dough was dense and didn’t rise as high as I would have liked.

quick pineapple-mango sorbet

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Pineapple-Mango Sorbet with a slice of Fresh Mango Tart

All it takes is  just three ingredients plus water and not quite 5 minutes of your time! And you can adapt it for smaller or larger portions by remembering that it’s just 2 parts pineapple to 1 part mango.

Quick Pineapple-Mango Sorbet
Makes 6-8 scoops

2 cups frozen pineapple chunks
1 cup frozen mango chunks
Juice of 1 lime
up to 1/4 cup or more of water, as needed

In the bowl of a food processor, add the pineapple, mango and lime juice. Process until the fruit is a flaky texture. While the machine is running, gradually pour water a bit at a time down the feed tube until you get the desired consistency: creamy and smooth. You may use more or less water as needed.

baking bread in the tropics

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Multigrain Bread with Almonds

Naturally, part of my baking with yeast challenge is mastering the art of baking bread. I discovered this is no easy task because the humidity of tropical Thailand affects the behavior of the dough. It’s horribly icky-sticky. But I’ve learned that adding additional flour is not the solution. Instead, I’ve patiently scraped and kneaded the dough for 45 minutes hoping for it to magic itself into the storied smooth taut ball. Meh. As a last resort I’ve become an alchemist. I’ve tried reducing the liquid, even substituting bread flour for the all-purpose recommended in the recipe. All to no avail. Now I’ve taken to literally beating the crap out of the dough. It’s a form of baker’s masochism called slap-and-fold. I actually enjoy it. But most of all, I’m learning to appreciate the stubborn features of this nonverbal dough, and how it communicates when it is under-mixed, when it is well-kneaded, and how to tell. I’m still developing this recipe and will share it when I have achieved the texture and crumb that I’m looking for.