danish aebleskiver pancake balls with banana

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Aebleskiver pronounced “able-skewer” refers to both the pancake ball and the griddle it is cooked in. The basic recipe below came with the griddle, s. The pancake balls turned out light and fluffy, not too sweet, and very addictive! You can’t have just one.

Banana Aebleskiver Pancakes (based on Great Grandma’s Danish Aebleskiver)a heavy iron pan with seven shallow cup

Basic Recipe
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sour milk (2 tablespoons white vinegar topped up to 2 cup line)
3 eggs, separated

Filling (optional)
Mashed ripe banana, about 1/3 cup

Special Equipment
Aebleskiver, a cast iron griddle
Metal Chinese soup spoon, bamboo skewers, or teaspoon

  1. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Add sour milk and egg yolks. In another large bowl, beat egg whites until light and fluffy, until soft peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into batter. Put the batter into a small pot with a spout, e.g. a teapot; a measuring cup; or a large squeeze bottle, the kind used in commercial kitchens.
  2. Heat aebleskiver griddle on medium heat. Grease each cup with melted butter, oil, or vegetable oil cooking spray. Reduce heat to low. Then fill each cup half full. If using filling, fill the cup only half full with batter and place a small amount of fruit in each cup. Top with batter.
  3. On low heat cook for approximately 8 minutes on the first side or until golden brown on the bottom. When the top starts to look shiny and have bubbles, it’s close to time to flip. Look for the batter to pull away from the sides. It will be easier to flip when the bottom is cooked. Don’t be tempted to flip them too early for they’ll stick to the sides and tear. Flip using a metal Chinese soup spoon. This kind has a thin edge around the rim and is useful for getting under the bottom of the pancake to flip. If you don’t have a metal soup spoon, you can improvise with skewers or a teaspoon; scoop up the edges and turn. Cook the second side for 2-4 minutes or until the bottom is cooked through and slightly browned. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all the batter is used up.
  4. When both sides are done, serve with confectioner’s sugar or cinnamon sugar for rolling the pancakes, or honey or maple syrup for dipping. Also,  try this chocolate-y Nutella thinned with milk to the desired consistency. Best eaten warm.

Cook’s Notes: I used an Oxo salad dressing mixer to pour the batter into the aebleskiver griddle. Try using a dome lid to cover the griddle during cooking. It will speed up the cooking of the pancake balls and contribute to overall browning.

Yields 35-56 pancake balls

Variation:

    • Mix chopped apple and mashed banana together with brown sugar. Yum.
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@ sra bua: exploring molecular gastronomy in bangkok

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At Sra Bua (pronounced sah BOO-ah) we discovered the magic of food meticulously and scientifically prepared. This was a marathon of eating that began at 7 p.m. and ended three hours later. I wanted to try the full tasting menu and Andy didn’t, a difference of 3 dishes. And when Andy and I finally got up from the table, we felt sated but not uncomfortably stuffed. It was a time to enjoy eating, all my senses were on alert, and I became aware of each sensation, the taste, the sight, the smell, and even how food sounded in my mouth. Familiar tastes, I learned, can be rediscovered in different combinations.

In the beginning, we sat at small tables with comfortable chairs and cushions to  enjoy the nibblings and street food, in other words, the hors d’oevres. The fun began with a cool refreshing lemongrass-and-pandan tea that was lightly sweetened. We proceeded to enjoy a soy roasted cashew nut meringue, prawn cracker with chili-tomato dip, and kaffir-lime scented lotus root. The meringue was an unexpected take on the Japanese soy-sauce flavored crackers. Prawn crackers, so ubiquitous in Asia,was freshly paired with a chili-tomato dip. The lotus root was a disappointment, however, lacking a strong flavor identity. After these nibbles we moved on  to the street food offerings. Bangkok’s street food is hard to top so I wondered what we would see next. Each course was eagerly anticipated!

Up next was smoked sausage served on traditional bamboo skewers. It was paired with prawn bread with sesame, which wasn’t much of a stretch from its original Chinese incarnation, shrimp toast. Thais love Japanese food, so the umami flan’s arrival was a fresh idea. Nestled in a wonderfully delicate but flavorful miso soup, the tofu-like flan was a new way to present something traditional. It was paired with a sashimi-style tuna wrapped around a pork bone, a great serving idea but the spiciness of the seasoning drowned out the delicate taste of the fresh tuna. The next course was both hot and cool. The hot was the tom yam, a spicy Thai soup. It was paired with a cool foamy galangal with fresh baby lobster. Andy loved the soup; he said he broke out in a sweat, his own personal Scoville Scale. I couldn’t taste anything but chili so I gave him my soup to finish.

Andy decided to try an Argentinian Malbec from the wine list. Like the courses on the tasting menu, it seemed to be a sampler too. Moderation rather than excess seemed to be the theme of the evening; leave room for the next course and the next…By this time, we were invited to move to a booth for the main courses. It was intimate, and covered with silk and cotton embroidered cushions, but I was three feet away from Andy at the other end of a silk table runner. Too formal. I wanted to sit beside him, not opposite him,  so the server simply set a place mat for me next to Andy. Everything in its place!

The first entree was scallops with a tamarind and lemongrass sauce drizzled over it. Scattered on the plate were five or six tiny shrimp like creatures that were amazingly crunchy and tasty. Now I know how a whale feels when it eats krill! The scallops were grilled and served with orange-colored purees dotted on the plate like an archipelago of islands. You couldn’t see what they were originally, but the taste was unmistakably carrot and pumpkin. Then I had marinated codfish with tiny red disks of beetroot on top and little gray-green pearls of kaeng khio wan or green curry on the side.  The beetroot was slightly sour and tart, like pickles. The green curry was amazingly good with the beets and the codfish. It was a surprising combination but it worked. Because Andy’s tasting menu was not the complete one, he did not get these last two courses.

No Thai meal would be complete without the services of a kroke or a mortar and pestle. At tableside, the server pounded the ingredients for a sauce and drizzled it all over the larb  duck or duck salad. It came in two little onion cups joined by a savory meringue that connected the two cups of ground duck flavored with lime juice and fish sauce. It was the traditional paired with the new, meringue instead of a bed of lettuce. Next up: Kiin Kiin Egg with wild mushrooms and holy basil served in the egg-shell on top of a bed of salt. It didn’t need the salt so I presume it was there just to hold up the egg on the plate!  The last entree was the braised beef. It had the delicate flavor of palo powder; the Chinese call it Five Spice Powder. It was reminiscent of braised pork leg or khao khaa moo. The beef was served with sweetbread, a papadum on top, and a spoonful of sweet and sour pineapple sorbet on the side. The sweetbread’s flavor was somewhat nondescript, but the coolness and tartness of the sorbet was a nice contrast with the strong flavor of anise seed.

Though I savored each course, I felt finishing each one would bring me closer to my true joy: dessert. I looked forward to The Snowball. It arrived at table, a spun sugar confection on a white plate. The server poured coconut cream on it and my snowball vanished on the plate, dissolved into the coconut cream. It was like magic. Then I ate a spoonful of  the dessert–and tasted the gritty sugar of the snowball at the bottom of the spoon. This was a variation on two Thai desserts: roti sai mai or pancake with spun sugar, and ruammit literally “little bit of everything.”

The servers were well trained, courteous, and professional. They were very well-informed about the restaurant and its history and could answer our questions about the menu. Our server told us that  the menu is changed every three months. Chef Nielsen flies in from Denmark to create a new menu. The servers are then invited to taste the new menu, which is what makes them so knowledgeable about its preparation. The management did offer Andy a complimentary dessert–The Snowball–because we complained about the slow service. It did take three hours to eat the entire meal.

We went to Sra Bua for an early celebration of Valentine’s Day. I would go back to try a new menu, but only for another very special occasion. And if we have the stamina to eat for another three hours.  In any case, this is the place to go to enjoy a leisurely meal, European fashion, with home-grown Thai ingredients. Another thought is that it would be great if the Chef could make recommendations from the wine list.

I wish I could say that the second dessert, the banana cake, transported me to gastro-heaven, but it was a dense disappointment. It tasted like convenience-store banana cupcake in a cellophane wrapper. There was too much coconut (coconut again!) and not enough salted ice cream and caramelized milk. Perhaps I was full by then, but I found the petit fours with tea (me) and coffee (Andy) not worth the picture. The petit fours arrived at table in dramatic fashion, inside a large lacquered binto box. But inside each layer were just two macarons, two marshmallows (covered in that ghastly coconut again), and two chocolate pepper cookies each the size of a US cent. Over dramatization. Not a worthy end to the meal that was, in retrospect, uneven in quality, preparation, and presentation.

home made poh pia

Poh Pia is sometimes called the Chinese tortilla. It is a thin wheat pancake made of just flour and water,  that is filled with meat, vegetables, and sauce. The fillings make the poh pia outstanding; the pancake is merely the holder. These fillings vary regionally as well as from family to family. Usually, we buy the pancakes, because it’s easier than making them. But I was wrong. Making them from scratch is not only delicious, it’s fun to play with your food! Our friend Arun and his wife Ann invited us to share their family meal and taught me how to make these delicious unassuming pancakes. Two of them are rolled out together with a little oil in between to make a double pancake. After you fry up a double pancake, you peel them apart and you have two pancakes again!

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smilebox holiday greetings

Dear Friends:

I love the sights, smells, and sounds of Christmas. Clean crisp snow, spicy fruitcakes, and the sizzling brown smell of a turkey roasting in the oven. However, I won’t be blogging for a while because I’m writing the last chapter of my dissertation. It’s not about cooking or baking or I would post it here! Suffice it to say, that I’m extremely busy, but I hope to start cooking, baking, and blogging again during the holidays–because that’s when my dissertation will be finished. I hope!

Happy holidays to you and yours,
Joanie

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times square, june 18, 2012

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I made my favorite chocolate raspberry pavlova today. It’s the kind of dessert that deserves its own classification, not a cake but not a macaron either. It’s the kind of dessert I reserve for once a year.  The meringue was crunchy on the outside and sticky and sweet on the inside. “Squidgy” Nigella declares, using that quirky English-ism that’s neither Julia Child nor Harold McGee. I put a crème fraîche on top instead of whipped topping because I like the tanginess of it. And of course, raspberries. This year, I splurged on a block of Callebaut unsweetened chocolate and what a difference a superior chocolate makes. Now that I’ve had a year’s worth of experience making pavlovas, I’m no longer worried that it won’t come out. It’s supposed to crack and collapse under the weight of its own superiority.

third time’s a charm!

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I took Andy and AJ to Jing Fong in Chinatown for Father’s Day. Jing Fong is at 20 Elizabeth Street near the corner of Canal, and it specializes in Dim Sum. Dim Sum is a meal that consists of small dumplings, steamed and fried, savory and sweet. I prefer the steamed to the fried, and I love both savory and sweet dumplings! Dim Sum is served from steam carts  and trolleys wheeled from table to table, where you just point and it is put before you in these bamboo baskets, straight from the kitchen. There’s nothing fancy about Dim Sum; it’s all about the different ways rice flour can be rolled, molded, and shaped around a delicious filled center. Dim Sum is best eaten before noon, in my opinion. In any case, it’s seldom served in the afternoon. So Dim Sum filled us up for most of the day. For dinner, I made Misty’s Vegetarian Lasagna, my third try. They say the third time’s a charm. And so it was.

crunchy vegetable slaw

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I didn’t like the green bean casserole recipe I tried in the Carb Conscious Vegetarian cookbook. Why blanche the green beans to set the bright green color then bake the heck out of it for 50 minutes until the poor things are mushy and olive drab? Sam, my nurse practitioner at Columbia Health, recommended the books of Robin Robertson because I told him I like to cook and eat healthy meals. I also love to try out new cookbooks. This recipe is one I adapted from  Carb Conscious. I liked it. It was slightly pungent because of the raw broccoli and cabbage, and I loved the sweet crisp taste of the bell pepper in it. The dressing was bland so I dressed it up with some red pepper flakes, and it was slightly sour, so I added a little stevia.

Crunchy vegetable slaw

2 cups peeled, shredded broccoli stems (about 3 medium stems)
2 cups shredded red cabbage (about 1/4 of a large head)
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into thin slivers
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro (or flat leaf parsley)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (or lemon juice), (juice of 1 large lime)
red pepper flakes to taste
salt and pepper to taste (celery salt in the original recipe)
1/2 packet of stevia, about 1/4 teaspoon, optional

Shred the broccoli stems in a food processor.

In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, cabbage, pepper, and cilantro. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lime juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and stevia, if using.  Pour olive oil mixture over the broccoli mixture. Toss. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serves 4

Per serving: 169 calories, 14g fat, 3g protein, 9g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 0mg cholesterol, 123mg sodium.

central park challenge and a simple supper

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A fine mizzle was falling across Central Park when we arrived in the early morning for the YAI Central Park Challenge. We had signed  up for the 3K walk through the park. The meeting point was at 72nd and Central Park West but we saw no signs. Everyone was going into the park so we just followed everyone in until we saw the tents. Not long afterwards, the sun came out. It was a beautiful day–cool and sunny. I thought how two weeks ago we saw the park as a resource fit for the dinner table. Today, the park was a green oasis in the city for exercising, for having fun, and relaxation. And so, to cap an active day, we had a simple supper of homemade vegetable soup with chicken and ham, and romaine hearts with grape tomatoes served with Hugo’s sushi vinegar dressing. The dressing is mild and slightly tart. Simply delicious.


Hugo’s Sushi Vinegar Dressing

2 parts sushi vinegar
1 part extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried basil

beef broccoli with sichuan pepper and japanese zucchini stir fry

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Sichuan pepper is actually not a pepper at all nor is it related to black pepper. If it smells and tastes familiar that’s because it is a common ingredient in Asian cooking, particularly  in Five-Spice Powder. To me it has a sweet smell, almost like cinnamon, and like cinnamon, it is somewhat bitter. Use it in small quantities because although it does not have the heat of the more familiar peppers, it does have a numbing effect on the tongue. To me, water tastes salty after eating too much Sichuan peppercorns!

Beef Broccoli with Sichuan Pepper

This is a variation on the popular dish in Chinese restaurant menus. The beef is tender and the broccoli is crisp tender, with a hint of sesame. In Chinese cooking, sesame oil is used to flavor food after it is cooked. It is too delicate to stand up to heat in cooking. A little bit, like a teaspoon, is  enough. I serve this beef broccoli with Sichuan pepper with brown-white rice mix because AJ thinks brown rice alone is too dry. The ratio is 2:1 brown rice to white rice.

3/4 pound lean boneless beef steak, sliced across the grain into thin strips
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon red Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely ground
3 tablespoons soy sauce or soy-ginger sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons ginger, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons garlic, peeled and minced
3 cups broccoli florets
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Blanch broccoli florets in a pot of boiling water until bright green, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, put the beef strips, peppercorns, soy sauce or soy-ginger sauce, add cornstarch. Mix well and set aside.

Put canola oil in a large wok or skillet, and turn up the heat to medium-high. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beef and stir-fry until it begins to brown, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli and toss to heat through. The beef should have pink streaks. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sesame oil. Taste and adjust seasoning; adding a little soy sauce, if desired. Serve immediately with steamed brown rice and Japanese Zucchini Stir Fry.

Japanese Zucchini Stir Fry

I found this recipe in Real Food Real Easy (2010) by George Stella. The recipes in this book use just a few ingredients (not more than nine) and the method is simple and straightforward. I really needed this cookbook since I started a new job this week, and I haven’t had much time for anything complicated. So this marks a return to my roots–simple stir fries with fresh ingredients.

2 medium zucchini
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

  1. To toast sesame seeds, put them in a skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside. Slice ends off zucchini and discard. Cut each zucchini in half crosswise then split each half vertically in two. Slice each quarter into thick sticks. Cut quartered onion into 1/4 inch thick strips
  2. Heat oil in a large work or skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add zucchini and onions and cook without stirring 2-4 minutes or until browned on the undersides. Stir once and continue cooking 2-3 minutes to continue browning.
  3. Add soy sauce and black pepper, tossing to combine. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil and sesame seeds.

cooking in a “new” old kitchen: coconut-ginger chicken

We moved. Uptown. To an apartment in a pre-war building with a unique shotgun layout.

The new kitchen is bigger. Three-dimensional, actually. I’m rusty at cooking in a kitchen that has three walls. By comparison, the Teeny Tiny Kitchen was a wall. Here, with the reorganization of the cupboards, I have to think–now, where did I put the…? As I figure out this new layout, I’ve started trying out new recipes again, like this one.

This recipe for coconut-ginger chicken came from this week’s New York Times Sunday magazine. The chicken came out too bland for my taste, even though I added a tablespoon of garlic to the original recipe. The veggie dishes I made up with what I had on hand–which wasn’t too hard to do, actually, if you abide by the basic rule of stir-fry. Prepare Everything For Cooking. That’s my mis en place by the way, in the small picture beneath the stir-fried vegetables on the left.

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Coconut-Ginger Chicken

  • In a large dry skillet over medium heat, toast ¼ cup unsweetened coconut, about 10 minutes until golden brown. Stir occasionally. Set aside in a small plate and do not clean the pan.

Cook’s note: I used flaked coconut but I wonder if shredded coconut with larger strips wouldn’t work as well. The flaked coconut actually came out quite well in appearance, a pale golden brown that adhered to the top of the chicken like bread crumbs.

  • Add ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk, ½ cup water, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, and 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put the chicken in the pan. When the liquid boils, lower heat to simmer; cover and cook chicken for 10-15 minutes or until tender and just cooked through. On an instant read thermometer, the temperature of the thickest part of the chicken should read 155˚F. Test the chicken after 10 minutes then cook for 3-5 additional minutes if not up to temperature.
  • Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm.
  • Turn heat to high and boil the mixture until it is reduced by half; it should be fairly thick. Lower heat and return the chicken to the pan to reheat and coat with sauce.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with reserved toasted coconut and chopped fresh cilantro and scallion, if desired.