Friday, May 28, 2010

inspired by a noodle

A little while ago, I was determined to make a Korean noodle dish called japchae.

It is apparently a Korean festival dish, so I carefully gathered all the vegetables and beef I needed. In fact, I gathered everything but the special dangmyeon noodles at my local grocery store. Dangmyeon noodles are made from sweet potato starch and they sounded exotic and delicious. But I wasn’t worried about finding them – there is a Korean grocery store downtown.

On the appointed japchae day – a Thursday – I went to work with japchae dreams, discussed it with my coworkers, happily trundled off to the Korean grocery store . . . to find it dark. A sign in the window said this particular Korean grocery store is closed Sundays and Thursdays. Thursdays?

I went to another Asian grocery store. I called other Asian grocery stores. But no one carried the dangmyeon noodles my japchae recipe called for. Stores kept referring me to the Korean grocery downtown, the one that’s closed on Thursdays. Defeated, I made a Chinese beef stir-fry with corn noodles. It was good, but it was no japchae.

But those dangmyeon noodles haunted me. I went to a restaurant for lunch and swore my rice noodle salad was actually made with dangmyeon sweet potato starch noodles. The idea of them – clear and stretchy and sweet potato-y – was irresistible.

And then it happened. I remembered to get the dangmyeon noodles on a day that was not a Thursday (or Sunday). I went into the Korean grocery store I had been dreaming about, spent a mere two dollars, and walked out with my precious dangmyeon noodles. They were grey, which surprised me. I’d always assumed they’d be orange.

There was only one problem. It was too soon to have another noodle dish tossed with beef and veggies, even if it was a different nationality.

I kept thinking about the noodles and how they should be paired with orange, since that’s the colour I’d had in my head. It just so happened I had oranges at home and – voila! – a recipe was born. This is a fresh and delicate citrus noodle dish for spring, full of crunchy vegetables and chewy dangmyeon noodles.

This is not japchae at all. The only thing this recipe has in common is the delectable dangmyeon noodle. I do look forward to making japchae one day – obviously, not on a Thursday.

Yes, these noodles were worth all the trouble.

A note: I used tofu, but I would also recommend shrimp, beef, pork or chicken. Instead of baking them, fry them in their marinade until just cooked.

Another note: Sure, this recipe looks like it has a lot of ingredients. But really, it’s not too hard – most of the ingredients are just slopped into the marinade. And if you don’t have a couple ingredients, experiment with others.

orange dangmyeon noodle toss

makes 4 to 5 bowls

12 oz. (340 g.) dangmyeon noodles
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. lime juice, plus wedges of lime for serving
3 tbsp. + 3 tbsp. orange juice (squeezed from a real orange, if you can)
1 tbsp. mirin
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. + 1 tsp. sesame oil
6 oz. (175 g.) firm tofu (or meat – see note above), cut in small strips
3 c. broccoli, cut into small florets
1/2 c. onion, thinly sliced
2 c. red, orange or yellow peppers, thinly sliced
2 carrots, shaved
2 tsp. canola or vegetable oil
2 tsp. cashew butter (yes, you could probably use peanut in a pinch)
cilantro, roughly chopped
chives, chopped
toasted sesame seeds

Once everything starts cooking, things move quickly! Make sure your vegetables are cut up ahead of time.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking pan with a silpat or parchment paper.

Prepare the marinade in a medium bowl. Stir the honey, lime juice, 3 tbsp. orange juice, mirin, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and cornstarch together.

Pour one third of the marinade into another bowl. Add 1 tsp. sesame oil to this and mix well. Toss with your chopped tofu. Put the tossed tofu on the prepared pan, and bake for 16 to 19 minutes. Use a flipper to turn it once or twice. You want the tofu to be slightly crispy.

Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat. Add the oil, and throw in the broccoli and onion. Add two tablespoons of water. Put the lid on and cook for 3 minutes. (This steams the broccoli.)

While you’re cooking the vegetables, get the dangmyeon noodles started. Cook them as the package says: boil in lots of salted water for 4 to 6 minutes. (Do not overcook! This dish is all about noodle texture.) Once they are cooked, strain and rinse with cold water to stop any more cooking.

Now, back to the vegetables. After you have cooked the broccoli and onion for 3 minutes, take the lid off and throw in the peppers and carrots. Cook for 2 minutes.

While they are cooking, go back to your reserved marinade. Whisk in the cashew butter.  Toss this mixture into the vegetables. Throw in the cooked tofu or meat. Cook for 2 more minutes, until it’s slightly thickened and the vegetables are perfectly tender-crisp. Taste to see if they’re salty enough. Take the pan off the heat to stop the cooking, but put the lid on to keep it warm.

Move the dangmyeon noodles from the strainer back into their pot. Over very low heat, toss them with 1 tsp. sesame oil, 3 tbsp. orange juice and 1 tbsp. rice vinegar. Once they have warmed up, turn off the heat.

Fill bowls with noodles and vegetables in sauce. Top with generous dollops of cilantro, chives and toasted sesame seeds. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over top.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

chocolate nut balls

It’s mid-morning.

Imagine roasted nuts and brown sugar rolled into a chewy ball, dipped into dark chocolate, and sitting on your plate.

Not too sweet, with a sprinkle of sea salt rolled in.

Time for a chocolate nut ball.

This is another friend of a friend recipe. My friend Stephanie in Ottawa – yes, we were the two Stephanies – gave me this recipe from her friend Natalie. The recipe originally comes from Natalie's Ukrainian grandmother. 

Now that I’ve  rolled some for myself, I can see why this recipe gets passed along.

They are so nutty that I can justify eating one as a mid-morning snack tomorrow at work – much more exciting than a handful of plain almonds.

And the chocolate drizzle . . . well, the chocolate drizzle will make me think it’s a special day, like a birthday or anniversary. Because it’s a good day indeed when I can find a way to eat chocolate and nuts before noon.

A note: You can use any combination of nuts you like. I used 1 1/2 cups almonds, 1 cup hazelnuts, and 1/2 cup pecans. That all whirled up in the mini food processor to 3 1/3 cups.

chocolate nut balls

makes about 24 nut balls, depending on the size you choose

3 1/3 c. ground nuts (a combination of almonds, hazelnuts, pecans or pistachios)
2/3 c. brown sugar
sea salt to taste
2 egg whites
4 oz. (100 g.) good quality dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 300 degree Fahrenheit. Prepare a cookie pan with parchment paper.

Roast the nuts for three minutes. Keep a careful eye on them to make sure your oven doesn’t run hot – nuts burn so quickly. Take the nuts out and turn the oven up to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a food processor, grind the nuts until fine. (But not until you get nut butter!)

In a bowl, mix the ground nuts with the brown sugar. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.

Stir in the egg whites.

Use your hands to roll balls and place on the parchment paper-covered cookie pan. (You may need to wash and dry your hands a couple times during this process if they get too sticky.)

Bake the balls anywhere from 9-15 minutes. After about 6 minutes, check the bottoms. They will be brown, but not burnt.

Remove from the oven and cool.

While the nut balls are cooling, melt the chocolate in the top of a double-boiler.

Cover a plate with parchment paper.

Dip the cooled balls in the chocolate and place them on the paper-covered plate. Use a small fork to drizzle more chocolate on top.

Put the plate in the fridge for at least an hour until the chocolate has set and you can lift the balls easily off the plate.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

putting asparagus on pizza

Putting asparagus on pizza is a good idea.

I also don’t have many other options for local vegetables yet.

So, here’s an idea for your next pizza:

smoked salmon
crushed and roasted walnuts
red onion
asiago and mozzarella cheese

Yes, and tomato sauce, of course.

I like to oil the pan, then sprinkle cornmeal over it. Then use a tiny bit of flour or oil to spread the dough across the pan with your fingers. The crust should come out nice and crunchy.

I am slowly but surely working toward the perfect gluten-free crust recipe. In the meantime, I buy a ball of dough here.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

swedish teas

Well, I don’t know if they’re really Swedish.

But that’s what Jaclyn’s mom calls them and she gave me the recipe.

She lives in Nova Scotia, but I thought Nova Scotian Swedish teas would be just too long for a title. And possibly a little confusing.

You might look at them and call them jam cookies or thumbprint cookies, but as we have established, they are really Swedish teas.

These Swedish teas are rich and buttery and pleasingly soft. You can taste the brown sugar shining through.

The original Swedish Teas have been a staple in my house for years, and now I have converted them to be gluten-free.

I’ve changed the technique a bit without gluten, so I’ll give you the two versions.

P.S. Speaking of Swedish tea, did you know that Earl Grey Cream tea is very popular in Sweden? It is the perfect accompaniment for these Swedish tea cookies.

original swedish teas

bakes about 36 cookies

1 c. butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 c. wheat flour
jam (I like apricot and plum best)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two cookie trays with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and brown sugar together. Add the vanilla, egg yolks and salt, and mix well.

Stir in the flour.

Roll into balls and place on lined cookie tray. Use your thumb or finger to make a small indentation on the top of each cookie.

Place a small dollop of jam in each indentation.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. They are done when they are slightly golden brown along the edges, but not crackling.

gluten-free swedish teas

bakes about 36 cookies

1 c. butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 c. sweet white sorghum flour
1/3 c. ground almonds
1/3 c. tapioca starch
1/3 c. cornstarch
1/4 c. sweet rice flour
1 tsp. xanthan or guar gum
1/4 tsp. salt
jam (I like apricot and plum best)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two cookie trays with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and brown sugar together. Add the vanilla and egg yolks, and mix well.

In a separate bowl, stir the sorghum, ground almonds, tapioca starch, cornstarch, sweet white rice flour, xanthan gum and salt together. Combine well.

Stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture.

Use two teaspoons to drop small balls on the lined trays. Leave room for them to spread when baking.

Dip your thumb or finger in a little sweet rice flour to keep it from sticking. Use it to make a small indentation on the top of each cookie. Place a small dollop of jam in each indentation.

Chill in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.

Bake for 6 to 7 minutes. They are done when the edges are slightly golden brown.

Leave them to cool on the pan for at least 15 minutes before transferring to a rack – they are fragile just out of the oven.