Wednesday, April 20, 2016

hyperbraised fennel

I found this recipe in my desert-island cookbook, The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser.

The book has no photos, but it does have headnotes.

Amanda Hesser is a master at writing headnotes  she'll hook me in with just a single sentence or a couple of short paragraphs.

Her headnote for this hyperbraised fennel is glorious. Here's an excerpt:

You cut the bulb into wedges; douse it with olive oil; season it with fennel fronds, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes; and then blast it with heat until the liquid is cooked off and the fennel is just tender. The texture of the bulb ends up, somewhat miraculously, like confit  it holds together but is like a concentrated fennel pudding inside.

So you see, I had to try it. It's now a rockstar regular in our house.

Back to headnote hunting . . .

one year ago: lemon chicken soup with spaghetti
two years ago: spicy salmon broth
three years ago: stinging nettle soup

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hyperbraised fennel
via R. W. Apple Jr. adapted from Alice Waters in The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser
serves 4 to 6

4 large fennel bulbs including feathery fronds*
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 c. water
2 tbsp. fennel seeds, finely ground in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle
2 pinches crushed red pepper flakes**
1 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp. table salt)
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Cut the stalks off your fennel bulbs. Finely chop the fronds and set them aside. Cut each fennel bulb into eighths.

Place the fennel pieces into a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Add the olive oil and water. Cover the pot and turn the heat up to high. As soon as it boils, turn the heat down to medium. Stir, cover and let cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in the fennel fronds, ground fennel seeds, red pepper flakes and salt. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Cover and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated and the fennel is very tender, about 10 minutes. (If you still have too much liquid, you can simmer it uncovered for a few minutes.)

Take the pot off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Taste for salt and add more if necessary. Serve.

*If your fennel comes frondless, you may substitute 1/4 c. chervil leaves or leave them out.
**I like to use my handy Korean red pepper flakes here. They don't give any heat.

Monday, April 4, 2016

sriracha tofu and broccolini with coconut rice

For some reason, I forgot to make this for a year or two.

I'm not sure why, because once I discovered it again  a few months ago  I quickly remembered that it's one of my favourite weeknight dinners.

In fact, it's the kind of quick weeknight dinner that is so good and so interesting that we really should make it for guests on a weekend. I'd better get on that.

Anyway, I should probably tell you more about it.

First, do you like coconut rice? I love coconut rice. It has that extra bit of richness from the coconut milk and the saltiness is just right here to balance it.

But the best part is how exciting the tofu is. I know you might not believe me when I describe tofu as exciting, but it's true. You'll have to make it to find out. The tofu is tossed with a simple mixture of sriracha and salt but somehow it becomes a new tasty thing with just a bit of chew.

The original recipe called for shrimp but since I can never find affordable ethical shrimp at the grocery store, I put in the tofu. Cheap, and possibly even better. (I've never tried the shrimp.)

Oh, and the broccolini. Or broccolette. Or finely-chopped and peeled regular broccoli. Whatever you call it, it picks up the sriracha and coconut milk and becomes the perfect crunchy bite next to the soft tofu.

Please, just make it. And don't forget about it.

One year ago: peanut sesame noodles
Two years ago: salted butter break-up cookies
Three years ago: chocolate peanut butter mice with licorice tails

print here

sriracha tofu and broccolini with coconut rice
adapted from gourmet
serves 4

1 1/2 c. long-grain white rice*
1 1/2 c. water
1 tsp. sugar
1 c. + 1/2 c. coconut milk, well-stirred
3/4 tsp. + 3/4 tsp. salt
1 lb (454 g.) broccolini or broccolette**
1 block firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
2 1/2 tbsp. sriracha sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. + 1/4 c. chicken broth
1 tbsp. vegetable, canola or grapeseed oil

Rinse the rice under cold water and drain well. Pour into a medium-sized sauce pan with a heavy bottom. Add 1 1/2 cups water, sugar, 1 cup coconut milk and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, then take it off the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes, still covered.

While the rice is cooking, peel the broccolini stalks and cut the whole thing into 1-inch lengths. Set aside.

In another bowl, toss the tofu with the with the sriracha and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, stir the cornstarch, 1/4 cup chicken broth,  and 1/2 cup coconut milk until the cornstarch dissolves.

Heat a big heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven over high heat. Add oil. Add broccolini and fry until it turns bright-green. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth. Once the liquid has evaporated (about 3 minutes), add the dressed tofu. Stir often and cook for 2 minutes. Stir the cornstarch mixture again and add it to the broccolini and tofu. Stir until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Fluff the rice and serve it with the broccolini mixture. Eat!

* We like Jasmine or Basmati rice 
** You could also use regular broccoli, stalks peeled and cut more finely