Archive for the 'Appetizers' Category

Fresh Corn “Polenta” With Oyster Mushrooms

Fresh Corn "Polenta" With Oyster Mushrooms

Never mind why I was watching television at three o’clock in the afternoon, on a weekday no less. On the show The View From The Bay, Executive Chef Ken Frank of La Toque Restaurant in Napa cooked up fresh corn polenta with chanterelles and I just had to make it.

I’m amazed that the “polenta” is just fresh corn with a bit of butter and salt. That’s it. Nothing else. That made the sweetness and freshness of the corn really stand out.

Made a few tweaks to the recipe as usual – I used the new soy-free Earth Balance vegan butter (taste just like butter), swapped out the chanterelles for oyster mushrooms and added sautéed spinach. So simple and so summery.

Fresh Corn “Polenta” with Oyster Mushrooms
Serves 2
Recipe adapted from The View of the Bay episode with Ken Frank of La Toque Restaurant

2 ears fresh bi-color (part white and part yellow) corn
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup fresh oyster mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 ounces fresh baby spinach
Olive oil
Salt

Heat a saucepan to hot, add a little bit of oil and sauté the spinach until just wilted. Set aside.

Then sauté the oyster mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of butter and season with salt. Set that aside.

Shuck the corn. Over a large bowl, grate the kernels off of the cob using the coarse side of the box grater, resulting in a wet, coarse pulpy mixture.

Since I have a small grater, I broke the corn in half to make it easier to grate. (Although the corn that I got from the farmer’s market had like the smallest kernels I’ve ever seen. I was worried I wouldn’t have enough corn grated.)

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a pan and add the corn mixture, season with salt. Simmer over low heat and stir to prevent browning for about 2-3 minutes. It’s ready when it just starts to thicken and set.

Divide the corn “polenta” between two plates, top with the spinach and mushrooms and serve.

Stuffed Tofu Puffs With Chili Garlic Sauce

Stuffed Tofu Puffs With Chili Garlic Sauce

I usually eat tofu puffs in soups or stir-fries but lately I feel like doing something new and different. A tofu puff is a cube or triangle shaped piece of tofu that’s been deep-fried and generally found in the refrigerated section of the Asian supermarket.

Because they’re deep-fried, they become extra absorbent like a super sponge. They kinda look like sponges on the inside too. Inspired by the little steamed dishes at dim sum restaurants, I stuffed the puff with a mashed potato and carrot mixture and steamed until hot. The result is bite-size puff of soft, creamy inside with a chewy outside, draped with chili garlic sauce on top.

It’s quite a few cooking steps but the results are totally worth it. But if you start to get tired halfway through and don’t want to go on, the potato-carrot filling by itself is tasty too. It’s like fancy mashed potatoes with Asian flavors. The tofu puffs can go in the freezer for another time.

Stuffed Tofu Puffs with Chili Garlic Sauce
Makes about 24 steamed puffs

1 bag of tofu puffs

For the filling
3 dried black Chinese mushrooms, soaked and sliced
2 medium carrots
2 large red potatoes
1 teaspoon rice wine
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 small green onion, chopped

Peeled and slice the carrots and potatoes, place in a medium pot and just cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and let cool.

When the carrots and potatoes are cool enough to handle, mash with a fork or run through a ricer. Add the rice wine, sugar and salt and pepper to taste, blending well.

Heat the wok to hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the sides of the wok. Add the ginger and mushrooms and stir-fry for about a minute. Add a little water if the wok appears to be too dry. Add the potato/carrot mixture and stir constantly for a few minutes. Then add the cilantro, vinegar and green onions, stir well. Set aside.

To stuff the tofu puffs, slice off the top of a puff and hollow out the inside. Using a butter knife, stuff to the top with the potato/carrot mixture and arrange on a steaming plate. Place the plate on a metal steaming rack in the wok over simmering water, cover and steam for 5-10 minutes until heated through. Carefully transfer to a serving dish and top with the chili garlic sauce.

Chili Garlic Sauce
2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon garlic chili oil
2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon green onion, chopped

Mix all of the ingredients except the green onion together, blending well. Add the green onions just before you’re ready to serve.

Vegetable Chowder In Mini Sourdough Bread Bowl

Vegetable Chowder In Mini Sourdough Bread Bowl

Once upon a time, in the very distant past, I tried soup in a bread bowl. It seemed a little weird to me back then.

Do you eat the bowl or not?

I think I tried to eat the whole thing but it was way too much, I’m sure I didn’t even come close to finishing it. It just seemed like such a waste of food. I haven’t tried it since.

With the upcoming cooler weather, I feel like giving it a try again. But this time, instead of a giant bread bowl, why not a cute miniature one?

Besides the large loaves of sourdough bread at the bakery, now there’s also small and medium sizes. Get whatever size you like, the smaller ones for an appetizer, the medium ones for a bigger serving.

Vegetable Chowder In Mini Sourdough Bread Bowl

Inspired by VeganDad‘s post on Mixed Vegetable Chowder, I adapted my usual corn chowder to include different vegetables. It’s got a slightly different taste and flavor yet it’s still comfortingly familiar.

Vegetable Chowder In Mini Sourdough Bread Bowl
Serves 2 – 4

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 small white onion, chopped
1 small leek, sliced
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 medium red potatoes, cubed
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup soymilk
1 garlic clove, minced
6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 medium or 4 small sourdough bread loaves or rolls
Cayenne pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil until hot, add the onions and leeks, sauté until translucent. Add the carrots and potatoes, sauté for a few minutes. Add the vegetable stock and cover. Bring to a boil and cook over low to medium heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a wok until hot, add the remaining oil. Add the garlic and mushrooms and sauté until cooked. Set aside.

Add the mushrooms and soymilk to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes. Puree 3/4 of the soup in a blender, return to the pot, and mix well.

Slice off the top of the bread and hollow out the inside, saving the bread for another use. Ladle the soup into the bread bowl and top with cayenne pepper.

no croutons required

No Croutons Required is a monthly food blogging event hosted by Lisa’s Kitchen and Tinned Tomatoes. October’s theme is hearty vegetarian soups that will warm the body and satisfy a hungry tummy. In my book bowl, that’s chowder and my contribution to the event.

Chinese 5-spice Jackfruit With Steamed Buns

Chinese 5-spice Jackfruit With Steamed Buns

I’ve made BBQ pulled jackfruit sandwiches and jackfruit carintas tacos and from that taquitos. I’m ready to go in a new and different direction with jackfruit. I’m most familiar with Chinese cuisine so let’s go there.

I decided on Chinese 5-spice seasonings for the jackfruit and to serve it in the same manner as traditional Peking Duck with steamed buns but without the duck.

Chinese 5-spice Jackfruit With Steamed Buns

I thought it came out well, it doesn’t taste like duck but I didn’t expect it to nor was I trying to make it taste like duck. It’s got its own 5-spice taste which was good and then combine that with the bun and sauce it’s very savory and reminiscent of baos served at dim sum.

The flavor seemed to have developed quicker with the 5-spice seasoning, it tastes the same right after cooking as it does overnight, unlike the bbq jackfruit.

I went the lazy route on the steam buns and got the store-bought kind. I’m sure it would be even better with freshly-made buns.

Chinese 5-spice Jackfruit With Steamed Buns

Chinese 5-spice Jackfruit With Steamed Buns
Makes about 6 – 8 servings

Chinese 5-spice Jackfruit
1 20 ounce can young green jackfruit in brine
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 lime, juiced
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 tablespoon chinese 5-spice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Freshly cracked black pepper

Drain and wash the jackfruit in several changes of water. Squeeze out as much water as you can.

Put the jackfruit in a slow cooker, add the rest of the ingredients and enough water to just cover the jackfruit. Set the cooker for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. The jackfruit should be fork tender and come apart easily. Set aside to cool.

For Serving
1 package of steamed buns, available at the Asian grocery store
Hoisin sauce or vegetarian oyster sauce
2 green onions, julienned
1/2 bunch of cilantro (optional)

Heat up the buns according to the package directions. Open up a bun, spread a bit of the Hoisin sauce on, add some of the jackfruit and a few pieces of the green onion strips or cilantro sprigs. Close bun and eat.

Spicy Mushroom Cocktail

Spicy Mushroom Cocktail

After having so much fun eating fondue, I was wondering what else do people eat with a tiny fork. Shrimp cocktail comes to mind. Back in the day, my family and I used to order this appetizer a lot. It was a classic starter at many of the American cuisine type of restaurants around the area.

Of course, I don’t eat shrimp nowadays. Instead, king oyster mushrooms are smothered in a cocktail sauce with cilantro and jalapeno. It’s got the same spicy, tangy, ketchup-tomatoey taste that I remember. Perfect for a nice trip down memory lane or a fancy dinner if you don’t have such memories.

Spicy Mushroom Cocktail
Serves 2

1/2 pound king oyster mushrooms
Olive oil
Salt to taste

Cocktail Sauce
1/2 cup fresh tomatoes chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1 lime, juiced
1 small jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 sprig of cilantro, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Clean the mushrooms and slice into 1/8″ rounds on the diagonal. If the slices are on the large size, cut them into smaller pieces to fit into whatever you’re serving it in.

In a wok or pan, heat until hot and add just enough olive oil to coat. Add the mushrooms and salt to taste, sauté until soft, slightly wilted and golden around the edges. Set aside to cool.

Combine the cocktail sauce ingredients in a bowl and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Add the mushrooms to the bowl and mix well. To serve, spoon into a cocktail or parfait glass and top with a lime garnish.

Cantaloupe Carpaccio

Cantaloupe Carpaccio

With cantaloupes in peak season, I thought now would be a perfect time to try this melon carpaccio recipe from Gourmet. But as usual, I made a couple of changes.

I didn’t use the tarragon called for in the recipe. I had mistakenly bought sage instead of tarragon (this is what happens when I don’t make a shopping list). So the tarragon got left out and I knew better than to throw the sage leaves on there. I did add thinly julienne veggie bbq pork, for more of a savory contrast to the sweetness of the cantaloupe. It’s so good and so easy to make.

Cantaloupe Carpaccio

The secret is in the selection of a nice ripe cantaloupe. I employ the smell test. Give the cantaloupe a good sniff, if it’s ripe it should smell very sweet and very aromatic and you’ll know it’ll be very tasty.

Spicy Mushroom Hand Roll

Spicy Mushroom Hand Roll

I love sushi but I’m getting a little tired of the same ol’ avocado roll, the ubiquitous cucumber roll or a variation of pretty much the same vegetables in a combination roll. I have been to a few Japanese restaurants that do have innovative veggie rolls, but those are usually the exception.

It just seems like the possibilities for creating new and interesting veggie sushi is endless and really unexplored. So I’m going to venture forward and give it a shot myself.

For this first attempt, I didn’t have any sushi rice and knew better than to try to substitute it with long grain rice. I made a hand roll instead with king oyster mushrooms in a spicy sauce, avocado, cucumber and romaine lettuce.

I was very happy and pleased with this taste combination. It’s got a nice balance between the spicy and the cool, the chewy and the crunchy.

But I do need to work on my nori toasting technique – 1. I almost burned myself waving it around a flame 2. The nori did catch on fire (it was quickly put out) and 3. Now it smells all burnt-like in the kitchen.

Despite all that, I believe it’s a successful, good start.

Jackfruit Carnitas Taquitos

Jackfruit Carnitas Taquitos

I had some jackfruit leftover from when I made Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos. Instead of having more tacos, I made taquitos with the jackfruit. Taquito means “little taco”. They’re similar to tacos in that it’s a savory filled corn tortilla but it’s rolled up so it’s neater and easier to eat.

Baked until crispy and served with an avocado green sauce, it has a very satisfying crunch. The thin green sauce (it’s suppose to be thin) provides a creamy and refreshing contrast to the slightly spicy filling.

Jackfruit Carnitas Taquitos
Makes 5 taquitos

5 six inch corn tortillas
1 cup jackfruit carnitas filling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Soften the tortillas by microwaving for 30 seconds between wet paper towels so they’re soft and easy to roll. Spoon about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the jackfruit across a tortilla and roll tightly. Stick a toothpick in the middle to keep it closed. Repeat with each of the tortillas. Place on a oiled baking pan.

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes on each side until crispy. Remove the toothpicks and serve with Avocado Green Sauce for dipping.

Jackfruit Carnitas Taquitos

Avocado Green Sauce
Makes about 1 cup

1/2 ripe Hass avocado, chopped
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine ingredients and blend until smooth. Chill for for 30 minutes to an hour if desired or serve immediately.

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