Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Char Kway Teow

This popular dish from the hawker stalls of Malaysia is my current favorite way to eat fried noodles.  You really get to play with you food from the get-go with this recipe which makes it fun.  You start by opening the package you see on the right, and separating the strands of noodles and putting them on a platter.
(Get your honey to help you and make dinner a collaboration.)
Besides getting tactile with the noodles, I love the silky texture of the mouth-feel you get with these.  These are not like any other noodle I have ever eaten or cooked with.
Look for these up by the register of your local Asian or Southeast Asian market.  (The fresher, the better.)
A word about ingredients:
The original recipe calls for blood cockles and you can usually find them in the frozen food section of your local Asian or Southeast Asian market.  They are precooked and only need to have hot water poured on them to open and then are easily removed.  I however cannot stand the taste of them.  I ended up picking mine out and tossing them.  I may try again if I can find them fresh the next time I am in Chinatown or one of the shops on Clement or (better yet) Irving St.  I just doubled up on the shrimp in the recipe I came across, leaving out another traditional component.
The person who told me about Char Kwey Teow told me that where he lives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that the dish comes with Chinese beef sausage as opposed to rump steak, which I used. (Malaysia has a large Muslim population and the consumption of pork is forbidden in the religion) which I could not find anywhere.  If you have no opposition to it, you may use Chinese style sausages in your version.  (If you happen to find yourself in Chinatown in San Francisco, a few places make their own barbecue pork sausages which are many times better than the ones you buy pre-packaged.)

Char Kway Teow

1 lb fresh flat rice noodles (available in Asian markets)
3-4 red chilies, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 oz round steak or rump steak, sliced thin
8 oz prawns, peeled and deveined
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons light soy
8 oz fresh mung bean sprouts, cleaned and trimmed
1/2 bunch Chinese garlic chives, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon kecap manis (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Unravel noodles and set aside on a plate. Grind chilies and garlic to a rough paste.
Heat oil in a wok or large skillet. Fry paste taking care not to burn. Add meat and stir-fry until cooked. Add shrimp and shrimp and stir-fry until just underdone
Add a pinch of sugar and the light soy and mix well.
Add noodles and stir-fry until coated with the mixture.
Add bean sprouts, chives and kecap manis and toss until everything is mixed. (Do not over-cook bean sprouts; they should have a crunch in them)
Add water or more kecap manis, if you wish.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Stuffed Artichokes

My inspiration for stuffed artichokes comes from my mom's old neighbor, Tony, a man who, although he has been in The US and Canada since he was 19 years old, still sounds like he just got off the boat from Palermo.  The first time I had one of his stuffed artichokes was a number of years ago when he invited us to his house for dinner.  I was more than a little eager having heard about some of the wonderful things he made.   I was not disappointed.  After snacking on various veggies, bread, cheese and salami, we were ushered into the dining room where we were met with a huge platter of very large artichokes bursting with a stuffing of breadcrumbs, garlic, cheese and peas.  Satisfied and ready for some after dinner chat and wine, I was astonished when Tony and his wife, Jillian, excused themselves to fetch the entree.
Yes, this is the Italian way, or at least the Sicilian way, as I later learned.  When one course is finished, another is brought to the table.  (Several years after, I would encounter the same practice in Sicily and be just as amazed each time it occurred.)
These are big enough to make a perfect luncheon or a light supper.  Anyway you decided to do it, I hope you will celebrate Spring this time around by serving these stuffed artichokes.

Stuffed Artichokes

4 artichokes
1 1/2 cups plain, dry breadcrumbs
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
2/3 cup cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup Parmesan or pecorino cheese
Chili flakes (optional)

Mix the bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, anchovies and salt and pepper together. Add enough olive oil to moisten.
Holding the stem, smash each artichoke against the counter top to open up the leaves.  With a teaspoon, dig out the inedible choke in the center and discard.
Remove the stems. Peel and finely dice and add to breadcrumb mixture.
Add the peas and cheese.
Fill between leaves and inner cavity.
Drizzle with some olive oil and place upright in the bottom of a pan.
Add enough water to come up about 2 inches.
Sprinkle with chili flakes (if using) in the water and turn on heat. Once the water boils, turn it down to a simmer and steam for 40-45 min adding more water if needed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Calamari and Pasta

Since I had a crazy cartoon shrimp for my shrimp sauce entry in this week's blog, I thought I'd better add one for my calamari and pasta recipe as well.
By the expression in his eyes, this little squid has an idea about his fate. Ah, no greater love hath a squid then to lay down his life for a tasty plate of pasta.

When you buy squid, you can save yourself some money by cleaning it yourself which is not that difficult.  My sister and I pulled a few calamari cleaning marathons a few months ago in Arizona when we (I?) bought quite a bit of nice looking calamari at a good price.  Some went into fried calamari and some went into calamari and angel hair pasta, one of my favorite ways to have this and very simple as well.

You can cut back (or leave out, if you wish) the red chili flakes if you want to cut down on the heat.

 Angel Hair Pasta with Calamari Sauce

1/2 pound calamari cleaned and sliced into rings, tentacles
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons chili flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
14 oz can tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
grated pecorino*

Heat olive oil in large skillet and add calamari, garlic and chili flakes. Cook stirring on medium high heat until calamari firm up and garlic turns a light golden. Add wine and let bubble away for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and mash with back of spoon. Cook at a gentle but constant simmer for about twenty-five minutes mashing tomato until broken up.
Meanwhile, boil pasta in plenty of salted water until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain well and add to skillet tossing well in the sauce.
Add chopped parsley and toss again. Serve with pecorino on the side.

* Yes, I know that it is considered gauche in some circles to serve  grated cheese with seafood but I would rather be ridiculed than go without.  And, yes, I have asked for grated cheese for seafood pasta in Italy and was graciously obliged without the merest hint of a flinch on my server's face.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pink Shrimp Sauce

I spend way too  much time looking for a picture of the recipe for Pink Shrimp Sauce over fresh papardelle which I definitely remember having and vaguely remember deleting because I didn't like the way it looked.  So I ended up using this picture that looks like the love child of a shrimp and a lobster.  (These things frighten me.  But I am sure the Frankenfood folks are working on it even as I type.)  But I will not bother you further with my freakish pondering but move ahead with this delicious recipe for what has to be my favorite seafood because of the way it lends itself to so many different treatments this pasta sauce, from Essentials of Italian Classic Cooking by Marcella Hazan being but one.
This works well on dried boxed linguine but I really like it best on a homemade papardelle.

Pink Shrimp Sauce with Cream

1/2 pound medium shrimp
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 cup dry white wine (I use vermouth)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cream
1 pound pasta
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Shell shrimp and cut in half lengthwise
Saute garlic and olive oil in a saucepan briefly. Add tomato paste/wine solution and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes
Add shrimp, salt and pepper and increase heat to medium high cooking just until shrimp are done. Remove pan from heat.
Remove 2/3 of the shrimp and puree them in a food processor.
Return them to the pan and reheat. Add cream and cook for about one minute. Taste and correct for seasoning.
Toss with pasta, add parsley and serve

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sicilian Pesto

This picture is so reminiscent of Sicily to me.  A narrow walkway in a 13th Century town typifies so many places on the island.  The ancient stone walls seem to whisper to each other they are so close and have been sharing the same small space for so long.
As old as the walls are, the tastes and aromas of Sicily is even older.  Herbs growing wild on the roadside combined with the nuts and olive oil that are produced in great quantity lend themselves to the exotic and delicious pesto that seems as far away in style and taste as the Ligurian version most of us are used to.  But I actually like this as a break from the Pesto Genovese which has found its way into everything from pasta, to chicken breasts to pizzas and beyond.  I find the Sicilian version much more rustic and interesting.
This recipe comes from the book, La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio by Wanda and Giovanna Thornebenne.  I like this because the "kick" in this recipe is produced by the addition of arugula instead of chili flakes.

Spaghetti with Arugula Pesto 

4 cups loosely packed fresh arugula, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
4 medium-sized tomatoes, peeled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon butter
Parmesan or pecorino cheese

Place the arugula, garlic, walnuts, olive oil and one of the tomatoes (chopped) in the bowl of a food processor and process to desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Dice remaining  tomatoes.
Mix a little sauce and the butter in the bowl in which the pasta will be served.
Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water and drain reserving one cup of the cooking liquid.
Place pasta, half the sauce and half the diced tomatoes in the serving bowl and toss gently.
Add the rest of the sauce and tomatoes and toss again using a some of the cooking liquid to loosen the sauce if needed.
Serve and pass cheese.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Calabrian Spaghetti

As I mentioned on the show this past Monday, I don't know if this recipe has actual roots in (or connections to) Calabrian cooking.  But I do know that it is on my A-list of spicy pasta sauces and my #1 favorite pasta leftover to find its way into a frittata. (Just add some cheese and you have a winner!)
Adjust the seasonings to your liking but do give this a try.  You are going to love it!

Calabrian Spaghetti

1 pound spaghetti
1/4 pound sopressata, sliced and julienned
1/2 cup Calamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes (or 1 dried Calabrian chili chopped)
1/3 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 2/3 cups passata or 1 28-oz can tomatoes chopped or passed through a food mill
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and sauté the garlic until it starts to get fragrant.  Add chili flakes, sopressata and Calamata olives and cook for a few minutes.  Deglaze with the red wine and add the tomatoes.  Reduce sauce slightly and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with pecorino or Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Yes, I know it is a funny name (for obvious reasons) so I want to include this picture so my northern Italians friends will know that this little town in Sicily is actually called Caccamo and that I did not misspell or mispronounce another name.  The name means, the head of the horse.  (And you thought that was just something out of the Godfather....hehehe)  The little town is located in the western part of Sicily in the province of Palermo.  The cookie for this entry, though (Piparelli) is far east of there from Messina and is a Lenten favorite in the region according to the book Sweet Sicily by Victoria Granof.  One of the key elements in this biscotto is the orange peel and I would encourage you to make your own.  You will be amazed at how much better you can do it than the factory that puts them in the plastic containers and sells them for a price so steep that you would swear gold was used in the ingredients. I hope you will take advantage of the link to make your own.  These wonderful cookies deserve no less!
Candied Orange Peel


4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup orange blossom honey
2 egg whites (kept separate)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel
1 cup unblanched whole almonds

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Grease a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar and honey.  Add 1 of the egg whites and mix until evenly blended.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices into another bowl and add the butter mixture, stirring until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in the orange peel and almonds until evenly dispersed.  Divide the dough into 3 pieces and form each piece into a log 8"x2".  Place the logs 3 inches apart on the greased baking sheet.  Beat the remaining egg white and lightly brush the top of egg log with it.

Bake the logs for 20 to 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.  Slice the logs 1/4 inch thick and lay the cookies on the baking sheet.  Return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes to dry out.  The cookies will become crisp as they cool so do not overbake them.  Cool on a rack.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Biscotti di Zia Sarina

I really wanted to put a picture of the book, Sweet Sicily by Victoria Granof, on this entry but for some reason my computer, or Chrome or Blogspot didn't think it such a good idea so I am including a photo of the church of St George, the protector of Caccamo, Sicily, and the town's famed castle here instead.  Not a bad substitution, I think. Except that it makes me long for Sicily.  When that happens, I can only go back through my photographs, relive  in my mind the happy times had there and, of course, make some Sicilian food to soothe that part of my heart that sometimes aches for Italy.
The first cookie I featured on last Monday's show, was this one that is simple in taste and texture.  Perfect with an afternoon cup of coffee or that accompaniment to the morning espresso to kick-start your day!

Aunt Sarina's Biscotti

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons tangerine liqueur*, orange liqueur or orange juice
Pinch of salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cups 00 flour if available)
1/2 cup blanched whole almonds, toasted

In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light.  Beat in the egg, vanilla, liqueur and salt and mix well.  Stir in the flour followed by the almonds.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a minute or so.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each into a log 10"x1.5".  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two  hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°F

Slice into 1/2 inch cookies and place of ungreased baking sheets 2 inches apart.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from sheets and cool on a rack.
*Sweet Sicily has a very good Tangerine Liqueur recipe on page 199.  It is very simple and very good.