Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lemon Thyme Bars

I watched Giada make this on Giada at home couple of weeks back, and decided to give it a shot so we'd have some fresh lemon bars for the in-laws to have for breakfast or to snack on during the day.

Thyme is usually an ingredient used for savory cooking, but its fragrance really goes so well with lemon! My final product looked much more rustic than the image shown on the site and on TV, but it was still delicious! Its made with a stick of butter, but the lemon citrus really cuts through it and you don't taste any "buttery" bars at all, especially after storing in an air-tight container for a couple of days. I also added lemon zest for some extra flavor and garnish

Butter, for greasing dish
Flour, for dusting dish

Lemon Bars:
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Lemon zest, a handful

Sweet lemon sugar glaze:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish.
Making the lemon thyme bars:
In a small bowl combine flour, thyme and salt. Set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together 1 stick of butter and powdered sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Using damp fingers, press the dough into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes until golden. Cool for 30 minutes.

Making the glaze:
In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice and powdered sugar together until smooth. Spoon the glaze over the cooled crust. Top with lemon zest for flavor and color. Allow the glaze to harden, at room temperature, for at least 1 hour. I cooled it overnight.

Using a metal spatula, remove the crust from the pan. Cut into 1 1/2-inch square bars and arrange on a serving platter or store airtight in a plastic container at room temperature.

3 ingredient pasta

Simplicity is the best!

Just 3 ingredients to make a delicious pasta dish. You can easily find these ingredients in your fridge and pantry any day, and whip up a comforting and yummy meal...You can find that each bite oozes out fresh tomato juice, a hint of smoked bacon, and hits back with a peppery flare. Nothing can get easier and tastier than this!

3 simple ingredients:

one chopped garlic
one slice of bacon, sliced in pieces
cherry tomatoes

and of course, pasta
olive oil

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Traditional Lasagne

With the in-laws visiting, one of the best things is having traditional italian homemade food.
Tuesday night, Michele's dad Gennaro made traditional lasagne from scratch! I've never had so much lasagne my whole life...boy was it a HUGE piece per person. However, it was really light, because it was not covered in alot of cheese nor sinking in marinara sauce. It contains the usual italian produce: tomatoes, parsley, carrots and celery, and of course, light mozzarela cheese. It was not greasy or heavy.

After Italian class, I learned that the singular form is lasagna, but since its a lot of lasagna, the plural form is lasagne. Just like panini - there is no such thing as paninis....panino is the singular form, and panini is the plural form. So here is the recipe of Gennaro's traditional lasagne:

lasagne sheets
tomato sauce
diced celery and carrots
one pack of ground pork
one pack of ground veal
one egg
mozzarella cheese


In a pot of boiling water, add salt and cook the lasagne sheets, and lay them on a flat surface seperately
In a medium bowl, stir together the pork, veal with the egg and parsley. Sprinkle salt and pepper. pinch the mixture into small meatballs, and cook them with olive oil in a saute pan. Remove from pan, into a bowl and set aside. In a pot with olive oil, cook the diced carrots and celery with the tomato sauce, and add parsley.
Dice the mozzarella and leave in a bowl.
In a lasagne baking dish, layer the lasagne, with the pasta sheet on the bottom. sprinkle cheese, meatballs, and top with tomato sauce. Repeat with as many layers you want. Broil in the oven for 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let it sit and cool down. Cut into squares and serve!

The pasta sheets absorbs the sauce even more overnight. Reheat and eating next day is also very tasty.

Aren't these huge slices?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

homemade steak night, Italian style

Steak, sausage, marinated peppers and artichokes with stuffed cheese
Michele's dad Gennaro was inspired by the huge steaks we have been seeing at the Texas grocery stores. So he broiled some steak up, made two sides: marinated peppers and artichokes with stuffed cheese.

The interesting thing about the steak is that there was absolutely no seasoning or salt that went on the steak before he popped it into the oven. Italians, especially traditional ones, really enjoy their meats with no extra flavoring or seasoning, so the meat itself really is the star of the dish. When I saw him pop the steak to broil with no seasoning, we asked why didn't he rub in any salt or pepper? His reply was that was the American way of cooking... =p

Marinated pepper mix:

red, yellow and orange peppers
parsley, chopped
garlic, cut into halves
olive oil

Lay the peppers onto a baking tray, and roast them in the oven, turning them occasionally.
Remove from oven and when the peppers are cooled, gently peel the burnt skin, and slice the peppers into strips.
In a bowl, top the peppers with parsley, garlic, olive oil and salt. Stir together and let the peppers sit for a couple of hours. Best even overnight in the fridge. The peppers become so sweet and tasty! I loved the peppers. I will have to make them some time on my own....

Carciofi Ripieni (Stuffed Artichokes)

Wash the artichokes and allow to dry upside down to drain. Cut the stems straight across, leaving a level base so the artichokes will stand upright.
Remove the tough outer leaves at the base and cut about 1/2" off the tips of the remaining leaves.
With a sharp knife, slice the top of the artichokes straight across, taking off about 1".
Tap them firmly on a hard surface to force the center leaves slightly open.
Fill the artichokes with good cheese and garlic, placing some in the center and tucking some between the spread leaves. Close the leaves gently and arrange the artichokes closely together in a pot

Pour olive oil over the artichokes, season with salt and pepper. Heat and stir occasionally for 30 - 40 minutes and let it sit. The artichokes should be soft.

Our dinner spread!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

(Kasutera) Japanese Sponge Cake 蜂蜜蛋糕

When we are in Italy visiting Michele’s parents, there is always a lot of cakes , cookies and deserts in their house. Perhaps its because we visit around the holidays, that’s why there are all sorts of Pandoro, Panettones, endless pastries, cookies and chocolate around.

However, since they have such a sweet tooth I thought its better to be prepared…because the in-laws are arriving to our place tonight! So I baked a cake with ingredients we already have at home: honey , eggs, sugar and flour….simple 5 – 6 ingredients makes a delicious Japanese honey sponge cake, Kasutera
Kasutera ( bread from Castile) is a specialty in Nagasaki Japan, but the cake is originally from Spain. It was brought to the Japanese port Nagasaki in the 16th century by the Portuguese...

What makes a sponge cake yummy is when its light and fluffy. Make sure you beat the eggs until its frothy, and when adding dry ingredients, gently fold them in. Baking this cake is so easy and also delightful. The colors are golden happy yellows, and really brightens up my mood!

5 eggs
2/3 cp caster superfine sugar
¼ cup of honey
¾ teaspoon of baking powder
¾ cup plan all purpose flour
confectioners sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a medium bowl, beat eggs until frothy, then gradually beat in sugar and honey . Continue beating until the mixture is thick and pale and the beaters leave a ribbon, about 12 minutes.

Sift the baking powder and flour together, then sift then in a bowl

Gently fold the dry ingredients into egg mixture until just combined, then carefully pour mixture into prepared cake dish/ tin
Bake for 30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Dust with icing sugar and cut into squares before serving

Monday, April 13, 2009

Troppo cioccolata cupcakes

Troppo Chococlate cupcakes!

Chocolate chip and mascaporne cupcakes, with chocolate ganache

I was inspired by one of Giada’s cupcake recipes…I subsitituted her recipe’s chocolate chips with half semi sweet and half milk chocolate chips, and added grand marnier to the ganache.
To dip the cupcakes in the ganache, its easy to work when you have an abundance of it…but what do you do with leftover gananche? Here’s a link of what you can do with leftover ganache…However, I ended up dipping a banana into the ganache and freezing it in the fridge, and left the rest in the freezer…hoping one of these days I can make a chocolate mousse.

This was made for April's birthday... hope her wishes come true!

5 ounces of unsweetened chococlate, chopped
1 cup water
1/3 cup mascaporne cheese, at room temp
2 ¼ cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup of semi sweet chocolate chips
½ cup of milk chocolate chips

1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
½ grand marnier

Makes 24 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.
Combine the unsweetened chocolate and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes. Whisk in the mascarpone cheese until the mixture is smooth. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla iextract n a large bowl for 30 seconds. Stir in the mascarpone mixture.
In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and chocolate chips (semi sweet and milk chocolate) in a medium bowl.
Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture. Stir until just blended. Divide the batter into muffin pans. Allow the mixture to sit in the muffin pans for about 20 minutes, so the cupcakes will poof up pretty after its baked.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with no crumbs attached. Cool the cupcakes completely before dipping, about 1 hour.
For the Ganache:
Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl. Combine heavy cream, vanilla extract and grand marnier in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until small bubbles appear on the outside edge of the cream. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate chips. Using a fork, gently stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Dip the tops of each cupcake in the ganache and transfer to a baking sheet. Place the dipped cupcakes in the refrigerator to set, about 15 to 20 minutes. I like the ganache a little hard so I eat the cupcake from the fridge. However, you can also bring the cupcake to a room temperature before serving as well, for a melted chocolate.

Happy Birthday April MA!

台南擔仔麵 for a Chinese picnic

Our Chinese picnic date...

One of Michele's favorite Taiwanese dish is 擔仔麵. Since it's been gorgeous outside and for the fear of the summer getting too hot, we thought it best to seize the moment for an outdoor picnic dinner. For a more traditional version of Danzai mien, refer here. I did not use the traditional yellow noodles nor did I soak dry mushrooms, but here goes:

Ground pork
Ground turkey
chicken stock
soy sauce
rice wine
rock sugar
sesame oil
white pepper
pack of noodles
spring onions
hard boiled eggs
chili sauce, if needed
Prepare hard boiled eggs in advanced. Peel the egg shell and save only the two boiled eggs.

In a small pot of chicken stock, quickly boil the prawns just until they turn color and remove from the pot. Peel the prawns, and save the peeled prawns in a seperate bowl. Save the shell and put back into the pot, to make a prawn stock.
In a seperate frying pan, use oil to saute garlic and shallots, until they turn color. Add in ground pork and ground turkey, pour in soy sauce, rice wine, and rock sugar. Stir and break down the meat at the same time. Lay the hard boiled egg in the mixture, and cover with the lid. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp stock if the juice dry out.

In a pot of boiling water, cook the noodles. When the noodles are ready, lay in a bowl.
On top of the noodles, pour in the sauce, and top with prawns, egg and spring onions, and chili sauce.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

tiny white sardine and egg fried rice

Back at home, I love Shirasu, which are baby white sardines. I was able to find a small frozen packet at a Japanese grocery store and made egg fried rice with them. Be sure to use overnight rice to make good fried rice, for each grain to be hardened and seperated.

overnight rice
chopped garlic
soy sauce
green onions
2 eggs, beaten
sesame oil

In a frying pan, use sesame oil to cook chopped garlic and shirasu. Stir fry with soy suace and sugar until the white fish has turned to a brown color. Scoop up and put in a bowl.

Return to the frying pan, pour 1 tablespoon of oil and add the rice, breaking it into pieces with a spatula. Add the stir-fried Shirasu back into the rice mixture. and then add the two eggs, stirring constantly, to make egg fried rice. When the egg pieces are cooked, turn off heat and stir in chopped spring onions. Serve warm!