Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Easy Weeknight Dinner: Turkey and Avocado Donburi

While basking in the brief respite of the weekend, I got into a discussion with a couple of friends about finding time to cook. Most of them, being students like me, usually resort to either eating cafeteria food (which is ultra expensive) or standing in line at 'Pickles and Fries'(we sell burgers too!). I don't particularly like Pickles and/or Fries. I'm also extremely nitpicky when it comes to paying $6.75 for an organic BLT at the cafeteria. One way I've found to get around this is to make sure your freezer and pantry is always well stocked with a good selection of grains and meat, and you can whip anything up - for example a donburi.

Donburi is basically a Japanese fast food made up of a rice bowl topped with a mixture of ingredients (usually meat and vege mixed together). This donburi recipe is super easy, involves a relatively quick stir-fry and is finished off with fresh cubed avocado and tobiko (flying fish roe). Of course, you can omit the tobiko if you're not incline to eat fish eggs. Otherwise, the tobiko lends a subtle salty flavor that complements the rice and avocado really well!

Turkey and Avocado Donburi
Serves 4

2 cups genmai (Japanese brown rice)

1 lb lean ground turkey
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced into 1/4" cubes to yield about 1 cup
1 stalk green onion/scallions
1 cup frozen peas
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed into 1/4" cubes
1 small jar tobiko (from any Japanese grocery store)

For the sauce
2 tbsp sweet bean sauce *
2 tbsp mirin *
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp sweet soy sauce
Ground black pepper

Cook the rice according to directions for your rice cooker or the directions on the packet. 2 cups of dry genmai should yield about 4 cups cooked.

In a wok or saute pan, heat up a generous amount of vegetable or extra light olive oil. Fry the ground turkey for about 4 minutes until the pink parts start to turn white. Make sure you break up the ground meat properly with a heavy wooden spatula. Add in the garlic fry until the turkey is almost cooked through. Add in all the ingredients for the sauce and mix to combine. Toss in the diced red pepper, peas and scallions. Fry for another 2 minutes and turn the heat off.

To serve, arrange on cup of rice in a bowl, top with turkey mixture, avocado cubes and a teaspoon of tobiko.

* You can use the sweet bean sauce found at the Chinese section of the grocery aisle or for a more authentic flavor, use shiro miso (sweet miso).
* If you don't have mirin, just substitute with equal part rice wine and sugar.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Easy Weeknight Dinner: Penne with Zucchini, Peas and Sausages

It's midweek, work is tiring and all you want to do is put your feet up, sink into a glass of wine and have a nice dinner when you get home. Pasta is perfect for those days when you really don't feel like doing anything but don't really feel like having take outs either. Let's face it, you can throw ANYTHING together with a handful of whole wheat pasta and make a delicious meal out of it. The trick is to add a good helping of vegetables to make it a wholesome meal. This recipe is one that I go back to time after time especially during this wonderful spring season when the weather is warm and meat sauces just seem to heavy. Zucchini and peas lend a refreshing amount of greens while cherry tomatoes, sausages and creme fraiche add a sophisticated touch for a simple yet delicious and healthy weeknight dinner.

Penne with Zucchini, Peas and Sausages
Serves 2

4 oz. whole wheat penne
1 stalk green garlic or 1 whole garlic clove, minced finely *see note
1 mild Italian sausage link, sliced thinly on the diagonal (about 1/4" thick)
1 medium zucchini, sliced thinly on the diagonal (about 1/4" thick)
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tbsp creme fraiche, mascarpone cheese or cream cheese
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
A generous helping of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt and pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cook the penne according to the directions on the package.

Meanwhile, heat a generous amount of the olive oil in a saute pan (I used roughly 1 tbsp) over low heat. Toss in the minced garlic and saute for a one minute and add in the sliced sausages. Brown the sausages for a few minutes and add in the zucchini. Sprinkle with some salt and turn the heat up to medium. Saute the zucchini and sausages until the zucchini is softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the peas. Cook for 1 minute.

Turn the heat down to low, add in the cooked pasta, creme fraiche, cherry tomatoes and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and toss everything together to combine. Spoon out into bowls and serve with grated Parmigiano. Enjoy with a good glass of slightly chilled Chardonnay!

*Note: Green garlic which came in my CSA is like scallions but is actually the young stalk and bulb of a garlic. It has a milder taste than full grown garlic. If using green garlic, discard the yellow stalks and dark green leaves. Use the bulb and the light green parts of the stalk.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

No-Fail Potato Salad for Memorial Day Weekend

The everlasting potato salad: always up there with zucchini bread, lemon cake, grilled salmon and hamburgers as things that will never ever go away. Everyone has a generational recipe handed down in sworn secrecy; everyone has that special potato salad recipe that they bring to potlucks and smile gently knowing that it's THE best potato salad ever.

But the truth is, sometimes, there are those potato salads that just look (and taste) like horse puke. Yes, those kind smothered in so much mayonnaise, topped off with so much hard-boiled eggs, and mashed into such fine pulp it feels like you're swallowing a vat of lard-soaked bread. I don't particularly like potatoes , but when the CSA came around with a beautiful looking bunch, I knew I had to make the one simple dish that has never failed me.

I used an eggless mayo (only 35 calories per tablespoon!) from Trader Joe's that gives the potato salad a slight creaminess, but you can use low-fat mayo instead. Or even better, just use more mustard and top if off with olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. Try this for your Memorial Day weekend barbecue with said everlasting hamburgers, lemon cake and lots and lots of wheat beer. It's perfect especially for the American Craft Beer Week happening now. And just to make sure it's no-fail, here's everything you need to know:

Sweet relish, egg-free mayo, whole grain mustard, potatoes, white wine vinegar, onion, celery, parsley and spring onion

Chop celery and onions

Quarter cooked potatoes

Mix remaining ingredients

Keep away from neighbours

Konosur's No-Fail Potato Salad
Makes six 1-cup servings

2 lbs new red potatoes, scrubbed, skin on
2 stalks celery ribs
1/4 large red onion, diced yield 1/2 cup
2 tbsp sweet relish
3 tbsp egg-free mayonnaise (substitute with low fat mayonnaise if not available)
1.5 tbsp whole-grain mustard
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 stalk spring onions, chopped

In a large pot, cover the potatoes with enough cold water so that the potatoes are all submerged. Bring the water to a boil, cover and bring the heat down to medium-low so that the water is still rolling but not boiling over. Cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes and prick with a fork to make sure the middle is cooked through. Otherwise, cook for another 5 minutes and check again.

In the meantime, finely chop the celery and combine with the minced onions in a large bowl. When the potatoes are cook, discard the boiling water and run some cold water over them for about 1 minute. Allow to cool until you can touch them and then quarter them, leaving the skins on. Toss the quartered potatoes in the bowl with the celery and onions. Add in all the remaining ingredients and very gently toss to combine, making sure that you don't break up the potatoes.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rye Crackers & some website updates

My friends..., well, ok. That's not the best way to start, I stopped being John McCain about a week ago, but yes. Dear readers, there is news on Konosur! I've decided to change the web design into something more pretentious that will hopefully work out for the best. Please let me know if you find the design to your liking or if you prefer the former, sparse design.

In other news, you can now follow my mundane musings on Twitter. I've decided to jump on the social hipster bandwagon and do the Tweet (that's right, it's a dance where you put your left leg in the air and press the keys on your cellphone really fast). So far I've been twitting tweeting about my disastrous viewing of 'Australia' but I promise to provide more susbtantial 140-character ramblings in the future.

Here's a healthy recipe (sort of) for some rye crackers that would go absolutely fantastic with some goat cheese, a bottle of Cotes du Rhone and a living room discussion about the silliness of 140-character ramblings nobody really cares about.

Rye Crackers
Makes about 16 2x4 inch crackers

1 cup unbleached rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp caraway seeds OR toasted sesame seeds(optional)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup and 1 tbsp cold water
Flaky sea salt like Maldon (I used an Australian Pink Flake Sea Salt)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, salt and caraway or sesame seeds. Make a well in the center and add in the olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, swirl the flour towards the center into the olive oil to combine. Drizzle cold water slowly into the mixture, stirring until a ball of dough forms. The dough will be crumbly but still holding together.

Divide the dough mixture into two. For each half, roll out into a rough square about 1/8 inch thick. Try to roll it out as thin as you can, dusting lightly with whole wheat flour to prevent sticking. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Place the rolled-out dough onto the prepared baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cut into rectangular crackers with a pizza cutter. Repeat for the remaining dough.

Cool the crackers completely and store in airtight containers for up to 4 days.
Note: The crackers are soft and crumbly, to make it harder, bake for a little longer at 325°F.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A heart to heart and some Flambeed Pineapple and Coconut Cakes

I had a conversation a couple of days with someone about running a food blog. The biggest issue I think for most food bloggers is being able to find time in the middle of a hectic day. This is especially true for those without all the fancy studio lighting - you have to be at home in the middle of the day just to get a half decent photograph. I usually try to get to school early, work like crazy and take off at 3.30pm so I can catch the last glimmer of light. I'm really anal about making sure I finish work before I leave though, and lately that has gotten quite irksome and tedious.

The one thing I've noticed about successful blogs like The Pioneer Woman, Smitten Kitchen, Tartelette, etc. etc. is that most of them either work from home or live a life where they are supposed to cooking all the time. They're all chefs, food writers or stay-at-home photographers. It can get quite disheartening after a while especially if you're trying to match your point-and-shoot with the cameras that these bloggers have that can trace Martian life and pick up radar pulses from the next galaxy.

I run a food blog because I love cooking and eating, I love having things come out of the oven and being able to look at it like an incredible achievement (I HATE baking bread because it takes too damn long!). It makes me happy when people tell me they like my cooking, or better yet, when they tell me my personal recipes are their favourites. Does that make me shallow and selfish in some way? Perhaps, but then I'm happy when the people I'm feeding are happy. And if I dare say, about 80% of the time think I am able to make a given recipe a whole lot healthier without compromising on taste (take that, Ina Garten!).

So why do you run a food blog? I think it's an interesting discussion and I would like to know why you do what you do!

In the meantime, enjoy a cautionary video of me trying hard not to burn down the house (and the dog) while making flambeed pineapples! May include some profanity and a barking dog. No animals or fingers were hurt in the making of this video.

Flambeed Pineapple and Coconut Cakes
Makes about 24 little coconut cakes, 4 servings
Adapted from The Organic Seasonal Cookbook

For the coconut cakes
3 oz. (about 2 cups) unsweetened coconut flakes (I used a reduced fat kind from Whole Foods)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 stick butter (vegan option, use Earth Balance or Saffola), melted and cooled slightly
1 egg, beaten

For the flambeed pineapples
1 tbsp butter
2 15 oz. cans of pineapple chunks in juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Carribean rum or light rum

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the coconut and sugar. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter, stirring to combine. Add in the beaten egg and use a spatula to mix together the ingredients.

Use a dariole mold or a shot glass (I used a 2cl jigger!) to mold the coconut mixture into little pyramids on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes until the coconut cakes are browned.

To make the flambeed pineapples, melt the butter in a stainless steel or cast iron pan. Strain the pineapple chunks to discard the juice and saute the chunks over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add in the sugar and cook for another 4 minutes until the pineapples start to caramelize and are soft but not mushy. Pour in the rum and give the pan a quick shake, and set the rum alight (Be careful here! Please remember to stand back from the flames and don't attempt this if you're not quick!).

Serve with the little coconut cakes and vanilla ice cream when the flames have died down.