Mar 30, 2022

Spaghettini con la Bottarga (To Be Exact, Asian Karasumi)

Let it be bottarga or karasumi, these two are basically western and Asian variations of salted and cured fish roe, and mullet roe is the most common one. The cooking method is basically the same and doesn't matter if you are using bottarga or karasumi. Even the waxed version, simply remove the wax and prep the fish roe as this recipe instructs.


Spaghettini con la bottarga/Asian karasumi -


Spaghettini con la bottarga/karasumi


Ingredients (about 2 to 3 portions)?

  • 250 grams spaghettini
  • 250 grams colorful cherry tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • half piece bottarga/karasumi 
  • Some Chinese rice cooking wine
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Some salt
  • Small bundle flat leaf parsley


How? 

If you're using waxed bottarga, remove the wax first. Wipe some Chinese rice cooking wine, or dry white wine on both sides of the cured fish roe.


Bottarga/Asian karasumi

Use a non-stick pan, drizzle about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and transfer bottarga/karasumi over. Note that the oil is still cold when we put in the fish roe. Turn to medium heat and slowly searing the fish roe till slightly darkened. Flip and do the same. Once ready, transfer the fish roe to a plate and set aside to cool down. Save the remaining oil, we'll continue to cook the aromatics shortly. 


Seared bottarga/karasumi

Once bottarga/karasumi is cool enough to handle by hand, you can either remove the thin coat if preferred, but not necessarily since we're going to grate it. I found the crunchy coating actually provide more flavor to the pasta.


Grate the seared fish roe till you get about 3/4 cup of it. If there are some leftover bottarga/karasumi, well, bring out the wine and enjoy some while cooking it (drink responsibly).


Grated bottarga/karasumi

Bring a big pot of water to a boil, generously salt the water. Cook the pasta till almost al dente. Towards the end, save some pasta water just in case we need to dilute the sauce later on. Once the pasta is ready, drain and set aside.


While the pasta is cooking, let's continue to work on other ingredients. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Finely chop the flat leaf parsley. Halve the cherry tomatoes.


Still using the same non-stick pan used in searing fish roe. Any remaining oil now become the essence of the pasta. Add in garlic along with 1 teaspoon of salt. Sear till aromatic but not burnt.


Transfer halved cherry tomatoes over and cook till softened and the juice has been released. Usually the tomato juice should be enough, but if somehow the entire mixture appears too dry, add some pasta water to dilute it just a wee bit.


Searing colorful cherry tomatoes

Mix in drained pasta along with grated bottarga/karasumi. Taste and adjust if needed.


Making pasta with bottarga/karasumi

Plate and garnish with chopped parsley. 


Spaghettini con la bottarga/karasumi


Not going to lie, this spaghettini recipe was really delicious, especially if you love that condensed savory touch from the bottarga to begin with. Grated bottarga overtook the role of salt, while providing even more depth of flavors to the pasta. 


Spaghettini con la bottarga/karasumi

The only regret is that I should have made more. Basically half piece of the fish roe can make enough pasta for two people. So I guess next time I'll just use up using the entire piece of bottarga/karasumi for a party of four to five. Or I can finish these portions within couple days, all for myself.


Other pasta recipes:


Mar 24, 2022

Recipe that Brings Back Memories - Tater Tots Casserole

It was a great opportunity for me to experience American high school life back in the days. On top of that, my school was in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, instead of Asian overloaded states like CA or NY. It was a year well remembered, my wonderful host family, friends from school, and the amazing upper Midwest landscape that not many Asian foreign students ever truly ventured. 


So during my one senior year back in the states, I had plenty of school lunches and got quite a taste of what I thought as "American comfort food." Few things that came into my mind, also not easily found in Taiwan - pulled pork, chicken Kiev, and all kinds of baked goods and casseroles. Since I can't really find them in Taiwan (except pulled pork), I might as well recreate the dishes that I've missed myself. That's the spirit.


Tater tots casserole - 


Tater tots casserole


Ingredients (about 8 by 11 inches baking dish)?

  • 1 pack/about 75 frozen tater tots
  • 1 can/400 grams cream of mushroom
  • 1 can or about 300 grams string beans
  • 250 grams lean ground beef
  • 180 grams shredded Cheddar
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper
  • Tiny amount olive oil (to grease the dish)


How?    

This recipe is not hard, especially when all the ingredients can be easily sourced back in America. Let me show you the difference here in Taiwan. First, I might need to go to a better market in order to find ground beef. Even for shredded Cheddar, most places only sell pack of shredded "mixed" cheese, not Cheddar alone. I've tried my luck here and there, finally gave up and decided to buy a whole chunk and shred the cheese myself.


Shredded Cheddar

Even canned beans cannot be found anywhere, but that part is easy since we get fresh string beans almost all year long. Use canned version if you can get a hold of it, otherwise trim the ends then slice into short sections for fresh string beans. Cook in boiling water for about 15 minutes to reach a softer bite. Once ready, drain well, perhaps pat dry with kitchen towel too, and set aside for later use. 


Boiled string beans

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/190 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease an 8 by 11 inches baking dish with cooking spray or brush with olive oil.


Peel and dice the onion. Peel and chop the garlic.


Take a non-stick pan and turn to medium high heat. Add in lean ground beef and cook till it changes color. Drain away excess fat if any.


Stir-frying lean ground beef

Add in onion and cook till slightly translucent. Add in garlic and continue to cook for about one minute.


Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Mix till blended.


Stir-frying ground beef with aromatics and seasonings

Transfer this beef mixture to baking dish and spread out evenly as the very bottom layer. Pour the cream of mushroom on top as the second bottom layer. The third bottom layer will be prepped beans. Also sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper over the beans.


Tater tots casserole layers

Top the beans with all the shredded cheese then spread out tater tots over.


Tater tots casserole before baking

Into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, plus or minus couple minutes. Check once a while, bake till the tater tots turn golden browned. Mine might look darker because I used chili flavored tater tots instead.


When ready, take out the baking dish and let it set for couple minutes. Serve like cutting lasagna portions, even better with some Tabasco.


Tater tots casserole

How long has it been? At least 10 years I think, I finally get a taste of what I've love to eat back in the states. Minnesota to be exact since I can't remember any other time that I had such casserole dish in CA. This dish brings back some homey memories, I'll count that as one extra fine seasoning to the casserole. 


Mar 18, 2022

Gochujang Glazed King Oyster Mushroom

Gochujang is a Korean chili paste with both savory and sweet characters. It's rather mild per my taste, at least opposed to Chinese chili sauce. It can be used like regular chili sauce, adding another layer of flavor to the food you make. Due to its paste-like consistency, it can easily turn into glaze, like the recipe here for king oyster mushrooms. 


Gochujang glazed king oyster mushroom -


Gochujang glazed king oyster mushroom


Ingredients?

  • 4 medium king oyster mushrooms
  • 1 string scallion
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • Some toasted white sesame seeds

Sauce:

  • 1 garlic clove 
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese rice cooking wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar


How?

Peel and grate the garlic then add to a bowl. Also add in all other ingredients listed under the "sauce" section. Mix till blended.


King oyster mushroom slices

Finely chop the scallion, which will be used for garnish in the end. Trim the bottom of the king oyster mushroom then slice it, about 1 mm thickness.


Use a non-stick pan, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil over and turn to medium heat. Once the surface warms up, add in mushroom slices and sear for about 30 seconds. Flip to the other side and continue to sear for another 30 seconds.


Searing king oyster mushroom slices with sesame oil

Pour in the sauce mixture and turn to medium high heat. Be careful because the heat might cause the sauce to splash a little bit, perhaps take a kitchen towel to guard yourself in the beginning. 


Adding gochujang sauce mixture

Use medium high heat and continue to cook till the sauce turns sticky and slightly thickened, like a glaze. Plate and garnish with some toasted white sesame seeds and chopped scallion.


Gochujang glazed king oyster mushroom

Despite its color, this dish is not that spicy at all. Most of the spicy flavor has been toned down with the seasonings used. 


Gochujang glazed king oyster mushroom

You can serve the king oyster mushroom hot or cold, both works fine. As for myself, some steamed rice to eat along sounds like a good idea.


Other recipe using gochujang:


Mar 12, 2022

Eggplant and Tomato Stewed Rice 雙茄豬肉燴飯

Stewed rice, the translated name can be misleading in some way, but that's the best way to put it after an extended research online. It's not what it appears, like literally stewing the rice grains. But rather the toppings were cooked with some liquid, usually a light flavored stock, then added corn starch water to thicken it up. The end result is a slightly gooey, somewhat soupy topping to eat with rice.


One of the closest consistency that I can think of is gumbo. Stewed rice in a way is similar to eating gumbo with rice. 


Eggplant and tomato stewed rice 雙茄豬肉燴飯 - 


Eggplant and tomato stewed rice


Ingredients (about 4 to 5 portions)?

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 long variety eggplants
  • 2 to 3 medium sized ripe tomatoes
  • 4 to 5 portions cooked rice (I used quinoa and white rice)
  • 4 to 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons spicy fermented bean paste 豆瓣醬
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Some black pepper
  • Some corn starch and water mixture
  • Some olive oil or other preferred cooking oil


How? 

Precook the rice first and keep warm while working on other ingredients.


Quinoa white rice

There is no need to peel the eggplant skin. Simply remove the stems then slice the eggplants diagonally. Remove the stems then slice the tomatoes to smaller chunks. Peel and chop the garlic cloves.


Take a non-stick pan, drizzle about 3 tablespoons of oil then turn to medium heat. Add in eggplant slices and sear till both sides slightly colored. Add more oil if needed since eggplant can absorb quite the amount of oil. Once done, scoop out and set aside for later use.


Seared eggplant slices

Still using the same pan, drizzle more oil to evenly coat the surface. Turn to medium high heat this time. Once warmed up, add in tomatoes along with chopped garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Give it a quite stir-fry.


Cooking tomatoes and chopped garlic

Transfer ground pork over and cook till just fully cooked through. Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoons of spicy fermented bean paste, and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Stir-fry for about a minute. 


Adding ground pork to tomato and garlic mixture

Add back the cooked eggplant and give it a quick mix. Pour in the chicken stock.


Adding chicken stock to stewed rice

Bring to a boil then switch to low heat. Taste and adjust here, season with more salt if needed. Prepare a small amount of corn starch and water mixture on a separate bowl. Mix well before adding to the pan. 


Remember to add the corn starch water mixture while gently stir the ingredients to prevent lumps. Try to aim for slightly thickened yet still a tiny bit soupy consistency.


Eggplant and tomato stewed rice

Scoop some rice to serving plate then add some thickened soupy ingredients over. Sprinkle some more black pepper on top.


I love the sourness touch from the ripe tomatoes, which was also balanced off with additional granulated sugar. On top of that, the soft texture of the tomatoes and eggplant are now filled with juicy flavors, especially eggplant can act like a sponge, taking in quite the amount of liquid during the cooking process.  


Other rice recipes:


Mar 7, 2022

What to Do With Leftover Mint Leaves? Try This Cucumber and Mint Salad

If you grow your own mint at home, that's wonderful. Many recipes only call for a small amount of mint leaves, so when needs arise, you can simply go nip off a few pieces. It's not that easy per my case though. I tried to grow mint before, don't get me wrong, my mint was thriving. However, I guess it became an ideal home for the caterpillars. I'd never thought mint can attract insects. So there it goes my plant, I'm not brave enough to pick out the worms one by one. I have to source my mint supplies at a market instead from now on.


One thing about buying mint leaves is that you have to buy at least a small bundle, but most of the time we only need just a few leaves. Few weeks ago, I used some mint for caldo de albóndigas, and have to figure out another recipe to finish the rest. That's how this recipe was born, cucumber salad with leftover mint leaves.


Cucumber and mint salad - 


Cucumber and mint salad with pancetta slices


Ingredients (about 1 medium plateful)?

  • 3 skinny variety cucumbers
  • 1/4 small red onion
  • 50 grams pancetta slices
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


How?

My leftover mint leaves, now I can finally put them to good use. 


Fresh mint leaves and pancetta slices

Peel and finely dice the red onion. Finely chop the mint leaves. Soak the onion in icy cold water for at least 15 minutes. After done soaking, drain and pat dry with a kitchen towel.


Soaking chopped red onion

Remove the ends of cucumbers, cut into small cubes, and transfer to a bowl. Add about 1 teaspoon of salt to the bowl and gently massage into the cucumber. Let it set for about 10 minutes, this will draw out some water from the cucumber.


Adding salt to diced cucumber

There is no need to rinse the cucumber afterwards, simply squeeze out even more liquid then pat dry with a kitchen towel.


Whisk together all the ingredients under the "dressing" section. Transfer the dressing to a big container. Also add in prepped cucumber, onion, and mint leaves. Toss and give it a taste, adjust according to your own preference, but keep in mind that we'll be adding salty pancetta in the end.


Cucumber and mint salad with pancetta slices

Plate the salad and arrange pancetta slices throughout. You can also substitute pancetta with smoked salmon. I suppose if you'd like, adding some mini mozzarella balls also sounds like a good idea.


Cucumber and mint salad with pancetta slices

Make sure not to skip the onion soaking step, because the ice cold water will help reduce that pungent taste from the onion. What works even better? Use filtered running water instead.


Other salad recipes: