Ginger Carrot Soup

This is probably the recipe that eased me into liking carrots.  Actually, scratch that.  This recipe is what eased me into liking carrot roots since I’ve actually loved carrot tops for a long time now.  They’re my favorite addition to green smoothies- they taste like freshness in a glass.  Some people say they’re poisonous or toxic, but that seems to be just a myth.

Anyways, back to this soup.  It’s a great complement to a cleanse or detox due to the healthy dose of ginger and cinnamon, both of which have a warming effect according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.  It’s especially important to include warming foods, herbs and spices during cleanses when you’re consuming a lot of raw vegetables through salads, juices and smoothies, all of which are very cooling.

The actual prep for the soup is pretty quick; if you buy peeled baby carrots, it’ll be a snap.  The soup gets a nice dose of creaminess from canned coconut milk and a pop of fresh flavor from a sprinkling of cilantro leaves.

Ginger Carrot Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

* 1 Tablespoon olive oil
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 5 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 1/2-inch piece of ginger, grated (freezing the ginger makes it easier to grate)
* 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
* 2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped
* 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
* 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
* salt and pepper
* up to 1 cup coconut milk (optional)
* cilantro for garnish

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and allspice and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the carrots and stir to coat. Continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes.

Add the broth, cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the carrots are soft. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice and coconut milk (if using) and add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with cilantro.

Note: Feel free to omit the coconut milk if you prefer. Or you could just swirl in a small amount of coconut milk for a garnish along with the cilantro.

Peach Melba Parfait

So I’m not entirely sure that this can be considered an authentic Australian recipe.  After all, it was created by a French chef at a a London hotel.  BUT it was created in honor of Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba and many sources claim that its an iconic Australian dessert, so I’m including during my time in Australia.

While I do think food and dessert trends are kind of silly, it seems like peach melba has suffered from an uncool reputation for quite a long time.  Back when I worked in a restaurant I always wondered why anybody ordered them… but that was because we used sad canned peaches and a jar of raspberry sauce of questionable quality.

But vanilla ice cream layered with fresh peaches quickly poached in a vanilla syrup and a freshly made raspberry sauce?  Sign me up.  Its a pretty summer dessert that you don’t even have to turn on the oven to make.

You can also save the peach poaching liquid; I mixed some with some sparkling water for a killer vanilla-peach spritzer.

Peach Melba Parfait
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

Peaches:
* 1 1/2 cup cups water (can also replace up to half of this amount with a white wine)
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1/2 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise
* 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
* 4 peaches, cut in half

Raspberry sauce:
* 1 1/2 cups raspberries
* 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
* 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

* 1 pint vanilla ice

Directions:

Heat the water (and wine, if using), sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla pod in a large saucepan over medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Bring the pan to the boil and let it cook for several minutes. Reduce heat and bring the syrup to a fast simmer. Poach the peaches for several minutes until just softened. Remove the peaches to a plate and let cool. When cool, remove the peels and pits and cut each peach half into 4 pieces.

Combine the raspberries, powdered sugar, and lemon juice in a blender or a food processor and blend until smooth. If you’re using a standard blender or food processor, sieve to remove the seeds… if you’re using a high speed blender like a Vitamix, you can skip this step.

To assemble alternate layers of the poached peaches, the raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream and garnish with a couple raspberries.

Lemon-Vanilla Yogurt Cake with Almonds and Strawberries

I’ll admit that I had my doubts about this recipe.  I wasn’t sure how a cake mostly comprised of yogurt and eggs, with almost no flour at all, could possibly work.  In retrospect I shouldn’t have worried.  After all, cheesecake has cream cheese and sour cream as its primary ingredients.  And that’s exactly what this ended up tasting like… a very light cheesecake.  Nothing like those heavy New York style cheesecakes- the air that’s whipped into the eggs keep this from being too dense.

I should warn you that the amount of lemon rind and juice make this quite lemony.  If you’d like a more neutral flavored cake I’d recommend dialing the lemon juice way back.  Although it is perfectly good served alone, it’s best with a dollop of yogurt and some berries on top.

Lemon-Vanilla Yogurt Cake with Almonds and Strawberries

Ingredients:

* 3 eggs, separated
* 1/2 cup sugar, divided
* Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
* 1 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, plus extra for topping
* Grated rind of one lemon
* 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
* 2 Tablespoons rice flour
* 1/3 cup blanched almonds, roughly chopped
* Sliced strawberries, for topping

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and thoroughly grease a 9-inch square pan.

Beat the egg yolks with about two-thirds of the sugar (just eyeball this… no need to measure) until light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla seeds, yogurt, lemon rind, lemon juice, and rice flour.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until firm, and then gradually add the rest of the sugar. Whisk until the egg whites form soft peaks.

Add a small amount of the whipped egg whites to the yogurt and egg yolks mixture and stir well to lighten. Then fold the rest of the egg whites in carefully but thoroughly. Pour into the prepared pan.

Place the pan in a roasting pan and pour water halfway up the outside of the baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes and then sprinkle with the chopped almonds. Return to oven and continue cooking until the top begins to turn golden, another 20-25 minutes.

Let cool to room temperature and serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt and some sliced strawberries.

Oi Naengguk – Chilled Cucumber Soup

I have a friend whose mother makes the most amazing pickled vegetables.  Seriously, if you put them next to a tray of peanut butter brownies, I might still reach for the pickled veggies.  She’s given me the recipe but I’ve yet to actually make them.  I guess I get nervous because you have to pre-salt all of the vegetables and the amount of salt needed isn’t specified.  I’m worried that I’ll overdo it with the salt and, even after rinsing them, will end up with a several pounds of ruined, salty produce.  Hey, it’s happened.  Daikon kimchi, I’m talking to you.

But when I saw this soup recipe, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to mess it up.  It’s quick, easy, refreshing and as pretty as a picture.  Sweet, salty, sour with just a little bit of heat, it’s a really nice way to balance out a spicy Korean meal.  If you have a love of sour foods like me (any other Traditional Chinese Medicine Wood element folks out there?), I think you’ll enjoy this one.

I also wanted to let you guys know about a cool Foodgawker/Photograzing-like site specifically for Korean food.  It’s called Korean Food Gallery and it’s a great place to find inspiration for your next Korean meal.  For you food bloggers, it’s another place to post photos of your favorite Korean recipes.  Thanks to Jenny for letting me know about it!

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Yield: 3-4 servings

Ingredients:

* 4 mini cucumbers or 1 regular cucumber, seeded and cut into matchstick strips
* 2 shallots, cut into matchstick strips
* 2 teaspoons sea salt
* 4 Tablespoons rice vinegar
* 3 Tablespoons sugar
* 1 Tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce
* 3 cups cold water
* 1 green onion, sliced into thin rings
* 1 hot red chili pepper, seeded and cut into thin rings (I used a red Jalapeno pepper)
* ice cubes, optional

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, shallots and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and water. Add this mixture to the cucumber.

Add the green onions and mix well. Place in the refrigerator until well chilled. Garnish with red pepper rings. Add an ice cube or two in each bowl to keep the soup extra cold, if desired.

Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte

So it might be a stretch to call this matcha green tea latte a Korean beverage but several Korean cookbooks for Western audiences included some matcha green tea desserts and beverages.  This iced version of a matcha green tea latte was so good I figured if you don’t want to beat ‘em, join ‘em.

I’ve wanted to try matcha for a long time but never saw it reasonably priced in any grocery stores.  When I saw a packet for under $5 I grabbed it and started experimenting.  I thought it tasted best with a mix of water and milk.  The water allowed the grassiness of the matcha to shine through while a bit of milk helped add creaminess.

Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte

Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

* 2 cup water
* 1 cup whole milk
* 1/4 cup sweetened matcha green tea powder
* 2 cups ice
* whipped cream, optional

Directions:

Heat the water and milk in a saucepan over low heat until warmed very slightly (this helps dissolve the matcha powder). Add the matcha powder and stir until dissolved. Combine in a blender with ice and pulse until the ice is partially crushed. Pour into individual glasses and top with whipped cream, if desired.

Avocado Salad with Spicy Groundnut (Peanut ) Dressing

Honestly, this recipe came in the nick of time, just as I was beginning to question both my cooking and baking skills as well as the food of Ghana.  As I mentioned yesterday, I haven’t been having much luck with many of the recipes I’ve been finding both online and in old African cookbooks.  Honestly, I could probably post about two weeks of flops recipes if anybody is interested.

But this recipe is a winner- hot, sour, salty and sweet with the richness and creaminess of avocado.  Makes me wish I still lived in a place with avocado trees…

Those of you who are heat averse, feel free to cut back on the cayenne.

Avocado and Groundnut Dressing

Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

* 2 avocados, ripe
* 2 Tablespoon lemon juice, fresh
* 2 Tablespoons olive oil
* 2 Tablespoons minced red onion
* 3 tablespoons peanuts
* 3/4 teaspoon paprika
* 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
* 3/4 teaspoon cayenne
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* salt (to taste)
* chopped cilantro, as a garnish
* coarsely chopped peanuts, as a garnish

Directions:

Cut the avocados in half lengthwise, remove the pit and cube the flesh (note: Elise has a really great tutorial on an easy way to do this, BTW).

Place in a bowl with lemon juice, olive oil, and onion and toss gently.

Grind the peanuts (either use a coffee or spice grinder or just roll a rolling pin over the peanuts) so you have small chunks and mix with the paprika, cinnamon, cayenne, sugar and salt. Sprinkle over the avocado and toss gently.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and peanuts.

Coconut Agar-Agar Jellies

Now I’ve made (and eaten) a lot of Asian-style jelly desserts in my day, but I think I have to declare these Burmese Kyauk Kyaw as my new favorite.  Not only do they have that delicate, lightly-sweetened coconut thing going on, but they’re one of the most striking desserts I’ve ever seen.   When cooling, the jelly separates into two distinct layers: an opaque coconut layer and a translucent agar-agar layer.

And did I mention that they’re just about as easy to make as jello?

I finally mustered the courage to experiment with the agar-agar that’s been sitting in my pantry for the last 8-10 months.  Most recipes I saw used the agar-agar in its strand form, but the powder is much more readily available, at least around these parts.   Although I couldn’t find a straightforward explanation as to how to substitute one for the other, I finally came up with a exactly the texture I was going for (which is a bit softer than some of the other agar-agar desserts, like Vietnamese rau cau, that I’ve had in the past) after a bit of trial and error.

If you’re set on recapturing the fun of the Jello jigglers of your youth, these can easily be set in silicone molds or you can do it old school-style and just use cookie cutters.  And although I used rose water, because that seemed to be the most traditional, feel free play around with different extracts and flavorings.

These heart-shaped molds were the only ones I had without a Christmas theme, so I decided to make this batch extra saccharine sweet by adding a drop or two of red food coloring.  Be warned, however, that I found that the different layers weren’t quite as striking and obvious when food coloring was used.

Coconut Agar-Agar Jellies

I’ve seen agar-agar sold in health food stores like Whole Foods for outrageous amounts. You should be able to find small packets, which have enough for several batches of these jellies, for $1-$2 at an Asian grocery store.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

* 2-1/2 cups water
* 2-1/4 teaspoons agar-agar powder (Gold Cup and Telephone are two popular brands)
* 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
* 1 cup coconut milk
* pinch salt
* 1 Tablespoon rose water (or add a 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of your favorite extract)
* 1-2 drops food coloring (optional)

Directions:

Combine the water, agar-agar, sugar, coconut milk and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes. Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Stir in the rose water and food coloring, if using, and pour into a special silicone molds or a loaf pan or a square 8-inch by 8-inch pan.

Let the mixture cool for 30-40 minutes to set. Cut into pieces and serve.

Burmese Shrimp and Cucumber Salad

I don’t know how the longtime bloggers keep track of what dishes they made oh 4, 6, 8 years ago.  When I was talking to a friend last weekend about what I’d cooked, I mentioned I’d made a shrimp and cucumber salad.  You’ve made something like before, haven’t you?  I quickly responded no.

Well, I was wrong.  Not only did I make and post a Vietnamese Shrimp and Cucumber salad already, but it was 1) less than a year ago and 2) it was so so good I have no idea how I’d forgotten about it so soon.

So I now have two shrimp and cucumber salads posted.  But even though they’ve both got quite a few of the same base ingredients (shrimp, cucumbers, chile peppers, lime juice, fish sauce), the similarities end there.

The Vietnamese salad is something of a beast.  It’s not something that you’re going to whip out on a weeknight when you get home from work totally ravenous.  It’s the kind of dish best served at a weekend dinner party, when you’ve got guests to impress and plenty of time to prep.

This Burmese salad, however, is a total snap to throw together.   So maybe it’s a good thing I have a shoddy memory because sometimes simple is good.  And well, choice is good too.  So don’t  be surprised if I end up making another version if I find another recipe in a Thai or Lao cookbook.   Consider yourself warned because I apparently have a thing for shrimp and cucumber salads.

Burmese Shrimp and Cucumber Salad

If you have leftovers you may need to add a little extra fish sauce and lime juice, as the salad tends to soak up any liquids if stored for more than an hour or so.

Yield: 4 side servings

Ingredients:

* 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, rinsed
* 4 green onions, sliced lengthwise and then cut into 1-inch pieces
* 2 medium cucumbers
* 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
* 1 red Jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
* 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
* 2 Tablespoons lime juice
* salt (optional)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until they turn pink. Remove from heat and transfer to a cutting board. Roughly chop and transfer the shrimp and any accumulated juices to a large bowl or platter. Add the green onions.

Cut the cucumbers lengthwise and scoop out any seeds. Cut into approximate 1-1/2-inch lengths and then cut those pieces into thick matchsticks. Add the cucumber, cilantro, Jalapeno, fish sauce and lime juice to the shrimp and toss to coat. Taste and add a little salt, if necessary.

Serve immediately.

Detox Tea with Burdock Root

Sorry for the radio silence guys.  I unexpectedly took a couple weeks off from blogging to relax and enjoy the holidays.   I read a couple great books (like this one and this one), watched a ton of DVDs (my favorites being this, this and this), and did crazy stuff like going to bed at 9:30.   Total bliss.

I was raring and ready to go with a couple recipes, but it just seems so wrong to post maple bourbon ice cream with candied bacon right now, when everybody is in total health mode (even if it was totally awesome).

Instead I’m going to start things off with a nice detox tea, for those of you who may have overdone with with the spiked eggnog and champagne over the holidays.   You’ll find burdock root, also called gobo, in just about every detox tea on the market because it’s known to support and detoxify the liver.  And because burdock is a key ingredient in this popular Japanese New Year’s dish, it should be easy to find at just about any Asian market during December and January.

Made from the burdock root, ginger, and lemongrass, this tea is like a big, warm hug for your liver.   You can also make it more chai-like by adding a cinnamon stick and some cardamom pods if you’d like.

Detox Tea with Burdock Root

Yield: 10 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

* 2 burdock roots, peeled and roughly chopped
* 2 stalks lemongrass, woody ends trimmed and thinly sliced
* 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
* 12 cups water
* honey or stevia to sweeten (optional)

Directions:

Combine the burdock, lemongrass, ginger and water in a large stock pot. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered (lay the lid slightly askew) for at least 20 minutes. Strain mixture ans sweeten with honey or stevia, if desired.

Nuoc Cham-Everyday Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Before delving into Vietnam’s savory dishes, I need to cover the nation’s ubiquitous dipping sauce: nuoc cham.  It’s served alongside just about everything from grilled meatballs to noodles to hand rolls.  If you’ve ever eaten at a Vietnamese restaurant, you’ve likely already tasted this liquid gold.  Made with fish sauce, lime juice, chile peppers and a touch of sugar, it’s hot, sour, salty and sweet done right.

There’s little that can’t be enhanced with a quick dunk into a bowl of nuoc cham.  I love it so much that I’ve been known to break tradition by just dumping the whole bowl of nuoc cham into my bowl of bun (one of my favorite noodle dishes), likely embarrassing my dining companions in the process.

I think you’ll love it too.

Nuoc Cham- Everyday Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

* 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
* 1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
* 3 Tablespoons sugar
* 2/3 cup water
* 1/3 cup fish sauce (most are gluten-free, but check to label to make certain)
* 1-2 Thai chiles or Serrano chile peppers, sliced into thin rings
* 2 cloves garlic, smashed with the blunt side of your knife, then minced

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste and adjust amounts, if necessary, to get your desired balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet. I like mine sweet and tangy with a bit of heat that lingers briefly on the lips.

Note: You can also grind the chiles, sugar and garlic using a mortar and pestle, if desired.

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