30 March 2010

Thin Mints

based mostly off of this recipe

I want to make all of the Girl Scout Cookies from scratch. Well, not really all of them, just the good ones--Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs and Do-Si-Dos. This was my first in the project!

I looked over a few recipes. I wanted a crunchy cookie, which wasn't hard (I think this cookie recipe would work if you want to make home-made oreos, just omit the mint!) but I wasn't sure about the chocolate coating. A lot of the recipes I looked at had comments saying the chocolate never hardened, so I didn't add much cream which made the coating quite thick. But really, the best part of thin mints is the outside, so no one complained!

These cookies got a lot of compliments and I'm totally going to make them again!

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted to remove clumps
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp mint extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp mint extract

1. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl.
2. Beat egg in fully.
3. Beat in mint and vanilla.
4. Whisk flour, cocoa and salt together in a medium bowl.
5. Beat flour into creamed mixture. The batter will be dry, but make sure it is fully mixed in.
6. From here, you can go 2 ways... What I did was to roll the dough into a log about 2-3 inches in diameter(fair warning, it looks totally disgusting and I had to ask my roommates not to watch me because I was self conscious about the disgusting-ness) and wrap it in wax paper. Then put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Slice into 1/4 inch rounds. OR you can roll the dough out with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thickness and cut with a round cookie cutter. The first way is easier but the second way makes rounder cookies. Your choice!
7. Place cookies on parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350. The cookies don't change color, so you really have to be careful to not overbake them. If you poke a cookie, it should feel solid but not squishy.
8. Allow the cookies to completely cool on a wire rack before frosting.

9. To make the frosting, melt chocolate chips, cream and mint extract over a double boiler, stirring constantly, until smooth and shiny.
10. Using tongs (not your fingers!! it's hot!!), dip the cookies in the chocolate, covering them fully on both sides.
11. Place cookies on wax paper and don't touch them until they are totally hardened.

13 March 2010

Fried Tofu

After my disastrous results with frying tofu, I have been determined to get it right. Bekkah gave me some tips, and I planned on trying her technique when I was getting things ready for sushi. But then I found these instructions for dry-frying tofu, and decided this is what I wanted.

This method of frying tofu uses no oil, and the end product is pleasantly chewy. Most of the moisture is cooked out of the tofu, so it is perfect for soaking up marinades, and sturdy enough to withstand some vigorous stir-fry action. Here's how to do it:

Drain a block of tofu (not silken!) and slice it up, then place the slices on a towel for a few minutes. Meanwhile, get out your most non-stickiest non-stick pan and heat it on a medium-low setting. A good non-stick surface is very important, since you won't be using any oil, and the low heat is important for the moisture to cook out of the tofu before it gets too crispy.

Place the tofu slices on the pan in a single layer – you will probably have to work in batches. Cook until the tofu is light brown and slightly crispy, pressing down on it fairly frequently with your spatula. Repeat on the other side. Remove from heat.

Now your tofu is ready to be tossed into a stir fry, soaked in a marinade, or whatever else your soy-loving heart desires.

For my sushi, I made a simple marinade with ½ cup of soy sauce, a splash of vinegar, and three cloves of minced garlic. Once the tofu had been soaking in that for a while, I cut it up into slivers for sushi filling. Easy as pie!

11 March 2010

Vegetarian Sushi

Do you ever talk about doing something, but never end up actually doing it? Making my own sushi was one of those things – until last weekend. Once we had agreed on a day for our homemade sushi dinner, I planned for it obsessively. I dreamed up possible fillings, I perused cookbooks, and I watched more than a few instructional videos on Youtube. And now I bring what I learned to you!

Sushi takes a lot of preparation, but it is ultimately pretty simple to prepare. The rice is probably the trickiest thing to get right, but as long as you follow the directions you probably won't run into any problems. And all the chopping and prepping is worth it for a food that is beautiful, delicious, and impressive.

First, the rice:
Rice for sushi must be short-grain; I used short-grain brown rice. I've read that brown rice is more difficult to work with for sushi because it doesn't get as sticky, but I didn't have any trouble. Whatever kind you choose, cook it according to its instructions.

When the rice is done, carefully scoop it out into a shallow glass bowl or casserole dish (or an unfinished wooden sushi bowl, if you have one). Metal bowls will cool off the rice too quickly, so don't use one of those. Prepare a mixture of rice wine vinegar, sugar, and salt. The Sushi Lover's Cookbook recommends using 5 tablespoons of vinegar, 2 tbs of sugar and 1 ½ tbs of salt for 1 cup of uncooked rice. Sprinkle the vinegar mixture over the rice, then use a gentle folding motion to make sure all the rice is coated. Be careful not to mush the rice. If you want to be very proper, fan the rice with a plate or fan while stirring to help the rice cool off a little faster. Cover with a damp cloth and let it cool to room temperature. Sushi rice should not be refrigerated, as this will dry out the grains and keep it from sticking together.

Second, the fillings:
Most of the fillings for sushi can be prepared ahead of time. You can put anything you want in sushi! Here is what I used:

avocado, cut into slivers
sweet potato, cut into ½ inch sticks and steamed
asparagus, steamed
black trumpet mushrooms, sauteed in butter
tofu, dry-fried and marinated
cucumber, cut into ¼ inch sticks
pickled burdock

Third, assembly:
Organization is key here! Place a sushi mat on a clean board in front of you, smooth side up. Within easy reach you should have: your dish of prepared sushi rice, a tray with all your fillings laid out, a bowl of water with a little vinegar, your sharpest knife, a damp cloth, and sheets of nori.

Place one sheet of nori on the sushi mate, rough side up. Wet your hands and spread a handful of rice onto the nori in a thin layer. The rice should go right to the edges of the nori, but leave a small edge at the top – this will help the roll stick together. Choose a combination of fillings for your roll. Two or three ingredients is usually a good bet, but you can use whatever you want. Lay your fillings out in a horizontal row across the middle of the rice. Dab a little water on that empty edge of nori, then use the rolling mat to roll up the sushi. Be gentle but firm! Give the roll a little squeeze once it's rolled up, then remove the rolling mat. You should have a lovely sushi roll. Use your sharpest knife to slice it into eight pieces, using the damp cloth to wipe off the blade between cuts. Place your sushi on a dish and serve!

Last, serving the sushi:
We had a very casual approach to sushi – the serving dish was a small cutting board, and we all just ate off of that instead of getting a bunch of plates dirty. But nice presentation is one of the great things about sushi, so go all out with the platters and pretty arrangements if you are so inclined. Serve with soy sauce and wasabi, and ideally have a small dish for each person so everyone can have their own level of spiciness. Pickled ginger makes a nice palate cleanser. Eat with chopsticks or fingers. I don't have any pictures because I was too excited about eating the sushi! Om nom nom!

Making sushi was a smooth and easy process, because I became obsessed and did a lot of research. Heidi got The Sushi Lover's Cookbook by Yumi Umemura from the library, and I really liked its clear instructions and colorful photos. It also had recipes for many different kinds of sushi – the rolls most of us think of are only one of many varieties! I also learned a lot from watching lots of videos on Youtube – these were my favorites:

Food Safari
- A straightforward instructional from an Australian cooking show
Alton Brown on sushi, with all his usual nerdy food insights
Hippie Gourmet Makes Veggie Sushi – for some reason this was very amusing to me
Cooking with Dog - part of a series of Japanese cooking videos, very informative and hilarious

03 March 2010

Empanadas, Ecuadorian version

The story behind this recipe is that I learned how to make these in the kitchen where my grandmother was basically indentured until she was 19, in Ecuador, from son of someone who worked with her. So they're a family recipe, and they got my grandmother and Ecuadorian family's stamp of approval when I got home and made them! (On a side note, that was the day both of my grandparents took me aside and told me I'm now ready to get married and bring honor to the name Pulupa, because I can cook empanadas.)

These are classic Ecuadorian empanadas, expect a Chilean recipe sometime in the future!

First, the dough:

2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
4 oz butter, barely softened
1/4 cup water

Combined flour, salt, egg, and butter. Mix with your bare hands (traditional), or cut butter into mixture. Add water 1/3 at a time. This requires force, because the butter should be cold. When it's homogenous, roll into a ball, and let sit.


1 shallot
Achiote (I didn't know this had an English name until today - annatto)
Vegetable oil
Two handfuls grated well-aged white cheese

*If you go to a latin market, they sell achiote vegetable oil, which is the same thing as the two of them mixed together and heated, and is mostly useful for frying spicy things and adding and extra level of deliciousness!

Cut the shallot up tiny. Butter a thick frying pan and heat it. Add the shallot, generous vegetable oil, and enough achiote to make everything red and speckled. Don't worry if it seems grainy, the achiote will blend in smoothly. Saute for a few minutes while stirring, then remove from heat when the shallots are clear and the achiote has blended in, but before carmelization.

Let cool, then mix with queso rallado. Mix until none of the cheese is white, i.e., all of it has red oil on it.

Putting it all together:

Flour flat surface and rolling pin. Roll dough out - it's stiff and relatively dry , and shouldn't break, so you have to be more careful than you would with cookie dough or most rolled doughs. Roll it with long, hard strokes, not short quick ones. Don't go back and forth in the same direction - one roll, then change the angle.

Roll until very thin - if you have a pattern or wooden rolling board, you should be able to faintly see through the dough.

Cut with a floured round cookie-cutter, or the edge of a large glass with thin lips - the circumfrence should be about 3".

Drop about 1 tsp. on each disk of dough.

Now comes the tricky part: fold the dough over the filling, not breaking the dough. The cheese will burn and turn tough if it's broken or not sealed.

You should pinch it closed, then fold the pinches over.

Here Joes Manuel shows us how it's done - in about three seconds.

Then you can see Joan's and my efforts next to his...

Heat up vegetable oil (plain, not achiote this time) to frying temperture. (Check with the bread test.)

Fry until golden brown, agitating with a slotted spoon.

Lift with the slotted spoon and allow to drain for about one second, before sprinkling generously with sugar. I know the sugar part sounds nuts, but it's a classic, and it really completes the taste!

Let rest on paper towel, and enjoy!

02 March 2010

Beet Chips and Beet Greens

When I was talking about my sort of failure with the beet cupcakes with a friend, she mentioned how someone she knew made beet chips and that they would probably be really pretty with the candy cane beets. Buuuut when I went to the farmer's market, there were no candy cane beets so I just bought regular beets. Beets come with a huge amount of greens. I have always wanted to cook them, so I took this as an opportunity.

The chips are really tasty. They sort of taste like sweet potato chips but a little sweeter. I think they'd go well with spices like nutmeg or clove or cinnamon, but I just used salt and pepper. The greens were very good! I'd heard beet greens were bitter, but these weren't at all. They don't taste like beet roots, but they are a little sweet. The bunch of beets I bought had 3 large beets and cost $2. A whole meal for $2! This was just the right amount of food for dinner for just me. You'd need more if you wanted to feed more people, or you can use this as a side dish.

Beet Chips
large beets, sliced thin (the thinner you slice, the crunchier they will be! also, I peeled them, I don't know if this is necessary or not)
oil, enough fill a small pan/skillet about 1/2 inch, I used canola
salt (coarse if possible) and pepper

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a skillet. I put a small piece of beet in the oil and after it had sizzled for a minute, I decided the oil was hot enough.
2. Place beets in the oil. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, flipping once with tongs.
3. Remove an put on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
4. While still hot, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Beet Greens
1-2 Tbsp oil (use some from the frying if you are doing that too!)
1 shallot, diced (I used a shallot because I didn't want to only cut part of an onion, but a small onion, or part of an onion would work fine though!)
beet greens and stems from one bunch of beets, sliced into 1" pieces, keeping stems and greens separate
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 Tbsp vermouth, sherry, or dry white wine
2-4 Tbsp water
salt and pepper

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a skillet or small pan.
2. Add shallot and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and stir another 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
3. Stir in beet stems and wine (or whatever you're using).
4. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook for 2 minutes.
5. Stir in beet greens and enough water to fully coat everything and have a little left in the bottom.
6. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until beet greens are soft.
7. Season with salt and pepper.

01 March 2010


DISCLAIMER: I was taught how to make pupusas by the internet, not by someone who actually knows how, and therefore these pupusas are not like the ones you'd get in a Salvadoran restaurant. But they are still delicious!

Pupusas are corn flour dough filled with tasty filling and then fried. You can't really go wrong with that! Katie and I used to get frozen pupusas from the Asian grocery store, but one day we set off the fire alarm for the whole building while cooking them. For some reason, those sad events made me determined to make my own pupusas. Here's how:

The dough:
To make around a dozen pupusas, start with 2 cups of masa harina (corn flour). Add warm water until you have a moist dough; this should take about the same amount of water as flour. Cover with a damp cloth (this is important!) and let it rest for 20 minutes.

The filling:
Traditionally, pupusa filling is made with pork. But you can use whatever you want! My favorite is equal parts refried beans and shredded cheese. Mexican cheeses taste best, but if your grocery store doesn't carry any, just use mozzarella or another mild cheese. In the past, I have also added Morningstar veggie bacon – cook the bacon until crispy, then crumble it into the bean/cheese mixture. I didn't use it this time because veggie bacon is expensive, but it is really good in pupusas!

To form the pupusas:
Form a small handful of dough into a ball. Use your thumb to shape it into a little bowl. Spoon a small amount of filling into the bowl, then pinch it shut. Carefully flatten the filled ball of dough into a disc, making it as thin as you can without tearing holes in it. Keep your finished pupusas covered with a damp cloth while you work; this dough can dry out really fast.

Cook the pupusas on medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side, or until they get golden brown and crispy. Use lots of oil to make them greasy and delicious!