Sunday, June 29, 2014

What to get at the Asian Market

I've had this recipe on my tablet for a while, meaning to either ask Nexx to write up an entry or to just put it up myself. It's a great side dish, though I'm damned if I can remember just what we served it with.

I have, in learning about Asian food, come to enjoy the lightness and tang of some side dishes and salads. An easy snack is slicking cucumbers adding black sesame seeds and stirring them up with some ponzu. Ponzu, if you have not experienced it, is a citrus-based sauce. A lot of what you see in stores is actually ponzu shoyu, which means there is soy sauce involved, but it's commonly called ponzu.

I love cabbage, maybe it's the Polish ancestry. I love a good coleslaw, kraut, or golabki. I have on occasion made "lazy pierogie" which is fried cabbage and onions stirred up with medium-sized pasta shells.

But I digress (surprise, surprise). The following recipe is easy, tasty and light, which is perfect for summer days ahead. I think I'll serve it alongside next time Austin grills some salmon with an Asian-themed sauce.

Napa Cabbage Salad (serves 2)

10 leaves of Napa cabbage
1 dried kombu
60 g bonito flakes (which are also delicious stirred up with rice and soy sauce. A great way to use up leftover rice)
15 g of ponzu

Slice off the bottom 5 cm of the cabbage leaves and set them aside for another use (soup comes to mind). Pour boiling water on the kombu and let it rest while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Cut the cabbage leaves horizontally into strips about 1 cm wide (figure half an inch). Cut the kombu into strips about 2 cm long and 5 mm wide. Mix the cabbage, kombu, bonito and ponzu in a bowl. Serve chilled.

Delicious, light and nicely crunchy. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A rustic take on vodka sauce

I game on a lot of Saturdays. Sometimes it's D&D, sometimes it's board games. Of late, we've been working on putting Shadowrun characters together. If Austin doesn't fire up the grill or make chili, we usually send out to the pizza place. 

Not usually for pizza, though. Salads, calzone, sandwiches, wings. Most recently, a couple of us got penne vodka. It was merely okay. I thought I could do better, so I mulled it over for a week and this is what I came up with.

1 Cup diced yellow onion
2 T unsalted butter
4 oz diced pancetta
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
6 oz can of tomato paste. I use Contadina. The ingredients read: Tomatoes. Nothing else.
1.5 cups of your favorite vodka (I used Chopin. Nexx thinks I should have used a grain vodka instead of potato)
Juice of half a lemon
1 t black pepper
1 pound of your favorite pasta. Penne is traditional, but honestly, I find it boring. And if I'm putting this much effort into a sauce, I want something that holds on to it. I used fusilli, but as you wish.
approx 1 cup heavy cream
grated parmesan (optional)

Melt the butter in a skillet on medium-low heat. Stir in the onions, and keep stirring until they are your favorite shade of brown and well caramelized. Set aside.

Cut the sundried tomatoes into strips. Place in a bowl, a mortar & pestle, a food processer and smush them into a chunky paste. Set aside.

 In a sauté pan, cook the pancetta until crisp. Remove the pancetta, but leave about 1T of the fat in the pan. Deglaze the pan with 3/4 cup of the vodka and keep the heat down low. Scrape up all the brown bits.

When brown bits are all incorporated into the liquid, gradually add the tomato paste, the sun-dried tomatoes, the lemon juice, the onion and the pancetta. Stir well to combine, goose the heat up a little bit.

Start your pasta water boiling. Continue to stir the sauce. Add in the pepper and bring to a slow boil. Gradually add the rest of the vodka. Keep the temperature to where you have tiny bubbles, but not a rolling boil.

Cook pasta to your idea of doneness. Drain. Slowly stir in the cream until you think it's the proper color and taste. Return pasta to pot. Pour sauce over. Gently stir so you don't break the pasta and serve. Top with parmesan. Completely forget about the salad you were going to make.

I loved how this came out. The tomato wasn't too sweet, the chunky texture I'll experiment with a grain vodka. I tend to prefer potato because I find it to have a softer taste, and Chopin because it's Polish. 

What pasta would you put this over? Inquiring minds want to know.