Friday, July 27, 2012

Char Kway Teow (Malaysian Rice Noodles)

Char Kway Teow

This has been on my to-make list for a long time, and I'm happy to have tackled it.  Plus, I wanted to highlight a savory dish since I've covered nothing but sweets lately.  Char Kway Teow, a Malaysian dish of slightly spicy stir-fried rice noodles, is a favorite of mine.  My mother, who is from Malaysia, would often order the dish for me in restaurants when I was a kid.  This version has shrimp, Chinese sausage, Chinese chives, and bean sprouts.  In restaurants in New York or Boston, there is no sausage but there are usually dozens of tiny squids that I ask them to leave out.  Other versions on the Internet call for cockles (no, thanks) or fish cakes (I like those).  But I like everything in this version, and the minimum level of fussiness appealed to me.

Dried Shrimp Paste

The dried shrimp paste, also known as Belacan, gives it great depth of flavor.  I was unfamiliar with it, and it was not in the Asian market aisle labeled "shrimp paste" but in the Malaysian aisle.  The one fussy-looking step I skipped was roasting it in foil -- I just sauteed until fragrant, and proceeded with the recipe.  And if you've never cooked with the fresh rice noodles before, don't refrigerate them, and use them the day you buy them or they will dry out and harden.  I also doubled the amount of bean sprouts, because what else am I going to do with the rest of the bag?

In the end, making the dish was easier than I anticipated, making me wonder why I waited all these years to try.  And it's pretty darned good.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Boston Globe review: Pogo's

Tiramisu French Toast
Shirley Goh/Globe Staff
For breakfast with a Portuguese flair, gut-busting portions, and dessert-inspired first meals of the day, there is Pogo's in East Bridgewater.  This place is known for its heaping platters of food, so it was funny to see the waiter's reaction when three of us ordered two entrees apiece to get a good cross-sampling of the menu!  Read my review in today's Globe South in The Boston Globe.

Read the review with all photos at here.
If the subscriber pay wall comes up, you can still read the review at here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Toasted Almond Gelato

Almond Ice Cream

After making the Hazelnut Baci, I was eager to discover what other great recipes were in Gina De Palma's Dolce Italiano.  I've never had an almond gelato, and this recipe sounded easy and the preparation intrigued me.  Almonds are toasted to bring out their full flavor, and then steeped in the milk and cream.  The toasty almonds definitely infuse the gelato and give it nice flavor, and the amaretto liqueur helps it stay creamy.

Toasted Almond Ice Cream Cup

But I've got to be honest -- there was nothing wrong with the gelato, and yet it failed to knock my socks off.  It was nice to try something different, though.  I also don't recommend the melted chocolate drizzle, since the chocolate overpowers the delicate almond flavor.

Wondering about the candle?  I realized that I missed a milestone last month, when my blog entered its fifth year!  A huge thanks for stopping by, and I hope you keep visiting.  Happy Friday!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hazelnut Baci


Sometimes summer makes me overlook chocolate.  I get so excited about strawberries, peaches, plums, cherries, and especially watermelon, that chocolate can get relegated to all the months I don't enjoy these fruits in season.  Then I tasted these cookies at a picnic, and liked them so much I had to make them.  Soft, crackly chocolate-hazelnut cookies sandwich a layer of Nutella in little bites.

Picnic Collage

We enjoyed them at our recent Jane Austen book club picnic at World's End, and boy do we know how to do picnics right.  My contributions were fried chicken, scones, and plum skillet cake.  Rebecca made her "Austen" cucumber sandwiches and the most delicious nectarine-steeped iced tea, and brought real china teacups!  And Mrs. Hot Potato, or "the Mrs.," as she's known on her blog, made these hazelnut baci and lemon-lavender shortbread.  Yum.

Hazelnut Baci

The Mrs. adapted her Baci di Cioccolato (chocolate kisses) recipe to use hazelnuts instead of almonds and Nutella instead of ganache.  I followed her instructions but was stumped about measuring out the dough.  The original recipe calls for shaping the dough into logs of a certain diameter and then cutting up pieces.  That sounded fussy, so I can see why the Mrs. used an ice cream scoop.  I didn't know what size she used, and if I wasn't making these on my wacky schedule in the middle of the night I would have asked her.  I used my "tablespoon" scoop, but those turned out too big, like Oreos, and a little flat though they tasted just as good.

Unbaked Baci
Wonder about using sanding or sparkling sugar?  Don't.  I experimented, and it was pretty but too crunchy.
For my second try, I did what I call "the insurance policy": I froze the dough balls to help maintain a round shape and made them in 3 sizes, figuring one of those sizes had to be right.  Turns out using the tablespoon scoop and then halving those pieces makes the perfect two-bite cookie.  And this cookie is definitely making an appearance come Christmas cookie basket time.  Some relatives will be very happy indeed.

Butterflies kept us company during the picnic.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Peach and Plum Crumble

Peach and Plum Crumble 2

This crumble was both insanely easy and insanely good.  My sister and I had each eyed it while browsing a magazine on our Nooks, and when she visited for the July 4th holiday we thought the simplicity made it perfect.  Easy and quick mean so much when I'm chasing around an 18-month-old niece for days.  Seriously.  The day they left, I proceeded to nap an hour, then went to bed way early and stayed unconscious for 10 hours.  Mothers, and especially blogger mothers, you have my utmost respect.

Peach Plum Crumble Pan

But even busy mothers and anybody who doesn't like fussing with rolling out pie dough can make this crumble.  You just slice up peaches and plums and toss them with sugar, cornstarch, and salt -- don't even bother peeling the fruit!  Then quickly mix up a crumb topping and scatter it over the top, and it goes in the oven.  My love of traditional pie crust made me skeptical a crumb topping could satisfy, but we three adults were so mad about the topping we agreed it should be doubled next time.

Peach Plum Crumble 2

The plums were our own addition to the recipe, and they turned the crumble a beautiful purple and gave it some tartness.  Sis and I thought the filling was too sweet, though Joe thought it was all right.  So on this second try I doubled the crumb topping but reduced the sugar.  Summer perfection.

Audrey b2

I'm up for visiting the beach again too, with or without Audrey.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Boston Globe review: The Chicago dog in Boston

Windy City dog
Shirley Goh/Globe Staff
Well, south of Boston.  This was a fun review, though I think I ate my fill of hot dogs for the entire summer and then some.  The Chicago hot dog is a very particular combination, and I got some "native" expertise thanks to my friends Karen and Janet.  There are also plenty of nontraditional hot dog combinations on the menu.  

Click here to read all about them in my review of Windy City Eats.  You can also watch a video I made of the owner putting together the "ultimate Chicago dog."  That link has all the photos and video, but if you run into the subscriber pay wall you can still access the review and video here.

As always, I welcome any suggestions for places to review on the South Shore!  Have a happy 4th!