Thursday, February 24, 2011

Butternut Squash Wontons with Spicy Ginger Syrup - Take 1

Tonight was a learning experience. When I say this, I do not mean to say that it was a failure - I ate up every bit of what I cooked, with some help from a friend. Still, I know that I would like to do things differently next time.

I was inspired by a recipe for pumpkin wontons with a gorgonzola sauce. The idea of pumpkin wontons really struck me as excellent. I decided to go for a gluten-and-lactose-free version of my own. So, I found a neat and simple recipe for gluten-free wonton skins here:

I skinned, cubed and boiled one large butternut squash. When it was soft, I mashed it and added in a bit of tamari (the wonderfully dark and flavorful gluten-free soy sauce, an indispensable member of any gluten-free fridge). I then used this as a filling for a batch of the wonton skins. For a sauce, I made a simple syrup containing about two pinky joints worth of grated fresh ginger root, and a liberal sprinkling of shichimi togarashi (Japanese 'seven flavor chili pepper' powder).

So, here's what I wish I hadn't done: Rather than getting the full recipe from Casey while I had her on the phone (I've been without a net connection for a few days, and am glad to have it back in time to write this up), I just got the instructions for making the wonton skins themselves. I didn't ask how to cook them. As it turns out, the author steamed hers, then pan fried them. I took the crab rangoon route, sadly (deep fried in a mixture of canola and vegetable oil). This resulted in a wonton skin that was more akin to a flour tortilla. It was very crisp and taco-like, and the flavor that it took on during cooking  really masked the subtle sweetness of the squash.

The good news: As soon as the wontons were paired with the ginger sauce, they were wonderful. The wontons skin's flavor was mellowed out, and the ginger mingled with bursts of squash. The friend I'd recruited to help me roll out wontons helped me devour each and every one. It was a very comfortably filling meal. I think that, if served with a bed of hot rice and a side of steamed greens, this could have easily been made into a meal for four.

The bottom line: Butternut squash wontons need to happen again, and I'm going to steam them as the author intended. The ginger syrup was absolutely excellent and I will most certainly be expanding its use. I do want to consider some options for making the butternut squash's flavor really pop out. I was thinking that steaming the wontons may help, but I'm not sure. I'm afraid to make the filling sweeter, because the ginger syrup was already pretty sweet. My friend suggested maybe adding salt. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Citrus Sriracha Chicken

My younger brother Jeremy made some very good buffalo chicken the other day. This inspired me to put a twist on a favorite of ours. What better way to change it up than by using some delicious Thai sriracha hot sauce? I did a Google search to see if sriracha wings had been done before, and yes, they have. Food & Wine magazine has what looks to be a very interesting recipe here. However, I decided that I would change it up a bit, and throw in some flavors that I really enjoy. The result was better than I could have hoped for.

Citrus Sriracha Chicken
For 4 lbs of chicken (I used drumsticks), you will need:
For the marinade
1/8 cup olive oil
A splash of sesame oil (optional)
1/8 cup madras curry powder
About a tablespoon of paprika

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a container (I used a ziplock freezer bag) and let the chicken marinate overnight. When you're ready to cook it up, set your oven to 375 degrees and bake the chicken for one hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. While the chicken cooks, prepare your sauce by whisking together the following in a large bowl:

1/2 cup of your favorite sriracha-style hot sauce
1/4 cup of your favorite orange juice (I used some extra-pulpy Florida's Natural)
4 tablespoons of butter or margarine (Less, if you'd like more heat)

Once the chicken is cooked through (if you're unsure, check that the juices unclear), toss it in the bowl of sauce until it is covered well. I plated mine up with some baked sweet potato fries, but I'm sure that it could be served with just about anything - a bed of jasmine rice, a nice chopped salad with a simple lime vinaigrette, or steamed or roasted veggies.

I found that the orange juice really helped to mellow out the sriracha beautifully. I was surprised to find that I didn't need anything to accompany the meal and balance out the heat. Not so much as a runny nose. My lips are just comfortably warm, rather than burning. The orange juice flavor was subtle, really blending well with the sriracha's garlicky, chili pepper-infused taste.

If you're looking for a break from typical buffalo wings, I would definitely recommend trying out this simple solution. It's also very easily modified. If you're not a curry fan, swap out the curry powder for some warm spices of your own choosing. Please share any ideas, comments or questions! I'd love to see what you think of the recipe.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Freaking Awesome Burger and Single-Serving Soda Bread

This was an excellent discovery that I am very happy about. When I started cooking gluten and lactose-free, I was feeling bummed out about being unable to bake bread. Thankfully, I found a really good gluten-free soda bread recipe. I found it to be wonderfully biscuit-like, and decided to make a smaller version to use as a burger bun. Here is the modified soda bread recipe, complete with a simple and delicious burger recipe.

Single-serving Soda Bread Bun:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit; lightly butter or oil a small baking sheet or pie tin
Mix together:
1 cup baking flour (I used Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose baking flour)
Sprinkle of salt
Teaspoon or so of baking soda
A sprinkle of buckwheat flour, if you want a really rich flavor
Cut one tablespoon of cold butter into this mixture, mixing it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
Whisk together an egg and a cup of milk (I used Rice Dream), then mix that in with the dry ingredients.
Knead on a floured surface for a little bit, shaping dough into a ball.
Set the ball on the prepared sheet or tin, then pop into the oven for half an hour.

Freaking Awesome Burger:
Chop up a clove of garlic as fine as you'd like it, or leave it chunky. Throw the garlic into a small bowl, along with a BIG splash of Pickapeppa sauce, or just plain Worcestershire if you're boring and haven't bought any Pickapeppa yet (Get on it! I mean it, it's really good!), maybe a tablespoon or so. Add in a quarter pound of ground beef or turkey and knead it together until thoroughly combined.

Shape your now-awesome meat into a ball and press to about half-inch thickness. Add delicious meat-puck to a lightly oiled frying pan and cook to your preferences. I was using turkey, so I made sure that it was cooked well on both sides, but I know that many people are more lenient with beef.

Really Easy Chili (Really)

I figured I'd kick off this blog with a favorite recipe of mine. It's very forgiving and easily adjusted to your personal tastes. All in all, it's more a set of guidelines than a hard set of rules. If you have any favorite tricks or ingredients of your own, throw them into a comment and share them!

Really Easy Chili (Really)
This recipe only uses one pot. Get a nice big one that will be able to hold everything that you will be adding.

3 cans of beans, drained (I suggest an assortment of light red kidney beans, pink, white, black, maybe chickpeas... Experiment until you find out what works best for you)
1 can of corn, drained (Gold, white or sweet)
1 can of diced tomato (Get a huge can if they're on sale), or, if diced is unavailable, canned tomatoes in tomato juice can be broken up in the can with a fork

Optional (and by no means an exhaustive list)
2 small or 1 medium/large potato, cut into small pieces (½ inch or so)
1 zucchini, chopped
1 bell pepper, cut small
1 chili pepper (any sort will do), diced
1 onion, diced
1 or more cloves of garlic, diced
1 package ground beef, turkey or chicken

Over medium-high heat, sauté veggies in a lightly oiled pot large enough to hold all of your ingredients. If using meat, cook the meat over high heat until browned before reducing the heat and adding the vegetables.

When lightly browned, add beans and corn and cook for another few minutes before adding the tomato. If the tomato doesn't add enough liquid, add enough water to almost cover the ingredients.

Boil for five minutes, then reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for ½ hour to however long you can wait, stirring whenever you feel like stirring. Just make sure to check in and add more liquid if need be. It's a pain to clean burnt stuff off of a pan.

Don't season it until you've tried it. Might need some salt, or a few grinds of a pepper mill, or it might be just fine as it is. Some chipotle seasoning is also a great addition.

This is delicious on its own, or on a bed of rice. An even chili-to-rice ratio is good. It's also great for dipping tortilla chips into.


A Warm Welcome

First of all, thank you for visiting my blog! I've wanted to write a food blog for some time now, but I've never sat down to make it happen. Tonight, I was encouraged to buckle down and set one up. This is the result.

My name is Kassidy. At the moment, I'm a student at a local community college. I have everything required for an Associate's Degree in the liberal arts with a focus on social sciences. I've flip-flopped often about what I'd like to take on as a career. I entered college hoping to be a chef. This quickly changed when I took my first psychology class. Within no time, I was jumping into anthropology and sociology as well.

In October of 2009, I entered a very, very wonderful relationship with a girl, and, by association, her very mean and fickle stomach. She has dairy allergies and is gluten intolerant, along with being unable to handle a number of other ingredients that I took for granted (garlic/onion family, cilantro, the list goes on). While I already loved cooking, these new restrictions really increased my output of homemade meals. It also made me very aware of the fact that each and every person's digestive tract is a very unique and personal thing. With that in mind, I have decided that I would really enjoy getting into the field of human nutrition. I would love to help people find healthy and delicious foods that agree with them.

Hopefully, this blog will be a place where any visitor can find something to enjoy. Poke around, leave a comment or two, and come back if you'd like to see more posts. I can't promise a regular schedule yet, but I'll certainly try to get into a pattern. Also, if you really, really enjoy this blog and would like to help support me, poke around through the Google ads! I'm saving up money in order to move out to Washington State, and every dollar helps!