Khmer Dessert for a Very Special Birthday Wish

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 11, 2010 by Donna Arriaga

Today is Beth Kanter’s Birthday! Beth is a passionate, inspirational leader in nonprofit tech.  Her blog inspires thousands of people working in nonprofits to use technology in a way that helps them achieve their missions.

Beth turns 53 this year, and she has a very special birthday wish: Raise funds to send Cambodian children to school.

In celebration of Beth’s birthday and in honor of her special birthday wish, I prepared a Khmer Dessert.

Fried Banana Nuggets (Num Chet Chien)
Fried Banana Nuggets (Num Chet Chien)

These banana nuggets were amazing enough on their own. But they’re even better when garnished with coconut ice cream, a tiny dollop of pineapple preserves, and a drizzling of caramel sauce. Mmmm.

Fried Banana Nuggets (Num Chet Chien)

  • 2 Large Bananas
  • 2 Teaspoons of Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 12 Sheets small-size Spring Roll Shells
  • 1 Cup cooking oil for deep-frying

Cut bananas in half lengthwise. Cut each banana into 12 pieces. In a small bowl, mix the bananas with sugar and vanilla.  Cut the spring roll shells in half. Wrap each banana piece in a spring roll shell.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan.  When oil is hot, drop in the banana pieces. Fry until golden brown. Remove pieces and drain them on a paper towel.

Serve with coconut ice cream, caramel sauce and dollop of pineapple preserves.

Enjoy!

And a very happy birthday to Beth Kanter!!!

Escape from Abhorrent Arborio Prices

Posted in Portland with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2010 by Donna Arriaga

Arborio for $8.89Home cooked risotto was on the menu last night.  So earlier that afternoon, I decided to jaunt on over to the local grocery store with a quest for arborio.

But what I found left me flabbergasted.

$8.89 for a little over two pounds of rice!!! Now, I knew arborio sold for a pretty penny, but I didn’t think I’d have to shell out eight hundred and eighty nine of them.

Despite how badly I wanted risotto, $8.89 was a price point that I just couldn’t justify for rice. After a scan of the rice selection, I quickly found short grain rice (aka pearl rice) at $2.39 for two pounds and decided to use it a substitute for the overpriced arborio.

Here’s why I knew it would be okay to use short grain white rice as a substitute for arborio:

  • Arborio is a short grain rice.  It’s an Italian short grain variety with a crazy-high starch content.  This starch content is what makes risotto so creamy. (btw… Never, ever rinse your arborio. You’ll wash away some of that great starch.)
  • Pearl rice, or short grain white rice, also has a pretty impressive starch content. It too can absorb massive amounts of liquid without becoming soggy.

Differences that lead me to proceed with caution:

  • While pearl rice does have a high starch content and it absorbs massive amounts of liquid, it does neither quite as supremely as arborio.  So, I knew I’d have to scale back my liquid – slightly.  And, I would have to push these little rice grains to their liquid holding capacity, without causing them to become soggy.

And the result? Absolutely fabulous!

Our Mushroom Risotto was velvety smooth, rich and creamy.  The pearl rice held up wonderfully well… one cup of rice absorbed about four cups of broth and the integrity and texture of individual grains were perfect (no soggy rice here).

Braised Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

The recipes…

Mushroom Risotto

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/3 lb shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup short grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup port
  • 3 – 4 cups chicken broth, simmering (Mis en place: Keep a pot of hot chicken broth and a ladle on your back burner)
  • Season w/ salt & pepper

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil. Add thyme and mushrooms.  When mushrooms are cooked through, add port and reduce till pan is nearly dry. Add rice and sauté.

Now, the painstaking dedication comes in. Finish the risotto in the traditional, arm-numbing way: Add one ladle of hot broth to the rice; stir till absorbed; repeat until rice is cooked.

Braised Chicken with Figs

  • 2 chicken breast, boneless & skinless
  • 3/4 cup Port
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • 12 Mission Figs
  • Additional olive oil for braising

Combine all ingredients together in a zip lock bag. Marinate for 2 – 4 hours.

Heat heavy pan (preferrably cast iron) on high heat. Pat chicken breasts dry. Add olive oil to pan. Add chicken and sear both sides. Add marinateing liquid (including figs). Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until internal temp on chicken is 165 degrees.

Remove chicken from pan and set aside to keep warm. Thicken remaining juices in pan with cornstarch slurry. Serve sauce and figs over chicken.

Singapore Noodles on the Brain

Posted in Portland with tags , , , , , , on January 6, 2010 by Donna Arriaga

Last week, I had Singapore Noodles on the Brain.  More precisely, my daydreams of these yellow curried noodles inevitably lead to tingling taste buds, conditioned salivation, and yes, a stomach rumble.

One problem. Singapore Noodles are on my cooking nemesis list.  Meaning, despite my tenacity, a straight out flop (or something less than perfection) is often the ending result.

My problem with Singapore Noodles?

Well, it’s those super thin rice stick noodles. After I’ve reached that final point of adding soaked noodles to my wok, the whole thing goes down hill.  I inadvertently overcook the poor things.  So, what should be a delectable dish of beautifully seasoned noodles is instead a very tasty clump of noodles.

But I had a craving, and that craving needed a solution.  The solution:

Singapore (inspired) Fried Rice

  • 1 c white rice + 2 c water
  • olive oil for sautéing
  • 1/2 c carrots, small dice
  • 1/2 c celery, small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 dried shrimp, ground
  • 2 tsp Madras curry powder
  • 2 tbs soy sauce

First step is to cook the rice.  Then, sauté carrot and celery over high heat. You want some nice color to those veges; a little caramelization goes a long way. Then, add garlic, dried shrimp, and curry powder. Turn the heat down to medium so those spices don’t go up in smoke.  After the spices have bloomed, add the soy sauce.  At this point, I added a little bit more olive oil and then added the rice.

Whatever you do, don’t skip the dried shrimp. They really are the “secret” ingredient, and fresh shrimp are terrific but won’t yield the same flavor.  I know, dried shrimps aren’t the easiest things to come by and you may have to make a special trek to your local Asian grocery store. But it’s definitely worth it!

Full disclosure…

Okay. Okay, so in all honesty, my solution was a complete bastardization of Singapore Noodles.  But then again, “Singapore Noodles” aren’t even Singaporean! Besides, creativity is fueled by inspiration. And Singapore Noodles were certainly an inspiration.

Thanksgiving: Gut-Loading Gratitude

Posted in Portland with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2009 by Donna Arriaga

For Thanksgiving  this year, Paul and I are fortunate enough to have Peter & Hanne (Paul’s parents) and Carl & Anna (Paul’s brother and his girlfriend) cozy up in our home for a wonderful holiday celebration.  And, with turkey day right around the corner, I figured it was due time for me to finalize the menu.

Here’s the line-up…

Starter Courses

  • Beggars’ Purses filled w/ Shrimp, Spinach and Artichokes
  • Crostini w/ Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade
  • Candied Nuts (A special, sweet and salty creation made by Paul’s father that’s balanced with the perfect amount of spice.)
  • Spinach & Arugula Salad w/ Roasted Beets

Main Course and Sides

  • Roast Turkey Breast w/ Prosciutto-Hazelnut Crust
  • Homemade Mushroom and Brie Ravioli w/ Brown Butter Sauce
  • Peter’s Sage Dressing with Chicken Sausage
  • Asparagus w/ Toasted Garlic
  • Maple-Sweetened Cranberry Sauce w/ Jalapeño

Dessert

  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream  (Big thanks to Carl & Anna for our new ice cream maker!)

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Posted in Portland with tags , , , , , , on November 1, 2009 by Donna Arriaga

PB&J = simplicity, no refrigeration needed, cheap, and just down right yumminess.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

This, we already know.  And most of us already know how to assemble a PB&J.  BUT… just in case there’s any confusion, you can rest assured because eHow has saved the day with a PB&J How-To video.

<Really?  REALLY???>

And, after you’ve mastered the art of PB&J, you might be ready for broad, new territory.  Unleash those unstoppable PB&J Master Jedi skills and delve into a whole new realm of peanut butter and jelly – well, mostly peanut butter.

  • Grilled Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana
  • Fluffernutter — Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Fluff
  • Peanut Butter & Mayonnaise [and Shrimp!] — Yup. According to Epicurean.com, “The Southern Housekeeper listed recipes for Peanut Sandwiches, using ‘roasted peanuts chopped up into a fine paste and well mixed with mayonnaise or thick cream.’  In 1968, Ladies Home Journal offered fearless eaters a recipe for a Siamese Sandwich, which combined peanut butter with mayonnaise, shrimp, raisins, apple, celery, onion, powdered ginger and lime or lemon rind.”
  • Asian Curry Spice Peanut Butter, Pickles, Coconut & Potato Chips — This concoction was whipped up by B.P. Loco and is appropriately called  The Wacko.
  • Organic Peanut Butter & Thick-Cut Bacon — At Portland’s own Peanut Butter Ellies, you can order up your very own PB&Bacon.  But it doesn’t stop there.  The Build Your Own option offers a wild array of toppings for your peanut butter cravings ranging from banana and gummy worms to guacamole and BBQ sauce.  (The cafe closed, but adventurous PDX’ers can still order their wild sandwiches to-go.)

And, while creating your masterpiece sandwich, rock out to…

…a good meme dies hard.

Smokin! On my stove top.

Posted in Portland with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2009 by Donna Arriaga

A friend of mine recently left me a FB message with a tantalizing insight into his diner menu… tea-rubbed tenderloin, beer potatoes, and spinach salad.  (Thanks, Evan, for the mouth-watering visions that danced across my palate!)

Anyway, it was his tea-rubbed tenderloin that got me thinking about all the wonderful options for using tea as a flavoring agent.  Its been years since I’ve played around with tea-smoked duck.  And, since Evan’s message, I’ve had a killer craving for a tasty tea-smoked fish.  But it’s October. And, it’s Portland.  So, unless I’m prepared to crouch outside next to my portable grill with an umbrella, I’ll need a back-up plan for smoking.

Now, I could go out and spend 40 – 50 bucks on a brand new stove top smoker.  But why would I do that when I’ve already got a wok?

Jill Santopietro blogged about transforming an everyday wok into a stove top smoker.  She’s also posted a helpful video demonstrating easy to follow steps for stove top smoked ribs.

The Kitchen Butterfly blog offers Four quick facts about Tea-smoking

  1. It is a Chinese Technique, also known as wok-smoking
  2. You don’t need a BBQ…you can do it perfectly on the stove-top
  3. Traditionally, the ’smoke’ is created by mixing raw rice, sugar, Jasmine tea leaves and Star Anise and heating it up till smoking
  4. It could result in a very smoky kitchen so ensure all windows are wide open and your extractor is on!

Mmmm! Let the smoking begin!

Fun With Pork

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 3, 2009 by Donna Arriaga

The title says it all… it’s a zany video all about fun with pork.

Well, that is, it says almost everything.  It doesn’t prepare you for the pork-loving bunny bouncing around to the sprightly sounds of  7 Seconds of Love (their ska band) .  In this animation, the bacons have eyeballs and the Pork Monster is hilariously disturbing.