Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wok Wednesdays (WW): Sugar Snap Peas and Shiitake Mushrooms

Better late than never. After hesitating, I've decided to join Wok Wednesdays based on the wonderful book Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge by Grace Young.

Many years ago, I sat in on a Chinese cooking class and was hooked. Or so I thought. I bought a step-by-step Chinese cookbook that started with easy stir fry recipes and worked its way to more difficult dishes and a wok with all the accoutrments. Using the wok, I quickly learned to make amazing omelets and vegetable tempura. The one thing I did not do was stir-fry.  I can't even remember why.

Flash forward a couple of decades and I used my wok to make great lo mein. Again, something about stir-frying meat or vegetables intimidated me. When Matt from Green Eats Blog had the inspired idea to start Wok Wednesdays, I knew this was another opportunity. Also, the Tuesdays with Dorie / Baking with Julia blogging group was baking with a ton of butter and although it is a wonderful group, I needed an anecdote.

Our challenge; Sugar Snap Peas and Shiitake Mushrooms.  After careful preparation, the stir-frying itself flies by.  I enjoyed this dish, although I have to work on the timing. The snap peas were nice and crunchy, but the mushrooms were too soggy. Still, I enjoyed the mix of flavors and would make this dish again.  With practice, the textures should all work out fine.

I don't feel like I have the hang of stir frying yet, but I have found that blogging along with others is a great learning experience.  As part of this group, we do not publish the recipes. For that, you'll need to go to the book, which I highly recommend.   But, if you want to pick up tips, variations, ideas, check out the other Wok Wednesdays bloggers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TWD & BWJ: French Strawberry Cake

I was really excited to bake the French Strawberry Cake. This recipe is hosted by Sophia and Allison and you can check out their blogs if you want the recipe...or, as always, you can check out the book, Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. 

I was thinking this would be a great recipe this month. We had much to celebrate. There was my husband's birthday, but he likes Mocha cake. And then there was my older daughter's high school graduation but she loves a good lemon tart.

So, today, the day before TWD/BWJ blog day, I made the cake. I would say we are celebrating the first full weekday of summer vacation. It was the first Monday that we could all sleep in and I had the whole day to bake this cake.
Reading through the recipe, I thought this would be one terrific recipe. As the title suggests, it features strawberries and cream frosting. Yum.  Unfortunately, this cake was not as spectacular as I  had hoped. The recipe did say that the cake is "sturdy, firm, adaptable...and drier than most American cakes."  And indeed, the genoise I baked certainly was sturdy and dry. I have to ask myself, "Is it me?" or was that just the nature of the cake?  I just don't know genoise well enough to know the answer. 

I did like the strawberries and the cream frosting, so I'm sure these recipes will find their way into my repertoire.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

TWD & BWJ: Oasis Naan

After taking a pass on the Sticky Buns, I am really happy to be back with this recipe, Oasis Naan. Our hosts are Maggie and Phyl.  When you bake this flat bread, you will be able to find the recipe on their blogs.  Of course, you can get it from Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan, a worthy addition to any cookbook library.
I always marvel at the miracle of bread. I love the way the yeast is alive and the dough grows right in front of you. I do not know who baked the first loaf of yeast bread, but all I can say is "Bless you." It is one of life's great joys and making it is as much fun as eating it. This is one great recipe to add to your repetroire. It is made with four ingredients that are easily found.  The simple techniques require not much more than a bowl and a spoon. I guess a measuring cup helps, but still.... And the results are not only delicious, but you can customize with different spices and toppings.
The first time I made the naan, I followed the recipe. Because my younger doesn't like cumin, I made a few with just kosher salt sprinkled on top. Everyone liked the bread a lot. I also made a veggie curry to go with the bread, which to be frank didn't go over well with the kids.

 I couldn't help but think of what a great pizza dough it would make. So I made it again and topped it with pesto, tomato paste, mozarella and parmesan. Yum. It was a better success with the family. 

 My bread did puff up a lot. I see from the P&Q section that other bloggers had the same issue. To make it the perfect pizza dough, I would have liked it a bit thinner, so I'm open to any suggestions.  That said, this is a keeper.