Agedashi Tofu

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Most of the time when I dine out for sushi, I order an appetizer of agedashi tofu to start things off. It’s a simple Japanese dish of deep-fried silken tofu, and I love the textural contrast of the crispy outside and the piping hot, creamy tofu on the inside. The whole thing is served in dashi broth and topped with shredded daikon radish and green onions. Despite being deep-fried, the tofu absorbs very little oil, so I don’t feel bad about eating it.

I recently learned to make this dish at home when I was gifted Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook by a friend. I have a few Japanese cookbooks, but this has quickly become my favorite. I’ve already cooked this rendition of agedashi tofu several times.

Agedashi Tofu

Ingredients:

1 block silken tofu, about one pound
Potato starch for coating the tofu
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
3/4 cup dashi stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin
1/2 cup lightly-packed dried bonito flakes (katsuo-bushi)
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1-inch daikon radish, peeled and shredded
1/8 teaspoon Japanese-style ground red chili pepper (ichimi togarashi)

1. Mix the shredded daikon with the chili pepper and set aside.

2. Bring mirin, soy sauce, and dashi to a gentle boil and turn off heat. Add bonito flakes and leave for 10 seconds, then strain through a mesh strainer. Set sauce aside.

3. In a heavy saucepan, heat 2 inches oil to medium-high heat.

4. Slice tofu horizontally into 2 pieces. If desired, slice each of these 2 pieces in half as well. Blot tofu dry and coat with potato starch. Fry the tofu until the surface is golden and crispy, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the tofu with a slotted spoon onto a paper-lined plate to drain excess oil.

5. Place tofu in a serving bowl and pour in the sauce. Garnish with the green onions and shredded daikon radish.

Chilled Vegetable and Bean Thread Noodle Stir-Fry

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Originally adapted from an old Martin Yan recipe for vegetarian rolls wrapped in Mandarin pancakes, this recipe has gone through several permutations over the years. The biggest change is that I added more noodles and got rid of the pancake/wrapper component.

This dish makes a healthy meal on its own and the vegetables can be replaced with whatever is season. Best of all, you can make it ahead of time since it can be served room temperature or chilled.

Beijing-style chilled vegetable stir-fry

Ingredients:

4 dried shiitake mushrooms
6 pieces dried cloud ear
8 ounces dried bean thread noodles
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup thinly sliced cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups mung bean sprouts
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a dash of salt
2 tablespoons oyster flavored sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1. Soak mushrooms and cloud ears in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Thinly slice mushrooms and cloud ears. Soak bean thread noodles in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Cut noodles into 8-inch lengths.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium-high heat in a small frying pan. Pour in 1/3 of beaten eggs and swirl pan to cover entire bottom. Cook until egg is lightly browned on bottom and set on top, about 1 minute. Turn sheet over and cook 10 seconds; slide out of pan. Repeat to make 2 more egg sheets. When sheets are cool, cut in half, stack and slice crosswise into 1/8-inch shreds.

3. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add remaining tablespoon cooking oil, swirling to coat sides. Add garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add mushrooms, cloud ears, cabbage, and carrots; stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add bean thread noodles and broth; cook for 2 minutes.

3. Add mung bean sprouts, egg shreds, oyster flavored sauce, sugar, and sesame oil; cook until heated through. Remove to a serving bowl and serve room temperature or chilled.

Veal Marsala

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One of these days I’d like to eat my way through Italy. That hasn’t happened yet, but thankfully there are tons of Italian classics I can recreate in my kitchen. Veal marsala is one of the most common, and I make this with variations all the time. Sometimes I use chicken, sometimes I use cremini mushrooms instead of button – you get the idea. You can eat this with mashed potatoes but I prefer to serve the veal over buttered egg noodles.

Veal marsala with mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter
1 pound button mushrooms, quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 1/2 pound veal cutlets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sweet Marsala wine
1 cup beef broth
10 ounces egg fettuccine, cooked al dente and tossed with one tablespoon butter

1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over high heat until foam subsides, then saute mushrooms, stirring frequently, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and parsley and saute, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and wipe skillet clean.

2. Pat veal dry, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil with 1 teaspoon butter in skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. While fat is heating, dredge 2 or 3 pieces of veal in flour, shaking off excess, then saute until just cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter with tongs and keep warm, loosely covered. Saute remaining veal in 2 more batches using remaining oil and butter.

3. Add Marsala to skillet and deglaze by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half. Stir in broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture and any veal juices accumulated on platter, then season with salt and pepper if necessary. Simmer 2 minutes more and spoon over veal.

Kumquat Digestif

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I’ll be honest. The reason why I made this digestif to begin with is because it looked so pretty. Bright orange kumquats floating in a pool of vodka – in a gorgeous decanter, no less. I adapted this recipe from Sunset magazine, but with a few tweaks. Less sugar, more kumquats, and I doubled the batch.

I haven’t used this as a digestif, either. Served on the rocks or with a bit of seltzer, it makes a great before-dinner drink. Play around with the recipe as you wish; I might make it with Meyer lemons the next time around.

Kumquat Digestif

Ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
4 cups vodka
20 kumquats, cut in half lengthwise
7 small branches fresh thyme

1. In a medium saucepan, heat sugar with 3/4 cup water, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

2. Stir in vodka. Pour mixture into a decanter and add kumquats (halves first) and thyme. Chill at least 3 weeks. Serve ice-cold, in shot glasses, or in a tumbler over ice.

Dungeness Crab Cakes

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Crab cakes may be a Maryland tradition but I can’t think of a better way to enjoy them than with San Francisco Dungeness crabmeat. I’ve been making this recipe for more than ten years now – they make a perfect appetizer and are just as good in a sandwich.

I usually serve these without any sort of sauce, since the crab cakes themselves are flavored with Parmesan cheese, garlic and herbs. I know cheese usually doesn’t pair well with seafood, but there’s an exception to every rule, right?

Crab cakes

Ingredients:

3/4 pound cooked crabmeat (shelled from one Dungeness crab)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 egg, beaten
1/4 half and half or heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Break crabmeat into flakes. Place in a bowl, add cheese, parsley, oregano, garlic, crumbs, onions, egg, and cream. Mix lightly.

2. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Mound two tablespoons of the crab mixture with a spoon, spreading to make a 3-inch cake. Place in pan and repeat until pan is filled. cook patties until lightly browned on bottoms, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook until other side is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and arrange on serving plate. Repeat until all crab cakes are cooked, adding more oil as needed. Serve warm.