Coconut Tapioca Pudding

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The first time I cooked with tapioca pearls a few years ago, I ended up with a giant mess. I was trying to recreate boba tea, and I overcooked the small, translucent spheres and the whole thing dissolved into a gelatinous blob that adhered itself to the pot. After that experience, I stayed away from tapioca pearls – until now.

When I came across this recipe for a cool, tropical tapioca pudding first published in Sunset Magazine, and by the Bay Area’s very own Tim Luym, no less, I knew I had to give tapioca a second chance. Luym is the former executive chef of Poleng Lounge, a fun, street-food centered Filipino restaurant that’s no longer around, but I’d met Luym at an Anthony Bourdain book release a few years ago and his super friendly vibe and his amazing use of Southeast Asian flavors made an impression on me.

But I digress. Back to the tapioca. Thankfully, this dish turned out to be really easy to make. Just keep an eye on the tapioca pearls as they boil and take care not to overcook them. Use small, white pearls, not the larger, dark ones that you typically see in boba tea. I topped this pudding with toasted coconut, mango, and grass jelly, but lychees, kiwi, or pineapple will work just as well.

Mother's Day sushi brunch

Ingredients:

1/3 cup small pearl tapioca
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
1 mango, chopped
1/3 can grass jelly, drained and chopped

Preparation

1. In a saucepan, cook tapioca in 2 quarts boiling water until only slightly chewy to the bite, 5 to 8 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer.

2. Meanwhile, in another saucepan over medium heat, warm the coconut milk, milk, sugar, and vanilla, until steaming, 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Stir drained tapioca into vanilla mixture. Cook, stirring often, until tapioca pearls are clear and just tender, 3 to 6 minutes.

4. Let pudding cool, then chill, stirring occasionally, at least 1 1/4 hours. Stir in more milk if pudding seems too thick.

5. Spoon pudding into glasses or small bowls. Top with toasted coconut and fresh fruit.

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.

Potato and Porcini Mushroom Gratin

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If there is one ingredient in particular that signifies fall to me, it’s mushrooms. I love them year round, but come October, I start to use more of them in my cooking than usual, especially the dried kind. And no dried mushroom is arguably more flavorful and more prized than porcini mushrooms. Layered between thin slices of potatoes and garlic-flecked cheese, this gratin makes for a decadent side dish to any cold-weather meal.

Potato and Porcini Mushroom Gratin

Ingredients:

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup whipping cream
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Pinch of grated nutmeg
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about 5), peeled, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices

1. Place porcini and boiling water in medium bowl. Place small plate atop bowl to keep covered and let soak 20 minutes. Drain and coarsely chop mushrooms.

2. Melt butter with oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Whisk 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, mascarpone cheese, whipping cream, garlic and nutmeg in a bowl; season with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter wide shallow 2-quart baking dish. Arrange 1/4 of potato slices in bottom of dish. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Scatter 1/4 of mushrooms over. Repeat. Spread half of cheese mixture over, shaking dish to settle. Repeat with remaining potatoes and mushrooms in 2 layers each; spread remaining cheese mixture over. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons Parmesan over. Place gratin dish on rimmed baking sheet.

4. Bake gratin until top is brown and sauce is bubbling at edges, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Let gratin rest 15 minutes before serving.

Baked Pasta and Cheese with Radicchio, Pancetta and Porcini Mushrooms

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I have four macaroni and cheese recipes that I keep in regular rotation, and this is the most frequently requested of the bunch. It’s also the most labor intensive, so I tend to make it one or twice a year, usually during the holidays. Radicchio is not the most traditional ingredient in baked pasta dishes, but it lends a beautiful light purple hue to the dish and despite all the cheese and other not-so-good-for-you ingredients, you’re getting your vegetables too.

I adapted this dish from a Food and Wine magazine recipe. I use less than half the butter and cream than the original, making it not too unhealthy for a special occasion dish.

Baked Pasta and Cheese with Radicchio, Pancetta and Porcini Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
Boiling water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces sliced pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 heads of radicchio, each cut into 8 wedges through the core
Salt and ground pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 pound medium shell pasta
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-fat milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 pound Asiago cheese, grated
5 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 3-quart baking dish. In a heatproof bowl, soak the porcini in boiling water until softened, about 15 minutes. Rinse the porcini to dislodge any grit, then drain and chop them. Discard the soaking liquid.

2. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the olive oil. Add the porcini, pancetta and one-third of the garlic and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate.

3. Add the radicchio wedges to the skillet and cook over high heat until wilted and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the radicchio is slightly caramelized, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the porcini mixture and the sage. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

4. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until foamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and bring to a boil; cook, whisking until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to the bowl with the radicchio.

5. Add the pasta to the bowl along with the Asiago and Fontina; toss to combine. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through.

6. Preheat the broiler. Broil the pasta for 2 minutes, until the top is golden and bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes; serve.