Tales from the Garden: Fresh Tomato Sauce

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Over the course of this summer, I mentioned that I was not cut out to be a gardener. Note that I can actually grow and tend to a flower garden so gardening in this context points means planting and harvesting stuff that will be used in the kitchen. With that said, you can already guess that I would be lying if I said anything about harvesting the tomatoes you see from my own garden. However, I did not buy them either. When you have a variety of friends and especially those who seem to have been blessed with a green thumb, life can really be adventurous.

Thanks to the gardening skills of my friend DB, I spent the last weekend of Portland’s Indian summer cooking a batch of fresh tomato with my friend.  He uses an Instant Pot pressure cooker, something I never thought of using….but they came out great.

It begun with picking the fruit. DB was taking it very seriously considering that he’d worked all summer for that day. After the picking, we did not have was enough energy left to peel the fruits. Don’t forget that DB is a real gardener so you will excuse me if I say that the bunch was intimidating. I like fighting for good so in the end, I was able to convince him that we would be done before we even knew it.

When work begins, it flows and actually begins to get some flavor. All the tomatoes needed we a quick surgical X at the bottom after which we would toss them into boiling water and go next. In just 45 minutes what had earlier been an intimidating task was marked as complete. Another debate on whether it was appropriate to seed the tomatoes came up. We settled on not seeding because the tomatoes were all fresh and just perfect for stewing.

The tomatoes went into another pot and we could both see the fun part approaching. Who does not like to squish things and especially when seduced by the innocent look of ripe tomatoes. We however made sure our hands were clean before the squishing kicked off.

After quite some time, we mutually agreed on sampling what had become of all summer’s work. We cooked a pot of soft polenta, roasted a pan of vegetables and fried a few eggs. Finally, it was time to sit down and enjoy the simple and delicious meal.

We had planned on canning the sauce but it was not going to be easy on full stomachs. I took three quarts of our product home and stored them in the freeze. Even though I did not grow the tomatoes, they will remind me of sweet summer.

Candy Corn in The Wild

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Last night, my good friend brought me a pumpkin for us to paint and carve.  It was a little too early in the season for us to carve, even though I was craving some roasted pumpkin seeds :).   We decided that to paint the pumpkin….and I looked on Pinterest for some inspiration.  What do you think?

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I think they came out great!!  It was actually much easier than I was anticipating and they look perfect on my front stoop.

Was it Worth it? Turkey Fried Rice…with Potato Chips

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It was 85 degrees outside. I was exhausted from work and after my long bike ride home in the hot sun,I was feeling very hungry. I contemplated to eat just potato chips for dinner but then thought of making something new.

I tried out a unique combination using turkey fried rice and was left surprised how well it turned about. The main ingredients were turkey fried rice and potato chips. I soften up the chips in my bread maker.  I had bought Tim’s potato chips which are extra thick and crunchy but they didn’t really stand out too much from the other ingredients. And like peanuts or cashews, they also added a lovely salty texture to the rice and turkey. I made some changes by adding blanched green beans, asparagus, some spicy mustard greens and a bit of Thai basil. I have this habit of adding extra vegetables when the carbohydrate content in the meal is a little high. It is good for your health and balances the nutrition component. The dinner turned out to be a delightful and I would recommend it to all to try on their own. The potato chips added to turkey rice will definitely make you smack your lips and leave asking for more 🙂

If you are only making turkey rice, you can probably find most of the ingredients in your pantry.  It takes around 20 minutes from start to finish and you can make it when you are feeling really hungry and need something to eat quickly. The original recipe includes eggs, mints and onion but my advice would be to play around with a flavor of potato chips to it and back off using mint. I tried plain potato chips for the first time, but I think it can taste even better. I am thinking about using Jalapeno flavor for the next time and have a feeling it would turn out to be pretty awesome as well.

Good luck experimenting and trying out new fun recipes!

Water Buffalo Larb

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Larb is one of my favorite dishes. I especially like eating it when the weather is hot outside and making me crave for a light, spicy meal. Larb (a dish that originated from Thailand and Laos cuisine) is conventionally prepared with ground pork although you can try ground turkey or other types of meat. I personally tried ground turkey and can assert that even with such lean meats, its other ingredients which include lime juice, fish sauce and chilis ensure that the dish retains its intended flavor.

There was this one time when I made it using a ground local water buffalo. I am a meat distributor which makes it easy for me to get buffalo meat. If you can get it too, try making Larb with it and see if you feel the same magic I felt. Note that water buffalo meat is lean and although it’s not what comes to everyone’s mind when they yearn for meat, it’s a near perfect fit for Larb. Just like in the case of pork, the dish is conventionally served with lettuce as a wrap. In my case, I did not have any so I replaced it with coconut rice. Ask me why the coconut rice and I will tell you that I like how it tastes when the soup soaks into it. To add some interest to it, I threw some vegetables into the mix.

Before I began cooking, I worked on the garnish I was going to use for the meal because they say that garnish has got fiber. I grated a few carrots and then poured wine vinegar alongside other ritualistic ornamental ingredients that included salt, a dash of sugar and hot chili oil. Finally and the end of my wits, I let everything sit and marinate until I was confident that the meal was ready. The result was that they were crunchy and just the perfect fit for my coconut rice.

Bean Curd Skin Rolls

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My love for dim sum is timeless and unconditional. And I know that you already know that, because every time I talk about Chinese cuisine, I begin and end with dim sum. But you can’t blame me for that because they are like the greatest gift to humankind, and I sincerely believe that. When I order dim sum, my friends wonder how can so much food can be eaten by such a tiny person (I’m not that tiny, by the way). I even hide dim sum from my husband. And at all times, you can find a Tupperware with me which I keep for emergency leftovers. And surprisingly, I find all these habits of mine incredibly normal.

START OF SOMETHING NEW – FU TSE JUAN

The best food in dim sum for me is undoubtedly bean curd rolls, or tofu skin rolls, or fu tse juan. And something about this liking is ironic because you see, the prime ingredient in these rolls is a mushroom, something which I despise from as far back as I can remember. And I had no idea at first that they’re gonna have mushroom since they’re called bean curd rolls. I only tried them because of Ariel, who loves and knows about dim sum more than me (which is a very big deal), assured me that I would love them. And I did.

And it was later then I finally figured out the entire confusion regarding mushrooms (thanks to Ariel, of course). The problem is with the term ‘bean curd rolls’. Like every normal amateur, I imagined that the rolls would have a stuffing of bean rolls because you know, that’s what they’re called. But I was wrong. Ariel explained that the rolls are actually made of pressed tofu, and bean curd roll is just a layman’s term. How crazy is that!?

But I loved the fact how magically I fell in love them like John Green would say, “Slowly, then all at once.” To me, my love for these rolls is no less than a super romantic love story. Even though the rolls at first may not seem very appealing, like a crimped dumpling or steamed shu mei, but these little things are all you need to bring happiness in your life. Okay, maybe I exaggerated a little, but they seriously have a dreamy touch in them which makes everything look good. And I think that is the best part.

THE DAY I MADE MY OWN TOFU SKIN ROLLS

So, since I was so fascinated by these rolls, I got almost obsessed and spent an unbelievable amount of time (ONE YEAR) looking for some easy home-made recipes for it. Because I couldn’t help but developed a wish that I want to cook my own tofu skin rolls. Finally, I found a perfect recipe from one of the blogs I was following. And that’s it, me and my almost soul-mate, DB invested an entire day in the cooking for these rolls.

Just for the record, the final product wasn’t really bean curd rolls, in fact, they were not any rolls. So we decided to give them a new name, and thus that’s how we invented a new dim sum dish.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you, Bean Curd Skins.

INGREDIENTS AND RECIPE

So the first thing was shopping. Since the Chinese cuisine has a unique set of ingredients, most of them weren’t at my home, so DB and I had to go to H-Mart. It took us a little while, but we found the tofu skins. And they were surprisingly huge, I almost got scared of them.

The other ingredients were –
· Pork
· Bamboo shoots
· Mushrooms
· Bean curds

All of these were pretty easy to find. Although pork got me little confused because the blogger didn’t specifically mentioned which one. So, I made a judgment call and picked the tenderloin. I must admit, it was some pretty great judgment. Also, since we aren’t big fans of mushroom, we decided to add shiitakes instead. And even that turned out to be pretty awesome.

So here we were with the final ingredients and thus we began this great extravaganza.

Following are the steps to make a perfect bean curd skins.

  • Slice up all the vegetables.
  • Mix the meat with some soy, wine, and cornstarch in a bowl.
  • Add the vegetables in the mixture and pour some salt on it.
  • You can also add chili oil and pepper to taste.
  • We took some risk and added garlic, green onion, and ginger. It was a smart risk, though.
  • Coming to the wrap gently cut the skin into strips in a rectangular shape.
  • Soak the strips in hot water for approximate 2 seconds.
  • Wrap it up!
  • Once wrapped, fry them a little in hot oil over medium heat.
  • The steaming can be tricky (or maybe it was just for me because I was a little drunk). Just steam them on a solid non-perforated bowl.
  • As the water starts boiling, you can pour soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and sugar on it.
  • Cover it up for some 5-10 minutes.
  • Take them out and plate them.
  • Savage every bite as you eat them.I sincerely believe that these rolls were one of my greatest accomplishments ever. Ariel gave them a big thumbs up which made them even more special. And I think it’s good that I made them so perfectly because you see, I have some wrappers still left.