Sunday, July 26, 2015

Deep-Fried Tofu Simmered with Tomatoes

Tofu is one of our main proteins in everyday cooking.  It appears frequently and my family always have many different recipes of cooking tofu.  Some people are turn off because of the texture and the bland taste of it, but when it's paired with a good recipe the tofu will become a perfect canvas.  It absorbs flavors from spices and sauces, so look for recipes that features assertive ingredients.  

Take this recipe; it's a very simple one but it has all the components that make a great dish.  Sweet, salty, and a bit sour, and the tofu soaks up all these wonderful combo flavors.  I paired this with one or two other dishes, maybe a vegetable and another protein.  Along with steamed rice, I can make dinner quickly.

If you don't want to fry your own tofu, there's fried tofu available in most Asian markets.  I do buy those because I don't always have the time to fry it.

Deep-Fried Tofu Simmered with Tomatoes

Makes 4 to 6 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
12-ounce package fried tofu (try to find a package with eighteen 1-by 2-inch rectangular pieces)
1 1/2 pounds (about 4 medium) tomatoes, cut into 8 wedges each
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoon sugar
2 green onions, green parts only, chopped

Coat the bottom of a large nonstick skillet with the oil.  Arrange the tofu pieces side-by-side in a single layer.  Wedge the tomatoes in wherever you can around the tofu.  If you have to pile the tomatoes on top of the tofu to form a second layer, that's okay.

In a small bowl, mix the fish sauce and sugar together.  Pour over the tofu and tomatoes in the skillet.  Scatter the green onions over the top.  Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook until the tomatoes soften and their juices are released, 10 to 15 minutes.  The skins will also start to peel away from the flesh.  Serve hot with freshly steamed rice.

Source:  The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook by Patricia Tanumihardja

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Marionberry Pie

I'm back blogging after being absent for a while.  I was away on a vacation to California the last week of June and was back in town just before the 4th of July to enjoy it at home.  As usual, fireworks were being deployed in the front yard by a happy teen and the performance was highly encouraged by his parents and grandparents.  I'm glad to be back home again; the vacation was normally a satisfying break from daily grind because we got to spend time as a family together, saw friends and family member, and enjoyed unfamiliar scenery.  

Summer has been a gorgeous season here in Oregon.  While we're away the temperature stayed in the upper 90's to sometime 100's.  As a result the fruits have been bountiful and I got to enjoy plenty of Oregon berries.  I've canned strawberries and raspberries as jams and doled out a few jars to a friend and family member in California.  After I went back home I looked for farm that has U-pick Marionberry as I seldom pick these in the summer.  Weird, huh, because these are supposed to be the berry of Oregon, the native child of the state.  There's one farm out in Beaverton that has U-pick Marionberry, which my son and I went to last weekend, called Hoffman Farm.  It was bit of a drive but it was beautiful out in the country.  We got still plentiful of berries despite the long and thorny vines that we had to avoid.  We also picked some blackberries and raspberries though they're almost out mostly because the heat baked them on the vines.  

I managed to make jam from these beauty and still have leftover.  I then decided to try a pie using filling that's prepared with a different method.  I've used Clear Jel from making canned pie filling before and I decided to utilize it again this time.  Berry pie filling always has lots of water in it that by using Clear Jel I can avoid overly runny filling.  The crust is all-butter crust which smells yummy during baking time.  In the end, even if the filling is still a bit runny, the crust collapse here and there, it's still a delicious pie that's even better with whipped cream or ice cream.

So here is my hard-earned prize after a hard-worked day of picking berries!

Marionberry Pie

Makes 1 9-inch pie

1 cup + 2 Tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons ice water

Cut butter into 1" pieces.  Chill it while you measure other ingredients.  Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the butter and toss until coated.  Using your fingers and palms, work the butter into smaller, irregular pieces, moving quickly and aggressively, so it stays cold.  You want some pieces pressed flat and thin and others that are larger and chunkier.

Combine the vinegar and ice water in a small cup.  Drizzle the liquid over the flour mixture, running your fingers through the flour as go to evenly distribute.  Knead in the bowl until the dough starts to hold together.  It will still look a little dry, but resist the urge to add more water; excess liquid can lead to a tough dough.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface (no extra flour needed) and smash with the heels of your hands a few more times, working in any shaggy edges.  You should still see large-ish pieces of butter and maybe a dry spot here and there.

Cut dough in half.  Press each half into a 1"-inch thick disk and wrap in plastic.  Chill at least 1 hour (and up to 3 days) to firm up the butter and allow the dough to hydrate.

While the dough chills, make the filling.

Marionberry Pie Filling

Makes 4 cups

3 1/2 cups Marionberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon Clear Jel
1 1/3 cups cold water
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Place sugar and Clear Jel in a large saucepan, whisk to combine thoroughly.  Tip in the water and boil the mixture over medium high heat; stirring constantly.  Cook until the mixture begins to thicken.  It will turn from the milky white color to a clear color.  Once the mixture thickens, add lemon juice and cook for 1 minute; stirring constantly.

Remove the mixture from the heat and add in the berries.  Don't over stir, just fold them well.

Continue with making of the pie:  Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to a 13" round (about 1/4" thick).  Slide onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill while you roll out remaining dough to a rectangle, measuring 8" x 14" to make lattice top.  Cut this dough on the long side into strips, each strip measuring 2" x 14".  You want the strips to be a bit longer than the diameter of the pie round.  Any excess strip can be cut with scissors later.  Slide strips onto parchment-lined baking sheet and chill.

Transfer the round dough into a pie dish; lift up edges to allow dough to slump down into dish.  Scrape in the filling.  Beat in 1 large egg with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl.  Brush outer edge of bottom dough with half of the egg wash; then weave lattice strips over filling.  Cut excess strips and press each strip to the edges.  Fold over the rest of the dough that's hanging out on the dish.  Brush pie with remaining egg wash and sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons demerara or granulated sugar.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set pie dish on top.  Bake pie until crust is deep golden brown on top and bottom and juices are bubbling, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  If the top is browning too quickly, cover it with aluminum foil loosely.  Let the pie cool at least 4 hours before slicing.

Sources adapted from:

Bon Appetit, June 2015 (Pie Crust)