Sweet Marsala Tiramisu

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

My dad only recently developed his sweet tooth, so back when I was experimenting with recipes in college, I knew he would rarely accept an offer of dessert. I definitely remember one such lucky occasion, however, when I dug up a recipe for tiramisu. It’s one of his favorite desserts and arguably my favorite, at least from Italian cuisine, over cannoli, spumoni, even gelato! Though it took a bit of coercing for him to take that first bite, I can still vividly recall his eyes lighting up as he polished off his serving wordlessly. This recipe has been in my repertoire ever since.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Three things. First, you’ll want to make sure you have some strong arm muscles for beating those egg whites to a stiff peak (thanks to the souffle, I’ve had plenty of practice). It’s the aerated whites that really makes this cream filling fluffy and light and not-too-sweet. Possibly among the best tiramisu, or so I’ve been told ;) Second, at six tablespoons of Marsala, this particular recipe is a bit more boozy than others. Have fun with it. (If you do need to cut back, play around with the coffee-Marsala ratio.) Lastly, this tiramisu is topped with grated chocolate just before serving, which truly makes a difference — it tastes way better than the bitter cocoa powder that some restaurants use instead.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup strong black coffee, freshly brewed

6 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine

1 package of ladyfingers (16-24 pieces)

3 eggs, separated

8 ounce package of mascarpone

Dash of nutmeg

Dark or semisweet chocolate for garnish (about 1-2 ounces, grated)

I got this recipe many years ago from a cookbook that I just cannot seem to track down (it doesn’t help that I’ve made some adjustments from the original proportions). If anyone recognizes the source, please let me know and I will gladly credit it.

Coffee-Marsala Mixture

Coffee-Marsala Mixture

Step 1: Dissolve one-half of the sugar (1/8 cup) into the coffee. Stir in the Marsala; you should end up with about 1 cup of liquid total.

Layer #1

Layer #1

Step 2: Arrange a single layer of ladyfingers in the bottom of an 8-inch round trifle dish (or a 1.75 quart Pyrex round). Drizzle about one third of the coffee mixture. Set aside.

Beating the Yolks and Mascarpone

Beating the Yolks and Mascarpone

Step 3: In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the yolks and the remaining sugar. Fold in the mascarpone.

Adding the Nutmeg

Adding the Nutmeg

Step 4: When the yolk-mascarpone mixture is creamy and fully integrated, sprinkle in the nutmeg. Stir.

Beat the Egg Whites

Beat the Egg Whites

Step 5: In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Folding

Folding

Step 6: Fold the mascarpone mixture into the egg whites — first, lighten the mascarpone mixture by stirring in a bit of the fluffy whites, then cut down and scoop over with a rubber spatula, turning the bowl as you go, “folding” the mixture onto itself so as to minimize deflating the whites.

The Setup

The Setup

Step 7: Spoon about one-third of the mixture over the soaked ladyfingers and spread smooth.

Next Layer

Next Layer

Step 8: Continue with a layer of ladyfingers, drizzling with one-third of the coffee mixture and topping with one-third of the fluffy mascarpone cream. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, finishing with mascarpone on the very top layer.

Ready to Chill

Ready to Chill

Step 9: Let chill in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. This will help set the cream.

Shaving the Chocolate

Shaving the Chocolate

Step 10: Just before serving, shave or grate the chocolate over the top of the tiramisu using a microplane. Buon appetito!

Yields: 6-8 servings

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Vietnamese Stir-Fried Rice Noodles (Banh Lot Xao)

Main Dishes, Recipes

One of my favorite street food style Vietnamese dishes is bánh lọt xào – a simple stir fry of rice noodles, eggs, and a molasses-based “thick soy sauce.” The flavor profile bears resemblance to bánh bột chiên, a Vietnamese pan-fried rice cake similar to the turnip cake served at dim sum restaurants. There are only a few ingredients involved, so if you have the fixins on hand, this could make for a very quick meatless dinner!

The Finished Product!

The Finished Product!

NomCat Tip for the Ingredients:

1. Bánh Lọt: The namesake of the dish, these noodles are readily available at Asian grocery stores that stock freshly made rice noodle products, tofu, soy milk, etc. They can be found next to the hủ tiếu (wide, flat rice noodles) packaged in clear bags like in the photo below. The brand we purchased hails from El Monte, CA and is labeled “rice pin noodles,” after their tapered shape. If you have difficulty finding these, you could substitute fresh (or dried and reconstituted) phở noodles, thus making phở xào. Alternatively, you could stop by a Korean grocery store and get a package of duk (떡), round discs of rice flour cakes (although I would blanch them first to soften).

NOTE: The bánh lọt used in this recipe is not to be confused with the green jelly bánh lọt (also known as chendol in other Southeast Asian cuisines) used in Vietnamese desserts, or chè. They are very similar in shape, although which came first, I can’t be sure…

2. Thick Soy Sauce: Definitely not the “soy sauce” that typically comes to mind, thick soy sauce is made of mostly molasses and is a very viscous, dark colored fluid. I buy the one from Koon Chun which is also a popular brand for hoisin sauce, but be sure to read the label! I’ve been known to accidentally buy the wrong product… all of their jars have the same yellow labels and differ only in the text (all written in the same red capitalized letters).

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1 15-ounce package of bánh lọt (or other rice noodles)

1 tablespoon olive oil + 1-2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic oil)

2 eggs

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons thick soy sauce

Black pepper

Soy sauce or seasoning sauce to taste (I sprinkle in about 1 to 2 teaspoons and let the diners add more to their liking)

Scant handful of green onions, chopped

If your noodles were in the refrigerator, pierce the packaging and microwave for 1-2 minutes to help soften (and separate) the noodles. If your noodles are fresh from the store, skip this step.

Noodles - a bit clumpy

Noodles – still a bit clumpy

In a large pot (or wok), heat the oil on medium-high heat and saute the garlic. If using pre-made garlic oil, make sure the garlic bits do not get too dark. Toss in the noodles and stir vigorously to separate.

Drizzle!

Drizzle!

Drizzle in the thick soy sauce, keeping the noodles moving so the molasses does not burn.

Egg Time!

Egg Time!

I usually just crack the eggs directly into the pot and stir to mix, but you could also beat the eggs in a small bowl first and then add them to the noodles. Stir to combine and coat the noodles in egg.

Nice and evenly distributed!

Nice and evenly distributed!

Grind in some fresh cracked pepper and sprinkle with soy sauce or seasoning sauce. I also like to sprinkle in a bit of garlic salt for extra flavor. It’s OK to prepare this a bit under-seasoned so the diner could season to taste.

Color!

Color!

Add the chopped green onions. You’ll want to just wilt them. When the moisture from the eggs has cooked off, remove from the heat and serve. You could whip up a quick “sauce” of soy sauce and sriracha for a spicy kick to serve alongside the noodles.

This recipe yields 2-3 servings.

Optional: bánh lọt xào is often prepared with bean sprouts. Martin isn’t a big fan so we did not include them here. If you plan to use them, be sure to pluck off the roots and rinse the sprouts in cool water. Drain well and add them at the beginning when you first toss the noodles with the oil.

I love the chewy texture and fun-to-eat shape of the bánh lọt, and I enjoy making this dish at home as it can be too greasy when prepared at Vietnamese-Chinese restaurants. This quick and easy recipe is also a great way to participate in Meatless Mondays (although you could easily add some slices of beef, chicken, or even seafood for endless variations on this dish). Enjoy!

(Chocolate) Souffle Girl

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

Soufflé. French for “breathed” or “puffed,” this classic, notoriously difficult dish can send shivers through a chef’s spine. As our friend over at Bunny Eats Design puts it, it is the home cook’s nemesis.

I’ve always wanted to make a soufflé. After watching countless movies and TV shows, I wanted to be that person pulling a beautifully risen soufflé out of the oven. Not going to lie, the “Asylum of the Daleks” episode of Doctor Who with Jenna-Louise Coleman as Souffle Girl played a pretty big part in influencing that desire. So I set to work, combing the internet for recipes and diligently reading up on the eggs chapter of McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Coincidentally, Martin requested a soufflé for his birthday, so that was the deciding factor for me to pick up my whisk and carpe soufflé (hm, that combination of Latin and French worked better in my head…).

Voila! Chocolate souffle

Voila! Chocolate soufflé

Martin has a huge sweet tooth so it was an easy choice to make a chocolate soufflé. I also prepared a vanilla crème anglaise to accompany it. It was certainly ambitious, especially since, for want of a stand mixer, I did everything by hand. A lot of love went into whipping up those egg whites. But in that moment when I pulled the soufflés out of the oven and saw how tall they had risen, I felt so very proud of my accomplishment! (Martin enjoyed it too – he endearingly nicknamed it the Girlfriend Soufflé.)

Here's a shot that really shows the height of its rise.

Here’s a shot that really shows the height of its rise.

Though I consulted On Food and Cooking for most of the technique, I have to credit Food Network Kitchens for providing a starting point for figuring out the proportions of ingredients (although I did end up making some adjustments). Our kitchen just happened to be perfectly prepared to handle this daunting task, so read carefully, plan well, and take inventory of your equipment. This is going to be a long post, so please bear with me.

Soufflé Ingredients (listed in order of usage):

Butter and white sugar for prepping ramekins

3 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used most of a Ghirardelli 60% cacao baking bar)

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg yolks

1 1/2 tablespoons warm water

1 tablespoon white granulated sugar

6 egg whites, brought to room temperature

1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup white granulated sugar

Crème Anglaise Ingredients:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons white granulated sugar

Using these proportions, I was able to fill 2 smaller (4 oz-ish) ramekins and 2 standard 6 oz ramekins.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. According to On Food and Cooking, this will yield the quickest and most dramatic rise, but also a faster collapse. I opted for this because I prefer my soufflés lighter and more airy; low and slow will yield more of a lava cake consistency and a less dramatic rise.

Step 1: Prep Ramekins

Step 1: Prep Ramekins

1) Prepare the ramekins by buttering the base of the ramekin all the way up the sides. I used a scrap of paper towel and some softened butter that had been sitting on the counter. Coat the buttered ramekins with sugar. I read a trick online to minimize mess: add a spoonful or two of sugar to the ramekin. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and shake to get all of the sides evenly coated. Shake out the excess into the next ramekin and continue the process. Some recipes say to freeze or refrigerate these prepped ramekins. I left them out on the counter and achieved fine results.

Step 2a: Melt Chocolate

Step 2a: Melt Chocolate

2) Create a double-boiler by bringing about 1 inch of water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Place a heat resistant bowl (like a Pyrex) inside, making sure the bottom does not touch the water. Melt the chopped chocolate with the butter.A silicon spatula is helpful to stir and scrape down the sides of the bowl, ensuring the mixture blends smoothly.

Step 2b: Smooth, melted chocolate

Step 2b: Smooth, melted chocolate

When the mixture is completely smooth, take off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside for later.

Step 3: Egg Yolks and Water

Step 3: Egg Yolks and Water

3) Whisk the egg yolks with the warm water in a small bowl until frothy and pale yellow. Sprinkle in the 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue whisking until it reaches the “ribbon stage,” so named because a lifted whisk will cause the mixture to cascade down in a ribbon-like pattern. This will take about 5 minutes from the time you add in the sugar.

Step 4: Frothy yolks + melted chocolate

Step 4a: Frothy yolks + melted chocolate

4) Fold the egg yolk mixture into the melted chocolate, mixing gently. I drizzled the egg mixture into the chocolate rather than dumping it in all at once.

Step 4b: Fluffy chocolate

Step 4b: Fluffy chocolate

I think this helped to keep some of the yolk froth.

Step 5: Stiff but Glossy Peaks

Step 5: Stiff but Glossy Peaks

5) Time to foam! Take out your largest Pyrex (or other non-reactive) bowl; add the egg whites and lemon juice. Grab a NEW whisk or wash the first one very well. Any trace of egg yolk and the whites will not whisk up properly. Whisk away to get it started; then add in the sugar and continue whisking. I did this by hand, and it took about 10-15 minutes of vigorous whisking to get the stiff but glossy peaks that you’re looking for. Phew! What a workout.

Step 6: Gentle Folding

Step 6: Gentle Folding

6) Now it’s time for more folding. Some people say to work quickly but I heeded the advice of On Food and Cooking and worked gently instead. Spoon about 1/4 to 1/3 of the foam onto the chocolate mixture and gently fold to lighten. Add about half of the remaining foam and continue to fold, using as few strokes as possible. Then finish up the foam and fold. I’ve read that if you have to make the choice between white streaks and over-mixing, it’s OK to have white streaks. Too much or too vigorous mixing will lose a lot of your hard-earned voluminous foam.

Step 7: Spoon into Ramekins

Step 7: Spoon into Ramekins

7) Spoon the soufflé mixture into your prepared ramekins. Apparently, the cocoa strengthens the bubble walls so this souffle mixture, while it seems delicate, is actually quite resilient and could keep in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer indefinitely before its bubbly integrity deteriorates. I personally didn’t chance it. Place the ramekins onto a baking sheet and slide them onto a rack situated in the bottom 1/3 of the oven.

Step 8: Baking Time....

Step 8: Baking Time….

8) Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or just as the tops start to brown. Contrary to popular belief, you CAN open the oven without ruining the soufflé. It is the heat that causes the air bubbles to expand and loss of heat that causes the collapse. Still, I left well enough alone and was grateful for my glass doors through which I could keep a watchful eye.

Step 9: Crème Anglaise

Step 9: Crème Anglaise

9) If preparing a crème anglaise, you’ll have just enough time to do this now. Bring the cream and vanilla to a simmer. (If you have vanilla bean pods, this would be a great opportunity to use them instead of extract!) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until silky and not grainy. Add a bit of the cream to temper the yolks, whisking constantly or you may end up with scrambled eggs. Return the mixture to the pot and continue cooking until the consistency is substantial enough to cling to the back of a spoon. Set aside.

Step 10: The Finished Product

Step 10: The Finished Product

10) Serve immediately after removing from the oven. Like I mentioned earlier, this method yields a beautiful rise but also a very quick collapse. Break open the soufflé and drizzle in the crème anglaise.

DIG IN!

Dig in.

Drizzle. Serve.

Drizzle. Serve.

Bon appétit!

our-growing-edge-badgeThe soufflé has always been a bucket list item of mine, and in the kitchen, it happened to be a wonderful example of my own growing edge – the part of me that yearns to keep learning and trying new things and meeting new challenges. Just as I was basking in the glow of my soufflé accomplishment, I serendipitously received an email from Bunny Eats Design inviting us to participate in the monthly blogging event for Our Growing Edge. So I sat myself down and composed this post. I assure you this will not be my last soufflé, and I hope my post inspires you to try your first (Valentine’s day is just a few days away… hint hint)! Believe me, it can be done and oh, is it satisfying!

If you’re feeling apprehensive, I’m no expert but will gladly try to answer any questions you may have – just drop me a line. :3

Edamame Fried Rice

Main Dishes, Recipes, Side Dishes

Some days we get to go out and splurge on decadent dinners, but most days we’re just a couple of recent college grads who want to sit down to some homemade comfort food after a long day at work. For us, fried rice is one of these comfort dishes that always comes through for us with a satisfying meal when we’re pressed for time. Recently, I started added edamame to my fried rice. It was a weird change since, as a child, I didn’t even like peas in my fried rice and I would spend the first five minutes in front of my bowl carefully extracting each pea one by one with my chopsticks. But for whatever reason, I love adding edamame to my fried rice, and Trader Joe’s sells them already shelled and frozen, making life that much easier. Edamame, or green immature soybeans, are a great way of kicking up a plain ol’ fried rice with some beautiful bright green color and a nice crunchy texture, not to mention the high protein and fiber content! Martin doesn’t like the change in texture, so sometimes I just add some to my portion, or if I have leftovers, I’ll toss in a handful of edamame straight out of the freezer and heat them up together in the microwave.

Voila! The Finished Product

Without further ado, here is the recipe for making this ovo-vegetarian (that is, vegetarian + eggs) dish that you could serve as a side dish or eat on its own as a hearty, well-balanced entree.

Ingredients:

3 cups of cooked white jasmine rice (see our com do entry for notes about the type of rice and prep method)

2 eggs, 3 if you like your fried rice extra egg-y

1 cup of edamame, shelled and parboiled (or the pre-shelled ones straight out of the freezer)

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

Olive Oil

Garlic Salt

Black Pepper

Maggi, soy sauce, or other soy-based seasoning sauces (we like Golden Mountain)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or wok (you’ll want lots of room to mix and toss the rice around) on medium-high heat. Saute the garlic and onions until softened and almost translucent. Add the edamame. You’re mostly looking to “defrost” them if using frozen, but I ended up browning mine a bit and it tasted pretty good with a nice nutty flavor.

Sauteed onions, garlic, and edamame

Pile on the rice and crack the eggs on top. Stir vigorously to coat so that everything is a nice golden color.

That’s Martin stirring vigorously.

Season to taste with some garlic salt, black pepper, and soy sauce of choice. If you like your rice a bit crispy, crank the heat up to high and let the rice sit for a few minutes, stirring occasionally just enough to prevent burning but not too frequently so it will have a chance to brown. Serves 4.

Bon appetit!

Let us know how it goes! We hope you’ll add this recipe to your weeknight dinner rotation.