Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Zoodles with Shredded Chicken and Sesame Sauce

Zoodles! Besides being a fun word to say, zoodles (zucchini noodles) are an incredibly fresh, healthy, nutritious, gluten-free, and low carb alternative to pasta or noodles. Zucchini takes on flavors easily, thus making zoodles a remarkably versatile base for a wide range of dishes.

I picked up a bag of zucchini at the Heart of the City Farmers Market in San Francisco last weekend. Back at my penthouse kitchen, just as I was craning over these dark green summer gourds, sweat dripping down my forehead under the unrelenting summer heat, a sudden craving for 涼拌雞絲粉皮 hit me.

A gorgeous zucchini, also known as courgette
A familiar and massively popular appetizer in Northeastern Chinese cuisine, 涼拌雞絲粉皮 traditionally consists of translucent mung bean sheet noodles (粉皮), hand shredded chicken (雞絲), crisp cucumber julienne (青瓜) and a lip-smacking sesame dressing (麻醬) that always tickles my taste buds.

Now, who says zoodles only works as pasta? With zucchini in my hands, I decided to swap out the mung bean noodles and cukes and swap in zoodles for a twisted, "greened up" version of this classic Manchurian starter. No fancy spiralizer, no mandolin needed; just your good old fashioned vegetable peeler and a knife!

晶瑩通透 又滑又爽口!

When cut to the right width, those thin, slightly opaque ribbons of zucchini frankly does a marvelous job mimicking mung bean noodles. As for the main ingredient of the dressing, sesame paste is hardly the only choice either. Peanut butter is also commonly used in restaurants and will similarly knock the ball out of the park. Heck, I even made once with sunflower seed butter. Delish!

So here is a fun, light, and super easy twist on this popular Northeastern Chinese cold dish using zoodles. It is about time that you, too, jump on the zoodle bandwagon!

What you'll need...
Zoodles and Chicken:
2 zucchini
Choice of 4 chicken tenders, 1 chicken breast, or 1 chicken thigh

2 tablespoons sesame paste
3 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 inch of fresh ginger, grated (optional)
Dash of soy sauce

Choice of garnish:
Toasted sesame seeds or peanuts
Small bunch of cilantro
Cucumber matchsticks 

For the dressing...
Firstly thin out the sesame paste by stirring in warm water. Add all other ingredients and stir until the dressing reaches a smooth, heavy cream-like consistency. Make ahead to allow the flavors to mingle.

For the zoodles... 
1. Start by cutting off the ends of the zucchini. Using a vegetable peeler, peel zucchini into long ribbons. The more pressure you apply, the thicker your zucchini noodles will be. Peel all four "sides" of the zucchini until you reach the core with seeds (reserve the cores for other uses such as ratatouille, casseroles, or stir-fries - don't let it go to waste!).

2. Stack the strips on top of each other. Cut the strips to 1/2 inch strips or as desired.

3. Bring a pot of water to a boil, blanch zoodles very briefly - no more than 60 seconds! Immediately drain and dunk into an ice bath to cool and stop the cooking process. Once cooled, drain and set zoodles on paper towel or a clean kitchen towel to absorb excessive moisture.

For the chicken...
Steam or boil your choice of chicken. Once cooked and cooled, shred chicken into thin strips using your fingers.

Now, all that is left to do is to put everything together.
Layer the zoodles on your serving platter. Top with shredded chicken, sesame dressing, and your choice of garnish. Enjoy!!


由意大利翠玉瓜(zucchini, 簡稱意瓜)刨成絲
製成的低熱量「偽意粉」Zoodles 在外國已流行多時,
Zoodles 其實用法甚多,現時天氣轉冷,更可作為熱食沙律,
更可 fusion 做成「涼拌雞絲偽粉皮」!


意大利翠玉瓜  2 隻
雞肉  可選用雞柳、雞胸、或雞腿肉

1. 首先將意瓜兩端切除。
2. 用削皮刨,下點力於意瓜的四面刨出寬條狀,直至到達瓜中見籽的地方為止。
3. 把一條條的寬條叠好,用利刀切成一條條約半吋闊的「 偽粉皮」。
4. 煮沸熱水,把偽粉皮快速地灼一灼,撈起並立即浸冰水,以保其爽嫩。
5. 瀝乾後放一旁備用。
6. 隔水蒸熟雞肉。略涼後以手搣成雞絲。

芝麻醬  2 湯匙
溫開水  3 湯匙
鎮江醋  2 茶匙
砂糖  2 茶匙
麻油  1 茶匙
蒜末  1 大茶匙
薑蓉  約半吋薑
老抽  適量

1. 芝麻醬先用溫水稀釋,加入其他調味料拌勻再作調味。

芝麻 / 花生

1. 接下來最後一個步驟,先把意瓜偽粉皮置碟,在粉皮上放上適量手撕雞肉和自選配料,之後再淋上拌勻的麻醬即成。

[Write to me under comments! Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and check out my Facebook Fan Page!]

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Crunchy Chewy Cornflakes Cookies

Crunchy Chewy Cornflakes Cookies - speaking of alliteration and an oxymoron within the same cookie! As the name implies, this fabulous cookie is full of mouthwatering contrasts. At once sweet and salty, it is soft and chewy on the inside, crisp and crunchy on the outside - what's not to love?

I am not really into cereal with milk in the morning, but dunking this baby in a glass of cold fresh milk is a whole different story. I had my first ever cornflakes cookie earlier this winter in a cafe in Toronto and was hooked on making them ever since. Little did I know that cornflakes cookies have been around since 1970s. In today's world, thanks to our ever growing variety of flours and sugars, every home cook can play with different combinations to suit their dietary preferences and create their desired results. So play around and even get your kids into it!
The below recipe includes coconut flour and cornstarch to produce incredibly crumbly and tender cookies, so if you are after a more crunchy bite, feel free to substitute coconut flour with a half cup of plain flour or bread flour and leave out the cornstarch. Longer baking time will also produce a crunchier cookie. Additionally, you can sub brown sugar for white sugar for a more blond, less chewy version of the same cookie. Add a pinch of coarse sea salt for that extra crunch and contrasting savoriness. You can even experiment with mixing several kinds of cereals like rice cereals!

Now, get baking, and get ready to curl up with a glass of milk and a book!
What you'll need... (makes 24 3-inch cookies, minus all the dough I nibbled) 
Dry ingredients:
1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup coconut flour
1 cup + 1 cup cornflakes, lightly crushed by hand
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of coarse sea salt

Wet ingredients:
7/8 cup (200g) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl sieve together the flours, cornstarch and baking soda. Mix in salts and 1 cup of cornflakes.

3. In a separate bowl, use electric beaters to beat the butter and sugars until creamy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Pour this wet mixture into the flour mixture and fold to combine.

4. Place the remaining cornflakes in a bowl. Spoon slightly heaped tablespoonfuls of the cookie dough into the cornflakes. Toss gently in the cornflakes to coat and form balls.

5. Drop the dough balls onto the parchment lined baking sheet, spacing at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden. For best results let the cookies cool for 10 minutes before attacking. Repeat this step until you are out of dough.

Note: Just like cereal in milk, once mixed into the dough the cornflakes can quickly go soggy. If you enjoy working slow in the kitchen (like me), or have a small oven that can only handle a half dozen of cookies at a time (like me), reserve more cornflakes to be used as sprinkles instead of mixing into the dough in step 2.

材料(約 24 個 3 吋 曲奇):
低筋麵粉  125 克
純椰子粉  85 克 (可用 60 克 低筋麵粉取替)
玉米片  60 克(分半,並用手輕輕壓碎)
粟粉  2 茶匙
蘇打粉  1/2 茶匙
幼鹽  3/4 茶匙
海鹽  少量

牛油  200 克 (室溫)
紅糖  220 克
砂糖  50 克
香草精  1 茶匙
雞蛋  2 隻

1. 預熱焗爐至 190C / 375F。
2. 麵粉、粟粉、蘇打粉過篩,拌入幼鹽、海鹽和一半玉米片備用。
3. 牛油、砂糖、紅糖用攪拌機打至綿滑,拌入雞蛋及香草精。
4. 將以上濕和乾成份混合均勻。注意別過分攪拌。
5. 將剩餘的玉米碎片置於碗子內。
6. 把麵團揉成圓球狀,再沾上玉米碎片,然後排放在鋪了烘培紙的焗盤上。注意每球分隔約 2 吋讓其有充足空間擴大。
7. 放入焗爐焗約 12-15 分鐘至金黃色。略涼約 10 分鐘後可馬上享用!

[Write to me under comments! Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and check out my Facebook Fan Page!]

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Orecchiette with Eggplant and Italian Sausage

Summer in Rome conjures up images of red-checkered tables and chairs spilling onto the sidewalk, of food lovers dining and drinking well into the evening, of lively farmers markets carrying the bounty of Italy's growing season - all alongside imposing ruins of Ancient Rome.

A stroll through the compact yet complete Circus Maximus Farmers Market will take you on a culinary journey through the sights and smells of an Italian summer. Emerald green zucchini, deep purple aubergines and bursting red, candy-sweet tomatoes of all shapes and sizes meet the pungent aroma of cured meats and fresh made stracciatella di bufala. Ristorantes and trattorias around town offer up seasonal specials, showcasing the freshest of local, in-season ingredients.

Interestingly, I have not always had the same appreciation for Italian cuisine. In my early years of travel I have had my fair share of dismal Italian food, falling victim for obvious tourist traps that were more concerned about turning over tables than food. I was confounded, disappointed, my experience once so marred by droopy, soggy, skimpy pizza that I left questioning what Italian food was.

Falling in love with Trastevere, Rome [Summer 2016]

It wasn't until recently as my passion and curiosity for cooking grew that I started understanding and truly appreciating the essence of great italian food: simplicity, highlighted by the freshest, seasonal ingredients.

Over the years I trailed off the beaten path, exploring the nooks and crannies of Rome and beyond, tasting local treats and regional dishes along the way. My discoveries are as ground-breaking as they are elemental. Whether it is tagliatelle amatriciana, a classic pizza margherita, or a simple antipasto of burratina affumicata, the connection is clear: all you need is a few good ingredients to make an amazing dish.

Call me crazy - never had it occurred to me before just how much tomatoes themselves contribute to the actual flavor of a tomato sauce until my last pizza in Rome - it was a transcendental moment. I was positively enlightened. Perhaps possessed. You get the idea.

Below is my take on a simple pasta dish I had as I explored Italy: Orecchiette con Melanzane e Salsiccia. Little bite-sized orecchiette (literally "small ears" in Italian) makes a wonderful vehicle to hold the chunky sauce, although any kind of pasta will do. The tomato sauce can be made in large batches ahead of time and frozen for later use; recipe as follows:

Classic Homemade Tomato Sauce | Sugo al Pomodoro

What you'll need...
200g orecchiette
2 sweet Italian sausage with fennel, casing removed
1 small eggplant, diced into bite-sized cubes
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Classic Homemade Tomato Sauce
Grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. Toss eggplant with one teaspoon of salt and drain for a few minutes on paper towel. Bring a salted pot of water to boil, cook pasta till al dente. Drain, reserving a small amount of pasta water.

2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium low heat, add sausage. Crumble the sausage and cook until beginning to brown. Pat the moisture off the eggplant and add to the sausage. Cook to soften, partially covered, about 6 minutes.

3. Add homemade tomato sauce and cherry tomatoes, stir to combine and cook till heated through. Add some pasta water if necessary.

4. Stir in cooked orecchiette and season to taste with salt and pepper. Plate and top with grated cheese. Buon appetito!

貓耳朵麵  200 克
意式肉腸  2 條 除去腸衣
茄子  1 小個
車厘茄  8 個 切半
初榨橄欖油   1 湯匙
芝士  隨個人喜好

1. 茄子切成小丁,撒上 1 茶匙鹽拌勻出水。
2. 滾水裡加鹽及意粉,煮至彈牙撈起備用。可保留少量意粉水備用。
3. 橄欖油用中慢火燒熱,加入意式肉腸,用鏟剁碎並煎至呈金黃色。
4. 茄子用吸水紙印乾,加入平鍋跟肉腸一起煮至軟身,約 6 分鐘。
5. 加入自家製意式番茄醬和車厘茄拌勻,有需要的話可加少量意粉水。
6. 番茄醬滾後拌入貓耳朵麵,拌勻再作調味關火即成。
7. 上碟後隨意撒上芝士,再配上一杯白酒,好好品嚐!

[Write to me under comments! Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and check out my Facebook Fan Page!]