Friday, September 17, 2010

Broccoli Beef

There is something about Chinese food that has always held a sort of fascination for me. The ingredients are so simple, but sometimes it amazes me that such simple combinations can be so delicious and taste so complex.

I think the nature of Chinese food has always been something regionally adaptable, simple, using a combination of fresh vegetables and a small amount of meat, to make a really satisfying meal.  My earliest memories of eating at a Chinese restaurant are of a little place back in Woodward, OK.  Of course, my favorite was Broccoli Beef and lots of steamed rice doused in soy sauce.

Tonight, I made this for my family.  It has been quite a while since I've made Chinese at home.  There are so many take-outs nearby, and the convenience of eating there over at home, has really put my recipes for similar foods in the back of the cookbook.

Dear hubby Justin took a bite tonight and asked me where I hid the takeout box. He said it was great.  Even my picky 4-year old son inhaled his and declared that Chinese steak was his favorite. That was nice to hear.  I like having compliments on my cooking, but to get a picky little turkey like Eric to tell me it was good really means something.

about 1 lb thinly sliced beef, sirloin, chuck, flank, or even tenderloin in strips
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (use a microplane grater for best results)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sake (rice wine)
1/2 teaspoon corn starch
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
2 Tablespoons canola oil

For the sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sake
1 Tablespoon light soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon corn starch
1/4 cup beef or chicken broth (or equivalent of bouillon dissolved in water)

1. Combine the grated ginger, soy sauce, sake, corn starch, and pepper, Mix well and pour over the sliced beef.  Mix it around and let rest about 10 minutes.

2. Steam or microwave the broccoli about 2 minutes, or until just starting to get tender. Drain well and set aside.

3.Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.  Set aside.

4. Heat up a wok or large frying pan over high heat.  Add the oil and swirl around.  Add the beef carefully arranged so it's all in a single layer, even working up toward the edges of the pan.  This sounds weird but it works.  It keeps the meat from releasing all its juices and making a big puddle that the meat boils in. Make sure to keep the temperature really hot too to sear the juices in.

5. After about 2 minutes, flip the beef.  Keep it up the pan's sides. Add the garlic to the center of the pan.  Let it cook only 1 minute.

6. Add the sauce to the hot pan.  Stir it so the beef and garlic are coated well.  Add the broccoli.  Stir again to coat the broccoli in the sauce.

7. Serve immediately with steamed rice.

Notes: If you want to reduce the sodium levels, be sure to use light soy sauce, or even tamari.  For the sauce you could use 1/4 cup plain water instead of broth or bouillon.  Also, if you want other vegetables sliced carrots, onion, water chestnuts, or even evil mushrooms (for you mushroomy people) could be added.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Accepting Requests

My husband had an idea. We were talking over lunch about this here little blog and the fun I have cooking and being creative with food. He said that I should take requests.

If any of you lovely, loyal readers of this blog have a suggestion for a recipe you would like me to make or a request for something you have been hunting for, you should ask me.

So go ahead.  Leave me a comment and I will cook it up, complete with detailed instructions and photos.

Let me throw out one rule though. No mushrooms allowed. I do not touch mushrooms. I'm allergic to them, so that is a household rule set in stone. And I have been asked many, many times if I miss them. Nope. Not at all. I think they taste like dirt or garbage.

Don't be shy now! I already have plans to make apple crisp next week after my daughter's birthday party.  I will be posting the recipe and instructions for the devil's food cake and honey buttercream frosting that I'm going to use for her cake.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Banana Fritters

I have never been a die-hard banana lover. My attitude used to be "take them or leave them" but since having children, my taste for them has changed.

For anyone who has not experienced pregnancy, there is really no way to describe the ways it can change you. It's more than just physically carrying a baby. Your senses change. The baby has a strange way of letting you know what he or she wants or needs through cravings. Oddly enough, some of these changes don't go away. Both kids love bananas and I think it has permanently changed me.

For example, I now really like banana desserts with cooked bananas. I'm still so-so with eating a banana from the peel, but something warm and sweet gets my attention. Also, I used to like donuts a little bit. Now I can mow down donut after donut (which is not so good for my mommy pooch).

A few nights ago I was inspired. What could I make with some ripe bananas? I thought about how I could fry them. In an eggroll wrapper? Maybe. With a rum caramel sauce? Not this time. Covered in some sort of dough and fried? Yes, that sounds good. Maybe something like a Thai fried banana? Absolutely YES!

I played around with the batter, thicker or thinner? It had to be thick enough to stick to the banana. I didn't want it to be too thin like tempura, but I really didn't want a fluffy, yeasty donut dough either. Also, I wanted the dough itself to have some flavor, maybe a bit of spice.

My experiment yielded excellent results. Justin, Mom, and Dad were wowed. We enjoyed our fritters with vanilla ice cream topped by an extra sprinkle of cinnamon and vanilla sugar. It was heavenly!

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour (like Mochiko)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
sprinkle of salt
2 bananas, sliced into chunks about 2 inches long
Canola or peanut oil for frying

1. Preheat your frying oil. You don't want it to smoke, that's too hot.

2. Combine flours, cinnamon and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl combine the coconut milk, water, sugar and vanilla extract. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add this to the dry ingredients. Mix well to form a thick batter.

3. Test your oil with a small drop of batter. It should immediately boil upon contact and take about 4 minutes to brown.

4. Drop banana pieces into the batter. You'll have to roll them around with a fork to cover them well. You don't want big glops of batter because they will require a longer cooking time and could remain gummy.

5.Transfer a few batter-covered banana pieces to the hot oil with the fork. Be careful to drop them in from just above the oil surface to it doesn't splash you. Let cook about 3 minutes.  Using a fork or tongs, turn the banana pieces so they brown evenly. Cook another 2-3 minutes or until it reaches desired brownness.

6. Remove banana pieces with a slotted spoon or wire frying net. Let drain on paper towels until cool enough to eat, but still warm.

7. Serve 1 or 2 pieces with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sprinkle additional cinnamon and vanilla sugar (other coffee topping sprinkle is acceptable too). If you really want to get decadent, add some toasted nuts, caramel and whipped cream to make an over-the-top banana split. This was plenty sweet without the caramel and cream.

PS, I was using Justin's new little Panasonic Lumix camera to take pictures. I like that it's little and light and usually takes decent photographs. However, I'm not so thrilled with the photo quality today. Many shots were blurry from it using the automatic metering mode, and the perspective is a bit skewed. I guess it's not so great for this sort of detail. I will be going to back to my Canon DSLR for food photos from now on. Oh well, gotta try new things out sometimes.