Friday, February 25, 2011

A study in contrast

There was a Marie Claire magazine to read and there was a plate of tape uli ketan hitam to savor.  Marie Claire guided my eyes toward the girlie things in life; clothes, shoes, accessories, all things that are fluid in life.  They keep changing each season.

Tape uli ketan hitam moved me in a different direction.  This was something that was so old and constant; I cannot reinvent it in different way.  Change the way it is made, it will not be tape ketan hitam and uli anymore.
Tape Uli

Tape Uli

Tape ketan hitam (tah-peh k'tan hee-tum) is fermented sweet glutinous black  rice.  The process of fermentation started with mixing and inoculating crushed sweet yeast into partially cooked sweet glutinous black rice, which then left to ferment in a covered bowl in 30 degree C for 1-3 days.  Sugar is commonly added as well as to make it somewhat sweeter.  There is a small amount of alcohol present in the final product, and how much it is will depend on the duration of the fermentation.  To stop the fermentation process, it is kept in the refrigerator.

Uli (oo-lee) is made by cooking sweet glutinous rice with coconut milk and salt, which then is mixed with grated coconut and shaped into a rectangular- or oblong-shape portion.  It is generally wrapped in banana leaves.
Tape Uli

To understand why these two are still made and eaten up to this point in my life is to understand that I grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia and this was what I grew accustomed to eat, my parents and their parents ate this as well.  There is still part of me that will not change, I live my life according to past recollections.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Monkeying around in the kitchen

Here are some recent explorations from my kitchen (with occasional help from Mom):

Chicken Pesto pizza, a relatively simple pizza made from store-bought pesto, grilled chicken, mozzarella and Provolone cheeses.

New Haven White Clam pizza,  a new favorite of my son and I.  I can't believe how simple it is to make this pizza, much easier than a traditional pizza.  The pizza dough recipe that I used in making these pizzas was from Frank Stitt's book,  Bottega Favorita:  A Southern Chef's Love Affair with Italian Food.  A great book!
New Haven white clam pizza

These kue talam ubi were made of mashed ground sweet potato with tapioca flour, sugar, and salt. Steamed in a little Chinese wine cups, and top with a mixture of tapioca flour, coconut milk, and salt. They are just heavenly.
Kue talam ubi

Kue putu mayang is next.  Ground rice flour, sugar and salt are the basic components in making this traditional Indonesian snack. Mine is far from perfect; the recipe definitely needs tweaking. But the sauce is perfect; coconut milk, salt, palm sugar, and durian paste!
Kue putu mayang

Last one will be the monkey bread that I just made today. Unfortunately it is not made from scratch but rather from a mix. For a slight variation, I used a mixture of raisins, dried cranberries, and walnut for the topping. Oh, the soft texture of the bread is so irresistible!
Monkey bread

Monkey bread

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bittersweet Chocolate-Walnut Bundt Cake

I bought this book, Intensely Chocolate by Carole Bloom, thinking that there have got to be some good recipes in it.  But I was slightly disappointed by this recipe; though the appearance is quite beautiful, the taste is not what I expected.  Perhaps, because there is not egg nor butter in the cake, instead, sour cream and buttermilk are used to replace the fat.  As with a cake without egg or butter, the texture is slightly dense, with open crumbs; the chocolate flavor though is quite wholesome.  The result is exactly like the photo in the book, it came out beautifully from the pan just like that.

Still, it is not one of my favorite cakes to make, I have yet to learn to appreciate eating this type of cake.  But for people who are allergic to egg, I highly recommend this cake, it is chocolate and quite easy to make.



Bittersweet Chocolate-Walnut Bundt Cake

Yield 12-14 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup turbinado sugar

1 1/4 cups walnuts, finely chopped

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small chunks

2 1/4 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 cups sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon chocolate extract, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degree F and place a rack in the center of oven.  Coat inside of the pan with melted butter using a pastry brush or paper towel.  Sprinkle the sides and center of pan with turbinado sugar.

Toast walnuts in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often until the nuts are light golden.  Remove from oven and cool on rack.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda over a bowl.  Add brown sugar, salt, and nutmeg, and toss to blend completely.  Add the walnuts and bittersweet chocolate chunks and stir to blend thoroughly.

In a bowl of electric stand mixer, blend thoroughly buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla, and chocolate extract (if using) with a paddle attachment.  Add the flour mixture in 4 stages, blending well after each addition.  Stop often to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, then use a rubber spatula to smooth and even the top. Bake for 35 to 38 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a rack for 20 minutes.  Invert the pan onto the rack and lift the pan off the cake.  Let the cake cool completely on the rack.

Serve the cake at room temperature.

Source:  adapted from Intensely Chocolate: 100 Scrumptious Recipes for True Chocolate Lovers by Carole Bloom

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Shrimp, Corn and Avocado Tostadas

Everyone is talking about green and yellow and black and yellow for the upcoming game on Sunday.  You know what it is, it is the Super Bowl XLV.   What you eat or nibble during the game is equally important.  Perhaps this shrimp, corn, and avocado tostadas will satisfy the hunger for something crunchy, salty, and spicy.  It sure will be a hit with a huge crowd of rowdy fans!


Shrimp, Corn, and Avocado Tostadas

Serves 4

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons lime juice

3 tablespoons minced cilantro

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Salt to taste

Hot pepper sauce to taste

1 pound medium shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined

1 cup cooked or canned corn kernels

1 cup (4 ounces) grated Monterey Jack or queso fresco

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped

2 tomatoes

1/2 cup minced red onion

Salt to taste

Hot pepper sauce to taste

4 corn tortillas, fried

2 cups shredded lettuce

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Sliced pickled jalapeno or peperoncini

Combine vegetable oil, lime juice, cilantro, cumin, and coriander in a large bowl.  Season with salt and hot pepper sauce.

Add the shrimps, corn, cheese, avocado, tomatoes, and red onion to the bowl.  Stir, and season again with salt and hot pepper sauce.  This mixture can be refrigerated up to 24 hours.

When ready to serve, pile shredded lettuce on top of each fried tortilla, divide the shrimp mixture evenly and garnish with cilantro sprig.  If you like spicier taste, add some sliced pickled jalapenos or peperoncini.

Source: adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Steamed Nian Gao with Shredded Coconut

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year and I feel extra special this year because my parents are here with me.  By some luck,  my mom has her last Indonesian nian gao with her.  Somebody must have brought it with her and gave it to her.  This specialty cake is only available during Chinese New Year and is called "Kue Keranjang" in Bahasa Indonesia.  I love the ones from Indonesia since they are wrapped in bamboo leaves and give out distinctive smell to the cakes.

Indonesian nian gao

Indonesian nian gao

My mom usually deep-fry the cake, which is sliced thin and coated with flour and eggs.  And when it is prepared that way the cake has this crunchy coating and soft and chewy inside.  This time my mom suggested preparing the cake slightly different.  The cake is cut into squarish pieces, then they are steamed.  To accompany the cake, unsweetened shredded coconut is also steamed together.  When the cake pieces are very soft, both the cake and coconut are taken out of the steamer.  Salt is added to the shredded coconut.  Then those two are combined together to produce sticky mass in a bowl.  The result is similar to "kue ongol-ongol" which is made with tapioca starch, palm sugar, water, and some flavoring in which pandanus extract from the leaves are quite popular.

Steamed nian gao with shredded coconut

The fun part is eating the chewy, soft, aromatic, sweet, and salty cake.  I couldn't ask for a better New Year's dessert!  Happy Chinese New Year, Gong Xi Fat Cai!