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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dinner Tonight: Bitter Melon w/ Egg Whites and Black Beans




I really have been trying to take advantage of all of the ethnic food stores in my area lately particularly the ones of the Asian variety. In the past few months I've tried things from fermented tofu to pickled mustard greens. Some of these ingredients are an acquired taste. I tend to enjoy exotic flavors though.

One product I've tried several times recently is the Bitter Melon. This is a vegetable native to Asia that is used in many dishes and also as a alternative medicine in the far east. It resembles a lumpy cucumber and as the name implies is very bitter. How bitter? Well lets just say it makes Broccoli Rabe which some consider to be bitter taste like a jelly bean in comparison. It's so bitter and odd tasting that I can't resist its flavor. Its fascinates me.

The Bitter Melon dish I am presenting on this blog might look simple and but it actually took me a few times to get right. I made the bitter melons with egg whites and black beans. Mixing eggs with dishes in Asian cuisine is very appetizing in my opinion. Eggs provide a neutral flavor and a unique texture. They are also very high in protein which makes them a good meat substitute. Eggs are also high in cholesterol which is way I only choose to utilize egg whites in this dish.

The black beans are actually fermented soy beans. If you eat Chinese food you have probably seen or tasted dishes with Black Bean sauce. They have a have a salty and earthy taste which I covet and it compliments ts many things from chicken to seafood. In my research I have read the bitter melons are often paired with black beans so I decided to give it a try.

1 large bitter melon
2 tspns black beans(fermented soy beans)
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 tspn grated ginger
3 egg whites
1 tspn low sodium soy sauce
2 tblspns cooking oil
dash of pepper
dash of chili sauce(optional)

Chop off both ends of the bitter melon and slit it lengthwise. With a spoon gently remove the seeds and the pith from the vegetable and discard. Cut into pieces about a quarter inch thick. To remove some of the bitterness I added the pieces to boiling water and blanched them for 2 minutes then quickly put them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. This step is optional but if you never tried bitter melon before you may want to do this.

Add the black beans,garlic and ginger to a bowl. With the bottom of a fork mash them together until it forms a paste.

In another bowl whisk in the soy sauce and chili sauce(if using) into the egg whites.

Heat the oil in a skillet(I used a nonstick because I feel more comfortable cooking eggs in nonstick but this is optional) and heat the oil. Try to get the oil very hot. Add the black bean mixture and stir around for 30 seconds or so. Add the bitter melon to the skillet(after it was removed from the ice water and dried off) and mix with well with the black beans mixture. Grind some fresh pepper and set the heat to low and cover for 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes is up remove the bitter melon from the skillet. If need be add more oil to the skillet and scramble the eggs. After the eggs are done add the bitter melon back to the skillet and mix it well with eggs. Remove and serve.

Servings: One main course or a side dish for two.

Tips:

* You can use whole eggs if you want for this dish

*I omitted salt from this dish because there is already salt in the black beans and soy sauce.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Restaurant Review: House Of Dosa's, Hicksville NY


Recently I discovered a new type of dish called a Dosa. Dosa's are large crepes native to Southern India. They are normally consumed for breakfast but they really can be enjoyed anytime of day.

House Of Dosa's in Hicksville, NY is a vegetarian restaurant specializing in this dish and has received stellar reviews from critics including a 25 for food in the Zagat survey. I first tried a dosa a few months ago and I was instantly hooked. They are light and flaky rice based crepes that you can get filled with a number of ingredients ranging from potatoes and onions to spinach and cheese. On a recent visit there I invited two friends for lunch who have never tried a dosa before.

The restaurant itself is in a little strip of stores on a busy road in Hicksville. There is really no ambiance to speak of. It has around 20 tables or so and the decor is modest to say the least. This not a place to come to for the surroundings. HOD is a place strictly for the food.

We started off with Lassi's, which are cold yogurt beverages served in a metal cup. My friend found the cup humorous and compared it to the cup used in Friendly's to make Fribbles. I explained to him that all the food and beverages in HOD are served in metal cups and plates. I am not sure if this is unique to HOD or the norm for these type of restaurants. Lassi's are very refreshing and the flavor really offsets the spicy food.

For lunch we ordered two dosa's and a Thali lunch special which consists of rice,pancakes and a array of different condiments. HOD also offers a number of rice dishes. I ordered the Tamarind Rice for the table which is a personal favorite of mine.
Thali Lunch Special

The first thing my friends commented on were the size of the dosa's. I too had the same reaction initially. The huge crepes overlap the plates. Dosa's are served with Sambar, which is a vegetable soup, and two types of chutneys one is a spicy coconut chutney and the other a savory coriander chutney. My friend ordered the potato and onion dosa and I had a tofu dosa while my friends wife had the Thali lunch special. Everything was delicious. The particular dosa's we ordered were only moderately spicy and the condiments with the Thali lunch special range from sweet to very spicy.
Tofu Dosa





Masala Dosa(potato and onion)





All in all I think my friends enjoyed their first experience with dosa's. As for me I just crave them all the time now and can't wait to return. *** out of ****. Excellent

Notes:

Dosa's range from $5 to $9 and they are very filling.
Waiter service is very quick and attentive.
No alcohol is served in this establishment.
Take out service is available.
Additional Parking in rear.
Website: http://www.houseofdosas.com/

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dinner Tonight: Grilled Seafood w/ Salsa Verde


Well spring has finally sprung. Baseball has started, the flowers will soon be in bloom and more importantly the grill has been unleashed. I wanted to make something different since it's been a while since my grill was lit. One that stood out was a recipe for Salsa Verde. From what I have read this is a pretty popular Mexican sauce with a base of Tomatillo and Cilantro. In case you don't know Tomtillio are those little green tomato looking things covered with a green husk. I have tried one before but not in this application.

While crawling the web for Salsa Verde recipes I saw a ton of varations . I decided to just pick and choose. So I took a ride to the market to pick up the ingriedients for the sauce. When I went to grab a bunch of cilantro I was distracted by a pungent odor. It was a strong Cilantro odor but oddly enough it wasn't coming from the Cilantro. It was another green herb which I later found out to be Culantro. Latino cuisine is definitly not my forte and I wasnt fimilar with this herb. I tasted a little piece of it and it tasted like Cilantro but a little but stronger in flavor. I went with it versus the Cilantro.


Salsa Verde

approx 1 Cup chopped Culantro(or Cilantro)
3 Jalepeno Peppers, seeded and pilth removed, chopped
4 tomatillos, husk revmoved,chopped
1 Bunch Scallions Chopped
1 clove of garlic chopped

Combine all ingriedients in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth. Thats it.


Tips:

* If you do decide try this don't be afraid to deviate from the recipe above. Especially when it comes to the Culantro over the Cilantro. Not that it tasted bad or anything its just not authentic

* I used the sauce with Monkfish and Shrimp and it was delicious. The next night I had it with steak it also came out nice. Feel free to exipirment with Salsa Verde

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Dinner Tonight: Chicken Thighs w / Lemon Thyme Pan Sauce


It's not very often that the tastiest part of the animal is also the most least expensive. Take chicken thighs for example. I purchased four lovely thighs for less than $3.00 total. Perfect for dinner for two. Thighs have many advantages over the ever so popular chicken breast. As I said previously they are more of a bargain but they are also more forgiving and better tasting. When I say they more forgiving I mean they are a lot harder to overcook than the white meat of the breast. The dark meat of the thighs also have a more richer flavor that I in particular favor over the the breast meat.

4 Chicken Thighs w/ Skin
1 cup vegetable stock(or chicken)
2 oz Vermouth(or any dry white wine)
1 small shallot minced
1 tspn dry thyme
1 tablespoon Vegetable oil
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste


Pre heat oven to 375.

Heat the oil on medium high in a large skillet and cook the thighs skin down for five minutes. Turn over and put in oven for about 15 minutes or until the thighs are cooked through and its juices run clear.

Place thighs on a plate and cover with a piece of foil keep warm. Pour off most of the oil from the skillet leaving about a teaspoon remaining. Return skillet to the stove and set to medium heat Add the flour to the skillet and whisk it together with pan oil until it is well blended. Add the shallots and cook for about a minute or so. Pour the stock into the skillet and scrape the bottom of the pan releasing all of the brown bits of goodness. Add wine,lemon juice and thyme. Reduce sauce by half salt and pepper to taste and spoon over chicken.

Tips:

* The goal of pan frying with the skin down is to get a nice crispy skin. If you are not happy with the crispiness of the skin place the thighs underneath the broiler for a few minutes. Just watch it carefully so you don't burn them
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