Saturday, October 18, 2014

Concord Grape Granita & Sorbet

Granita and sorbet is lighter than ice cream but just as flavorful and refreshing.  Granita is granulated ice crystals like shaved ice and sorbet is made by a ice cream machine and smoother texture.  Use homemade concord grape juice from previous post.

Concord grape granita
Make 4 servings

2 cups Concord grape juice
1/4 cup simple syrup or 1/4 cup water+1/4 cup sugar)
One 8-9 inch baking dish

Add sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until sugar dissolved.  Set aside.

In 8-9 in baking square dish, combine grape juice and simple syrup.  Freeze for 1 hour, use a fork scrape any formed crystals into the center.  Repeat scraping every 30-45 minutes until the mixture is crystallized  about 4 hours total. Store in an airtight container in the freezer up to a week until serve.  Stirring occasionally once or twice a day to break up any clump ice crystal formed especially at the side.  Fluff and scrape ice crystals into a chilled cup to serve.

Concord grape Sorbet
Make 4 servings

2 cup Concord grape juice
1/2 cup sugar to taste

An ice cream maker

Stir or whisk sugar  in grape juice until dissolved, taste and add more if needed.  Refrigerate overnight.  Churn in a ice cream maker according to manufacture's instruction.  Transfer sorbet to an airtight container and store  in a freezer until firm at least 3-4 hours up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Concord Grape Pie-Bánh Nho Nướng

It has been three years that I had looked at these gorgeous ripe Concord grape clusters wasted on the ground or shriveled, rotten on the vines at work.  I picked some up a few days ago and start playing with them.  I made grape juice.  May I boast?  100% organic grape juice from my kitchen free.  It is easy and do not require any special tool but my eyes are beaming at the steamed juice extractor when searching online. Concord grape is one of only few fruit native to North America, with a high concentration of vitamin C and antioxidants to promote heart health and support a healthy immune system.

I did not know Concord grape pie is so popular in the other side of the country until I learn how to make this pie.  The Grape Pie Queen of Naples, New York, Irene Bouchard, is using only 1 tablespoon of tapioca for the filling.   The filling is slightly running with two tablespoons tapioca.

For the filling:
   5 cups concord grapes, rinsed and stemmed
   3/4 cup sugar
   3 Tbs tapioca
   1 Tbs unsalted butter
For pastry: make one 9 in. double crust pie
   2½ cups all purpose flour
   1 tsp salt
   1 Tbs sugar
   1 cup unsalted butter, cold cut in 1/2 in cubes
   1/2 cup ice water
   1 large egg
   Sanding sugar (optional)

Place flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix them all together. Add butter and pulse about 10 seconds. Turn the machine on and add water in slow, steady stream through the feeding tube until the dough start to hold together in moist clumps.  Divide the dough into 2.  Place one half on a piece of plastic wrap, gather dough and make a few quick kneads to smooth the dough into a ball,  then flatten to form a flat dish.  Wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Roll one disk into 12 inches on a lightly floured surface, then fit into a 9-inch pie dish.  Trim the edge 1/2 in. around the rim, fold it under to form a double edge. Crimp edges as desired and refrigerate until firm about 30 minutes-1 hour.  Roll the remaining dough into a thin sheet and cut into leaves and circles for decoration. Transfer to a baking sheet and refrigerate until use.  Need to cover the dough with plastic wrap if refrigerate overnight.

Pinch the grape, remove and save the skin in a large bowl.  Slip the pulp into a medium saucepan.  Cook the pulp over medium high heat, stir often until soft and break down about 5 minutes.  Strain the hot pulp through a sieve with a flexible spatula into the reserved skin bowl.  Discard the seeds.  Set aside to cool completely. Stir sugar and tapioca into grape mixture.  Filling can be refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 oF.  Beat egg with 1 tablespoon and brush the edge of pie dough with egg mixture.  Brush the leaves and circles dough too. Sprinkle sanding sugar on decorated dough.  Pour the filling into the pie shell and scatter butter on the top. Put the pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake pie  and decorated dough leaves and circles for 20 minutes. Turn oven temperature down to 350 oF and bake until the filling bubbling and jiggle and the crust is golden brown. about 30 minutes.  Cover the edge with foil when it is golden brown before the crust.  Remove decorated dough when they are golden brown too.

Transfer the pie on a cooling rack.  Arrange decorated leaves and circles on the pie surface.  The pie is best served on the day it is made with ice cream.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Homemade Concord Grape Juice- Nước Nho Concord

This is the my first attempt so no fancy tool here.  All we need is some grapes, a blender, a large pot, a new/clean panty hose, or a large fine/med sieve or a cheesecloth or a piece of fabric/clean old sheet, etc. One pound of grape (3 cups) will yield about a cup of juice.

Put grapes in a large bowl, cover with water.  Rinse and pick a small branch/bundle up at a time.  Pull the grapes away from the stem.  Discard the green and shriveled ones.

Raw fresh grape juice:  use a blender on "Pulse" to mash grapes in a few minutes-to break the seeds loose and relieve the juice and liquefy pulp but keep the seeds whole.  When the pulp just start to look smooth, stop and pour the grape mixture into a sieve or a food drainer of your choice.  I cut a panty hose leg in two haft. Tie a knot at a loose end, stretch the opened end over the blender and empty the container into the pantyhose over large pot.  The fresh raw grape juice has lighter pink color than the one cooked.  The 100% grape juice is ready to drink and or store in the fridge.  It is good few day.

Cooked grape juice:  mash grape by a blender as above or potato masher or hand ( protect the hands with a plastic bag or glove from grape color) .  Bring it to a boil, stir occasionally over medium high heat.  Then lower the heat to simmer for 10 minutes without cover.  Let it cool down to room temperature if use panty hose to strain the juice.  Stretch the opened end of 1/2 panty hose leg over a medium/large bowl. Ladle cooked grape mixture over the panty hose.and start to squeeze the hose gently from the top to bottom.  If using a sieve/cheesecloth, the hot mixture can be strained right away and when the mixture cools down, transfer the strainer to the fridge and let the juice dripping overnight.  The juice will be clearer.

After sitting overnight in the fridge, some sedimen will appear at the bottom and floating around the sides of container.  If you want clearer juice, strain the juice one more time to filter those sediment  out.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Coffee Macaron with Mocha filling

Detail instruction is the same as Blackberry Macaron,

Shells: May sprinkle a little bit of espresso powder on the shells before baking for an unique look.
150 gr almond powder (it is cheaper at Winco)
150 gr powder sugar
1 Tbs instant coffee powder
55gr egg white, room temperature
55 gr egg white
150 gr granulate sugar and a pinch
3 Tbs water (45cc)

Filling : make a few hours ahead or the day before
6 oz white chocolate (chips or squares)
5 Tbs heavy cream
1 Tbs instant coffee powder
2 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp salt

Stir heavy cream, salt and coffee, espresso powder together and bring it to a boil, remove from heat immediately.  Add white  chocolate, stir to coat well, cover and let stand for 2 minutes.  Then stir/whisk mixture until smooth.  Let it set over the counter or in the fridge  until thicken to a spreading consistency. Whip to lighten the texture before use.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Purple Plum Torte-Bánh Mận Tím Nướng

This recipe was adapted from The Famous Plum Cake, originally called Fruit Torte by Marian Burros from The New Elegant but Easy Cookbook. It was published in The New York Times almost every year from 1983 to 1995.  Adapted from New York Times. My family like smaller plum pieces (Cut one plum into 8 pieces) better.  The ripe plums will keep the shape better but the overripe (soft) plums can be used in the cake too.  If you pick your plums choose the ones dark deep purple and still firm but not hard.  The flesh and skin yield slightly under your fingers when you squeeze it gently.

1/4 lb unsalted butter (1/2 cup, 1 stick), room temperature
3/4 cup plus 1-2 Tbs sugar, divided
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder (aluminum free)
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
24 halves pitted Italian (aka Prune, Purple) plums (about 1 pound)
1 tsp ground cinnamon (less or more for taste)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 oF with a rack at lower third position.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  3. Use a handheld or standing electric mixer to cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until light in color at medium speed.  Add eggs, vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Add  the dry ingredients, beat at low speed until just combined.  Scrape the sides of the bowl  as necessary.
  4. Transfer the batter to a 8 or 9-inch ungreased springform pan.  Cover the top with the plums, skin side up.  Mix the cinnamon with the remaining 1-2 Tbs sugar and sprinkle over the top.
  5. Put the pan in a rimmed baking tray.  Bake until the top and side light brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean about 45-50 minutes.  Remove from oven. Let it cool down on a wire rack about 10 minutes.  Use a small knife running along the side, release the side of cake pan.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature plain or with Vanilla ice cream.  Store at room temperature up to 2 days, the cake tastes best the day after. Refrigerate or freeze if desired but first wrap it in foil and place in a plastic bag and seal.  Thaw completely before warming up in 350 oF oven or toaster oven like bread. 

  • I think we can use our favorite yellow butter cake here but I haven't tried it yet.
  • I add vanilla extract in the cake batter and slice the plum in 8 pieces lengthwise, mix them with 1/4 cup sugar and let it sit in the fridge for three hours and take it out, drain and preserved the juice and start to cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar... and add juice into the batter at the end and mix well before transfer the batter to the ungreased springform pan without any sugar or cinnamon on the top but it tastes wonderful. 
  • The cake is very easy to be removed from the side and only need a little help with a small knife to get the bottom off the base but I think grease the pan needed if you do not have a springform pan.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Chile pepper in Vinegar and Fish Sauce-Ớt Ngâm Nước Mắm và Giấm

This is two simple condiments of Vietnamese cuisine.  In the old days, major household do not have refrigerator or freezer, fresh chile peppers are saved and available anytime this way but for some the umami in these chili is favored than fresh chili.  They last very long time at room temperature without canning process.  In these days, I keep fresh chiles in freezer and only make these in small amount occasionally.  They can  add a little heat with umami flavor to almost anything from stir fried veggie to grilled meat.

You can use any hot chile pepper, red or green, small or large.  Keep the small pepper whole and slice the large pepper as serrano, jalapeno crosswise about 1/16 inch thick.

Put chile pepper into small jars, add a few thinly sliced garlic cloves.  Pour enough fish sauce or vinegar to cover pepper and garlic.  Do not mix fish sauce with vinegar, only use one kind for each jar.  Stir well and press down occasionally, covered and store in the fridge. They will be ready to use but the flavor will be better in 1-2 two days. Check add a little more fish sauce or vinegar to keep chiles covered.  Some people can bite directly into the chiles and eat it meal or savory snack.  Some use chopsticks or a spoon to smash/cut one into small pieces first and mix with a little pure fine fish sauce or food to diffuse the heat.

Crispy chicken-Gà Nhúng Bột Chiên Dòn

I am excited to share with you this perfect batter- crisp but tender after years of searching and I am sure you should be agreed too.  It belongs to Katie Chin's late famous mother, Leeann Chin. The double frying technique help serving easy, everything can be prepared in advance and the fried chicken pieces just need to be deep fried the second time a few minutes before serving/eating.  She serves it with mango sauce. It is a good sauce but the canned coconut milk flavor dominated the mango.  I serve them with other sauces as lemon, plump, and blackberry sauce too.  Adjust the salt more or less depending on the breast weight. Chicken can be sliced in half or cut into smaller pieces about 2- finger size pieces.

Crispy Chicken 

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 large egg
2 tsp & 2 Tbs cornstarch, divided
1¼ tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp ground white  pepper (or black pepper)
1 tsp peeled & minced fresh ginger ( or grated frozen ginger)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup water
2 Tbs oil
1/4 tsp baking soda
Oil for frying

  1. Slice chicken breast into 1/2 thickness as butterfly chicken, see instruction below .  
  2. In a large shallow bowl, beating egg and 1 tsp salt, ground pepper, 2 tsp cornstarch, and ginger.  Add chicken pieces to the bowl and turn to coat all sides.  Cover and set aside on the counter 30 minutes.  Drain the chicken pieces with a large/med drainer.  Save the marinade.
  3. In a shallow dish, mix the reserved marinade, water, oil, flour, 2 Tbs cornstarch, baking soda, and 1/4 tsp salt. 
  4. Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a deep fryer/electric skillet or deep skillet at to 350 oF.  Dip chicken pieces one by one into the batter to coat all sides. Lift it up and let excess drip off a little bit.  Careful add chicken pieces in one layer.  Do not overcrowd the pan.  Fry until light brown about 3-4 minutes, turning 2-3 times. Drain on a wire rack in a rimmed baking tray.  Raise the heat up to 375 oF and fry chicken pieces one more time until golden brown about 2-3 minutes, turning once.  Chicken pieces can stay at room temperature a few hour after the first frying and only need to be refried before serve.
  5. Pour extra batter into the hot oil about 1 tsp at a time. until golden brown. When they cool down, store in an air tight container or zip lock bag and use them as a snack or salad topping as crouton or bacon bit.  These stay crunchy a few days.
  6. Transfer the chicken pieces into a platter.  Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces about 1 inch for the large piece.  Reheat the sauce and serve it on the side or pour 1/2 on the chicken, keep 1/2 of the sauce on the side.
Mango Coconut Sauce
1 Tbs peanut oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup chicken broth (canned or homemade)
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup pure mango
2 Tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs rice or white vinegar
2 Tbs cornstarch, mixed with 2 Tbs water
  • Heat oil into a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic and stir until light tan color and fragrant. Add all other ingredients except cornstarch, bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat down to medium and stir in cornstarch.  Cook and stir continuously until thicken.  Remove from heat, cover.
Cutting chicken
  • Put the chicken breast smooth side down on a cutting board.  Find the tender (small tender inlet) and remove it by cutting any connective tissue. 
  • Turn the smooth side up . Put the palm of  your no-dominate hand on the top and hold the chicken breast down steady.  Use a sharp knife with the edge of the knife parallel to the cutting board and the thick part of the breast toward the knife.  Find the middle and carefully slice the breast in half widthwise to the other edge.
  • Cover the chicken pieces with thin plastic layer or butcher paper.  Gently pound to flatten the thick part to even the thickness.  The chicken pieces can be cut further into half lengthwise or bite-size pieces.
  • Remember to wash the hands before and after touching raw meat.