Thursday, August 7, 2008

NOT better than takeout Seafood Tempura

With the husb out tonight I figured I'd try something new for dinner. I had a craving for Japanese food and since my favourite spot is an hour away from here, I tried to make my own tempura.

First things first....try to find a tempura batter recipe. Well, that's easier said than done! There are so many variations on the web. I tried one from a blog I found from a guy who lives in Japan. I mean, you'd think that would be the best option, right? Not so much. I wanted to make the crispy, light, airy stuff you get at a restaurant. Mine was much more dense and more like something you'd see on a piece of takeout Haddock with chips. Not sure where things went wrong. Could have been the batter, maybe it was the oil temperature or perhaps the seafood was too watery.

What is your tempura batter recipe? PLEASE send me a comment if you have one (plus your tempura secret)!

I'm going to post pictures anyway because I said in my profile that I would post even on bad days. This is one of them. Obviously, there is no need to follow my recipe but I am going to post it so you can tell me if the recipe looks similar to yours or not.

Recipe for tempura batter:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup ice cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Here are some pictures of the shrimp & squid looks better than it tastes! Don't you love that I actually have a bonsai tree on my table:)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Best Lemon Cranberry Scones!

As the daughter of English parents I've had my fair share of scones. Nothing beats a warm scone with a little butter and strong cup of tea on a Sunday morning. This recipe will put your morning scone from Starbucks to shame. The secret is keeping the scones moist (the job of 18% cream) and perfectly sweet (but not too sugary).

I found some amazing organic lemons at the market the other day and had to buy them. They were my inspiration! They really were the biggest lemons I've ever seen. I can't believe they are organic because they really look like a genetically-enginered version. I even took pictures so you could see them!

Make these for overnight guests at your home or as a hostess gift when visiting friends.

The recipe is easy to adapt for seasonal variations so feel free to add/delete ingredients so it works for you. I have noted the changes I made for this batch in italics.

Ingredients & Preparation: (Original recipe from Bon Appetit, November 2005)
Makes 12
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon peel (I use at least 2 tbsp of lemon peel)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 cup dried sweetened cranberries (I only use 1/2 cup or I find the scones too sweet)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I didn't use walnuts for this batch)
  • 1/2 cup (or more) chilled half and half (The secret is to use 18% cream instead! I use at least 1 cup)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar for dusting (this is my addition)
For the glaze:
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Position rack in top third of oven; preheat to 375°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk 2 tablespoons sugar and 1.5 tablespoon lemon juice in bowl for glaze.
Whisk flour, baking powder, lemon peel, salt, and 1 cup sugar in large bowl. Add chilled butter; using fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Mix in cranberries and walnuts. Add cream and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Toss with fork until dough comes together in moist clumps, adding more cream if dough is dry (It will be dry - add more cream!). Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Press out each half on floured surface to 6-inch-diameter (1-inch-high) round. Cut each round into 6 wedges. Transfer to baking sheet; brush with glaze.
Bake scones until golden and tester comes out clean, about 18 minutes (With more cream added I baked my scones for another 4-5 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Orzo with Grilled Shrimp, Summer Vegetables & Pesto Vinaigrette

I've never cooked orzo before but it is a great pasta shape! Looks like rice but isn't - it's a tricky little noodle. The fresh, seasonal flavours of this dish are amazing after about 1 day when they've had a chance to really get incorporated with everything. This pasta salad can be served cold or at room temperature. Another great option for a potluck, picnic or a summer evening on the porch.
Ingredients & Preparation: (Original recipe from epicurious, Bon Appetit June 2008)
Serves 6

  • 8 ounces orzo (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
  • 2 medium zucchini or summer squash (about 9 ounces total), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons purchased pesto
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes (8 to 10 ounces total), cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I did not add mozzarella because we were having mozzarella sandwiches as well)

Cook orzo in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Transfer to large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Whisk 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons vinegar in small bowl. Brush zucchini and bell pepper with oil mixture, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Whisk pesto, lime juice, remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons oil, and remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar in small bowl for pesto vinaigrette. Place shrimp in medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons pesto vinaigrette; toss to coat.

Grill zucchini and bell pepper until crisp tender, about 3 minutes per side for zucchini and 4 minutes per side for bell pepper. Transfer to work surface. (I baked my zucchini, shrimp & peppers in the oven and that worked well - about 10 minutes at 350F.)

Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper; grill until charred and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Place shrimp in bowl with orzo. Chop zucchini and bell pepper; add to bowl with orzo. Add remaining vinaigrette, tomatoes, sliced basil, and mozzarella; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover; chill. (I made mine the night before and I think that it turned out just fine!)

Garnish with basil sprigs and serve cold or at room temperature.

Mozzarella & Pepper Cooler-Pressed Sandwiches

I made these for our picnic yesterday and they were a big hit. Easy to transport with the added bonus of not getting soggy. I made these the night before so the juices had time to settle and they were perfectly flavoured for the next day's lunch. Cut into individual sized pieces when ready to serve.

Ingredients & Preparation: (Original recipe from epicurious, Cookie July 2007)
Serves 4
  • 1 (5-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 pinch hot-pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped Italian parsley, or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 (6-ounce) container bocconcini in oil (or 3/4 cup fresh mozzarella in oil, torn into pieces), undrained
  • 1/2 thin 18-inch baguette, sliced lengthwise
  • optional: 2-3 tbsp olive oil (if your bocconcini is in brine like mine was, add extra olive oil for flavour and not a lot of the brine)

In a medium bowl, combine the first four ingredients (including some of the bocconcini or mozzarella marinade). Fill the baguette with the mixture. Close the baguette and wrap it tightly in waxed paper, then in aluminum foil or saran wrap. Place the sandwich at the bottom of the cooler so the weight of the other contents compresses the sandwich and allows the juices to soak into the bread.