Monday, October 17, 2011

Spinach Linguine With Roasted Sweet Pepper Sauce

School's in. So, I've been making school lunches for the kids almost daily. Somedays they have fried rice, sushi rolls, gorditas, ham and cheese, mac and cheese, peanut butter or nutella sandwiches, and other days they have pasta. This is the only other way to get them to eat sweet peppers and asparagus as they dislike both vegetables besides sprinkling them on a pizza. I, on the other hand, like to use roasted sweet peppers in salad dressings, sandwich spread, and of course, pasta sauce.

Ingredients for 3-4 servings
8 small sweet peppers ( red, orange or yellow will do)
1 clove of garlic, chopped coarsely
1 lb of dry spinach linguine
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 cup of chopped asparagus
1/2 lb of sausage
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 cup of marinara sauce
2 cups of pasta water
1 egg, beaten (optional)
3 tbsps + 2 tbsps of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the linguine according to its package's instructions until al dente (about 6- 8 minutes). Drain the pasta and set aside. Keep 2 cups of the pasta water as well.

2. Turn on the oven and set to broil at 500 degrees fahrenheit. Wash and dab dry the sweet peppers with paper towels. Rub 2 tbsps of olive oil all over the peppers. Place the peppers on a broiler pan. Broil one side for 8 minutes then turn the peppers to its other side and broil for another 8 minutes until charred. Remove pan and peppers from the oven. Let the peppers sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. 

3.Place the peppers in a gallon sized plastic bag and and seal the bag. Let them steam for 20 minutes in the bag before peeling the skin off. It should come off easily. Remove stems and seeds from the peppers as well. Avoid rinsing the peppers under running water as to preserve its flavors. Wet your hands with water and use your wet hand to clean off any impurities left on the peppers. Chop the peppers coarsely and pulse in a food processor with the garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Set the pureed peppers aside.

4. Heat 3 tbsps of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the shallots and saute for 2 minutes. Then, add the sausage and stir until cooked. Next, throw in the asparagus, the pureed peppers, the marinara sauce and 1 cup of the pasta water. Bring the sauce to a boil then turn down the heat to a simmer. Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes before stirring in the egg. If the sauce is too thick at this point, add in the remaining pasta water 1/4 cup at a time until the desired consistency is obtained. Add the sour cream and the linguine. Stir the pasta mixture until all the pasta are coated with the delicious sauce. Season with salt and pepper before serving with a side salad or just by itself.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tea Smoked Duck (Zhang Cha Ya)

Tea Smoked Duck is a must have anytime we eat out at a Szechuan restaurant. Unfortunately, since our favorite Szechuan restaurant closed down a year ago, we have to make our own. Having tried a few recipes from the internet with unsatisfactory results, I decided to turn to an old chinese cookbook that my husband brought from China many years ago.
The recipe in the book only lists the ingredients needed to make the duck without any quantity whatsoever. So, I get to play guessing game with the quantities involved and, of course, deleting some ingredients along the way as I don't have them in my pantry. The duck turned out pretty good. Crispy skin and tender, juicy meat with a hint of smokiness. Comparable to the ones that we had at the restaurant.

3 lbs whole duck (head and innards removed)
2 tbsps of whole szechuan peppercorn, toasted lightly and crushed
1 tbsp of coarse salt
1 tsp of five spice powder
2 tbsps of hoisin sauce for dipping (diluted with 1 tsp of water and 1/2 tsp of sesame oil)
Aluminium foil, roasting rack, large wok for smoking.

Marinade ingredients:-
8 pieces of cloves
8 pieces of star anise
8 pieces of dried longans
1 stalk of green onion
1 thumb sized ginger
6 tbsps of light soy sauce
1 tbsp of dark soy sauce
1/4 cup of rock sugar
4 cups of water

Smoking ingredients:-
1 cup of uncooked rice
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of black tea leaves

1. Clean and remove excess fat from the duck. Wash and pat dry with paper towels. Rub salt, peppercorn and five spice powder all over the duck. Place the duck in a deep dish (to catch the drippings from the duck as it steams) and steam at medium heat for 45 minutes in a steamer. Remove the duck from its drippings and let cool. If you like, you may separate and refrigerate duck drippings with its oil in a airtight container for later use, otherwise just discard.

2. In a medium saucepan, add all the marinade ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat and let cool. Place duck in a gallon sized zip-loc bag. Pour the cooled marinade into the bag and make sure the bag is securely fastened to prevent leakage. Let duck sit in the marinade for at least 4 hours at room temperature or up to 24 hours in the fridge. Turn the bag once in a while as to get an even marinade on both sides of the duck.

3. To smoke the duck, line the bottom of a large wok with aluminium foil. Mix the smoking ingredients and pour into the wok. Next, place a roasting rack in the wok. Put the wok on top of the stove and turn up the heat to high. Open all windows and turn up your ventilation fan as the kitchen could get smoky. As soon as smoke is released, place the duck on the roasting rack and cover the wok tightly with a lid. Wrap a layer of aluminium foil around the lid as well to trap in the smoke. Let the duck smoke for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat but, do not remove the lid, yet. Let the duck sit in the smoker for another 30 minutes with the lid on.

4. After the smoking process is done, remove the duck and chop it into bite size pieces before serving. Serve with hoisin sauce on the side for dipping. The original recipe calls for deep frying the duck after smoking. I skipped the frying part since I want to retain the juiciness of the meat, plus the skin turned out to be crispy enough for me.