Sunday, May 30, 2010

Repertoire expansion

One of my goals this summer, one that is pertinent to this blog, is to expand my cooking repertoire and to experiment with new dishes or ingredients. Ready to come along for this journey? Using a ready made mixture of any kind is not what I am thinking; cooking from scratch. I'm more interested in main courses: dishes, soups, etc. Not so much into baking, but not completely absent from the realm of consideration.

First on the chopping block will be Pad Thai. If I can get all the ingredients together by mid-week, I hope to try that before the week is over.

If you have any dishes or soups you want me to perfect and post, let me know.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hot and Sour Soup


Lily's Signature Hot and Sour Soup

This is arguably my longest post EVER. Why, oh why, did I take oh so many photographs. Do you even want to see all these? I have already posted some semblance of how I cook this soup on another occasion. Look here. Just without all these millions of photographs. And the recipe is slightly different; true to my word, I rarely cook the same thing, the same way, twice.


I am beginning this post with a little sidebar, about shitake mushrooms. This is the first time I have laid hands on fresh ones. I usually used dry ones. Are they beautiful, or what?

A person I didn't know was kind enough to school me on identifying fresh ones. Good thing, because they're darn expensive. $8.99/pound? See, what did I tell you? Five of these darlings cost me a $1. Worth every penny. But then, I'm a shitake mushroom kind of gal. So much tastier and richer than the standard fare in most grocery stores.


Two versions of the recipe are as follows: the cut and dry and the picturesque. Take your pick. Sorry, I wasn't paying much attention to detail, so I'm fudging big time on the measurements and details. You'll just have to watch me cook, if that doesn't satisfy you.


The short recipe:

  • olive oil, just a bit with which to caramelize a large sweet onion
  • sea salt - a few tablespoons?
  • ground white pepper - I finished off the bottle, which you can see pictured below
  • red pepper flakes - 5-10 shakes
  • rice vinegar - a cup or so? not sure, just poured
  • balsamic vinegar - a cup? again, don't know, just poured - help, writing in amounts is giving me a headache; I'm not sure what I did
  • sesame oil - no more than a tablespoon or so
  • soy sauce - just enough to soak some (but not drown all) the shitake mushrooms
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  • a thing of green onions, rinsed and cut thinly
  • 1 large sweet onion, top layer peeled and diced
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • free range chicken broth - half a liter (serious guess work here)
  • water - more than half a liter (again, guessing)
  • 1 small package of mushrooms, washed and cut thinly
  • 5 shitake mushrooms, rinsed and cut thinly
  • 1 bundle of celery, washed and cut thinly
  • hard tofu - 3 packages - cut into small squares
  • 6 eggs, mixed with a bit (half a cup?) of chicken broth
  • In a large (stock) pot, dump in the celery, garlic, green onions, diced tomatoes, water, chicken broth, mushrooms, and tofu. Place on high heat.
  • In a pan, place the sweet onion and a bit of olive oil and caramelize on low, low medium heat. Once the onion is caramelized, it can join the stuff in the stock pot.
  • Once the stuff in the pot is boiling furiously, begin the egg drizzle. Here's the process - Drop the raw eggs into a bowl. Whisk the eggs, beat the eggs, do something to blend the egg whites with the egg yokes. Then mix in about half a cup of chicken broth and mix again. - Now take the bowl in one hand and begin pouring the egg mixture atop the soup. Don't pour it in all at once. Whilst pouring with one hand, use some kind of utensil to slowly and gently stir with the other hand. Repeat until all the egg mixture is used.
  • Marinade the cut shitake mushrooms in a small bowl of soy sauce. Don't drown them in soy sauce. Not that much soy sauce is needed to do the trick. Just use enough to line the bottom of the small bowl. Mix the shitake mushrooms from time to time.
  • Back to the pot of soup, now we're ready to add in the white pepper powder, red pepper flakes, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, and sea salt.
  • Let the pot of soup simmer for a minimum of 20-30 minutes before serving. The more time the better, so the vegetables can soak up the flavor. Add in the shitake mushrooms to the pot not long before serving.


Ohmygoodness, I'm not sure I have the endurance to finish the post. Anyone still with me? Hello? Is the microphone still on?

Here's the longer version of the directions for the recipe, starting with the ingredients.

Olive oil. Just enough to caramelize the sweet onion. Not much is needed, especially when keeping the heat on low.

Sea salt. To add saltiness to the soup.

Celery. Good stuff, really. Not in restaurant versions of the soup, but that really never concerned me.

White pepper. Asian grocery stores usually sell this for much cheaper in bulk quantities.

Red pepper flakes. This adds a different hot than the previous spice. A necessary ingredient, I have found through experimentation.

Rice vinegar. In my early days of experimentation, I used only balsamic vinegar. The addition of this really makes the soup so much tastier.

Balsamic vinegar. Don't leave this out, for the sake of the color as well as taste.

Sesame oil. A recent addition in my constantly changing recipe. Just a smidgen is all that is needed to make the wonderful taste known.

Soy sauce. To allow the shitake mushrooms to bask.

6 brown cage free eggs. For the egg drizzle.

Green onions. This is what I had left in my home.

Garlic. Which I love so much. But, I have to be careful how much I use, because more might frighten the tender hearted.

1 sweet onion. I have not figured out why the sweet onion and the red onion haven't driven the yellow onion or white onion out of business. Oh well.

The can, for now, is cheaper than the fresh tomatoes, and I haven't gotten my act together enough to grow my own.

Mushroom. My soups are not really my soups, unless there's a lot of stuff in the soup. Too much liquid does not make for a meal, and my soups are truly meals.

Shitake mushrooms. My fresh, exquisite, expensive little friends.

Free range chicken broth. 1 of the 2 crucial ingredients that provides my soup with liquid.

Water. The 2nd of 2 crucial ingredients that provides my soup with essential liquid. More water than chicken broth here.

Firm tofu. Underrated all the time. It's not a tasteless waste of time, if you know how to give it a boost in flavor. Trust me.

Directions and the process follow:

Wash and cut the celery stalks.

Then dump into pot. Celery takes a bit to become tender.

Peel the garlic.

And dice it.

Add to pot.

Rinse and cut the green onion.

Add to the pot.

Wash and cut the mushrooms.

Add to the pot.

Dump in the tomatoes.

Pour in a generous amount of water

and chicken broth.

I started cooking the pot of goodies on high at this point.

Cut up the tofu.

Cut the shitake mushrooms into thin slices.

Pour some soy sauce over the shitake mushrooms in a bowl.

Allow to sit. Stir once in awhile.

Cut off both ends of the onion. Peel off the first outer layer. Half the onion.

Cut thinly.

Then I sliced it into thirds.

Place in a pan with a tid bit of olive oil, on very low medium heat, and cook until the onion's almost clear.

Oh, and back to the tofu, drop that into the pot.

Bring the pot of soup to a boil.

Begin preparing for the egg drizzle. Beat six eggs in a bowl. my weapon of choice is chopsticks. Perhaps yours is a whisk or a fork. Then add, I don't know - a third to half a cup of chicken broth) and mix.

In the drizzling process, make sure the stove is on high and the soup is boiling well (not just simmering). Pour gradually with hand and stir slowly and gently with the other. I couldn't stir since the other hand was holding a camera. This was just for you; don't try this at home (drizzling the eggs whilst taking photographs).

Mix everything in the pot, after adding all the other ingredients: white pepper, red pepper flakes, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, etc.

At the very end, add the shitake mushrooms, and stir. Let it sit and serve.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mi Fen (rice noodle) Soup with Tomatoes, Eggs, and Onion


Mi Fen Soup with Tomatoes, Eggs, and Onion

Today, this mi fen (rice noodle) soup was made with the girls in mind. Both of them are picky about different things for varying reasons. Anyways, this soup includes much less than I would normally include; still tasty, nevertheless.

And, this soup is good for those who have Celiac Disease, except for one ingredient: the soy sauce I used. But that problem is easily remedied; purchase gluten-free soy sauce. The brand I use carries gluten-free soy sauce, but it's much more expensive.


Short recipe is followed by a much longer, photo essay recipe and direction.

  • package of rice noodles
  • 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 8 eggs - I used cage free, brown eggs
  • 1/2 of a sweet onion, cut into thin slices, followed by thirds
  • five cloves of garlic, diced
  • green onions, 3, cut thinly
  • olive oil, just a bit
  • sea salt
  • soy sauce
  • chicken broth, nearly a quart
  • water, 1 1/2 to 2 quarts
  • In a pan with a bit of olive oil on low to medium heat, caramelize the half onion.
  • Once the onion is finished cooking, drop it into a pot (mine is a stock pot that holds at least a gallon), along with the washed and chopped green onions.
  • Using the same pan as before, drop in the diced garlic and add a bit more olive oil. Once the garlic has been sizzling for several moments, add the beaten eggs with a bit of chicken broth added. When the eggs are almost done, add in the can of diced tomatoes. Let it simmer. Then add the egg and tomato stir fry to the pot.
  • With the onion, green onions, tomato and egg stir fry in the pot, add nearly a quart of chicken broth and about double the amount of water to the pot. Bring to a boil.
  • Once the soup in the pot is boiling, add the rice noodles (mi fen). Add some sea salt and soy sauce. Let simmer for about ten to fifteen minutes, and the soup is ready to serve.

Illustrated recipe and directions are as follows.


Package of rice noodles. Made in TAIWAN, not China. There's a difference. In quality.

A large can of diced tomatoes. Were cluster tomatoes cheap or on sale, I'd be purchasing fresh ones.

Eggs. Cage free, and yes, that matters.

Sweet onion. I only used half. My girls sometimes complain about eating it. I'm not a restaurant, making upon orders placed, but I can lessen some of the not-as-preferred ingredients.

Garlic - 5 cloves. So the girls won't eat the garlic themselves, but they don't protest how it flavors the food.

Green onions. We need some additional color in this soup. Food presentation (as well as flavor) must be an artistic masterpiece.

Olive oil.

Sea salt.

Soy sauce.


Half the sucker (onion). I'm saving the other half for some other occasion. Perhaps making guacamole in the near future.

Slice thinly.

Then thirds.

Peel the skin off the garlic. Then dice.

Wash the green onions and then cut thinly. Like so.

Green onions should look like this when done.

Here comes the cooking process:

Caramelize the onion. I used some olive oil. No sugar used. I added some beef broth I had left over from making chili the other night.

Once done, place into a large stock pot.

Then add the washed and cut green onions into the pot, too.

Next in the cooking process. Preparing the eggs for stir frying.

Place eight eggs in a bowl.

I beat them into submission using chopsticks, but you can use whatever you like - a whisk, a fork. Then I added chicken broth to the eggs to thin out the texture somewhat.

Mix, stir, or beat the chicken broth with the eggs.

To prepare the egg mixture for cook, put the garlic and a bit of olive oil in the frying pan, on low medium heat.

After the garlic has sizzled for a bit, add the egg mixture.

Once the eggs are nearly cooked, add in the can of diced tomatoes.

Mix well, and allow the stuff to sizzle and cook.

Then drop the mixture into the pot, along with the other stuff. I had used some water to clean out the remnants in the tomato can and dumped the contents into the pot.

Add a fair amount of chicken broth. I might have used 4/5 of a quart container of chicken broth. Again, I use free range. And yes, it matters.

Then I added loads of water, about double the amount of chicken broth I used. The rice noodles soak up a lot of water, so beware.

I put enough liquid into the pot to fill it near the top, leaving enough room for the rice noodles though.

There goes a full package of rice noodles, into the pot.

Once the rice noodles have had a chance to get tender, from absorbing the liquid, mix well.

After the mi fen has been cooking for a bit and is more tender, add the sea salt and soy sauce.

After the mi fen has had a chance to soak in the salt, soy sauce, and the flavors in the soup, it is ready to serve.


Be careful about not cooking the mi fen (rice noodles) too long. Once it has been cooked too long, the noodles break apart very easily and can get quite mushy. I probably cooked mine (the noodles) for no more than 20 minutes; more like 10-15 minutes.