How to Revive Leftover Pasta…

Leftover pasta after the liquid treatment

Before.... Leftover pasta

Do you ever eat leftover pasta?  What do you do to revive it?

I love batching something, and use it little by little to create many different dishes later in the week and I even blog and teach people how to do that, but pasta is one of very few things I don’t over-make.  Because, noodles are best when it’s cooked, right off the pot.  The older they get, the stickier they become.
As many of you read on my previous post, I hosted a cooking class party last Sunday at our kitchen, and as a host, I wanted to make sure to be prepared, and have more than enough food.

I got carried away, and served and showed how to make all these dishes:

  • Appetizers
    • 2 kinds of Mushroom bites (one with goat cheese, one without)
    • Mushroom, spinach and feta cheese gozleme (Turkish version of Quesadilla)
    • Crudite with pesto mayonnaise
  • Served during the Class
    • Made Sauteed button mushrooms and Asian mushroom mix (use these as a base)
    • Okara Quiche with chicken, leeks, asparagus, mushrooms, and gruyere cheese
  • Dinner
    • Magic Mushroom Soup
    • Tuna and Mushroom Pasta, Japanese Style
    • Kinoko Mizore Ae (Japanese Mushrooms and Grated Daikon Salad with Ponzu Sauce)
    • Cranberry and Fruit Relish with Whipped Cream

A lot of mushrooms, I know.  But this class was called “Flexipes: Mushrooms and Beyond”, and designed to teach people how to make a large batch of something (in this case, sauteed mushrooms), then turn it into many different dishes throughout the week (or later if they choose to freeze it).   Naturally, a lot of mushrooms had to show up on the menu.   The good news is, when you make them different flavors and treatments, people often don’t feel they are eating only mushrooms — and no one complained.  Phew!

Pretty much all the food was gone, except the pasta.  I forgot the fact that they ate quite a bit of appetizer and okara quiche before dinner, and made extra in case people were hungry.

Well, something I don’t like more than old pasta is throwing away perfectly good food.  Almost all Japanese have “Mottainai” as a motto. “Waste not”, it means.  So, I needed to do something with this pasta leftover.

So I decided to moisten the pasta with a little bit of liquid (I used vegetable broth I had on hand, but you can use other kind of broth, white wine, pasta water, or even water in a pinch), covered and microwaved it.

Of course, it was not quite as good as newly cooked al-dente pasta, but it was far better than leftover pasta without that treatment, or pre-made pasta from store.  And I definitely liked the fact that I was able to eat it just by heating up.  It’s hard to see on the photo, so just try it and see what you think.

In any case, it’s best to mix the pasta with the sauce as soon as you cook it.  Plain pasta without anything starts to stick right away, and will be harder to revive, especially spaghetti.  Even worse are capellini and flat pasta like linguini.

So the best pasta practice is, in my opinion:

1. Make the exact amount of pasta, and eat it right away.

2. If there’s any leftover, make it into pasta salad as soon as possible.

3. Mix the pasta with sauce or dressing right away or, if undressed,

4. As a last resort, sprinkle with a little bit of liquid on top, cover and microwave, and enjoy the time -saving!

So what do you do with your leftover pasta?

What Will Be the Food Trend in 2010?

Happy New Year!

2009 was a challenging year, for our economy, as well as many of us, including our own.  So I am excited to have that year behind us.  I read somewhere that 2010 is good year in Fen Shui, so I’m excited about what the new year has to offer.

As we look forward, one thing I want to know about is the trend prediction of 2010, you guessed it, about food.

1. Eat Fresh, Eat More Vegetables!

On recent Iron Chef, First Lady Michelle Obama opened the super chef battle of Bobby Flay & Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford of the White House vs. Mario Batali, Emeril Ragasse.  The secret ingredients were vegetables from the White House garden, to inspire Americans to cook and eat more vegetables.  I heard that Mrs. Obama actually don’t cook much even before she moved to the White House, yet the First Lady herself is involved in a major TV event like this is HUGE!  I see more and more focus will be placed on eating fresh, especially vegetables, rather than prepared food as well as meat and carbohydrates.

Given the obesity rate of the US is epidemic 33% for adults and 16% for children, 2 in 3 adult Americans are considered overweight,  this is truly a welcoming trend, and will change life of many.  The key is, it needs to happen on everyone’s home, not just on TV or at the restaurants.  We as a nation, need to change our eating habits.  The challenge is to show the general public eating vegetables are not just eating these raw celery from veggie platter, or plain boiled (and possibly cooked to death) broccoli. If that’s the only thing they know, of course they won’t want to eat much vegetables.  There are many easy, more flavorful options, if they are willing to experiment.

One of the easiest and tastiest is roasted and/or grilled vegetables.  My trick is to stick a whole vegetables like eggplants and sweet potatoes (the Obamas’ favorite veggie, according to the First Lady) in toaster oven at 400F while I’m cooking something else.  Compared with an conventional oven, it doesn’t require much pre-heating, so it’s much faster, and reduces energy as well.  Then I have them ready to go in the air-tight container in the refrigerator for various dishes later in the week. 

Click here for my super easy and healthy eggplant appetizer recipe I posted this on SFGate.com site.  It takes less than 5 minutes if you already have grilled/roasted eggplants.  You’ll love it!

Stay tuned for more posts about the food trends in 2010…

What food trend do you predict in 2010?  What’s is your new year’s resolution around food?  Leave me a comment, I’m interested in hearing from you.

PS: Is “Eating Healthy” one of your new year’s resolutions?  Then join us for my free class this Saturday, January 16th in Oakland.  Hope you can make it!

Kitchen Tip du Jour: Do the Math on Paper First When Multiplying a Recipe

Do you ever need to double, triple or make it half or one third of a recipe?  If so, read on…  It could be your life saver (or at least your dinner saver!)

When you are following a recipe, and need to change the portion, don’t do the math in your head.  Write it down — ideally right next to the original volume of each ingredient, and how many serving it is for.  If you cannot write it down next to it (say, it’s your friend’s cook book, the recipe is online and your printer is broken, etc.), then at least write down the original measurement on a piece of paper, and write down the multiplier and do the math.

For example:

Original recipe  2 servings                          Your portion: 6 servings (6/2=3 is the multiplier.)

1 Egg                                             X3                  3 Eggs

4 oz flour                                    X3                  12 oz flour

2/3 cup water                          X3                  6/3 cup = 2 cups water

As you can see, especially when you have to deal with 3 (especially 1/3) it gets complicated. 

This is even more true when you are using a recipe from a different country — meaning those who uses metric system.  Since I grew up in Japan with metric system, I used to get confused with American measurement of oz and pounds often, resulting in quite a bit of frustration and less than perfect dishes.  Once I start writing them down, all I need to do is just to follow that amount.  Believe me, do the math first, then cook is so much easier than trying to do the math as you prep and cook! That kind of switch-tasking or multi/tasking end up costing you a lot of time.

So rather than trying to save time and end up with huge frustration and disappointment (and an inedible dish), take time to do the math on paper first when changing th portion of a recipe.  And as always, when adding stronger flavored ingredients and seasoning, taste as you add them gradually.  The same is true for liquids (water, broth etc.)

The biggest bonus: By writing down the convenient portion for yourself directly on the recipe, you will save the time to do the math next time!

So just remember to write them down!

Do you have any kitchen tips that help you save time and frustration? Look forward to hearing your tips in the comment section!

PS: This hold true for most of the things, especially for cooking that doesn’t require much chemistry or precision, yet not EVERYTHING is multiplied ie oil, salt, baking soda, baking powder.  Thank you Sam, for pointing that out.

  If you are cooking for a crowd, this resource gives you further details about super-sizing a recipe. 

 Another resource about reducing a recipe portion.  This one also talks about cooking time difference, etc. 

As a rule of thumb, the cooking time is affected by the type and size of the pan (esp. the bottom surface) heat, how much moisture the food cooked has etc. so it’s best to determine how much longer you need to cook by the look, smell and taste/texture.  Remember, a recipe is a guideline, not rules.

Must Have for Colder Months! Batch and Fridge – Sautéed Mirepoix Meat and Tomato Mixture

The Meat Sauce Made with Sauteed Mirepoix Meat & Tomato Mixture and Gnocchi

The Meat Sauce Made with Sauteed Mirepoix Meat & Tomato Mixture and Gnocchi

Some of you, my early readers may remember that I posted an article about Sautéed Mirepoix and Meat Mixture back in April 09.  This is my workhorse during colder months.

As I get better, and get my appetite and cooking bug back, the first thing I thought was that “I need to start making some sautéed mirepoix and meat mixture”, because it allow me to create so many variety of dishes in a snap!  I knew that I had a busy week ahead, this was my No. 1 priority.

Since the celery I had was limited (1/2 of a heart), I decided to make only sautéed Mirepoix, Meat and Tomato version.  This for me is the most versatile, and those dishes I had a cravings for all had tomatoes in it, I knew what I needed to do.

Had I had more celery, I would have made double or more batches, and kept about 1/4 as sautéed mirepoix, 1/4 as sautéed mirepoix meat mixture, and 1/2 as sautéed mirepoix meat tomato mixture.  Well, next time.

Anyway, after I made the mixture all I had to do was boil some gnocchi we had, and some nice salad, and voila, we have dinner!  And tomorrow we’d have stuffed cabbage, and then later in the week lasagna, then aushak, my favorite Afghan ravioli thing…  (OK, my version of aushak may be a bit different from authentic version, especially because my husband doesn’t eat red meat, and it’s a short-cut version.  None the less, it’s tasty, healthy and people love it!) Oh, maybe I’ll do shepherds pie…  I haven’t had one for a while…  All with virtually no effort nor time…

Ah, life is good when you cook Kitchen Wizard style…  It’s so easy and fast to create many varieties and so much fun! No wonder my husband had so much fun while I was sick.

And best of all, having a good appetite back is a godsend ! (Next to getting my health back!)

Sautéed Mirepoix, Meat and Tomato Mixture

Ingredients:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Onion, chopped small: 2 large
  • Carrots, chopped small: about half to equal amount of onion
  • Celery, chopped small – about half to equal amount of onion (about the same with carrots)
  • Uncooked Sausage: 1 – 1 1/4 lbs
  • Can of tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Make sautéed mirepoix by sautéing 2:1:1 ratio of chopped onions, carrots, celery in Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  2. Add uncooked sausage and brown.
  3. Add a can of tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Optional: Add tomato paste and anchovy paste (Additional flavor enhancers.)
  4. If this will mainly become Italian dishes, add Italian spices (basil, oregano, etc. fresh preferred), chili peppers, red wine, milk/cream or broth.

Note: If you want to make a large batch of this, and use half for Italian dishes (lasagna, Bolognese, etc.) and half for chili, after adding tomatoes, cook for a while, then split and save in the fridge. Then the one for Italian dishes add Italian spices, red wine and cream/milk.  I personally use this version for other dishes like shepherds pie and the sauce for aushak, the Afghan ravioli. Add Mexican spices and beans into the one saved for chili.

The World’s Easiest, Fastest, Home-Made Miso-Soup!

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Do you like miso soup?

Miso Soup is considered Japan’s national dish (OK, next to sushi), many have asked me how to make one.

As a native Japanese, I love miso-soup, as much as you do, but I never made it too often. (Japanese housewives, whether they are working or not, they are expected to make at least 一汁二菜 (ichiju nisai, meaning 1 soup (most often miso soup), and 2 dishes, plus rice. I’m only forgiven because I live in the US, and am married to an American…)

Why?  Because I thought it was a pain to make it every time from scratch.

To save that hassle and satisfy my appetite for miso-soup (I like it especially in the morning with my bowl of hot rice), I’ve even bought one of these freeze-dried miso-soup from Japanese markets.  Although they are pretty decent and not as expensive as $3-5 cup of miso soup from Japanese restaurants, they end up quite expensive.

As I started Kitchen Wizard, one of the things I experimented with was batching miso-soup.

It turned out to be a brilliant idea!

So, let me share with you the world’s easiest, fastest, home-made miso-soup recipe.

The World’s Easiest, Fastest, Home-Made Miso-Soup

Ingredients:

(4-5 servings – multiply by the number of serving you want to make)

  • Miso with dashi: 1/4 c (1 TBS per serving)
  • Chopped green onions: 1 stalk (about 1/4 stalk per serving)
  • Dried wakame about 3-4 TBS (about 1/2 -1 TBS per serving)
  • Abura-age (fried tofu) cut in half, then into strips: 1 sheet (1/4 – 1/5 per serving)
  • Lightly cooked/microwaved vegetables, cut in bite-size pieces: about 1/4 C (1 oz per serving), such as cabbage, onion

Directions:

  1. Mix well miso and other ingredients that are cut in bite-size pieces.  Make sure to add abura-age, especially if you plan to freeze this. Do not use things like tofu, potato, etc. that doesn’t freeze well. If you are planning to eat them quickly and not freeze, you can use anything including tofu.
  2. Divide into the number of servings and wrap each with plastic wrap. Keep in the refrigerator or freezer (Miso will not completely freeze.)
  3. When ready to eat, unwrap and pour boiling water.
  4. Optionally, you can garnish with chopped green onion on top.

Note:

You can make a large batch of softened miso, divide and add different vegetables for more variety.

You can also mix a little bit of liquid or powdered dashi into miso if you have any for more flavor. They are available at Japanese or Asian markets.

I know some (not so authentic) Japanese restaurants use chicken or vegetable broth for miso-soup…  so if there’s no dashi in sight, you may try a bit of either one for flavor as substitution.  Use only a little bit, especially if it’s liquid – you don’t want a soggy mess.

With this, you can have a nice bowl of miso-soup anytime you want… With rice for breakfast, just like in Japan, or you can even bring it to work for lunch.

Enjoy!

Note: I split the pacakge into two, because these particular bowls don’t hold much liquid.  The original miso-soup base only had green onion and abura-age, so I added dried wakame as extra before adding boiling water.

Curry Base Split Recipe 4: Chana Masala & Bonus Recipe: Raita & Mango Lassi

From top left: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

From top left: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

Some of you asked me for the specific recipe for each curry on the photos I used, so as the finale of series of curry related posts, here’s the recipe for Chana Masala (Chickpea curry).  Chana masala is even easier than Keema, Potato and Chard, or Eggplant curry.  All you need is the curry base from our previous post and a can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans).  A great pantry menu and it’s filling too.

To complete your Indian feast, and make it more festive, there’s mango lassi (everybody loves it, especially kids) and raita recipes, so don’t miss them!

Chana Masala (Chickpea/Garbanzo Curry)

Directions:

  1. Heat the curry base (click here for recipe) in the pan.  Add a can or 1 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Add some stock as needed (it depends on how much moisture the vegetable has as well as your personal preference). Cook until the flavor is incorporated and heated through.  Adjust seasoning.
  2. Top with chopped cilantro (strictly optional. I hate it, so we don’t!) Serve with steamed rice, saffron rice or naan.

Note:

  • You can add more water, and puree it to make daal.

OK… So here’s the finale!  To make your Indian spread more authentic and festive, you need two other things… Raita and Mango Lassi!

Raita:

  • Chop onion, cucumber, tomato. Mix well with yogurt. Top with paprika or chopped cilantro.

Mango Lassi:

  • The easiest method is with Mango juice.  Mix Mango juice with yogurt with a stick blender.  I like about 1:1 ratio. Adjust the ratio, based on your preference.
  • If using frozen or fresh mango (cut in bite size pieces), puree everything together in food processor or blender (you may need to add some liquid such as milk if using blender.)
  • Optional: add sugar or honey if not sweet enough.

Since we talked about different uses of sautéed and grilled eggplants, we’ll talk about these possibilities in more details next week!

(Yup, this is the end of the curry posts…  I promise… at least for a while. : ))

Curry Base Split Recipe 3: Eggplant Curry

L to R: Eggplant curry, Potato and Swiss chard curry

L to R: Eggplant curry, Potato and Swiss chard curry

One of my favorite curry is Baingan Bharta (eggplant curry).  I don’t find this dish as often as Palak Paneer (spinach and Indian cheese curry) at Indian restaurants, but it’s really easy to make, especially if you have some cooked eggplants handy. (And I can guarantee it’s much tastier than the one you’ve had from the “boxed” version from the store.)

When you grill next time, be sure to throw on several eggplants…  Then you can use it as a base for not just for this recipe, but also many different dishes in the days to come… Japanese to Thai, Italian  to Turkish…

Be sure to check out the posts about easy and exciting eggplant possibilities (both sautéed and sautéed) next week!

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Eggplant Curry

Directions:

  1. Use sautéed eggplant if you have any. If using the full recipe of curry base, use you’ll need about 1 1/2 cups. Or you can also use roasted, broiled or grilled eggplants that are chopped in bite size pieces. Or, peel eggplants in stripes, and cut in half vertically, then into 1/2” slices. Sautee eggplants in plenty of oil and some salt until tender. Set aside.
  2. Heat the curry base (for recipe, click here) in the pan.  Add cooked eggplants and mix well.
  3. Add about 1/2 – 1 TBS of chutney or marmalade, add some stock as needed (it depends on how much moisture the vegetable has as well as your personal preference). Adjust seasoning.
  4. Top with chopped cilantro (strictly optional. I hate it, so we don’t!). Serve with steamed rice, saffron rice or naan.

Note:

  • If you use sautéed eggplants, it’ll have more solids in curry. If use grilled, roasted or broiled eggplants, especially if you use Japanese or Chinese eggplants which contains more moisture than Italian or globe eggplants, you’ll end up with curry with almost no solids.  It’s a personal preference, and both are delicious.

Curry Base Split Recipe 2: Potato and Swiss Chard Curry

eggplant and potato chard curry

L to R: Eggplant Curry, Potato and Swiss Chard Curry

Potato… yes.  But Swiss chard in curry?  You may ask…

I admit it’s kind of unusual.  However, this is just to show you how versatile my curry base is, and you can use your leftover vegetables or side dishes into a delicious curry, and make a few varieties easily.

In the event an Indian food police shows up at your house, all you have to say is “This is a fusion curry dish” with a big smile, and proudly serve it.  It’s delicious and even healthier, thanks to eh, Swiss chard!

Potato and Swiss Chard Curry

Directions:

  1. Use about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of sautéed potato and Swiss chard left over (click here for recipe).  If you don’t, boil potato and/or cauliflower (skip Swiss chard) until tender and set aside.
  2. Heat the curry base (click here for recipe) in the pan.  Add cooked vegetables, add some stock if needed (it depends on how much moisture the vegetable has as well as your personal preference).  and cook until the flavor is incorporated and heated through.  Adjust seasoning.
  3. Top with chopped cilantro (strictly optional. I hate it, so we don’t.) Serve with steamed rice, saffron rice or naan.

Note:

Curry Base Split Recipe 1: Keema Curry (Ground Meat and Peas)

From top left: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

Bottom Right: Keema Curry

The first of the various curry you can make using the curry base is Keema, which is ground meat and pea curry.  The best part of this recipe is, if there’s some leftover, you can turn this into samosa. Or, I even make omelets with samosa mixture (kind of Spanish omelets with Indian twist), and mixed with rice, you can make dry curry.  See tomorrow’s post for the recipe for these leftover make-over ideas.

For curry base recipe, click here.

Keema Curry Directions:

  1. Brown ground meat in a skillet and season well. I like to start with extra ginger and garlic before adding meat (optional.)  If using full recipe from the previous post, you will want to use about 2/3 lbs ground meat.
  2. Add the curry base, mix well, add some stock (1/2 c – 2/3 c, if using the full recipe) and simmer for about 10 min until the flavor is incorporated. Add frozen peas (about 1 c) and heat through.  Adjust seasoning.
  3. Top with chopped cilantro (strictly optional. I hate it, so we don’t!) Serve with steamed rice, saffron rice or naan.

Enjoy!

The Best Tricks for the Greatest Results

Out of many Kitchen Wizard Tips and Tricks, what you should try first?

What’s most impactful and versatile, resulting in immediate time-savings?

Top 3 would be:

1. Chopped onions

You can use this in so many different recipes, both in raw form or cooked.  Raw usages including salad dressing, salad, sandwich, salsa, chili topping, burger topping, etc.  If you choose to cook, it’s best to saute.  You can use  this for practically anything: sauce, soup, braised dishes, fried rice, stuffing, meatballs, etc.

2. Cut up extra vegetables that you are already cutting for a dish

Keep them in crudités form for the most versatility.  This way, they are ready to go as a healthy snack or lunch accompaniment, as well as a side dish, soup and salad standby. When you have these healthier snack alternative ready to go, you tend to eat them instead of a higher calorie snack, so it helps to build healthier eating habits and can result in weight loss.

If your original recipe calls for blanching, you may want to blanch extra at the same time.

The best form for each vegetables are:

  • Carrots, celery, zucchini, cucumbers. Peppers: thin stick form
  • Broccoli, cauliflower: bite size florets, either raw or blanched
  • Asparagus, green beans: Cut in 2-3”. either raw or blanched

Keep them separated, so that when you need one or two vegetables only for a recipe, it’s easy to pick and choose.

3. Cooked, shredded chicken

This one is realy handy too. You can either use fresh or frozen chicken.

  1. Sprinkle salt and white wine or sake on chicken tenders or breasts and pat dry to remove odor.
  2. Add them to plenty of boiling salted water, add a few extra TBS wine or sake until cooked through. (If using frozen chicken, make sure that you have a lot of boiling water, and cover lid until it start boiling again so that the temperature of the water doesn’t go down too much.)  Chicken tenders cook much faster, so if you are pressed with time, this is the way to go.
  3. Once it’s done, fish them out, and shred all with a folk or your fingers.
  4. Use the liquid as a base for soups.

Now you can use it for pasta, noodles, salad, sandwich, and/or soup.  Asian food, Middle Eastern food, Mexican food, you name it, you can use it for practically anything, especially if you just use salt.

Any of these 3 simple tricks should help you start saving time right away.  If you do all three, you can create many dishes in a snap.

Please share your favorite time-saving tips or different usages in the comment section!