Nalewka Babuni for Beginners

N1Don’t kill the messenger, friends, but the holiday season will be here in the blink of an eye (I know, I know…). A pretty bottle of Nalewka Babuni makes a wonderful gift! Translated approximately as “Grandma’s Liqueur,” Nalewka (pronounced “Na-LEF-ka”) Babuni is Continue reading

Chicken Dip with Crostini

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Start a conversation at your next summer party with Chicken Dip and Crostini straight out of the 1950s! Go ahead – channel your inner Betty Draper and let’s get started. Martinis optional. Continue reading

Mom’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

pieHappy 4th of July weekend, everyone! If you’re looking for something special to bring to a backyard celebration, look no further. Mom’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is awesome (like my Mom… she’s awesome, too!). Let’s get started…

Ingredients (Makes 1 pie)

For the filling:

2 1/2 cups Continue reading

Chocolate Dipped Valentine Cookies

heart-cookies

Nothing says “I love you” or “I value your friendship” like something homemade and delicious! Why not whip up a batch of these luscious cookies and brighten someone’s day?!

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened Continue reading

Pepper Steak Stew

beef2This simple slow-cooker recipe offers up the hearty, savory flavors of traditional pepper steak, but uses a less expensive cut of beef. I like to double this recipe and freeze half for workday lunches Enjoy – your tummy and your wallet will thank you!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat Continue reading

Give the Gift that Gives Back!

cookbook-cover-imageAvailable on Amazon, 100% of the profits from The Global Recipe Project Cookbook will benefit not-for-profit organizations which feed people as a central part of their mission. Cooks and food bloggers from around the world have generously contributed to this amazing book. Over 170 recipes from 65 countries are included!

Try your hand at Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan, while reading how and when this meal is traditionally served. Sample a variety of chutneys while exploring the rich spice blends of India. Dine on simple and delicious French dishes such as Croquette Monsieur and Soupe L’Ongion.

Bakers will appreciate clear and simple instructions for classics such as Italian Cannoli and Austrian Apfelstrudel. Feeling adventurous? Amigdalato, a Greek almond pastry, and Kransekake, a Norwegian wedding cake, offer dramatic dessert options for holiday entertaining.

Pick up a copy today, and support a worthy cause!
ISBN-13: 978-0998191607
ISBN-10: 0998191604
BISAC: Cooking / Regional & Ethnic / General

Autumn Plum Cake

easy-plum-cakeEvery autumn, the New York Times publishes the same plum torte recipe. It has something of a cult following. My friend Denise, a scratch cook who is rather particular about the recipes she endorses, raves about this torte. So, I gave it a try.

It’s good. Really good! The recipe is included here. I had larger plums on hand, so I used slices rather than halves. Whether this recipe is a “torte” or a “cake” is in the eye of the beholder. I’m going with “cake,” as for me the word “torte” conjures up images of complicated, many-layered German desserts. This recipe is blessedly simple. It is quite similar to Rustic Apple Cake, with different fruit. Enjoy this cake (torte?) with a cup of coffee as you watch the leaves fall.

Signature Recipe: Japanese Shoyu Ramen

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The results of Crowded Earth Kitchen’s ramen poll are in! Today we’re making Crowded Earth Kitchen’s version of Shoyu Ramen, the most popular type of ramen which is flavored with soy sauce. The recipe below is pretty simple to make, and offers great flavor without a long list of hard-to-find ingredients. We’re also using pork tenderloin instead of pork belly, because pork tenderloin is more affordable and more readily available in much of the US. If you’ve enjoyed ramen with pork belly, I think you’ll find the taste of this recipe very comparable.

Two tips: First, don’t skimp on the pork stock or the chicken stock. If you have time to make your own, that’s what I recommend. If not, look for good quality stock from a butcher or specialty grocery store. Ramen “is” the broth… if the broth is just OK, your finished product will be just OK. If your broth is delicious, your ramen bowls will be delicious! Second, if you have time, it’s worth preparing your pork tenderloin the day before you enjoy your ramen bowls.

Let’s get started!

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Dried shiitakes, ginger, onion, and garlic

Ingredients (Serves 6)

16 ounces dried wheat flour ramen noodles

1 cup thinly sliced greens (I used baby bok choy)

1 cup sliced bamboo shoots

3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved

(Optional) 1 sheet nori (seaweed), cut into six pieces

For the meat:

1 pound pork tenderloin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon white wine (I used Umeshu)

For the broth:

3 quarts pork stock

1 quart chicken stock

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional

1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms

1/4 cup onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, sliced thin

Directions

WIN_20160701_164234Step 1) Prepare your pork tenderloin. In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar, and white wine to make a paste. Rub this paste all over your pork tenderloin. Let your pork tenderloin rest in a baking pan, covered, in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight (overnight is best). Then, roast your pork tenderloin, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Check your pork tenderloin with a meat thermometer – the internal temperature should be 145 degrees. Allow your pork tenderloin to rest for 10 minutes. Slice thin and refrigerate.

WIN_20160701_154316Step 2) Prepare your broth. In a large pot, combine pork stock, chicken stock, soy sauce, fish sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms, onion, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until volume is reduced by half. This will take approximately an hour, depending upon how gently or vigorously your pot simmers. I prefer a slow simmer. Allow broth to cool, then ladle or pour through a sieve into a second pot. This will strain out all of the flavor additives (mushrooms, onion pieces, garlic and ginger), leaving you with a clear, flavor-packed ramen broth! At this point, you can freeze your broth for future use, refrigerate your broth to use tomorrow, or return your broth to a gentle boil and proceed with Step 3!

Step 3) Prepare your noodles. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook your noodles according to package directions. DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR NOODLES. When in doubt, it’s better to undercook the noodles a bit, as they will continue to cook in Step 4. Mushy noodles make terrible ramen. Seriously… don’t overcook the noodles!

Step 4) Assemble and enjoy! Here’s the fun part. First, transfer a serving of cooked noodles to a large single-serving bowl (your biggest cereal bowls will work). Second, arrange a few slices of pork tenderloin, a hard boiled egg half, a few bamboo shoots, and a few sliced greens around the edges of the bowl. Don’t mix up the toppings like you would for American-style soup… each ramen topping should occupy its own place along the edge of the bowl. Third, carefully ladle hot broth over the top of everything, to warm the ingredients. The broth should just barely cover the top the noodles… don’t drown your ramen bowl in broth. Fourth, place a small square of nori on the top of your bowl and serve immediately!

When you make this ramen, I’d love to hear from you! Please let me know if you are now as ramen obsessed as we are here at Crowded Earth Kitchen!

Tokyo Food Tour! NINJA

NINJA

Tableside NINJA Chef

“What was your most amazing meal in Tokyo?”

That’s a common question, and an easy one to answer. Our friend Natsu, a Tokyo resident, took us for a spectacular dinner at NINJA. It was an experience we won’t soon forget!

Upon arriving, a costumed “NINJA-in-training” escorted us through narrow, stone walled passageways, over a drawbridge, and into our private dining chamber. After being seated at a traditional, low table near an indoor stream filled with treasure, we were introduced to our personal NINJA and cook. Believe me, friends, one course was even more delicious than the next!

NINJA kids

Awesome Children’s Meal

Two pint-size diners each enjoyed an enviable children’s meal featuring a variety of kid-friendly meats, seafoods, and sides. NINJA star crackers, colored a bold black using bamboo charcoal, were included in the children’s meal and were also featured in the first course of the adult meal along with foie gras.

The restaurant-provided descriptions of the eight-course menu we enjoyed only hint at the deliciousness…

1.Shuriken star-blades grissini

2.Cold Appetizer of the season

3.Chicken fritter NINJA style

4.Special stone-boiled soup (Japanese bouillabaisse)  ***Side note: This was one of the best soups I’ve ever enjoyed!

5.Capellini with Japanese tomato flavor

6.Meat specialty or seafood specialty of the day

7.Sushi of the season & today’s Sushi Roll

8.Today’s dessert

I tried not to annoy my dining companions with too many photos. Here’s a peek…

NINJA 2nd course

2nd Course – A savory cold shrimp soup

NINJA pasta course

5th Course – A delicately seasoned pasta dish

NINJA meat course

6th Course – This salmon was spectacular!

NINJA Sushi Course

7th Course – Sushi!

At home in the US, many otherwise excellent restaurants view dessert as something of an afterthought. Not so at NINJA! To kick off dessert, costumed NINJAs burst into our dining area through a small window, carrying mysterious black boxes for the kids (Really, who loves dessert more than kids?). To the delight of the children, the black boxes emitted an impressive amount of “smoke” thanks to the dry ice keeping their frozen treats cold. What a special effect!

NINJA kids dessert

Children’s Dessert

The grown-up dessert was just as fabulous, featuring a luscious apple custard wrapped around ice cream (how, I have no idea). Look how beautiful it is!

NINJA adult dessert

Grown-Up Dessert

Tokyo offers something for everyone, of this I am convinced! If you have an aspiring NINJA among your travel companions (particularly if he is pint-sized), a dinner at NINJA will without a doubt make an utterly unforgettable experience.

Thank you, Natsu. We miss you!

 

Tokyo Food Tour! Uobei Sushi

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Salmon Roe with Cucumber

Is it possible to stumble upon the most fun restaurant in Tokyo during one’s first day in Japan? Let’s put it this way – if I find something more fun than Uobei Sushi in all of Tokyo, I may never go home!

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Spicy Shrimp

My traveling companions and I visited Uobei Sushi in Shibuya, which feels a bit like Times Square in New York City. Upon exiting the Shibuya train station, we were overwhelmed in a fabulous way by the sights and sounds of this booming metropolitan area. The main intersections are a sight to behold. When the crosswalk signals allow, thousands of people cross 5- and 6-way intersections in all directions. Loud music is piped into the intersections, accompanied by flashing advertisements on giant screens mounted on the sides of buildings. Wow.

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Snow Crab with Crab Butter

We may never have found Uobei Sushi without Natsu, a dear local friend who generously helped us navigate our first days in her amazing city. Let’s be honest… without Natsu, we not only would missed out on Uobei Sushi, we might still be standing in the airport!  🙂

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Smelt Roe

Back to Uobei Sushi… it’s fun! It’s casual! It’s very affordable! And it’s DELICIOUS! This isn’t an ordinary restaurant, friends. At Uobei Sushi, customers order from a vast menu of nigiri sushi, rolls, and sides using an iPad. Food is delivered on computerized, high speed conveyor belts that stop right in front of the customer for whom the items are intended!

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Conveyor Belt System

Green tea and ice water are self-serve and complimentary. Most varieties of nigiri sushi are just under $1 (USD equivalent) for 2 pieces. How can I not go back? If I don’t come home, friends, you know where to find me!  🙂

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Tuna and Salmon

 

 

Canning Jar Cookies

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Watching my garden grow is making me anxious for canning season to begin! Alas, unless I want to preserve kohlrabi in jars (not very motivated by that idea), I’m going to have to wait for additional vegetables to appear.

Here’s a whimsical idea – canning jar cookies! I found this adorable canning jar cookie cutter and made a batch of “pickle relish” cookies, shown above.

Ann Clark Mason Jar Cookie Cutter – 4.5 Inches – Tin Plated Steel

For Canning Jar Cookies, I started by mixing up a batch of the same dough I used to make cute little snowflake cookies last December. It’s a satisfying sugar cookie dough that rolls well and holds its shape – perfect for these canning jars! I rolled the dough about 1/3 inch thick, and baked these cookies for about 14 minutes.

WIN_20160605_104951Next, I diced up a few green gumdrops to make “pickle relish.” I used a pastry brush to coat each baked cookie with a light icing made from 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. I sprinkled diced gumdrops on each “jar” and finished with a few gold dragees near the top for the lids. I would have used silver dragees, but I didn’t have any in my pantry.

Aren’t these canning jar cookies cute? They would make a tasty gift, I think!

Springtime Tea Party

 

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Recently, I hosted a Springtime Tea Party. It was great fun! If you have a few friends you haven’t seen in a while (don’t we all?), consider inviting them over for a simple tea. Here are a few suggestions!

First, don’t worry about being matchy-matchy.

I used an inexpensive tablecloth to cover an old, scratched up kitchen table. It looked juuussst fine, and didn’t require a big investment. My little fruit bowls are completely different from my plates, and yet they worked together nicely. Those little dishes of chocolate? Mismatched! The napkins? Borrowed from my mother! You get the idea.

Second, if you don’t want to cook from scratch, don’t.

A tea party does not require hours of slaving away in the kitchen. If you don’t feel like spending prep time in your kitchen, here is a “recipe” for a fuss-free tea party:

Boil a pot of water, and steep a pot of tea! Offer cream and sugar on the side.

Break one or two high-quality chocolate bars into bite size pieces, and arrange the pieces in a small serving dish.

Layer a few cups of berries in a pretty bowl. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup.

Purchase a tray of cookies or scones. My local Aldi offers a surprising variety of delicious cookies at very reasonable prices!

gazpachoThinly slice a loaf of artisan bread from your local bakery. Spread each slice with butter or cream cheese, and top with thin slices of cucumber or prosciutto. Delicious!

Feel like cooking?

If you’d like to prepare a dish or two from scratch, here are a few suggestions:

croque ingredientsSpringtime Gazpacho served in little tea cups makes a lovely chilled starter!

Mini Croque Monsieurs make lovely tea sandwiches!

Rainbow Shortcake makes a beautiful, individually plated dessert!

 

 

rainbow shortcake

Life is short. Enjoy your friends!

Chiles en Nogada

WIN_20150924_182712 Chiles en Nogada is an amazing dish from Puebla, Mexico. The green poblano peppers, white creamy sauce, and red pomegranate seeds bring the colors of the Mexican flag together in one bright burst of flavor. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we love Mexican cuisine… and of all of the Mexican dishes we’ve sampled, we love Chiles en Nogada the very most! It’s a beautiful, memorable dish to serve at a dinner party, and the completed dish freezes very well.

Many versions of Chiles en Nogada include Continue reading

No-Fuss Jambalaya

WIN_20160126_191619Jambalaya originated in the bayou region of the American South, a one-pot creation offered up by Cajun cooks with whatever ingredients they had on hand. Creole cooks in the New Orleans region add tomatoes to this dish, which add color and depth of flavor. This is peasant food, and like all peasant food, it’s as flexible as it is delicious. Don’t be precious about the ingredients… if you don’t have something handy, do as a good Cajun cook would, and substitute!

Whether you’re cooking up a pot of Jambalaya as part of a Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras celebration, or just looking for a way to use up some leftover meat on a random Tuesday night, you’re sure to love this dish!

WIN_20160126_180715Ingredients (Makes 1 big ol’ pot, plenty for friends!)

1 tablespoon butter

2 stalks of celery, sliced 1/3 inch thick

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced green pepper

2 cups diced tomatoes and juice (fresh or canned)

4 cups chicken broth

3 cups uncooked rice

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (more if desired)

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dried, crushed thyme

1 teaspoon celery salt

1/2 teaspoon file powder (optional; also called sassafras “gumbo” powder)

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or red cayenne pepper)

2 cups cooked, sliced sausage (Andouille sausage or whatever you prefer)

2 cups cooked chicken (shredded, cubed, whatever you prefer)

2 cups cooked shrimp

WIN_20160126_185139Directions

Step 1) In a large pot, saute celery, garlic, and onion in butter until onion is soft.

Step 2) Add green pepper, tomatoes, chicken broth, rice, Tabasco, Worcestershire, and spices. Stir. Bring to a boil.

Step 3) Reduce heat and cover the pot. Gently simmer until liquid is almost all absorbed and rice is cooked, approximately 15 – 20 minutes. CHECK the rice after 10 minutes, and again after 20 minutes. If liquid is mostly absorbed before rice is cooked, add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of additional broth or water. Jambalaya is “mostly dry” when finished – the rice should be a little bit saucy, but not drowning in liquid like soup.

Step 4) When rice is tender, gently fold in the sausage, chicken, and shrimp. Serve Jambalaya hot and enjoy with friends!