Friday, July 22, 2011

Connecting with Lao culture through cooking

Lately my mother has been very persistent in making sure I know my culture and where my family comes from, especially through cooking. It seems like everyday she is asking me
"daughter! Do you really know how to make (insert Lao recipe here)? Do you know the secret ingredients and techniques? You know I've been cooking since I was 7 years old in my country...ramble ramble...Oh I just show you again just to make sure..." 
You would think she would remember that she's been showing me for almost 20 years now, but at least I don't mind testing her recipes :p
Anyways, my mother comes from a little known country called Lao People's Democratic Republic, or Laos for short.

Her main goal while she was raising me was to preserve our culture and teach me all the recipes that my Madou (grandmother) taught her. Growing up, I was spoiled with home cooked Lao food and now that I'm moving out for college there's no place to get this amazing, authentic taste of home.

Here is a classic Lao favorite that is made in every Lao home. Yes...the ingredients might seem a bit strange, but if you enjoy trying something new you will love it.

Lao Papaya Salad

2 cups shredded papaya
1 shredded carrot (optional, for added texture & color)
2 garlic cloves
1-4 chilies (depending on how spicy you want it)
1 tablespoon fish paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon msg
3 tablespoons sugar
5 cherry tomatoes
1/2 lime squeezed
(or more, depends on how sour you want it)

Cut the outside skin of the papaya and carrot off.
Using a vegetable shredder, shred the papaya and carrot until you have your desired amount.
Dice the tomatoes and put to the side.

Using a large mortar and pestle*, pound the garlic and chilies together until well combined.
Add the fish paste, msg, and sugar one at a time until well combined.
Add the shredded papaya, shredded carrot, diced tomatoes, and fish sauce. Use a spoon to help mix ingredients together.
Taste and adjust to your liking, it should be sweet, sour, and spicy.

*If you don't have a large mortar and pestle, no big deal. The garlic, chilies, fish paste, msg, and sugar should be combined with some weight. For example, if you have a rolling pin or meat tenderizer of some sort, place the ingredients in a resealable bag and pound it until combined. When adding the papaya, carrot, and tomatoes you want to toss the ingredients together until very well combined.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Double Chocolate & Espresso Cookies

I stumbled across this great cookie recipe created by one of my favorite chefs Giada De Laurentiis.
If your a chocolate addict and love espresso too you're in for a treat. 
(Ghirardelli works great with this recipe)

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup dark chocolate-covered espresso beans
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. 
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. (popping it in the microwave just before you need it works fine too)
In a food processor, finely chop the chocolate covered espresso beans. 
In a medium bowl, whisk together the chopped espresso beans, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, water, and vanilla extract. 
Gradually add the dry ingredients and stir until thick and smooth. 
Fold in the melted chocolate. Stir in the chocolate chips. 
Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, scoop level 1/4 cupfuls of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until slightly puffed and the tops begin to crack, 18 to 20 minutes. 
Allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheets and serve.

Chai Cookies

Chai is one of the most amazing concoctions ever created. A delicious cup of chai latte is what gets me through my ungodly early morning classes (well a little game called angry birds does help too). When I found out you could put the amazingness of chai and combine it with a cookie I thought I was in heaven. Well, until I realized all the recipes that I found of chai cookies really just seemed like a sugar cookie with a tiny dash of chai-like flavor. So I decided to create my own and it came out awesome. If you love chai as much as I do, you really need to make this!

2 3/4 cups  flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch of salt
2 sticks of butter
1 3/4 cups sugar (& a little more for coating)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 packet/serving powdered chai mix

(If you like a strong chai taste to your cookies add the following)
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and powdered chai (& extra spices) in a medium bowl. set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until combined and fluffy. 
Beat in the eggs one at a time and the vanilla extract.
Gradually add your dry ingredients on a low speed until combined. 
Let your cookie dough chill in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours so it's nice and easy to roll your cookies.
Preheat at 400 degrees.
Prepare a small dish with some sugar for rolling.
Roll the cookie dough into little one inch balls and dip them in your little sugar bath until they're nice and coated.

Place them about two inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet or on a silicone mat.
Bake for 8-10 minutes.

My first little note just for you

To tell you the truth, I have never really been into blogging or reading blogs so I'll just get down to business- 
I love food.
Cooking, baking, & Armik is the sweet bliss in my crazy, hectic life.
I'm always looking for something delicious to make and love sharing it with others. So, why not share my scrumptious findings online? From a little, persistent nudge from my boyfriend, I broke down and finally created this blog.
(at least I won't misplace any recipes anymore :p )

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do.