Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spicy Cucumber Noodle Salad with Edamame

When I first moved back to North Carolina from Washington, DC, I originally moved to Winston-Salem. I could not find a job there -- hence how I ended up in Charlotte -- but my four months there were spent trying to make the best of a somewhat stressful situation (Robbie and I had not lived in the same town since college and then to be living with each other while I was unemployed and he was going through his first semester in law school was not as "Becky-home-ecky as I had imagined). We created our routine and lived happily (most of the time) within the confines of that routine. Part of our Saturday ritual was to eat lunch at the Carving Board. This delightful restaurant that specializes in special salads and sandwich combinations became a favorite -- especially its Spicy Asian Noodle Salad. As Robbie enters the exam period for his second semester of his second year, I figured it would be great to relive those first few months of living together by trying to recreate that favorite dish of his.
The original did not have edamame or cucumber but I thought it added a nice nutritional mix to the salad. The green onions were left out of his batch but you can guarantee I put them in mine.
This recipe also required me to explore my current hometown even more by visiting an Asian Market. Who knew there were such Manhattan-like places in the QC? I picked up most of the ingredients there although I imagine they are available at your local Harris Teeter. Albeit for twice as much and without the excitement of looking through dozens of jars to find the one whose Chinese characters were most likely to mean the same thing as the ingredients on the recipe list.

adapted from

8 ounces uncooked soba (buckwheat noodles)
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
1 cup diced English cucumber
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons white miso (soybean paste) -- Note, I got soybean paste but it was not white. I have no idea what that means or if that affects anything.
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic (such as sambal oelek)
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

Cook soba in boiling water 2 minutes; add edamame. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes. Drain; rinse with cold water. Drain; cool. Place soba mixture in a bowl. Add cucumber and onions. Combined mayonnaise with the remainder of ingredients; stir with a whisk. Pour over the soba mixture; toss well.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shrimp and Orzo Skillet

I have been looking at this recipe for the past six months it seems and finally got a chance to make it Friday night . . . at 10 pm . . . to be put immediately in the refrigerator so that it could be eaten for dinner this week. So I don't now how it tastes hot off the stove -- but reheated in the microwave it is delicious! It was super-easy to make and although there was an issue with splattering oil the second the shrimp hit the hot skillet, it was quickly controlled and the recipe progressed flawlessly.

I got this recipe from a Pampered Chef cookbook. Those folks know what they are doing! Beyond handy kitchen gadgets that make the home cook feel like they've grown a second set of arms to do difficult prep work like buttering corn and cutting an apple in different pieces while getting rid of the core (I should note that both of these tasks can be done simply with one of these . . . but I digress) . . . they also make great recipes.

The lemon flavor is more powerful than the mint and the only moderation I made upon reheating the dish was to add a little salt. But let's be honest, I add salt to almost anything. My grandmother always told me that "A Mullinax can have as much salt as he or she would like." Ironically, she was not born a Mullinax but I never questioned her logic -- Mimi knew best.

Shrimp and Orzo Skillet

8 oz. large uncooked shrimp (21-25 per pound)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
8 oz. orzo pasta
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup clam juice
1 lemon
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon butter

For shrimp, peel and devein shrimp. Add oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes or until shimmering. As skillet heats, combine salt, black pepper and sugar; add shrimp and toss to coat.

Arrange shrimp in a single layer over bottom of skillet and cook about 1 minute or until one side is browned and edges are pink. Remove skillet from heat and turn shrimp over. Let stand an additional 30 seconds or until centers are opaque and shrimp is cooked through. Remove shrimp from skillet and set aside.

For orzo, in same skillet, combine orzo, pressed garlic, broth and clam juice. Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 10-12 minutes or until orzo is cooked through. As orzo cooks, zest lemon to measure 1 tablespoon zest; juice lemon to measure 1 tablespoon juice. Thinly slice mint.

Remove skillet from heat and stir in peas, butter and lemon juice. Arrange shrimp over orzo and cover. Let stand 3-5 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with lemon zest and mint before serving.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

Final Four weekend is full of promise -- coincidentally, it is also Easter weekend which, if you are of the Christian variety, is also full of hope and expectation. What parallelism! They should sing "One Shining Moment" in church tomorrow . . . Anyway, I digress. As you saw here, my beloved Dukies are in the Final Four for the third time in the past ten years and this occasion calls for cupcakes. This week, I made these Blue Velvet beauties that are the perfect shade of blue -- as if they were made to be enjoyed by Duke fans.

Now, a word of warning, I had never used gel food coloring. As I write this, my fingers are still blue from where the food coloring touched my skin. And I may or may not have ruined a pair of pajama pants . . . And my tongue may or may not be blue from when I licked the bowl after this:

Anyway, be careful, be very careful. This stuff was potent. But not as dangerous as the delicious, rich flavor of red velvet cake in a smaller, bluer version. Yumm-o and Go Devils!

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

Makes 26 cupcakes.

2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon Wilton royal blue gel food coloring
1 small dot of violet gel food coloring
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar

For the Frosting

1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans. Cream sugar and butter in mixing bowl till light and fluffy, then add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg. Mix cocoa and food coloring together to make a paste. Add this paste to sugar mixture and mix well again. Sift flour and salt, and add to mixture in thirds, alternating with buttermilk, then mix in vanilla. Combine baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl and add to cake batter. Mix just to combine. Scoop into liners until 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool before icing.

For the frosting -- Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until nice and smooth. Add sugar gradually and beat on low till combined, then on high until very light and fluffy.