After a Full Belly, All is Poetry

There is no sincerer love than a love of food.
– George Bernard Shaw

Spinach Tofu Gyoza 1Gyoza filling

H generally refuses to eat tofu, no matter how I prepare it. It has no taste, weird texture and doesn’t appeal to him at all. On the other hand, I grow up eating lots of tofu & tempeh. Back when I was a poor student, I ate lots of tofu and tempeh curry every day for a little over 1 sgd (under 1 usd) per meal. These days, with the growing of organic food (in France, this industry has a strong foothold), one can easily find marinated tofu in pesto sauce, olive, sun dried tomatoes etc. I don’t need to go to Chinatown or Korean markets to get my tofu, any bio stores carry several options: flavored vs natural, firm vs medium vs. soft tofu, even egg tofu.

I can’t say that he loves this spinach tofu gyoza, but he doesn’t mind eating it. For the first time, his digestion actually processes tofu. Grin.

Uncooked Gyoza

For those first timer handling Chinese wontons or Japanese gyoza, I would recommend starting with gyoza. The skin is thicker and more durable than wonton skin. It doesn’t turn limp even if you dab too much water. And I like how it doesn’t require a lot of oil to cook, that it’s not deep fried unlike Chinese wontons.

The gyoza dipping sauce is crucial in this dish. If you tend to skip the sauce, double or triple the quantity of the filling’s seasoning. (more…)


Like A Glass of Red on Friday Evenings

Luisa, this one is for you.

Earlier this week, Luisa forwarded a recipe that she thought I would enjoy. Soon after, I trawled the net trying to figure out what this Socca is, whether it is french despite the Italian sounding name and why my french husband has never heard about it. Worse, why we didn’t even come across this when we were in Nice last year! So I picked up a bag of chick pea flour at a Bio store earlier today and got busy.

Socca Spinach Sundried Tomato Goat Cheese

The original recipe didn’t really say how liquid the mixture should be (creamy is the instruction). So I tried cooking them at various degree of mixture thickness. The goal is a “savory crepe” that will be stuffed, then folded, then baked. After adding 4 tbsp of water, I realized the crepe is so thick that after eating just one, I would be quite stuffed. The chickpea flour is heavier than regular all purpose flour. Then I worked my way to 7 tbsp of water. For me this is ideal. With the help of flat spatula, I was able to spread them and get them cooked to a right thickness.

I think you still can go to 8 tbsp as long as you didn’t spread them out too much, but much thinner than this, your socca will be crispy. It will break during stuffing and folding. Also, some chickpea flour is coarser than others, so need to adjust the water quantity as well. I’m using organic chick pea flour here.

The Tools I used

The proposed stuffing is spinach, which is an excellent vegetable. The problem is that I am very sensitive to bitter taste in spinach, ugh. So I made a reduced balsamic vinegar sauce (Thanks Masterchef!), which is really just a boiled Balsamic Vinegar.

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Much, much better. The Socca is so delicious to eat on its own, so maybe one of these days I’m going to try the kind that’s sold in the street of Nice.

Luisa, do share if you, too, make a variation of your own. Thanks again for telling me about Socca!


I Made Codette

One of my 2012 Culinary Projects is to make homemade pasta in the four walls of my kitchen. Preferably one that doesn’t involve a pasta machine or chitarra. I have been aiming at gnocchi but well, to make it interesting and funny, I made codette from Domenica Marchetti’s Glorious Pasta of Italy.

It’s basically boiled spinach, pureed then mixed into flour, kneaded into a dough, before you start shaping them into a 10-12 cm length. It was very simple but it does take a lot of time shaping it. Best to do this on the day that you have a lot of things on your mind to sort through.

“I wanted to laugh when I saw ur pasta, I thought that u invented new green bean 😉 but then I ate, and its very gd for me. I’m not sure they need more cooking. So now I’m happy and thinking abt dessert 😉 I love u my super ratatouille chef 🙂 one day I have to make a movie w u 🙂 kisses :* :* “

Now you understand when I say I have a big boy at home.

(adapted from The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti)
serve 1 large portion

100 gr minced beef (or italian sausage, removed from its casing)
1 clove garlic, minced
3-4 tbsp tomato sauce – I used canned tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen peas
freshly grounded black pepper
a quarter recipe of fresh spinach pasta – see note below

  • Make the pasta dough and let it rest as directed. Spread a clean tablecloth on a large work surface and dust with the semolina (or all purpose flour). This is where you will put the pasta once it is shaped.
  • Pinch off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball and rewrap the remaining dough. Place the piece of dough on a work surface lightly dusted with semolina, and roll it into a rope about the thickness of a finger or fat breadstick.
  • Cut the rope crosswise into marble-sized pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll each piece into a thin strand 10 to 12 cm long and about the thickness of a skinny green bean. As you shape each strand, transfer it to the semolina-dusted cloth. Continue to shape the codette until you have used up all the dough. (If you are serving the codette the same day, you can leave them out on the cloth for up to a couple of hours.)
  • Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add salt & OO.
  • While the water is heating, heat up the pan and (without oil) spread over the minced beef. Use the back of your spatula to break it into smaller balls. Once they are half cooked and the meat fats has turned liquid, add in the garlic and toss. If it’s too dry, add some OO. Otherwise, if the meat is rich with fats, you won’t need any additional oil.
  • Saute the meat until it’s cooked through. Lower the heat to medium, add peas and tomato sauce, and stir occasionally. Season with salt & pepper. Once it’s ready, remove from heat and cover.
  • Carefully drop the codette into the boiling water and stir to separate the noodles. Cook the noodles up till al dente, about 15 mins (see note).
  • Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.
  • Transfer the pasta to the frying pan and gently toss the pasta and sauce to combine thoroughly, adding a splash or two of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce.
  • Transfer the dressed pasta to a serving bowl and serve immediately.

(source The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti)
makes about 455 gr

255 gr fresh baby spinach
2 extra large eggs
2 – 2 1/4 C all purpose flour (preferably unbleached)
2 tbsp semolina flour and more for dusting – see note below
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • Pour 1 to 2 tbsp of water into a pot over medium-high heat. Add the spinach, cover, and cook for 3 – 5 minutes, or until wilted and tender. Drain the spinach in a colander set in the sink. When it is cool enough to handle, use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  • Put the spinach and 1 egg in a food processor. Process to a smooth puree. Scoop the spinach mixture into a bowl. Wash and dry the work bowl and blade of the food processor and reassemble the processor.
  • Put 2 cups all purp. flour, the 2 tbsp semolina flour, salt, and nutmeg in the food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add the spinach mixture and the remaining egg and pulse until the mixture forms crumbs that look like small curds. Pinch together a bit of the mixture and roll it around. It should form a soft ball. If the mixture seems dry, drizzle in a few droplets of water and pulse briefly. If the mixture seems too wet and sticky, add additional flour, 1 tbsp at a time, and pulse briefly.
  • Turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface sprinkled lightly with semolina flour and press it together with your hands to form a rough ball. Knead the dough: Using the palm of your hand, push the dough gently but firmly away from you, and then fold it over toward you. Rotate the dough a quarter turn, and repeat the pushing and folding motion. Continue kneading for several minutes until the dough is smooth and silky. Form it into a ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.

~ DM’s spinach pasta dough recipe makes for 4-6 serving of codette. For H and I, I halved the dough recipe.
~ To make one large serving of codette, I used only half of the dough, essentially making it only a quarter of DM’s dough recipe. I still have the other half in my fridge.
~ I didn’t have semolina flour, so I forwent* this and worked only with all purpose flour. T55 is the name here, I have no clue if it’s blanched or not.
~ I shaped the codette a day before, dusted them with lots of flour (so they won’t stick) and froze them. On the day of cooking, I dump the frozen codette immediately into boiling water.
~ DM said to boil it for 20-25 mins, I boiled it only about 15 mins maximum. I think. I was following the news on tsunami warnings in Aceh, Singapore etc – so pardon me.  But both H and I think it’s well cooked. It’s chewy with a bite.

Yes, this takes a lot of time making, but in the end, it worths every second. I love it and H loves it. I’m happy and he’s happy. What more can you ask for?

* forwent is the past tense of forgo. I actually had to google for it!