Friday, February 20, 2015

Chicken Meatballs with Vietnamese Flavors

Every Chinese New Year, I try to add one new dish from the Lucky Foods list and this year I decided to change up the meatballs.  So instead of Pearl Balls or Lion's Head Meatballs (previous posts), I decided to use some of the ground chicken thigh meat that I bought at Uwajimaya and made meatballs with Vietnamese flavors.  These meatballs are flavored with Fish Sauce, Lemongrass, Shallots and Cilantro.  The texture is chewy, like all Asian Meatballs, as the meat is made very fine in the food processor. I pan fried them and served them to be wrapped in Lettuce leaves and added some Mint Leaves and Bean Sprouts for some crunch. I also made a Peanut Sauce to drizzle on the wraps or for dunking for those friends who just wanted to eat the meatballs. They turned out wonderfully and were the hit of the party. So I am sharing the recipe with you today.  I'm going to make them often!

Chicken Meatballs with Vietnamese Flavors

2 pounds of ground Chicken Thighs (or use boneless thighs and use the food processor)
2 stalks of fresh Lemongrass, bottom two inches of inside layers, minced
2 large Shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 loosely packed cup of Cilantro, minced
1/3 cup Fish Sauce (I used Red Boat)
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 cup Cornstarch
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil

Put Lemongrass, Shallots, Garlic, Cilantro and Fish Sauce in a food processor (I used a Cuisinart). Process until everything is minced fine.  Add in the Chicken Thigh meat and the salt and process until mixed thoroughly.  Form into small balls - walnut sized. Heat a large frying pan and add in the oil, then carefully place as many meatballs in that will fit. Cook on one side until brown and then on the other side until cooked through.  Remove and serve with vegetables and sauce.  

Serve with Red Lettuce Leaves, washed and separated, a cup of Beansprouts and 1/2 cup of Mint Leaves.

For sauce:  Mix equal amounts of Chunky Peanut Butter and Hoisin Sauce (I used Wok Mei brand as it is Gluten Free) and add hot water until thin enough to drizzle.  

Five Element Analysis

Chicken belongs to the Wood Element and the Lemongrass, being a fast growing grass adds even more. The Fish Sauce and Hoisin Sauce contribute the Water Element, the Shallots, Garlic, Mint and Cilantro bring in the Metal Element. The Fire Element is represented by the Lettuce Leaves and the Earth Element is found in the Peanut Butter.  This then becomes a balanced Five Element dish!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Clams with Black Bean Sauce

Happy Chinese New Year!

This is the anniversary of 5 Element Food - I started it on Chinese New Year - the Year of the Tiger, which was 5 years ago!  I'm actually amazed that I am still coming up with recipes from my past and now I am creating more new recipes all the time.  Thanks for being part of this blog - it's been really fun!  

So, in honor of this Chinese New Year - the Year of the Sheep, I am making many lucky foods.  Here's a list of foods that you are supposed to make and eat to celebrate.  Of course, you don't need to eat everything on it for good luck - you can pick and choose what kind of luck you want. 

Bamboo Shoots for Wealth and Happiness
Chicken for Happiness in Marriage or Relationship
Clams - Money
Daikon Radish for Good Omens
Dried Bean Curd for Happiness
Eggs for Fertility and Creativity
Fish – Whole - for Abundant Wealth - the head and tail indicate a good beginning and end of the year
Five Vegetable Stir-Fry – Gives the Five Blessings of Longevity, Riches, Peace, Wisdom and Virtue
Greens for Abundance
Lettuce for Rising Fortune and a Fresh Start
Lily Buds (dried) - Prosperity
Lotus Root for Continuing Wealth
Lotus Seed for Children
Lychees for Close Family Ties
Meatballs for Reunions
Noodles for Long Life
Oranges/Tangerines for Luck and Wealth (esp. good with leaves attached)
Pomelo – Continuous Prosperity and Status
Potstickers and Egg Rolls for Wealth
Rice for Abundance
Rice Cakes – both sweet and savory – A Higher Year
Peanuts for Long Life
Sea Moss for Prosperity
Shitake Mushrooms to Fulfill Wishes
Sweets – a Sweet Life in the New Year
Preserved Kumquats for Prosperity
Coconut for Togetherness
Watermelon seeds for Happiness and many Children and Grandchildren
Dates for Early Prosperity

I have a party every year, but in keeping with the calmer Sheep, it's going to be a smaller and calmer gathering.  Many of my favorite Chinese New Year dishes have already been posted and I still make them and serve them every year - Potstickers, Spring Rolls, Pearl Balls and Buddha's Delight to name just a few.

So, I will be giving you some new ones over the next few days. Today's recipe is Clams with Black Bean Sauce.  Clams symbolize money and even better, the represent holding onto money.  And in this recipe, they are delicious as well as lucky!

Clams with Black Bean Sauce

2 tablespoons Fermented Black Beans, rinsed and mashed (can also use already mashed in a jar but then don't add Tamari)
1 Tablespoon Tamari (or Soy Sauce)
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 cup diluted Chicken Broth (1/2 broth and half water)
1 onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
1 each Red and Green Pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 pounds clams, rinsed
2 Tablespoons Oil
Optional for a thicker sauce:  1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 Tablespoon water

In a small bowl, mix together the mashed Black Beans, the Tamari, the Sugar and the Chicken Broth. 

Heat a wok or frying pan and then add oil until it is shimmering.  Add the onions, garlic and peppers and stir-fry until the onion is translucent and just beginning to brown.  Remove to a plate and reserve. 

Then add the clams and the black bean sauce mixture and cook until the shells open – about 5 minutes.

Return the onions and peppers to the pan and toss to mix well. If desired, add in the cornstarch and stir just until sauce thickens. Serve with steamed white rice or steamed buns.

Five Element Analysis

Clams belong to the Water Element and the Tamari adds even more. The Chicken Broth contributes some of the Wood Element and the Onions and Garlic all add the Metal Element.  The Fire Element is represented by the Red and Green Peppers.  Only the Earth Element is missing so be sure to serve another dish that includes an Earthy food.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sadato's Persian Eggplant Bake

My friends Sadato and Emi are wonderful hosts. He is Japanese and she is Persian and they always serve wonderful food at their home. She makes the salads and he has become very good at making Persian main dishes. When I was last visiting, he made a wonderful baked Eggplant dish that is based on the Persian Eggplant Stew - Khoresht-e-Bademjan. That's a stew that incorporates Lamb or Beef mixed with Tomatoes and Eggplant and cooked on the stove.  But there were some vegetarians visiting too, so he replace the meat with Cremini Mushrooms.  And, he baked it instead of cooking it on the stovetop. It was so delicious that I had to make it at home and this was my attempt.  The secret to this recipe is to use Japanese Eggplant - which I think is perfectly appropriate!  And, I sprinkled Parmesan Cheese on top because it made it look so pretty although it's not an authentic Persian ingredient.  You could use a Feta instead to keep it authentic.  Anyway, this dish is amazing because the mushrooms keep you from missing the meat (if you are a Carnivore like me) and there is a wonderful richness to this dish that goes perfectly with Persian Rice (a previous post).  So, if you have some vegetarian guests coming over or it's Meatless Monday - try this dish - I'm sure you'll like it too!

Sadato's Persian Eggplant Bake

4 Japanese Eggplant, stem end removed and cut lengthwise into 1/3" slices
1 pound Cremini Mushrooms, washed, stems removed and cut into 3 slices if small and 4 slices if large
6 Tablespoons Olive Oil - divided
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can Whole Tomatoes (
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
1 teaspoon Turmeric
Salt to taste
Optional 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Feta Cheese

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Put 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil on a baking dish and put Eggplant slices on and coat with the oil. Bake in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until soft and just beginning to brown. This can be done ahead

Meanwhile, put an additional 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil in a frying pan. Add mushrooms and cook until liquid is released and then is reduced - about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve.

Put last Tablespoon of Olive Oil in the frying pan and add onion and garlic.  Cook until the onion is translucent.  Add in the spices and stir to mix before adding in the tomatoes.  Break up the tomatoes with the spatula and bring to a boil.  Taste and add salt as desired.

Reheat oven (if necessary). Place Eggplant in the bottom of a 9 x 11 inch pan.  Layer the mushrooms on top and then pour the Tomato Mixture over it all. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven to bake 30 minutes.  Then take out of the oven, take off the aluminum foil and sprinkle on the cheese. Place back in the oven and turn the heat to broil. Watch carefully and remove when the cheese is bubbling and brown.

Serve with Persian Rice (previous post).

Five Element Analysis

Eggplants belong to the Water Element.  The Tomatoes bring in the Fire Element and the Turmeric, Cumin, Garlic and Onions all contribute the Metal Element and the Parmesan or Feta Cheese adds even more.  The Mushrooms add the Earth Element so only the Wood Element is missing so be sure to serve this dish with some greens to create Five Element balance. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Okra and Onion Pakoras

I found a wonderful Indian grocery store today with lots of wonderful vegetables and spices and they had lots of fresh Okra and I also picked up some Chickpea Flour called Besan.  So I decided to make one of my favorite Indian Restaurant appetizers - Pakoras. I have been holding onto a recipe that was given to me by an Indian friend that I've really been wanting to try.  Pakoras are Indian fritters and usually contain a variety of vegetables although I usually see potato and onions in most of them. I decided to add in Okra along with the onions and also tossed in some minced Serrano Chili and Cilantro.  My friend's recipe was very simple, so I added some more spices. I fried them up and served them with Tamarind and Tomato Chutney. They tasted like a cross between Onion Rings and fried Okra - both of which I loved.  They were incredibly good!  And, they were very easy to make. As an added benefit, they are also Gluten Free.  If you are a fan of the Pakoras served at Indian buffets, try making the at home instead.  I'll be making these again and again....

Okra and Onion Pakoras

1 pound Okra, stem ends removed and cut into small rings
1 small Onion, chopped
1 Serrano Chili, stems removed, deseeded and minced
1 cup of Cilantro leaves and tender stems - loosely packed and then minced
1 cup Chickpea Flour (Besan)
¾ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
Pinch of Asafoetida - Optional
¼ teaspoon of Baking Soda
1/2 - 3/4 cup water
Oil for frying (about 2 - 3 inches deep in your pan)
Serve with Tamarind Chutney or Tomato Chutney (I like the SWAD brand) 

In a large bowl, mix together the Chickpea Flour, Salt, Cayenne Pepper, Asafoetida and Baking Powder. Stir to mix well.  Add 1/2 cup water and stir to make a thick batter.  Add up to an additional 1/4 cup.  Add in the Okra, Onions, minced Chiles and Cilantro in a big bowl. Let sit for 20 minutes.

Turn oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with paper towels. Then heat up a Wok and put in oil to reach 2 - 3 inches.  When oil is hot, drop in about 4 fritters - approximately 2 teaspoonfuls of mixture each and fry until dark golden brown on both sides.  Put on paper towels in the oven and do the next batch adding them to the baking sheet until all are done. Serve hot with Tamarind and Tomato Chutney. 

Five Element Analysis

Chickpeas are a bean so they belong to the Water Element. The Okra contributes the Earth Element and is a mucilaginous food that is very good for the digestion.  The Onions add in the Metal Element and the Cumin and the resinous Asafoetida add even more.  The Cayenne Pepper, the Serrano Chili and the Tomato Chutney bring in the Fire Element and the sourness of the Tamarind brings in the Wood Element.  This then becomes a balanced little snack!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Lentil Soup with Moroccan Flavors

I'm clearly on a soup kick as my Kidneys need support and today I really felt like making a hearty main dish soup and that usually means using pulses or beans, so I used lentils since Martin likes them so much. He also loves Moroccan flavors so that's how this soup came to be. I usually make lentil soup that has Italian flavors and that's already been posted. So, what constitutes Moroccan flavors?  For me, it is the combination of ground Coriander, Cumin and a hint of Cinnamon. They are warming spices and mixed with lentils, lots of different vegetables and a big squeeze of lemon, it's delicious! This soup is easy to prepare and cooks in one hour.  Martin loved it so this recipe is a keeper.

Lentil Soup with Moroccan Flavors

2 cups of dried Lentils
2 cups diced onion (1 medium)
2 cups diced carrots (about 3)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon ground Coriander
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1 14.5 oz can petite diced Tomatoes
8 - 10 cups Broth or more if needed (Chicken or Vegetable) - I ended up using 12 cups
1 - 2 teaspoons Salt
Fresh ground Pepper
4 cups washed Spinach leaves (grab by the handful)
Juice of 1 large Lemon (about 1/4 cup)

In a large soup pot, heat Olive Oil and add the Onions, Carrots and Garlic.  Cook until onion softens.  Then add in the spices and cook until they darken slight.  Then add in the Tomatoes and 8 - 10 cups of broth and lentils -  cook for 50 minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper.  Add additional broth or water if needed to thin the soup down so check every 15 minutes. Then add in the Spinach and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Add lemon juice and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Soup by its very nature is a Water food, so this definitely has the Water Element present. But, Lentils are an Earth food and the carrots add even more Earth.  The Onions, Garlic and Spices contribute the Metal Element and the Tomatoes bring in the Fire Element.  The Spinach, Lemon and Chicken Broth add plenty of the Wood Element too.  You might have guessed that this was a balanced soup because it contained so many colors and you'd be right!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hungarian Goulash

Goulash Soup is one of the first things I ever cooked. Of course, the first time I made, it wasn't exactly like this recipe as I have refined it over the years.  But how and why I made it are actually a funny family story.  When I was 7 years old (yes, you read that right), I told my mother that I wanted to cook dinner. She asked me if I knew what I wanted to make and if I knew how to make it and I said yes, she just needed to take me to the grocery store.  She took me and I proceeded to buy the ingredients to make Hungarian Goulash.  

Now, don't ask me how I knew how to make it, but I did.  And, I remember being very upset at the grocery store, because they didn't have Hungarian Paprika and I had to use regular American Paprika instead. And, I proceeded to make a very simple version of Goulash using Beef, Paprika, Campbell's Canned Beef Consomme that I diluted, Onions and Carrots.  When my father came home, he was astonished because he thought my mother had made it and she only cooked Chinese food.  When she told him I had made it, he was horrified to think that she had let me use sharp knives and cook a hot soup by myself.  But, he liked it and then proceeded to ask me how I knew how to make it. I answered that it was something that I just knew it inside my head.  He asked me if I read about it and I said no or if I had seen someone make it on TV, another no. He kept asking, How did you know how to make it?  I simply didn't know how I knew, but I just knew that I knew and by the way, it was good.  My mother very nonchalantly told him that I was probably Hungarian in my past life, which made my father laugh out loud.  Years later, I was told by a psychic that I was a Hungarian Opera Singer in my past life and lived and worked in Vienna.  I don't know if that is true, but it is an amusing thought and I will admit that I do love Hungarian food and I love Vienna.  

Anyway, this is a soup that I love to eat whenever I am in Austria as I haven't been to Hungary yet to have it there. I especially like eating eat after skiing. It is not something I make very often and I don't know why because I still love it.  So, I am sharing my updated version with you. I now like to add some Red Pepper and Tomatoes to freshen the taste and I love parsnips, so I throw those in too.  I personally like to add Caraway, but it's a spice that's not popular in my house so I usually leave it out.  Goulash is warming and nourishing and rich in flavor.  It's perfect for a cold winter day.  I hope you enjoy my grown-up version.

Hungarian Goulash

2 pounds Beef Chuck Roast, cut into small pieces about ¾ inch square
2 Onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons Oil
5 Tablespoons Hungarian Sweet Paprika
4 cups Beef Broth
2 cups Water
2 teaspoons Salt
¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
1 small Red Pepper, stem removed and cut into small pieces
2 Tomatoes, peeled and deseeded, chopped
3 carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into small rings or halved or quartered
3 Parsnips, trimmed, peeled and cut into small rings or halved or quartered (Optional)
2 medium Russet Potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
Optional: Caraway Seeds

In a large stew pot, heat oil and add onions. Cook until soft and translucent. Add beef and cook without stirring until beef is slightly browned on one side, turn and cook pieces on their other side.  Then add in garlic and Paprika (and Caraway if using). Cook until the Paprika starts to brown slightly (this happens fast).  Add the broth and water and cook for one hour.  Then add in the Red Pepper, Tomatoes, Carrots, Parsnips and Potatoes, salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 30 – 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Serve over noodles or with some crusty bread.

Five Element Analysis

Beef is an Earth Food and it is cooked long and slow with the onions so they sweeten and become Earthy and the carrots, parsnips and potatoes add even more Earth. So, this is a fundamentally Earthy dish. The Paprika, Red Pepper and Tomato contribute the Fire Element.  The Metal Element is only represented by the small amount of Garlic and the Caraway if you use it.  The Water Element is only represented by the fact that this is a soup, although a thick one, so this element needs support in this meal or some other time during the day.  The Wood Element is missing so it is advisable to serve this with some crusty wheat bread, green leafy vegetables or some pickles.  

Friday, January 9, 2015

Rainbow Chard with Indian Flavors

In my quest to eat more green leafy vegetables, I've been experimenting with flavors to go beyond the usual steamed or sautéed versions. Last night I decided to make Rainbow Chard and use Indian flavors to give it some pizazz.  It worked!  It was a delicious combination of flavors. I used garlic, onion and ginger as the main flavor components along with Cumin and Coriander.  I also added some Tomatoes to help make the sauce.  The Rainbow Chard was cooked in the sauce and it ended up being a big hit on the dinner table.  It was easy and fast and will definitely become a ongoing way to cook Chard.

Rainbow Chard with Indian Flavors

2 bunches Rainbow Chard cut into small pieces (about 4 cups), stems and leaves separated
3 Tablespoons Ghee
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
2" piece of Ginger, grated
1 small Serrano Chili, seeds removed and diced
1 teaspoon ground Coriander
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
3 - 4 Tomatoes diced (nearly 2 cups)
1 teaspoon Salt

Melt Ghee in a large frying pan and add onion.  Cook until it begins to brown. Then add in Garlic and Ginger and the Spices.  Cook until the Spices darken (this happens quickly.)  Then add in the Tomatoes and the Serrano Chili.  Cook on medium heat until the tomatoes start to break down and become a thick sauce. Add in the Chard stems and cook for 5 - 6 minutes, stirring occasionally until almost tender. Add in the stems and stir until the wilt.  Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.

Five Element Analysis

Chard is considered a leafy green and a very healthy one too.  It is full of vitamins and minerals and is very good for the liver. The ancient Chinese considered it a good vegetable for the skin.  It is considered a Wood food so that element is covered.  The Ghee, Onions and Garlic contribute the Metal Element as do the Spices.  The Serrano Chili and Tomatoes bring in the Fire Element and the Ginger contributes the Earth Element and there is a slight bitterness to Chard that makes it a bit Fiery too. Only the Water Element is missing so this would be a good side dish to a Water food like Eggplant or Fish to make a balanced meal.