Sunday, April 11, 2021

Oven Fried Rice

I had an interesting conversation with my son the other day about his disappointment with making Fried Rice. He was really wanting the Rice to be a bit more crispy. I told him that traditionally you have to use a wok on very high heat to get the Rice crisp and that using a nonstick frying pan just wasn't going to give you that result. I told him that we should try making Fried Rice in the oven as that's one way of adding that extra heat that an electric stove can't give you. We finally made it today and you can see our results - mine is the photo above with Peas and his is the one with Egg below. Both have bits of Ham and Green Onion and were seasoned the Rice with Salt, Pepper and a little GF Tamari. We cooked them on two different sheet pans. He was delighted with the results because cooking the Rice mixture on a baking sheet gave him a lot more of the crispy bits!

So here are the important things to remember about cooking Rice this way - first, make sure you use leftover Rice that has been stored at least a few hours (preferably overnight) in the refrigerator as this dries the Rice out and assists in making it crispy. If you forgot to store your cooked Rice and have to make some fresh to use, you can still use it, but I would cook the Rice for longer and you will have more chewy bits. Secondly, cook the Rice in the oven first by itself, before adding the other ingredients or they will get too dried out. I cooked the Rice, then I added the Green Onions, chopped Ham and Peas. Finally, add the GF Tamari (or Soy Sauce) at the end so that there isn't a burnt flavor and you can add the Eggs at this point too. If you want to spice it up, it's better to add some Chili Sauce when you eat it. Remember that Fried Rice has always been about using up leftover Rice, Meat and Vegetables to create a new meal, so feel free to get creative about what you add. Just make sure that the ingredients are not too wet or you will take away the crispness of the Fried Rice made this way. It's definitely a new way of making Fried Rice and it is delicious!

Oven Fried Rice

3 - 4 cups leftover, cold, cooked Rice

3 - 4 Green Onions, trimmed and minced

½ cup minced, cooked Meat of your choice (Ham is most traditional)

1/3 cup frozen Peas

1 -  2 lightly scrambled Eggs

3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil

1 - 2 Tablespoons Tamari or Soy Sauce

Salt and Pepper to taste


Heat the oven to 475 degrees.  


Pour 2 Tablespoons of the Oil over a large sheet pan. Place the Rice on top and sprinkle with Salt and Pepper. Toss to coat with a spatula. Put the sheet pan in the oven and cook for 10 minutes.  


Remove the pan from the oven and turn the Rice over. Sprinkle with more Salt and Pepper and the additional Tablespoon of Oil. Add in the Green Onions, Meat and Peas. Return to the oven and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  

Remove the pan from the oven and toss the Rice mixture again and add in the Egg pieces cutting them into smaller pieces with the Spatula. Sprinkle with the Tamari and toss to coat. Return to the oven for an additional 4 - 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Rice (since it is White) is considered a Metal grain. The Tamari and Egg and Ham contribute the Water Element. The Green Onions add a little bit of the Wood Element, but they also contribute the Metal Element. The Peas bring in more of the Wood Element. The Fire Element is only found in the Black Pepper and the Earth Element is missing. So serve this dish with some Hot Tea for the Fire Element and be sure to serve an Earthy food to go with it to create a Five Element balance. I served it with a Cucumber Salad as that added in more Earth and the Vinegar contributed some more Wood. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Baked Scallops

I bought a big bag of frozen Scallops from Costco that I needed to use up as my freezer was becoming very crowded. I thawed them out overnight in the refrigerator and dried them off. I then decided to try baking them instead of my usual pan searing, as I wanted them to cook all at once instead of in two batches. I topped them with a savory Gluten Free Panko topping. The Sauce I used is my usual one of Butter, Shallots, Lemon Juice and White Wine.  Not only was this a really easy way of cooking Scallops, they also turned out perfectly. I loved the crisp topping that contrasted with the softness of the Scallops - they were delicious! I encourage you to try making Scallops this way and I think you will be surprised at the result!

Baked Scallops

1 pound of Scallops, patted dry with paper towels

3 Tablespoons salted Butter

2 Tablespoons minced Shallot

2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

2 Tablespoons dry White Wine

1/3 cup Gluten Free Panko

1/3 teaspoon Garlic Powder

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 425 degrees

Place the Scallops (touching) in an 8 - or 9 inch square or round baking pan and season lightly with Salt and Pepper on both sides.

Put the Gluten Free Panko in a small bowl and add the Garlic Powder and a little Salt. 

In a small frying pan, melt the Butter and then remove 1 Tablespoon to pour into the Panko mixture, stirring to mix. 

Add the Shallots to the remaining Butter and cook until lightly softened. Then add in the Lemon Juice and White Wine and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Pour over and around the Scallops.

Spoon the Panko on top of the Scallops. Put the pan into the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Check to see if the topping is browned. If not, turn on the broiler and watch carefully for another 1 - 2 minutes or until the topping is nicely browned.  

Five Element Analysis

Scallops belong to the Water Element. The Lemon Juice brings in a little of the Wood Element and the Wine contributes a bit of the Fire Element. The Shallots add the Metal Element as does the Butter and since the GF Panko is made mostly of Rice Flour, that adds even more Metal. Only the Earth Element is missing, so this dish would be good served with Potatoes or another Earthy vegetable and other sides dishes containing Wood and Fire foods would ensure a balanced Five Element meal. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Russian Potato Salad


For Easter dinner, I wanted to have a side to the main course that involved Peas. I shelled and cooked a bunch yesterday (ordered luckily by mistake) and had about 1/2 cup left over. I was also craving Potato Salad, so I decided to make one that I haven't had in years - Russian Potato Salad. It's often called Olivier Salad, created by a Belgian chef in Moscow and apparently had a lot of expensive ingredients bound together by Mayonnaise. It has since evolved to become a Salad of diced, cooked Potatoes and Carrots, Peas, Pickles and usually hard-boiled Eggs. Meat can also be added - usually bits of Sausage (Knockwurst style), Ham, Beef or Chicken, but some people add cut up Hotdogs or Bologna. It's quite popular around the world and I first had it when my Mom's friend from Argentina made it and she called it Salad Russe.  I've had it many other times and have seen other ingredients like pickled Beets added, which makes it a delightful pink color. I've also had it in Mexico City and in many places around Europe.  

It's quite easy to make if you use store bought Mayonnaise. All you have to do is boil some chunks of Potato and add in a cut up Carrot towards the end of the cooking time. I had leftover Peas, but you can easily use thawed frozen Peas. You then cut up some Gherkin Pickles (I actually had a Russian brand in my pantry) and add cut up Eggs and Meat if you are using them. I like to flavor the Mayonnaise with a bit of the Pickle juice to make it thinner, sprinkle with Salt and Pepper and toss it all together. The traditional recipe doesn't add any Onion, but I think Red Onion is a nice addition, but I do recommend soaking the Red Onion pieces in a bit of hot, salted water to draw out the sharpness. I didn't add any Eggs or Meat to make it a bit lighter. In any case, it's a beautiful Potato Salad and it's also very delicious!

Russian Potato Salad

3 medium large Potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 - 3 inch chunks

1 large or 2 smaller Carrots, peeled and cut into several segments

1/2 cup cooked or frozen and thawed Peas

1/2 cup of chopped Gherkin Pickles (can also use Dill Pickles)

3/4 - 1 cup Mayonnaise (use more if adding Eggs, Meat or Beets)

1 Tablespoon Pickle Juice

1/4 teaspoon Sugar

1/4 teaspoon or more of Salt

fresh ground Pepper to taste

Optional:  1/4 cup minced Red Onion, soaked in hot, salted Water for 10 minutes

Optional:  1 - 2 hardboiled Eggs, chopped

Optional: 1/2 cup diced cooked Ham, Roast Beef, cooked Chicken or Sausage

Optional:  1/2 cup diced Pickled Beets

Place the Potatoes in a small pot and cover with Water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Then add in the Carrot and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Drain and cut up the Potatoes and Carrots into small chunks only slightly bigger than the Peas.

Place the Potato and Carrot pieces in a bowl and add the Peas and Pickles (and Eggs or Meat or Red Onion, if using). Sprinkle with Salt and Pepper. In a bowl, mix together the Mayonnaise, Sugar and Pickle Juice and pour over the Potato mixture. Stir with a large spoon to coat all the ingredients. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight. 

Five Element Analysis

Potatoes and Carrots both belong to the Earth Element. Peas and Pickles add in the Wood Element. Mayonnaise contributes both Water (from the Eggs) and since it is also White and a created Sauce, it brings in the Metal Element too. If you add Onion, you bring in even more Metal. If you use Ham, it adds more Water, Beef adds more Earth and Chicken adds more Wood. So as a side dish, it contributes a good amount of both Earth and Wood to a meal and some Metal too.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Daikon Radish Pickle with Japanese Flavors


I have a love of Japanese Pickles and I buy them often at my local favorite grocery store - Uwajimaya. One of the Pickles that I enjoy is Tukuan - a bright yellow Daikon Radish Pickle that is very sweet. I decided to make it at home so I could make it a bit less sweet and then suddenly ended up making a slightly different version by adding Tamari instead of Turmeric and I ended up loving the result!  As you can see from the photo, the Daikon Radish slices start showing their beautiful flower design after they soak up the brine and I just love how beautiful the Pickle Slices are!  Next time, I will go ahead and add the Turmeric instead to make the more traditional Pickle that is often found in Sushi and you can use this same recipe, leaving out the Gluten Free Soy Sauce, adding a bit more Salt and adding a teaspoon of Turmeric. I'm giving the option to make a tangier Pickle by using less Sugar or a sweeter Pickle, using more. I went right down the middle. It's important to start with a little Salt and Sugar to draw out the juices of the Daikon to make a more crisp Pickle and then make the sauce to go with it and add it later. I was so happy with the results of this experiment and I will be making these all the time now!

Daikon Radish Pickle with Japanese Flavors

1 pound of Daikon (as thin as you can find) peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices

1 teaspoon Salt

1 teaspoon Sugar 

Place the Daikon Radish slices in a bowl and sprinkle on the Salt and Sugar. Toss to coat the slices and leave to marinate for 30 minutes. Drain the accumulated liquid. 

Pickle Sauce

1 Tablespoon Tamari

1 Tablespoon Mirin

2 - 3 teaspoons Sugar

In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients. Pour over the drained Daikon Radish slices and mix to combine. Let marinate for at least one hour up to several days. 

Note: To make Takuan: substitute 1/2 teaspoon Salt for the Tamari and add in 1 teaspoon of Turmeric and use all of the Sugar. 

Five Element Analysis

Daikon Radish is white and pungent, which makes it part of the Metal Element. The Salt and Tamari bring in the Water Element and the Sugar adds the Earth Element - if you use Turmeric, you add even more Earth. The Mirin is a combination of the Fire Element and the Earth Element since it is sweet Rice Wine. A meal where these Pickles are served needs to have more Fire and Wood foods to create balance. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Spiced Sweet Potato Bread with Pecans


I was in a Sweet Potato mood last week and because I had two in the pantry, I went ahead and roasted both - they were big!  I only ate half of one and saved the rest for the next day and then I was done. So, I froze the remaining Sweet Potato and today I pulled it out because I decided to make Sweet Potato Bread, Southern Style with Pecans and Spices. Cooked Sweet Potatoes are very similar in texture to ripe Banana, so I did a riff of a Banana Bread recipe using Gluten Free Flour. I seasoned the Bread much like you would for Sweet Potato Pie, with some Cinnamon, some Ginger and a little Nutmeg. And because I like my sweet breads to be not so sweet, i played down the sugar, but you can add more. On the top I sprinkled chopped up Pecans and Cinnamon Sugar all over before baking it. It was so good and is even better the next day!  

Spiced Sweet Potato Bread with Pecans

1-1/2 cups of cooked Sweet Potato

1/3 cup of melted Butter

1 Egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup of White Sugar

1/4 - 1/2 cup of Brown Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground Ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground Nutmeg

1 1/2 cups Gluten Free Flour blend with Xanthan Gum or add 1 teaspoon (I used Cup4Cup)

3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda

3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/2 cup chopped Pecans or Walnuts

1 additional Tablespoon Sugar mixed with 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon

Turn the oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan

In a food processor (or stand mixer), mix together the Sweet Potato, Butter, Egg, Sugars and Vanilla. In a mixing bowl, blend tougher the Gluten Free Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Salt and Spices. Then add to the Sweet Potato Mixture and mix until just blended. Pour into the loaf pan. Sprinkle the top with the Pecan pieces and the Cinnamon Sugar. Cook for one hour or until the top is browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clear. Cool before slicing.

Five Element Analysis

Sweet Potatoes are one of the Earthiest vegetables and the additional Sugar in the batter adds even more Earth. The Butter, Vanilla Extract, Baking Soda, Baking Powder and Spices all contribute the Metal Element. The Egg and Pecans bring in the Water Element. The Gluten Free Flour blend combines Rice Flour with Tapioca Starch adding more Metal and Earth. So, the Fire Element is missing and easily added when you eat the Bread by serving it with Coffee or Tea. And, the Wood Element is missing too, which should probably be added at another meal as this is a great treat for breakfast or afternoon tea.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Scallion Oil Noodles


I have a great fondness for Ramen Noodles from my years in Japan, but these days I use Lotus Foods' Millet and Brown Rice Ramen. And while these noodles are great in broth, one of my favorite ways to eat them is to toss them in some Scallion Oil and then I top them with a little sautéed Pork or Chicken or Egg Shreds, which is especially good for breakfast. Scallion Oil is very simply made by browning a bunch of sliced Scallions/Green Onions in Oil with a little Salt. You want to get them just starting to brown on the edges, so that the caramelization has occurred in most of the shreds and they become soft. Then you add some Gluten Free Soy Sauce and a little drizzle of Sesame Oil too and toss the Sauce with the cooked noodles. I usually sauté the Meat or Eggs separately and then sprinkle pieces on top. But, I will often use leftover roast Chicken or Pork if I have it. If you want to make it vegan, you can cook up some Tofu to put on top instead. I usually also serve another green vegetable alongside it to create a balanced meal and my sons love to add some Chili Garlic Sauce or some Togarishi Spice to make it hotter. For me, this is a light, quick and easy meal and I make it at least once a week. So, I'm not sure why I haven't posted this recipe before now, but here it is! This recipe is for 2 small servings or one very large one and can easily be doubled or tripled. This simple preparation for Noodles is a classical Chinese dish that is surprisingly delicious!

Scallion Oil Noodles 

1 bunch Scallions (about 6 - 7 Green Onions), ends trimmed, cult into 2 inch lengths and then cut lengthwise into shreds

2 Tablespoons neutral tasting oil (I used Safflower)

A pinch of Salt

3 Tablespoons Gluten Free Soy Sauce or Tamari

1/2 teaspoon toasted Sesame Oil

2 packages Ramen Noodles (I used Lotus Foods Millet and Rice Ramen)

1 cup of sliced and sautéed Pork or Chicken or Egg (recipes below)

Cook the Ramen according to the package directions. Drain and reserve.

In a frying pan, heat up the Oil and then add in the Scallion shreds and the sprinkling of Salt. Sauté the Scallions over medium high heat until they soften and stir with the spatula the edges of most of the pieces are browned. Take off the heat and add in the Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil. Put the Ramen into the frying pan and toss the noodles until they are coated. Put the Noodles in two bowls and divide up the Scallion Shreds. Top with Pork, Chicken, Egg or Tofu to serve.

Sautéed Pork or Chicken

1/2 pound sliced Pork or Chicken, cut into thin shreds

1 Tablespoon Gluten Free Soy Sauce or Tamari

1 Tablespoon Rice Wine

1 Tablespoon Cornstarch

1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

Put the Pork or Chicken in a small bowl. Add in the Soy Sauce and Rice Wine. Toss to coat. Let sit for a minimum of 5 minutes. Then add in the Cornstarch, coating all the pieces. Then add the Oil to a small frying pan. Add in the Pork or Chicken Pieces when the Oil is hot. Cook, stirring until the pieces are lightly browned. 

Shredded Eggs

2 Eggs, lightly beaten

1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

2 teaspoons Gluten Free Soy Sauce or Tamari

1/4 teaspoon toasted Sesame Oil

Heat the Oil in a small frying pan. Add in the Eggs and push the edges into to let the still wet Egg move to get cooked. When the bottom side is set, turn over the whole Egg cake and cook until the other side is set (don't worry if it splits. Remove to a cutting board and cut into thin shred. Sprinkle with the Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil and use to top the noodles or Rice - it is especially good over Congee (aka Jook).

Five Element Analysis

The Scallions/Green Onions belong mostly to the Metal Element, but have a bit of the Wood Element too as they grown in the Spring and are green. So those Elements are automatically covered. The Noodles I used are made of Millet - Earth Element and Rice - the Water Element. The Water Element is also enhanced by the Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil and the Pork or Egg if you are using either of those ingredients. Using Chicken will add more Wood and the Tofu would add more Metal. The Fire Element only makes an appearance if you use the Rice Wine to marinate the meat, but otherwise, to create a balanced meal, it would be good to have another green vegetable to add more Wood and maybe some Chili Garlic Sauce or Togarishi Spice on the side to add more Fire.  

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Agedashi Tofu


I’ve always loved Tofu, which I am quite sure is because of my Chinese heritage, along with having lived in Japan as a child. I don’t really understand the complaint that Tofu has no flavor, as I personally find fresh Tofu to be delicious. And, it acts a sponge for so many flavors, which makes it a culinary chameleon. My son Stephen shares my love of Tofu and the other day, he made Agedashi Tofu and I promptly made it at my house too since I always have Tofu in my refrigerator  Agedashi Tofu consists of lightly pan fried Tofu squares (coated in either Cornstarch or Potato Starch) that are then bathed in a Agedashi Broth, which is a combination  Dashi stock (made from Kombu and Bonito Flakes) and seasoned with Tamari, Mirin, a hint of Sugar and Stephen's special touch: some grated Ginger. You can use instant Dashi Broth if you like too. There is so much umami flavor in this dish and it has the wonderful contrasting textures of the crispy coating and the soft and creamy center bathed in a delicious broth. Sprinkled with very thinly sliced Green Onions and Bonito Flakes and other toppings of your choice, it is also a beautiful dish. Agedashi Tofu is so good that I had to share the recipe with you!


Agedashi Tofu


Dashi Stock (make ahead)


2 cups Water

1 3 – 4 inch square of Kombu

1/2 cup Bonito flakes


Place the Water and Kombu in a small pot. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then remove the Kombu Piece. Add the Bonito Flakes and bring back to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine metal sieve before using. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Or make 2 cups of instant Dashi Broth. 


Agedahi Broth:

1 cup Dashi Stock (recipe above) 

2 Tablespoons Tamari

2 Tablespoons Mirin

1/2 teaspoon Sugar

A pinch of grated Ginger

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes and then turn off the heat.


For the Tofu:


1 carton of Soft Tofu, drained, cut in half lengthwise and then into quarters to make 8 squares

1 teaspoon Salt 

¼ teaspoon White Pepper

½ cup Cornstarch or Potato Starch

½ cup of Vegetable Oil (I used High Heat Safflower)


Place the Tofu on a paper towel covered plate and top with additional paper towels. Pat lighty to dry and remove the paper towels. Then sprinkle the Tofu pieces lightly with Salt and Pepper on each side. 

Put the Cornstarch or Potato Starch in a shallow bowl and coat each Tofu piece.


Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the Tofu when the oil shimmers.  Cook the Tofu until it is browned and then turn over very carefully. Fry that side until golden brown.


Heat the Agedashi Broth and pour into 4 small bowls. Add 2 pieces of fried Tofu and top with Green Onion slices and Bonito Flakes and any other topping of your choice. Serve immediately.



Finely sliced Green Onion tops

Bonito flakes

Optional: Nori flakes, more grated Ginger, grated Daikon, a sprinkle of Shichimi Togarashi

Five Element Analysis

Tofu belongs to the Metal Element because of its white color, but because it is made with Soybeans, it also involves the Water Element. There are plenty of other Water foods in this dish too, starting with the Bonito Flakes and Kombu Seaweed along with the Tamari. More Metal foods can be found in the Green Onions (which also has some Wood) and the Daikon if you add it. The Earth Element is found in the Cornstarch or Potato Starch and the Ginger contributes even more. The Fire Element is found in the Mirin and the Shichimi Togarashi (if using). So only the Wood Element needs support, so be sure to serve some green vegetables as part of the meal.