Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Donnini's Sicilian Salad

I was recently in Melbourne, Australia and ate at a wonderful restaurant called Donnini's.  They had a very refreshing salad they called the Sicilian Salad which combined two bitter greens - Radicchio and Endive with Fennel slices.  The dressing was made of Blood Orange Juice and Olive Oil. It was a simple salad and so delicious!  I loved the bitterness of the greens combined with the sweet taste of the fennel and the sourness of the Blood Orange juice.  It was refreshing and exciting. It also was the perfect first course for the rich pasta dishes that followed.  So, I tried to recreate the dish at home and here's the recipe I came up with.  Luckily, I found some Blood Oranges, but if you can't, you can recreate that taste by mixing fresh Navel Orange juice with some Lemon juice.  If you like bitter greens, you need to try this salad!

Sicilian Salad

2 heads Endive
2 heads Raddichio
1 Fennel Bulb
2 Blood Oranges, juiced (or juice of a small Navel orange and a small lemon)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Wash the Endive, Raddichio and Fennel.  Cut the top branches and bottom root off the Fennel and slice into thin slices.  Then tear the Endive and Raddichio into bite sized pieces. Put in a salad bowl.  In a smaller bowl, mix together the Blood Orange Juice, Olive Oil and Salt. Pour over the salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Endive and Raddichio, being bitter greens, belong to the Fire Elment. The Wood Element is represented by the Orange Juice and the Olive Oil.  The bit of salt contributes a hint of the Water Element.  So, to create balance, serve this salad with a soup that contains something Earthy, like Beef or Root Vegetables.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Shelley's Bacon and Egg Pie

For my last night in New Zealand, my good friend Shelley made her famous Bacon and Egg Pie. Now I think she's makes best Bacon and Egg Pie and she was kind enough to give me her recipe.  She swears it is really simple and it seems to be, but she does have that magical something that makes hers better than anyone else's. This is a classic New Zealand cafe staple and there are many variations. Here's her classic recipe with lots of options to personalize it. It is one of those dishes that can quickly become a favorite.  This recipe can be cut in half to make an 8x8 inch pie, but I think it is delicious hot or cold so it's great for a quick breakfast and I think it is the perfect picnic dish too!

Shelley's Bacon and Egg Pie

1 pound of thick bacon (pick the meatiest kind you can find) cut up into 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
12 eggs
4 sheets Puff Pastry (2 Packages), thawed

Optional:  Spinach leaves, tomato slices, minced garlic, cut up red pepper, mushroom slices, etc.

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Put parchment paper in a 9 x 11 inch pan.  Place two sheets of puff pastry in the bottom of the pan and push in to fit with edges coming up the side. Pinch together the seam in the middle to seal.  Then put in the onion pieces across the bottom and then the bacon pieces.  Crack the eggs over the top and cut open the yolks with a sharp knife tip. Then sprinkle on peas.  Put the other to pastry pieces carefully on top, laying one on top of the other in the middle.  Then pinch together the bottom pastry to the top pastry and cut vent holes across the entire surface.  Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the puff pastry is thoroughly browned.  

Five Element Analysis

Eggs are a Water food and so is bacon, so this is a very Watery dish!  The onions add the Metal Element and the Peas contribute the Earth Element. The puff pastry is made of wheat and so the Wood Element is represented too. Only the Fire Element is missing, so be sure to serve with some Tomato Sauce (Ketchup) as they do in New Zealand, a green salad and some coffee - a Flat White of course - or tea to make this a balanced snack or meal!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Beet and Carrot Salad ala Ripe

I have been on a lecture tour of New Zealand teaching in both Auckland and Christchurch and waiting to teach this weekend in Napier. But I have a few days to relax here in wonderful Havelock North and I've been wanting to make a salad that I had a lovely little cafe in Grey Lynne called Ripe. The salad was called Raw Energy - made of beets and carrots in a wonderful sweet/sour dressing.  I got the recipe from my friend, who owns the cookbook, but I adapted it slightly and converted into US measures.  

This is a very satisfying salad - you just know it is healthy, but it is so tasty too.  The beets and carrots are both very grounding and good for building the blood and supporting the function of the spleen and pancreas. I added some red onion as I like that extra zing that it gives the salad and I think it balances the flavors just a bit better. And, I didn't have any Pomegranate Molasses so I increased the Balsamic Vinegar and also used a bit of lemon juice as well to achieve the right tartness. The only hard thing about this salad is all the grating you have to do as beets are really very messy. But this salad is worth it!  It would be a good one to bring to a potluck.

Beet and Carrot Salad ala Ripe

1 pound of Beets, peeled and grated
1 1/2 pounds of carrots, peeled and grated
1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup Sunflower Seeds and 1/4 cup Pumpkin Seeds, toasted lightly in a frying pan


1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Orange Juice
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 - 2 Tablespoons Honey

Mix dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust sweetness accordingly.  Put the beets, carrots, red onion pieces, mint leaves and raisins in a large bowl.  Pour over dressing and toss to coat.  If serving immediately, add in the seeds. If holding for later, put seeds aside and toss in when ready to serve.

Five Element Analysis

Carrots both belong to the Earth Element and Beets are both Fire because they are red and Earth because they are so sweet, so those elements are covered. The raisins as dried fruit are also Earthy and Fiery both and add even more of each element. The seeds bring in the Water Element, the Balsamic Vinegar, Citrus Juices and Olive Oil contribute the Wood Element and the Red Onion and Mint adds in the Metal Element.  This then, becomes a balanced dish! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Clamato Soup

I've been traveling so much and I'm finally home, but only for a very short time!  I'm headed out again tomorrow, but for one night, I got to cook in my own kitchen and all I wanted was to make some soup. However, the pantry was a little bare. So, I ended up making a wonderful soup by combining a bottle of Clamato Juice, some cans of Chopped Clams and some celery, carrot and potatoes.  It was so easy, so fast and so delicious that the recipe was requested by my son.  I only wished that I had some little Goldfish crackers to put in it as that would have made a charming picture.  This soup came together in such a short time and felt really nourishing.  It was a grown up version of Tomato Soup and I'm definitely going to make it again!

Clamato Soup

1 32 oz bottle of Clamato Juice
3 cans of chopped clams (6.5 oz each - I used Snow's)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large stalks of celery, diced
2 Carrots, trimmed, peeled and diced
2 Medium Potatoes, peeled and diced
1 Bay Leaf
1 teaspoon Thyme

In a large soup pot, put in oil, onion, celery, carrot and potatoes. Cook over high heat until the onion becomes translucent.  Pour in the Clamato Juice and add the clams - including the clam broth. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook for 1/2 hour and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Clams belong to the Water Element and Tomatoes to the Fire Element so those elements are covered.The Celery brings in the Wood Element, the Carrots and Potatoes contribute the Earth Element and the Onions, the aromatic Bay Leaf and the Thyme contribute the Metal Element making this a balanced little soup!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Carbonara-Alfredo Style Sauce

My almost stepdaughter, Antonie, loves creamy Carbonara Sauce and I wanted to make her some, but I was out of eggs. So, I made her a variation that I used to make for my kids when they were little.  It’s really a mashup of Carbonara Sauce and Alfredo Sauce.  My sons really disliked eggs back then and they were perfectly happy eating plain buttered pasta. In order to up the nutritional value of that frequent choice, I first added Parmesan Cheese and then eventually the Pancetta, lightly browned onions and the Cream. It became one of their absolute favorite pasta sauces. My kids always liked pasta with shapes rather than spaghetti  and I like to serve it with any pasta that has little nooks to hold onto the sauce so I usually serve it with the corkscrew kind even though I know that is not traditional.  And, I usually have brown rice pasta to make this dish Gluten Free. I don't make or eat this sauce very often because it is so rich and because I am lactose intolerant. Luckily, butter, Parmesan Cheese and whole Cream all have only a little lactose and this was worth taking a Lactaid pill for - it's that delicious. When I made it last night, Antonie loved it so much that she wanted to lick the bowl! 

Carbonara-Alfredo Sauce with Whole Grain Pasta

8 ounces cut up Pancetta (or bacon)
4 ounces Butter
1 small red onion, minced
2 cups Cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
Fresh Ground Pepper
¼ cup reserved Pasta Water

1 pound Whole Grain Pasta or Gluten Free Pasta, cooked according to package directions

Melt butter in a frying pan and add the onions. Cook until they become translucent.  Add the Pancetta and cook until it just starts to become crispy on the edges.  Add in the Cream and Parmesan Cheese and stir until well blended.  Sprinkle on pepper to taste. 

While Pasta is cooking, be sure to take out a small amount of pasta cooking water.  When the pasta is done, drain and return it to the pot.  Pour sauce over and stir to coat. Add in the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce a bit, stir again and serve immediately with extra Parmesan Cheese.

Five Element Analysis

Cream, Butter, Onions and Parmesan Cheese all belong to the Metal Element and the Parmesan in particular gives this sauce an amazing Umami flavor. The Pancetta contributes the Water Element and the Whole Grain Pasta brings in the Wood Element.  Serve this pasta with a salad that represents the Fire Element and something sweet for dessert to contribute Earth and you will have a balanced Five Element meal.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Roasted Parsnip Chips

I am not eating Potato Chips now, which are one of my favorite snacks as I simply need to stop eating so much deep fried food. So, I am making vegetable chips in the oven instead as they are much healthier.  Parsnip Chips are some of my favorite vegetables to roast but I never made them into chips before. I love the slight carrot like flavor of Parsnips so this time I sliced them thin.  Then I baked them until tender and then crisped them under the broiler.  They were so good that they were all gone within minutes and I wish I had bought a lot more parsnips!   They turned out to have a lovely chewy/crispy texture. And, they are so simple that there is no reason to make them often.  So, I am going to go buy some more parsnips and make them again soon. Hope you try them too!

Roasted Parsnip Chips

2 pounds Parsnips, trimmed, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a shallow baking pan with parchment.  Place the Parsnips in the pan and drizzle with the Olive Oil.  Sprinkle with salt and toss with your hands.  Place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn over chips with a spatula and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Then turn the heat up to broil and broil 3 - 5 minutes, turn again and broil for an additional 3 - 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Parsnips are root vegetables so they definitely belong to the Earth Element, but because they are white with just a bit of astringency, they have some of the Metal Element too. The Olive Oil brings in the Wood Element and the salt contributes some of the Water Element. But since this is a snack, you wouldn't expect it to be a balanced food, so add it to your diet when you need a little extra of the Earth and Metal Elements and enjoy a healthy snack food!

Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad

I'm still feeling a bit pale and wan so it's time to build even more blood. So, since I already had enough beef, I turned to my favorite vegetable blood builder - beets. In Chinese Medicine, they support the heart and detoxify the liver.  In Western Medicine, they have been shown to lower blood pressure. They are really good for you! When I was a child, I didn't like them at all - I thought they tasted like sweet dirt.  I still think that, but now I like that taste and in fact I crave it. The turning point was eating beets slightly pickled in something sour.  My favorite way to eat beets is in a salad with oranges and a dressing made of lemon juice. The tartness contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the beets. I roast the beets first instead of boil them as I think it enhances the flavor. This can be done ahead of time if desired. Then this salad can be made anytime up to a few days later and holds well in the fridge once made if you want to serve it later.

This is a beautiful salad and the oranges turn kind of pink and the combination of citrus and beets is a magical one. I've brought it many times to potlucks and it's always been a big hit.   I can't believe I once didn't like such an amazing vegetable and I am making up for it now as I eat beets often. My son likes to serve this salad with some goat cheese.  Either way, it's a delicious salad that gives you more than just good flavors!

Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad

3 large beets, washed
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil - divided
1 large or 2 medium Navel Oranges, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 small red onion
1/4 cup fresh Lemon Juice
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Optional - 4 ounces of goat cheese cut into small pieces

Turn the oven on to 425 degrees. Put beets on a baking pan.  Drizzle 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil over the beets and rub in.  Place in the oven and roast until beets are done (about 1 hour).  Cool, then trim ends and peel before cutting into small chunks.

Place the cut beets into a glass bowl (beets tend to stain plastic). Add the remaining 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil, the lemon juice, the onions and toss with the beets. Add the oranges and toss lightly again.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.  If desired, top with pieces of soft goat cheese.

Five Element Analysis

Beets are an Earth food as they are a root vegetable and also naturally sweet.  The oranges and lemon juice bring in the Wood Element.  The red onion contributes the Metal Element and the goat cheese adds even more. So serve this salad with foods that represent the Water Element (I served fish) and the Fire Element (we had wine) to create a Five Element balance.