Thursday, February 11, 2016

Chinese Candied Kumquats

Happy Chinese New Year - this is the 6th Anniversary of 5 Element Food! I have added a Chinese New Year list of lucky foods in Pages that we can all eat for the next two weeks. I didn't cook on New Year's Day for the first time in a long time. I did however make Dumplings and Shanghai Year Cake for New Year's Eve. But on New Year's Day, I had a Grand Opening of the new Lotus Institute Seattle Office/Classroom. I served lots of lucky foods, mostly sweet with a few savory things too but I bought most of them. 

One of the lucky foods I meant to make was Candied Kumquats, which I made today instead.  Kumquats are considered lucky because they golden orange color symbolizes Prosperity and a Sweet Life when Candied.  Kumquats are also very good for you!  They are full of Vitamin C and the Peel is considered very good for the Heart. Candied Kumquat Syrup is also a classic remedy for colds, coughs and sore throats.

I love Candied Kumquats and this is a very simple recipe that uses only Sugar and Water and if you like, you can also add a Cinnamon Stick or Ginger or Star Anise or all of them to spice it up. I personally like the plainest version as the distinct flavor of Kumquats is enough for me. The delicious syrup can be made into Tea or a Sparkling Drink, used as a glaze for Roast Meat or as a syrup for Pancakes. Candied Kumquats are a beguiling mixture of Bitter, Tart and Sweet Flavors made into a chewy confection. You can serve them moist or lightly dried and rolled in sugar - either way is wonderful! Although you can buy Candied Kumquats at Asian Markets, they are so much better when you make them yourself. Keep some in your refrigerator for this cold and flu season. You don't have to wait until Chinese New Year to make these - they are delicious anytime!  

Chinese Candied Kumquats

60 Kumquats, stem end removed
2 cups Sugar plus more for rolling in, if desired
2 cups Water
Optional:  2 Quarter size slices of Ginger, 1 - 2 Star Anise and/or 1 Cinnamon Stick

Using a small bamboo skewer or the sharp tip of a small knife, poke holes all over each of the Kumquats. Place in a pot and add sugar and water. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to the lowest heat and simmer for one hour. Kumquats will become translucent and some seeds will have popped out. Let cool. 

Then, drain the Kumquats, reserving and straining the syrup. Take each Kumquat and squeeze lightly where you see a large seed inside. If necessary, take the small knife and cut a slightly larger opening to remove the seed. 

Return the Kumquats to the Syrup and let marinate overnight before serving so they plump up more or put Kumquats on a wire rack over a baking pan and let dry overnight. Then roll in sugar before serving.

Keep the remaining Syrup in the refrigerator and use for Tea or add to Tea to sweeten it, add to Sparkling Water, use as a Pancake Syrup and as a Glaze for Ham or a Pork Roast.

Five Element Analysis

Kumquats belong to the Wood and Fire Elements because you eat mostly the Peel, which is Fiery as it is bitter, but the inside flesh is quite sour. Candying them brings in the Earth Element and adding any of the spices contributes the Metal Element. While this is clearly not a dish to eat by itself, it does add some strong elements to a Tray of Togetherness that is served at Chinese New Year.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Fried Lotus Root

I am in countdown mode for Chinese New Year and will start shopping today. I make lots of lucky foods (see Chinese New Year Foods on Pages). But I also wanted to give you another food to try that is considered very lucky - Fried Lotus Root.  Isn't it beautiful? And you know I love beautiful food!  It symbolizes Continuing Wealth so be sure to eat it sometime during the two week New Year period. 

Lotus is my Chinese name and I have always been fascinated with the fact that you can eat just about every part of the plant. The Root in Chinese Medicine is considered very good for preventing and stopping bleeding. It is also considered good food for the Liver, Lungs and Stomach.

This dish is so easy to make and it is delicious - my son says that Fried Lotus Root tastes a lot like French Fries with an internal crunch. All that's required to make it is to buy Fresh Lotus Root which comes in connected sections. You peel it and slice it and then pan fry it in a small amount of oil. Sometimes you can find it already peeled and sliced, but be sure to dry it thoroughly as it is usually packed in some liquid. Then sprinkle with salt an enjoy - that's it!  Lucky Food made easily....

Fried Lotus Root

4 - 5 Segments of Lotus Root
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of Vegetable Oil (I use High Heat Safflower)
Sea Salt to Taste (about 1 teaspoon total)

Break Lotus Root into individual sections and cut off stem and connector ends. Then peel with a vegetable peeler. Slice into 1/4 - 1/2 inch pieces.  Heat oil in a frying pan and place Lotus Root pieces in carefully. Cook until golden brown on one side and then slip over and cook until Golden Brown on the other side.  Drain on Paper Towels and Sprinkle with Sea Salt. Repeat until all slices are done.  

Five Element Analysis

As a root vegetable, Lotus Root belongs to the Wood Element, but because it is White, it is also a bit Metallic. The cooking method, frying, is Fiery and the Salt adds a little Water. While this snack is definitely not a balanced meal, it can contribute to your Five Element food balance for the day!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tamari Tea Eggs

It's Chinese New Year in one week and that means you need to get ready to start making and eating lucky foods beginning on Chinese New Year's Eve, February 7th. So, I am giving you a recipe to make that is really easy and very lucky! Eggs are considered a symbol of fertility and creativity and the favorite way to make them for Chinese New Year or anytime is to basically dye them with Tamari and Black Tea. They are seasoned with Star Anise and Cinnamon. They are beautiful to look at and they taste great too. The only trick is to use eggs that are not too fresh or the shell will stick to the whites. And peel them very carefully - the membrane usually is what gets dyed the darkest so if you pull that off, it will be much paler in color, but it will still taste good! So, buy your eggs about a week in advance or use the oldest ones in your fridge. I make them pretty regularly as they are much more interesting and delicious than plain hardboiled eggs. They make an lovely, tasty and exotic Egg Salad too if you have any leftover eggs - just chop up the eggs and add a little Tamari to the Mayonnaise and a tiny bit of grated Ginger too and garnish with Green Onions. 

Tamari Tea Eggs

4 Large Eggs
1/4 cup Tamari
1/4 cup Boiling Water
1 Teabag - English or Irish Breakfast
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 Star Anise
1/2 Cinnamon Stick
1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper

In a small saucepan, cover the Eggs with Water and bring to a boil. Cover and turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove eggs to cool slightly and reserve. Meanwhile, steep teabag in Boiling Water. Drain water from the pan and add in the Tea, Tamari, Sugar, Pepper, Star Anise and Cinnamon. Bring to a boil.

Crack the Eggs all over very carefully on the Kitchen Counter. When the Tamari/Tea mixture is boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and add in the Eggs.  Shake the pan and roll the eggs around for 5 minutes.  Then take off heat and let steep in the sauce, turning every 5 minutes for about a total of 15 minutes.

Then, remove eggs and carefully peel off the shell (and preserving the membrane if possible) and serve whole.

Five Element Analysis

Eggs belong to the Water Element and the Tamari adds even more. The Tea and Black Pepper add the Fire Element and the Star Anise and Cinnamon contribute the Metal Element. The Wood and Earth Elements are missing so be sure to serve some other foods from those elements to create a balance. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Clay Pot Tofu

I saw my Clay Pot sitting on a shelf and decided it needed to be used so I made what it basically a Tofu Stew with it.  What's interesting about Clay Pots is that they are often used at the end of a cooking process so that the different ingredients are stir fried briefly then added together to finish inside the clay pot.  There is something quite wonderful about cooking in these vessels as they gently braise and I think it is a particularly good way to cook something delicate, like tofu.  This is a recipe that my Mother used to make and at the time, I wasn't conscious that it was Vegetarian. The Shitake Mushrooms take the place of meat and there is plenty of protein with the tofu. The Tofu gets infused with the sauce and it is so delicious over rice. Of course, you don't have to use a Clay Pot, you can finish this dish in a wok or frying pan. But Clay Pots are wonderful and I always feel like I am getting a present when I open it up to dish up what's inside!

Clay Pot Tofu

1 package Firm Tofu, drained and cut into 1 inch wide by 1/2 inch pieces and patted dry
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Carrot, trimmed, peeled and cut on the diagonal into thin slices
1 Leek, white part only, cut into 1 inch shreds
4 Green Onions, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces (slice in half if thick)
1/4 of a small Red Onion, sliced into thin 1 inch shreds
4 slices of Ginger, peeled (about the size of a quarter)
8 dried Shitake Mushrooms rehydrated in hot water for 20 minutes, stem removed and cut into quarters
1/2 cup Vegetable Broth (you can also use Chicken Broth)
3 Tablespoons Tamari
2 Tablespoons Rice Wine
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon toasted Sesame Oil
1  Tablespoon Cornstarch mixed with 2 Tablespoons Water

Place the Clay Pot on the stove and add the Sauce Ingredients (Vegetable Broth, Tamari, Rice Wine and Sugar) and heat on low.  In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add the Tofu. Cook first on one side until brown and then turn over to brown the other side. Remove the tofu and add to the Clay Pot.  Then add the Carrot, Leek, Green Onions, Red Onion and Mushrooms to the pan. Saute for a few minutes or until you can smell the fragrance and the Onion is translucent. Put into the Clay Pot and stir gently to mix ingredients. Turn the heat to Medium High and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove lid and add Cornstarch Mixture, turning heat up until the mixture comes to a boil again. Cook until the Cornstarch is incorporated and the sauce is glazed - about 30 seconds. Serve with Rice

Five Element Analysis

This method of Cooking is considered part of the Earth Element and the Carrots add an Earth ingredient along with the Ginger, which is also partially the Metal Element. The Tofu and the Green Onions, Red Onion and Leeks contribute even more Earth.  The Tamari and Sesame Oil bring in the Water Element  and the Fire Element is represented by the Rice Wine. Only the Wood Element is missing (unless you use Chicken Broth), so be sure to serve this with some green vegetables to create a Five Element balance. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Black and White Gomasio - Japanese Sesame Salt

For all of you who explored Macrobiotic cooking, you will recognize this condiment as it is one of the mainstays of that diet. It's been a long time since I had it and I recently saw it for sale at a health food store and I was inspired to make it again at home. It is really easy to make and so good with rice, especially brown rice.  It's a mixture of Sesame Seeds and Salt and that's it. The ratio varies between 12 parts Sesame to 1 part Salt up to 15 parts Sesame to 1 part Salt. I like my Gomasio a little less salty so I use the 15 to 1 ratio. To make it, you toast the Sesame Seeds and smash them a bit to give the final product a texture that is both soft and crunchy.  I like to mix both Black and White Sesame Seeds together as I think it is more beautiful, although White Sesame Seeds are more traditional.  It's so simple and oh so good for you. Sesame Seeds are considered one of the best foods for the Kidneys and the Black Sesame Seeds in particular are thought to help you grow hair. I would eat them just for that reason, but luckily this little condiment is also delicious!

Black and White Gomasio

3 Tablespoons White Sesame Seeds
2 Tablespoons Black Sesame Seeds
1 scant teaspoon Sea Salt

Heat the Sesame Seeds in a small frying pan and cook until they smell toasted, pushing down with the back of the spatula to smash some of the Sesame Seeds. Then add in Salt and continue to stir until Salt is mixed in. Remove to a bowl and cool and put into an airtight glass jar. Serve over Rice.

Five Element Analysis

This is purely a Water Element Food as Sesame Seeds and Sea Salt all belong to this element.  Rice is Metallic when White and more Earthy when Brown, but clearly this needs to be part of a bigger meal to create a Five Element balance.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Seaweed Soup

It's that time of year for me to make lots of soup and last night I made one one of my childhood favorites - Seaweed Soup. I was given this soup a lot when I didn't sleep enough as it is so good for your Kidneys. This is a simple soup using Nori Seaweed - the same kind used for Sushi. It is added to Chicken Broth - preferably homemade - with bits of ground pork, which is traditional or ground chicken and cubes of tofu. You could add clams if you like too. It is garnished with Green Onions and seasoned with a bit of Tamari and Toasted Sesame Oil. You can easily make it vegetarian by using Vegetable Broth or Miso. It comes together in minutes and it tastes like the sea. It cooks in no time at all and is warm and nurturing. Although it is not a bone broth, the Seaweed is full of minerals, so this soup is also very good for your bones!  

Seaweed Soup

8 cups Chicken Broth (preferably homemade) - dilute 1/3 with water if using canned broth
1/4 cup ground Pork or ground Chicken
1/2 pound Firm Tofu, cut into small cubes
1 package of Nori Seaweed (10 Sheets), cut into small squares with scissors
3 Green Onions, sliced fine
2 - 3 Tablespoons Tamari
2 teaspoons Toasted Sesame Oil
Sprinkling of White Pepper to serve

Bring the Chicken Broth to a boil in a soup pot. When boiling, add in the ground Pork or Chicken and stir briskly to separate the clumps. Add in the Tofu and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Then add in the Nori Seaweed, Green Onions, Tamari and Sesame Oil. Serve in large bowls and sprinkle White Pepper on top.

Five Element Analysis

Soup belongs to the Water Element and the Seaweed and pork if you use it along with the Tamari and Sesame Oil add even more so this is an especially Watery Soup. The Chicken Broth and chicken if you are using it, brings in the Wood Element. The Tofu and Green Onions bring in the Metal Element. Only the Black Pepper contributes the Fire Element so be sure to serve it with something Fiery and perhaps spicy hot and the Earth Element is missing so bring something in the meal that adds that too for a Five Element balance.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Cauliflower Scallion and Cilantro Pancakes

I've been reading a lot about Cauliflower Pizza Crusts and Cauliflower Tortillas, so today I decided to join in and I made a variation on Chinese Scallion Pancakes. It was amazing! This is such a simple recipe and requires very few ingredients - basically Cauliflower and Scallions and Eggs. I added some Cilantro and my son requested some Ham in his, so I added that to his half of the recipe. There's no oil and just a little bit of salt is added for seasoning. Many recipes call for cooking the Cauliflower in the microwave for 2 minutes. If you have a problem with that, you can steam the Cauliflower like I did for 5 minutes once it is already chopped up. The texture is much better if you chop it first. These Savory Pancakes bake in the oven on parchment and take only 15 - 20 minutes. This is an easy, delicious and very healthy snack!

Cauliflower Scallion and Cilantro Pancakes

1 head of Cauliflower, cut into florets
1/4 cup chopped Scallions (Green Onions)
1/4 cup chopped Cilantro
2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Optional:  1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped Ham

Line two baking pans with Parchment Paper. Place Cauliflower in a food processor and chop into very small pieces. Or, use a knife and chop finely. Place in a bowl in a steamer and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees.  Remove the Cauliflower from the steamer and add in the Cilantro, Scallions, Salt and Egg - add Ham if desired. Scoop an ice cream ball sized amount of Cauliflower Mixture onto the parchment. Press down with a spatula to make about a 3 1/2 to 4 inch circle. Then use the spatula to pull back the edges to make a neat circle.  Repeat 3 more times for one sheet and 4 more times for the second sheet.  Place into the oven for 10 minutes, moving the bottom pan to the top and the top to the bottom at 5 minutes. The bottom of the Pancakes should be browned. If they are not, leave in for a few more minutes. Take out of the oven and turn over carefully with a wide, thin spatula. If they break apart, just pus them back together. Return the pans back to the oven and cook for an additional 5 - 7 minutes or until the other side is browned.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Cauliflower is one of the few Metal Vegetables and the Scallions and Cilantro add even more. So this is a very Metallic snack!  The Eggs and Ham contribute the Water Element but all the other Elements are missing except for the fact that Cilantro also contributes a bit of the Wood Element too. I drank hot tea with these Savory Pancakes, so that added the Fire Element.  But, I also made sure to eat some Wood and Earth foods later.