Monday, July 6, 2015

Haricot Verts with Shallot Vinaigrette













In the summer when it's hot, I can't seem to work up much of an appetite so I make a lot of salads. One of my favorites is Haricot Verts with Vinaigrette. Haricot Verts are the very thin, refined kind of French green beans and if you can't find them, regular green beans taste great too. But, I love Haricot Verts and I'm lucky because I can buy them packaged at Trader Joe's. They take only minutes to cook and turn out crisp-tender if you make sure to use an ice bath to cool them down right away. I dressed them with a White Balsamic Vinaigrette because that's a nice light vinegar, but sometimes I use Champagne Vinegar when I have it.  This vinaigrette also featured the flavor of Shallots and a bit of Dijon Mustard. I made a double batch to bring to a pot-luck dish for the 4th of July party. I placed the Haricot Verts on a bed of Arugula and decorated the dish with some chopped tomatoes. Martin was delighted because he said I made an H, which is the first letter of his last name. However, I did that by accident because I was just trying to hide the center line of the salad. In any case, it turned out beautifully and was a big hit at the party.  If you like green beans, you will love this salad!

Haricot Verts with Shallot Vinaigrette

1 pound Haricot Verts, stem side trimmed, leave pointed end intact
1 small Shallot minced (about 3 Tablespoons)
1/4 cup White Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sugar 
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoons Salt
2 cups of Baby Arugula
2 large Tomatoes, chopped
Black Pepper to taste

Prepare Vinaigrette by mixing together the White Balsamic, Olive Oil, Sugar, Salt and Mustard.  Put aside until ready to use.

Heat a pot of water to boiling and add in Haricot Vert. Prepare a large bowl with ice and water. Cook the Haricot Verts for 4 - 5 minutes or until just tender.  Drain and plunge immediately into the icy water. Remove when ready to serve

Prepare a salad plate with the Arugula leaves.  Place the Haricot Vert in the center and surround by the chopped tomato. Spoon the shallots out of the Vinaigrette on top of the Haricot Vert and then drizzle the Vinaigrette all over the entire plate.  Sprinkle with some fresh ground Black Pepper and serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Haricot Verts are fast growing green vegetables so you know that they belong to the Wood Element and the White Balsamic Vinegar adds even more. The Arugula, with its' bitter taste and the Tomatoes add the Fire Element, whereas the Shallot and Dijon Mustard contribute the Metal Element. So, this would be a great salad to serve along with a Water main dish, like fish and a sweet dessert. We had it with hamburgers, an Earth food and had blueberry and apple pie for dessert, which is a Water and Earth dessert that created a Five Element balance at our holiday party!






Saturday, June 27, 2015

Quinoa Salad with Pancetta, Tomatoes and Green Onions




















It's hot, hot, hot here in Seattle, which is rare. And when it gets hot, I lose my appetite for almost everything except salads.  So tonight, I pulled together some ingredients to create a salad that I really loved. I went to Trader Joe's yesterday, one of my favorite stores and picked up some Red Quinoa and a little package of Pancetta.  I cooked the Quinoa and then added the browned Pancetta and tossed it, while hot, with cut up Tomatoes and Green Onions and a sprinkling of Maldon Sea Salt. Then I cooled it off in fridge for a while and had what I thought was the perfect light meal for a hot night.  

Quinoa Salad with Pancetta, Tomatoes and Green Onions

1 cup Red Quinoa (can also use white or black Quinoa)
2 cups Water
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces cut up Pancetta (can also use Bacon)
2 Large Tomatoes, stem end removed and cut into small pieces
5 small Green Onions (or 3 large) cut into small pieces
Sprinkling of Sea Salt to taste

In a small pot, put in the Olive Oil and heat, add the Quinoa and toast until hot. Add in the water and the salt and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes. 

While Quinoa is cooking, cook Pancetta in a frying pan until browned and lightly crisped.  Remove from the fat and put on a paper towel-covered plate.

When Quinoa is done, drain the excess water and put the Quinoa into a bowl. Add in the Tomatoes, Sea Salt and Green Onions and toss to mix. Put the Pancetta on top and put into the fridge for about an hour or more.  When ready to serve, toss in the Pancetta.

Five Element Analysis

As Quinoa is a seed, it belongs to the Water Element.  The Pancetta adds even more Water as it is a salted pork product.  The Tomatoes contribute the Fire Element and the Green Onions add a combination of mostly the Metal Element but also some of the Wood Element although to achieve balance, it would be good to serve this with some other green vegetables. And, the Earth Element is missing, so be sure to serve something sweet for dessert.


  

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fresh Strawberry Pie
















I don't make dessert very often and when I do, I tend to go for fruit desserts - mostly because I've never been a big fan of chocolate, which I know is shocking to most people. I also didn't grow up eating dessert because my Mom didn't like them at all. Dessert is just not a Chinese thing. So, when my American Father would occasionally give us a big treat, he would take us to Marie Callender's for a piece of pie.  And when strawberries were in season, my first choice was always fresh Strawberry Pie. Once I got older, I started making these pies after I found out how easy they are to make. I got out of the habit, but today when at the grocery store, I saw some really lovely Washington strawberries and I was inspired to make it again for the first time in about 20 years! I had forgotten how much I love this pie and will be bringing it back much more often from now on. I used a frozen Gluten Free Pie Crust from Whole Foods that I baked until it was lightly golden brown, although pie crusts are pretty easy to make with Cup 4 Cup flour and butter. I also add a little bit of lemon juice to keep the syrup from being cloyingly sweet. Served with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream, Fresh Strawberry Pie is a truly delicious slice of early summer!

Fresh Strawberry Pie

1 Prebaked Pie Shell (I used a frozen Gluten Free one from Whole Foods that I baked)
4 cups Strawberries, washed, stem removed and cut into half or quarters
¾ cup Sugar
¾ cup Water
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1 - 2 teaspoons Lemon Juice


Take 1 cup of the Strawberries and mash with a fork.  Add them to the Water and Sugar in a small Saucepan.  Stir in the Cornstarch to blend. Heat until boiling and cook until thickened.  Let cool slightly and then add to the rest of the Strawberries. Toss with a spoon to coat them all.  Then pour the Strawberries into the Prebaked Pie Shell and cover with foil. Turn some of the top Strawberries skin side up if desired. Put in the refrigerator and chill for several hours.  Served with lightly sweetened Whipped Cream if desired or if you are trying to go Lactose Free, Coconut Creme would be a good substitute. 


Five Element Analysis

Strawberries look like bright little red hearts so of course they belong to the Fire Element.  And as this is a sweet dessert, it is clearly an Earth food.  The Rice and Tapioca flours in the Pie Crust contribute the Metal Element along with the Whipped Cream. And the bit of lemon juice does bring in the Wood Element, but not much. Therefore, this is a great dessert  to serve with a meal that includes other foods that represent the Water and Wood Elements to find a Five Element balance.  



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Kelly's Butternut Squash with Swiss Chard




















I was down in San Diego teaching and stayed with my friend, Kelly, who is also the Executive Director of my school. We decided to spend most nights in and cook instead of going to so many restaurants. One of the dishes she made me was delightful. She made Butternut Squash with Swiss Chard and the flavor combination was delightful. Because we were in a bit of a hurry to make dinner, she boiled the Butternut Squash and then added in sautéed Butternut Squash and it was really delicious. The Swiss Chard cuts some of the sweetness of the Squash. I came home and promptly made it the way she told me to, where I roasted the Butternut Squash in the oven and then tossed it with the Swiss Chard that was sautéed with some red onions and garlic. It was even more delicious. Since I need the grounding from Earth vegetables like Squash, I will be making this again and again!

Kelly's Butternut Squash with Swiss Chard

1 small Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into small chunks (about 3 cups)
1 big bunch of Swiss Chard, washed and torn into small pieces (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup of chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil (divided into 2 Tablespoons and 1 Tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon of flaky Sea Salt (I used Maldon)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the Squash with 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil on a large baking sheet. Cook 15 minutes and then turn and cook an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

In a large frying pan, heat the remaining 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until the onion becomes transparent. Then put in the Swiss Chard and cook until it wilts. Add to a serving bowl and toss with the Swiss Chard and salt.  

Five Element Analysis

Butternut Squash is an Earth food, through and through. The Swiss Chard and Olive Oil bring in the Metal Element and the Red Onion and Garlic Contribute the Metal Element.  The bit of salt only barely adds the Water Element and the Fire Element is missing. So, be sure to serve this with foods from those Elements. We served it with Pork Chops for the Water Element and a Tomato Salad to bring in the Fire to create a balanced Five Element Meal.



Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fish with Tomato Caper Sauce

















I am apparently on a fish kick, which often happens when the weather is warm and here in Seattle it is like summer!  My current favorite thing is making light sauces to put on top of quick pan seared fish. The one I made tonight was so good that I am sharing it with you. I like to pan sear fish in a small amount of butter mixed with oil so that it doesn't burn. Then when it is done, I like to make a little pan sauce with various things.  This sauce is made of hopped up tomatoes, lemon juice, capers and a little more butter. It is so delicious and would be good on so many kinds of fish. The fish in the photo are Mahi Mahi filets that I bought frozen from Trader Joe's. I think this sauce would also be good on Sea Bass or even Dover Sole. I served it with some Rice Pilaf and some Zucchini and it was such a lovely (almost) summer meal.  

Fish with Tomato Caper Sauce

1 pound Fish Filets (I used Mahi Mahi) patted dry
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons light flavored Vegetable Oil
Salt and Pepper 
2 additional Tablespoons of Butter
Juice of 1 lemon
3 ripe Roma Tomatoes, cut into small pieces
3 - 4 Tablespoons Capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon Sugar

Melt butter with oil in a large frying pan.  Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper on each side and then add the fish fillets to the pan and cook for about 3 - 5 minutes per side (thin fillets for 3 minutes, thick for 5 minutes).  Remove to a serving tray.

Add additional butter to the pan and add in the chopped Tomatoes, Lemon Juice, Sugar and Capers.  Cook until the Tomatoes start to soften.  Pour over the fish and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Fish belongs to the Water Element and topping it with Tomatoes contributes the Fire Element. The Wood Element is represented by the Capers and Lemon Juice.  The Metal Element comes in with the Rice Pilaf and I made sure the Earth Element was present by serving Zucchini as a side dish to make a perfectly balanced Five Element meal!



Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tofu with Salted Mustard Greens



















I have certain childhood memories about food that are hard to satisfy if you don't make the food yourself. One of the things I crave frequently is Salted Mustard Greens. I have occasionally found them at the 99 Ranch Market, but rarely so I finally decided to make them myself. And, it was so easy that I will not go back to buying them again. You simply chop up mustard greens, mix in the salt and let it sit in the refrigerator for several days.  Then you add them to soups and stir fries for a lovely salty and slightly bitter flavor.  I like Salted Mustard Greens best when mixed with Tofu of some kind. For this dish, it is a simple combination of Tofu, marinated in Tamari and stir fried with some green onions and the Mustard Greens.  That's it. It's simple and delicious and very healthy too!

Salted Mustard Greens

2 cups chopped Mustard Green leaves
2 teaspoons salt

Mix Mustard Green leaves with the salt in a little glass container with a lid.  Put in the refrigerator and let sit, stirring once a day for three days. 

Tofu with Salted Mustard Greens

1 pound block of Firm Tofu, drained and cut into small cubes
3 Tablespoons Tamari
2 Tablespoons Oil (I use High Heat Safflower)
3 - 4 Green Onions, stems removed, cut into small pieces
1 cup of Salted Mustard Greens, drained
Optional:  small sprinkling of Red Chili Flakes

Put the Tamari in a small bowl and toss with the Tamari for 5 - 10 minutes.  Then heat a frying pan and put in the oil.  Add in the Green Onions and stir fry until they start to wilt. Then add in the tofu and cook until it just begins to brown, stirring frequently. Add in the Salted Mustard Greens and Red Chili Flakes (if using) and toss until heated through.  Serve with Rice.

Five Element Analysis

Tofu belongs to both the Water Element (as it comes from beans) but since it is processed and white, it also belongs to the Metal Element so those elements are both already covered. The Tamari adds even more Water and the Green Onions adds more Metal.  The Mustard Greens belong to the Wood Element and the fact that they are salted adds even more Water.  If you use the Red Chili Flakes, you bring in the Fire Element, otherwise add another Fire food or beverage - tea is good. And then, only the Earth Element is missing. Serving another dish in a Family style meal that incorporates Earth is recommended to achieve Five Element balance.



Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sole Baked in Parchment















I've always loved steamed fish, but don't seem to make it very often. Until I remember to use parchment paper to bundle up some fish and some savory seasonings and then bake it in the oven. It's such a delicate way to make fish and it is so good! For this particular recipe, I seasoned the fish with butter, salt and lemon and added in some onions and sliced fennel along with some fresh dill. All that is required is that you wrap up the bundle, tying the ends of the parchment like a candy wrapper and then bake it in a hot oven for about 10 - 15 minutes. Then you unwrap (or cut) the wrapper on your plate and the wonderful steamed fish is revealed. Cooking fish this way creates a lovely sauce and it's like a lovely present.  Serve it with a leafy Kale or and Tomato Salad and you have a perfect light summer meal.

Sole Baked in Parchment

2 pounds Dover Sole Filets
4 Tablespoons Butter
1 small Onion, sliced
1/2 Fennel Bulb, sliced
One Lemon cut into 4 wedges
Salt to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut Parchment Paper from the roll into 4 large sheets (or use the precut kind for cookie sheets). Place one sheet on the cookie sheet and fill with 1/4 of the fish. Cut the Dover Sole Filets into 3 inch pieces. Top with 1/4 of the onion slices and the fennel.  Squeeze one lemon wedge over it and top with the side of butter.  Season with salt.  Bring up two opposite sides of the paper together and fold over about 1/2 inch and repeat until you nearly reach the top of the fish.  Then take one side and wrap tightly, like a candy wrapper, then the other side. Then wrap the remaining fish.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes (10 minutes for thinner fillets, up to 15 minutes for thicker pieces).  Serve immediately giving each person a packet on their plate with a pair of scissors to cut them open.

Five Element Analysis

Steaming is a Watery method of cooking and fish of all kinds belongs to the Water Element, so this dish covers that element thoroughly. The Onion and Fennel contribute the Metal Element. The lemon adds just a hint of Wood so adding a leafy Kale Salad with Tomatoes contributes some of the Wood Element and the Fire Element. Add a sweet dessert and you  have a balanced meal.