Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Champagne Tarragon Chicken
















I recently made a vow to have constant creativity in my life and luckily, cooking is one of the best ways for me to express my creativity on a regular basis because I love doing it so much! One of my favorite challenges is to figure out what to make with what I have on hand or leftover. Of course, I usually have a very full pantry, but I am often presented with something that I need to use up as I hate wasting good ingredients. Then I have to figure out the best way to use it. I believe this is the way that my best new dishes are created.

I recently celebrated receiving the official contract for the second edition of my Face Reading book and that called for Champagne. I'm not much of a drinker and a few of my friends brought over a lot of Champagne and I ended up with about 1/2 bottle of left over. I don't think Champagne keeps well so the next day, I decided to cook with it.

That's usually the time when I go to a wonderful website like Epicurious and search under a specific ingredient. I noticed that many of the recipes that used Champagne were just replacing the white wine. I have long been cooking different chicken stews with white wine so I had my game plan. I almost always have chicken thighs in the freezer because they braise so well and by the way, I like them with the bone in as I think they taste better and make a better broth. However, I also make this dish with a whole cut up chicken as some people prefer white meat. I've added dumplings to make a more exotic version of Chicken and Dumplings and I've also served it over mashed potatoes. I guess you can tell that I really like Tarragon Chicken!

Tarragon is an unusual flavor often likened to licorice or fennel and it pairs beautifully with chicken. I add some at the beginning of cooking and some at the end to enhance the Tarragon flavor. What was exciting about using Champagne was that it gave the dish a much more nuanced flavor that was hard to pinpoint, but was simply delicious. I will definitely be using Champagne again! My Aunt Elma introduced me to Tarragon Chicken when I was a child and her recipe was another one of my father's favorites. How I wish he could try this wonderful updated version:

Champagne Tarragon Chicken

1 whole chicken cut up or 6 bone-in chicken thighs (you can use boneless)
1 large onion chopped
2 Tablespoons oil
2 cups Champagne
4 or 5 cups diluted chicken broth (preferably homemade or canned chicken broth mixed with equal amounts of water)
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
Cornstarch and water for thickening if necessary

In large heavy pot (I like enameled iron) heat oil and add onions. Stir until softened and translucent. Add chicken pieces and brown on each side. Add in all liquids and 1 teaspoon of the tarragon and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.

Remove chicken. You can remove the chicken from the bone and cut the chicken into bite size pieces if desired. If you like a smooth sauce, you can use an immersion blender to puree it in the pot. Add chicken back in and taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary and pepper. If sauce needs thickening, add a little cornstarch mixed with water - 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with enough cold water to make a slurry. Sprinkle on additional teaspoon of tarragon. Bring back to boil and wait until slightly thickened. Serve over white rice.

Five Element Analysis

Although one pot dishes are often thought to be balanced, this dish clearly needs the addition of some vegetables. Chicken belongs to the Wood element and Champagne is clearly the Fire element. Cooked onion is Earth and the sauce is fairly soupy so it adds to the Water element. Rice adds the Metal element - especially if it is white rice so that is covered and the Tarragon adds to that. Wood is the missing element. here So, you can serve it over noodles which are Wood, but greens are recommended either as a salad or sauteed as a side dish and adding some nuts or seeds would bring in a little more Water. Besides that, the plate needs more color. Stewing is an Earth method of cooking, but adding a little more of the Earth element would be good, which can be added as a sweet desert or by the addition of a root vegetable like carrots. Then you will have a balanced five element meal.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Leek, Shallot and Potato Soup





















I've been quite tired this week and feeling a little under the weather - literally - as it was raining quite hard and as you will come to know - this is always when I make soup. Something creamy and soothing was what I wanted, but I didn't want to use a lot of cream or milk. That's where potatoes come in as they can create that lovely creamy texture without the extra fat. Not that I mind fat - I like it a lot! And, I think it is quite necessary especially when it is cold outside. I just like to leave room for the option of bringing more fat in my diet on purpose!

I had some leeks left in the refrigerator from the pizza I made last week (see previous post) and I wanted to use them up - that's the thrifty Pennsylvania Dutch (German) side of me coming out. So I immediately thought of making one of my favorite creamy soups - Potato Leek. It's an easy soup with very few ingredients. I like to use chicken broth as the base and I add shallots for depth of flavor. I was once told by a professional chef that shallots were the secret ingredient in many restaurant sauces and they are one of my staples. I love to garnish this soup with bacon bits along with chives when I serve it. If I'm making this for my vegetarian friends, I use soy bacon bits and I change to vegetable broth. It's very good that way too. I hope this soup nurtures you as much as it does me!



Leek, Shallot and Potato Soup

4 Tablespoons Butter
2 Leeks
1 large shallot minced
4 medium russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
6 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup Real Bacon Bits
2 Tablespoons Chopped Chives

To make soup:

Cut the top 1/3 of the leeks off - the dark green part (you can save this and use it later for stock). Cut leek in half and then slice in 1/8 inch slices. Rinse thoroughly to remove all dirt. Peel potatoes and cut into ½ inch chunks.

In a soup pot, melt butter and then add shallot and leeks and cook over medium low heat for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add in potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes being careful not to brown them. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about ½ hour then check to see if potatoes are tender.

Using a stick blender, puree soup until smooth. You can also use a blender if you blend in small batches or a food processor but it is much easier if you blend it right in the pot. Taste and adjust salt and add pepper. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle on bacon bits and chives.


Five Element Analysis

Soup is inherently the Water Element as is salt, but the use of chicken broth as the stock (which comes from bones which is also watery) adds the Wood Element. Leeks and shallots are part of the Metal Element as are all of the Allium family so the chives bring in even more Metal. and so does the simple act of garnishing. But the way the leeks and shallot are cooked make them much earthier. The potatoes increase the Earth Element and the pepper brngs in just a hint of Fire. Overall, it's a rather balanced dish by itself but as part of a meal, something with more Fire would be good and I would recommend a salad.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sesame Cucumber Salad





















Cucumbers are a food I love as they are crunchy and juicy and incredibly refreshing. You will find me loading up my plate with cucumbers at any salad bar and when they are offered as garnishes at Thai restaurants, they help me cool down the heat from the chilis and I consider them an important part of the meal. There are recipes for cucumber salads from many countries and I remember my German grandmother making her special one with sour cream and lots of fresh dill. I've also had Jewish friends make me wonderful Israeli salads with cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and lemon juice. But to this day, my favorites are the Asian style cucumber salads - all of them - including the Japanese version called Sunomono or even spicy Korean Cucumber Kimchi. My Mom often takes me to her favorite little Chinese restuarants in LA that serve a variety of small plates of various things like spiced peanuts, tofu salads, sliced beef tendon, sliced pig ears and salty pickled vegetables. Even there my first choice of three things for my plate will be Cucmber Salad that is garlicky and smoky with sesame oil.


Here's my version - I've adapted my Grandfather, Kingway Lowe's recipe and make this tangy salad regularly. It's great as one of several Chinese dishes and it has been quite popular whenever I have been invited to a potluck as it is a good counterpoint to heavier casseroles. It keeps well if made ahead and even can be kept overnight, but the cucumbers do become softer. It is very easy, fast to make and is just delicious!

Sesame Cucumber Salad

2 Cucumbers
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Asian Sesame Oil
1/2 teaspoon or more of Chili Oil or Garlic Chili Paste
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon toasted Sesame Seeds


Peel Cucumbers and cut in half. Scrape out seeds with small spoon then slice into 1/4 inch half moons. Put into bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add garlic, seasoned rice vinegar and chili paste. Stir to mix. Taste to adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with sesame seeds when ready to serve.



Five Element Analysis

Cucumbers, like all members of the squash family belong to the Earth Element. Using vinegar brings in a little of the Wood Element and the garlic adds the Metal Element. The black pepper and chili pepper perk up the dish with some Fire and the sesame seeds and sesame oil add the Water Element. It is a surprisingly balanced little salad!



Monday, March 15, 2010

Rhubarb Oat Crisp






















I'm apparently stuck on the color red right now as yesterday I bought rhubarb, strawberries, apples and red peppers and even red Thai bird chilis. I passed on beets only because I just made so much beet soup last week. I love when rhubarb comes in season. It's such a curious food that at first glance looks like red celery. I never imagined it would make a good desert as it is incredibly sour when raw. But when you add a little sugar, it can become a magical desert with that wonderful tartness that's a lot like cherry pie. It's often paired with strawberries in pie and some people even pair it with apples.

I'm not often in the mood for sweets that are too sweet, so if you are like me, you will really enjoy this desert. It's also really simple and easy to put together and it's Gluten Free. My sons like it with vanilla ice cream but I have it just plain. I especially like it for breakfast the next morning - who says you can't have desert for breakfast?

Rhubarb Crisp

3 cup rhubarb diced
½ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
6 Tbsps butter, softened
¾ cup oats (I used Gluten Free Oats)
½ cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees in an 8x8” lightly buttered baking dish. Combine rhubarb with sugar, cinnamon and salt in the baking dish baking dish. In a separate bowl, cream butter, oats and brown sugar together. Sprinkle topping over rhubarb mixture and bake for 40 minutes.
Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Five Element Analysis

As red as rhubarb is, it is pretty easy to tell that it is from the Fire Element. The oats and sugars add the Earth Element. There is just a bit of cinnamon that brings in the Metal Element. There's not enough salt to add much Water and there's nothing representing the Wood Element so it's obvious that this is not a very balanced food by itself, but would add a lot to a dinner that's deficient in fire and earth.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Polish Beet Soup
















It's really starting to look and feel like spring here in the Northwest. Oh, I know it's not official yet and chances are we will have a few more coldspells before it is time to plant the tomatoes, but my cherry and plum trees are blooming and it's so much warmer than usual. I didn't say it was warm - just warmer. So, it's that time of year when soup still hits the spot. I love soup and think it is one of the most nurturing foods in the world. Most people need to support their kidneys and soup is just the thing to nourish them. The minerals from the root vegetables and bone stock help you hold onto the water your body needs. When I was a child, I seemed to have chronic dark circles. I would go over to my grandparent's house and my grandfather would always shove a bowl of soup at me and say "Eat soup - you look tired." I learned that soup was the best medicine for my kidneys so I make soup a lot. It's one of the foods I crave most when I am tired, don't feel well or I'm jetlagged. I'm always amazed that most people don't eat more soup. Wherever I travel, I try the local soups and I've collected all kinds of recipes. I'm sure you'll see them all here eventually.

Beet Soup is one of my all time favorites and it's often called Borscht. I never liked beets as a child as I thought they tasted like sweet dirt. It wasn't until my Polish Grandmother-in-Law made her famous Beet Soup that I learned to appreciate them. I think it has to do with the vinegar that cuts through the sweetness of the beets and her recipe was and still is the best I have ever had. I begged her to teach me and she had to show me as she was one of those cooks that never wrote the recipe down. She would serve this every Easter and any other time we asked her.

I've served this soup to my students when they have come to study with me and all of my friends. And although many of them have told me they don't like beets, I’ve made a lot of converts! They usually end up loving this sweet and sour soup once they taste it. Plus it builds blood! This is also the most requested soup recipe to date.

I’ve adapted the recipe to make it just a little lighter tasting by using chicken broth instead of beef and Turkey Kielbasa instead of the traditional Beef and Pork version, which is quite hearty. Also, I use seasoned rice wine vinegar instead of the classic white vinegar and sugar mixture. Peeling beets is a messy business and I recommend that you peel them in the sink and cut them on a non-porous cutting surface otherwise your cutting board will be dyed a pretty pink for quite a while. Grandma Jane's way to serve this soup was to stir in the sour cream then ladle it into a bowl over creamy mashed potatoes - my oldest son's preferred technique. It makes the soup extra creamy. She also sprinkled chopped hard boiled eggs on top - my youngest son's favorite version. It is just as good made as a vegetarian soup, but my family loves the chunks of Polish sausage. I am rather earth deficient so this soup is very good for me. If you need grounding and a boost for your blood, you should try it!

Polish Beet Soup

10 - 12 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade) or vegetable broth or water
1 small head cabbage, cored and chopped into small pieces
2 carrots chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
1 onion chopped
4 fresh beets (medium to large), peeled and diced
1 Turkey Polish Sausage (Kielbasa) cut into slices or cubes (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 – 5 Tablespoons Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar
Optional: Sour Cream to taste

Pour broth into a large soup pot. Add cabbage, carrots, celery and onions along with the beets. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Add Polish Sausage and cook until heated through – about 10 minutes. Taste for saltiness and add salt and pepper if necessary. Add Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar until it achieves a nice sweet and sour flavor. You can add in sour cream or serve it on top and let everyone stir it in themselves.

Don't forget to make some mashed potatoes and chopped hard boiled eggs to serve along with the soup.

Five Element Analysis

Soup is a watery food and therefore is so good for the kidneys. This is an earthy soup as it is rustic - the vegetables and sausage are cut into fairly large chunks. Beets belong to both the fire and earth elements. They are red and build blood and they are even shaped like a heart - all signs of fire, but they are also root vegetables and so sweet that they are also earthy. The carrots enhance the Earth Element as does the cabbage and the cooked onions. The chicken broth and turkey sausage add the Wood Element as does the vinegar. Sour cream is a combination of Wood and Metal as it is sour and therefore Wood, but it is also white cream and it is used as garnish so it has some Metal energy too. Mashed potatoes add even more Earth and chopped hard boiled eggs add more Water. There isn't quite enough Metal in this meal so be sure to eat something metallic with it or at some other time in the day.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chinese Green Beans





















When I travel, I find myself craving vegetables...a lot! In fact, vegetables are the one kind of food that I need more of when I'm eating out at restaurants. I'm always asking about the sides and I sometimes think that they are relegated to a position of less importance in a meal than they should be. I grew up with a Chinese mother, so we had several fresh vegetables each night. And to this day, if I don't have something green on my plate, I feel deprived. Loving vegetables as I do, you might wonder why I am not a vegetarian. Believe me, I tried to be! But, my need for protein and my ongoing blood deficiency have given me a seriously carnivorous streak. I joke a lot about having really sharp canine teeth (which is true) and that's why I am supposed to knaw on bones and I do. But I really prefer eating the Chinese way with a little meat or tofu and a lot of sides. I love my vegetables....


I once went on a trip to New York with another couple and they were serious gourmands. Every night we ended up having a very rich meal with several appetizers, rich sauces, decadent deserts and lots of wine. By the third day, my body was rebelling and when they wanted to go to a famous Deli to have thick and juicy pastrami sandwiches, I talked the waiter into giving me chicken broth and steamed spinach instead. Oh that was such a good meal as there is nothing like chicken soup when you don't feel well, but that's going to be the subject of another blog. The spinach was what I wanted most of all and it made me and my stomach so happy. It was so simple, so healthy and so green! My friends thought I was crazy, but to this day, I have fond memories of that Jewish Deli because they took such good care of me. Isn't nurturing what food is all about?

When I teach at conferences, there are often wonderful banquets. You will find me stocking my plate with lots and lots of vegetables and salads. I must admit that I like simplicity when it comes to vegetables - not too much sauce or seasoning and usually cooked quickly. Although, I am partial to Southern greens and slow cooked Middle Eastern green beans too. Actually I like greens and green beans cooked all kinds of ways. Perhaps this is because my liver needs support. It is clearly not my strongest organ or I would be able to drink alcohol a lot better and eat fatty food a lot more.

In any case, my love affair with vegetables is ongoing and I try to grow as many as I can. I'm not a very good gardener as I don't like to weed and dig. I prefer to pluck and cook. So you can often find me wtih pots of mesclun lettuce, growing cherry tomatoes and herbs and I've discovered that I am quite good at growing peas and beans. I like the fact that they grow on vines so I don't have to bend over very much to pick them. I haven't started planting anything yet this year, but I will and you'll be seeing many more recipes involving these vegetables. But today, I want to share one of my favorite ways of cooking green beans. My son wants this dish often and at every Thanksgiving instead of the usual green bean casserole. I also often serve it for Chinese New Year.  It's very simple, much requested by my friends and very good!

Chinese Green Beans

1 pound green beans, ends snapped off
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 - 3 teaspoons Tamari
1 -2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I like light Olive Oil)
Good Pinch of Sugar (1/8 tsp)
Good Pinch of Salt (1/8 tsp)
Few drops Toasted Sesame Oil

Heat water in a pot large enough to hold the green beans and heat to boiling. Put in green beans and cook 4 minutes or until barely tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. You could also steam them for 4 - 5 minutes.

Heat a wok or large frying pan and add in the oil. Put in garlic and stir until garlic just begins to brown. Add in green beans (oil should sizzle) and stir for 1 - 2 minutes. Add sugar and salt and stir for another minute. Pour in Tamari. Keep stirring until almost evaporated and drizzle in Sesame Oil and put on a serving plate. Enjoy!

Five Element Analysis

It isn't expected for a side dish to incorporate very many of the Five Elements. In fact, side dishes and vegetables are often used to balance a main course or an entire meal full of other elements. In this dish, the green beans represent the wood element as they are green and grow on vines. The garlic adds the metal element. The Tamari, sesame oil and salt add the water element and the pinch of sugar adds just a bit of earth. The fire element is not represented in this dish except that is stir fried. So, this dish would go well with a more fiery main course like lamb or if you like spicy food, you can add a little chili paste to heat things up. The earth element needs boosting as well so these green beans would also go well with an Earthy meal.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Leek, Ham and Goat Cheese Pizza

















While my sons were rapidly growing teenagers, I realized that to keep my ravenous boys fed meant I needed to radically increase the amount of food I was cooking. They could decimate the contents of the refrigerator and pantry so fast that I felt like I was always returning to the grocery store. They had the ability to consume vast quantities of food and their favorite food was pizza.I’ve always thought that pizza was one of the better choices for fast food as it is easy to add nutritional value if you pick the toppings carefully. Besides that, tomato sauce gives them a nice dose of lycopene that studies show may help prevent prostate cancer. We were in the habit of ordering take out pizza at least once a week and I would usually get two large pizzas. By the time I added in the tip, the meal would end up being about $25.00 and that was only for one topping on each thin pizza chain pizza! I felt like I would be giving my kids a big gift if I made their pizzas myself knowing that the quality of ingredients would be better.

What surprised me was how much less expensive it was to make homemade pizza and how much more my sons enjoyed it. I only made one pizza and had the boys help me with the toppings. I gave them an array of things to choose from and had them make their own half. I learned long ago that if I gave my kids some choices or better yet got them to help me then they would be more likely to eat what they made. One side ended up being Pepperoni and the other was Italian Sausage. I was surprised when they added black olives, mushrooms and one put on onions and the other one put on lots of garlic. The pizza was ready in just a little over the amount of time it would have taken to order and wait for the delivery. The pizza was a huge hit and my boys devoured most of it but not all. I was afraid they didn’t like it enough to finish it off. However, they assured me that it was the best pizza they had ever had and that it was just so much more filling that they just couldn’t eat any more. They ate the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. Two meals from one homemade pizza! And, when I figured out how much it cost, it turned out to be less than 1/2 of the takeout price – that’s good value!

We don't order take out pizza anymore as pizza is just so easy to make and so much better than takeout. So here’s the pizza dough recipe that I have made at least once a week since that first time with a couple of suggestions for some new and interesting toppings that my sons have learned to appreciate as their tastes have become more sophisticated. I had a fabulous Leek Pizza in Houston when a friend took me to a great restaurant called Tiny Boxwood. So, I promptly came home and tried to recreate it. The Leek, Ham and Goat Cheese topping is now my sons' new favorite!

Pizza Dough

1 package quick acting yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil + extra for oiling bowl and pizza pan
1 teaspoon salt 

In small bowl, mix sugar and yeast. Add warm water and stir. Wait a few minutes until you see the yeast proofing (getting bubbly). Then put in flour and salt into food processor and turn on. Pour yeast mixture through the tube and mix until a ball just starts coming together. Add in the olive oil and keep mixing until the ball is formed (add another tablespoon of oil if necessary) and continue to process for about 1 minute. Remove dough from the food processor and place in an oiled bowl. Put in a warm place (I put it in the microwave with the door partially open so that the light stays on). Let rise for about ½ hour.

Leek, Ham and Goat Cheese Topping

2 large leeks - top 1/3 cut off, roots trimmed, sliced into thin rounds and rinsed thoroughly
2 garlic cloves minced
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chicken broth
4 - 6 ounces of goat cheese crumbled
4 - 6 ounces of diced or cubed ham
2 Tablespoons aged Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt (I use Maldon) and fresh ground Pepper
Optional:  Red Pepper Flakes

Melt butter in large skillet, add leeks and stir until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes more. Add in chicken broth and cook until the liquid is almost gone.Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Oil jelly roll pan (1/2 sheet pan or round pizza pan)and then spread dough onto the pan making sure to push up at the sides and corners. Spread leek mixture all over dough, then sprinkle on ham and goat cheese evenly. Drizzle Balsamic Vinegar across the top and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Place in the hot oven and cook for 15 - 20 minutes or until crust is browned - be sure to check underneath by lifting up with a spatula. Cut with a pizza cutter as it is very easy to get burned using a knife. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes when serving

.

Traditional Pizza topping:
1 cup or more bottled pasta sauce of your choice
8 oz grated Mozzarella Cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
Meat of your choice - cooked Italian Sausage, Pepperoni,etc.
8 - 10 button mushrooms sliced
1 small can sliced olives drained
Other Optional Toppings: chopped onion or garlic, green peppers, pineapple, etc.

Alternative Pizza Ideas:

Basil Pesto, chunks of cooked chicken, chopped artichoke hearts, halved cherry tomatoes or sun dried tomates and Parmesan Cheese

Barbecue Sauce, Mozzarella cheese, Chunks of cooked Chicken, Red and Green Onions

Carmelized Onions, Emmentaler or Swiss Cheese and cubed Ham

Red Enchilada Sauce or Salsa, Cheddar Cheese, Seasoned Taco Meat, Black Olives and Red Onions

Five Element Analysis

Pizza is rustic and casual food so it has an inherent earthiness about it. For the Leek, Ham and Goat Cheese Pizza - the leeks are sautéed until soft and sweet so they become earthy too. The wheat and yeast dough belongs to the wood element and so does the balsamic vinegar. The garlic belongs to the metal element as does the tangy goat cheese. Ham is salty pork, which is the water element and the extra sea salt adds to this element. The only element missing is the fire element, so adding the red pepper flakes when serving balances the pizza and makes this pizza a special taste treat!For the traditional pizza - the dough is again the wood element, tomato sauce is fire, the white cheese - particularly the parmesan as it is savory and full of umami - is the metal element, the meat is pork, which is the water element, the olives are partly water because they are black but also fiery because they are bitter. The mushrooms are earthy and the addition of onions and garlic bring in even more metal. Can you see that this kind of pizza can be a pretty balanced fast food? It's delicious too! 



Monday, March 1, 2010

Korean Pancake
















I have a savory tooth, not a sweet tooth. I perfer something salty and/or crunchy over something sweet any day. In the interest of trying to find more balance in my diet, I try to go beyond potato chips (which are still one of my favorites)and I look to ethnic snacks for variety.

Of course, I love Asian snacks and in particular I love Japanese rice crackers. But, my nearly constant need for a little protein in the afternoon has led me to some really interesting recipes. I'm still trying to perfect my Takoyaki or Octopus Balls which I first had in Singapore so I can't share that one yet. But one of my standbys that I make on a regular basis is Korean Pancakes. This savory pancake is made with a thin flour batter and incorporates all kinds of meat and vegetables that you may have on hand. My favorite additions are a little beef or pork, some green onions and some red peppers. It is served with a sauce made of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and red chili paste and garnished with sesame seeds and cilantro. It's a wonderful tea time snack that I encourage you to try.


Korean Pancakes

1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 pound ground beef, marinated in 2 teaspoons soy sauce and 2 teaspoons rice wine
1 small red pepper diced
3 - 4 green onions sliced
4 - 6 Tablespoons vegetable oil or more if necessary

Sauce:
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 - 1 teaspoon of chili garlic sauce or chili oil

Sesame seeds and cilantro leaves for garnish

In a bowl, mix together flour water and salt with a whisk until smooth. Put aside. In a small frying pan, saute ground beef until it ljust begins to lose its' pink color, add green onions and red pepper and continute to cook until vegetables are softened. Add to pancake better and stir to incorporate.

In another frying pan, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil until hot. Using 1/4 cup measure, scoop up some of the batter and pour into pan to make a pancake. Cook over medium heat until top starts to dry at the edges and center is almost firm and bottom is browned. Flip over carefully and continue cooking until other side is browned. Put on a plate and continue with an additional pancake adding more oil to the pan if necessary.

This pancake can also be made all at once in a 12 inch skillet, but you have to wait a lot longer for it to cook before turning and turning is a challenge! The best way is to wait until the center is set, loosen the edges of the pancake with a spatula and then put a plate on top. Then turn over onto plate and slide back into frying pan. If you don't mind how it looks, you can also cut the pancake into quarters in the pan and turn each section. Don't be impatient to turn them as they need to be pretty set before being turned or they will be gummy inside. This recipe makes about 8 pancakes or one giant pancake.

Mix sauce ingredients together. Sprinkle pancakes with sesame seeds and cilantro and spoons sauce over them when serving.

Five Element Analysis:
The varied color of the ingredients in Korean Pancakes makes them attractive to the eye and also more balanced in terms of the five elements than most snack foods. Pancakes are considered a somewhat earthy food as they are a type of rustic flatbread and the beef contributes even more earth. The wheat in the batter belongs to the wood element, the red pepper is fiery and so is the little kick of chili in the sauce, the green onions are metallic. The sauce adds additional water element from the salty soy sauce and the toasted sesame oil and the sesame seeds add even a little more water element, whereas the cilantro brings in just a touch more of the wood element. Can you see how balanced this snack is? And, the good news is that it also tastes great!