Monday, November 26, 2012

Char Siu - Chinese Barbecued Pork





















I was at Uwajimaya's the other day - the Northwest's greatest Asian Market - and they were out of Barbecued Pork in the Deli. It is one of my favorite ingredients for stir fry and for fried rice and even for little slivers that liven up my Chinese Chicken Soup.  So, I did what I had to do to give in to that craving - I made some myself.  It's really pretty easy - it just takes a while to marinate and then cook, but it is so delicious when you are done that it is definitely worth the wait!  I made it all in the oven because I don't have a grill so it didn't get as charred as the kind you buy in the Chinese Deli.  I got just a bit of char by putting it under the broiler although a grill really makes it easier. It's also better for you to make your own Char Siu as you don't have to use any food coloring and it still turns out a nice rosy color.  I also didn't have any maltose, which is a classic Chinese ingredient so I used Golden Syrup instead and I thought it turned out great!  If you love Char Siu, you should try this recipe. It didn't last long enough for me to make Char Siu Bao or anything else with it so I will have to make some more soon. My sons ate it in Chinese onion pancakes like a burrito with sauteed green onions and sauteed spinach with hot sauce and I had it over rice, sprinkled with sesame seeds and with the spinach on the side for a delightful meal.

Char Siu - Chinese Barbecued Pork

2.75 pound Pork Butt cut into 4 long pieces
3 cloves of garlic minced
2 Tablespoons Golden Syrup
1 Tablespoon Honey
2 teaspoons Hoisin Sauce
2 teaspoons Ketchup
2 Tablespoons Chinese Rice Wine
2 Tablespoons Tamari (or Soy Sauce)
1 teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil
1/2 teaspoon Five Spice Powder
2 teaspoons cornstarch and enough water to make a slurry

For serving:  1 - 2 Tablespoons Sesame Seeds

In a small frying pan, heat all the ingredients except the pork until blended and warm.  Place the pork in a baking dish and pour the sauce over.  Rub it into the meat thoroughly and cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours up to overnight.  When ready to cook, heat oven to 375 degrees and cook for 30 minutes, turn over and cook for another 30 minutes.  Then turn on the broiler and cook each side for 5 minutes or until the meat starts to char slightly.  Watch carefully so that it doesn't burn.

Take out of oven and let meat cool for 10 minutes on a serving. Meanwhile, strain the cooking liquid through a fine mesh and place in a pan.  Add the cornstarch and water slurry and heat just until boiling. Then slice the meat into 1/4 slices and pour sauce over. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve.

Five Element Analysis

Pork belongs to the Water Element and so does the Tamari, Hoisin Sauce and Sesame Seeds and Sesame Oil.  So this is a mostly Watery food. The garlic and Five Spice Powder bring in the Metal Element and the Earth Element is represented by the Golden Syrup and Honey. Ketchup adds just a bit of the Fire Element so that element needs some support so adding some hot sauce or tea would bring that element.  What's missing completely is the Wood Element so be sure to serve it with some green vegetables to create balance. 


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Carrot, Celery and Tofu Salad
















We're eating light for the rest of this week as Thanksgiving was really food overload as usual!  So we made one of my favorite Tofu Salad recipes.  You may recognize this dish from a Chinese Restaurant  - it is often on the menu and I have found that this same salad - the carrots and celery minus the tofu is often served as a free salad before the meal. It's a simple and delicious salad that is seasoned lightly with toasted Sesame Oil, salt, sugar and Szechuan Peppercorns.  These add a piquant flavor and pleasantly numbing feeling, but don't use too much. It is also an acquired taste.  You can make this salad spicy instead with Chili Sauce if you prefer that flavor or you can add some green onion tops.  As with most Chinese Salads, the vegetables are blanche lightly and the tofu is the pressed kind - I used a spiced pressed tofu as I like the dark color from the marination in soy sauce and I think it has more flavor.  But like some of the restaurants, you can leave out the tofu altogether and it is still a lovely refreshing salad and a good side dish to a heavier Asian meal.

Carrot, Celery and Tofu Salad

2 stalks of celery, ends trimmed and cut into julienned pieces about 2 inches long
2 carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into julienned pieces about 2 inches long
2 pieces firm pressed tofu, sliced into thin shreds
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Sugar
About 5 Szechuan Peppercorns, toasted lightly in a pan and ground in a mortar and pestle
Optional: 1 /4 teaspoon Red Chili Flakes or a small amount of shredded green onion tops

In a large bowl, mix together the celery and carrots. Cover with boiling water and let soften for 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly and add tofu shreds.  Toss with Sesame Oil, salt, sugar and Szechuan Peppercorns.  Refrigerate until cold.

Five Element Analysis

Carrots belong to the Earth Element and Celery comes from the Wood Element so those elements are covered.  Tofu belongs to the Metal Element and the Soy Sauce in it gives it a bit of the Water Element as well. The Sesame Oil adds more Water and the Szechuan Peppercorns add some Fire. The Fire Element could use a bit more support so be sure to serve this with something else Fiery (even tea will do) or add in those Chili Flakes to create balance.  


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon and Lemon Dressing


















So who would have thought that my Thanksgiving Day experiment would be the favorite dish?  I was recently in Mill Valley and had a lovely Brussels Sprout Salad at Bungalow 44 and wanted to recreate something similar. Now Brussel Sprouts are a traditional vegetable at our Thanksgiving table and we usually cooked them with bacon and onions and they are good. But this year, I decide to slice them very thin instead and tossed them a light lemon vinaigrette and added some crisp cooked bacon.  I then sprinkled in some toasted almonds and Parmesan Cheese. I have to tell you, this salad was great!  None of us could stop eating it. My only suggestion is that Brussel Sprouts seem to do better when you marinate them for a while in the dressing before you put in the rest of the ingredients. And you may not need to use all of the dressing if you want to dress it lightly or you can spoon out the extra dressing after you marinate the Brussel Sprouts and before adding everything else. Something magical happens when you make Brussel Sprouts into a salad. You have to try this one - I think it will surprise you too!

Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon and Lemon Dressing



1 pound Brussels Sprouts, washed
Juice of one large or 2 small lemons - about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or an equal amount to the lemon juice)
1 small shallot, minced fine
2 - 3 teaspoons sugar (depending on how sour the lemon is)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Fresh ground Pepper to taste
5 slices of thick cut Bacon, cut into small pieces and cooked until crispy 
1/2 cup slivered Almonds, toasted

1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Cut off the stem end of the Brussels Sprouts and then slice thinly.  Put into a large bowl and separate the pieces so that the Brussels Sprouts become shreds.  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, sugar and salt.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  Add in the minced shallots and pepper.  Toss with the Brussels Sprouts and let marinate until ready to serve.  Refrigerate if waiting longer than 1/2 hour to serve.

When ready to serve, spoon out the excess dressing at the bottom of the bowl. Add in bacon pieces and almonds and toss. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese and serve.

Five Element Analysis



Even though Brussels Sprouts are part of the cabbage family, which is Earthy, they have a lot of Wood Element as well because they grow on large stalks. The Wood Element is further enhanced by the olive oil and lemon juice and the Earth Element is supported by the almonds and bit of sugar. The Water Element is represented by the salty bacon whereas the Parmesan Cheese, shallots and Dijon Mustard contribute the Metal Element.  Only the Fire Element needs enhancing as the small bit of pepper is not enough for balance. So make sure to serve this salad with a Fiery food or beverage, which is quite easy to do as part of a big meal like Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Caponata














It's been a busy travel time for me so I haven't had much time to cook, but I am finally slowing down for the Thanksgiving holiday.  It's my favorite holiday as it involves lots of food! It's going to be a scaled down meal this year as it is just my sons and me, but we are still very traditional.  The only big change is that my boys have decided that they really don't like turkey so we are roasting a chicken instead. But all of our other traditional fixin's will all be present - cornbread dressing, potatoes, creamed leeks, green beans with mushrooms, brussel sprout and bacon salad and pie.  My only chance to add something different is with an appetizer.  Now, we eat a Thanksgiving dinner in the late afternoon so I wanted to offer something to be eaten by my boys while they watch the Liverpool soccer game and I am cooking - American football will have to wait until after that!


So, I have made Caponata, an Italian eggplant relish that includes lots of interesting ingredients like green olives, pine nuts, celery, tomatoes and a bit of vinegar and sugar.  It goes wonderfully on crackers or toasted slices of baguette.  And, like many foods that are a melange of ingredients, it is much better after the flavor marries so make it the day or two before.  It is really a delightful sweet and sour mix of interesting textures. It's great for a party too!





















Caponata

5 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large or 2 small eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds) diced, salted, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
1 medium chopped onion
3 stalks of celery chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup pitted green olives chopped
3 Tablespoons drained capers chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons or more sugar (some vinegars are very sour and require more sugar)
3 Tablespoons raisins
3 Tablespoons pine nuts toasted
2 cups chopped tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat 3 Tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add eggplant, stirring for about 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly browned and soft.  Remove to a bowl and let cool. Add remaining olive oil and add celery, tomatoes and onion and cook until the onions and tomatoes are soft.  Add olives, capers, vinegar, sugar, raisins and cook covered for about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add eggplant back in, stir in the pine nuts and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and check sweetness level, adding more sugar if necessary. Serve with crackers or Bruschetta - slices of baguette drizzled with olive oil, broiled and scraped with a raw garlic clove.

Five Element Analysis

Eggplants and pine nuts belong to the Water Element, whereas the celery, olives, capers and vinegar contribute the Wood Element and so do the crackers.  Tomatoes add the Fire Element and the raisins and sugar bring in the Earth Element.  The onions bring in just a bit of the Metal Element and so does the raw garlic on the Bruschetta, but in order to create more balance, serving this dish with some cheese alongside - I particularly like it with goat cheese - adds more Metal and creates a perfect balance.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Sliced Potato Casserole

















My sons love potatoes in just about every way you can cook them and one of their favorites is this recipe.  It's been adapted from Epicurious.com and comes from the great Southern cook, Edna Lewis.  It is very much like scalloped potatoes minus all the cream.  I added in some Garlic and Parmesan to jazz it up and this dish has been such a big hit that it is requested weekly.  It is a wonderful side dish to all kinds of meat dishes and is a good "make and pretty much forget" dish that cooks in the oven while you are doing everything else.  It is such a loved dish now that it will be one of the sides for Thanksgiving instead of mashed potatoes. And it is one of the most requested recipes when I serve it.



Sliced Potato Casserole



4 large Russet Potatoes (about 4 pounds)

1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
1 cup of chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Peel the potatoes and slice as thinly as you can.  Put them in an 11 x 17 inch  Pyrex baking dish.  Toss with melted butter and garlic powder and salt.  Pat down evenly and pour chicken broth over the potatoes.  Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes and remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 35 - 40 minutes until potatoes are lightly browned.  Remove from oven and sprinkle on Parmesan Cheese.  Put pan back in the oven and cook for an additional 15 minutes until golden brown.



Five Element Analysis



Potatoes are clearly from the Earth Element so this is a great dish to serve whenever you need an Earthy side dish.  The butter and salt add some of the Water Element and the garlic powder and Parmesan Cheese contribute some of the Metal Element. The chicken broth brings in some of the Wood Element so serving this with a Fire meat like lamb as we did makes the meal more balanced along with some more vegetahles.