Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gazpacho
















I have clearly been posting more than usual as I was housebound taking care of my mother during her most recent health crisis.  But, now that I am home, I'm still cooking! I  came back and discovered all the food that I had bought before I left desperately needed to be used up and I decided to throw the tomatoes and peppers and cucumber and onions together and create one of my favorite summertime treats - Gazpacho soup. This is a Spanish soup clearly designed to use up tomatoes and the most important thing about making it is to use really ripe tomatoes. Also, in the interest of being authentic, I like to use Sherry Vinegar and olive oil from Spain as they have their own distinctive tastes, but if you don't have them, any fairly mild wine vinegar including White Balsamic will work, but make sure it is not too sour. I much prefer  a chunky texture so I don't puree the soup very much so that the vegetables shine through. But, you can certainly make this soup smoother if you want. This is a wonderfully refreshing soup and very nutritious too!


Gazpacho

1 hothouse cucumber, chopped into small pieces
½ each large red pepper, yellow pepper and red pepper, chopped into small pieces
6 - 8 Roma Tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
½ small red onion, chopped into small pieces
3 cups Tomato Juice
1 Tablespoon Sugar
¼ cup Sherry Vinegar
½ cup Spanish Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Pinch Cayenne Pepper or a few shakes of Tabasco

Combine everything in a large bowl and stir to mix.  Take ½ the mixture at a time and put into a food processor or blender and blend into small chunks.  Pour into a covered container and refrigerate for up to 4 hours to blend the flavors. 

Five Element Analysis

Tomatoes belong to the Fire Element and so do the peppers, both sweet and hot – Cayenne so this is primarily a Fiery dish.  The Vinegar and Olive Oil add a bit of the Wood Element and the Cucumber contributes some Earth.  As it is a soup, it is intrinsically part of the Water Element although this element needs some support and the Metal Element is missing. So serve this with some fish or shellfish cooked with herbs as we did or if you want to go lighter, consider making a creamy dessert with some Water fruits to create balance.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Banana Coconut Bread - Gluten Free

















I've been experimenting with Cup4Cup Flour the last few days and came up with a new banana bread that I really like. It is special not just because it is gluten free, but because it includes Coconut Chips. They are big flakes of coconut and are unsweetened.  I bought them at Whole Foods and have been eating them out of the bag, but I was really impressed with the texture and flavor they gave this banana bread. I liked this bread best after letting it rest a while (overnight) and then spreading it with softened butter. I think it makes a perfect breakfast bread so I will make it from now on the night before.
Banana Coconut Bread – Gluten Free
1 1/2 cups Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large mashed ripe bananas
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup Milk (can also use Coconut Milk, Almond Milk or Soy Milk)
1 large egg
1/2 cup Coconut Chips (unsweetened)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a loaf pan. Mix Cup4Cup flour, baking soda and salt into large bowl. Combine bananas, sugar, butter, coconut milk (or regular milk) and egg in medium bowl. Mix into dry ingredients. Fold in Coconut Flakes. Pour into a buttered loaf pan and bake until golden brown and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. 

Five Element Analysis


Bananas and Coconut belong to the Earth Element. The flour blend in Cup4Cup is mostly Earthy as it is composed of Cornstarch and Tapioca Starch.  Because it is sweet bread, this is a primarily an Earth Food. Only the bit of vanilla extract and the rice flour add the Metal Element.  So, this is best eaten as a snack or as a breakfast food. To balance the meal, eat it along with a Water Food, like eggs or pork sausage, a Fire Food - coffee or tea are Fire beverages and don't forget to have a Wood food too like oranges or pineapple.  



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tzatziki Sauce




















I marinated a pork loin roast in lemon, olive oil, garlic and oregano for the last two days and finally cooked it and I wanted to serve it with a sauce and Tzatziki was requested. My son actually calls it Gyro Sauce since that is what he enjoys for lunch on a regular basis.  This is the simplest of recipes, but I do one thing that most people don't do - I keep the seeds intact and also keep the cucumber juice in the sauce.  I love the pale green color it gives and I think it adds a lot of flavor.  I only do this with a Hothouse cucumber so if you do this with a regular cucumber, you may want to peel that tough (often waxed) skin and take the seeds out too.  I also add red onion along with the garlic as I think it adds more zing. This sauce is wonderful on many roasted meats - lamb, chicken or the pork that I served. I've even used it as a salad dressing - it's that good!

Tzatziki

2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 Hothouse Cucumber, unpeeled, unseeded and grated fine in a large bowl (with juice)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Juice of one small Lemon
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 minced Garlic Clove
2 Tablespoons minced Red Onion

Add the yogurt to the cucumber and stir to blend. Mix in olive oil, garlic, red onion and salt.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for a few hours to let the flavors to blend. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Five Element Analysis

Cucumber belongs to the Earth Element and Yogurt to the Metal Element and the garlic and red onion add even more Metal.  The Lemon and Olive Oil  contribute in the Wood Element and the salt adds just a bit of the Water Element.  That's why I served this sauce with Pork, which is a Water food. I also served asparagus to bring in more of the WoodElement.  However, the Fire Element is missing in this sauce so that's why this it is so good with lamb,  a Fire food and it would be good to serve this with some other Fiery or hot foods. So, I served strawberries for dessert to bring in that missing Fire to create a Five Element balance.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Mixed Fruit Cobbler - Gluten Free




















I wasn't going to post this recipe because the cobbler topping recipe is from a previous post but this time I used Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour instead of wheat flour. I submitted this recipe to the Cup4Cup Forum because it turned out so well and they accepted it and you can now  find it on their website! I discovered this great flour substitute last year and didn't use it much until now as I am getting more serious about avoiding Gluten due to my increasing symptoms. This flour is really quite amazing as it creates baked goods that have a wonderful texture and crumb and it doesn't have any bean flour in it, which I don't like.  Cup4Cup is made of Cornstarch, Tapioca Starch, Rice Flour and Potato Starch and it works wonderfully in most recipes that require all purpose wheat flour. The only thing I've noticed is that it sometimes requires a bit more liquid in the recipe as I discovered when I used it to make Banana Bread. But, since I mostly bake in the summer because I love fruit desserts, it works quite perfectly as it soaks up the extra juice from the baking fruit.  

In this recipe, I combined the contents of my fruit bowl - nectarines, blueberries and cherries and loved this particular mixture of fruit.  I especially enjoyed the pitted sweet cherries and I think Washington State has some of the best cherries in the world. Anyway, for those of you are trying to avoid gluten, you need to try this flour if you can get it.  I bought it at Williams Sonoma and can't wait to try it for fried chicken - a summer picnic favorite!

Summer Mixed Fruit Cobbler – Gluten Free




4 cups of mixed fruit - I used 2 nectarines cut up, 2 cups of berries and 1/2 cup pitted sweet cherries
1/4 - 1/3 cup sugar depending on how sweet the fruit is
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons Butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 2 glass pie pans or one 9 x 7 inch pan. Mix fruit together with the sugar, and cinnamon and put half of the fruit into each pie pan or all into the larger baking pan. In a large bowl, mix together the Cup4Cup flour, the sugar, baking powder and salt and then add in the butter, egg and milk. Next, spoon the mixture on top of the fruit and place in oven. Cook for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.

Serve warm or cold with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Five Element Analysis

This is a sweet dessert, so you know it automatically qualifies as an Earth food due to the sugar. However, the nectarines and cherries belong to the Fire Element and the blueberries to the Water Element along with the egg. The Cup4Cup flour is a combination of Metal Element because of the Rice Flour (and the cinnamon adds a bit more) and the Earth Element because of the Tapioca Starch, Cornstarch and Potato Starch.  The Wood Element is missing so be sure to serve this with tea or coffee to create a more balanced dessert.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Spanikopita




















I had a request for my Spanikopita recipe from a friend, who had it at a party I gave last year. So I decided to go ahead and make it again so I could take a picture to post the recipe for her. I had Filo dough in the freezer, as I usually do, but this time it came out in pieces so that the crust had to be layered. It came more delicate that usual and I decided that I like it better this way so I am going to give up trying to make perfect Spanikopita from now on. Many of you probably eat these as little appetizer triangles, but I actually like it best as a pie. Actually it is a cross between a pie and a quiche.  It looks much harder to make than it is - it literally takes just minutes to put together and then you just pop it in the oven until it is brown. It is so delicious!  

Spanakopita



2 Tablespoons butter
1 small bunch scallion
1 leek, chopped
3 pounds spinach, washed - stems removed
1 small bunch parsley leaves, stems removed and chopped
1 small bunch dill leaves, stems removed and chopped
1/2 salt and freshly ground pepper
½ pound (8 oz) feta cheese
4 eggs lightly beaten
About 12 Filo sheets, unrolled flat and kept covered
4 Tablespoons melted butter

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook spinach until wilted and drain it.  Squeeze out extra liquid.  Then, heat the butter in the pan and sauté the leeks until soft.  Add spinach to scallions and add parsely and dill – sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the feta and the eggs. 

Now assemble the pie. Butter the 9” inch round pie pan. Then spread 6 filo sheets, brushing each with butter, letting the extra hang over the sides. Put in the spinach mixture and bring the filo over the top. Then take remaining filo dough in big strips and lay on top (buttering each one as you go). Tuck the extra filo down the sides or fold under on top. If the filo stays intact, you can cut several steam vents with a sharp knife.

Bake for 35 - 45 minutes or until the top is golden and flaky. Cut into 8 pieces and serve warm or cold.

Five Element Analysis

Spinach belongs to the Wood Element and the Filo adds even more as it is made from wheat.  The eggs add the Water Element. The Feta cheese, green onions, leek, dill and parsley contribute the Metal Element.  This dish is missing the Fire Element, which is easy if you serve it with tea or coffee or something else spicy.  And it is also missing the Earth Element, so serve something sweet later to create a Five Element balance.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Danish Meatballs




















I've always loved eating meatballs when visiting Scandinavia. Although Sweden often gets the credit due to the Ikea restaurants, meatballs are actually served in all the Nordic countries. In fact, I have to admit that I've had my best meatballs in Denmark made by Martin's Mom. She uses two spoons to create fairly large oval shaped meatballs, but tonight here in Seattle, I made mine round. Most important, I learned her secret to making them light and tender - it involves mixing the meat with water. And, I learned that they are not very seasoned - this recipe includes just a little Allspice, salt and some white pepper. Scandinavian meatballs are usually served with Lingonberry Jam and boiled new potatoes. I made a gravy, although a lot of people eat meatballs without any sauce, but for me, it's almost my favorite part, especially on the potatoes. Try this version of meatballs if you have ever ordered them at Ikea's restaurant.  I think you will be delighted with your homemade version!


Danish Meatballs

1 pound ground beef (or veal for authenticity)
1 pound lean ground pork
1 medium onion, minced very fine (or grated)
2 slices white bread (I used Gluten Free) crusts trimmed off or 3/4 cup oatmeal 
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon Allspice
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons salt
4 Tablespoons Butter

For Sauce

2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup milk (can also use cream if you want it to be a richer sauce)


Mix together the beef, pork, onion, bread, eggs and seasonings along with the water with your hands until the meat if very finely textured. Shape into walnut shaped balls or into larger oblongs.  Heat 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan.  Fit in as many meatballs as you can.  Cook until lightly browned on one side and turn over carefully with tongs.  Brown other side and continue to turn regularly until they are cooked through - approximately 15 minutes.  Remove to a plate and keep in a warm oven.  Pour the pan drippings and bits of caramelized onion into a bowl and reserve. Clean out the pan with a paper towel.  Melt remaining butter in the pan and repeat with the remaining meatballs.  

Mix the Cornstarch, beef broth and milk (or cream) together.  Pour into the pan and add back the drippings from the bowl. Heat until boiling and thickened. Serve on the side along with Lingonberry Jam and boiled new potatoes.

Five Element Analysis

Beef belongs to the Earth Element and Pork to the Water Element.  Onion, Allspice and milk bring in the Metal Element and the bread brings in a bit of the Wood Element. This element needs enhancing so serve this dish with a green leafy vegetable or green beans. Then, only the Fire Element is lacking (except for that tiny bit of black pepper), so serving these meatballs with the Lingonberry Jam creates a Five Element balance.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Indian Okra with Tomatoes and Fresh Turmeric





















I value foods most that have intrinsic healing properties and luckily for me, so many foods are really good medicine.  I have been undergoing a lot of emotional stress lately taking care of my Mom and needed to find ways to calm myself down, physically and emotionally.  I went shopping at the closest Whole Foods and found some fresh turmeric.  Now this is a very powerful anti-inflammatory food and in Chinese Medicine is used to invigorate the blood and treat pain and other heat based problems. The fresh turmeric was a big surprise - I've only previously had it dried and powdered.  It had a wonderful taste that was like gingery carrots. It required peeling and be careful because the yellow color stains things! I cooked it with okra, tomatoes, onion and garlic and together created a wonderful dish that I will be sure to make again. I found out later that it is similar to an Indian dish called Bindhi Masala, although it usually includes Garam Masala. I was so happy with the flavor of the turmeric that shone through.  Served with buttered Basmati rice and fish, it was a very satisfying meal!

Indian Okra with Tomatoes and Turmeric

1/2 pound Okra, stem and tips cut off and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
5 Roma Tomatoes, stem end removed and diced
3 Tablespoons Ghee (or butter)
1 medium yellow onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 turmeric roots, skin scraped off with a spoon and chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth (or use vegetable broth to make it vegetarian)
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes or 1/8 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional:  1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala

Heat ghee in a large frying pan until melted.  Add in the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent.  Add in the turmeric and tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes break down into the beginnings of a sauce. Then add in the okra, chili flakes (or Cayenne Pepper) and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Five Element Analysis


Okra combines both the Wood and Earth Elements - Wood because it grows so fast on a vining plant and Earth because of its' mucilaginous properties. The chicken broth adds additional Wood and the turmeric adds more Earth. So, those elements are fully covered.  The tomatoes bring in the Fire Element along with the Chili and the garlic and onions contribute the  Metal Element.  Only the Water Element is missing so be sure to add that in another dish, like the fish I served it with or an eggplant dish.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Italian Sausage and Peppers

I was at my hometown Farmer's Market and was impressed with a stand that made a very simple sausage and peppers sandwich that was stuffed into a cored out half of a baguette. M son said it was delicious, so I got inspired to recreate it at home. I bought some Spicy Italian Sausage and cooked it with some onions, garlic, red pepper and fresh tomatoes - I left out the green pepper as I tend to pick them out of dishes even when I use them for color. I cooked the sausages in a bit of olive oil and steamed them with a little water to make sure they were fully cooked. Then I took them out and cut them into pieces. I then sauteed the onions and red peppers until softened, stirred in some fresh cut tomatoes and wine and cooked it all until it made a sauce. I served mine on a special Gluten Free Sourdough Bread that I also found at the market, but my sons thought the carved out baguette ends were the perfect way to eat a sandwich. What we liked best was that the bread soaked up the sauce much better and made it a simply scrumptious sandwich. My son added some Parmesan cheese, which he said topped it off perfectly and next time he is going to try it with some Provolone. I also think this dish would also be good on pasta or polenta.

Italian Sausage and Peppers

1 pound Hot Italian Sausage (can also use Mild)
1/4 cup water
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
1 Onion, cut into square pieces
1 large clove Garlic minced
1 large Red Pepper, cut into small squares
6 Roma Tomatoes, cored and chopped 
1/2 cup White Wine

In a frying pan (with a lid), heat up 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil and add the Sausages.  Cook, turning until both sides are brown. Then add in water and cover, cooking until the water is evaporated.  Remove sausages and cut into pieces and set aside.  Add the additional 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and put in the onion, red pepper and garlic and cook until the onion is just beginning to brown.  Add in the Roma Tomatoes and the wine and cook until a sauce is formed.  Serve in the hollowed-out ends of a Baguette or with bread/roll of your choice

Optional:  Parmesan or Provolone Cheese

Five Element Analysis

Sausage is made from pork and that is from the Water Element.  The onions and garlic belong to the Metal Element and the spices (particularly the fennel) add even more.  The Olive Oil contributes just a bit of the Wood Element, but the Baguette brings in more. The red pepper, tomatoes and wine add a lot of the Fire Element. So, this ends up being a very balanced little sandwich!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Green Beans and Shitake Mushrooms
















Green Beans are one of my favorite vegetables and Shitake Mushrooms are by far my favorite kind of mushrooms. So when I put them together, I am happy to eat this dish. I season them with a delightful combination of butter and Tamari, which if you haven't put together yet, you should.  Shitakes have a wonderful meaty texture and contribute the wonderful Umami flavor, which is boosted by the Tamari. Plus, Shitake Mushrooms have great medicinal value in both Western and Chinese Medicine. Most recently, studies have found that they contain lentinan that has anti-cancer and anti-viral properties. These amazing mushrooms also lower cholesterol and contain Vitamin D. In Chinese Medicine, they are good for respiratory diseases, increase blood flow, assist the liver and boost Qi if you are tired or weak.  But most important to me is that they taste so good. Green Beans have medicinal properties as well:   They cool heat and fever and moisten the internal organs. So when you eat this dish, remember that it is edible and delicious medicine!  
  
Green Beans and Shitake Mushrooms


2 pounds slender green beans, ends removed
8 ounces fresh Shitake Mushrooms, stems removed and sliced into thin strips
4 Tablespoons Butter
2  large garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, sliced thin
½ cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Tamari
Fresh Ground Pepper

Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter in a nonstick frying pan.  Add the Shitake Mushrooms and cook until tender.  Put into a bowl.  Then add the remaining butter to the pan and put in the garlic and shallots and cook until you can just smell the fragrance and the shallots become a bit translucent. Add in the green beans and put in the chicken broth.  Cover with a lid and cook until the green beans are tender and the chicken broth is nearly evaporated.  If they are not yet done and need more liquid, add in a little more chicken broth and cook until as tender as you like.  Stir in the mushrooms and add the Tamari and fresh ground pepper. Toss to coat and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Green Beans belong to the Wood Element so that element is covered and the Chicken Broth contributes even more. Shitakes are a combination of the Water Element and the Metal Element because of their Umami flavor.  The garlic and shallots add even more Metal and the Tamari contributes more Water.  The pepper brings in just a touch of the Fire Element but the Earth Element is missing. So, serve this with an Earthy food, like a main dish containing beef or if you want a vegetarian meal, serve with some Earth vegetables like Squash or Cabbage. And, don't forget to add some chili to increase the Fire Element or serve with hot tea to create a Five Element balance.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Chap Chae




















I'm visiting my Mom as she is having a health crisis and the only thing that she wants to eat is Asian food, so I have been making many of her favorite dishes that I have already posted. But here's a new one for you - Chap Chae. It's a Korean stir fried noodle dish made with beef, spinach, cabbage, carrot, green and white onions and sweet potato noodles that are slippery and wonderfully chewy. The sauce is salty and a little bit sweet and redolent of toasted sesame oil. I added some Mu'er - also called Cloud Ear or Wood Ear Mushroom - a Chinese fungus that is really good at thinning the blood, which my mother needs, but you could use Shitake Mushrooms instead. The only thing that may be hard to find is the potato starch noodles, which are usually only sold in in an Asian Market. If you can't find them, bean thread noodles are a good substitute and can be found in many regular grocery stores. If you have ordered this before in a Korean restaurant, you will be surprised at how easy it is to make at home and you will be happy about making something so delicious.

Chap Chae

1 pound beef flank steak, sliced into thin strips (easier if frozen)
2 Tablespoons Rice Wine or Mirin
2 Tablespoon Tamari or SoySauce
2 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Oil
4 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 small white onion, cut into slivers
2 garlic cloves sliced thin
2 carrots, trimmed and peeled, julienned
1 cup thinly sliced cabbage
3 green onions, cut into 2 inch thin strips
1 bunch spinach leaves, stems removed
1/4 cup dried Mu'er soaked in boiling water for 45 minutes and sliced thin or 6 - 7 Shitakes
1 pound sweet potato noodles, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes or longer

Mix together the Rice Wine, Tamari, Sugar and Sesame oil.  Put the beef strips into a bowl and put in 2 Tablespoons of the sauce. Reserve the rest.

Put 2 Tablespoons of oil into a wok or large frying pan and heat until the oil shimmers. Add in the white onion and garlic and cook until the onion becomes translucent. Then add in the cabbage and carrots and cook until limp.  Add the meat in a single layer and let cook on one side and then turn to cook the other side until no longer pink. Remove from the wok and put on the serving plate for later.   Wipe out the wok and put in the additional 2 Tablespoons of oil, then put in the spinach leaves, the Mu'er (or Shitakes) and the sweet potato noodles.  Cook until the spinach is wilted.  Then pour in the remaining sauce and stir until the noodles are heated through. Put the beef and vegetables back in and stir to mix.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve.

Five Element Analysis

The sweet potato noodles, the cabbage, the carrots and the added sugar make this a fundamentally Earthy dish.  However, the Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Sesame Seeds and Mu'er contribute the Water Element.  The white onion, green onion and garlic bring in the Metal Element.  The spinach contributes the Wood Element and the Rice Wine adds only a little bit of the Fire Element.  To create a more balanced meal, serve with something else that is Fiery or since this is a Korean dish, serve with something else that is spicy - so pass the Kimchi or serve with Korean Chili Sauce!