Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fleisch-Pflanzl or Bavarian Meatballs

I am still in Europe teaching and haven't had much of a chance to cook. But, I learned how to make - Fleisch-Pflanzl - otherwise known as Bavarian Meatballs. They actually look more like hamburger patties, but they are quite wonderfully moist and delicious and luckily they are very easy to make! I'm going back to Seattle next week and my sons have already requested a repeat performance. I served them with boiled potatoes and mushroms and what they call Mange Tout - which means "eat all"- otherwise known as Snow Pea Pods. My friends were quite impressed with the results and said that my Bavarian Roots were showing. They eat them with mustard - I added some sauteed mushrooms finished off with a bit heavy cream to serve over the potatoes. We also had strawberries for dessert. Hope you enjoy these too!

Bavarian Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
2 slices white loaf bread
1/2 cup warm beef broth (or 1/2 cup warm water mixed with 1/2 beef boullion cube)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 small onion minced fine (minus about 2 Tablespoons for the mushrooms)
2 Tablespoons butter

Soak bread in beef broth until soft and mush into very small pieces. Meanwhile, melt butter and saute onion until soft and then add to bread mixture. Add ground beef along with salt and pepper. Mix together very thoroughly. Shape into palm sized patties and place in a frying pan. Cook on medium heat until each side is brown and then heat a few minutes more on each side. Remove to serving plate.

Mushrooms with Cream Sauce

2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Minced Onion
1 box button mushrooms - about 12 washed and sliced
1/4 cup cream
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt or 1/4 teaspoon salt with 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Melt butter in frying pan on medium heat. Add in onions and stir until they become translucent. Add mushrooms and saute until their liquid is released and they soften and turn darker brown. Add in cream and bring to boil for 2 - 3 minutes. Add in garlic salt or salt and garlic powder and serve in a bowl.

Five Element Analysis

Beef belongs to the Earth Element, but the bread adds a bit of the Wood Element and the onions bring in some Metal. By itself, this dish is not very balanced in terms of the Five Elements. Therefore, some additional side dishes and condiments are necessary. The traditional mustard brings in more Metal whereas the mushrooms add more Earth and the cream adds more Metal. So, green vegetables are helpful for bringing in more of the Wood Element. Only the Fire Element needs representation and my son suggested Ketchup or Sricha Hot Sauce! You could probably add an arugula salad or some sliced tomatoes. I served strawberries to bring in the fire to round out the elements.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Leonore's Spanish Style Mussels

My friend Leonore has been visiting from Ireland with her husband and we went to the Pike Place Market. This is my favorite place to take my house guests as I go to buy the freshest produce in Seattle and it's also a great tourist destination and a good place for them to buy Seattle products. Probably most known for the flying fish stand, it really is a great place to buy seafood. Penn Cove Mussels looked especially good and after also securing some great cheese at DeLaurenti's and the Spanish Table along with some great Chorizo and some crusty bread, we went home to make a Northwest/Spanish feast. Leonore is originally from Spain so she made mussels in the Spanish style with a tomato sauce and even my son, who normally dislikes most everything with tomato sauce in it (except pizza) became an instant convert. Her mussels were delicious! The sauce was amazing for soaking up bread so make sure to have lots on hand. Here's her wonderful recipe:

Spanish Mussels

2 pounds Penn Cove Mussels rinsed
2 cups white wine
3 bay leaves
4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large shallot chopped
1 small onion chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
2 Tablespoons Basil torn into small pieces
1 large 28 oz can Tomato Sauce

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and add shallot, onion and garlic. Stir until onion and shallot is softened. Add in Tomato Sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add Basil, stir and turn off heat. Meanwhile, get mussels ready to cook.

In a pot large enough to hold all the mussels, heat white wine and bay leaves until wine is boiling. Add in mussels and steam for 5 minutes or until most of the mussels are open. Discard all that do not open. Remove mussels and add to the Tomato Sauce mixture. Strain out about one cup of wine/mussel broth, removing bay leaves and also add to the tomato mixture. Stir to mix and serve in bowls with lots of crusty bread for dipping.

Five Element Analysis

Mussels are clearly from the Water Element and enhance kidney and reproductive organ function. Tomato Sauce belongs to the Fire Element. Garlic, Shallot and Onions represent the Metal Element along with the Basil and Bay Leaves. The bread adds the Wood Element. Only the Earth Element is missing so serve something Earthy as a side dish or something sweet for desert.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Tofu with Barbecue Pork

People seem to either love or hate tofu. I happen to love it. I crave it when I don't have it for a while and I grew up eating it all the time. Tofu has the wonderful characteristic of absorbing whatever sauce you cook it in. Tofu has great nutritional value as it is high in protein and very digestible. In Chinese Medicine, it is considered a cooling food so it is especially good served when the weather is hot.  It is thought to lubricate dryness, detoxifies and strengthens the stomach.  So, it is definitely worth eating and sometimes you just need to know how to cook it.

I often hear from people that they dislike the soft texture of tofu, but they are clearly not aware of the numerous textural variations that tofu manufacturers have created that mimic meat. You can buy tofu textured and flavored to be used as mock chicken and you can eat dishes made from it in Chinese Vegetarian restaurants. My personal favorite of these varieties is Tofu Skin which is skimmed off the top of the vats when they make tofu. You have probably seen Tofu Skin at Dim Sum restaurants as they often use it to wrap meat and vegetables.

Another variety of tofu I really like is pressed tofu. This can now be bought in many health food stores and you can actually make it at home as we used to do when I was a child. Just buy a carton of firm tofu and put it between paper towels, then newspapers and then weigh it all down with a heavy book until the water presses out in a few hours. The texture becomes quite firm and meaty. I usually buy my pressed tofu at our local Uwajimaya store - a wonderful Japanese grocery store in Seattle. My family calls this kind of tofu - "Tofu Kan" and we simply slice it into thin slivers, stir fry it and add a little soy sauce. We eat this for breakfast with rice and it is a wonderful way to start the day. My older son's favorite way with tofu it is to cook it with slivers of green onion, sliced Chinese Barbecue Pork or sliced fresh pork and sliced celery. It can also be made with a package of extra firm tofu cut into cubes. The texture will be different but the taste will still be great - but make sure that you cut the pork, celery and green onions into shorter smaller pieces. It's important for all the ingredients in a Chinese dish to be about the same size so they cook together well. This recipe is very simple and it's really good - we've converted a lot of tofu haters with this particular dish:

Tofu with Barbecue Pork

9 ounces pressed (often called dried tofu) or 14 oz container firm fresh tofu - sliced into shreds
4 green onions, cut into 2 inch inch slivers
3 stalks celery cut into two inch lengths and sliced into slivers
1/3 lb of Barbecue Pork (or sliced fresh pork marinated in small amount of rice wine and soy sauce)
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
1 - 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce or Tamari
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in a frying pan or wok until hot. Add green onions and stir fry for just a few minutes. Add celery and tofu and stir fry for an additional 2 minutes. Then add in Barbecue Pork or fresh pork and stir fry for another few minutes until warmed through or cooked through for fresh pork and some of the tofu is very lightly browned. Add 1 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce and see if the tofu changes color. If it is too white, add another 1/2 Tablespoon or the additional full Tablespoon. The tofu should be lightly salty. Also add in the black pepper, stir to coat and serve with fresh steamed rice or Chinese Onion Pancakes.

Five Element Analysis

This is usually served as one of several dishes in a Chinese Meal so it is not meant to be completely balanced by itself. This dish consists of the Metal Element from the tofu along with the green onions. Pork is from the Water Element as is the soy sauce and celery is from the Fire Element. The Earth Element and the Wood Elements are missing. Onion Pancakes add the Wood Element from the wheat and any other green stir fried vegetable as another dish will add even more Wood. Earth is deficient however as serving it with rice brings in more Metal so I often serve Sesame Cucumber Salad with it (see previous post on 3/16) or have fruit for a light dessert to balance the meal.