Monday, August 30, 2010

Almost Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage

As a child growing up in LA, we didn't go out to eat Chinese food much because my Grandfather was such an amazingly good cook. If we did go out, it would be on Sundays to go have Dim Sum in Chinatown. My favorite thing was sticky rice steamed in lotus leaves. It always felt like I was unwrapping a present and inside would be scrumptious morsels of Chinese Sausage, Salted Duck Egg, Shitake Mushrooms and Dried Shrimp (back when I could still eat them). Well, I still go out for Dim Sum once in a while, but I have to be careful because of my shrimp and crab allergy so I've started recreating the flavors in my kitchen. Last night I was craving some Chinese flavors and I found some Chinese Sausage in the freezer. So, I decided to make Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage minus the lotus leaf wrapping. I combined several recipes to create the one below. The biggest change was that I only had medium grain sushi rice instead of short grain rice. It turned out a little less sticky and you know what? I liked it even better. Next time I go to the Asian Market, I'm going to buy some lotus leaves and try this rice wrapped inside and I'll let you know how it goes. If you don't have Chinese Sausage, you can substitute a good salty ham like Virginia Ham or Country Ham or even Black Forest Ham. Be sure to plan ahead and soak the rice and mushrooms earlier in the day. The soy sauce and oyster sauce and shitake mushrooms give it lots of "Umami" or savory flavor. I think I could become addicted to this dish!

Almost Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage

3 cups medium grain white rice soaked in water (cover by one inch) for at least one hour
8 - 10 dried Shitake Mushrooms soaked in hot water for 1/2 hour
4 Chinese Sausages or 1 cup diced ham
1 inch slice of ginger peeled and minced fine
5 green onions sliced
1 small can sliced Water Chestnuts
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup Chinese Rice Wine
2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
3 Tablespoons of Oyster Sauce
2 teaspoons of Toasted Sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups Chicken Broth (preferably homemade)

Drain rice and put in a bowl. Cut off mushroom stems and chop mushrooms into small pieces. Cut sausages into small pieces and chop water chestnuts. Stir together Rice Wine, Soy Sauce, Oyster Sauce, Sesame Oil and Chicken Broth. Heat a frying pan and add vegetable oil. Add ginger and green onions (be sure to reserve some green tops for garnish) and sausage (or ham) and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add mushrooms and stir fry for an additional minute or so. Add rice and sauce and stir together. Put rice mixture into a large pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 25 minutes. If you like a crispy outside crust, leave on very low heat for an additional 5 - 10 minutes.

Five Element Analysis

There's lots of color in this one pot dish so you know there has to be an inherent Five Element Balance going on. The rice is from the Metal Element as are the green onions. The Water Element is represented by the Chinese Sausage and the Soy Sauce, Oyster and Sesame Oil. The Rice Wine brings in the Fire Element and the Chicken Broth adds the Wood Element. The Water Chestnuts and Mushrooms bring in the Earth Element although Shitake Mushrooms along with the Soy Sauce and Oyster Sauce also have an additional Metal component because of their incredible Umami flavor. As you can see, this is a very balanced bowl of rice.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Spiced Peach Cobbler Cake

The end of summer is starting to feel near - probably because Labor Day is just around the corner and there are little signs like the squirrels getting very busy and then there are the spiders that have started showing up and they are really big! I realized that I hadn't really cooked with the luscious summer fruit much since I liked eating them directly from the farmer's market stands. I especially enjoyed the wonderful Queen Anne Cherries this year. But this week the peaches really drew me and they started getting a bit soft in my fruit bowl. Since I hate to waste food, I opted to make Peach Cobbler, one of my father's favorite summer desserts. This recipe originally came from Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cooking. When I used to make this as a teenager, my sister's and I took to calling it Cobbler-Cake. That's because most cobblers have a biscuit like dough that's plopped on top of the peaches, but that's too heavy for my taste. This recipe uses a cake-like batter that you pour on top and when it's done, it's light and moist and is actually a lot like Clafouti - although that uses cherries with pits. If the French were using peaches, it would properly be called a Flaugnard. It's also a close relative to the Slump, but there the fruit is mixed into the batter. I use a little less sugar when the peaches are really ripe and a little more when they are hard and sour. The hint of nutmeg and cinnamon give it an amazing aroma as it bakes and just a hint of mystery when you taste it. This recipe makes quite a lot as the peaches are spread in an 9 x 11 inch pan, but around here it goes fast! My father loved it with cream, my sons perfer vanilla ice cream. I like it just the way it comes out of the oven and I even like it cold the next morning if there's any left.

Spiced Peach Cobbler-Cake

4 very large, 6 medium or 8 small peaches - about 4 cups total
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons Butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel and slice peaches and mix with sugar and spices. Pour into a buttered 9 x 11" pan and make topping.

Beat egg, sugar, butter and milk. Mix flour, baking soda and salt and stir into egg mixture. Pour batter over peaches. Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Five Element Analysis

Desserts are very sweet and this one is no exception. Therefore, Peach Cobbler is automatically part of the Earth Element. The peaches and sugar are Earthy too. The cinnamon and nutmeg bring in just a bit of the Metal Element along with the milk. The flour in the batter adds the Wood Element and the egg adds a little of the Water Element. This is by no means a balanced dish and the other elements all need more representation, so serve it after a meal with a lot more Fire and Metal Element foods.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Geoduck Clam Chowder

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have some pretty amazing shellfish - Penn Cove Mussels, Olympic Oysters and Razor Clams are some of my favorites. About the oddest one around is the Geoduck Clam. It's the world's largest shellfish usually weighing between one to three pounds. It is hard to dig up, very expensive to buy, but makes wonderful clam chowder if you can get past how scary it looks. They are a food that I've always wanted to try but was always put off by the high price and the fact that the siphon proturding from the shell looks an awful lot like a brown elephant's tusk. Yesterday, I was given the gift of 2 1/2 pounds of Geoducks (already cleaned and ready to be cut up and made into soup and fried clam strips. I had read that this could be a pretty tough clam and the meat was usually ground up, but I found that if you cut the clam meat into little cubes and you don't cook them for very long, they can actually be very tender. I thought the Geoducks made great chowder.

Here's the recipe in case you get some of these clams someday, but if you don't - this recipe is equally good with any other kinds of clams including canned clams - I prefer the Snow Brand. Just make sure you have the 8 - 10 ounces total of chopped clams - I always go for lots of clams. By the way, I also like to add little pieces of carrot to the soup as it is so pretty along with the pale green of the celery in the creamy soup juxtaposed against the pink pieces of bacon and the beige clams. Clam Chowder is one of my favorite soups - I love the soft briny scent of the sea that reminds me of my childhood on the coast of California. Serve with lots of saltine crackers!

Clam Chowder

8 - 10 ounces of chopped clams
1 large onion chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
4 slices of bacon chopped
2 small carrots or 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
2 small stalks of celery or 1 large stalk, chopped into small pieces
2 medium or 1 very large potato cut into small pieces
4 cups clam broth or juice (canned or bottled)
2 cups whole milk, half and half or cream
2 - 4 Tablespoons cornstarch (depending on whether you like thin or thick clam chowder) mixed with enough water to make a slurry.
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook bacon in soup pot until it has rendered its' fat and is still soft. If it is low fat bacon and doesn't give up much fat, add butter to the pan and then add onions. Cook until translucent then add carrots, celery and potatoes. Stir for a few minutes until they just start to soften. Add in clam broth and clams and bring to a boil. Then add milk and just return to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add cornstarch and water mixture and stir until thickened. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to your liking.

Five Element Analysis

Clams being from the sea are naturally part of the Water Element and so is the salty bacon and it' is a soup made mostly from briny clam broth. This soup is therefore good for the kidneys and is very soothing and clams are said to help clean the liver too. The onions add the Metal Element as does the milk. The potatoes and carrots contribute a good amount of the Earth Element. Celery adds just a touch of the Fire Element and if you'd like to have more, you can add a little bit of Tabasco Sauce to liven things up or add a Fire dessert. The only thing missing is the Wood Element, but luckily saltine crackers are made from wheat so they bring that element in and you can also use a little lemon squeezed in too. This ends up being a pretty balanced little bowl of soup.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Summer Vegetable Trio

It's suddenly hot in Seattle and finally feels like summer. Most people here are thrilled but I'm not really a hot weather person. The only thing I really like about summer is being able to wear sundresses and sandals and the ability to buy and eat wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables. But, when it's hot, I don't like to heat up the kitchen - or me - so I like barely cooked food and not too much of it. Meat feels a little heavy to me when it's hot outside so meat becomes the side dish for a change and vegetables become the stars of the meal. 

After a visit to the farmer's market, I had some wonderful broccoli, corn and zucchini. I made a raw broccoli salad with bacon, onions and sunflower seeds. The dressing is just a bit sweet and tangy as I used Rice Wine Vinegar as the dressing with a pinch of extra sugar. I also love using the stalks peeled and cut into little pieces as they are wonderfully crunchy. I didn't use the bacon fat although that's probably the traditional way to make this kind of salad - I used just cooked bacon and the oil for the salad is vegetable oil which makes it much lighter. 

 For the corn - it is one of the simplest things I make. I cut the it off the cob and sauteed it with chopped onions and red pepper that caramelize in just a bit in butter. It is delicious this way and you can substitute fresh chopped tomato too. 

For the zucchini, I simply grated it with a carrot and sauteed it in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and basil. My kids dislike zucchini unless it is made this way or hidden in chocolate cake. This way of cooking it takes away that mushy squash texture and highlights the lovely light green flavor of zucchini. All in all, it was a delightful summer meal and not at all heavy and involved very little heat - just a quick saute. My sons added some meat to their meal - leftover chicken and Italian sausage meatballs. I just added a big glass of Iced Tea!

Broccoli Salad

1 large head of broccoli washed or 2 small heads (stalk included)
6 strips of bacon cooked and crumbled (can also use bacon bits from a package - up to 1/4 cup)
1/2 small red onion chopped
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Safflower)
2 Tablespoons Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup Raisins or dried Cranberries
¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds 

Cut off the broccoli florets and chop them into small pieces and place in a bowl. Peel the broccoli stalks and then chop them into little pieces. Pour boiling water over them and let blanch for 2 – 3 minutes. Then drain.  

Heat vegetable oil in pan and add onion. Cook until just translucent. Add in the crumbled cooked bacon (or bacon bits) and then Rice Wine Vinegar and Sugar. Stir until Sugar is melted and Vinegar is hot. Pour over Broccoli. Season with Salt and Pepper and toss until mixed. Let the salad sit for about 15 minutes to 1/2 hour to let the flavors meld before serving. To serve, sprinkle with Raisins (or Cranberries) and Sunflower Seeds.

Sauteed Corn with Red Peppers

4 ears fresh corn, shucked
1/2 onion minced
1/2 red pepper diced (or fresh tomato chopped)
2 Tablespoons butter
Salt and Pepper
Boil corn for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let cool and then cut from the cob. Melt butter in skillet and add onion and pepper pieces. Saute until onion pieces are wilted and just starting to turn golden. Add in the corn and saute until corn is completely hot. Season with salt and pepper.

Grated Zucchini and Carrot

1 large zucchini or 2 small zuchinis grated
1 carrot peeled and grated
1 large garlic clove minced
3 -4 large basil leaves minced or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
In large frying pan, heat Olive Oil and add garlic. Cook just until you can smell the fragrance of the garlic. Be sure to stir with the spatula to keep the garlic from burning. Add grated zucchini and carrot and basil leaves - saute until soft. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Five Element Analysis

These dishes are very colorful so you know that it is going to be a very balanced meal if you add some additional protein. Analyzed by dish: The Broccoli brings in the Wood Element along with the vinegar, the bacon and sunflower seeds add Water. The onion adds the Metal Element, while the sugar (also in the Seasoned Rice Vinegar) adds the Earth Element. For the corn and red peppers - the corn is the Earth Element, the red peppers brings in the Fire Element and the onions being only lightly sauteed add the Metal Element. The zucchini dish is primarily Earthy as both carrots and zucchini belong to this element. The garlic and basil bring in the Metal Element. Serve them all together and you will definitely have balance!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Potato Crusted Salmon

Last summer my son went to Vancouver with my cousin and her family and he came home raving about a dish he had at a seafood restaurant there - Potato Crusted Halibut. He's been asking me to try to make it with him ever since. But the halibut I found at the market was simply too expensive, so we made it with salmon instead and it was wonderful! It was actually pretty easy to make as well. It's kind of like cooking crispy hasbrowns on top of fish. The only caution is that you can't cook it for too long or the fish will get dry. The fish store at Pike Place Market recommended that we get 1/2 pound of salmon per person, but it was actually too much for us and we had leftovers, but they were good the next day reheated in the broiler. We served it with curry rice and sauteed spinach leaves with garlic and red pepper flakes. Here's the recipe for the salmon:

Potato Crusted Salmon

1 1/2 - 2 lbs wild Salmon filet (preferably wild) cut into 3 - 4 equal pieces
3- 4 potatoes, peeled and shredded and put into a bowl of cold water (each potato should be about the size of a piece of salmon)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably Best Foods or Hellman's on the East Coast)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
1 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used light olive oil)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Rinse and dry each piece of salmon and put on plate. Remove the potatoes from the water and squeeze dry in a clean kitchen towel and put aside on a plate. Mix the mayonnaise with the garlic and lemon juice and spread on each piece of salmon thickly. Take a handful of shredded potato and press on top of the salmon so that the potato is about 1/2 inch on top of the salmon. Repeat with each piece. Salt and pepper the top of the potatoes liberally.
Heat oven to 425 degrees and place oiled baking sheet in oven to heat.

Heat a large frying pan and add oil. When the oil is hot, carefully place the salmon potato side down. A few potato shreds will come loose so simply push them back toward the fish. Cook on medium heat until potatoes are well browned - be patient - it may take five minutes or more. When they are all browned, carefully place a large plate over the pan and turn the pan over (using mitts on both hands and be careful!) until the fish is potato side up on the plate. Remove hot pan from the oven and place fish on the pan. Return to oven and cook 5 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily and potato is cooked through.

Five Element Analysis

Fish is always from the Water Element and Salmon as a cold water fish is full of Omega 3s and is especially Watery in nature. The potatos add the Earth Element, the mayonnaise as a condiment is a Metal Food and the garlic adds a little more. The touch of lemon brings in the Wood Element but that needs more emphasis in the meal so be sure to add a green vegetable. We added spinach with garlic and red chili flakes to bring in more Wood and a little Fire to liven things up. The curry rice adds more Metal and since the curry powder was Madras, it also adds a little bit more Fire. But for this meal to be fully balanced, a little more Fire food is recommended - perhaps some lovely berries for desert.