Monday, August 29, 2011

Fried Rice

Most people don't realize that fried rice is simply a really good Asian way of using up leftover rice. It was one of my favorite childhood foods and I still love it and make it often. The secret to good fried rice is that the rice must be really dry, so you only want to use rice that has been in the refrigerator overnight or even several days - the drier it is the better. Don't use just cooked rice as that is a recipe for a gummy and sticky fried rice. It just won't work and is the biggest cause of Fried Rice Failure!

Fried rice is so versatile that you can add any little bits of meat or vegetables that you want. The most classic form of fried rice usually involves green onions (although pieces of yellow onion are also delicious), bits of meat - most often Virginia Ham or Southern Country Ham (they are a lot like Chinese hams) or shrimp and scrambled eggs. You don't have to use a wok, although the flavor is slightly more authentic - a frying pan is just fine - nonstick is preferable as rice does stick. And, like many Chinese dishes, you have to cook it in stages: scrambling the eggs first, then taking them out; cooking the green onions (or yellow onions or garlic) and rice together; then adding in the veggies and right before serving, add in the eggs and seasonings.

Now seasonings vary by region. In Northern China, it is just salt and pepper, farther south like in Shanghai, you will see Soy Sauce. In the Canton region, some people use ketchup, which is similar to a Chinese sauce and tastes much better than it sounds. In Indonesia, they use Sweet Soy Sauce - or Kecap Manis and in Thailand, they use Fish Sauce. Some people I know use Hoisin Sauce, Oyster Sauce or even Sriracha Hot Sauce - all of which are good. I am currently fond of mixing a bit of soy sauce with a bit of fish sauce, as it makes such a wonderful Umami taste. But I still keep going back to salt and white pepper as that was my childhood memory taste of really good Fried Rice that my grandfather and mother made.

I'm partial to leftover Terriyaki Chicken in my fried rice and also Chinese Barbecued Pork - although it does tend to turn the rice lightly pink. Actually, any meat will do and sometimes I add in some leftover baked tofu (baked in soy sauce and other spices). Sometimes I even add bits of pineapple (if I have any left over), which really adds a Thai flavor or I will add cut up tomatoes and add them at the end (you don't want the rice to get too soft). It is also a good way to use any cut up leftover vegetables from Chinese takeout (but don't use the sauce) - carrots, bok choy, cabbage, green or red pepper, broccoli, corn, water chestnuts, etc. all work.

The actual amounts of the ingredients doesn't really matter and I am simply giving you proportions - just use whatever you have on hand. Fried Rice is so versatile and so good that I deliberately make lots of extra rice when I cook it or take home rice from Asian restaurants so I can always have rice on hand to make it. I hope you will try to make Fried Rice if you don't already know how. And if you are an old pro at making it, try some new ingredients or seasonings to make your Fried Rice different for a change.

P.S. - the photo will be posted when my computer allows me to add it in.

Fried Rice

3 - 4 cups leftover white rice
2 - 3 eggs in a bowl, whisked with a fork until yolk is incorporated
4 - 5 green onions (scallions - 2 Tbsps reserved) or 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion and/or one garlic clove minced
3/4 cup to 1 cup of cut up meat of your choice - you can also use pieces of baked tofu
1/2 cup frozen peas
Optional: 1/2 cup of any other cooked meat or vegetables, cut in small pieces
4 - 6 Tablespoons light tasting vegetable oil (I used safflower - do not use olive oil!)
1 - 2 teaspoons salt (use only 1/2 teaspoon if using any other salty sauces)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper - preferably white pepper

Optional: 1 - 2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce, Thai Fish Sauce, Kecap Manis, Oyster Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, Ketchup, Sriracha, etc.

Heat wok and add 1 Tablespoon of oil (if using nonstick pan, do not preheat). When hot, add in the eggs and scramble lightly until just set, but still moist. Remove to a bowl until later.

Add in remaining oil and heat before adding green onions (or yellow onions or garlic) and cook until slightly softened. Add rice and stir fry until grains are separated - about 3 minutes. Add in meat and frozen peas and any other vegetables. Stir fry for an additional 3 - 5 minutes, then add in egg and break up into small pieces with the spatula. Season the rice with salt, pepper and soy sauce (and fish sauce or any other sauce you are using). Continue to toss and stir fry until seasoning is completely incorporated - 2 to 3 minutes. Put into a large serving bowl and sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of remaining green onions.

Five Element Analysis

This dish looks like it is balanced because it is colorful, but a few elements are more represented than others. This gives you a chance to play with the ingredients to find a good balance or serve it with other stir fry dishes. In this dish: rice belongs to the Metal Element so that one is covered and the green onions and/or yellow onions and garlic all contribute too. The eggs make sure the Water Element is present and so do any of the salty sauces, such as soy sauce and fish sauce, and the peas bring in the Wood Element as do any other green vegetables. Pork or Shrimp would add more Water and chicken would contribute Wood whereas Beef would add the needed Earth Element as would cabbage, carrots or water chestnuts - so consider adding one of these. Fire is the only element missing except for a tiny bit of pepper unless you add ketchup or Sriracha or red peppers, so you can serve the fried rice with chili sauce on the side or drink tea as your beverage and you will have a balanced one dish meal.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Salmon, Zucchini and Corn Cakes

Some people love leftovers and some people hate them. I love to reuse the ingredients and make them into something else and my sister usually throws them away. I know quite a few people who dislike leftovers and don't take doggie bags from restaurants. I think there's such an opportunity for creativity with leftover food to make something new and different and delicious.

I'm getting ready to go to a TCM Kongress in Denmark and so it's time to clean out the fridge and use everything up. These times are when I get most creative as I won't let myself buy anything new. I had leftover baked salmon - baked with onion and lemon and some corn on the cob. I also had a slightly wilted zucchini and half an onion. When I combined those together with a bit of flour and two eggs, I created Salmon, Zucchini and Corn Cakes and they were wonderful! I've always loved Salmon Cakes, but I usually make them with canned salmon and crumbled up Saltine Crackers and Zucchini Cakes have always been one of my favorite ways, besides Zucchini Bread, to use up the end of the summer zucchini. And, this recipe was a big hit with my son, who isn't fond of either of the other two kinds of cakes. I think the salmon flavor mellows and is not as pronounced and the corn adds that wonderful bit of sweetness and texture that keeps the cake from being too soft. This recipe can easily be doubled and for me, it is a keeper so I'm happy to share it with you!

Salmon, Zucchini and Corn Cakes

8 oz cooked salmon (can also use a small can of salmon, drained and flaked)
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1 ear of cooked corn, cut off the cob (about 1 cup - can also use frozen corn in a pinch)
1/2 small onion minced finely
2 eggs
6 Tablespoons unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Safflower)

In a large bowl, make sure salmon is flaked into small pieces and add zucchini, corn, onion, eggs along with the flour, salt and pepper. Stir until thoroughly mixed.

In a large frying pan, heat up the vegetable oil until just hot. Using a large soup spoon, scoop a heaping spoonful of salmon mixture and put into the pan and press down to make 2 1/2 - 3" patties. Make as many fit into a pan (I could make 8) and fry until very browned (about 3 minutes) before turning over. Cook until the other side is brown (another 2 -3 minutes) and then remove to plate covered with a paper towel. Put into oven if you are making more than one batch. I like to sprinkle them with a bit of additional salt before serving. You can serve with a slice of lemon, ketchup, cocktail sauce or tartar sauce.

Five Element Analysis

Salmon and eggs are both part of the Water Element so that element predominates. Zucchini and corn are from the Earth Element. Wheat flour contributes the Wood Element and a squeeze of lemon when serving adds a bit more, whereas onion brings in the Metal Element. Pepper adds only a hint of the Fire Element, so that one needs building up. My son eats these with ketchup or cocktail sauce and that's one way to bring Fire in, but I also made a side salad of arugula and tomatoes to balance out the meal.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer Vegetable Salad

Summer weather has finally arrived in Seattle and I am one of those strange people who prefers it cool. Oh well, it had to happen and most everyone else is overjoyed. But, when it is hot and sunny outside, I simply don't cook very much. For one thing, the fresh produce from the farmer's market is so good that I spend most of my time eating the fruit straight from the bowl or putting together different salads with fresh greens. Today, I looked in my vegetable drawer and found 2 ears of corn, a red pepper and some green beans. Of course, I also had some onions, for if I run out of them, I am in trouble! I cooked the corn and green beans very lightly, but kept the red pepper and onions raw. I tossed them all together with some fresh lemon juice and a little oil and it was delightful! The lemon juice gave it that lovely bright flavor that enhanced the sweetness of the corn. I loved it and so did my son Stephen. I thought about adding some black beans, but didn't have any. And, I debated about tomatoes too, but decided against them in favor of the red pepper as I wanted all the vegetables to have a bit of a crunch. This salad would actually work with other vegetables including cabbage or zucchini. I debated about making it more Mexican in flavor by adding some cilantro, but what I had was wilted. I like to chill my salads a bit before serving, but you can certainly serve it as soon as you dress it. If you leave it too long though, the vegetable will marinate and get softer, but you might like it that way. In any case, it was delicious and it was so easy that I actually hesitated about posting the recipe. But then I realized that the reason I like recipes so much is that they remind me of combinations I haven't used before or for a while. Recipes are for inspiration and you don't need to follow them exactly unless you are baking. So, I hope this one inspires you to make your own version!

Summer Vegetable Salad

2 ears corn shucked
1/2 pound green beens, ends trimmed
1 large red pepper, cut in half and deseeded
1/2 small onion diced
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used safflower but could also use olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Put a large pot of water to boil on the stove and when it comes to a boil, drop in the corn and green beans. Cook for 5 minutes and then drain. Rinse green beans in cold water quickly to keep crisp. Then remove the corn from the cob with a serrated knife. Cut green beans into small pieces a little bit bigger than the corn kernels. Then cut up red pepper and onion about the same size. Put all the vegetables in a serving bowl and add in the lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper. Toss and then refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour to let the flavors meld.

Five Element Analysis

Looking at the different colors, you know this dish is going to have some inherent balance. As my son Stephen says, it looks like the colors of the Mexican flag. The corn represents the Earth Element, whereas green beans belong to the Wood Element and the olive oil and lemon juice enhance this element even more. The red pepper brings in the Fire Element and the onions add Metal. So, the only element missing is the Water Element and that would have been resolved if I had added some black beans to make it a balanced meal. This would also be a great side dish to some grilled fish or pork.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fresh Carrot Salad Moroccan Style

I have been craving salads dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and since I didn't have any lettuce, I perused my vegetable drawer and found it woefully depleted as I am not going to the farmer's market until tomorrow. But, I always have carrots so I decided to make a Moroccan style carrot salad that is also quite popular in Israel. Usually Moroccan carrot salads are made with cooked carrots, but for some reason, I only like them raw. Actually I love them raw and they are my most frequent take aboard food when I travel. It may be that my liver needs more Vitamin A that the carrots provide and with the olive oil and lemon juice dressing (which cleanse the liver), my liver was going to be very happy! This is really a simple salad that takes only minutes to prepare. The only thing hard about it is letting it marinate long enough for the flavors to develop. As I didn't have any parsley and cilantro or salad greens of any kind, the picture looks a little plain to me. It is amazing how much that little touch of green brightens up this salad. It can also be served in a bed of lettuce, but you may want to make more dressing. This salad can also easily be doubled and it is simply delicious. I especially like it as a side dish to grilled meat. Try it and your liver will thank you!

Fresh Carrot Salad – Moroccan Style

2 cups shredded carrot (about 3 large)
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 small garlic clove minced (or 1 Tablespoon minced sweet onion)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Optional: 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Mix together carrot, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic (or onion) and spices. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour or even overnight. When ready to serve, garnish with parley or cilantro if desired

Five Element Analysis

Carrots belong the Earth Element so this is an Earthy salad, but the addition of olive oil and lemon juice contribute the Wood Element. Cumin and garlic or onion bring in the Metal Element and the parsley and cilantro would add even more. The black pepper and cayenne pepper make sure that the Fire Element is present. Only the Water Element is missing, so serving this with an eggplant or bean dish or a fish or pork main course would make it balanced.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nectarine and Bluebery Crisp

Summer fruits are really ripe now and I am happy! This is the time of year that I start making cobblers (see previous post - 8/28/10), crisps and clafouti. I really love cooked fruit desserts if I can keep the fruit around long enough to cook with it. Since I go to the farmer's market every week and can't help stopping at farm stands, I always end up with one of these and some of those different fruits that have gotten a little soft so putting them together in a dessert is a good idea! Today I had 2 large nectarines and a nearly full container of blueberries so I made Nectarine and Blueberry Crisp. It's so easy and so good and I loved the combination of these two fruits. I served it with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream for everyone else, but I like it best plain - hot out of the oven. The buttery, crispy, cinnamony crumbs top the cooked fruit wonderfully. I will even plan to eat some cold for breakfast tomorrow morning - if there is any left!

Nectarine and Blueberry Crisp

2 large or 4 small nectarines, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 pint blueberries washed
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour

For topping:

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons butter cut in small pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together nectarine pieces, blueberries, sugar and flour. Pour into a buttered 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking pan.

In a different bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and butter with your fingers (or a pastry blender) until the consistency of wet sand. Sprinkle all over on top of the fruit. Pat down lightly.

Put into the oven and cook for 30 -40 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned and the fruit is bubbling.

Cool slightly and serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Five Element Analysis

Nectarines are a summer fruit so they belong to the Earth Element and the brown and white sugars add even more - as expected from a dessert. However, the blueberries are a Water fruit so that element is covered and the wheat flour brings in the Wood Element. The cinnamon adds just a touch of the Metal Element. This element needs enhancing and the whipped cream contributes more Metal. Only the Fire Element is missing so serve this with some tea or coffee and you have a balanced dessert. I certainly wouldn't call it a balanced meal, but I would call it delicious!