Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pad Thai

One of my kids’ favorite foods was and still is Pad Thai. It was always the go-to take out dish after long soccer or baseball games. We ordered it so much that I decided to start making it myself and I tried to make it as authentic as possible. The problem was that the restaurants we were ordering from were serving Pad Thai that was kind of red and that meant they were using a lot of ketchup instead of Tamarind Paste. My authentic Pad Thai looked brown. My kids agreed that it tasted good, but they missed the reddish coloring. So, I had to compromise and add some ketchup, which I mixed with Sriracha Chili Sauce to give the dish some fire. Since then, this has been the Pad Thai recipe that I use. I taught my friend Alicia in Mexico to make it for her kids, which made me a popular guest and I just made it here for my son while I am in Singapore and the ingredients were really easy to find.

The only difference I have found in how Pad Thai turns out is in the brand of Tamarind Paste you use. The one from India is really dark and you need a lot less. The Mexican Paste sold in a block is by far my favorite but harder to find and there are many other jarred versions that you are going to have to experiment with. You can also add any kind of meat that you want – just stir fry it ahead of time and add it in at the end. In any case, I think it is best with just tofu and eggs and usually serve other dishes with it that have meat. Our favorite accompaniment is Crying Tiger – or Thai Beef Salad (see previous post for Thai Salad Dressing recipe). Pad Thai is really good left over – in fact it is still my now grown kids’ favorite breakfast!

Pad Thai

2 - 3 Tablespoons Tamarind Paste from the jar or block (I used the Tamicon brand from India this time, which is very intense and dark so I used the lesser amount– add more if using a milder, lighter colored brand)

3/4 - 1 cup cup hot water (depending on the thickness of the Tamarind Paste)

2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce

¼ cup or more brown sugar

1 - 2 Tablespoon Sriracha (or other chili sauce)

1 Tablespoon Ketchup (use one tablespoon more if not using chili sauce)

2 shallots sliced very thin
3 cloves garlic minced
4 scallions (green onions) cut into 2 inch lengths and then into slivers
1 package firm tofu, drained and cut into small cubes
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup bean sprouts
12 oz rice noodles (1/4 inch wide)
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

To garnish:

¼ cup toasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Cilantro leaves
Lime Wedges
1 – 2 teaspoons Chili Flakes (to amp up the heat)

Soak noodles in a large bowl of very warm water (from the faucet is fine) for about 20 -30 minutes.

Mix tamarind sauce, hot water, fish sauce, brown sugar, Sriracha and ketchup together and taste – adding more sugar or water if necessary.

Heat wok and add in 1 Tablespoon of oil. Add eggs and scramble until just set and remove from pan. Add additional 3 Tablespoons of oil and put in shallots and garlic. Cook until shallots start to wilt and add in tofu. Cook until tofu just begins to brown. Add in additional 2 Tablespoons oil and the rice noodles. Pour in sauce, toss to coat and cook until noodles soften. Add in bean sprouts and scallions and scrambled eggs (and meat if using) and toss with the wok spatula until everything is hot. Serve with chopped peanuts, cilantro leaves and lime wedges.

Five Element Analysis

Rice Noodles and Tofu, which are the basis of this dish belong to the Metal Element as do the garlic, shallots, green onions and cilantro so that element is most dominant. Eggs and fish sauce contribute the Water Element. The Tamarind and bean sprouts add the Wood Element and the Sriracha Chili Sauce, Ketchup and Chili Flakes bring in the Fire Element. The brown sugar adds the Earth Element but this element needs a little more support. So, serve with a side salad of cucumbers or Crying Tiger – Thai Beef Salad - like we do or add a sweet fruit dessert and then you would have a balanced Five Element meal.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Steamed Pumpkin Pudding

I'm in Singapore visiting my youngest son for Thanksgiving and he doesn't have an oven in his apartment and we wanted to create some kind of traditional Thanksgiving meal as ex-pats always do. It's my favorite holiday because it involves food and family so I was up to the challenge. The lack of an oven meant that roast turkey was not going to be served, which was fine because my son never liked turkey anyway and the Chinese don't eat it, which meant it was going to be hard to find. So, we substituted chicken that we braised on the stove. We also made Chinese mushrooms with green beans that we stir fried and also some potatoes. I couldn't make my usual dressing that I was looking forward to (from my previous post so I will save it for Christmas dinner). Since everything had to be cooked on the stove, the one thing that had been requested that was problematic was pumpkin pie. Hmmm..... What to do?

Here was my solution. I took my usual pumpkin pie recipe made with soy milk (adapted from Sunset Magazine) but reduced the amount to 1 cup and actually ended up using milk. I couldn't find canned pumpkin, so I cooked a Malaysian Pumpkin (cut in chunks and cooked on the stove with a bit of water for 1/2 hour) and then I drained it and mashed it to add to the spices, eggs and milk. Then I steamed the pudding in a bowl on a little insert steamer inside a big pot. It took a lot longer to cook than I thought - about 75 minutes, but it turned out great! Now, if we had a bigger steamer and a larger bowl, it would probably take a lot less time. But I can adapt! Since we couldn't make a crust, we served shortbread cookies on the side and whipped cream on top. 

The meal ended up being a lot more like atraditional Thanksgiving than I expected and I found myself really enjoying the creamy texture of the pudding without the crust. I also dunked the cookies (mine were gluten free that I had brought with me) as I love dunking! All in all, we ended up stuffed, but happy. The only thing missing was football. But most important, it was a lovely Thanksgiving because I got to be with my son who has been away from home for a year and for that I am very grateful. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Steamed Pumpkin Pudding

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups mashed pumpkin (can also use 1 14 oz can)
1 cup milk (soy if you would rather use it)
3 large eggs

In a large bowl, mix together milk and eggs until blended. Add in mashed pumpkin, the sugar, the spices and the salt and mix well. Pour into a bowl that is as large as you can fit into your steamer. I used a Chinese soup bowl, a steamer insert and a big pot). Pour 1” of water underneath the steamer insert, add bowl and then heat the water to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Steam for ½ hour and check water – add more if necessary. 

After one hour, check to see if the center of the pudding is still very jiggly by gently moving the pot back and forth (be very careful!) Also check water. If it is still very soft, cook for an additional 15 minutes. Let cool enough until you can remove the bowl from the pot (carefully) with pot holders.

You can serve the pudding in the steaming bowl or you can scoop it out into individual small bowls or ramekins. Serve with sweetened whipped cream and shortbread cookies on the side.

Five Element Analysis

Pumpkin belongs to the Earth Element and because this is a dessert made with sugar, it is obviously and Earthy food and is certainly not going to be a balanced meal. However, the spices bring in a good bit of the Metal Element and the whipped cream (and milk – if using) adds even more. The shortbread cookies are made with wheat and contribute the Wood Element. Since this is going to be served with other foods, be sure to serve other Water, Wood and Fire foods. As Thanksgiving involves Turkey (or chicken in this case), Cranberry Sauce and a green vegetable along with dressing, potatoes and more – the meal is sure to be balanced as long as you don’t eat too much of one thing!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Southern Style Cornbread Dressing - Gluten Free

My father was from Virginia and loved Cornbread Oyster Dressing. I love it too but I never did convince my kids to like it, so in order for them to eat Cornbread Dressing at Thanksgiving, I had to use Pork Sausage instead. And, I have to admit that it is really good too. I love the smell of the onions and celery cooking together and then when you add the Poultry Seasoning or sage, well, it just smells like Thanksgiving to me. One of the benefits of this authentic Southern recipe (from my grandmother) is that it is gluten free, which has made my friends who are Celiac very happy. And since I just found out that I am definitely Gluten Sensitive, I am going to have a much better Thanksgiving if I eat more Dressing and no rolls! And, you can certainly make it Vegetarian by taking out hte Sausage and using Vegetable Broth instead. So, here is our family recipe in time for you to use. It is also really good as a side for roast chicken or pork or as a stuffing for pork chops (but make it less wet). I hope you enjoy our family recipe this Thanksgiving.

Southern Style Corn Bread Dressing (Gluten Free)

1 pan stale cornbread crumbled (see recipe below)
1 onion minced fine (about 1 cup)
2 large or 3 medium celery stalks, minced fine (about 1 cup)
4 Tablespoons Butter
1 Tablespoon Poultry Seasoning Mix or more (can also use ground Sage)
From 1 1/2 - 2 cups Chicken Broth (or you can substitute clam broth if using oysters or vegetable broth if you are vegetarian)

Optional: 1 lb package of pork sausage – breakfast style, lightly cooked
Optional:  1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
Optional: 1 small jar of oysters – each oyster cut in half and 6 pieces of cooked bacon broken into small pieces
Optional:  1 - 2 beaten Eggs

Heat the oven to 350 degrees (can also cook this at 325 degrees with the turkey for the last hour). Grease a 9” Pyrex baking dish with butter (can also use a cast iron skillet if you want to be really authentic or a casserole dish)

In a large frying pan, melt butter and add in onions and celery. Cook until onion and celery gets soft and translucent. Add in sausage (if using) and cook until it is no longer pink or if using bacon, cook until crisp. Put crumbled cornbread in a large bowl and add in onion, celery mixture with the Poultry Seasoning (or Sage). 

Add oysters or bacon or the sausage in now if using any of them. Add in enough chicken broth (or clam broth or vegetable broth) to make it moist. Add eggs, if using. Put into prepared pan and pour in more broth and let it absorb until you have enough broth so that the liquid is just floating above the cornbread mixture and it is soupy. Put into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes up to 1 hour or until top is browned and dressing is set.

Southern Style Cornbread (Gluten Free)

2 cups cornmeal
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 eggs lightly beaten
1 ½ cups milk
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
2 Tablespoons melted butter – plus extra for greasing the pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, grease an 8” or 9” glass baking dish (or cast iron skillet) with butter. In a large bowl, mix together cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together milk, vinegar and then add in egg and butter – stir to mix. Put egg and milk mixture into cornmeal mixture and stir just until moistened. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or the edges are brown cornbread has pulled away from the side. Serve warm with butter if eating right away and cool for several hours or overnight if using for dressing.

Five Element Analysis

Corn is most definitely an Earth food, so that element is covered in this dish. The onions and Poultry Seasoning or Sage add the Metal Element, the celery adds the Wood Element and the Sausage or Oysters and Bacon add the Water Element. The chicken broth brings in the Wood Element and so does the turkey you usually serve this dressing with. The only element missing is the Fire Element so be sure to serve it with Cranberry Sauce for a balanced Five Element meal – Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Korean Bulgogi

I grew up in Los Angeles, where there is a very big Korea Town and every once in a while I got to go to one of those wonderful Korean Restaurants. I remember being very excited about being able to grill my own meat right at the table and those restaurants created a lifelong love of Bulgogi – Korean Grilled Beef. So, whenever I get blood deficient and I need to eat beef to make more blood– I make stir fried Bulgogi instead of grilled as I don’t have a table top grill at home and actually don’t even own a barbecue.

Traditional Bulgogi is marinated in a combination of Soy Sauce, Rice Wine, Sugar and Sesame Oil with green onions and garlic. Then it is cooked at the table by each person. However, it doesn't work so well on a bigger outdoor barbeque as the pieces of meat of so thin, but you can use this marinade for a steak and that's delicious too. But if like me, you are going to stir fry this dish, leave out most of the garlic and green onions from the marinade and stir fry those first and then add the drained beef to cook in a very hot pan. Stir fried Bulgogi doesn’t have that wonderful charred flavor that comes from grilling the meat, but it is still really good. And one of these days I am going to buy an indoor grill and do it right. Serve Bulgogi with lots of white rice and Kimchi (I’ll post my Mom’s recipe one of these days) and a green vegetable like sautéed spinach.

Korean Bulgogi

1 lb very thinly sliced beef (sliced in pinky finger lengths) – freeze to make it easier to slice or buy it presliced in an Asian market – look for Shabu Shabu or Sukiyaki beef
2 Tablespoons Shaoshing Rice Wine or Mirin
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 - 2 Tablespoons Sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 bunch of green onions – about 6 with roots and ends trimmed cut into 2” lengths
2 large garlic cloves minced
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
Optional: 1 Tablespoon toasted Sesame Seeds

In a large bowl, mix Rice Wine, Soy Sauce, 1 Tablespoon of Sugar, Sesame Oil and Pepper until blended. Taste and adjust sugar if necessary – it should be a little sweet. Add a few of the white parts of the green onions and 1/3 of the minced garlic. Then add in the sliced beef and mix to coat thoroughly. Let marinate for at least 20 minutes up until overnight in the refrigerator. When ready to cook, drain the beef from the marinade, but be sure to reserve the marinade in a bowl to make the sauce later.
Heat a large skillet or wok and then add in oil until it just starts to smoke. Then add in the reserved garlic and green onions and cook until the green onions just begin to wilt. Add the drained beef and stir-fry over high heat until the meat shows just a bit of light pink. Add in the reserved marinade and bring to a boil. Put on a serving plate and sprinkle with Sesame Seeds if desired and serve with lots of white rice.

Five Element Analysis

Beef belongs to the Earth Element and the sugar emphasizes the sweet flavor of Earth even more. The Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil bring in the Water Element and so do the Sesame Seeds. The green onions and garlic contribute the Metal Element. The Rice Wine and Black Pepper add the Fire Element. Rice brings in more Metal and Kimchi would contribute more Earth from the cabbage and more Fire from the chili powder and the fermentation. Only the Wood Element is missing, which is why this dish needs to be served with a green vegetable like spinach. Then it would be a balanced Five Element meal.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

South Carolina Soup/Stew

This recipe comes from my from my former Mother in Law, Joyce in Tennessee, whom I adore. She learned how to make this amazing soup from her husband's family in Walterboro, South Carolina. My ex, Hal who is still a really good friend was visiting his parents last week and sent me this picture, which made me remember all over again how much I love this soup. I've actually made it many times and so I'm going to make it again soon when I find some fresh okra - I usually get it at an Asian grocery store. This soup is made of okra (which is a mucilaginous food that is great for your digestion), fresh tomatoes (but canned will do if necessary), fresh lima beans (but frozen are acceptable and I personally prefer Edamame or green soybeans that are also grown in the South), and fresh corn (although you can use frozen).

This soup is an amazing fresh vegetable medley that is really more like a stew. I have doctored the more traditional version by adding onions and chicken broth to give the sauce more depth. For a vegetarian version, use vegetable broth instead. Add more broth if you want your soup to be soupier. But, this soup is traditionally served over long grain (Carolina) rice and is often accompanied by biscuits, country ham and cane syrup that is sopped up by the biscuits. And don't forget to add lots of black pepper when you serve it as this brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes and corn.

South Carolina Soup

4 - 6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 package frozen lima beans or use 2 cups of frozen Edamame (green Soybeans that are already shelled)
1 lb fresh okra, ends cut off and cut into ½ inch slices
3 lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced (or can use a large 28 oz can of canned whole tomatoes chopped with the juice)
2 cups fresh (or frozen) corn kernels – cut off about 2 – 3 ears of lightly cooked corn
1 onion chopped
2 tablespoons safflower oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Saute onions and garlic in a frying pan until soft and translucent. Add to large soup pot and pour in chicken broth. Add lima beans or Edamame, okra, tomatoes and corn. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes or until lima beans are tender - cook for only for 1/2 hour if using Edamame instead.

Five Element Analysis

This dish is very colorful, so you already know that it is going to have some inherent balance to it. Okra and corn belong to the Earth Element and this soup is thick so it is basically an Earthy preparation. But, the tomatoes bring in the Fire Element, the lima beans bring in the Water Element, the onions add the Metal Element and the chicken broth contributes the Wood Element. It's a balanced meal all by itself! The rice adds more Metal, the pepper adds more Fire, the biscuits more Wood, the Country Ham more Water and the cane syrup - if you use it - adds even more Earth. That's still an amazingly balanced meal!