Saturday, March 31, 2012

Caramelized Skillet Corn

I got a sudden craving for corn today and it's not corn season yet, but I always have frozen corn in the freezer. It is the only vegetable I keep in the freezer besides peas. Of course, frozen corn is not as good as fresh corn, but if you cook it right, it can still be really tasty.  If you decide to make this dish when corn is is in season, make sure you cook the corn cobs first and then take the kernels off to make this dish. But, cooking frozen corn this way makes it so tasty that people don't even realize that it was frozen in the first place.

The idea for cooking corn this way is based on a snack that my sisters and I would make after school when we were kids - we would take frozen corn and put it into the oven on a cookie sheet and cook it until it got dried out - our version of chewy corn nuts and we loved it.  I don't do that anymore, but what I do instead is cook the corn in a skillet with butter along with both green and yellow onions.  By cooking them for different amounts of time, you layer the onion flavor.  And, if you cook the corn and onions until they are browned and caramelized, it has a wonderful flavor.  And if your kids are really opposed to onions, but them in big enough pieces that they can pick them out.  But I've found that this is a great side dish that wins over kids who normally won't eat onions. This was and still is one of my kids' favorites.

Caramelized Skillet Corn

1 package 16 oz frozen corn
1 small onion, chopped
3 green onions, trimmed and cut into small pieces
3 Tablespoons butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large skillet and add in yellow onions, cook until they soften and become translucent.  Add in corn. Cook, stirring frequently until onions and corn are lightly browned.  Put in green onions and cook until the green pieces are wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Corn is yellow and sweet so it belongs to the Earth Element,  The onions naturally belong to the Metal Element, but because they become a bit caramelized, they get earthier.  The butter and salt add a tiny bit of the Water Element, but this is clearly a dish that is meant to be part of meal with other foods.  So, if you need to bring in the Earth Element to your meal, this is a good option. To make it a dish that is more balanced by itself, consider adding in chopped tomatoes and ham to bring in some of the Fire Element and the Water Element.  But, you will still be missing the Wood Element so consider serving it with a green leafy vegetable.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sweet and Sour Watercress

I have been involved with the final, final edits of my book and also writing an article this week so my eyes are really tired from all that computer work and my liver is getting worn out too. That means it's time for some spring tonics and to the Chinese, that means eating the greens that are just starting to emerge. One of the earliest is watercress.  And, yes it really does grow in water. Now, this is not a very popular vegetable and I have no idea why - it's wonderful and so incredibly good for you. It has proven anti- cancer properties, is full of Vitamin C, A, B and K. It contains important trace minerals and most importantly - it tastes great! You can use it in salads or in special English tea sandwiches with butter or cream cheese, but my mother used to make watercress with a lovely sweet and sour sauce - basically  a combination of soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar.  

As kids, my sisters and I would fight over the crusty rice that lined the sides of the rice pot, just so we did dip the rice in the Watercress sauce.  So I am giving you her recipe today - it's also my son Stephen's favorite vegetable dish.  It's very easy to make and you will be giving your liver and your eyesight lots of support.  It cooks down to a small amount so make sure to cook enough.  And it makes a lot of sauce as the Watercress wilts and softens the salty and sour flavors of the sauce. Two big bunches only made enough for Stephen and me so if we were having anybody else over to eat, I would have had to buy a few bunches more.  The only sad thing is that my rice cooker doesn't make crispy rice. By the way, this dish is even good cold. So next time I make it, I am going to put some rice in a think layer on a baking sheet in the oven and crisp it up and get ready to dip in once again!  I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do.

Sweet and Sour Watercress

2 big bunches of Watercress, washed
2 Tablespoons of Vegetable Oil
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce or Tamari
2 Tablespoons Seasoned Rice Vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar

Pinch the small stems that the leaves are on and discard the large stem pieces.  Place in a colander. Mix the Soy Sauce or Tamari, Rice Vinegar and sugar in a small bowl.

Heat a wok on the stove and add in the oil.  Heat the oil until smoking.  Rinse the Watercress under water for just a minute and then toss into the wok - it should sizzle a lot!  Stir fry the Watercress with the spatula until it is wilted.  Pour in the sauce and let it cook, stirring until the sauce boils.  Put into a bowl and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Watercress is a green vegetable and so belongs to the Wood Element and the rice wine vinegar adds even more.  So this is basically a Wood dish. However, Watercress does have a peppery bite that gives it a bit of Fire too.  The Soy Sauce (or Tamari) brings in some of the Water Element and the sugar contributes a little of the Earth Element. There is a little more balance in this dish than you would expect, but it is clearly meant to be eaten as part of a meal to create a Five Element balance.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chinese Sautéed Greens

I crave vegetables; specifically leafy green ones.  I think my liver really needs them, as they are both cleansing for the liver and also supportive for liver function.  Tonight I was too tired to go to any serious effort  - another reason I needed to eat greens - so I stopped at the store on the way home and picked up a bunch of fresh Spinach. Then I went home and made Rice, which is easy when you have a rice cooker, so all that was required was to do a quick sauté of the Spinach along with some Chinese scrambled eggs and dinner was done.  In fact, this recipe is so simple that I wasn’t going to post it, but my son Stephen asked me to post it so he can remember how to make it. 

Here are the secrets for making your sautéed Spinach or any sautéed greens taste like they came from a Chinese restaurant. First you need to slice the garlic. This is to get the maximum garlic flavor into the oil and will keep it from burning, which gives it a bitter taste.  Second - wet the Spinach or other greens like Swiss Chard, Kale, Bok Choy, etc., again (after you have cleaned it) right before you put it in the pan as you need that moisture to get the right texture.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar – this is a very important step!  Then add a small amount of Chicken Broth - something you should always have on hand for Chinese cooking – I keep a box of Natural Goodness Chicken Broth in the fridge all the time. And lastly, add a few drops of toasted Sesame Oil at the end for the fragrance that it adds as Chinese food relies on the smell as well as the look and taste of dishes. You can use a regular frying pan – no wok is necessary. And after only a few minutes of cooking - voila! You have Chinese restaurant quality Spinach or other greens.  I also made some scrambled eggs with scallions and mushroom and put some Sriracha Chili Sauce on top to balance out the meal. All in all, I had a quick dinner that was done in less than 30 minutes. And, the Spinach was the best part!

Chinese Sautéed Greens

1 bunch of Spinach, washed and end of stem snipped off (or other greens such as Swiss Chard, Choy Sum or Kale)
1 large Garlic clove, sliced thin
1 -2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil (use less if using a nonstick skillet
A pinch of Salt and a pinch of Sugar
¼ cup Chicken Broth
A few drops of toasted Sesame Oil

Heat oil in a frying pan until hot.  Add Garlic and cook until the Garlic fragrance rises, stirring often.  Rewet the Spinach (or other greens) in a colander and shake it before you put it into the pan. Sprinkle with the Salt and Sugar and add to the hot pan. Push and turn the Spinach with a spatula until it all wilts. Add the Chicken Broth and the few drops of Sesame Oil and cook until it almost evaporates (this will happen fast) and then put on a plate to serve. 

Five Element Analysis

Spinach and other leafy greens belong to the Wood Element so that element is covered already and the Chicken Broth adds even more.  So this is almost a completely Wood dish!  The Sesame Oil gives just the hint of the Water Element and the Garlic contributes some Metal and serving it with Rice brings in even more.  So, be sure to serve it with some other dishes that cover the other elements of Fire, Water and Earth.  I served my Spinach with Chinese Scrambled Eggs, as Eggs belong to the Water Element and they also contained Mushrooms that contribute the Earth Element. I also topped them with Chili Sauce that brought in the Fire Element for a balanced and fast meal!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Red Fish Chowder

I have big dark circles under my eyes and that's a sign my kidneys need support so it is time to start sleeping more and eating more soup. I'm prone to hollowing under the eyes and the subsequent dark circles. As a child I would go to my grandparent's house on the weekends and my grandfather would often take one look at me and order me to "Eat Soup!" That's because my kidneys get deficient very easily and soup is one of the best ways to rehydrate them - especially if you aren't sleeping enough. So I eat a lot of soup and I love it. I know everyone is all pumped up about drinking lots of water, but it doesn't actually do much good if you can't hold onto it. Soup has lots of minerals from the bones or root vegetables that help you retain the liquid and is just amazing for hydration. All cultures in the world have soup as one of their most important foods for healing. In fact, the Chinese would often have soup (including the soupy Rice Congee) three times a day!

I got a wonderful piece of Rockfish on sale at the market and decided to make a Fish Chowder with tomatoes. I wanted a substantial and hearty soup, not just broth. When I am making a fish based soup, I look for the least expensive (wild) fresh white fish at my local market and I like using fresh tomatoes, although canned Italian ones will do in a pinch. It is also important to use a white wine that is really drinkable as that flavor comes through. When I remember, I buy fish bones and make a good stock and freeze it for future use, but I haven't done that for a while so I relied instead on canned clam broth and canned clams for the stock. If I make this soup for company, I will buy fresh clams and steam them with wine, use the clams in the soup and I will strain the broth to use in the soup. I am allergic to shrimp, crab and lobster and so many of the Fish Soups or Bouillabaisse have shrimp stock as part of their base, so I have to make this kind of soup for myself at home. Of course, you can add shrimp, scallops, squid, or mussels if you want. This is a really delightful soup based on a combination of Zuppa Di Pesce and Manhattan Clam Chowder. I like to use carrots and celery along with garlic, onion and potatoes. And, it is definitely hearty enough to stand up by itself as the main course. Serve with lots of crusty French bread. Try this soup - your kidneys will thank you!

Red Fish Chowder

2 pieces of thick sliced bacon, cut into small pieces (can also use Pancetta)
2 - 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil (if using lean bacon)
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots trimmed and peeled and cut into a dice
2 celery stalks, tops and bottom trimmed and diced
1 cup white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
8 plum tomatoes peeled (put in boiling water for 4 minutes first) and chopped
1 15 oz can or bottle of Clam Broth
2 6.5 oz cans Chopped Clams in Clam Juice (I used the Snow brand by Bumblebee)
1 pound Fish (I used Rockfish)
1 Bay Leaf
1 teaspoon Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional: Fresh Italian Parsley for garnish
and up to 1 teaspoon dried Red Chili flakes if you like the soup spicy

In a large pot, put in bacon and cook until nearly browned. If there is not enough fat to equal about 3 Tablespoons, add in Olive Oil. Put in onions and cook until translucent. Then add in garlic, carrots and celery and cook until carrots are softened. Put in tomatoes and cook until they break down into a sauce. Then add in white wine and bring to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes and add in Clam Broth and canned clams, Bay Leaf and Thyme. Bring back to a boil and put in potatoes. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in fish and continue to cook for and additional 5 minutes - don't overcook the fish or it will get tough. Serve in big bowls and sprinkle with parsley.

Five Element Analysis

Seafood by its very nature is a Water Food so that element is completely covered and the bacon adds more. The tomatoes and wine make sure that the Fire Element is present and is you use the Red Chili flakes, you add even more. The carrots and potatoes bring in the Earth Element and the onions, garlic, Bay Leaf and Thyme contribute the Metal Element. Only the Wood Element needs to be added and serving it with French Bread makes this a balanced meal!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Coconut Creme Caramel

I am getting my recipes together to teach a Thai cooking class and have been thinking a lot about what to make for dessert. For most Asians, dessert is not something that is featured and in fact, something sweet is often eaten in the afternoon instead. I don't have a very big sweet tooth except for an occasional craving, but my students specifically asked for a Thai style dessert. Now I thought about making Thai Black Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk, which is wonderful or Thai White Sticky Rice with Mangoes, but decided that it was better to go with something a little more sophisticated and so I decided on creating a Coconut Creme Caramel. Now, I am a big fan of flan or it's fancier name - Creme Caramel - and it is really easy to make. It's a basic ratio (as in most puddings) of one egg to one cup of milk - in this case Coconut Milk. And, of course I had to add more than a pinch of salt because I love that savory note in dessert. 

This dessert is both Lactose Free and Gluten Free for anyone out there who is sensitive to those things too. And, if you like caramel, the hardest thing about this dessert is waiting for the sugar to caramelize and not stirring! The other thing is that you have to cook the custards in a water bath and when you take it out of the oven, it is hard not to splash the water into the dishes! Otherwise, it is an incredibly easy desert that looks like it was hard to make. It is great for a party as it can be made ahead and the recipe doubles very easily. If you love creamy desserts, love coconut and love caramel, you will love this dessert!

Coconut Caramel
Lightly grease 6 ramekins (I used Pyrex custard cups) with butter.
For Caramel Sauce:
1 cup sugar
Put sugar in a pan with a heavy bottom. Stir to mix and then melt over medium-high heat without stirring – swirling often. Cook until it turns caramel brown – about 10 minutes. Pour caramel sauce equally into the bottom of the ramekins.
For Creme Caramel:
1 14 oz can coconut milk
4 eggs
3 Tbsps Sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a pot of water to boil. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and then add in salt, sugar, vanilla and coconut milk.

Pour coconut mixture into the ramekins over the hardened caramel. Place the ramekins in a large baking dish and pour hot water to ½ way up the sides of the ramekins. Put in the oven carefully and bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until set. Remove carefully so that you don't splash water into the ramekins. Cool then refrigerate until cold. To serve, dip bottom of the ramekin in hot water. Put plate on top and invert to pop out the flan and spoon out any remaining caramel sauce (or in some cases, popping out the hard caramel disk and place on top). Garnish with shaved fresh or toasted flaked coconut if desired and serve with fresh fruit like mangoes, raspberries or strawberries.

Five Element Analysis

Desserts are sweet food, so they are always part of the Earth Element and Coconut Milk is also Earthy and so is sugar so the Earth Element dominates. The eggs and salt add some Water Element and the vanilla extract contributes just a tiny bit of the Metal Element. Serving it with fruit like strawberries or raspberries will add the Fire Element, but Mango and Pineapple will increase the Earth Element. So serve this dessert at the end of a meal that has the other elements in it to create balance.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hawaiian Chinese BBQ Sauce

I love Char Siu or Chinese Barbecued Pork, but I don't like paying the high price that they usually charge at the Asian markets. Plus, I don't really want to eat the food coloring they often put in their sauce. So, I usually just make my own. Actually I make two different kinds - one contains Hoisin Sauce with honey and the other one is made with soy sauce and ketchup - yes ketchup! The inspiration for this recipe comes from a Hawaiian friend whose mother created a ketchup based sauce to use when cooking spareribs and I watched him carefully when he was making it. It was so good that I was inspired to create my own. It's less sweet than the Hawaiian version and I added garlic and green onions to give it more Chinese flavor and I use a lot more soy sauce - actually Tamari. This is my son's favorite BBQ sauce and the really good thing about it is that it naturally colors the meat (or tofu) a little pink so that the Char Siu looks authentic. It's fantastic on pork, but I have even used it to marinate and bake tofu.

When using pork, I usually buy country style pork ribs that are very meaty. I think meat cooked on the bone is more tender or I will buy a pork roast that is not too lean and cut into 4 long pieces to marinate and then roast in the oven. Of course, you can barbecue the meat as well, but you will have to be careful and turn it often as the sauce might burn. In the oven, the sugar caramelizes and gives the meat a barbecue-like brown bark on the edges. I cook the meat long and slow at fairly low heat (325 degrees). The ribs take at least one hour and usually a bit longer - about 1 1/2 hours. You want the meat falling off the bone.
This sauce is also good with pork chops and I have used it with a pork tenderloin but I personally find that cut of meat a bit too dry. If you are using it with tofu, buy the Firm Chinese kind that you cut in half so that you have two tofu steaks. I haven't tried it with chicken, but I don't see why it wouldn't also be good although I would use it with bone-in thighs instead of breasts.

I always cook a lot of Char Siu as the leftovers are my favorite part! The pork can be cut up and used in many stir fry dishes and is especially good in fried rice and I use it chopped up (with some of the sauce) to fill Chinese Barbecue Pork buns or Char Siu Bao. It's soooo good!

Chinese Barbecue Sauce
1 inch chunk of ginger root
1 large clove of garlic
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup Rice Wine
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Ketchup
2 green onions, cut into small pieces

Peel and then mince garlic and ginger root. Combine with green onions, sugar, Rice Wine, soy sauce and ketchup. Taste and adjust seasoning. Use as a marinade for either 2 - 3 hours or overnight. The longer you marinate the meat (or tofu) before you cook it, the better it tastes.

Five Element Analysis

The major two components of this sauce are Ketchup, which is primarily a Fire Food and Soy Sauce or Tamari, both of which are a Water food so those two elements are covered. The Rice wine adds even more Fire. The garlic and green onions contribute the Metal Element and the sugar and ginger bring in the Earth Element. If you use this as a marinade for pork, you are adding more Water and if you use tofu, the Metal Element is enhanced. Only the Wood Element is missing so make sure to serve your pork or tofu with sauteed green vegetables to create a balanced meal.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crispy Kale Chips

I have a need to snack and do it often. I think it is because my stomach is fairly small and so I need to eat every few hours. At least that is what I tell myself! I really don't eat very much at one time and, I don't want to eat too much junk when I am snacking. It is all too easy to eat things that are too fatty, salty or sweet. So, when you make your own snacks, you have control over such things. I have had packaged Kale chips before, but didn't like the yeast powder that was sprinkled on them so I finally decided to make my own.

Now, you have to know that I am not crazy about boiled or steamed Kale. I don't mind it stir fried, but I still don't love it. Yes, I know it is very good for you - it is full of vitamins and it builds blood, which I need more of. I do love raw kale - specifically in the Emerald City Salad from PCC Natural Market near my home that is made with kale, wild rice, green onions, red pepper and fennel. The dressing is olive oil and lemon juice. So, I decided to make my Kale Chips with a little bit of that flavor.

You lose some of the bitterness when you bake the Kale and I wanted to do more then just add salt. So, I mixed a bit of lemon juice with the olive oil and tossed the kale with some sea salt and then added a sprinkle of garlic powder too. After 1/2 an hour in the oven, they were done and I had a healthy, crunchy snack that was a bowlful of crispy goodness! I have to admit I ate it all by myself in one sitting, which wouldn't happen if it was boiled or steamed. So, I've found a new way to love kale. And, it's so easy. You've got to try this!

Crispy Kale Chips

1 bunch curly Kale, washed and dried in a salad spinner
2 Tbsps Olive Oi
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Pull curly part of the leaf off the ribs of the kale and then tear them into medium sized pieces. Put the leaves into a bowl and pour in olive oil and lemon juice and toss to coat. Put onto a cookie sheet and spread out so that each leaf has space (use 2 pans if necessary). Sprinkle with salt and garlic powder. Put the trays into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Take out and turn the leaves. Put trays back in for another 15 minutes. Kale Chips are done when you shake the pan and you hear the rattle of crispy chips. Take off all the crispy ones and put pan back in if necessary to crisp up the remaining chips. This may take another 5 minutes or longer if you like it really crispy. Serve on a plate or they will break.

Five Element Analysis

Kale is a Wood Element vegetable and is therefore very good for your liver. The added olive oil and lemon makes it even more Wood and your liver will thank you. The salt adds a touch of the Water Element and the garlic powder brings in just a bit of the Metal Element, but not enough to . So consider this a Wood food contribution during your daily quest for culinary balance.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sunomono - Japanese Cucumber and Octopus Salad

I spent my early years in Japan so when I am stressed, I turn first to Japanese food to calm me down. And, I have been very stressed finishing the second edition of my book and have been staying up too late. The big dark circles under my eyes testifies to that! So, I wanted to feed my kidneys and I believe that the best way to do that is by eating seafood and I love octopus. I don't know why, but I am one of those people who love chewy food and octopus satisfies that need. It is a much underused seafood and I am lucky enough to live very near a fabulous Japanese market, Uwajimaya, which has the best seafood section of any grocery store that I have ever seen. I buy the octopus already cooked and packaged either presliced for sushi or in a small chunk that I can cut up myself. Then I make Sunomono, which is one of the staple salads offered in Japanese restaurants. If you don't like octopus, you can use shrimp instead, but that is something I am unfortunately very allergic to, along with crab and lobster. And, shrimp is also easier to find. Just be sure to either buy cooked shrimp or poach raw, peeled small shrimp to add in.

Sunomono literally means vinegar and refers to a salad with a vinegar dressing, which is made with an acid such as rice vinegar or citrus and soy sauce. I like to add both rice vinegar and a bit of lemon as I think it makes it taste fresher and who doesn't love citrus with seafood? But, you can also substitute bottled Ponzu sauce if you want. It is common to use cucumber, which is also one of my favorite vegetables. Another common ingredient is rehydrated Wakame Seaweed, which gives a lovely dark color contrast and sesame seeds for a garnish. You can also use some minced, dried Nori or you can sprinkle it with Furikake - a mixture of seaweed and sesame seeds with some spice premixed in a bottle that is amazing on rice. I didn't use the seaweed since I also made a seaweed soup (a recipe I will give you another day). It is usually served as part of a larger meal, so you it certainly won't be a fully balanced dish, but it is a wonderfully refreshing salad that is very easy to make at home.

Sunomono Salad with Octopus

1/4 lb cooked Octopus, cut into small chunks (can also substitute cooked shrimp)
1 large cucumber, peeled
2 Tbsps Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Soy Sauce or Tamari
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp white sesame seeds

  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Wakame (Seaweed) rehydrated in water for 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze excess water out.
  • Can also used some chopped dried Nori or Furikake for garnish
  • Can also use a little minced green onion tops for garnish
  • Can also use bottled Ponzu sauce instead of soy sauce and lemon juice.
Cut octopus into small pieces and put into a bowl. Peel cucumber then slice in half and using a teaspoon, scrape out all the seeds. Then cut each half again and then slice into small chunks. Put cucumbers into the bowl and sprinkle with salt and toss cucumbers and Octopus. Add in dressing ingredients. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Octopus or shrimp belongs to the Water Element so that element is covered and the soy sauce, sesame seeds and the Wakame Seaweed enhance that element even more. This salad is very good for your kidneys! The cucumber contributes the Earth Element and the lemon juice and rice vinegar make sure that the Wood Element is covered. The Fire and Metal Elements are not represented unless you use a little of the green onion for garnish, but that is still not enough so be sure to serve this salad in a meal that includes proteins, vegetables or grains that belong to those elements. For example, serving rice will add the Metal Element and tea would contribute the Fire Element.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Arugula Pesto

I was craving pesto the other day, but I didn't want to pay as much as they were charging for the fresh basil at the grocery store. So, until spring gets here, I decided to become adaptable. I looked in the vegetable drawer of my fridge and discovered a big bag of arugula left over from an Italian Salad I made for a friend last week. There were only a few mildly yellow leaves that I tossed out, but I have heard you can make pesto, which quite simply means that you crush things in a mortar with a pestle to make a sauce. However, I prefer to use my Cuisinart for most of those kinds of things. So, I tossed in the Arugula with some olive oil, pine nuts and Pecorino Romano Cheese and it turned out divine! I love Arugula's peppery bite and when it is paired with the salty cheese, the flavor just pops! So, I am passing on the recipe for you to use in case you have the winter doldrums too! My son Stephen promptly made us bacon, tomato and arugula pesto sandwiches (mine was on gluten free Udi's bread) and they were incredibly good. I haven't tried it on pasta yet - that's next!

Arugula Pesto

4 cups of baby Arugula, washed
1/4 cup Pine Nuts
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese (already grated and packed tightly into the measuring cup)
1/4 cup Olive Oil plus additional 2 Tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon salt if necessary

Place Arugula, Pine Nuts, Cheese and Olive Oil in the Cuisinart or other food processor or blender and mix until finely blended. Taste and add salt if necessary. Check texture and if you want it to be creamier, add the extra olive oil.

Serve as a sandwich or bruschetta spread, on pasta or as a dip. Enjoy!

Five Element Analysis

Arugula is a bitter salad green so it is primarily a Fire Food. The Olive Oil adds the Wood Element, the Pine Nuts bring in the Water Element. The cheese contributes the Metal Element with its' pungent Umami flavor. Since this is a sauce, it is served with other foods like bread or pasta bringing in more Wood or with Tomatoes, which add more Fire or Bacon or Ham, which contribute more Water. Only the Earth Element is missing and needs to be added for some balance so be sure to add something sweet to round off the meal.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pearl Balls

I mentioned making Pearl Balls in the previous post using the Potsticker filling. But I realized that I wasn't giving you a really authentic recipe for these wonderful Dim Sum snacks and needed to rectify that. I also prefer to use ground chicken for Pearl Balls - also called Porcupine Balls for the way the rice sticks out of them. These are one of the only gluten free snacks on the dim sum trays along with rolled rice noodles and Lotus Leaf Wraps (and I will give you my aunt's fabulous recipe for them one of these days). Pearl Balls use ground meat - usually pork, Shitake mushrooms, chopped water chestnuts and green onions as a filling. It is lightly flavored with Tamari and Rice Wine. You mix it all up, make it into a meatball and then roll each bowl into presoaked white rice. Then you steam them and serve them with a dipping sauce of Tamari mixed with some chili oil. They are usually served as an appetizer or part of a Dim Sum meal, but I love them so much that I and can make a meal of them with just a cucumber salad on the side. The are quite easy to make and this chicken version is much healthier.

Pearl Balls

3/4 cup short grain or medium grain white rice
3/4 pound of ground chicken (dark meat if possible)
1/2 cup Shitake mushrooms (soaked in hot water for at least 30 minutes), minced
1/2 chopped water chestnuts (from a can), chopped
3 green onions, top and roots sliced off and minced finely
1 Tablespoon Tamari
1 Tablespoon Shao Shing Rice Wine
1 egg white
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch

Soak the rice in a bowl with water to cover for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, mushrooms, water chestnuts, green onions, Tamari, Rice Wine, egg white and cornstarch together until combined. Make all the meatballs (it will make about 12 large meatballs) and place on a baking sheet.

Put water in the bottom of the wok to a depth of at least 4 inches and heat to boiling. Put a plate inside two levels of a bamboo steamer for the Pearl Balls.

Drain rice and spread onto another baking sheet. Roll the meatballs in the rice and place 6 on each plate until all are coated. Place the bamboo steamer onto the wok and steam for 25 - 35 minutes.

Serve with Tamari mixed with Chili Oil on the side for dipping.

Five Element Analysis

Chicken belongs to the Wood Element so that element is covered. Rice and green onions belong to the Metal Element. The Tamari and Shitake Mushrooms bring in the Water Element, the water chestnuts add the Earth Element and the Chili Oil and Rice Wine contribute the Fire Element. Guess what? This is a remarkably balanced little snack all by itself, but since it is usually served as part of a Dim Sum array, you are sure to already be somewhat balanced if you just eat these.