Friday, June 29, 2012

Sweet and Sour Greens

I'm about to go on another teaching tour so I'm eating as many fresh greens as possible as that is what is usually lacking in my diet when traveling.  I really don't know why airports don't have restaurants with more vegetables and I end up craving them when I go anywhere for too long.  I also needed to clean out the vegetable bin in the fridge as I went to the farmer's market and bought lots.  I still had a big bunch of mustard greens and about 1/2 a bunch of Swiss chard.  I decided to put them together because the chard is sweeter than the mustard greens - they can be quite bitter.  Swiss Chard is also really pretty with those streaks of red in them.  My favorite way of cooking mustard greens and actually many greens is to saute them quickly with lots of garlic.  I think bitter greens taste best with a dash of something sour - vinegar or lemon juice and then they also need a bit of sugar as that balances that bitterness. Greens are so incredibly healthy for your liver so if you need to add more to your diet, this is a good way to cook them!

Sweet and Sour Greens

1 bunch Mustard Greens, washed and bottom stems removed
1/2 bunch Swiss Chard, washed with bottom stems removed
2 garlic cloves minced
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 - 3 teaspoons White Wine Vinegar
1 - 2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup Chicken Broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut the greens in a rough chop.  Heat oil in a large frying pan.  When oil is hot, put in the garlic and cook until you smell the garlic fragrance.  Add in the greens and stir until they are softened.  Sprinkle on vinegar and sugar and season with salt and pepper.  Put in chicken broth and cook stirring the greens for about 5 minutes.

Five Element Analysis

Greens are always part of the Wood Element and the vinegar and chicken broth in this dish make it very Woody. But the Mustard Greens also have a bitter taste so it does add in bit of the Fire Element and the sugar brings in just a touch of the Earth Element and the garlic adds the Metal Element.  So, in order to find balance, use this dish as a good Wood Edition to some other foods that bring in the Water Element like fish. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ropa Vieja and Yellow Rice

It doesn't look very much like summer here in Seattle as it is cold and rainy.  I'm leaving soon for England where unfortunately it is just about the same temperature. So despite the fact that it is early summer, I need some warm and comforting food. So yesterday I made Ropa Vieja, which means old clothes in Spanish and is a Caribbean stew of shredded beef, peppers and onions.  It is also the national dish of Venezuela and there it is called Carne Mechada. Last time I made this it was for my Venezuelan friend and I don't know why I don't make it more often because I love it!  I usually serve it on Yellow Rice that is made with cumin seeds, saffron and chicken broth (the recipe is included). Some people cook the beef in a braising liquid and then add in the peppers and onions, but I like to cook it all together so that the vegetables meld into the sauce - I will give you both versions.  It's a very good dish for a crowd as it can be made ahead and I think it tastes better if you serve it the next day. If you have leftovers, I think it makes one of the best burrito fillings around and my son thinks it makes amazing nachos.

Ropa Vieja

2 pounds Beef Stew Meat (I used Chuck Roast cut into large pieces - you can also use flank steak)
1 large onion, cut into 1/4" strips
1 large red pepper, cut into 1/4" strips
1 large green pepper, cut into 1/4" strips
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Mexican Oregano
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
6 cups water
2 teaspoons or more salt
Fresh ground Pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Option 1:  Put beef in a large pot with the water, oregano, cumin and salt. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until beef is fork tender. Cool, shred beef and reserve broth.  Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, add garlic, onions and peppers and cook until onion is soft. Add in tomatoes, shredded beef and 2 cups of broth. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes more.  Check seasoning and add more salt if necessary.  Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Serve over yellow rice.

Option 2:  Put oil in a large pot and add in garlic, onions and peppers.  Cook until onions are soft. Add in beef and cook until no longer pink. Add in tomatoes, water and seasonings.  Bring to a boil and cook uncovered at a simmer for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  Cool and shred the beef with your fingers.  Reheat and serve over yellow rice.

Yellow Rice

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoons ground Achiote or Turmeric
2 cups rice (preferably long grain)
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in a small pot and add Rice and Achiote or Turmeric and stir until Rice is coated in oil  Stir in Chicken Broth and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat to low and cover, cooking for 20 minutes.  Let sit for 5 - 10 minutes before serving.  Fluff with a fork before serving.

Five Element Analysis

Beef belongs to the Earth Element and the long cooking onions add to that element and this is a slow braised dish, which enhances the Earth Element even more. The spices and the rice bring in plenty of the Metal Element so that element is covered too. The red and green peppers along with the tomatoes contribute a lot of the Fire Element so that one is complete.  The chicken broth and olive oil represent the Wood Element so only the Water Element needs support.  So, the best way to add Water is to serve this dish with black beans as they do in Venezuela and Cuba.  Then it will be a very balanced meal!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tequila Tomato Sauce with Chicken

I was in the mood for pasta last night, but not with an Italian or Asian sauce. I was actually craving something a little spicy since I would be serving the sauce on rice noodles, which definitely don't have as much flavor as wheat pasta.  I haven't been cooking much lately but did manage to make a roast chicken the day before and had used the cooked breast meat for a lovely Tarragon Chicken Salad so all that was left was the dark meat, which is actually my favorite as it is so moist and flavorful. So as my German grandmother taught me, I picked that chicken clean and put the bones on for soup. What to do with all that lovely dark meat? Well, I had some Roma tomatoes and decided to make a Mexican flavored sauce using tequila as the deglazing liquid and I seasoned the sauce with lots of garlic, onions, Mexican Oregano, chili flakes and Cayenne Pepper.  It was so good - it had just enough heat to make me notice that my lips were tingling and comforting as only a good bowl of pasta can be. Now, this sauce isn't saucy, it only lightly coats the pasta so the ratio of sauce to pasta should be higher.  And, I think you should continue the tequila theme and serve it with a Margarita!  I was really happy with this sauce as the Tequila (and I used a good one) gave it such a wonderful flavor.

Tequila Tomato Sauce with Chicken

Leg and Thigh Meat from a Roast Chicken – equals about 2 cups, cut into small pieces
12 Roma Tomatoes, cut into small pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 cup Tequila
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
1 cup of Cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Pepper
¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
 1 teaspoon Chili Flakes and extra for serving
1 Lime, cut into segments to squeeze on top
Optional:  Cotija Cheese (can substitute Parmesan)

½ pound of pasta of your choice (I used Tinkayada Rice Macaroni)

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add in the garlic and onions.  Cook until onions just begin to brown.  Add in the chicken and tomatoes and cook until tomatoes start to soften and break down.  Pour in tequila and cook until it starts to boil.  Add in oregano, salt pepper, cayenne pepper and chili flakes. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Toss with the pasta of your choice and serve with lime and extra chili flakes and Cotija or Parmesan cheese.

Five Element Analysis

The Fire Element is fully represented in this dish by the Tomatoes, Tequila, Cayenne Pepper and Chili Flakes.  The chicken and olive oil contribute the Wood Element and this element will be further enhanced if you use traditional wheat pasta.  The Cilantro, Cotija or Parmesan Cheese, Garlic and Onions all bring in the Metal Element so that element is also covered.  Only the Water Element and Earth Element need some support so be sure to serve this dish with an Earthy vegetable – I made a marinated zucchini salad or a sweet dessert and you need something from the Water Element like a starter cup of soup or a Watery fruit for dessert or you can just make sure you have a Watery food at some other meal during the day to create balance in your diet. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dr. Bieler's Healing Broth

Many of you who have been involved in holistic health may very well already know this recipe as it has been around since Dr. Henry Bieler developed it. He was the author of Food is Your Best Medicine and he was quite controversial in his day, but his ideas agree with the principles of Ancient Chinese Medicine where food was and still is the first and best medicine.  I learned this recipe from Eileen Poole, an amazing nutritionist in LA and it has saved me on more than one occasion.  It is a wonderful detoxifying concoction composed of 5 simple ingredients:  zucchini, celery, green beans, parsley and water.  The amounts can vary and it can be made thicker or thinner.  It increases alkalinity in the body, restores optimal liver function and balances the adrenal glands.  It's also full of potassium and cell salts and helps the pancreas excrete excess sugar. What's not to like about it?  It can be used after overindulgence in food or alcohol or when you are feeling run down. I swear by it and so do many of my friends.  I forget to make it as often as I need to have it.

What does it taste like?  Well, my son when he was little declared that it tasted green and it really does and it grows on you until you get to the place where you relish it because you know how good it is for you. Since I just got back from Bangkok where I ate way too much, I made a big pot (I tripled the recipe) and have been having about 2 cups a day this last week. I find this soup so nourishing that I had to share this recipe even though it is not something I invented. I like to make it on the thin side so I can drink it out of a mug.  Some people like it better very thick.  I know you can add onion and garlic and other vegetables, but this original version from his book is still my favorite.  Once you start drinking it on a regular basis, you will start to notice how much better your skin looks and how much more energy you have. I hope you make this part of your regular diet.  Your body will thank you!

Bieler's Healing Broth

2 - 3 zucchini, ends removed and cut into chunks
3 - 4 stalks of celery, ends removed and cut into chunks
2 handfuls of parsley leaves
2 handfuls of green beans, ends removed and cut into smaller pieces
4 or more cups water

Put the water in a soup pot and add all the vegetables. Water should cover the vegetables (if you push them down by at least one inch). Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft.  Puree with a stick blender or if using a food processor or a blender, put in 1/2 of the vegetables with about a cup of liquid and puree until slightly chunky.  Serve immediately and refrigerate the remainder. Reheat to serve.

Five Element Analysis

Both celery and green beans belong to the Wood Element so that element is represented.  Zucchini belong to the Earth Element and parsley contributes the Metal Element.  The fact that this is a soup brings in the Water Element so only the Fire Element is missing and having some tea some time in the day is enough to create balance.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Stephen's Hawaiian Tuna Poke

My son Stephen has been cooking with me for years and now he's working as a chef. He's really good and I am very proud of him!  He has a special way with raw fish - his Gravlax is amazing - even our Swedish friends rave about it. And, his Tuna Poke is one of my favorite dishes that he makes. He uses sushi grade tuna that he cuts into chunks and mixes it with Hawaiian sea salt, green onions, sweet Vidalia onion pieces, Ogonori (Limu) Seaweed and Sesame Oil.  It is incredibly fresh tasting and for me, it is quite addictive - it is simply hard to stop eating it! It makes a refreshing summer appetizer and is a big hit with diner guests.  When serving individually, place a small mound of Poke on top of a lettuce leaf.  It's yet another way to add seaweed into your diet, which I think is just fantastic for tired kidneys.  The Ogo looks a bit like hair and is often called Sea Moss and has a lovely briny flavor.  The Sesame Oil and salt are probably the ingredients that make me crave this dish so much and the bit of heat from the chili flakes is just right.  So if you love sushi, you may want to try making this.  It's easy and delicious and light!

Hawaiian Tuna Poke

1 pound of raw tuna (sushi grade) cut into small chunks
½ cup of Ogo seaweed, dried
2-3 teaspoons of Sesame Oil
1/8 Coarse Sea Salt (Red Hawaiian Salt if possible)
1/2 teaspoon Red Chili Pepper Flakes
2 Green onions, cut into small pieces
1/2 Sweet Onion (Maui, Vidalia or Walla Walla) minced

Cover seaweed with water and let soak for 2-3 minutes.  Take out of water and cut into ½ inch pieces. 
Mix together the remaining ingredients with your hands, rubbing the salt and sesame oil into the fish lightly.  Then, let the mixture sit for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors meld.  Serve on top of lettuce mounded on a large plate or on individual plates.

Five Element Analysis

Fish and seaweed naturally belong to the Water Element so you know that the Water Element is covered by this dish and the Sesame Oil and salt add even more. So, if your kidneys are deficient, this is a dish for you!  The onions, both green and sweet add the Metal Element.  The little bit of Red Chili flakes adds just a hint of the Fire Element.  But, more is needed and this dish is best served in a meal that also includes Wood and Earth foods to create balance.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

House Vinaigrette

Growing up, salad dressings were one of the hardest things for me to learn to make.  I mastered the Chinese ones early as there really aren't very many Chinese salads, but a good Vinaigrette took me years to figure out.  In fact, I was so frustrated for a long time that I was always on the hunt for a good bottled dressing and there are some out there.  I would read all the recipes and I would try many of them, but they never tasted like the ones at good French and Italian restaurants.  In fact, it got so that I would judge a restaurant by their salad dressings.  Finally - and not that many years ago - I figured out what I was doing wrong.

It was so simple - I just wasn't using a high enough quality olive oil or vinegar.  When I started spending more for those two ingredients, my salad dressings started to shine!  But I noticed something peculiar about myself.  I discovered that I don't really like vinegar that much.  I'm actually a bit Wood deficient (and my eyebrows aren't very big) and while I do like mildly sour things, vinegar can really be too strong. So I had to find a way to decrease the sourness without increasing the sugar too much and the best thing I found was aged Balsamic Vinegar.  It's almost caramel like in its' consistency.  However, if I jut used it by itself, it was too thick. So, I started mixing it with a good Red Wine Vinegar that has a bracing acidity.  Together, I created my favorite Italian style Vinaigrette.  

It's really easy to make and many of you may have mastered this one a long time ago, but my son asked me to post it so he wouldn't be able to make it.  I love this salad dressing the most with a salad composed of arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion (marinated in the dressing) and some kind of Italian meat like salami cut up and also olives, Parmesan cheese and pickled peppers or artichokes if desired.  It's also amazing on leaf lettuce with cut up apples, dried sour cherries, hazelnuts (walnuts or almonds are good too)  and blue cheese (or Roquefort), which we call our Northwest Salad.  It's amazing!

So please spend a little extra on a high quality olive oil and Balsamic and Red Wine vinegars - it's worth it.  But in a pinch, Trader Joe's olive oil and vinegar are pretty good.  And don't forget to use enough salt and pepper. The original meaning of Salad is based on the word salt.  Remember to dress the salad lightly - you can always add more dressing. Hope you enjoy our salad dressing too!

House Vinaigrette

2 Tablespoons aged Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 large Garlic Clove minced (can also use 1 Tablespoon of minced Shallot or Red Onion)
1 teaspoon Sugar

Mix together all ingredients with a whisk.  Taste and adjust for sugar if necessary.  Let the dressing sit for 15 - 30 minutes to allow garlic or shallots or red onion marinate before dressing the salad.

Five Element Analysis

Vinegar is very sour so you know that this salad dressing is primarily a Wood food and the olive oil adds even more of the Wood Element.  The Metal Element also makes a fairly strong showing with the mustard and the garlic/shallots/red onions.  Since it is served with salad greens, which are Fiery, that element is covered so make sure to add in some nuts or cured meats to bring in the Water Element.  Then only the Earth Element needs support, which cucumber provides and so do almonds.  Then you will have a balanced dish all by itself!