Thursday, October 25, 2012

Moroccan Eggplant Dip

I made this dip for my friend's party and wanted to share this recipe too as it turned out so well.  I've made it many times before as I love all kinds of eggplant dips, but I never really liked how grey eggplant dips look so this time I added tomatoes and I love the way it brightens up the color.  The cilantro and parsley help too.  This dip is better if made ahead as it gives time for the flavors to meld.  I actually made it two days before and it was wonderful.  I served it with Pita bread cut into triangles and gluten free crackers.  It was a big hit and I will definitely add the tomatoes when I make it again.

Moroccan Eggplant Dip

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound Globe Eggplant
1 small red onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 Roma Tomatoes, cored and chopped
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
½ teaspoon salt

Toast cumin in a dry 10-inch heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and dark brown (be careful not to burn). Roast a whole eggplant in the oven on 450 degrees turning frequently with tongs, until blackened and tender and collapsing.  Take out of the oven and put on a cutting board and cut off and remove the stem. Scrape flesh from skin and coarsely chop the eggplant. Toss with onion, tomato, vinegar, sugar, 1 oil, parsley, toasted cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Dip can be made ahead up to 2 days before - store in the refrigerator. 

Serve with pita bread triangles, pita chips or gluten free crackers.

Five Element Analysis

Eggplant belongs to the Water Element, while the red onion and cumin bring in the Metal Element.  The Fire Element is represented by the tomatoes and the Wood Element is brought in by the vinegar, olive oil, parsley and cilantro and the Pita bread.  It is nearly balanced.  Only the Earth Element is a bit lacking as the small amount of sugar doesn't add much so be sure to serve this with another Earthy food to create balance. I served it before the main meal, which included beef meatballs, which are Earthy and a Chickpea Tagine that contained a lot of Butternut Squash and Zucchini.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chicken and Onion Tagine

I made Moroccan food for my friend's party this last weekend and a few of the dishes turned out so well that I have to share them with you. I'm a big fan of stew as long slow cooking brings out some amazing flavors. Stew is comfort food for me and for a party, a stew also allows you to make it ahead of time so there isn't so much last minute craziness. You just heat and serve. And as most of you know, stew gets better after it sits in the fridge for a day or two and that time allows the flavors to meld. This particular dish was based on two recipes - one from Epicurious and one from Saveur Magazine but I adapted it to what I had on hand and one of the biggest changes was using Meyer Lemons as my friend has a big tree full of fruit in her yard. I also added the rind as it is quite flavorful and much less bitter than regular lemons. This stew, or Tagine, as the Moroccans and Tunisians call it was my favorite dish and I could eat this one all the time. I think you will like it too.

Chicken and Onion Tagine

1 Tbsp salt + 1 tsp salt
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped  
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika  
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp saffron threads soaked in a small amount of water 
6 Tbsp Olive Oil  
8 whole chicken legs (thighs and legs cut into pieces and skin removed)
4 medium onions - yellow and red, cut into 12 pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice and grated rind of 1 large or 2 medium Meyer Lemons

For Garnish: 1 cup pitted green olives  
Chopped Cilantro Leaves
Cooked Rice

Mix together the salt and garlic in a mortar and mix together with the pestle until it becomes a paste.  Add cumin, paprika, and turmeric and mix thoroughly. Stir in 3 Tbsps of oil then add to a large bowl containing the chicken and mix until coated. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to overnight to marinate. 

When ready to cook, heat remaining 3 Tbsps of oil in a large pot on high heat. Working in batches, add chicken pieces, and cook, turning one time until brown on both sides, then put each on a plate until all are done. Then lower the heat slightly and add the saffron and onions to the pot, season with one teaspoon of salt and some pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft. Return the chicken to pot along with lemon juice and lemon rind and 1 cup of water, and bring to a boil.  Then, reduce heat and cook with the cover on for one hour. Put into a large bowl and sprinkle the olives and cilantro on top.  Serve with steamed white rice.

Five Element Analysis

Chicken belongs to the Wood Element and the olives and the lemon juice and rind add even more so this dish is fundamentally Wood.  The long cooked onions represent the Earth Element and it is a stew, which is an Earthy way to cook, so that element is strong too.  The spices and garlic bring in the Metal Element, but the Fire Element only has pepper to represent it so be sure to serve it with Harissa and the Water Element is missing so bring that in with another dish that is Watery, like Eggplant to create a balanced meal.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kale Salad

I am visiting my friend Holly in Santa Cruz and one of the things that we buy a lot at the local health food store, New Leaf, is their delicious Kale Salad.  It has a lovely light lemony flavor, the kale is tender and the there are lots of seeds to give it crunch and some red onion for a little zing.  I couldn't figure out what the special flavor was and I found out that the secret ingredient is Bragg's Liquid Aminos.  For those of you who don't know what this is, it's a seasoning sauce that is very much like Tamari or Soy Sauce and those can be substituted if you don't have any.  When the Bragg's is combined with lemon juice and a bit of sugar, it makes a wonderful dressing.  Kale of course is very healthy for you, but I am one of those people who don't really like it steamed all that much.  I do like it in Caldo Verde (a previous post) but otherwise, I like it barely stir fried with garlic. But I do love the New Leaf salad and really wanted to make it.  What I found out is that kale needs to be massaged so the other secret of making this salad is to rub this dressing into the kale so that it softens and wilts, otherwise I think it is too hard to chew. Once I learned this secret about making Kale salads, it was an easy recipe to replicate.  I only had sunflower seeds, but you can also add sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.  It was a big hit at dinner and it is now going to be one of my staple salads!

Kale Salad

1 large bunch kale, washed, stems removed and cut into bite size pieces
1/2 small red onion, sliced into quarters and then into thin slivers
1/2 cup seeds - Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Seeds and Pumpkin Seeds - any combination
Juice of 2 lemons
Equal amount of Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or Tamari or Soy Sauce)
1 - 2 teaspoons of sugar - depending on the sourness of the lemons

Mix lemon juice, Olive Oil, Bragg's Liquid Aminos and sugar and taste.  Adjust sugar to your desired level.  Put the kale and red onions in a salad bowl.  Pour in the dressing and massage the kale with your hands until it is softened.  Then add in the seeds and let the salad sit for at least 10 minutes to let the Kale absorb the dressing.

Five Element Analysis

Kale as a dark leafy green vegetable obviously belongs to the Wood Element, but has some of the Water Element too. The lemons and olive oil add more Wood, so this salad is primarily a Wood food.  However, the seeds and the Bragg's Liquid Aminos contribute more of the Water Element and the red onions add the Metal Element.  The slight bit of sugar brings in just a hint of the Earth Element and the Fire Element is missing, so be sure to serve it with a Earthy or Fiery main dish and side. I served it with Pea Soup (which is very Earthy) and another salad composed of  Tomatoes and Cucumbers (Fire and Earth foods) to create a light and balanced meal.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pozole - Pork and Hominy Soup

It's getting chilly here, especially at night and so it's time to bring out the soup pot.  I got a special request from my sons for Pozole tonight, which is a Mexican pork and hominy soup that's really warming from all the chilis and nourishing from the pork bones.  I think my kids have always liked it because there are so many things they can add in - tortilla chips, cilantro, cheese, radishes and a squeeze of lime. You can also add in extra chopped raw onion, but they usually pass on that but they do like to add extra hot sauce as I use the milder version of the New Mexico Chiles.

I first had Pozole in Albuquerque, New Mexico after having driven through a snowstorm to get there. It was so delicious and I had a craving for it for years after. I didn't even try to make it until I found a recipe in Gourmet Magazine about 12 years ago. Something about it just felt right and I tweaked it over the years until I came up with a version that suits us perfectly.  It's become a family favorite soup and is great for company and I've served it many times to my students when they come to study with me.  This ends up being one of the recipes many of them take home.  You can also make it ahead of time as it freezes really well.

Pozole - Pork and Hominy Soup

2 pounds of Pork Country Style Ribs
10 cups of diluted chicken broth (or 10 cups water and 5 teaspoons of Chicken Better Than Bouillon)
6 large garlic cloves
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
6 large dried New Mexico Chiles
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 large can of White Hominy (29 oz)
Salt to taste

For Serving:  Tortilla chips, shredded iceberg lettuce, cilantro leaves, sliced radishes, chopped onion, shredded cheddar cheese, Red Chili flakes, Hot Sauce and Lime Wedges

Soak the New Mexico Chilis in boiling water until soft - do not drain. Pull off stem end and place the chiles with the soaking liquid into a Cuisinart or blender with the onions.  Puree until smooth.

Place pork in a large pot and add diluted chicken broth and the garlic cloves.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Skim the foam off as it rises. Cook for 1 1/2 hours or until the pork is very tender.  Remove pork from broth and cool, then remove from the bone and chop into pieces about the same size as the Hominy.  Strain broth and clean the pot and return broth to the pot.  Add the Chili Puree and the Oregano and salt to taste.  Add Hominy and bring to a boil.  Serve with the add-ons listed above.

Five Element Analysis

Pork belongs to the Water Element and as a soup, this definitely qualifies as a mostly Watery food.  The chicken broth brings in a bit of the Wood Element as does the Cilantro leaves and lime.  The Red Chiles and lettuce bring in the Fire Element and the Earth element is covered by the Hominy and Tortilla Chips.  The Metal Element is represented represented by the onion, garlic and radishes and the cheese.  This soup ends up being a perfectly balanced Five Element soup!

Warm Italian Steak Salad

I've been traveling so much that I haven't had a chance to cook much, which is always disconcerting for me.  I often crave salads when I am eating at hotels and always a bit disappointed at the lackluster ones that I end up getting.  For one of the things that shows that I am a true Californian is my love of big salads that include meat. It is one of my favorite lunches and is especially good when the weather is hot.  I know it's now fall and I will start making lots of soup soon, but I just had to make a salad that satisfied my craving and today was sunny and warm. So I created an Italianized stir fry with steak, red peppers, zucchini, garlic and onions and placed on top of a bed of lettuce - I used iceberg with arugula thrown in as that was what I had, but any kind will do.  I cooked the meat and vegetables in olive oil seasoned it with basil (I only had dried) and added a bit of balsamic vinegar.  That made a lovely savory dressing for the greens that included the liquid in the pan from making the meat and vegetables. It combined both a bit of Balsamic Vinegar and also a squeeze of lemon to brighten it up.  And, it was so good - you will want to try this!

Warm Italian Steak Salad

1/2 pound flank steak (can also use round steak or chuck steak) slice thin against the grain
1 red pepper, stem and seeds removed, sliced into thin strips
1 zucchini, stem removed, cut into half, then into quarters and then into thin strips
1 onion, ends removed, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 large clove of garlic minced
4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
Salt and fresh ground Pepper to taste
2 big handfuls of mixed lettuce leaves, torn into bite sized pieces (I used iceberg and arugula)

Put lettuce onto a large serving plate.  Heat 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil in a large frying pan.  Add in the garlic and onions and cook until onions just become translucent.  Then add the red peppers and zucchini strips.  Cook until the peppers are softened and the zucchini and onions brown slightly.  Remove to a plate and reserve.  Add in additional 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil and heat until smoking.  Add in steak and let cook until one side gets browned, turn and let other side brown.  Then return vegetable mixture to the pan.  Put in vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss until thoroughly mixed and spoon on top of the lettuce.  Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Lettuce of any kind belongs to the Fire Element and the Red Pepper adds even more Fire.  The beef steak and zucchini both belong to the Earth Element so it is covered and the garlic and onions add the Metal Element.  The lemon juice, Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil bring in the Wood Element so only the Water Element needs support as there is only a small amount of salt.  So be sure to serve this with another Water food such as a berry dessert or showcase a Water food at another meal during the day to achieve balance.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Pork

Another dish that we made in the cooking class that I taught yesterday was Vietnamese Summer Rolls. I usually want to order these in Vietnamese restaurants, but they almost always contain shrimp, which I definitely can't eat.  Or they contain plain tofu, which I think is a little bland. So I started making them myself and adding some cooked pork that I seasoned with some Fish Sauce and sugar.  Fish Sauce smells really strong but it cooks off and becomes really savory and the sugar helps the meat caramelize.  Then there is the special dipping sauce that I learned to make from my ex-husband's Vietnamese wife: it is really simple and delicious - you mix equal parts of peanut butter and Hoisin sauce and then thin it to the proper consistency with a bit of boiling water.  If you like crunch, you can use crunchy peanut butter or chopped peanuts at the end.  My sons like to add a bit of Sriracha Sauce to make it hotter.  In any case, these were much appreciated by my students and they were really surprised at how easy they were to make and they are delicious.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Pork

For the Dipping Sauce:

1/4 cup Chunky Peanut Butter (I used Jif)
1/4 cup Hoisin Sauce
Enough boiling hot water to make a smooth sauce - I used about one teaspoon
Optional 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha Hot Sauce

Add all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until mixed. Add more water if necessary.

For the Summer Roll:

1 pound of boneless pork (I used pork chops) sliced into thin strips
1 Tablespoon of Fish Sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon of Vegetable Oil
1/2 package of dried rice vermicelli
12 round dried rice paper wrappers (8 1/4" round)
1 bunch of mint, leaves removed from the stem
1 head of red leaf lettuce, leaves separated and pulled off the rib
Optional:  a handful of bean sprouts

Cook rice vermicelli in a medium pot of boiling water until tender - it should take anywhere from 3 - 5 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water and place in a bowl.

Put the pork strips on a plate and sprinkle with the Fish Sauce and the sugar.  Use your hands to massage the seasonings into the pork and then let sit while the pan heats.

In a large frying pan, add the Vegetable oil and heat.  Put in the pork and let cook on one side until browned and the opaque color comes halfway up the strip, turn and brown the other side.  Remove to a clean plate and let cool.

Fill a baking pan with hot water and place next to a clean, slightly damp dish towel on the counter or a cutting board.  For each roll, dip one rice paper wrapper into the water for about 10 seconds and remove from the water.  Lay it on the dish towel and layer on pork, a small amount of noodles, some bean sprouts (if using) some lettuce and some mint leaves.  Roll up while pressing down on the filling. You can tuck in the sides of the wrapper if desired.  Set the roll on a platter.  Continue until all are made. Serve 2 on plate with a small bowl of dipping sauce for each dish.

Five Element Analysis

Rice paper and rice noodles belong to the Metal Element so that element is covered.  The pork, the Fish Sauce and the Hoisin Sauce contribute the Water Element.  The lettuce brings in the Fire Element and so does the Sriracha if you use it, whereas the Peanut Butter adds the Earth Element.  The Wood Element only has the mint to represent it, so be sure to serve it with something else that is a Wood food like something sour to achieve balance.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chicken and Jicama Lumpia

I taught a cooking class today and had a lot of fun. The topic was Asian Appetizers so I pulled out one of my classic appetizers that have always met with great success when I gave parties - Chicken and Jicama Lumpia and it also contains beansprouts and onion and the only flavoring is salt.  I got this recipe from an Indonesian friend of mine many years ago and it makes a filling for Lumpia (which is another name for eggrolls). However, for the class, it was much easier to make little triangles with Wonton Wrappers rather than the usual shaped eggrolls. I often make these for Chinese New Year.  But in this smaller shape, I think they make better appetizers.  These are served with either Thai Sweet Chili Sauce or Banana Ketchup from the Phillipines which are the perfect accompaniment for the mild meaty and crunchy filling.  As with all kinds of eggrolls, the filling is cooked first, cooled and then put inside the wrappers.  Because we were making small triangles, we cut up the poached chicken and vegetables in smaller pieces than if you were making eggrolls.  They are quite easy to make and were a big hit with the class.

Chicken and Jicama Lumpia

2 chicken breasts, poached in water (to cover) for 20 minutes
1 medium Jicama, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 handfuls of bean sprouts, washed and cut into small pieces
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil (I used Canola)
Salt and Pepper to taste

2 packages of triangular Wonton Wrappers
Water in a small bowl for sealing
Vegetable Oil for frying

Shred chicken and then chop into small pieces.  In a large frying pan, heat the 2 Tablespoons of oil.  Put in oil and cook until just softened.  Add Jicama and cook until Jicama is slightly softened and onions are just beginning to turn color. Add in bean sprouts and chicken and cook until just wilted.  Season to taste with Salt and Pepper, tasting as you go.  The mixture should be slightly on the salty side.

To make Lumpia:

Take one wrapper at a time. Place it on the cutting board (or plate) and put about 1 heaping teaspoonful of filling into the middle of the Wonton Wrapper.  Dip your forefinger into water and wet the entire edge of the Wonton and bring the sides together to make a triangle.  Press the edges together tightly.  Repeat until all are done (they may be frozen at this point on a cookie sheet).

In a large frying pan, heat about 1/2 inch of oil until slightly smoking.  Put in as many Lumpia triangles as you can and fry on one side until brown and turn over with tongs to get the other side browned.  It will go fast.  Take out and place on a paper towel covered plate or cookie sheet.  Repeat until all Lumpia are cooked. Serve with Sweet Chili Sauce, Banana Ketchup or some Kecap Manis or Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce and/or Sriracha Chili Sauce.

 Five Element Analysis

Chicken, the Wheat Wonton Wrappers and the Bean Sprouts make this a primarily Wood Element appetizer.  However, the Jicama and the Banana Ketchup adds the Earth Element and the onions bring in the Metal Element.  The Sweet Chili Sauce or Sriracha add some fire and if you use the Indonesian Kecap Manis would bring in just a hint of the Water Element.  However, either the Fire and Water Element will need a bit more support, so serve these with tea for some more Fire and another dish that contains a Watery food. Otherwise, this appetizer is a little more balanced than you would expect!