Saturday, March 30, 2013


Pesto is such an easy thing to make that I hesitated posting this recipe, but as this is a living cookbook for my sons, Stephen asked me to post it so he would remember the proper proportions of ingredients.  This is the same pesto I used on the Spicy Tuna sandwiches in the previous post. I like to make it ahead of time, cover it in olive oil and then freeze it. Then, you have it on hand whenever you need it and it thaws quite easily. I put it into glass jars and then will set one in a bowl of warm water when I want to use it. The extra olive oil on top keeps it from getting exposed to the air and turning black. I use it on Fusilli pasta and serve it with a fresh Tomato Salad or stir it into vegetable soup (what the French call Pistou) and love it as a base for a pesto mayo along with some chopped sun dried tomato when I make Italian style sandwiches. I also like to serve it with goat cheese and crackers. Martin told me that he doesn't usually like pesto and really likes this version, so I hope you do too.


2 cups fresh Basil Leaves
3 Garlic Cloves chopped
1/3 cup Pine Nuts
1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ teaspoon or more Salt

Remove the basil leaves from the stem.  Put all ingredients into a food processor (I use a Cuisinart) or a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust Salt, if desired. Use on pasta with a little additional pasta water or use as a sandwich spread by mixing it into mayonnaise or stir into vegetable soup.

Five Element Analysis

Basil leaves are a combination of the Wood and Metal Element as they are clearly green leaves, but their wonderful pungency makes them metallic as well.  The olive oil adds even more Wood and the Parmesan brings in more metal.  Pine Nuts and the salt contribute a bit of the Water Element.  If you serve pesto with pasta, the wheat adds even more Wood so the sun dried tomatoes or fresh tomatoes are a good addition as they bring in some Fire and you can also use some chili flakes. But, the Earth Element is still missing so be sure to serve something Earthy - perhaps something sweet - to go along with the Pesto Pasta to create a Five Element Balance.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tuna Salad Three Ways

I have a great love of Tuna Salad and often make it like a dip to eat with tortilla chips when I am not in the mood for a sandwich. My fondness for canned tuna goes way back. When I returned to the US after living in Japan and started school, my mother had no idea what to pack in our lunches. I got teased for bringing rice rolled in Nori and our neighbor, Mrs. Vaughan saved the day. She took my mother grocery shopping and taught her how to make American style sandwiches and tuna was one of the sandwiches I liked best. For me, it has to be made with Best Food Mayonnaise (Hellman's for those on the East Coast) and I even bring it with me to friend's houses in Europe as I don't like what passes for mayonnaise in many countries - it is more like Salad Dressing (such as Miracle Whip).  Sometimes I like my tuna really simple - just tuna and mayonnaise, but sometimes I like to dress it up. And, I almost always have canned tuna in my cupboard. Here are three variations of Tuna Salad that I am very fond of making. The first is Spicy Tuna adapted from Joe and the Juice in Copenhagen.  It is made with Tabasco and Pickled Jalapenos and served on toasted rye bread with pesto, if you want to be authentic to the Copenhagen version. The second version is Curried Tuna Salad  that my friend Sherri makes with Water Chestnuts, Curry Powder and Pickle Relish that I usually serve on a soft whole grain bread. I like it with the crusts cut off and made into finger sandwiches. The third version that I make contains finely minced carrot, celery, green or red onion, dill and sometimes even hardboiled egg. This is the one I am most likely to serve as a dip and if you add more Mayonnaise is wonderful when mixed with small pasta. All three tuna salads are addictive and I hope you will try them!

Spicy Tuna Salad ala Joe and the Juice

2 6oz cans of tuna packed in water
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
8 - 12 shakes of Tabasco Sauce
1/2 cup of sliced pickled Jalapenos (Jalapenos in Escabeche)
European Style Whole Rye Bread, toasted
Pre-made Pesto to spread on the bread
Optional:  1 Tablespoon minced dill

Drain the tuna and place in a mixing bowl. Use a fork to flake the tuna finely. Mix the tuna, mayonnaise, dill (if using) and Tabasco Sauce - adding more Tabasco if desired.  Spread pesto onto both sides of the toasted bread (preferably Sourdough Rye.  Place a mound of tuna on the bread and press down with a fork.  Place pickled Jalapenos on top.  Add the top slice of bread and serve.  Repeat - makes about 3 sandwiches.

Sherri's Curried Tuna Salad

2 6oz cans of tuna packed in water
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 Tablespoon Curry Powder (I like McCormick and Schmicks)
2 Tablespoons  Pickle Relish (I like Del Monte)
1 5oz can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped

Drain the tuna and place in a mixing bowl. Use a fork to flake the tuna finely. Mix the tuna, mayonnaise, curry powder, pickle relish and water chestnuts together.  Serve on soft whole wheat bread (crusts cut off if desired) and cut into quarters.   

Tuna with Vegetables and Fresh Dill

2 6oz cans of tuna packed in water
1/2 cup Mayonnaise and 2 or 3 Tablespoons more for a dip or as a pasta salad dressing
1 Tablespoon fresh Dill, minced
1 carrot, peeled, trimmed and cut into a small dice
1 large celery stalk, washed, trimmed and cut into a small dice
1 green onion, washed, trimmed and cut into a small pieces or 1/4 cup minced Red Onion
Optional - one hard boiled egg, cut finely

Drain the tuna and place in a mixing bowl. Use a fork to flake the tuna finely. Mix the tuna, mayonnaise, dill, carrots, celery and onion together.  Serve with tortilla chips or fresh cooked small pasta (like shells or macaroni) or make into a sandwich.  

Five Element Analysis

Tuna of course belongs to the Water Element and Mayonnaise is considered part of the Metal Element so those elements are covered by any of these recipes. All the other additions bring in the other different elements. The Pickled Jalapenos are both Wood and Fire and the Tabasco adds even more Fire, whereas the Pesto contributes Wood and Metal. Curry Powder adds the Metal Element, Water Chestnuts bring in the Earth Element and Pickle Relish is both Wood and Earth.  Carrots also add the Earth Element, Celery brings in the Wood Element, and Green or Red Onions and Dill add the Metal Element.  The breads also contribute - Wheat and Rye are Wood and Tortilla Chips that I like to use when I make the tuna salad into a dip bring in the Earth Element. Or the tuna can be served on lettuce to bring in more of the Fire Element. So you can see that each addition helps makes the tuna salad more balanced in a Five Element way.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chinese Steamed Egg Soup

I am jetlagged again - what else is new? And I am also very tired from a long spell of teaching. In addition, I am suffering from allergies to all the wonderful trees that are blooming here in the beautiful Northwest that I haven't gotten a handle on yet. So, I am needing comfort foods for a lot of reasons. When I feel like this, I go back to the foods my Mother made when I was a child. My favorite of all was Chinese Steamed Egg Soup. It is really like a savory pudding and is more known by the Japanese name: Chawan Mushi. Either version is wonderful and it is a delicious and delicate soup whether you use Chicken Broth - the Chinese way, or Dashi - the Japanese way. Since I often had upper respiratory infections and allergies, the smooth consistency of this soup soothed my sore throat then and still does today. I loved it when I had an upset stomach too although then I ate it plain. This soup is really just solid egg drop soup, but I used to call it Velvet Soup because I loved the texture so much. This is the perfect dish for an invalid,  or when you need a delicate first course for a Chinese  or Japanese meal.

Chinese Steamed Egg Soup

2 Eggs

10 oz. Chicken broth
1 green onion - green parts chopped fine
1 teaspoon Tamari (or Soy Sauce) for each bowl
Several Drops of Sesame Oil for each bowl

Optional:  1/4 cup chopped Chinese Barbecue Pork - Char Siu placed in the bottom of the bowl before adding the egg mixture.  

Beat Eggs with chicken broth until light and frothy. Pour evenly into two small heatproof bowls and place in already hot steamer. Steam for 10 – 12 minutes. Remove carefully and pour one teaspoon of Tamari (or Soy Sauce) and add a few drops of sesame oil into each bowl.  Sprinkle with the green onions and serve immediately. Serves 2.

For a seafood version:  

Steamed Egg Soup with Clams

Use one can of minced clams (I like the Snow brand).  Drain clam broth and reserve.  Divide clams into the two bowls.  Measure clam broth and add additional bottled clam broth to reach 8 oz.  Beat eggs into the clam broth and pour into bowls and steam as above.  When done, sprinkle with green onions.  You can also sprinkle with seaweed flakes or Nori Goma Furikake – a prepared mixture of Seaweed and Sesame Seeds - if desired. 

Optional Japanese seafood version:  1/4 cup of crab or small shrimp and use Dashi broth instead of clam broth or chicken broth.

Five Element Analysis

Eggs belong to the Water Element and steaming is definitely a water method of cooking so that element is well represented and the Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil add even more.  The chicken broth adds in the Wood Element and the green onions bring in the Metal Element. The Earth and Fire Elements are not present so serving it with tea and something sweet to make it balanced or add it as a primarily Water dish as part of a bigger meal.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Martin's Mussels in a Fennel Cream Broth

I am lucky that I am surrounded by people that also cook really well and it's really lovely when they cook for me. I just arrived in Copenhagen to teach and I was gifted by a wonderful meal from my partner, Martin, who knows how much I love good seafood. He took me to the amazing seafood market down at the Copenhagen Harbor and bought some mussels and fish that he cooked for me. I just loved how he made the mussels and will definitely make these myself when he's not around to make them for me. They were so good! The salmon was great too, but that's a recipe for another day. Martin made the mussels with shallots, celery and fennel and then added in a good white wine, some cream, parsley and just a hint of lemon. They were so delicious that I simply couldn't top eating them. The broth was light, savory and aromatic and also creamy and soothing. The mussels were plump and sweet and the fennel and celery were lightly crisp. It was wonderful combination of textures. I've had mussels many ways, but this way is now one of my favorites. If you like mussels, you need to try this version!

Martin's Mussels in a Fennel Cream Broth

2 pounds Mussels, rinsed and beards removed

2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
1 large shallot (or 2 small), chopped fine
1 Fennel Bulb, trimmed and cut into slices
3 staks Celery, trimmed and cut into thin slices
2 cups White Wine (he used a Heritages Cote du Rhone)
Grated peel from 1/2 of a lemon
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 cup Cream

In a large pot, melt the butter and add in the shallots stirring until they become translucent.  Stir in the white wine and bring to a boil. Put in the mussels and cook for 5 minutes. Take off the heat and add the cream, lemon peel, celery, fennel and parsley. Stir to wilt the parsley and soften the celery and fennel.  Serve in the shell in large bowls with lots of crusty bread to sop up the broth or you can take the mussels out of the shell and make it into more of a soup like I did.

Five Element Analysis

Mussels, being shellfish in their blue-black shells clearly belong to the Water Element so that element is fully represented.  The fennel and celery add the Wood Element, whereas the lemon peel contributes just a hint of the Fire Element but the white wine adds in a lot more. The cream and parsley bring in the Metal Element so this dish is fully balanced in a five element way!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Chicken Larb

One of my favorite things to order in a Thai restaurant is Larb. It's a delightful salad with ground meat, usually pork, although I like to use chicken. It has the delightful combination of cilantro and mint with that wonderful Thai combination of flavors - salty, sour, hot and sweet in a  dressing made with lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Then it is tossed with shallots, green onions and roasted rice, which I think adds the most wonderful crunch. I order Larb a lot so I decided to start making it at home whenever I crave it. I almost always have the basic ingredients in my kitchen and there is cilantro and mint on my windowsill. I hand cut the chicken breast into very small pieces because I think it is fun and I like the texture better, but you can certainly buy ground chicken or pork if you prefer.  I like to add a bit of chicken broth while cooking the chicken to keep it moist, otherwise it can get quite dry. I also cook the shallots with the chicken for just a moment as I think it takes the edge off them, but if you like, you can keep them uncooked. I do leave the green onions uncooked and toss them on as part of the garnish. The only tricky part is making the roasted rice. I use a cast iron skillet and you have to watch carefully so it won't burn. The rice needs to roast to a nice medium brown color or it won't taste done, but it is easy to go to far - so stay with it and keep stirring!  Then you grind it in a mortar and pestle. Like many Thai dishes, it is really quite simple to make and the results are spectacular. I think it makes the perfect lunch. It was a big hit around here and I think it will be in your home too!

Chicken Larb

3/4 pound chicken breast, chopped into small pieces (or can use ground chicken or pork)
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce or Tamari
2 Tablespoons of Jasmine Rice
1 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 shallot, trimmed and chopped
1 Tablespoons Chicken Broth
3 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 Heaping Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 Thai Chili (green or red), sliced into thin rings (can also substitute a Serrano Chili)
Juice of 2 - 3  limes - equal to about 1/4 cup
2 green onions, washed, trimmed and cut into small diagonal pieces
1/4 cup Cilantro leaves
1/4 cup Mint leaves
4 lettuce leaves, washed to line plate and 2 or 3 more torn into bite sized pieces

Combine the chicken breast pieces with the Soy Sauce and mix together.  Heat the Jasmine Rice in a large frying pan and stir continuously over medium high heat until the rice becomes brown.  Take off the heat immediately and put the rice into a mortar and pestle and grind it until it resembles fine crumbs. In another bowl, mix together the Fish Sauce, Brown Sugar, Thai Chili and Lime Juice. Taste and add more sugar if necessary.

In the same frying pan, put in the Vegetable Oil and heat.  Add the Chicken and stir until it is just barely pink.  Add in the Chicken Broth and stir until the broth is nearly gone and then add in the Shallots and toss.  Remove to a bowl and add in the dressing, toss to coat the chicken thoroughly.  Place lettuce leaves onto a plate and place the bite sized pieces on top.  Put the chicken mixture on top and sprinkle the rice powder over it along with the cilantro and mint.  

Five Element Analysis

Chicken belongs to the Wood Element and so that element is covered.  The lettuce and chiles contribute the Fire Element. The sugar contributes the Earth Element and the shallots, green onions, cilantro and mint bring in the Metal Element. Finally, the fish sauce adds the Water Element so all the elements are present and this is a completely balanced dish!