Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hot and Soup Soup

I've been traveling lately and as often happens, I'm exposed to all kinds of germs. When that happens and I get home, I make Chinese Chicken Soup in the hopes of fighting everything off. But, when I do succumb to a cold, I always make Hot and Sour Soup. I was a rather sickly child and this was a staple soup of my childhood. It pretty much guarantees that I will better after I eat it. The hot is actually white pepper and the sour is actually vinegar and when you are a child, this actually does taste really hot!  For those people who are expecting the fire of red chiles, you may want to add some Sriracha or Chili Garlic Sauce to spice things up.  Chicken Soup has been proven to thin and clear phlegm and the other ingredients are so healthy!  The Mu'er Mushrooms thin and circulate the blood and vinegar is considered in Chinese Medicine to be antiseptic and antiviral. If you have had this marvelous soup in a Chinese restaurant and wondered how to make it, you need to try this - it's actually very easy and oh so good for you too!

Hot and Sour Soup

4 ounces boneless pork loin, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips (2/3 cup)
2 Tablespoons Tamari
4 small Shitake Mushrooms
12 small dried Mu’er (Wood Ear, Tree Ear or Cloud Ear mushrooms)
2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
12 dried Lily Buds
1/2 cup canned sliced bamboo shoots, cut lengthwise into thin strips
3 - 4 tablespoons Chinese Black vinegar or unseasoned Rice Vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 Tablespoons oil
5 cups chicken broth
4 oz firm tofu rinsed and cut into 1/4-inch strips
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons Asian Sesame Oil
1 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
2 green onions, sliced into small pieces 
Coat pork with 1 Tablespoon Tamari and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a bowl and set aside. Soak Shitake Mushrooms and Mu’er in boiling water to cover in another bowl for about ½ hour. Cut off stems from black mushrooms and thinly slice. Remove Mu’er from bowl and trim off any hard bits and cut into bite size pieces. Also soak Lily Buds in about 1 cup warm water until softened, about 20 minutes.  Remove from water and trim off tips. Cut into thin shreds.
Stir together 3 Tablespoons vinegar, Tamari and sugar in another small bowl.

Heat a frying pan or wok and add oil. Then add pork and stir-fry until it just changes color, then add Shitakes, Mu’er, Lily buds, and bamboo shoots and stir-fry for a few minutes.
Add broth and bring to a boil, then add tofu and vinegar mixture. Taste and add additional Tablespoon of vinegar if you like it more sour.  Stir cornstarch with a bit of water to make a slurry, then add to broth and return to a boil, stirring.

Beat eggs with a fork in a small bowl.  Pour eggs into soup slowly while stirring with a spoon. Add white pepper and Sesame Oil. Serve with a sprinkling of scallions.

Five Element Analysis

Soup is always considered part of the Water Element and the Pork, Shitake Mushrooms, Tamari and Sesame Oil and eggs contribute even more. This is an especially Watery Soup - perfect for when you are sick!  The Wood Element is represented by the Chicken Broth and vinegar. The White Pepper adds in the Fire Element and so do the Lily Buds.  The Earth Element comes from the Cornstarch and Sugar and the Metal Element is brought in by the Green Onions and Tofu.  This is a very balanced bowl of soup!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Connie's Pasta Sauce

Martin's sister-in-law Connie made the most delicious pasta sauce for us the other night before we left to come back to the US. I couldn't quite place the delightful sweet and rich taste it had and noticed that it also had a lovely rosy color. The secret ingredient for this delicious pasta sauce was: grated beets! Connie teaches kindergarten and each teacher has to make lunch for the students once a week and this is one of her most requested recipes from those discerning (and picky) 5 year olds!  She created this pasta sauce as a way of adding more nutritious vegetables to the students' meal.  As a mom herself, she has clearly mastered the age-old technique of hiding nutrients in your kid's food.... She uses a combination of beef and pork, which is sold already combined in Danish grocery stores and she serves this pasta sauce with whole wheat corkscrew (Fusilli) pasta, adding even more nutrition to their lunchtime meal. It's a simple sauce and it naturally appeals to kids because of the natural sweetness and for adults, the beets add a depth of flavor that is deeply satisfying. I'm sure people who think they don't like beets could be converted with this sauce. Besides that, beets are a blood tonic in Chinese Medicine, meaning they help build blood and support both the heart and the liver. So this sauce is really good for you too. I love beets and I couldn't stop eating this pasta sauce,  so I will be making it often in the future!

Connie's Pasta Sauce

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound grond pork
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium red onion minced
2 beets grated
1 28 oz can Whole Tomatoes
1 15 oz can Tomato Sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Add the onion and cook until softened.  Then add in the the ground beef and cook until it is no longer pink.  Add in the grated beets and Tomatoes and use the spatula to break up the whole tomatoes into smaller pieces.  Then, bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer.  Cook for one hour and then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over whole wheat pasta, spelt pasta or gluten free pasta with lots of fresh grated Parmesan Cheese.

Five Element Analysis

Beef and Beets belong to the Earth Element so this is a very grounding food, plus it is cooked for a long time, which makes it even Earthier.  The onion adds the Metal Element and the Parmesan Cheese enhances this element even more. The Water Element is represented by the ground pork and the Tomatoes add the Fire Element. The Wood Element shows up in the pasta. This ends up being a balanced Five Element Meal and her students are very lucky when Connie makes this delicious sauce!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Savory Clams

This is my favorite way of making clams and I am so surprised that I haven't posted it yet as I make it fairly often.  It is my go-to recipe for Linguine with Clams and it is really easy. I love the addition of tomatoes as the tartness works so well with the sweetness of the clams and I think it gives the sauce more depth. Clams and other mollusks may be the original fast food (along with eggs) as they cook so quickly. I like to use small clams as they are more tender and if you use bigger ones, it may take a few minutes more cooking time.  

Clams in Chinese Medicine are incredibly good for supporting the kidneys and the reproductive organs and also cleanse the liver. Luckily, they are also tasty as well as being very nutritious.

I like to serve these over mashed potatoes, which may sound strange, but is absolutely delicious. It makes the broth and potatoes mix into a creamy, briny delight. But, my kids are partial to eating these clams with lots of pieces of French bread, hot out of the oven so I serve it both ways or with al dente Linguine.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

Savory Clams

2 pounds fresh clams
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large shallot minced (or 1/4 cup minced onion and a minced garlic clove)
5 - 6 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
1 cup White Wine (I used Semillon but I also use Chardonnay regularly)
Optional: Pinch of Red Pepper flakes

In a large frying pan (with a lid), put in the olive oil and heat until it separates in the pan. Add in the shallots and cook until they start to become translucent and soft.  Put in tomatoes and stir (watch out as they splatter).  Cook until tomatoes soften.  Add in wine and give it a good stir then put in the clams.  Cover and steam for 5 minutes. Remove the clams that do not open and put into a large bowl.  Serve over mashed potatoes and/or with a fresh crusty baguette to soak up the broth!

Five Element Analysis

Clams belong to the Water Element family, whereas Olive Oil brings in the Wood Element and serving it with bread or pasta contributes even more.  The tomatoes and white wine add the Fire Element and the Red Pepper adds even more fiery pop! The potatoes (if you use them) are an Earthy food and the milk and butter make sure that there is even more of the Metal Element than the shallots bring in. Served this way, all Five Elements are accounted for and this then is a light balanced meal or appetizer course all by itself!