Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pan Seared Shishito Peppers

I fell in love with grilled Padron Peppers in Tapas bars and I have had trouble finding them.  So, I decided one day to try to use the Japanese cousin of those peppers instead.  They were much easier to find in my local Uwajimaya store.  And they were wonderful! I make them pretty regularly now. In Tapas bars, they cook the Padron peppers very simply - they are usually placed on the grill until they are blistered and then they are sprinkled with salt.  Padron Peppers are not very hot, but once in a while you get a really hot one.  In contrast, the Shishito peppers are almost always mild, which is better for me as I love the pepper flavor but not the heat.

Since I wasn't in the mood to start up the barbecue, I used my cast iron skillet instead and turned the vent over my oven on high. I put some olive oil in the pan and heated it so the peppers hit the very hot pan. Then I let them cook until they started to brown before beginning to toss them.  I cooked them until they were blistered on at least one side and salted them.  They were amazing! I may like them even better than the Padrons.  

It's such a simple recipe that I almost didn't post it, but thought there might be enough of you to enjoy making these. They are a great addition to a Tapas assortment or can be served as an appetizer or a lovely side to grilled meats. I hope you try them!

Pan Seared Shishito Peppers

1 pound Shishito Peppers

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Heat a large cast iron skillet or carbon steel wok on high heat on the stove. Turn on the vent and add the peppers. Let sear on one side until they brown. Turn over until the other side browns.  Start tossing until the peppers begin to soften and they start to blacken on at least one side.  Sprinkle with salt to taste and serve.

Five Element Analysis

Pepper of all kinds belong to the Fire Element and blackening them adds even more fire. The Olive Oil adds a hint of the Wood Element. As this is a one ingredient dish that is basically Fiery, it is good to add it to a meal that has the other elements present. So, it is wonderful for Tapas when there is also an assortment of Spanish ham or sausages, good bread, olives, potatoes and more.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Arugula Salad with Chicken, Dates, Walnuts and Jicama

I had a restaurant salad in Denmark that had cut up dates and walnuts in it and I was delighted with the taste and texture of it. So, when I came home, I decided to create a similar salad. I love salads with meat in them for lunch, so I used some cut up leftover chicken breast and I had a jicama rolling around in my vegetable drawer and decided to add it for the crunch. I used Arugula as I love the bitterness and made a dressing out of Shallots, Champagne Vinegar and Sunflower Oil. It was a divine combination with lots of taste treats and textures. The dates impart a wonderful sweetness and softness and then the walnuts and jicama give lots of crunch. It was so wonderful that I will be adding it to my repertoire of salads from now on.  I hope you try it too! 

Arugula Salad with Chicken, Dates, Walnuts and Jicama

4 cups of Arugula washed and dried
1 cup of cooked Chicken Breast cut into a small dice
1 small Jicama (or 1/2 large one), peeled and cut into a julienne slice (about one cup cut up)
1/2 cup of Dates, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup of Walnuts, toasted in a frying pan

Place Arugula on a Serving Plate.  Sprinkle Chicken on top. Then add Jicama, the Dates and the Walnuts.  When ready to serve, drizzle on the dressing.


3 Tablespoons Champagne (or White Wine) Vinegar
1/4 cup Sunflower Oil
1 small Shallot clove, minced finely
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients and whisk together. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more sugar or salt as desired.

Five Element Analysis

Arugula belongs to the Fire Element, whereas the Chicken and the Vinegar brings in the Wood Element.  The Water Element is represented by the Walnuts.  The Shallots and Dijon Mustard contribute the Metal Element and the Dates and Jicama add the Earth Element. This then is a balanced Five Element Salad!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pronto Pasta Sauce with Prosciutto

Once in a while, I get a serious craving for pasta. This has especially been true since I visited Bologna the last two years.  As I am avoiding wheat, I have found some wonderful gluten free substitutes like DeLallo's corn and rice pasta and recently I found some fresh gluten-free pasta from a company called Manini's that takes only minutes to cook. Be sure to salt the water. My friend Camillo says the water should taste like the sea.

Anyway, I came home so hungry and I wanted to make a sauce and I wanted to make it fast. So, I threw together some garlic, onions, prosciutto and tomatoes and made a sauce in about 5 minutes!  This of course, was after I cut everything up. Since the pasta was fresh and only took a few minutes to cook, I had a lovely bowl of pasta fast! It was so delicious. Of course, you don't need to use gluten-free pasta, but I do recommend a fresh pasta as it is so much more tender and cooks faster.  I usually overlook adding prosciutto to my sauce as I am so fond of ground beef and Italian Sausage, but this sauce was so good that I had to share it with you. It's wonderful! 

Pronto Pasta Sauce with Prosciutto

4 ounces of Prosciutto cut up (I used Applegate Farms with no nitrates)
1/2 cup chopped Onions
1 Garlic clove minced
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
8 - 10 Basil Leaves, cut up
8 ounces of Pasta (I used macaroni)
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese for serving

Fill a pot with water and add salt until you can taste it.  Bring the water to a boil. Put in pasta and cook. Reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta while you make the sauce.

Heat a frying pan and add the Olive Oil then put in the Garlic and Onions.  Saute for about 2 minutes until the onions start to soften. Add in the Prosciutto and cook until it changes color - about another minute. Then add in the tomatoes and cook another 2 minutes or until the tomatoes just start to break down and turn into a sauce. Add the pasta to the pan and then add the reserved cooking liquid. Toss to coat the pasta and cook down the liquid for just a minute and then serve with Parmesan Cheese.

Five Element Analysis

Tomatoes belong to the Fire Element, so that element is covered. The Prosciutto, being a salted pork product contributes the Water Element. The Garlic, Onions, Basil and Parmesan all represent the Metal Element.  The Wood Element is seen in the Olive Oil and also the pasta if it is made with wheat. The one I bought has a lot of seed flour - amaranth and teff and millet, which add more of the Water Element and also has tapioca, sorghum and potato starch, which add the Earth Element.  So only the Wood Element was deficient, so I served it with a kale salad that had a lemon and olive oil dressing to create a five element balance. If you use wheat pasta, this dish will be missing the Earth Element so be sure to bring a food from that element in to balance out the meal and in that case, you can always seve a dessert.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stuffed and Baked Acorn Squash

It is beginning, just a little, to feel like fall. There's that tiny nip in the air in the early morning now. I love fall and I love all the harvest foods. So when I went to the market, I bought an Acorn Squash. In Chinese Medicine, squashes relieve dampness and help remove phlegm - something quite useful after a humid summer.  So today, I baked it and then stuffed it and it turned out so well that I had to share it with you. I used a stuffing that is a slight variation of one that I use for Thanksgiving, only this time I used Udi's Gluten Free Bread instead of regular wheat bread. But of course, you can use regular white bread if you want.  You can also use any other cooked grain like rice or millet or a seed like Quinoa if you prefer. I also used Chicken Breakfast Sausage and some celery, onions and sage.  You could definitely replace it with pork sausage if you prefer. I almost made it vegetarian and used mushrooms instead. Use your imagination as I think it would be good with so many different things! The only trick is to bake the squash first before you stuff it and then bake it some more when the filling is added. The squash caramelizes and the stuffing adds a wonderful savory counterpoint to the richness of the baked squash.  I loved it - it tasted a bit like Thanksgiving and was nourishing and nurturing.  And it was a really beautiful dish too. I hope you'll try it. I'm definitely going to keep making it as it was simply delicious!

Stuffed and Baked Acorn Squash

1 small Acorn Squash, cut in half, seeds removed
2 Tablespoons Oil
2 cups Bread cubes (crust removed) toasted in the oven until lightly browned (I used Udi's Gluten Free Bread)
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/3 pound Chicken Sausage (removed from the casing)
3/4 cup chopped Onion
3/4 cup chopped Celery
1/4 cup Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon dried Sage
1/2 teaspoon Salt and fresh ground Pepper

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Drizzle oil over the cut side of the squash and then turn face down on a baking sheet.  Cook for 30 minutes and remove from oven.

In the meantime, melt the butter and cook the Chicken Sausage, onions and celery until the sausage is no longer pink and the celery and onion is soft.  Pour into a mixing bowl and add the bread cubes, the sage and the salt a pepper.  Mash up the bread with a large wooden spoons (or your hands).  

Mound equal amounts of stuffing in each squash half.  Put in the oven and cook an addition 20 - 30 minutes or until stuffing is lightly browned.  If after 30 minutes, it is still pale, then turn on the broiler to brown it.  Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Squash with it's rich orange color and sweet taste belongs to the Earth Element.  The Chicken Sausage and Chicken Broth contributed the Wood Element along with the Celery. The Onions and Sage brought in the Metal Element as did the Udi's bread as it is made mostly of Rice Flour and Tapioca Flour. The Fire Element is missing, which can be added with a Fiery beverage like tea or wine or by serving with a salad.  The Water Element is also missing so be sure to serve another Watery Food with this dish like some dark berries for dessert or at another meal to create a Five Element Balance. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Danish Pork Soup

It's been a long time since I posted as I've been traveling and sadly not cooking very much. When I did have a chance to cook, I relied on old standbys instead of something new.  But, I just came back from teaching in Denmark and on the lunch break, I went to a little soup kitchen that had a daily special that I just had to come home and make. It was made with ground pork, leeks, celery and barley and some peas. The flavoring was a light hint of thyme and it was just so nurturing that I made it immediately after going to the grocery store. It was just what I needed after traveling so much. Pork is an underrated meat for making soup and it is one of the best for helping you recover.  One of these days, I will post my Pork Bone Soup recipe for broken bones.  And, these days, it is much less fatty than it used to be.  I love pork, since I am part Chinese, and I usually buy the premium, leaner kind.  If you buy a fattier ground pork, brown it first, then drain off the oil before adding the other ingredients. Otherwise, this is a very simple and delicious soup that's quick to make and just right for a tired body that needs some nurturing!  

Danish Pork Soup

1 pound lean ground Pork
3 Tablespoons Butter
2 large leeks, roots trimmed, dark green top removed, cut into small pieces and rinsed 
1 small onion, chopped
10 - 11 cups diluted chicken broth (1/2 canned chicken broth and 1/2 water)
1 cup Pearl Barley
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1 cup frozen peas
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Melt Butter in a large soup pot and then add in the Leeks and Onions. Cook until just softened and add in the ground Pork.  Stir and cook until Pork is no longer pink.  Add in the Chicken Broth, the Pearl Barley and the Thyme. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes or until the barley is tender.  Stir in the Frozen Peas.  Season with salt and pepper.

Five Element Analysis

Pork is considered a Water food and very good for Kidney Yin Deficiency, or exhaustion and is also full of B Vitamins.  Soup of course is also extremely good for the Kidneys as well. Leeks, onions and Thyme contribute the Metal Element.  The Chicken Broth and Celery contribute the Wood Element. Barley brings in the Earth Element and helps regulate blood sugar and is considered very cooling.  So the only element that is missing is Fire.  I added a tomato salad to round out and balance this soup.