Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tomato Spread with Cumin

I often crave dips to go with my extensive collection of Gluten Free Crackers and since I am also not doing dairy, I've gotten somewhat inventive about making tasty spreads and dips to go with them. Today I decided to use several very ripe tomatoes and make something that is halfway between a spread I had in Israel that had roasted red peppers in it and Indian Tomato Chutney.  It was a simple concoction seasoned with cooked onions, garlic and cumin seeds. I added just a hint of sugar and for me it turned out just right.  It's simple to make and wonderful on crackers!  I think it would also be good as a Bruschetta topping and also with goat cheese.  It's tastes even better the next day and my son spread it on his English Muffin before putting his fried egg on top and thought it was delicious. During the winter, I am sure it would be good made with canned San Marzano Tomatoes too but it will likely need more sugar. I'm definitely going to serve this as an appetizer for a dinner party soon.

Tomato Spread with Cumin

3 large Tomatoes, stem removed and chopped
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 large Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped Red Onion
1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1/2 teaspoon Sugar

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add in the onions and cook until they are soft. Then add in the Garlic and the Cumin Seeds. Cook until you can smell the Cumin, then add in the Tomatoes and the Sugar. Cook stirring until the Tomatoes break down and soften - about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the if becomes a paste. Serve warm or cold with Crackers or Grilled Baguette slices.

Five Element Analysis

Tomatoes belong to the Fire Family as they are so beautifully red. The Onions and Garlic Contribute the Metal Element as do the Cumin Seeds and the Rice Crackers, if you are serving these.  The Olive Oil and the Grilled Bread (or Wheat Crackers) contribute the Wood Element. Only the small bit of Sugar brings in the Earth Element and the Water Element is missing completely. So, be sure to serve this before a meal that contributes those elements.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

3 Day Homemade Dill Pickles

When I was going to UCLA, I used to stop at this little country store on the way home in the Canyon and buy Dill Pickles. Later I spent a lot of time at Art's Deli and my favorite thing there was the Half Sour Pickles. I would order a lot so I would alway be able to take some home. I once made my own years ago and loved them and kept that recipe, which I just found. So I went and found some small little Kirby cucumbers at my local PCC Market. I grabbed a bunch and made the pickles straight away. The recipe was a newspaper clipping from long ago and I believe it was from the LA Times so I will give them credit. I altered it a bit to make these and was very pleased at the result. They only took 3 days to make and were just like Deli Pickles the first few days after that. Then I left them in the fridge to go on a trip and came back and they were like the barrel pickles I used to buy. I forgot to photograph until this stage, so that's what you are seeing in the photo.  I love them both ways and fermented foods are so good for me that I plan on making my own pickles from now on!

Homemade Dill Pickles

6 – 8 Kirby Cucumbers - the smaller the better, washed
4 cups Water
2 Tablespoons Salt
1 teaspoon Dried Dill Seed
¼ teaspoon Whole Black Peppercorns
1 teaspoon Pickling Spice
4 large Garlic Cloves
Optional:  1 Jalapeno Pepper, sliced

Soak the cucumbers in a bowl of water while making the brine.

Bring water and salt to a boil. Cool down until just warm and add in the Dill Seed, Whole Peppercorns and Pickling Spices. 

Pack a large jar with the cucumbers and wedge them in tightly. Drop in garlic cloves and Jalapeno pieces (if using). Then pour the brine over the pickles.  Cover and leave on the kitchen counter for three days – opening the jar at least once a day. Serve after the third day and refrigerate from that point on. They will still be quite crisp the first few days and then they will get softer and more sour over time.

Five Element Analysis

Pickles by their very nature are sour, so they are considered first and foremost a Wood Food. But because they are pickled in salt water, there is quite a bit of the Water Element present.  Cucumbers in their original state are an Earth food so that Element is present a little as well.  The Fire Element is present if you use the Jalapeno Pepper and the Metal Element is present in the Garlic and the Spices. No one would ever expect Pickles to a balanced food, but they are more balanced little snack or condiment than you think! 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Tuna Salad with Japanese Flavors

I love Tuna Salad with Rice Crackers for lunch and today I decided to change it up a little. I made my Tuna Salad with Gobo (Yamagobo - Pickled Burdock Root shown below) and Scallions. I bought the Gobo at Uwajimaya and if you can't find it, you can substitute Carrot, lightly and quickly pickled with Rice Wine Vinegar in the Vietnamese style (recipe below). I made a dressing that tastes a lot like a mild version of the Dynamite Sauce that is used in Sushi Bars and it was wonderful! The trick is to use Kewpie Mayonnaise if you can, and if you can't find it, you can substitute Best Foods (Hellmans) but be sure to add a bit of sugar. The secret is to add in some Sriracha or Chili Garlic Sauce and a bit of Tamari too. I served it with Rice Crackers and I think it would be a wonderful dip for a party. I loved it as a light lunch.  Either way, it is delicious!

Tuna Salad with Japanese Flavors

2 6 oz cans of Tuna packed in water, drained
4 Gobo Roots cut into small pieces ( or use lightly pickled carrots - see below)
3 Scallions, root ends cut off and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup Kewpie Mayonnaise (or use Best Foods with 1/2 teaspoon of Sugar added)
1 Tablespoon or more Sriracha or Chili Garlic Sauce
1 teaspoon Tamari
2 teaspoons Black or White Sesame Seeds for garnish

Mix together the Mayonnaise, Sriracha and Tamari.  Put Tuna, Gobo Roots and Scallions into a bowl. Blend in the Mayonnaise mixture and sprinkle the Sesame Seeds on top. Serve with Rice Crackers.

Quick Pickled Carrots Vietnamese Style

2 small Carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
1/2 cup very Warm Water
1 1/2 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
1 teaspoon Salt

Mix together Pickling Mixture in a bowl, add in the Carrot pieces and marinate for 30 minutes.  Drain and add to tuna mixture.

Five Element Analysis

Tuna belongs to the Water Element as does all fish so that element is covered and the small amount of Tamari and Sesame Seeds add even more. The Wood Element is represented by the pickled Gobo - Burdock Root or Carrots although they both adds Earth as well. The Fire Element is brought in by the Sriracha or Chili Garlic Sauce and the Mayonnaise and Scallions add the Metal Element and Rice Crackers add even more. This dish then represents all Five Elements, although the Earth Element is weak so be sure to add something Earthy to go along with it or eat something sweet after.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Nectarine Crisp

One of the joys of summer is stone fruit - peaches, plums, apricots and nectarines and it is finally that time of year when they are ripe. Much as I enjoy eating them out of hand, I love them even more when they are baked into a dessert. I learned how to make Pies, Buckles, Slumps, Betty's and Crisps when I was 12 from my Germany grandmother, Annie Eisenhower. She came to stay with us and I baked and baked with her. To this day, I am grateful for those baking lessons and I have to admit that Crisps are my favorite, with pies a close second. So today I bought a big bunch of Nectarines and made a Nectarine Crisp in her honor, but I made it gluten free by using Oats and Almonds instead of using any flour although you can substitute almond flour for some or all of the almonds if you like. I sweetened it with brown sugar and pulled it together with butter and a bit of cinnamon and salt  When placed on top of the cut-up fruit and baked in the oven, this crisp topping is divine! You can serve it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, but I like it just plain and love to eat it for breakfast the next morning - if there is any left!

Nectarine Crisp

4 - 5 cups Nectarines, peeled and cut into thin slices
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup Gluten Free Rolled Oats
1 cup slivered or sliced Almonds (can use almond flour or a mix of almond flour with almonds)
1/3 cup Light Brown Sugar
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup Whipping Cream
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon Salt 

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8x8 inch glass baking pan.  Mix together nectarines and sugar and place in the baking pan. Pat down to smooth.  

In a large bowl, mix together the Oats, Almonds, Brown Sugar, Butter, Cream, Cinnamon and Salt with your hands.  Wehn it comes together, sprinkle clumps on top of the fruit evenly. Put in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.  Serve warm or cold with Vanilla Ice Cream or Whipped Cream if desired.

Five Element Analysis

Nectarines like most stone fruits belong to the Fire Element because of their color and because they are shaped like Hearts.  The two Sugars and Almonds contribute the Earth Element as do the oats and since this is a dessert, it is considered an Earthy food. The Butter, Cream and Cinnamon add in the Metal Element.  The Water and Wood Elements are missing so this would be a good dessert that follows a main course and side of those kinds of foods.  We had a light meal of Seafood and Salad to leave room for this delicious dessert!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ground Pork with Pickled Vegetables

One of my all time favorite Chinese flavors is Pickled Vegetables. They are a bit crunchy and sometimes spicy, but mostly they are salty and often have to be rinsed off before cutting them up to use them. They have a very special piquant flavor that may be an acquired taste for some, but I've never met anyone who didn't like them whenever I've served them. They are usually mustard roots or turnips that have been brined and can be found either in a can or in a little package (see below). I used to eat a lot of Pickled Vegetables in soup, but tonight I decided to make Pork with Pickled Vegetables as a kind of a stir-fry with ground Pork and Bean Thread Noodles. It ended up being a bit like Ants on a Tree (a previous post) but with a completely different flavor. And, if you add more chicken broth, it becomes a delicious soup too!

Ground Pork with Pickled Vegetables

1/2 pound Ground Pork
2 teaspoons Tamari + an additional 1 - 2 Tablespoons for later
2 teaspoons Shaoshing Rice Wine
4 green onions, ends trimmed, cut into small pieces, white and green parts separated
1 Tablespoon light-tasting Oil
1/2 cup of Pickled Vegetables, cut into small pieces (rinsed if necessary)
2 bundles (2 oz each) Bean Thread Noodles
1 cup or more Chicken Broth (for soup)
1/2 teaspoon Sesame Oil
Optional:  1 Tablespoon Chili Garlic Sauce

Put Bean Thread Noodles into a large bowl and cover with hot tap water.  Leave to soak for at least 30 minutes.

Put ground Pork into a small bowl and  add the 2 teaspoons each of Tamari and Rice Wine.  Mix to incorporate and let marinate for at least 10 minutes.

Heat Oil in a large frying pan with high sides or a wok until hot, add the white part of the Green Onions and cook until softened, stirring frequently.  Add in the ground Pork and stir until it is no longer pink. Then add in the Pickled Vegetables.  Drain the Bean Thread Noodles and add in with the Chicken Broth.  Season with the additional Tamari and Sesame Oil and Chili Garlic Sauce if using and bring to a boil.  To make soup, add more broth. Sprinkle with the green part of the Green Onions.  Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Pickled Vegetables in this case are not actually not that sour; they are actually quite salty so they belong mostly to the Water Element as does the pork. And, the Tamari and Sesame Oil add even more. So, this is a mostly Watery Food, especially if served as a soup.  The Bean Thread noodles and the Green Onions contribute the Metal Element and the Chicken Broth and the sour part of the Pickled Vegetables bring in the Wood Element. The Rice Wine brings in a hint of the Fire Element and if you use the Chili Garlic Sauce then the Fire Element gets represented more fully. Then, only the Earth Element is missing so be sure to serve this soup with an Earthy food, which is quite easy to add with a little something sweet after.  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Creme Brûlée

Antonie used a lot of egg whites the other day making Macarons, which were delicious, but she also left a lot of egg yolks just begging to be used. And, when I have egg yolks, I make Creme Brûlée. This is one of the very few dairy desserts that I will eat and it's so simple too. It's actually a ratio - 1 Egg Yolks, Sugar and Cream in the same proportions and then decide if you want to make a lot of Creme Brulee's or a few. I like to make the custard layer smaller on the bottom so I made 7 servings out of the 7 egg yolks I had. Some people, though, make only 4 servings with the same amount. It's up to you. Some people also add vanilla, but I like to keep it simple and let the Caramelized Sugar shine as the main flavor. 

The first trick to cooking Creme Brûlée, which is a fancy way of saying custard, is that the ramekins need to be cooked in a water bath and it is helpful to put a kitchen towel underneath to keep the ramekins secure and the temperature suitably low enough on the bottom of the pan. Then the other trick is to sprinkle the cold Creme Brûlée custards with sugar and then use a torch to heat and caramelize the sugar into a crunchy thin crust.  You have to do this fast or the custard will heat up too much. When it is done just right, the custard right below the sugar is warm, but the rest is cold so there are different temperatures and textures with each bite. And who doesn't love to break into that sugary crust? Martin insisted on buying a Plumber's torch as he didn't think it was practical to have a little tiny torch just for making Brûlée. I think though that the little torches are much safer, although the big one was fast.  

Creme Brûlée is so delicious and so easy to make. If you are serving this at a dinner party, you can make the custards ahead and then just get it ready right before serving. It is also so much less expensive to make it at home. Try it, you will be amazed at how easy this recipe is and how fantastic this homemade Creme Brûlée tastes!

Creme Brûlée

7 egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 3/4 cups of Whipping Cream
Butter for buttering the Ramekins
Additional sugar for Brûlée - a little less than one teaspoon per Ramekin

Heat oven to 300 degrees and boil a teakettle of water.  Butter 5 - 7 Corning glass baking cups or Ramekins and place in a 9 x 11 inch glass baking dish lined with a thin kitchen towel. In a large bowl, mix together the Egg Yolks, the Sugar and the Cream with a whisk until thoroughly blended. Using a soup ladle, divide the custard mixture evenly between the Ramekins.  Put the glass pan into the oven and then pour the boiling water carefully around the Ramekins until about 1/2 way up the sides, being careful not to get any into the cups.  Bake for 45 minutes until the custards are firm but still a bit wobbly in the center. If you made Ramekins that are quite full, it will take longer to cook and they may need an additional 5 - 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for about 30 minutes.  Then remove from the water bath and cool another 30 minutes. Then wrap with plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled - from several hours or even the day before.

When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Sprinkle nearly 1 teaspoon of sugar evenly over the top of each Ramekin. Take a torch and melt the sugar until it browns.  You can also do this step under the broiler, but watch them carefully as they burn easily!  Repeat until all are ready.  Serve immediately. 

Five Element Analysis

As a dessert, you know this is going to be an Earth food, but the egg yolks also contribute the Water Element and the Creme adds in the Metal Element.  Then the act of burning the Sugar adds some of the Fire Element. You wouldn't expect a dessert to be naturally balanced, so this is a good dessert to add to a meal that is composed primarily of Wood and Fire Foods.  We had a Roast Chicken with a big Green Salad for dinner with the Creme Brûlée for dessert to create a balanced Five Element Meal.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fennel and Orange Salad

Fennel is one of those strange vegetables that you either love or hate. It has a licorice flavor and a texture that is refreshing and crisp in a salad. I am on the Love Fennel side as it reminds me a lot of Tarragon. I think it pairs especially well with Citrus and I usually make a vinaigrette of some fresh orange juice, fresh lemon juice, garlic, mustard and olive oil and serve the sliced Fennel with some cut up orange pieces too. I also sprinkle some of the Fennel fronds on top as a garnish.  It is a delicious and delightful salad and just perfect for a hot Seattle summer evening served along some Grilled Fish with a sweet Berry Dessert!

Fennel and Orange Salad

¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1 - 2 garlic cloves, minced
4 fennel bulbs, stalks and root ends trimmed
2 Navel oranges, cut in half - juice one half for dressing and cut the rind of the other three pieces off and  then cut into small pieces
Reserved Fennel Fronds for garnish

Cut fennel bulbs in half lengthwise, then slice them crosswise into very thin slices.  Whisk orange juice, lemon juice and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season with salt and generous amount of pepper. Place fennel and oranges in large bowl. Add dressing; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with fennel fronds before serving.

Five Element Analysis

Fennel is a Metal vegetable because it has a certain pungency and the Garlic and Mustard add even more Metal. The lemon and orange plus the olive oil all contribute the Wood Element.  The Water, Fire and Earth Elements are missing. So, this is a great salad to serve alongside a Water main dish like the Grilled Fish I served and a sweet dessert  for Earth that includes some Red Berries - we made a Cake with Strawberries for the Fire Element that helped us achieve a Five Element balance in our meal.   

Monday, July 6, 2015

Haricot Verts with Shallot Vinaigrette

In the summer when it's hot, I can't seem to work up much of an appetite so I make a lot of salads. One of my favorites is Haricot Verts with Vinaigrette. Haricot Verts are the very thin, refined kind of French green beans and if you can't find them, regular green beans taste great too. But, I love Haricot Verts and I'm lucky because I can buy them packaged at Trader Joe's. They take only minutes to cook and turn out crisp-tender if you make sure to use an ice bath to cool them down right away. I dressed them with a White Balsamic Vinaigrette because that's a nice light vinegar, but sometimes I use Champagne Vinegar when I have it.  This vinaigrette also featured the flavor of Shallots and a bit of Dijon Mustard. I made a double batch to bring to a pot-luck dish for the 4th of July party. I placed the Haricot Verts on a bed of Arugula and decorated the dish with some chopped tomatoes. Martin was delighted because he said I made an H, which is the first letter of his last name. However, I did that by accident because I was just trying to hide the center line of the salad. In any case, it turned out beautifully and was a big hit at the party.  If you like green beans, you will love this salad!

Haricot Verts with Shallot Vinaigrette

1 pound Haricot Verts, stem side trimmed, leave pointed end intact
1 small Shallot minced (about 3 Tablespoons)
1/4 cup White Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sugar 
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoons Salt
2 cups of Baby Arugula
2 large Tomatoes, chopped
Black Pepper to taste

Prepare Vinaigrette by mixing together the White Balsamic, Olive Oil, Sugar, Salt and Mustard.  Put aside until ready to use.

Heat a pot of water to boiling and add in Haricot Vert. Prepare a large bowl with ice and water. Cook the Haricot Verts for 4 - 5 minutes or until just tender.  Drain and plunge immediately into the icy water. Remove when ready to serve

Prepare a salad plate with the Arugula leaves.  Place the Haricot Vert in the center and surround by the chopped tomato. Spoon the shallots out of the Vinaigrette on top of the Haricot Vert and then drizzle the Vinaigrette all over the entire plate.  Sprinkle with some fresh ground Black Pepper and serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Haricot Verts are fast growing green vegetables so you know that they belong to the Wood Element and the White Balsamic Vinegar adds even more. The Arugula, with its' bitter taste and the Tomatoes add the Fire Element, whereas the Shallot and Dijon Mustard contribute the Metal Element. So, this would be a great salad to serve along with a Water main dish, like fish and a sweet dessert. We had it with hamburgers, an Earth food and had blueberry and apple pie for dessert, which is a Water and Earth dessert that created a Five Element balance at our holiday party!