Sunday, August 30, 2015

Plum Sauce/Plum Pudding

I have an Italian Prune Plum tree in my backyard that gave us a huge number of plums this year that were just harvested. Of course, I ate a lot of them fresh, but in order to save them for later, I made a lovely Plum Sauce that when thickened with cornstarch can become a wonderful Plum Pudding. It has a lovely tangy flavor that's not too sweet and when layered with whipped cream or whipped coconut cream, it becomes a beautiful parfait. This sauce freezes well and can then be a wonderful addition to smoothies. Of course, you could can it, but I don't can much and honestly, this sauce usually doesn't make it to the freezer either. This is such an easy recipe but I think you will enjoy it. And, if you want to make it even more exotic, you can add spices, like Cinnamon and a little nutmeg or you can also add Five Spice Powder, a little Tamari and some Garlic Powder and make a Chinese Plum Sauce. I personally like it drizzled over cake. If you have plums, you will want to make this sauce or pudding!

Plum Sauce

4 cups Prune Plums, seed removed and cut into quarters
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 - 1/2 cup Water if you want a thicker or thinner sauce

Put the Plums with the water and sugar into a heavy saucepan. Heat the pan over medium heat and stir to melt sugar and mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat. Stir frequently as the plums start to soften - about 15 to 20 minutes. Use a stick blender and blend until only a lithe chunky or perfectly smooth as desired.  Add in additional spices if desired.

Plum Pudding

Add 3 heaping teaspoons of Cornstarch mixed with 2 Tablespoons of water and add to the Sauce mixture. Continue cooking until it is thickened.  Cool and strain and store in the refrigerator until cold.  Layer or top with whipped cream or whipped coconut cream to serve.

Five Element Analysis

Plums belong to the Fire Element as do most stone fruits and the sugar adds the Earth Element. If you add any spices, like Cinnamon you bring in the Metal Element. But as you can see this sauce needs to go with other foods so it is best served as a Fire/Earth dessert.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hainan/White Cut Chicken

Since I wrote about the fresh Chili Garlic Sauce that I used on my Hainan Chicken, I figured I had better give you the recipe for that as well.  Hainan Chicken is a really popular dish in Singapore and it's a great way of getting lots of soup and tender chicken and delicious rice that you cook in the broth. I grew up with a variation that is called White Cut Chicken and it is still one of my favorite ways to cook chicken. The secret is to only boil it for a very short  time and then take the chicken off the heat and leave it covered to steam for 40 minutes longer. You then remove the chicken and let it cool completely and then you cut into bite size pieces. Now, traditionally you use a cleaver and hack through the bones to cut the chicken up, but I like my chicken boneless, so I take the meat off the bones in pieces as big as possible and then cut it up. Of course, the breast meat looks the best as it comes off in one big chunk and if you slice it partially sideways, it makes for a great presentation. 

The usual sauces that are served with Hainan/White Cut Chicken are the Chili Sauce that was my last post and also a Soy Sauce and Vinegar with Scallion Sauce and also a grated Ginger Sauce - basically grated Ginger and Salt. To make it easier, I mix it all together. It's very similar to the sauce made famous by Momofuku, but really, that recipe is pretty classic  to most Asian cuisines and I don't really think you even need to measure. I've included my version below. It is shocking how good this plain chicken tastes with these sauces and if you serve it with rice that has been cooked in some of the leftover chicken broth, you have a fabulous meal. I like to serve it with a Cucumber Salad. The chicken is so tender and the sauces are so savory and pungent - this dish is a delight for your tastebuds!

Hainan/White Cut Chicken

1 Whole Chicken about 3 pounds
1 Tablespoon Salt + 1 1/2 Tablespoons more
Water to cook Chicken

Take 1 Tablespoon of Salt and Rub it all over the skin of the chicken. Then place it into a big pot and add enough water to come up to cover most of leg and thigh, leaving the breast uncovered.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Then turn off the heat, push the pot over to an unheated part of the stove and let sit for 40 minutes.  Then take out the Chicken and cool.  Strain and taste the broth and add additional salt. Use the broth to make rice to serve with it and save the rest for soup.

When the chicken is fully cooled, pull the meat off the bones in as big chunks as you can. Cut into bite size pieces.  Serve with Chili Sauce and Tamari, Scallion, Ginger Sauce.

Tamari, Scallion and Ginger  Sauce

4 - 5 Scallions, trimmed and sliced finely
2 - 3 Tablespoons Tamari
1 teaspoon Rice Wine Vinegar
2 inch chunk of Ginger grated
1/2 teaspoon Sesame Oil

Mix together and let sit for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors meld. It will hold in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Five Element Analysis

Chicken belongs to the Wood Element so that element is covered and the way of cooking this dish is very Watery.  The Tamari and Sesame Oil add even more of the Water Element. The Scallions and Rice add the Metal Element and the the Chili Sauce contributes a good amount of the Fire Element. The Ginger contributes the Earth Element and the Cucumber Salad I served it with adds even more, making this a balanced Five Element meal!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fresh Chili Garlic Sauce

I use a lot of Chile Garlic Sauce in my Chinese cooking and today I realized that I was out of it and my local grocery store didn't carry it. But, I did find Red Jalapeños so I decided to make some fresh Chile Garlic Sauce to go with the Hainan Chicken I had already cooked. I've actually never used Red Jalapeños before and when I ate a little piece of it, I was surprised how mild it was and how delicious.There is a subtle sweetness to it, much like a Red Bell Pepper with a little more heat. I fell in love instantly! 

I decided to keep the sauce simple. I tossed the Red Jalapeños into the Cuisinart and added two Garlic Cloves. I then seasoned it with a little salt and added a little oil to make it smoother and just a pinch of sugar and then I pureed it. I was thrilled at how delicious this simple little sauce turned out to be! If you don't have a food processor, I am sure that you could also mince up the ingredients finely and mash them with a mortar and pestle and it would be just as good. If you wanted to make it more of a Southeast Asian Chile Sauce, I would recommend adding a little Fish Sauce instead of the salt. If you want it hotter, you can add some Thai Bird Chiles or a bit of a hot green chili. I only made a little bit as I was testing it and it was the perfect amount for what I needed, but this recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.  Red Jalapeños are going on my grocery list from now on!

Chile Garlic Sauce

4 Red Jalapeño Chiles
2 Garlic Cloves
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon of neutral flavored Oil (I used Safflower)
1/4 teaspoon Sugar

Stem the Red Jalapeños and cut in half to remove the seeds. Place in a food processor and add the Garlic, Salt, Oil and Sugar.  Puree, stopping several times to push the mixture back down the sides. Remove to a serving bowl.

Five Element Analysis

Chiles of any kind belong to the Fire Element and red ones are even more fiery.  The Garlic brings in the Metal Element and there isn't enough of the other ingredients to make an impact. I served this with Chicken, which is Wood food and another sauce made of Tamari and Sesame Oil and some Scallions, which brought in the Water Element and a bit more Metal. I also served a Cucumbers, an Earth food as a salad to create a balanced Five Element meal.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Green Beans with Bacon and Gluten Free Noodles

Many years ago before I really started cooking seriously, I would occasionally buy frozen food and one thing that I really liked was Bird's Eye Green Beans with Spaetzle in Bavarian Sauce. Being half German, I like those Bavarian flavors, even though I knew it wasn't very authentic. It's been a long time since I've had those frozen vegetables, but I remembered those flavors tonight because I had a package of frozen green beans that someone in the family bought from Whole Foods and I needed to make room in the freezer. So, I decided to cook them and recreate that recipe. Guess what?  It was really good! I replaced the Spaetzle with Gluten Free Spaghetti noodles broken into small pieces and I used Bacon, Shallots and Chicken Broth as the flavoring components and then thickened it just slightly with cornstarch so that the sauce would cling to the beans. It came together in about 20 minutes and it was just as it should be - the salty, chewy bacon combined with succulent green beans and the al dente pasta mixed together to make a delicious savory sauce. I would probably like it even better with fresh green beans, but I have to admit that I was shocked how good it was with the frozen ones.  And, if you are not doing gluten free, I think homemade Spaetzle would take this dish to another level.  

Green Beans with Bacon and Noodles

1 lb bag of Frozen Green Beans (or fresh Green Beans, trimmed)
2 strips of Bacon, cut into a small dice equal to about 1/3 cup
1/2 Shallot, minced - about 1/3 cup
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Cornstarch mixed with 2 Tablespoons water and made into a slurry
1/2 cup Gluten Free Spaghetti Noodles (I used DeLallo), broken into small pieces and boiled according to package directions - cooked until al dente - and drained 
Fresh ground Pepper to taste

In a frying pan with high sides, cook the Bacon until just starting to brown and add the Shallots. Cook until the soften. Add in the Green Beans and the Chicken Broth and bring to a boil. Cover and steam for 5 minutes (10 if using fresh Green Beans). Mix in the cooked Noodles and the Cornstarch slurry. Cook until sauce thickens and becomes clear. Season with pepper and serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Green Beans belong to the Wood Element and the Chicken Broth adds even more, so this is a primarily Wood dish. But, the Bacon brings in the Water Element and the Shallot contributes the Metal Element and so do the noodles, just a bit because they are made of Rice, which is Metal and Corn, which is Earth. The Earth is just barely there and the Fire Element is missing. To add things to make this a balanced meal, serve it with a a Fire dish, like a salad and an Earth main dish, like something made with Beef to create a Five Element balance.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Simple Asian Radish Salad

I tend to lose my appetite when it's really hot outside and Seattle has had a very hot summer! So, I tend to eat a lot more raw food, usually in the guise of salad and one of the salads I keep making over and over is this really simple little Daikon Radish Salad. Now I suppose you could use any kind of radish, but I am partial to the long white Daikon because you just get so much more of it without having to trim as many ends and also because all of the pieces are a similar size and that kind of symmetry just makes me happy. Anyway, I buy about a 10 inch long Daikon on a regular basis but I keep forgetting to post this salad so finally I am going to give you this recipe. Basically, you just peel and trim the Daikon and then slice it into thin little slices, add some green onions bits and dress it with a dressing made of Tamari, Chili Ginger Sauce and a bit of salt. That's it. 

I was especially happy because my son and daughter in law just gave me a tiny Shun Santoku knife that was super sharp so slicing the Daikon was a joy. Of course I remembered to give them some money for it - just some spare change - so that it wouldn't cut our relationship. I can't wait to use it so you will be seeing a lot more vegetable recipes in the near future. This salad was a hit with them too and I have to admit that it was even better the same day, but only a little bit was left over.  Radishes have that wonderful bracing bite to them - something I think that is like smelling salts - it wakes up your taste buds and then it gets even more exciting with the chili. But the radishes also get softer in both texture and taste due to the Tamari and salt. I love it and I've been eat ing it a lot - hope you love it too!

Simple Asian Radish Salad

1 Daikon Radish, approximately 10 inches long, trimmed, peeled and sliced into thin half moons
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Tamari
2 teaspoons Chili Garlic Sauce
2 - 3 thin green onions, trimmed and sliced fine

Put the Radish into a bowl and mix in salt. Let sit for about 15 minutes and then drain off the water. Add in the Tamari, Chili Sauce and Green Onions. Serve immediately or refrigerate until later up until 24 hours later.

Five Element Analysis

Radishes belong to the Metal Element as they are very pungent and they are white and the green onions add even more so this is a primarily Metallic dish. The Tamari and salt add the Water Element and the Chili Garlic Sauce adds some Fire. The Earth and Wood Elements are missing so be sure to serve a Main Dish and some other sides that are part of these elements to make a balanced meal.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fava Falafel

When I was in college at UCSB, I used to ride back on my bike from school to Isla Vista and often I would stop at a wonderful little Falafel stand with my friend Doug, who was a vegetarian. I grew to love Falafel and when I was in Israel earlier this year, I went from one "best" Falafel place to another in Tel Aviv sampling as many as I could and they were all amazing. And although they are quite easy to make, I don't make them very often and I don't know why - they are quite easy to make. They used to be one of my favorite appetizers to bring to a party with a big bowl of Tahini to dip them in. I got in the mood for them today and I didn't have any dry or canned Chickpeas. But, I did have a bag of dried Fava Beans that I picked up at a Middle Eastern market a few weeks ago. Some people of Middle Eastern descent have an allergy to Fava Beans and that's why they converted to Chickpeas in Israel.  Luckily, Fava Beans are one of the foods I am not allergic to. So, I decided to use them instead, as this is the ingredient of choice in Egypt. I started by soaking the beans overnight but by the time I got to them, it was nearly 24 hours. And, I used the usual Falafel spices - Cumin and hot red pepper - in this case, I used dried Aleppo Pepper. I based the recipe made them gluten free by using gluten free flour to thicken them up.  They turned out wonderfully and they were lighter in taste and color than the Chickpea version. I absolutely loved them and luckily I made a lot. I served them with Tahini (see previous post) and my son concocted a Harissa Ketchup to eat them with - basically a lot of Harissa with a little Ketchup to sweeten and temper the heat. They were so delicious that I will definitely be making them again many times!  

Fava Falafel

2 cups dried Fava Beans (peeled), soaked in cold water overnight or up to 24 hours
1 large onion, chopped
6 large cloves of Garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped Parsley
1/3 cup chopped Cilantro
Juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons Salt
2 teaspoons Aleppo Pepper (or other hot dried red pepper)
2 teaspoons Cumin
1/2 cup Gluten Free Flour (I used Cup4Cup)
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
Oil for Frying

Put the drained Fava Beans in the Cuisinart (can also use a Blender or Stick Blender) with the Lemon Juice, Onion, Garlic, Parsley and Cilantro and process unit it is a coarse paste.  Remove to a bowl and add in the Salt, Aleppo Pepper and Cumin. Stir in the Gluten Free Flour and the Baking Powder. 

Heat a few inches of oil in a frying pan (I used my Wok) and heat oil until hot. Make small balls of the mixture and drop carefully into the hot oil, turning and pressing down slightly and cook until dark brown on both sides.  Remove and place on paper towels.  Repeat but let the oil heat back up again for a few moments between each batch.

Serve with Tahini Sauce or Harissa Ketchup or put into Pitas. They can also be reheated in the oven.

Five Element Analysis

Beans of all sorts belong to the Water Element, but frying is a Fire Element cooking method so both Water and Fire are covered in this dish and the dipping sauces add even more Water from the Sesame Seeds in the Tahini and Fire from the Ketchup and Harissa. The Onion, Garlic, Cilantro and Parsley along with the Gluten Free Flour all contribute the Metal Element. The Wood Element is represented by the Lemon Juice in the Falafel and also in the Tahini Sauce and the Earth Element is missing. So, be sure to add a bit more Wood and a lot more Earth in the same appetizer spread or at a later meal to find balance.