Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Natalie's Nori Tofu Packets

A number of years ago, my friend Natalie made these delicious Nori Tofu Packets when she was staying with me and I've thought about them ever since.I recently visited her in England and she asked me what I would like her to make and I immediately requested this dish. For me, it embodies the flavors of Japan, which was my childhood home.  And, it was just as good as I remembered!  I watched her make it carefully and came home and made it myself. The only thing I changed from her recipe is that I added some Tamari to the Tofu as I like the savor flavor it imparts and I added a drizzling sauce that incorporates some Chili Garlic Sauce to add some heat. This is a lovely dish for those of you who enjoy tofu!

Natalie’s Nori Tofu Packets

1 package Firm Tofu, drained and crumbled
1 Leek, root end trimmed, dark green part cut off, quartered and sliced thinly
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Tablespoons Tamari + more for serving
2 Tablespoons Umi Plum Vinegar + more for serving
Nori Seaweed Sheets – 8
Optional:  Chili Garlic Sauce

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add in the sliced Leek and Carrots pieces. Cook, stirring frequently, until the Leek and Carrot pieces soften. Add in the Tofu and cook for another 2 minutes.  Sprinkle the mixture with the Tamari and Vinegar.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Heat the water in a steamer  Lay one sheet of Nori on a small plate and spoon a heaping 1/4 cup of the Tofu mixture into the center.  Fold in the two sides and then the two ends, turning over so the seam side is down. Repeat until all the packets are made.  Steam on the plate or on a steamer tray covered with parchment, two at a time for 5 minutes each. Serve with additional 1 Tablespoon Tamari and 1 Tablespoon of Vinegar mixed together with 1 – 2 teaspoons of Chili Garlic Sauce to drizzle on top.   

Five Element Analysis

Tofu is a Metal Food and the Leeks add even more. The Carrots contribute the Earth Element and the Umi Plum Vinegar makes sure that the Wood Element is present. Tamari brings in the Water Element along with the Nori Seaweed. Only the Fire Element is missing form the main part of the dish so that’s why it is wise to serve these Nori Tofu Packets with a sauce made with Chili Garlic Sauce to create a balanced Five Element dish.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Spiced Carrot Soup

I had an amazing Carrot Soup at Cafe Campagne in Seattle when a friend was visiting last month and I remember asking at the time what spices were in the soup because it was so incredibly delicious. The secret ingredients were Five Spice Powder and Cardamom. I don't know why I waited so long to make it once I knew what was in it. So tonight, I stopped by the store and picked up some lovely slender carrots with the tops on as they are fresher and finally made this soup. Oh my it was good and it was so easy too!  It's made with Shallots and Butter, Carrots, Vegetable Broth and the spices I already mentioned.  That's it and it took only about 20 minutes to make. It is a creamy soup with just a hint of exotic spices. I left the seeds of the Cardamom nearly whole as I enjoy biting into the resinous little seeds. I am going to make this soup again and again - this one is not just a keeper, it's already become a favorite!

Spiced Carrot Soup

4 cups of peeled and chopped slender Carrots
2 large Shallots, chopped (nearly 1 cup)
4 Tablespoons Butter (or Ghee)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 cups Vegetable Broth (or Chicken Broth)
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon Five Spice Powder
Seeds from about 6 -8 Cardamom Pods crushed (remove bits of husk) or about 1//8 - 1/4 tsp when ground

Melt the Butter in a soup pot and add in the Shallots. Cook, stirring them until they become translucent. Add in Carrots and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring often to keep them from getting brown. Then add in the Vegetable Broth, Salt, Five Spice Powder and Cardamom. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 - 15 minutes or until the Carrots are soft. Using a stick blender, puree until smooth or use a blender, doing 1/2 of the mixture at a time until it is the right consistency.

Five Element Analysis

Carrots are extremely nutritious and belong to the Earth Element. The Vegetable Broth (or Chicken Broth) contributes the Wood Element. The Five Spice Powder, Cardamom and Butter along with the Shallots bring in the Metal Element. Soup, by it's very nature is part of the Water Element. Only the Fire Element is missing so this is a good soup to serve with a Salad to create a Five Element balance.  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Portuguese Sautéed Collard Greens

Here's the last recipe from my Portuguese dinner that I kept forgetting to post. It's interesting to me that the Portuguese cook their greens very similar to the way that the Chinese do, mainly stir fried in a small amount of oil - the difference being that the Portuguese use Olive Oil - with Garlic and some broth to steam the vegetables soft.  Perhaps this was part of the cultural exchange when Portuguese sailors visited China, but who knows? All I know is that Collard Greens are wonderful when sautéed briefly. They still taste good when they are cooked for a long time, but when cooked for a short time, they retain their lovely green color and have more texture. Collard Greens are the closest vegetable I could find to their cabbage and this dish was served at nearly every meal that I had in Portugal. I've heard that they are often sold at markets already cut and that they even have a machine to cut them thinly. I thought it was fun to slice them thin and they cook really fast. This is a simple recipe that makes Collard Greens taste absolutely delicious!

Portuguese Sautéed Collard Greens

1 bunch Collard Greens, washed
2 large Garlic Cloves, chopped.  
2  - 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 cup Chicken Broth (or Vegetable Broth)
3 Tablespoons Pine Nuts

Cut the Collard Greens away from the stem. Then, roll them up like a cigar and slice them very thin. Heat a frying pan over medium high heat.  Pour in the Olive Oil and add the Garlic. Cook until the Garlic just begins to brown. Then add in the Collard Green shreds. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.  Then add in the Broth and cook for an additional 3 - 5 minutes. Remove to a serving plate and sprinkle with the Pine Nuts.

Five Element Analysis

Collard Greens are clearly part of the Wood Element and the Chicken Broth and Olive Oil add even more Wood, but this fast way of sautéing is a Fire method of cooking so that element is also present.The Garlic brings in a little bit of the Metal Element and the Pine Nuts contribute a small amount of the Water Element. The Earth Element is missing, which is why this dish is so good with the Cod Fritters and Tomato Rice, as the Fritters are made with Fish and Potato and Onion - Water, Earth and Metal and the Tomato Rice represents Fire with the Tomatoes and Metal with the Rice. That combination is a perfectly balanced Five Element meal!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Portuguese Style Cod and Potato Fritters

I meant to post this recipe yesterday, but I got sidetracked, so here it is for you - finally. Since I didn't have any Salt Cod or Bacalau, I improvised and made frozen Cod taste like Salt Cod. I did this by cooking it in the oven with more Salt than usual and I also cooked the Garlic and Onions with it so they wouldn't taste so sharp. When the Cod was done, I shredded it and added it with the Garlic and Onions to Mashed Potatoes that I cooked just for this dish. But, I think this might also be a really good way to use up leftover Mashed Potatoes too!  Oh and don't forget to add in some chopped Parsley. I was told to use a ratio of equal parts Potato and Fish, but I went ahead and added slightly more Cod to give it a firmer texture. 

Once it is all mixed together, you can use 2 Tablespoons to make Quenelles before dropping them into  hot Oil. I just like to shape them with my hands to look like little footballs. Once I made the basic shape and placed them on a plate, I rinsed my hands and smoothed them with my wet hands (rewetting when necessary) and then I dropped them 1 or 2 at a time into hot Oil until they were golden brown. Served with some Lemon and of course some Tomato Rice and sautéed Collard Greens, you have an amazing Portuguese meal. Or if you just want to make them as a snack, they are great hot or cold. To me, they taste like Fish and Chips all together in one bite!

Portuguese Style Cod Fritters

3/4 pound of fresh or frozen Cod filet
1/2 medium Onion, minced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped Parsley Leaves
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Salt + 1/2 teaspoon more for Potatoes
4 medium Potatoes, equal to about 3 cups peeled and cut up into cubes
Water for boiling Potatoes
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 to 1 1/2 cup light flavored Vegetable Oil

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place the Cod on a piece of Parchment (or foil) and put the Onion and Garlic on top. Drizzle with Olive Oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Salt, close up the Parchment and place on a small baking pan. Place in oven and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes and then add the Cod, Onions and Garlic to a mixing bowl.  

Add Potato pieces to a small pot and cover with boiling water. Return to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 25 minutes or until Potatoes are fork tender.  Drain and mash and add to the bowl. Sprinkle with the additional 1/2 teaspoon Salt and stir until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Then add in the Egg and stir until thoroughly mixed.

In a small pot, heat Oil until hot. Meanwhile, take a small handful of the mixture and form into football shaped Fritters (you can also  make balls or patties if preferred). Place on a plate and continue until you use all the mixture up - it should make somewhere between 20 to 24 Fritters. Then wet your hands and smooth the top and sides of the Fritters, rewetting your hands when the mixture sticks. 

When the oil is hot, carefully drop in one Fritter to cook until it is golden brown. Remove to a paper towel covered plate. Then cook 2 more Fritters at a time until all the Fritters are cooked. If the oil gets too low, add in the additional 1/2 cup of Oil and let heat up before cooking the rest of the Fritters

Serve with slices of Lemon, Portuguese Tomato Rice (previous post) and sautéed Collard Greens.

Five Element Analysis

Cod, like all fish belongs to the Water Element. The Garlic and Onions contribute the Metal Element and the Potato brings in the Earth Element. Only the Fire and Wood Elements are missing, so serving this dish with Lemon and Collard Greens makes sure that the Wood Element is present and the Tomato Rice gives you the Fire Element along with more Metal making this a balanced Five Element meal!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Portuguese Tomato Rice

I just returned two days ago from a lecture tour where I taught in England and Portugal. I love England and my students there and I always have a good time. And I've wanted to go to Portugal for a very long time and it exceeded my expectations. The people were warm and friendly, Lisbon and the nearby beaches are beautiful and the food was incredible!  I've come back with a hunger for more Portuguese food and my very first attempts were Portuguese Tomato Rice and Pasteis or Salt Cod Fritters. Today, I'm going to post the Rice Recipe and tomorrow, I will post the Cod Fritters recipe, although I have to warn you that I couldn't find Salt Cod or Bacalhau at my local grocery store, so I used fresh Cod that I had in the freezer instead. I'm going to run over to Pike Place Market later this week to get some of the real dried Cod and make them again, more authentically. 

I actually had Portuguese Tomato Rice several times while there and got the recipe from one of my new Portuguese friends. She told me that it was a simple recipe - Rice, fresh Tomatoes, Onions, Garlic and Chicken Broth. The slightly more complicated version involves peeling and seeding the Tomato, but I liked it fine with the peels and seeds in it. Take the time to do this extra step if you want a sleeker final version. Portuguese Tomato Rice is served just a bit soupy and garnished with either Cilantro or Parsley -  it is so delicious and is a great accompaniment to many main dishes!  Plus it's very easy to make and that's always a good thing. 

Portuguese Tomato Rice

1 cup Rice (I used Paella Rice)
2 cups Chicken Broth (water with a chicken bouillon cube is standard)
2 large Tomatoes chopped fine (can also use canned without liquid equal to 1 1/2 cups)
1/2  large yellow Onion, minced (about 1 cup)
1 large Garlic Clove, minced fine
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
Parsley or Cilantro to garnish

In a heavy pot, heat the Olive Oil and add in the Onions. Stir and cook until Onion pieces start becoming translucent. Then add in the Garlic and cook until you can smell the Garlic fragrance, stirring constantly. Add in the Rice and cook until it becomes slightly opaque. Then add in the Tomatoes and cook until a thick sauce forms. Pour in the Chicken Broth and  add in the Tomato Paste and mix in thoroughly. Then bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook on low heat for 15 - 20 minutes.  Remove to a serving bowl (or individual bowls) and top with Parley or Cilantro.

Five Element Analysis

Rice belongs to the Metal Element and the Garlic and Onions add even more. The Chicken Broth contributes the Wood Element and the Tomatoes add in the Fire Element. Serving this Rice with Cod Fritters makes this meal balanced as the Cod brings in the Water Element and the Potatoes make sure the Earth Element is also represented for a Five Element balance. I would also add sautéed Collard Greens in the Portuguese style.