Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Kale Salad with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts

So as I told you last week, I went to a family gathering for Easter and I was asked to make a Kale Salad and forgot to post the recipe - so here it is for those in the family who asked for it. If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know I've already made several kinds. So I wanted to make something a little different.  I decided to use dried fruits because I wanted to create a jewel-toned look. I dehydrated some dried Tart Cherries, some Cranberries and some Golden Raisins so they would be a bit softer although you can skip this step if you want. Then I used some Pine Nuts as a little bit of a different texture, since they are a similar size. I used Lacinato or Dinosaur Kale and sliced it very thin in the Chiffonade style and I made a dressing with Raspberry Vinegar, which is a little sweet and of course, Olive Oil. It was beautiful and delicious too!  I liked the Kale cut up this way much better than in bigger pieces and the sweetness of the fruit and the dressing took away the bitterness of the Kale (my biggest complaint about it as a vegetable). I loved the Pine Nuts on the salad too. We served it with a sprinkling of Parmesan and it was a big hit!

Kale Salad with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts

2 bunches of Lacinato Kale, washed
1/4 cup each - Dried Tart Cherries, Dried Cranberries, Dried Golden Raisins
1 cup Boiling Water for rehydrating the fruit
1/3 cup Pine Nuts
1/3 cup Raspberry Vinegar (or use Balsamic)
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons minced Shallot (1 smallish bulb)
Optional:  1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Strip the Kale leaves from the center stem. Then roll up and slice into thin strips. Place in the salad bowl. In another bowl, soak the dried fruit in the boiling water. When soft (it only takes a few minutes), drain and reserve. Toast the Pine Nuts in a small frying, watching carefully and stirring so they don't burn.  remove to a plate and cool. 

In a small bowl, mix together the Raspberry Vinegar, Olive Oil, Sugar, Salt and the Shallot pieces.  Stir to combine and pour over the Kale. Toss to combine well and use your hands to massage the dressing in a little. Let the salad marinate for at least 15 minutes. When ready to serve, sprinkle the Salad with the Fruit, Pine Nuts and Parmesan Cheese to serve.

Five Element Analysis

Kale is a dark green and leafy vegetable so it belongs to both the Water and Wood Elements. The Water Element is further enhanced by the Pine Nuts and the Wood Element is given more strength from the Vinegar and Olive Oil. The dried Cherries and Cranberries belong to the Fire Element and the Golden Raisins make sure that the Earth Element has a presence too. Lastly, the Parmesan Cheese and Shallot contribute the Metal Element. This then is a nearly balanced Five Element Salad. Just be sure to add a little more Earth to your meal!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Simple Lemony Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap Peas are a delightful Spring vegetable and they should be enjoyed during the season. They are one of my favorite vegetables and I like them done very simply so that nothing takes away that wonderful fresh Pea flavor and crispness of the pods. Be sure to take the time to snip off the ends and remove the strings, it's worth it!  Usually, I just blanch them for three minutes and then season them with Sesame Oil and Salt to give it a lightly Asian flavor. But for Easter, I was bringing it as a side dish to a family gathering and decided to change it up just a little bit and so I seasoned them instead with Butter and Lemon, some grated Lemon Zest and a sprinkle of Sea Salt. The Snap Pea Pods were so delicious this way. The Lemon Zest gave it an extra special touch and made the presentation beautiful as well. This is such a simple recipe, but so worth making!

Simple Lemony Sugar Snap Peas

1 pound Sugar Snap Peas
2 Tablespoons Butter
Zest of one small Lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
Juice of one small Lemon (about 1 1/2 Tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt (I used Maldon's)

Remove the tips and any strings that you can from the Peas. Heat a pot of water to a boil and add the Peas. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes (no longer) and remove to a strainer and cool off with cold water. Place in a serving bowl.

Heat the Butter in a small frying pan until melted and add in the Lemon Juice and Salt.  Pour over the Peas and toss. Then sprinkle on the Lemon Zest before serving.

Five Element Analysis

Peas are very fast growing early spring vegetables so they are considered part of the Wood Element and the Lemon Juice adds even more. But because they are so sweet, they are Earthy too.  The Butter contributes the Metal Element and finally the Lemon Zest adds in the Fire Element and the bit of Salt makes sure the Water Element is present too. Strangely, this little dish has more Five Element balance than most although it is primarily a Wood dish.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Pennsylvania Dutch Style Deviled Eggs

Yesterday, I celebrated Easter with my Son and Daughter in Law and her family and we all brought food for the Easter feast. My son wanted to make Deviled Eggs so I gave him my Grandmother's recipe with a few upgrades. We made 2 dozen!  Instead of chopped up Bread and Butter Pickles, which are traditional and sweet, I used Claussen's refrigerated Pickles because I like the crunch. And instead of a German style mustard, I used Dijon, mostly because I ran out of Lowensenf. I also use Best Foods/Hellman's Mayonnaise as I can't remember what my Grandmother used.  To make the Deviled Eggs taste right because of those changes, add a little sugar to give it that hint of sweet and sour taste that is so reminiscent of Pennsylvania Dutch style Deviled Eggs. These are actually delicious and quite easy to make, plus they are always a big hit!

Pennsylvania Dutch Style Deviled Eggs

1 Dozen large Eggs
½ cup Best Foods (Hellman’s) Mayonnaise
3 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard or German Mustard
3 Tablespoons Dill Pickles (I used Claussen), minced or Sweet and Sour Pickles
2 teaspoons Pickle Juice 
½  teaspoon Sugar (omit if using Bread and Butter Pickles)
¼ teaspoon Salt
Paprika for Garnish

In a large pot, cover eggs with cold water and bring to a boil. Cover and take off heat for 20 minutes. Then drain the eggs and let cool.  Peel the eggs and cut in half. Remove yolks carefully with a small spoon.  Put all the yolks into a mixing bowl and mash with a fork.  Add in Mayonnaise, Mustard, Pickles, Sugar and Salt. Spoon back into the Egg Whites and sprinkle with Paprika to serve.

Five Element Analysis

Eggs belong to the Water Element. The Pickles contribute the Wood Element and the Mayonnaise and Mustard bring in the Metal Element. The Sugar makes sure that the Earth Element has a presence and the Paprika does the same for the Fire Element. All Five Elements are present but not in a balanced way. But this is an appetizer so you know that it will add a lot of the Water Element to the meal.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Simple Sweet and Sour Napa Cabbage

I haven't been posting lately because I've been testing recipes for the cookbook that I'm writing. I don't think I've mentioned that before, but I am very excited about how it's turning out!  I'll let you know more as it progresses.  So, I haven't been cooking very many things that are new and different that I can post. Yesterday, I made a quick Sweet and Sour Cabbage dish to go with a little Pork Loin that I was roasting, while I was testing Chinese Barbecue Sauces and the dish went so well with the Pork that I decided to go and ahead and share it with you. I realized while in Germany a few years ago that whenever a fatty meat was served, like Pork, they also served something sour to help the digestive processes of the liver and gallbladder. The Chinese have always thought that way too so this is a perfect little dish for just that purpose. I think Cabbage in all it's various manifestations is a wonderful and extremely underrated vegetable!  Like all members of the Brassica family, it is very nutritious and protective health-wise so that alone is a good enough reason to eat more Cabbage. But I eat it because it is delicious. This recipe takes only a few minutes to cook, which is so helpful for a busy cook. I decided on it at the last minute because I realized I forgot to plan for a vegetable and I was so happy I did!

Quick Sweet and Sour Napa Cabbage

3 cups chopped Napa Cabbage
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Tablespoon Chinkiang Vinegar (Chinese Black Vinegar - you can also use Balsamic Vinegar)
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
fresh Ground Black Pepper
Optional 1 Green Onion, trimmed and cut into small pieces

Heat a wok or frying pan and add in the oil. Then add in the Napa Cabbage (and Green Onion if using) and stir frequently until the Cabbage starts to brown just slightly on the edges. Mix together the Vinegar, Sugar and Salt and stir into the Cabbage. Top with a little Black Pepper over the top. 

Five Element Analysis

Cabbage belongs to the Earth Element and the Sugar adds just a bit more, so this is a primarily Earthy side dish. The Vinegar contributes a little bit of the Wood Element. If you use the Green Onion, you add in a little bit of the Metal Element too and the Black Pepper adds just a hint of the Fire Element. This is a very good addition to a meal that needs more of the Earth Element. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Pancetta and Arugula Pasta Sauce

It is now quite easy to find high-quality Gluten Free Pasta that have the taste and texture of the real thing. My current favorite is the Bonta D'Italia brand by Schar, which is a German and Italian company. Pasta is often just the quick meal that I want to make when I don't feel like fussing with anything that takes longer than 30 minutes. Last night I made a sauce that was a big hit with my younger son. He doesn't like sauces made with canned Tomatoes and this one was made with fresh Romas that were surprisingly ripe from the grocery store. I just cooked some Shallots in Olive Oil and added Pancetta and then chopped Tomatoes to make a light and fast Pasta Sauce. At the last minute, I tossed in handfuls of Arugula up ends up wilting into a very tasty cooked vegetable. I love Arugula in a salad but don't often think to use it in any other way and this way works. And I usually have Pancetta already chopped up in the freezer from Trader Joe's. My son was delighted with this Pasta dish. He sprinkled the whole thing with lots of Parmesan Cheese and wasn't even aware that the pasta was gluten free.  I'm posting this recipe for him and for any of you who want another easy Pasta Sauce that comes together even faster than it takes to boil the pasta!

Pancetta and Arugula Pasta Sauce

4 ounces of Pancetta, chopped into small pieces
1 large shallot, minced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
8 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Salt
pinch of fresh ground Black Pepper
2 big handfuls washed Arugula (Rocket)
1/3 cup Pasta Water or 1/4 cup Water or Chicken Broth

Serve mixed with cooked Pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese if desired

Five Element Analysis

Pancetta is salted Pork so it belongs to the Water Element. The Shallot contributes the Metal Element and so does the Parmesan Cheese. The Tomatoes and Arugula add in the Fire Element. The Wood Element is brought in a little with the Olive Oil and Chicken Broth if you use it and it will be present if you use regular wheat pasta. The Gluten Free Pasta is a mixture of Corn and Tapioca flours for the Earth Element and Rice for more of the Metal Element.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

Braised Lotus Root

I bought a great, big multi-sectioned piece of Lotus Root the other day and decided to braise it. Normally, I add it to a big pot of simmering Pork Belly in the last 1/2 hour of cooking time, but last night I decided just to braise it by itself as one of several side dishes. This is a common technique for cooking Lotus Root in many Asian cultures. The Lotus Root is actually it's underwater stem and is crisp and crunchy when raw, used in salads, and become starchier when cooked longer. I like to do a quick braise of Lotus Root that takes about 20 - 30 minutes to preserve some of the crispness of this wonderful vegetable. If you like it softer, just cook it longer and it becomes more like Potatoes. The braising liquid is a simple combination of Tamari, Rice Wine and Chicken or Vegetable Broth and the flavorings are Ginger, Green Onion and Brown Rock Sugar or Brown Sugar. That's it! This is such a delicious vegetable and it is considered very cooling and good for the lungs. That makes it a tasty good for you food!

Braised Lotus Root

2 pounds of fresh Lotus Root
Water for soaking mixed with 2 Tablespoons Vinegar or Lemon Juice
2 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1/2 cup Tamari or Gluten Free Soy Sauce
1/2 cup Shaoshing Rice Wine
1/4 cup Brown Rock Sugar or Brown Sugar
3 - 4 Green Onions, trimmed and cut into 2 inch long pieces (reserve a Tablespoon of the top pieces, cut up, for garnish
3 large slices of Ginger, peeled
Optional:  1 teaspoon Sesame Seeds

Peel the Lotus Root and drop each section into the acidified water. When all the segments are peeled, remove each one and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Cut in half if the slices are very large. Return to the acidified water until ready to use.

In a pot or large high sided frying pan with a lid, mix the Broth, Tamari, Rice Wine and Sugar. Bring to a boil and add in the Green Onions, Ginger and Lotus Root. Add in the Lotus Root and bring back to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 - 30 minutes, basting the top Lotus Root pieces and turning them over about half way through. Turn off and let cool in the braising liquid or refrigerate until ready to eat. The longer it marinates, the darker it will get.  Sprinkle with Green Onion tops and Sesame Seeds to serve.

Five Element Analysis

Lotus Root is considered a cooling food and that's because it is both a Metallic food since it is white and has Water properties since it is grown under water.  The Green Onions and Ginger bring in more of the Metal Element and the Ginger also adds to the Earth Element which is supplemented by the Sugar. The Chicken Broth contributes the Wood Element. The Water Element is present in the Tamari and the Fire Element is brought in by the Rice Wine. This then is a balanced little dish in it's own right!