Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Chocolate Cherry Pavlova

This is a dessert I made last month when I had guests and I just forgot to post it even though it turned out so well. I had this idea for a while that I should make a Chocolate Pavlova and use Cherry Pie Filling as the fruit on top of the Whipped Cream. I simply add Cocoa Powder to the usual Pavlova recipe and it turned out beautifully!  I grated more Chocolate on top although next time I will probably make Chocolate Curls instead. It ended up having the flavors of a Black Forest Cake and since I have ancestors from that region of Germany, I thought it was an appropriate dessert. I have to add that it was also delicious and Gluten Free!

Chocolate Cherry Pavlova

For the Pavlova:

6 Egg Whites
1 1/4 cups Sugar (superfine if possible)
a pinch of Cream of Tartar (about 1/8 teaspoon)
a pinch of Sea Salt
1/3 cup Cocoa Powder

Turn the oven on to 250 degrees. Cut a piece of Parchment Paper into an 9b inch circle and place on a baking pan.  

In a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, beat the Egg Whites, Sugar, Cream of Tartar and Salt together on a medium high speed until stiff peaks form - this can take up to 10 minutes.Then add in the Cocoa Powder very gently and lightly with a spatula until just incorporated

Spoon the mixture onto the Parchment to make an 8 inch Pavlova and smooth the top as best you can  

Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the surface is dry and firm.  Turn off the oven and let it remain in the oven with the door slightly ajar for 1 more hour.

Remove and let cool until ready to use

To Serve:

Top with sweetened Whipped Cream (I used two cups of Heavy Cream whipped with 1/4 cup Sugar) and a 15 ounce jar of Sour Cherry Pie Filling.

Top with Shaved Chocolate Sprinkles from a piece of Dark Chocolate  or shave Chocolate Curls.

Five Element Analysis

As a sweet dessert, this is obviously part of the Earth Element, but the Chocolate and Cherries contribute the Fire Element. The Cherries, being sour give just a nod to the Wood Element. The Egg Whites bring in the Water Element and the Whipped Cream add the Metal Element. So it's a bit more balanced as a dessert than you might expect!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Medicinal but Delicious Poached Asian Pears

It’s that time of year when almost everyone I know has come down with the cold or the flu. So besides making Hot Lemonade with Honey (or Hot Toddies) and Chinese Chicken Soup (particularly Hot and Sour Soup - previous post) for my loved ones, I also make Poached Asian Pears. Eating Poached Pears is an ancient Chinese Medicine remedy for colds, coughs and sore throats, as Pears support and lubricate the lungs. It was one of the things I remember my Mother making me when I was a child and it’s a very comforting food.

I use Asian Pears that are big and round. It doesn't matter if the skin is brown or yellow. They are wonderful to eat out of hand as they are crisp and juicy.  But, when I poach them in a lightly sweetened syrup using Water, Ginger and Brown Rock Sugar, they become medicine. If you don't have Rock Sugar, you can use Brown Sugar, but you will need a lot less as it is much sweeter and you can also use Honey. It only takes a few minutes to poach Pears and I highly recommend this as a tasty medicine for when you get sick with an upper respiratory infection. Of course you can eat this dish anytime as it is delicious and supports your immune system, but do try to have someone make it for you if you are sick. And don't forget to drink the syrup too!

Medicinal but Delicious Poached Asian Pears

1 large Asian Pear
1 1/2 cups Water
3 heaping Tablespoons brown Rock Sugar
3 slices Ginger (about the size of a quarter) or more

Cut the Asian Pear into quarters. Then peel and core them. Cut them each again so you have 8 slices.

In a small pot, put in the Water, Rock Sugar and Ginger. Bring to a boil and put in the Pears. Return to a boil and cover. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 - 12 minutes or until a fork can pierce the Pears.  Serve hot.

Five Element Analysis

Pears belong to the Metal Element. The Ginger is a combination of the Metal Element and the Earth Element. The brown Rock Sugar adds even more Earth.  This is no meant to a balanced food as it is designed to support the Immune System and lubricate the Lungs. But if you also have Chicken Soup, which brings in the Wood and Water Elements, be sure to add some Hot Chili Sauce or Pepper for the Fire Element and you will have a balanced meal even while you are sick.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

French Onion Soup

The first time I went to Paris, I was a young adult and completely in love with the city. I didn't have much money and was carefully budgeting, so my solution was to eat a lot of French Onion Soup for lunch. I would have my Baguette in the morning and would only eat a full meal at dinner. French Onion Soup didn't cost very much and I could eat it at sidewalk cafes and watch people walk by. The soup was so delicious and to this day, I think of sitting in Paris whenever I eat it. 

French Onion soup is rather easy to make. It's just time consuming to brown the onions to get the right level of caramelization. Then a light White Wine is added along with Bay Leaves and Thyme and Beef Broth. If you want to make it vegetarian, just use Vegetable Broth and it will still be good as the flavor is really all in the caramelized Onions. French Onions Soup is usually served with toasted Baguette slices with broiled Gruyere Cheese on top. Of course, I omit the bread and cheese for my portion, but I do eat it with buttered Gluten Free toast that I dunk into the broth so I make the soup a little bit thinner than the typical French way. Since I serve it to my family and they are not Gluten and Dairy Free, I do bake the Baguette slices and broil the Cheese on them to top the soup. I don't like to broil the Bread and Cheese in the soup as the bread gets very soggy. But, if you want to be more authentic, make sure that you have heatproof bowls. French Onion Soup is a wonderful bowl of soup and the bonus is that it brings back good memories for me of my first wonderful trip to Paris.

French Onion Soup

4 very large Yellow Onions (about 2 pounds), sliced thin
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
4 Tablespoons Butter
3 - 4 sprigs of fresh Thyme
2 medium Bay Leaves (or 1 Large)
1 cup White Wine
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground Pepper
5 cups of Beef Broth (or Vegetable Broth)
1 cup of Water

For serving:
6 ounces of Gruyere or Emmentaler Cheese, sliced thin
10 - 12 slices of a Baguette

In a large heavy pot, melt the Butter and then add in the Onion slices, minced Garlic, Herbs, Salt and Pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring often until the Onions become golden brown - about 40 minutes. Be sure to scrape the fond (the stuck onion bits) off the bottom. Then add in the Wine and bring to a boil and then add the Beef Broth and Water. Bring to a boil again and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for an additional 20 - 30 minutes. 

For the Cheese Bread:  

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the Baguette slices on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Then turn the oven to broil. Place the slices of cheese on top of the Baguette slices and put under the broiler until the cheese is melted and the edges of the bread is growing. Watch carefully as this goes fast. Place 2 - 3 slices of Cheese Bread on top of each bowl of soup.

Five Element Analysis

Onions belong to the Metal Element, but when they are cooked long and slow until they caramelize, they then become an Earth food.  The Beef Broth brings in even more Earth.  The Garlic is a Metal food and so are the Herbs. Gruyere cheese adds even more Metal. The Wine brings in the Fire Element and as a Soup, this is fundamentally a Water food. Only the Wood Element is missing and the Baguette contributes some of that element. I suggest serving this soup with a leafy green Salad and you will have a balanced Five Element meal!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Cilantro Lime Sauce

I recently bought a big bunch of Plantains and I decided to make Plantain Chips (Tostones - a previous post).  However, I wanted to make a dip to go with them this time, like the one I had this summer at a little restaurant called Portico in Langley, Washington. It was a warm dip and was divine with hot Plantain Chips.  I only remember that it was green and tart and garlicky and I was pretty sure that it was made from Lime juice, Garlic and Cilantro along with Olive OIl. So, I decided to make it and it turned out so well that I am sharing it with you. It was so good!  I added just a bit of Hot Sauce, which gave it more depth of flavor. I think it would be great as an alternative Salsa for Tortilla Chips and for Tacos too. It's really simple if you have a food processor or a stick blender.  It's fresh and tart and delicious - you need to try this Sauce soon.

Cilantro Lime Sauce

1 cup of Cilantro Leaves (packed)
1/4 cup Lime Juice
2 teaspoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Olive Oil
4 cloves of Garlic
1 teaspoon up to 1 Tablespoon Green Hot Sauce (I used Callahans Poblano)

Put all the ingredients in a food process or blender and puree. Pour into a small frying pan and heat.  Stir in the Hot Sauce to taste.  Serve with Plantain Chips or Tortilla Chips or use as a Salsa for Tacos or Fish.

Five Element Analysis

Cilantro is a a leafy green so it does embody some of the Wood Element, but it is also considered a Pungent Herb so it is also a Metal food.  The Olive Oil contributes more Wood as does the Lime Juice and the Garlic brings in more Metal. The Hot Sauce makes a small contribution of the Fire Element. Served with either Plantains or Tortilla Chips made from Corn contributes the Earth Element.  Be sure to add a Water Element food in the main meal to create a Five Element balance.

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Hoppin' John

There are many foods that are considered lucky on New Year's Day. Most of the dishes involve eating something that symbolizes money.  I save all my Chinese ones for Chinese New Year that usually occurs in early February. So for the Gregorian New Year that falls on New Year's Day, I tend to serve Hoppin' John, which is a classic Southern dish of Black Eyed Peas, Greens of some sort - I used Collards. As you can guess, the Greens symbolize the color of American money and the Black Eyed peas are supposed to be symbolic of Coins.  I use Country Ham although a smoked Ham Hock is probably the most traditional meat in this dish, although Smoked Sausage or Bacon are also both really good.  

Hoppin' John is most often served with Rice or Rice is cooked with the Black Eyed Peas. But, I like to make my Rice separately, so it won't too soggy in the delicious broth and then I pour it over. Hoppin' John is a relatively easy dish to make, especially if you used canned Black Eyed Peas, but with a Pressure Cooker, they cook in about 30 minutes and the rest of the dish comes together pretty fast.I also use Chicken Broth and for those of you out there who are vegetarians or vegans, this recipe works beautifully without the meat and with Vegetable Broth.  I also added several cut up Roma Tomatoes to make the broth even more flavorful. I'm quite sure to some people, this would less traditional, but it makes this dish even more delicious - you can eat it anytime and if you want to make it into soup, just add more broth.  Happy New Year!

New Year's Hoppin' John

2 - 3 cups cooked Black Eyed Peas 
1 cup cut up Country Ham (or Smoked Sausage or Bacon)
1 Onion, minced
3 Tablespoons Oil
2 bunches Collard Greens torn off the middle stem and torn into small pieces
6 cups Chicken Broth (more if making soup)
4 - 6 Roma Tomatoes, chopped (and peeled if desired)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
pinch of fresh ground Pepper

In a large frying pan with high sides (or medium size pot), put in Oil and heat over medium high heat. Add in the Onions and cook until they become translucent. Add in the Ham and Tomatoes.  Then add in the Collard Greens and cook until the Collard Greens are softened. Next add in the Black Eyed Peas and the Chicken Broth. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes and serve over hot Rice and Cornbread on the side..

Buttered Jasmine Rice

2 cups Jasmine Rice, washed and drained
3 cups Water
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Salted Butter

Place Rice in a small pot and pour water over. Add Salt and Butter. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Turn down to a low heat for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Five Element Analysis

Black Eyed Peas are a bean and so belong to the Water Element. The salty Ham adds even more Water. The Chicken Broth contributes the Wood Element and so do the Collard Greens.  The Fire Element is represented by the Tomatoes. The Rice and Onion make sure that the Metal Element is present. Only the Earth Element is missing, so be sure to make some Cornbread to go with it!