Me: "What would you like for dinner? How about something chinese-y?"
Husband: "Sweet and Sour something?" (Asks the vegan...)
Me: "You got it!"
Of course to do any sort of traditional chinese sweet and sour sauce you'd need pineapple - which I don't keep on hand. So out came my favorite chinese cookbook that I picked up in Canada a couple years ago called "The Asian Kitchen" by Lilian Wu. Sticking with the fruity flavor theme, I picked out and altered a recipe for Chicken with Lemon Sauce - making half the batch with a fake chicken product for my vegan husband and half the batch with pork for me (the foul-hating carnivore). The sauce was so easy and tasty - super easy to whip up with ingredients found in most pantries, and very authentically chinese-y tasting (even though it's soy-sauce free)!
Chicken (Chick'n) with Lemon Sauce
4 small skinless chicken breast fillets (or equiv. Chick'n product)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and groud white pepper
chopped cilantro, spring onions, and lemon wedges for garnish
FOR THE SAUCE
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp lime cordial (or lime juice)
3 tbsp confectioners sugar
2 tsp cornflour
6 tbsp cold water
Arrange the chicken/chick'n (or pork!) in a single layer in a shallow bowl. Mix the sesame oil with the sherry and add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Pour over chicken/chick'n, cover and marinate for 15 minutes.
Mix together egg white and cornflour. Add the mixture to the chicken/chick'n and turn with tongs until thoroughly coated. Heat vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan or wok and fry the chicken/chick'n fillets for about 15 minutes until the fillets are golden brown on both sides. (Note: battering fake chick'n is a great way to get a really nice sear on it when you cook it).
Make the sauce: combine all the sauce ingredients in a small pan, adding 1/4 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly until the sauce is smooth and has thickened slightly.
Cut the chicken/chick'n into pieces and arange on a serving plate (Note: I think plating on a bed of rice would work well). Pour the sauce over and garnish. Serve.
Me: What should we do for dinner? I'm thinking maybe a Thai curry.
Rob: How about burgers?
Dave: How about curry burgers?
Me: Haha! Who ever heard of such a thing.
(Me does Google search. There are hundreds of results.)
These worked out really well. The flavor was a little more like an Indian than a Thai curry, and perhaps closest of all to a Malaysian. We had them on buns with roasted peppers and peanut sauce, though I thought they were just fine with traditional burger assembly as well.
2 lbs lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups sweet onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten
3 Tbl evaporated milk (I used creamer)
1 Tbl Worcestercersterireshire sauce
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbl mild curry powder
1 Tbl steak seasoning
Mix all ingredients.
Form 8 patties.
Apparently I didn't get enough cornbread while I was on the Mississippi River because I just made this Corn Fritter Casserole from the September 2004 Cooking Light and devoured a quarter of it in one sitting. It's a cross between corn bread and corn pudding and technically it's a side but there's no sides category so I stuck it under apps. I left out the onions and peppers for my version.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine 3 tablespoons butter, softened, 3 large egg whites, and 1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened, in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Stir in 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper, 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can whole-kernel corn, drained, and 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can cream-style corn; mix well. Add 1 (8 1/2-ounce) package corn muffin mix (such as Jiffy) and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, stirring until well combined. Pour into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Yield: 9 servings.
Today the SF Chron posted the second installment in their culinary grandma series. It's a neat idea - pair up a young person who has memories of their cultural food and doesn't know how to cook it with an older person who wants to pass on their knowledge. It combines two things I value highly - cooking and making sure we listen to the stories of our elders. They won't be around forever, and they have so much to tell....
On Friday, I took my team on an off-site to the San Francisco Zoo. I promised them that I'd cook lunch, so I brought picnic stuff for 11. Good fun was had, all around....
Cowgirl Creamery cheeses: Red Hawk & Mt. Tam
Pate & flatbread crackers
An assortment of rosÚs
This is definitely a riff on the California "mesclun, nuts, fruit, and vinaigrette" salad that is ubiquitous around these parts, but it's still one of my very favorite salads to serve to a crowd - it's chock full of tasty bites. Elsewhere on gastronome, I point out how to make it on a picnic, and it's on the menu at Thanksgiving 2003. .
For the salad:
A big bag of weeds & fronds
roasted pistachio nuts
A good blue cheese, crumbled (My favorite is Pt. Reyes Blue)
Some kind of fruit - my two favorites are fresh figs or dried cherries
optional: a crisp apple, diced
optional: a big bunch of basil, sliced into thin strips (chiffonade)
For the dressing:
1 finely diced shallot
1 tbsp mustard for every 1/3 cup of oil
1 part good olive oil
1 part Lulu's fig balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
1. Whisk the dressing together. Adjust.
2. Combine greens, pistachios, fruit, and cheese.
3. Add dressing, toss & serve!
I've played around with the dressing - substituing different flavored vinegars, or exchanging the shallot for roasted garlic. Try out your favorite flavors!
Once upon a time, I didn't care for pasta salad. Either it was mushy, or it was mayonaissey. Ick on both fronts. Then the nice folks at Cook's Illustrated tipped me onto the idea of using lemon juice for the acid component in a pasta salad. It's great! I love the tang of lemon, and it doesn't dissolve the pasta into mush the way vinegar does. Here's my master recipe - which launches from the Cook's Illustrated article. (You'll probably need a subscription to view the page; if you want a copy of the original article, let me know and I'll email you one!) I've included two variations I served at a picnic on Friday.
1 lb of dried pasta (orichiette is my favorite)
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, including the pulp
1-2 tsp lemon zest, chopped finely (or use your smallest microplane grater)
1/2 cup of oil (I usually use a good extra-virgin olive oil. Now's the time to use the precious really-good artisinal stuff; you can really taste it. You can definitely vary this, though.)
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
crushed red pepper or freshly ground pepper, depending on your additions
sea salt (again, a good time to pull out the precious good stuff)
a handful of fresh herbs, chopped or torn
3-4 cups of veggies and things
0. Prep your additions. Grill your veggies and meat, roast your peppers, crumble the cheese, tear your herbs. You get the idea.
1. Boil your pasta. Stop when it's al dente; drain. Put it in a big bowl.
2. While the pasta is cooking, whisk the lemon juice, garlic, oil, salt & pepper together.
3. While the pasta is still hot, add the veggies and meats, and pour the dressing over the top. Toss. Put aside to cool.
4. When the pasta salad has cooled to room temperature, add any cheese. (Don't do it while hot, or your cheese will melt.)
Serve! It will last a few days in the fridge. (This will serve 6-8 hungry people, with a salad.)
2 bunches of asparagus
3-4 red, orange, and/or yellow peppers
2 lbs of bacon
8 oz mild feta cheese
1. Snap the tough ends from the asparagus. Brush with grilling oil (peanut or olive), and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Grill over high heat. Remove while they still have a little crunch to them, and slice into 3/4" pieces on the bias.
1. Rub peppers in a touch of grilling oil, and grill over high heat. Let the skin just start to blacken. (Alternately, you can roast them at 500 F, broil them quickly, or roast them over a gas burner.)
2. Immediately put the peppers in a paper bag, roll down the top, and let them sit for 5-10 minutes. (This will help steam the skins loose.)
3. Rinse with cool water, and pull off the skin. Open up the peppers, and remove the membranes and seeds.
4. Chop into 3/4" squares. (About the right size to let a piece of pepper fit in the dimple in an orichiette.)
1. Cook the bacon until crispy. Drain, cool, and roughly chop.
2. Snip the chives into a million tiny chive pieces.
3. Crumble the feta into a bowl.
Prepare pasta and dressing as above. (Be generous with the black pepper with this salad.) Toss in the asparagus, bacon, and peppers with the dressing. Add the feta after the salad has cooled. Adjust salt & pepper.
Crazy Asian Fusion Pasta Salad
2-3 cups Chinese Dry SauteÚd Green Beans
1.5 lbs shrimp
2-3 tbsp Chinese 5-spice
1-2 tbsp cumin
toasted sesame oil
Hot chile paste or oil
Black sesame seeds
1. Prepare your green beans. (Something like this should work nicely, or order extras when you get Chinese food the night before.
2. Shell & clean the shrimp. Add a few teaspoons of peanut oil to the bowl, the 5-spice, and the cumin. Toss well. Each shimp should be pretty well covered in spices.
3. Grill the shrimp until done. (1-2 minuets a side). Pull them off the grill, let cool, and cut them into small pieces (halves or quarters, depending on the size of the shrimp. You want the pieces to just fit inside the bowl of an an orichiette.)
4. When you make the dressing, use the following oils:
-- 1/4 cup mild olive oil
-- 1/4 cup peanut oil
-- a few tablespoons of toasted sesame oil
-- a tablespoon of hot chile oil/paste. (Less if you know yours is very potent.)
5. Toss all ingredients with the hot pasta & dressing, and sprinkle the top with black sesame seeds. Let cool to room temp, and serve!
It's been a while! I'm trying to get back into the whole food thing and have been planning to start cooking one 'nice' meal a week; an entree and at least one cooked side dish. The dishes don't have to be complex or involved, but they should be a little bit more special than heating up a pizza or my signature one-bowl meals. In preparation, I have been updating my online recipe archive from a huge stack of magazine tears I have been collecting for years.
Last night I keyed in an easy, great looking recipe for Wasabi Salmon from InStyle magazine (Dec 2003). I'm guessing this dish would be lovely paired with simple soba noodles or white rice and a crisp little salad.
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon wasabi powder
1 teaspoon bottled minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
4 6 ounce skinless salmon fillets (1 inch thick)
To speed preparation, heat the skillet while the fish marinates. Serve with pickled ginger and white rice topped with chopped green onions.
Combine soy sauce, wasabi, ginger, and sesame oil in a large zip-top plastic bag; add fish. Seal and marinate at room temperature 5 minutes, turning bag occassionally to coat. Remove fish from the bag, reserving marinade.
While fish marinates, heat a large non-stick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add fish; cook 3 minutes. Turn fish over. Reduce heat to medium, cook 8 minutes or until done.
Yeilds: 4 servings (1 fillet per serving)