Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ginger Vinegar & Mustard Celery Seed Rub

These condiments go with various Taiwanese dishes, like the recipe for Baked Pork Ribs featured yesterday.

Mustard Celery Seed Rub

Makes 2/3 cup spice rub.

½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
½ teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
½ cup raw or dark brown sugar

Combine ingredients and store in an airtight container away from the sunlight. Before baking or grilling cuts of pork or beef, rub the mixture onto meat to enhance its flavor.

Ginger Vinegar

Makes 1 cup.

2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 cup white wine vinegar

Combine the ingredients in a clean jar. Cover tightly with lid and refrigerate for 2 days. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Strain it again through a coffee filter. Pour into a clean, airtight bottle. If refrigerated, the flavored vinegar will keep for a week. Use in any recipe that requires vinegar and ginger.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Baked Pork Ribs Rubbed with Mustard Celery Seed

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

4 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons Mustard Celery Seed Rub (see below)
2 pounds pork back ribs, cut into bite-sized pieces
¼ cup sesame oil
2 tablespoons sliced chili pepper
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon raw or white sugar
2 tablespoons Ginger Vinegar (see below)
½ cup water

Preheat oven at 350º. Combine the cornstarch and Mustard Celery Seed Rub in a cellophane cooking pouch. Add the ribs and shake to coat evenly. Stir-fry the ribs with the oil in a wok for 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the chili pepper, soy sauce, sugar, Ginger Vinegar, and water. Stir-fry over low heat until the sauce begins to thicken.

Transfer the ribs and sauce to a baking dish and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the ribs are tender and richly glazed.

Chinese cut-out image courtesy of Karen Hulene Bartell. This post is a member of the Hungry Ghost Week menu series.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Fresh Lotus Root Salad

Serves 4 to 6.

1 pound fresh lotus root (available at Asian markets)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons raw or white sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Rinse the lotus root under running water, peel, and discard both ends. Slice root into 1/8-inch-thick slices and place slices in water to prevent discoloration until root is completely sliced. Drain the lotus root then blanch in boiling water for 5 to 6 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and pat dry with absorbent towels.

Combine the remaining ingredients. Spoon the dressing over the lotus root slices and stir to coat evenly. Marinate in the refrigerator for an hour, stirring occasionally. Arrange slices in a circular pattern on a serving platter.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This post is a member of the Hungry Ghost Week menu series.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wonton Soup

Serves 4 to 6.

½ pound lean pork, chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
6 tablespoons (10 ounces) frozen spinach, chopped and drained
½ pound (3½-inch square) wonton wrappers (available at Asian markets)
2 quarts boiling water
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach leaves

Combine the pork, soy sauce, ginger, and salt in a large bowl. Fold in the cooked and drained spinach and mix well.

Place a teaspoon of the filling just below the center of each wrapper. Fold one end of the wonton over, tucking it beneath the filling. Dampen the edge to secure it. Roll it between your hands to form a small cylinder. Pull the 2 ends down beneath the roll until they overlap. Using damp fingers, pinch the ends firmly to secure.

Drop the wontons into rapidly boiling water. Bring again to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, or until pork is thoroughly cooked, yet the wontons are still a bit firm. Drain the wontons and discard the water. Add the broth to the 5-quart pot and bring to a boil. Add the fresh spinach and wontons. Bring to a boil once more then serve immediately.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This post is a member of the Hungry Ghost Week menu series.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hungry Ghost Week Menu

This week: Another great Taiwanese menu from Karen Hulene Bartell's Best of Taiwanese Cuisine!

Hungry Ghost Menu

Wonton Soup
Fresh Lotus Root Salad
Baked Pork Ribs Rubbed with Mustard Celery Seed
Straw Mushrooms and Snow Peas
Orange and Honeydew Wedges
Candied Lotus Seeds
Grape Tomatoes*

Taiwan has a counterpart to Halloween, but, instead of one day, this celebration lasts a month. The seventh lunar month is known as Hungry Ghost Month. The first day is called the Opening of the Gates of Hades; the last is called the Closing of the Gates of Hades. People believe that for a month, hungry ghosts walk the streets, looking for a good party. The fifteenth day of the seventh month is especially ominous. Many Taiwanese stay home that day, hoping to avoid an unlucky encounter with a ghost out enjoying the festivities. They display fruit, alcohol, and cigarette offerings on small tables outside their front doors. They light incense and burn ghost money (silver paper rectangles that look like money) to appease the hungry ghosts. They hold colorful parades, wear over-sized effigies of Buddhist saints, and light millions of firecrackers, hoping to frighten away the evil spirits. What better time to hold a party?

*Grape tomatoes are very sweet tomatoes about the size of grapes. These are considered a fruit, not a vegetable, and are eaten for dessert.

Chinese cut-out image courtesy of Karen Hulene Bartell.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Date-Filled Wontons

Use the peelings of only organically grown oranges.

Makes 48 wontons.

4 (8-ounce) packages chopped, pitted dates
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
½ cup grated orange peel
½ cup orange juice, as needed
1 pound (3
½-inch square) wontons, purchased of made
3 cups peanut or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Combine the chopped dates, walnuts, and orange peels and roll into a large ball. If necessary, add a little orange juice to help make the mixture cohesive. Taking about 1 tablespoon of the mixture, roll it between your palms into a 1 x 1/3-inch cylinder. Place it in the center of a wonton and fold a wonton corner over it, tucking it beneath the date filling. Roll up, jellyroll fashion. Twist ends to secure. Add the oil to a wok or deep fryer and heat to 375˚. Deep-fry 9 to 10 wontons at a time, turning occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent towels. Continue until all the wontons and fillings are used. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving. Make the day before, place in plastic bags or airtight containers, and refrigerate. Pop a few into the microwave to reheat for the two of you, and enjoy.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This post is a member of the Chinese Valentine's Day menu series.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Spicy Szechwan Eggplant

Recipe three from Karen Hulene Bartell's Chinese Valentine's Day menu for two:

Serves 2.

½ pound Oriental eggplants (available at Oriental markets), or 1 small domestic eggplant
2 green onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon black beans sauce
¼ teaspoon sliced chili pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons chicken broth
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon Ten-Spice Powder
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon cornstarch

Slice unpeeled eggplant into 2 x ½-inch strips. Trim and finely slice the green onions. Reserve half for garnish. Combine half the onions with the garlic, ginger, black beans, and pepper; set aside. Blend the broth, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and ten-spice powder in a small bowl; set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wok. Stir-fry the eggplant over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft. Remove eggplant with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and onion/garlic mixture to the wok. Stir-fry for 30 seconds. Fold in the eggplant and broth mixture. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the excess liquid has evaporated. Whisk the water with the cornstarch. Stir into the eggplant and heat until sauce thickens. Remove to a serving platter. Garnish with the remaining green onions.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This post is a member of the Chinese Valentine's Day menu series.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Swallow’s Nest

Part three of Karen Hulene Bartell's Chinese Valentine's Day menu for two:

These “nests” can be prepared up to three days in advance if wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, or, if frozen, they can be made up to three weeks in advance. Valentine’s Day is a time for enjoying the fruits of your labor, not for laboring!

Makes 2 nests.

3 ounces Chinese egg noodles (about 2 cups cooked noodles)
Sesame oil for deep-frying

Prepare the noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain thoroughly on absorbent towels overnight, covered. Brush the inside of a medium strainer with oil. Spread half the noodles over it evenly. Brush the outside of a smaller strainer with oil. Press the second strainer against the noodles, sandwiching the noodles between the 2 strainers. Very carefully lower all into a wok half-filled with hot sesame oil. Deep-fry for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the first nest is golden brown. Remove from the oil and very carefully release the nest from the 2 strainers. Drain on absorbent towels. Repeat with the second nest.

This post is a member of the Chinese Valentine's Day menu series.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Piquant Lime Chicken in Swallow’s Nest

Part two of Karen Hulene Bartell's Chinese Valentine's Day menu for two:

Serves 2.

2 chicken breasts, boned and skinned
3½ tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons water
2 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup sesame oil
2 green onions, sliced diagonally
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons raw or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

Pound the chicken breasts with a mallet to flatten and tenderize. Combine 2 tablespoons of the cornstarch, salt, water, and egg yolks in a shallow bowl. Heat the oil in a wok. Dip chicken into the cornstarch mixture, then stir-fry over high heat for 6 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown. Remove, drain on absorbent towels, and arrange each chicken breast in a Swallow’s Nest (see next post). Garnish with the green onions. Combine 1½ tablespoons cornstarch and the remaining ingredients in the wok. Stirring constantly over low heat, cook the sauce for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it thickens. Spoon the sauce over the chicken breasts.

Chinese cut-out image courtesy of Karen Hulene Bartell. This post is a member of the Chinese Valentine's Day menu series.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Oysters with Leeks

Recipe one from Karen Hulene Bartell's Chinese Valentine's Day menu for two:

Serves 2.

½ pound shucked, fresh oysters
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 leeks, rinsed thoroughly and chopped into ½-inch slices
¼ cup sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Combine all ingredients except the cilantro in a hot wok. Stir-fry all for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the oysters are cooked and the leeks are tender. Garnish with the cilantro.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This post is a member of the Chinese Valentine's Day menu series.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chinese Valentine's Day dinner for two

This week one of Hippocrene's most prolific authors, Karen Hulene Bartell, has a special treat: a full dinner menu in honor of Chinese Valentine's Day. If you can't attend the 2008 Olympics and cheer for your team, you can at least celebrate being with the one you love with this romantic Taiwanese menu.

Says Karen:

Chinese Valentine’s Day occurs on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, usually in August. It’s a celebration for yearning lovers, dating back to a legend about the Jade Emperor’s seventh daughter, who was a seamstress. She fell in love with and married a cowherd who lived across the Milky Way, but when she neglected her sewing and weaving duties, the emperor ordered her home, allowing her to visit her husband only once a year. According to the myth, on the seventh day of the seventh month, crows fly in such a tight flight formation through the Milky Way that the seamstress can walk across their wings to meet her husband. Like the American version of Valentine’s Day, lovers give each other small gifts and flowers, with cockcrow or gi guang (literally “king’s crown”) and gomphrena being the traditional flowers.

Prepare a love feast just for the two of you. Dim the lights. Create the mood as you set the table with your best china and linen. But don’t use silverware. Use chopsticks — and feed each other. Decorate with fresh flowers and lacy paper lanterns. Prepare exotic recipes that traditionally have given rise to romantic ideas.

Hippocrene Cooks will be featuring each of these recipes from Best of Taiwanese Cuisine as an individual post over the next few days, so stay tuned all week!

Chinese cut-out image courtesy of Karen Hulene Bartell.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Arroz con Leche (Spanish-Style Rice Pudding)

Another great Spanish recipe, from A Spanish Family Cookbook:

Most households have their own special recipe for rice pudding, but in most cases in Spain the pudding is cooked in a saucepan on top of the stove rather than in the oven, and incorporates a beaten egg yolk to give a rich and creamy result. This is one of our favorite recipes for arroz con leche.

Serves 4.

¼ cup short-grain rice
¼ cup sugar (or more, to taste)
rind of 1 lemon--cut into long strips
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons butter
1 egg yolk--beaten
3 cups water
ground cinnamon to decorate

Mix the beaten egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of cold milk and set aside.

Put the rice in a saucepan with the water. When it starts to boil, lower heat and allow to cook for 10 minutes. Then transfer to a sieve and drain off water. Put the remaining milk and lemon rind into the saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and add the drained rice to the milk. Mix well and allow to cook gently until the milk is almost absorbed and the rice is soft. Discard the lemon rind. Then stir in the sugar, butter and beaten egg yolk and mix well. Cook gently stirring occasionally, until the sugar, milk and egg yolk have been absorbed and the pudding is rich and creamy. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Champiñones al Jerez (Mushrooms in Sherry Sauce)

This week Hippocrene brings the taste of Spain to the dinner table, with recipes from the A Spanish Family Cookbook: Favorite Family Recipes (Revised Edition), by Juan & Susan Serrano.

We are fortunate enough to have access to good quality fino from the family's old sherry bodega, so this is a dish which appears regularly on our table, both as a starter or a tapa (appetizer).

Serves 4-6 as a tapa

4 cups (about 1 lb) button mushrooms
¼ cup fino (bone dry) sherry
1 clove garlic--chopped
1 small onion--chopped finely
pinch cumin
1 tablespoon chopped sweet basil
¼ cup oil
seasoning to taste

Wash the mushrooms well (or peel, if preferred) and dry on paper towel.

Put the oil in a large frying pan and saute the garlic and onions unti
l soft. Add the mushrooms, basil, cumin and seasoning, stir well and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Pour in the fino (dry sherry), cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes (add a little water, if necessary). Serve immediately.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ashtalieh (Cream Pudding)

Rounding off this week is another Lebanese recipe, this one designed to hit your sweet spot! Writes the author about his cream pudding:

I use a brand called Puck for the cream cheese. It comes in cans and can sometimes be found in Middle Eastern stores. Otherwise any cream cheese will do. Ashtalieh will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Serves 6

4 cups milk
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ pound cream cheese
2 teaspoons mastic powder
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1 teaspoon rose water

to finish
½ cup pine nuts, soaked overnight in cold water
½ cup peeled almonds, soaked overnight in cold water
½ cup unsalted pistachios
kater (sugar syrup) (for Dekmak's recipes, check out page 149 of The Lebanese Cookbook)

Heat the milk, sugar, cornstarch, flour, and half the cream cheese in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring all the time with a whisk until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and continue to stir until it thickens.

Add the mastic powder, orange blossom water and rose water and stir another 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Pour the mixture into a shallow serving dish and set aside to cool. Spread the remaining cream cheese on top and store in the refrigerator until needed.

When ready to serve, divide into pieces, decorate with the nuts and pour over the sugar syrup.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Batata Harra (Spicy Potatoes)

This week we have decided again to feature recipes from Hussien Dekmak's delectable guide to Lebanese cuisine, The Lebanese Cookbook.

Bring new life to the potatoes on your dinner plate, by adding some spice to them with this recipe for Batata Harra!

Serves 4

vegetable oil, for deep-frying
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped into
½-inch cubes
¼ cup olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 green chilies, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
salt and black pepper
½ teaspoon ground coriander

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer or deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Deep-fry the potatoes until crisp. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onion, garlic, pepper, chilies and fresh cilantro until softened. Add the potatoes along with salt, pepper and ground cilantro to taste. Stir to combine and serve.

Photography by Martin Brigdale.