Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The New Year in the Philippines!

Our author Karen Hulene Bartell continues our Filipino Menu Series by giving us a look into what festivities and foods have become a tradition in the Philippines on New Years Eve and Day!

On New Year’s Eve, Filipino families make as much noise as possible by lighting firecrackers, beating pans, and blowing horns or whistles until midnight. The Media Noche is a snack served at midnight.

Media Noche New Year’s Eve Snack
Sweet Rice
Salabat Ginger Tea

On New Year's Day, try something different. Roast a pig over hot coals and serve with traditional Pancit, Lumpia, and Adobo.
New Year’s Day Dinner
Whole Suckling Pig

Canton or Noodles Cantonese Style
Lumpia Shrimp and Vegetable Wraps
Lumpia Sauce Pork
Steamed Rice
Papaya Atsara
or Green Papaya Pickles
Sweet Potato Flan
Star Fruit
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Buko I (Five-Minute Coconut Salad)

What could be easier than a recipe that calls for only three ingredients? Look for lychees and canned coconut in Asian supermarkets.

3 (11-ounce) cans whole lychees, quartered
6 (3.5-ounce) cans canned grated coconut in syrup
1 cup heavy cream

Combine the lychees with the undrained coconut in a medium bowl. Fold in cream. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
Yields 8 servings.

Coconut Salad
Buko II

Filipino ingredients are available in Asian supermarkets.
8 ounces frozen shredded buko (young coconut), thawed
8 ounces fruit cocktail
1 (15-ounce) jar mata de coco (coconut gel)
1 (12-ounce) jar kaong (palm fruit in syrup)
1 (8-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (8-ounce) can Nestle cream (thick, sweet topping)
or 8 ounces vanilla yogurt

Drain the buko, fruit cocktail, mata de coco, and kaong thoroughly; combine in a medium bowl. Add the milk and cream, mixing well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Stir well before serving.
Yields 8 servings.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Noche Buena (Christmas Eve Midnight Feast)

Enjoy a few sample recipes from Karen's Filipino Christmas Eve menu for a flavorful evening!

Arroz Caldo Con Pollo Chicken Rice Soup with Ginger
Caldereta Hearty Beef Stew
Paksiw na Lechón Pork Pot Roast in Lechón Sauce
Hamon Chinese Ham
Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Buko Coconut Salad
Yema Egg Balls
Polvoron Powdered Milk Candy
Christmas Cookies
Tsokolate Rich Chocolate Drink
Roasted Chestnuts

Arroz Caldo Con Pollo

Make this comfort food a day ahead to allow the flavors to marry. Besides being traditional Christmas Eve fare, the soup is also a cold remedy.

1/2 cup minced garlic
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, coarsely chopped or squeezed through a garlic press
1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
1 (2-pound) chicken, cut into serving-size pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons salt or patis (fish sauce)
1/2 cup finely sliced green onions
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

Using a 3-quart pot, sauté 2 tablespoons garlic, the ginger, and onion in 2 tablespoons oil for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the garlic is golden, and the onion is translucent. Add the rice and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly add 10 cups water to the rice mixture. Bring the soup to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat, add the chicken, and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Add the salt during the final 5 minutes of cooking.

Meanwhile, sauté the remaining garlic in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until the garlic is a golden brown.

Serve the soup in a preheated tureen. Garnish with the sautéed garlic, green onion rings, and black pepper.
Yields 4 servings.
Note: Patis is a fish sauce used for seasoning nearly every Filipino dish: chicken, beef, pork, fish, shrimp, crabs, and other seafood. However, patis is an acquired taste. A good substitute is rock or iodized salt. Other substitutes for patis are a mixture of soy sauce and freshly squeezed lemon juice or soy sauce and kumquats. Patis is available in Asian supermarkets.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Traditionally the batter for flat cakes was poured into a banana leaf–lined clay dish and baked over charcoal. The cheese was made from the milk of water buffalos. However, what an aluminum cake pan, electric oven, and prepackaged cheese lack in local color, they make up for in convenience. Coconut milk is available in Asian supermarkets.

1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups coconut milk
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 cup baking powder
1/2 cup grated Edam cheese
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup grated coconut

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Combine 3/4 cup sugar with the coconut milk. Blend in the beaten eggs.

Combine the sifted flour, salt, and baking powder, and sift again. Fold in the egg mixture. Turn into a lightly greased 11 by 16-inch cake pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the cheese, and bake for another 15 minutes, basting twice with the melted butter. Remove the cake from the oven, brush with the remaining butter. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the coconut. Slice into squares, and serve.
Yields 15 to 20 squares.

Tip: Because of its versatility and availability, coconut is widely used in Filipino foods. Buko or fresh young coconut produces a refreshing juice and sweet white flesh, while the mature coconut or niyog is grated and squeezed with water to make coconut milk or gata.

The nine-day pre-Christmas novena ends with midnight mass on Christmas Eve. After mass comes the Noche Buena, or Midnight Feast, where the traditional meal is Arroz Caldo Con Pollo, Caldereta, Paksiw na Lechón, hot Tsokolate, a native chocolate drink, Buko salad (a misnomer), and an endless supply of Christmas cookies!

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tortang Talong (Eggplant Omelet)

Serves 4

4 Philippine eggplants

l tablespoon minced garlic
l/4 cup diced onion
8 ounces ground pork
l medium potato, diced

l/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
4 eggs 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Boil the eggplants for 6 to 7 minutes, or until tender. Remove the skins. Set aside and keep warm.
Sauté the garlic, onion, ground pork, potato, and bell pepper until the vegetables are tender and the pork is thoroughly cooked. Season with salt and pepper, and keep warm. Separate the egg whites from the yolks; beat the egg whites until stiff. Mix in the yolks. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat. Spoon 1/8 of the beaten egg mixture into the skillet, and let it cook until it forms a crusty bottom. Place an eggplant on top of the egg. Lightly spread the pulp and top with 1/4 of the pork-potato mixture. Add 1/8 of the beaten egg mixture to the skillet. Carefully turn over the omelet to cook the topside. Repeat with the remaining eggplants, pork-potato mixture, and eggs.

Salabat (Ginger Tea)

Serves 4

3 inches fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

Heat 4 1/2 to 5 cups water with the ginger and brown sugar just until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add more water to weaken the tea. Strain and serve hot or cold.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pan de Sal (Fresh Breakfast Rolls)

Pan de sal is a familiar bread roll. The Filipino version differs slightly in that it is sweeter than the regular roll and delicious when eaten warm from the oven with butter.
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 cups flour
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

Soften the yeast in 2 cups lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar added. Set aside for 6 to 7 minutes.

In a bowl, mix together the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and 1/4 cup oil. Add the softened yeast and 3 cups flour. Blend well, gradually adding the remaining 3 cups flour and mixing until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board, and knead until smooth, 8 to 9 minutes.* Form the dough into a ball, and place in a lightly greased bowl. Brush the surface of the dough with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise in a warm place away from drafts (inside a kitchen cupboard) for 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Punch down. Roll out on a floured board to 3/4-inch thickness, and cut into 1 1/2-inch strips. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon bread crumbs. Let rise for another 15 minutes.

Cut dough into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Arrange on a lightly greased cookie sheet, cut side up, about 1 1/2-inches apart. Sprinkle with the remaining 3 tablespoons bread crumbs. Let rise for 30 minutes more, or until the dough doubles again in size.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Bake the pan de sal for 12 to 15 minutes, or until light brown. This recipe may be halved, or freeze the leftovers. Yields about 36 rolls.

*Tip: To knead the dough, curve your fingers over it and press down with the heels of your palms. Give the dough a quarter turn, fold it over, and push down again. Knead it until it is elastic and has a satin sheen.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Maligayang Pasko! (Merry Christmas!)

Spice up your Christmas the Filipino way by decorating and cooking up a festive menu provided to us by Karen Hulene Bartell! Karen says:

Christmas is Filipinos’ best-loved celebration. Star-shaped lanterns, called parols in the Filipino language Tagalog, signal the start of the Christmas season in the Philippines. As early as September, these five-pointed representations of the star of Bethlehem begin lighting up neighborhoods. Why so early? Filipinos associate the months’ suffix ber with Christmas, so September, October, November, and December are all considered holiday months.

Parols, the Filipino counterpart of Mexican piñatas, are beacons of hospitality hung outside doors and windows, so the cheerful light brightens the evenings and welcomes visitors. Originally the parols were used to light the way to the Misa de Gallo or the Mass of the Rooster, which is held early in the morning on Christmas Day, before the roosters crow.

Framed with bamboo or rattan, the lanterns’ sides are made of translucent rice paper, tissue, or colorful cellophane. To make a lantern, string together five long pieces of bamboo to form a star; make a second star. Place five twigs or small pieces of bamboo between the two stars, so that they bow apart but are joined at the points. Apply glue to the bamboo frame and cover with tissue. Tradition calls for a candle, but to be safe place a flashlight inside the lantern.

To prepare for the holiday, many people begin a novena on December 16, known as Misa de Aguinaldo. They attend nine consecutive days of outdoor masses held as early as four o'clock in the morning. After each mass, Filipinos gather for the traditional almusal or breakfast: salabat, local ginger tea, and bibingka or flat cakes served on banana leaves and topped with brown sugar and freshly grated coconut.

Breakfast for Four

(Misa de Gallo Almusal)
Experiment with only the traditional Bibingka and Salabat for a quick breakfast, or try all the recipes for an unforgettable Filipino holiday brunch. For a larger group, double the recipes!
Pan de Sal Fresh Breakfast Rolls
Tortang Talong Eggplant Omelet
Adobong Manok Chicken Adobo
Mango Papaya Fruit Salad
Bibingka Flat Cake
Champorrado Chocolate Rice Porridge
Salabat Ginger Tea
Barako Coffee
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bacalhau da Consoada (Christmas Eve Codfish)

The New York Times recently had an interesting article on the importance of salted cod to Portuguese Christmas dinners:

“Bacalhau, as the fish is called here, is to Christmas Eve in Portugal what turkey is to Thanksgiving in America. Treasured since the 16th century, when Portuguese fishermen first brought it back from, it bore the nickname fiel amigo — faithful friend. Its correct
preparation is a source of pride, a sign of respect for family values."
"Every Portuguese, it seems, likes to boast that there are 1,000 recipes for bacalhau and that the people here eat more of it than do those anywhere else in the world.”

If you want to try celebrating this Christmas the Portuguese way, we recommend this traditional recipe from Cuisines of Portuguese Encounters, Expanded Edition. As the author Cherie Hamilton says about it:

Codfish prepared for the consoada (the traditional Christmas Eve dinner) is an alternative to the codfish cooks with todos (literally "all"), which is traditionally served for supper on December 25. This particular recipe, besides being very enticing, appeals to those who like their codfish served in large pieces. In some homes it is served as a second course, preceded by boiled crabs, shrimp, and lobster; and followed by roast turkey or Roast Suckling Pig (page 44) and the trimmings.

2 pounds thick salt cod fillets
6 medium onions, peeled
6 carrots, peeled
2 pounds medium white potatoes, peeled
3 pounds collard greens, stems removed
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic, smashed
6 to 8 hard-boiled eggs (1 per person)

Soak the salt cold fillets in cold water to cover for 24 hours int he refrigerator, changing the water frequently.

Drain the salt cold and place in a large pot with the onions, carrots, potatoes, greens, and salt. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan and saute the garlic cloves until lightly golden. Keep warm.

Arrange the codfish, onions, carrots, potatoes, collards, and eggs on a large platter or several platters. Serve the warm olive oil with garlic in a bowl on the side to drizzle over the fish and vegetables.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Khoreshe Karafs (Celery Khoreshe)

This entry has been taken from The Art of Persian Cooking, authored by Forough Hekmat.

Khoreshe is a Persian stew. All khoreshes are modestly spiced, but flavored with sour juices. The meats most often used for khoreshes are lamb, chicken, duck or other fowl rich in fat. The usual spices used are saffron, black pepper, and turmeric, but for some khoreshes hot spices are required.

Serves 4 to 5

1 Pound hind shanks or round of lamb or veal, cut into large pieces
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons cooking oil
2 cups hot water
A large bunch or 2 small bunches of celery with the leaves
1 small bunch mint (1 ounce), if desired
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon saffron

Saute the meat with the onion, turmeric, salt, and pepper in half the oil until well browned. Add the water, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Cut off and set aside the celery leaves and cut the stalks into 4-inch pieces. Saute them slightly. Mince celery leaves, coriander or parsley, and the mint. Saute in remaining oil and add to the meat with the lemon juice. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until meat is partially tender. Place celery pieces on top of meat and continue to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes longer, or until meat is tender and the gravy is rich. Add prepared saffron and serve with chelou, kateh or dami and fresh lime or lemon.

Note: Fresh green beans may be used instead of celery. When using beans, add 1 cup tomato juice or 3 large tomatoes, chopped, and no lemon juice.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Shrimp Masala

This recipe has been taken from the expanded edition of Healthy South Indian Cooking, authored by popular culinary instructor Alamelu Vairavan.

Shrimp pan-fried with ginger, garlic, and other seasonings, Shrimp Masala can accompany many flavored rice dishes and chappatis or pooris.

Serves 4

1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
2 or 3 slivers cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped tomato
4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons minced ginger root
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper and cumin powder mixture
1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and washed
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves

1. Place oil in iron skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, but not smoking, add cinnamon stick and cumin seeds. Stir-fry until spices are golden brown.

2. Add onion, tomato, garlic, and ginger root. Stir-fry for a few minutes.

3. Stir in turmeric powder and curry powder.

4. Add tomato sauce, cayenne powder, salt, and black pepper and cumin powder. Blend the seasonings well and simmer for a few minutes.

5. Add shrimp and mix with the seasonings. Cook until shrimp turns pink.

6. Add coriander and stir-fry, uncovered, for an additional few minutes. (Shrimp is delicious when allowed to absorb the flavor of the seasoned sauce while stir-frying over low-heat.)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Orata al Cartoccio (Sea Bass Baked in Foil)

The last of the four recipes featured in Diane Nocentini and Madeline Armillotta's video cooking blog entry:

Serves 4

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: one hour

4 baking potatoes, cleaned and sliced
4 (1-pound) fresh sea bass, cleaned and scaled
1 lemon, cut into 8 slices
1 tomato, cut into 8 slices
1/2 cup olives
1/2 cup capers
4 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to
400ºF. Grease 4 squares of foil, large enough to enclose a fish and a potato. On each piece of foil, lay a sliced potato and place a sea bass on top. Sprinkle with salt. Put two slices of lemon and two of tomato into the cavity of each fish. Add a few olives and capers to each packet, and sprinkle with oregano and salt to taste. Drizzle olive oil inside and over the fish. Wrap each fish in the aluminum foil and lay in a baking dish. Bake for 1 hour. Serve with a crusty loaf of bread and a salad.

VARIATION: Rainbow trout or halibut steaks are appropriate substitutes, if sea bass is not readily available.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Farfalle con Salmone Affumicato e Panna (Smoked Salmon and Cream with Butterfly Pasta)

The third of four recipes featured in Diane Nocentini and Madeline Armillotta's video cooking blog entry:

Serves 4

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup smoked salmon, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon whiskey
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound butterfly (bowtie) pasta

Melt the butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium heat, and mix in the salmon. Add the whiskey and stir, until it has evaporated. Add the cream and stir gently until heated through. Adjust the flavor with a little salt, if necessary. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for the specified time on the package, and drain. Mix the pasta with the sauce, and serve immediately.

VARIATION: Half an onion may be chopped and sauteed in the butter, prior to adding the salmon.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pizzette (Mini Pizzas)

The second of four recipes featured in Diane Nocentini and Madeline Armillotta's video cooking blog entry:

Makes six servings

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

4 tablespoons anchovy paste or 8 anchovy fillets, mashed
2/3 cup butter
1 baguette, sliced into rounds and toasted
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (8-ounce) package mozzarella, sliced
Dried Oregano

Preheat the boiler. Mix the anchovy paste with the butter. Spread the mixture on the toasted bread rounds. Add to each round a layer of tomato sauce and a slice of mozzarella. Place a caper on top and sprinkle with oregano. Broil until the mozzarella starts to melt and turns slightly golden.

VARIATION: There are many possible variations: replace the anchovy paste and butter mixture with sliced ham, olives, sausage, or sauteed onions.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Crostini al Pomodoro (Tomato and Herb Crostini)

The first of the four recipes featured in Diane Nocentini and Madeline Armillotta's video cooking blog entry:

Makes six servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

8 to 10 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
1 baguette, sliced into rounds and toasted

Combine all ingredients except the bread, and mix well. Spoon into the toasted bread rounds and serve.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tuscan Cooking Demonstration (video)

This week Hippocrene has the distinct pleasure of following up on our previous entries on Tuscan cooking from authors Madeline Armillotta and Diane Nocentini with a video cooking demonstration. Here's what Diane has to say:

For the first time in six years my family and I had the opportunity to return to my childhood home in Victoria for our summer vacation. We had a memorable holiday, which included a wonderful highlight: my husband Paolo and I gave a cooking demonstration to a class at the Cooking and Lifestyle Centre of Thrifty Foods, in the newly constructed Tuscan Village. The coordinator and “in house” chef, Eva Cherneff, welcomed and helped us settle into their fabulous little kitchen. Prior to the arrival of the students, Eva set the mood with some appropriate music and, with Andrea Bocelli playing in the background, we commenced preparation. As this was a new experience, I admit to being “slightly nervous” during the presentation (saying things like fishes instead of fish, not the kind of thing an English teacher should be doing!) but the family atmosphere and kind group made the event a genuine pleasure. Paolo was an excellent assistant and, with a little Italian flare, we demonstrated and served a delicious first class meal. The menu included; Tomato and Herb Crostini, Mini Pizzas, Smoked Salmon and Cream with Butterfly Pasta, and a modified version of Sea Bass Baked in Foil. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the food, Italian banter and music, and the lively conversation throughout the demonstration. In the end, I was presented with a lovely bouquet of sunflowers and a heartfelt round of applause. Many of the students ordered extra books, as they wanted to share Tastes from a Tuscan Kitchen with family and friends. Needless to say, I finished with a great feeling of relief and satisfaction, and was thrilled that the presentation had been such a success! I hope you will all enjoy the attached video footage and photos taken during this event. The two crostini dishes and the pasta dish are simple to prepare, as you will see on the video, but I have added photos of the preparation and presentation of the Sea Bass Baked in Foil. We modified this recipe during the demonstration due to time limits, and I want all of our readers to see how it is traditionally served. This is a family recipe which Mimmo, Madelaine’s husband, shared with us. It originates from the region of Puglia, and is a very tasty specialty which is served year round.

The video, in three parts, is below, and the three recipes features will be added to the blog over the next three days.

Also, Diane and Madeline recently informed us that Thrifty's, the location for the demonstration, has recently decided to offer Tuscan gift baskets--filled with key Italian cooking ingredients and a copy of Tastes from a Tuscan Kitchen--for Christmas. If you would be interested in learning how to contact Thrifty's or how to put these baskets together to give or sell yourself, please contact us at

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tacchino Mediterraneo (Mediterranean Turkey)

Today we have another post from Tastes from a Tuscan Kitchen, this time provided by Madeline Armillotta, who writes to us from the road:

On writing this post whilst visiting my mother in England I was faced with a dilemma: As my mother has no interest whatsoever in food and greatly dislikes cooking, her kitchen in unequipped and just contains the basics. On flicking through our book I pondered which recipe to make and soon realized that my selection was rather limited, as she does not possess a non-stick saucepan. This eliminated my original idea of making our delicious "Turkey Roll" (on page 78). I finally decided instead on "Mediterranean Turkey", which is simple to prepare and has a shortish cooking time.

Here's the recipe:

Serves 6.

½ cup flour
6 thin slices (2 pounds) boneless turkey breast
¼ cup olive oil
½ large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped

2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 small zucchini, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¾ cup dry white wine1 (8-ounce) can plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
salt and black pepper

Dredge the turkey with flour. Heat half of the olive oil in a large nonstick pan, and brown the turkey on both sides. Remove from the pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the other half of the olive oil to the pan and heat. Saute all the vegetables until tender, for about 15 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, and the basil and oregano. Stir well, until smooth. Adjust the flavor with salt and pepper. In a large baking dish, pour a layer of sauce on the bottom, lay the turkey over the top, and cover with the remaining sauce. Cover and bake for 40 minutes.

I finished cooking this dish in the saucepan--adding 2 cups of water and then reducing the sauce and not baking it in the oven, as we originally suggested in the recipe. I served it with boiled rice, which soaked up the sauce perfectly and was a good contrast to the distinct flavor of the turkey. My friends that had come to lunch all agreed that it was a great choice and, believe it or not, even my mother liked it!

Thanks to Madeline for the delicious pictures!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Crostata di Marmellata Tradizionale (Traditional Jam Tart)

This week Hippocrene Cooks features entries from Madeline Armillotta and Diane Nocentini the authors of Tastes from a Tuscan Kitchen, which brings the rich flavors of Tuscany to the everyday American kitchen. In our first entry, Diane imparts some tips for preparing a delicious dessert:

The recipe I have chosen to share with our readers is a timeless classic, the Crostata di Marmellata Tradizionale, or Traditional Jam Tart. I have always had a weakness for desserts and I chose this one mainly for selfish reasons. It is one of my favorite desserts, and I also enjoy the preparation. It gives me a real sense of home when I set about baking a tart. Combining the flour and butter, kneading the dough, rolling it out, spreading the jam, decorating the top, and finally the smell that emanates from the oven while it bakes. This may sound a bit strange, but I find the whole process very relaxing. Another reason is that I connect this dessert with the word festa (party), as all celebratory meals in Tuscany include two or three mouthwatering tarts on the dessert table. From baptisms to weddings, or even simple family gatherings, it is the dessert most commonly served. There are several reasons behind the popularity of crostata: it is a wholesome example of genuine Tuscan cuisine, it is delicious, attractive, and utilizes the seasonal fruits of the region. Homemade preserves are frequently used, but a high quality store-bought variety is a fine substitute. Blackberry, apricot and strawberry jam are the most popular varieties selected by Tuscans. My mother-in-law makes her own blackberry jam, and I can personally testify that the resulting tarts are divine. Before you start, ensure that you have soft butter. I take the butter out of the fridge the night before making this tart. I work with my hands and combine the butter and flour until it is crumbly, and then I add the remaining ingredients (except for the jam). As the recipe specifies, you must allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes, prior to rolling it out. To save time, I usually press the dough directly into the flan dish. If you are left with any excess dough, the following recipe includes a “variation” for making excellent cookies.

Makes one 10½-inch tart.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, beaten

¾ cup butter, softened
grated zest of one lemon
2 cups jam

Sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add all the other ingredients except the jam to the bowl, and working with your hands, gently incorporate them. For best results, try not to knead the dough more than necessary. Cover and let the dough rest for a ½ hour. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Flour a pastry board and roll out two-thirds of the dough until until it is 1/3-inch thick and will fit a 10½-inch diameter flan dish. Line the flan dish with the pastry. Fill the pastry base with the jam topping. Roll out the remaining dough and cut into long strips. Crisscross these strips over the jam to create a lattice effect. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.

This pastry also makes excellent cookies. Roll out the dough, until it is 1/3-inch thick, and using cookie cutters, cut into your desired shapes. They can be decorated with pine nuts, almonds, raisins, chocolate morsels, or blobs of jam. Bake in a preheated oven (350°F) for 10 to 12 minutes. Kids love them, especially if they participate in the decorating!

Thanks to Diane for the wonderful pictures!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Jellied Cocoa Pudding

Many Taiwanese meals conclude with a thin custard or jelly, as it is called. The texture is very light, and the taste is pleasing, not heavy or overly sweet. Jellied Cocoa Pudding is especially cool and refreshing on a hot August night!

Makes 4 servings

4 candied cherries
1 can (15 ounces) sliced peaches
1 cup shelled raw peanuts
1 cup shelled raw almonds
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup raw or white sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Place a candied cherry in each of 4 teacups. Top each cherry with a cut-up peach slice. Process the peanuts, almonds, and 3 cups water in a blender until liquefied. Strain the juice, discarding the pulp. Combine the cornstarch with 6 tablespoons water. Heat the juice, sugar, and cornstarch mixture over high heat, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. When mixture comes to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture starts to thicken, stirring constantly. Ladle ½ cup of the custard mixture into each cup, covering the fruit.

Whisk the cocoa powder into the remaining custard mixture. Blend thoroughly then distribute evenly among the 4 cups, carefully spooning the cocoa mixture over the other ingredients. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours, or until the custard has set.

Invert the cups onto a shallow serving platter, so that the cherries are on the top. Garnish with the remaining peach slices. If desired, spoon several tablespoons of the peach juice over all.

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

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Stir-Fried Crab with Bamboo Shoots

Serves 4

½ cup chopped pork
½ cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup (8-ounce can) thinly sliced bamboo shoots
2 green onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup sesame oil
1 cup fish or vegetable stock
¼ teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon water
1 cup crabmeat, cooked
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (see above)
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Preheat the oven to 475º. Stir-fry the pork, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, green onions, and garlic in the oil for 6 minutes, or until the pork is thoroughly cooked and the vegetables are tender. Add the stock to the vegetables. Combine the cornstarch and water and stir into the mixture. Allow it to come to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Carefully pick over the crabmeat, discarding any bits of shell. Add the crabmeat and oyster sauce and heat through. Pour the mixture into a large serving bowl. Mound the egg whites in the center, spooning several tablespoons of the sauce over all. Place in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the egg whites are golden brown.

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

Friday, September 19, 2008

Zucchini and Loofah

When young and tender, loofah is a delectable vegetable that resembles squash in both texture and taste. However, when dried, it is the same vegetable that is used as a bath sponge. When purchasing loofah, select firm, unblemished vegetables. The outer skin should have a dark green color, similar to that of a cucumber.

Makes 4 servings.

½ pound zucchini
½ pound loofah (available at Asian markets), or summer squash
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste
¼ cup water

Rinse the vegetables thoroughly. Score the zucchini with a fork and slice diagonally into ½-inch slices. Peel the loofah and cut diagonally into ½-inch slices. Combine with the oil and garlic and stir-fry over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and water. Cover and steam for 2 minutes, or until vegetable slices are tender but still crisp.

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

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Oyster Sauce

Commercial oyster sauce is a concentrated, brown sauce made of ground oysters, soy sauce, and brine. It is used as commonly in Taiwan as ketchup is in the United States. Also available in a vegetarian variety, oyster sauce enhances any dish, bringing out the various flavors of the other ingredients.

Makes 1½ cups sauce.

1 can (3¾ ounces) smoked oysters
½ cup rice wine
½ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon raw or brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste

Finely mince the oysters or, using a blender’s pulse mode, pulverize the oysters in their liquid. Add all ingredients to a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, cool, cover, and refrigerate. Will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wilted Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce

Chinese Broccoli is not like common broccoli. Instead of the familiar bluish-green florets, it is the leaves of this delicate vegetable that are steamed or stir-fried and eaten.

Makes 4 servings.

1 pound fresh Chinese broccoli (available at Asian markets)
1 quart salted, boiling water
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (see tomorrow's entry)

Slice off the tough bottoms of the Chinese broccoli stalks. Discard any wilted leaves. Rinse thoroughly under cool running water and slice into 4-inch long pieces. Carefully add the broccoli to the boiling water and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the broccoli carefully with a slotted spoon. Drain well. Top with oyster sauce and serve immediately.

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Garlic Sesame Sauce

Makes ¼ cup sauce.

1 clove garlic, minced
1½ tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Stir-fry the garlic in the sesame oil for 1 minute. Whisk in the soy sauce. Remove from heat, and stir in the sesame seeds. Serve in a rice bowl as a dipping sauce or drizzle over the hot asparagus.

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

Monday, September 8, 2008

Steamed Asparagus

Check asparagus carefully before purchasing. The tips should be compact, not flowery. The stalks should be firm, fresh, with a deep green color, not yellow or pale. The bottoms should be brittle, with an inch or two of woody base, which must be trimmed before cooking.

Makes 4 servings.

2 pounds fresh asparagus, or 6 to 8 stalks per person
Salted boiling water

Break off (do not cut) the woody base from each asparagus stalk. The woody base will snap off from the tender portion. Wash stalks thoroughly under running cold water.

Tie the stalks in serving-size bunches. Stand upright in a deep saucepan, which contains an inch of salted, boiling water. Cover and allow to steam for 15 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender but still crisp. Serve with Garlic Sesame Sauce (directions in tomorrow's post).

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

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Five-Colored Pork and Shrimp Rolls

To-gan is a dried variety of tofu that has been steeped in various spices and seasonings. Having absorbed those flavors, to-gan then imparts them to any dish to which it is added.

Serves 4.

½ pound pork tenderloin, thinly sliced
12 freshwater shrimp
1 quart salted, boiling water
2 tablespoons raw or light brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups mung bean sprouts
1 large cucumber
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ pound dried tofu (to-gan)
½ teaspoon sesame oil
10 (3-inch round) wonton wrappers (available at Asian markets)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons peanut powder (available at Asian markets), or peanut butter
Fresh parsley sprigs
3 green tomatoes, sliced

Bring the pork tenderloin and shrimp to a gentle boil in the salted water. Cook for 6 minutes or until the pork and shrimp are done. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon. When the pork and shrimp are cool enough to handle, finely chop the pork tenderloin and shell the shrimp. Mix with the sugar and soy sauce.

Blanch the bean sprouts in the boiling water. Remove and drain thoroughly. Slice the cucumber into pencil-sized strips. Salt and allow strips to drain for 5 minutes on paper towels. Slice the dried tofu into pencil-sized strips.

Oil the wonton wrappers sparingly. Working with one wrapper at a time, place it on a plate. Spread one-tenth each of the pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts on the wrapper. Add a cucumber slice, 2 tofu strips (arranged lengthwise), chopped parsley, and peanut powder. Roll tightly, slightly dampening the wonton ends to adhere. Slice in half width-wise. Arrange on a platter and garnish with fresh parsley sprigs and tomato slices. Continue until all the ingredients are used.

Picture courtesy of Karen Hulene Bartell. This post is a member of the Chinese Father's Day menu series.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Chicken Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms and Carrots

Serves 4.

½ cup finely sliced chicken
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon rice wine (available at Asian markets)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 cups chicken broth
½ cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
½ cup thinly sliced carrots

Dredge the sliced chicken in the salt, pepper, and cornstarch. Stir-fry in a wok with the rice wine and sesame oil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth, mushrooms, and carrots, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked and vegetables are tender.

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ba-Ba’s (Father’s) Day

Treat your father twice this year! This week sees the last in our series of three Taiwanese holiday menus from Karen Hulene Bartell, with a special menu for China's Father's Day. Says Karen:

Father’s Day in Taiwan comes in August, not June. It’s known as Ba-ba Day or Double-Eight because it falls on the eighth day of the eighth month. The Mandarin Chinese word for eight is ba, so the eighth day of the eighth month is ba-ba. Ba-ba also happens to be the Mandarin word for papa or father, so it’s a natural progression for that date to be Father’s Day in Taiwan.

Ba-Ba’s Day Dinner

Chicken Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms and Carrots
Five-Colored Pork and Shrimp Rolls
Steamed Asparagus with Garlic Sesame Sauce
Wilted Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce
Zucchini and Loofah
Stir-Fried Crab with Bamboo Shoots
Watermelon Slices
Jellied Cocoa Pudding

Photo courtesy of Karen Hulene Bartell.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Straw Mushrooms and Snow Peas

Snow peas, also known as pea pods or Chinese peas, are flat green pods that are collected before the peas have fully matured. There is no need to shell these immature peas. Only trim off the ends and the stringy substance along the tops. Snow peas add bright green color, a crunchy texture, and a delicate flavor to any Chinese dish.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

1 pound fresh snow peas
¼ cup peanut or vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 pound straw mushrooms, rinsed and drained
½ cup water
¼ cup oyster sauce (available at Asian markets)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon raw or white sugar

Remove the ends and strings from the snow peas. Add the snow peas, oil, and salt to a wok. Stir-fry the mixture for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the peas are tender-crisp. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until mushrooms and peas are tender. Serve immediately.

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

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.