Archive for the 'Vegetable' Category

09
Jan
14

Squid and Celery Stir Fry

IMG_6229

Squid and Celery Stir Fry

You might be able to tell from my Facebook pages that I’m in Taiwan at the moment.  I’m here to take part in a mandarin program at a college in Taipei. I don’t start the “learning Chinese” part until March so I’m trying to do as much traveling and food experiences that I can while I still have free time.

The more and more I discover Taiwan, I’m starting to realize there is so much more to this place then just an island I visit for two weeks out of the year to say hello to relative. It’s an island full of festivals celebrated for years, history that is rich in color, taste, and emotions, and food that is equally rich as its history and traditions.  But what strikes me most are how people are proud of their land here. I’m not saying they are patriotic in the US Sense where flags are waved, bbq is eaten, and conservative pundits tell us what America is all about . But, instead it’s people who are proud of the dishes that they eat or the fruit that they raise. It’s the farmer who had been raising pigs for 40 years and has already passed on the torch after suffering numerous strokes.  It’s the story of why they chose this profession and why their children choose to continue it.  It’s through this realization that I’ve come to understand what I want my blog to be in the next couple of months.  I want to share the narrative of the individual (the vendor, farmer, home cook) and the narrative of the storyteller (me) as I figure out what it means to be Taiwanese at 30 and just realizing what the island has to offer.

So through out the next couple of the weeks, I’ll have posts dedicated to the people I meet on my journey.  But for now, a dish that sums up the cooking style of Taiwan:

One of the things that I’ve always know about Taiwanese cooking but never really paid attention to is that the flavors and methods are simple. It’s the thing I love about the cuisine: ingredients need to be fresh and there shouldn’t be anything to mask the flavors or why buy them at all.  No bullshit.

This dish is no bullshit. Squid, celery, chili pepper. My cousin’s wife made this for me the second day I was in Taipei. I hiked a trail with my cousin at 5 am, waited in line for breakfast (people like to wait in line for food here), bought a squid from a seafood vendor (who thought I was 22 years old so I paid for the squid out of gratitude), and this dish was cooked within two hours and in my belly soon after.

No bullshit. Fresh seafood, no time lingering in a fridge or thawed and then refrozen, and nothing needed to mask any stale tastes. I think I’m going to like Taiwan.

~stuff

1 tbs vegetable or coconut oil

2 c Chinese Celery, sliced into on inch pieces *if you can’t find Chinese celery, use regular celery…just cut it thin

1 or 2 chili peppers, seeds removed and sliced

1 medium whole squid, cleaned and sliced

salt to taste
~steps
heat oil in a saute pan on high heat until screaming hot

sauté celery and chili together until celery is slightly tender, about 3 min

add squid and toss until cooked through, about 2-3 min

season with salt to taste.

-serves 4-

17
Oct
13

Water Spinach Stem with Black Bean Pork Sauce

seasoned by pork...

seasoned by pork…

“Our friend is a pescetarian. She only eats seafood, so no chicken, beef, or pork. Especially pork.”

“Ok, so the daikon and ginger soup is ok?”

“No, there are pork bones in it.”

“So, if I take the bones out, then it will be ok? It’s just flavoring.”

I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes trying to explain to my relatives what it means to be pescetarian and the restrictions involved.

“Forget it, yes pork flavoring is ok, but I think tonight is the night I show them the night market instead of dinner at home.”

My parents grew up in a very traditional setting when it comes to food. Both of my parents grew up in the Southern region of Taiwan and both come from large families. In order to have fully flavorful and affordable meals at the table, both my grandmothers utilized meat to season vegetable dishes to ensure all 7 and 8 kids where happy. And to do this, they would buy pork and stretch it over a few dishes. It made sense to have pork as a flavoring agent; unlike chicken, pork has more fat and marbleization to flavor the vegetables. Beef would be too gamey and would compete against the other flavors, as well as being expensive and a waste of a work animal.

So, it’s no wonder why everything I ate growing up had some sort of portion of the pig in it: belly, foot, ear, loin, etc. It’s been sliced, ground, chopped, and cured.

This dish is one of those two-out-of-one-ingredients-money-saver-frugal dishes . It utilizes the stems of the water spinach. If you’re not familiar with water spinach, it’s also known as “morning glory” and “Chinese water spinach”. If you want to make this vegetarian, you can use extra firm tofu. If you can’t find water spinach, I might skip this dish. It’s hard to find a substitute for the water spinach, and you’d be missing the whole point. It’s not for the pork. That’s just seasoning.

~stuff

1 tbs vegetable oil

½ lb ground pork

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbs. fermented black beans, rehydrated (can use jarred sauce)

1 tbs. soy sauce

1 tbs. Chinese rice wine

2 c water spinach stems, minced

~steps

heat oil on high heat in a large saucepan or wok

brown ground pork in oil until the meat is no longer pink

add garlic, black bean, soy sauce, and rice wine to pork and sautee until fragrant, about 2 min.

add stems and stir until cooked through

season to taste and serve with rice

-serves 4-

11
Jan
13

Day 9: Garlic Chive and Bean Sprout Stir-Fry

Please accept this stir fry as my apology.

Please accept this stir fry as my apology.

Hi friends,

 

I’m going to apologize to you all for today’s post.  There is no funny story, no memory from the past, or some interesting research that I have done.  Instead it is a recipe, that my Mom did teach me, and a letter of apology.

 

When I started this journey to blog three years ago, it was solely for the purpose to document recipes that I would want to revisit in the future.  Stories, anecdotes, and essays where more of an afterthought when it came to posting on brb…eating and wasn’t a priority of mine.  However, a few years have gone by and I realized that I found joy in sharing the stories with everyone about my memories, experiences, and connection that I have with food.

 

I did a food blog marathon a few years ago as a challenge to myself to continue writing and follow through on projects.  I, like many people, start things with excitement, joy, and determination to finish but soon fall into the comforting embrace of laziness and procrastination.  So, in 2010, I challenged myself and completed my first 30 posts in 30 days marathon.  I was excited to accomplish something as challenging as a marathon.  However, in all honesty, I was not proud of the posts.  They felt rushed, forced, and shallow at times because my focus was on the recipe and not on the story.
This time around, with a slightly improved writing style, I’ve set out to do a marathon that I am proud of.  Instead of focusing on the food, I would focus on the story and find out what dish that inspires from it.  From that I have been able to share spills in ice water, the history of Chinese restaurants, and my mom and dad trying to force me into a life of crime.  But, today, I’ve hit a block.  The first time I did a marathon, posts took an average of 3 hours to create, cook, and write.  Now, I work 8 to 9 hour days and in addition spend 4 to 5 hours developing and creating the recipe, photographing the completed dish, and then writing the post to share with everyone.  At the end of the day, doing this on a daily basis is rough and something I didn’t plan.  But, I’m not letting it deter me from completing.

 

Since I made the rules for this blogging marathon, I feel like it will be ok to add one more rule.  I’m here by stating that it’s ok for me to not have a “traditional brb…eating” post once during the marathon process.  This will give me a chance to recharge, reboot, and be re-invigorated to continue on in the rest of the marathon.  So, I’m using that rule today as I share with you a recipe that my mom made when I was young.  It’s a stir-fry recipe so it’s quick, easy, and fresh.   It is the perfect post on a day where I am suffering from a loss of words.

 

I also now understand, why some of the bloggers that I admire write on a weekly basis.  And the ones that write more than once a week, I admire you even more.

 

~slu

 

~stuff

1 tsp oil

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 c garlic chives, one inch pieces

2 c mung bean sprouts

1 tbs rice wine

1 tsp salt

 

~steps

heat  oil in a wok or pan on high heat until it begins to shimmer

stir fry  garlic until it begins to change color

add chives and bean sprouts and stir for a few minutes

season with rice wine and salt and stir

serve as a side

 

-serves 3-

10
Jan
13

Day 8: Tomato Egg Drop Soup

Tomato Egg Drop (Flower) Soup

Tomato Egg Drop (Flower) Soup

As you know from a previous post, one of the most common dishes that I made when I was young was a noodle soup that my parents taught me. It was a dish that I commonly made after school and would involve whatever vegetables I can find, canned chicken stock, and scrambled egg. Well, it was supposed to be egg drop, but I was having trouble with creating the desired texture. Instead I was getting an omellette floating on the top of my soup.

For .01% of people who have never had a soup from any Chinese resteraunt, Egg Drop or Egg Flower soups are soups that have scrambled egg in it. The egg is done in a technique that creates a light feathery texture to the scrambled eggs allowing it to keep the broth light and fresh. Also, by doing the egg drop method, you’re ensuring that each scoop of the soup with have a subtle egg flavor rather than a big bite of egg.

If I sound a little too enthusiastic about the egg flower method, I am. I think it’s a brilliant cooking technique that has stood the test of time and it’s also one of the first cooking techniques that I learned. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to master this technique when I was only 13 years old. There is a sense of accomplishment that one feels when they finally get thin ribbons of egg in the soup.

When I was young, I was having a problem with my egg drop technique. I finally asked my dad to teach me how to make the egg drop soup and he said the secret was to turn the heat off completely and using one chopstick to stir. By having the heat off, your ensuring that the eggs don’t cook too quickly. The same theory is being used when you cook scrambled egg on a lower heat, because high heat would just turn it to rubber. By stirring with one chopstick slowly, the broth will be agitated just enough to move the egg around, but not too quickly to break up the eggs. The goal is to create a slow flowing movement to build ribbons instead of agitating the egg to break down the protein. If there is too much agitation, you risk turning the soup cloudy.

Now, the first time you do this, it might not be perfect. But, after a few times, I promise you will be just as good as your neighborhood Chinese take out.

~stuff

4 c chicken broth

2 c water

3 tsp salt

3 medium tomatos, sliced into wedges

1/4 c scallion, minced

4 eggs, beaten

~steps

combine first four ingredients and turn heat on high

simmer soup for 20 minutes, until the tomato begins to break down

turn off heat and slowly pour egg into soup while stirring the soup

add scallions and serve

-serves 4-

08
Jan
13

day 6: Chop Suey

Chop Suey

Chop Suey

I went to Palm Springs a few weeks ago and was reminded about the glamour of the 50’s and 60’s and how magical it was.  I love how Palm Springs and the people who have settled there never forgot that Hollywood and the celebrities of the mid century made it their get away spot.  My last trip made me realize how inspiring everything was during that time and how much of an influence that it had on culture, food, and people.  So, naturally, I started to do some research on the 50’s to learn more about the dishes, beverages, and designs that started or died in such an important moment in history.  And, because I’m always interested in food, ingredients, and ethnic cuisines and how they get their start in certain areas, I learned some cool facts about the history of Chinese restaurants.

In the late 1800’s, Chinese restaurants began to spring up in mining and railroad towns of the West Coast to accommodate workers who where primarily Chinese immigrants and mine workers from Toison or the Canton region.  Because of this, Chinese restaurants where filled with recipes from these regions like Egg Foo Young, and Moo Goo Gai Pan.  However, in the early 20’s restaurants began to cater more to American non-Chinese guests with the increased interest by White Americans to the non White (Jazz, the Jazz Singer, and now Chop Suey).  Egg Foo Young and Moo Goo Gai Pan became bland versions of Cantonese food to appeal to the American tastes of the time.  With this and the lack of access to authentic ingredients, dishes became something else and turned into egg omelets or stir-fries covered in brown gravy.

However, it was in the 50’s (to take it back to Palm Springs) that Chinese food began to become a dinner spot for American families to participate.  “Going for Chinese” became a phrase as common as going for Italian or going for French. Eventually in the 50’s, with the development of Hollywood culture, the industrial revolution, and the development of our Social Class system, the idea of eating out began to grow and was a weekly activity.  With this, Chinese restaurants began to create more formal and family dining experiences.  The dishes that where created in the 20’s have now become a staple in American culture and everyone knew of Chinese food the way many people know of it today.

It wasn’t until the 60’s when immigration policy began to shift to allow more Chinese immigrants into the US.  With the growing number of people from these communities, flavors and ingredients from Hunan and Szechuan began to make their way into the restaurant industry.  More spices and textures began to dominate the market as communities began to develop across the country.  Diners began to see American versions of Chinese food have flavor, spice, and texture to accommodate more of an “authentic” quality for the growing communities.  Americans began to start seeing the appearances of dishes like Hunan Beef, Orange Chicken, and Sweet and Sour Pork.  The rest was history.  Well, the rest was…Panda Express?

One of the things that sucks about Chinese American food is that it tastes so bland or one note.  It’s either really salty with some un-identifiable brown sauce, or is a plate of steamed broccoli, carrots, and bell pepper that is over cooked and raw at the same time.  But, I have a solution!  This version of Chop Suey comes from my sister in law’s mother.    She made it for Christmas two years ago and I realized then that Chop Suey can be flavorful, delicious, fresh, and fantastic. The sauce is made with vinegar, broth, and preserved vegetables to help highlight the fresh ingredients rather than a salty gravy to counter act any health benefits this could provide.

Researching the 50’s has inspired and interested me to cook the dishes the way that they where always intended.  You may find a recipe for Moo Goo Gai Pan or Egg Foo Young in the near future.  But I promise, I won’t touch Panda Express’ Orange Chicken.  That stuff is way too good and when one reaches perfection in a recipe, why would you change it?

~stuff

2 tbs vegetable, canola, peanut oil

1/2 c pickled vegetable

1/4 c shallots, diced

1 c carrots, julienne

4 stalks celery, 1/4 inch slices at an angle

1 c shitake mushroom, sliced (about 4 large caps)

1 c bamboo shoots, sliced

4 c sliced mixed vegetables [cabbage, bean sprouts, sugar snap peas, edamame…]

2 tbs soy sauce

1 tbs rice wine or cooking sherry

2 tbs black vinegar or 1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 c broth or water

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground white pepper

~steps

heat a oil in a wok on high heat until screaming hot

sauté pickled vegetables and shallots in wok

add carrots, celery, mushroom and bamboo until carrots turn tender and celery turns a bright green color

add the rest of the vegetables and stir fry until slightly tender

season the dish with the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat down to medium

stir until the sauce is well incorporated into the vegetables and the greens are all slightly tender

-serves 8-

05
Jan
13

Day 3 of 30: Taiwanese Long Squash Soup

Chinese Long Squash Soup

Taiwanese Long Squash Soup

“Are we trespassing?”

I was home visiting my parents in California and they had asked me to join them in running a quick errand to pick up some stuff for dinner that night.  I was about to start my journey to the freeway to get us to the Chinese Supermarket, before my Mom told me to make a quick right.  She proceeded to give me directions to go deeper into the suburban neighborhood that we lived in.  Eventually she led me to the driveway of a standard California ranch house that looked similar to everyone else we knew.

My fellow offenders.

My fellow offenders.

I assumed we were just stopping over to say hello to a family friend, but my parents proceed to exit out of the car and walk toward the side of the house, open the gate, and walk into their yard.

“No, we are only trespassing if you’re not wanted.” My mom says with affirmation. “Besides, they’re not home”

“But what if they are home?” I still feel uneasy about the whole situation.  I get a vivid image of me getting arrested with my parents by the police and having to tell my brother, our lawyer, that we weren’t trespassing because we were wanted. I get anxious.

My dad chimes in.  “Then we say hello.”

We walk into the yard and I am amazed.  One of my parent’s friends had turned his yard into an amazing mini-farm full of Taiwanese vegetables and fruits.  They had surrounded their pool with trees saturated with guava, wax apple, and persimmon fruit.  All along the grass: Chinese watercress, bok choy, Taiwanese greens, and chayote had grown bright green leaves in the warm California sun. It was a magical place where birds where singing and butterflies where fluttering.  The sun had a big smiley face and clouds where dancing in the sky.  My parents had pulled the “freshest Taiwanese produce you will ever have outside of the Island” card to get me to stay in California; and it was a shady card to pull.

“Ok, I’m going to get the stuff on the floor, can you cut off the squash?  It’s too high for me to reach.”  My Mom brings me back to

Make sure you have a tall kid in your crew to reach the goods on the top.

Make sure you have a tall kid in your crew to reach the goods on the top.

reality.

So on top of trespassing, we are adding stealing to my rap sheet?  Well, it can’t be any worse then it already is.  Plus, she distracted me with the right vegetable: The “Long Squash”.

It’s a pale gourd that imparts a fabulous broth that is slightly sweet. The finished broth is almost all the liquid and juice that comes from the squash and mixed with the salty dried shrimp; it’s an amazing winter dish that warms the soul and eases all anxiety of any felony you decide to do with your family. You can get it at most Asian markets.  If you can’t find “Long Squash”, you can use “Chinese Okra” or “Fuzzy Squash”.  But it if you can’t find “Long Squash”, you probably can’t find the other two.  Sorry, maybe you can grow it in your backyard?  I’ll come trespass and steal some.

~stuff

1 tbs canola, vegetable, or peanut oil

1 large clove garlic, sliced

1 tbs. dried shrimp (can substitute with 2 anchovy fillets)

2 large “Long Squash”, sliced (about 4 cups)

1/4 c. broth or water

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground white pepper

~steps

sauté garlic and shrimp in oil in dutch oven on high heat until shrimp is tan in color and garlic turns a nutty brown

add squash, liquid, and seasoning and stir

simmer on medium heat until squash breaks down and turns into a soup, about 15 minutes

-serves 4-

04
Jan
13

Day 2: Kale with Roasted Tomato Sofrito

Kale with Roasted Tomato Sofrito

Kale in (non Cuban, Domincan, Puerto Rican, or Spanish…but Italian) Roasted Tomato Sofrito

I’m pretty long winded.  It’s a quality that you might see in many of my posts.  I like to say that James Joyce inspires me.  I think the want to describe everything comes from my excitement of everything food.  I’m trying to share with you in the short amount of space all the information that I find interesting  and I won’t be confined by logic, editing, or the Modern Language Associations’ militaristic rule.  Ok, the last part just comes from some repressed anger that I put away since my college English education.  All kidding aside, the reality is that I love to talk about food.

One of the really cool things about working in the restaurant industry is the ability to learn about ingredients, techniques, and tools to combine flavors, textures, and colors.  The last four years have been an amazing experience, teaching me about dishes that I would normally not be able to try or have the time to even enjoy. And if, as a reader, you think it’s awkward how long I ramble about a dish, you should feel sorry for the guest I am describing a dish to. When I first started in the industry, I used to spend a long time explaining a dish or an ingredient, pouring my heart out with descriptors, flavor profiles, history, and emotion.  It was awkward, I’m sure, for the guest because they just wanted to know a simple thing about a component of our pizza.

“What is sofrito?”

“Well sir, our sofrito is an Italian style sofrito.  Nothing like the Cuban sofrito, which is sautéed garlic, onions, and green bell peppers, or the Puerto Rican sofrito, which has roasted red peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, onions, and cubanelle, peppers. No, ours is Italian in style.  Vegetarian too, not like the Spanish or Dominican one that usually has meat in it.  So, what we do with ours is we slow roast some tomatoes in thyme and garlic to allow the flavors to condense and pop.  This is really important because, although we can all get tomato year round, its season is still very short.  By roasting the tomatoes on low we’re slowly evaporating the water to condense the sweet flavor in the actual fruit.  After that, we sauté mirepoix in some olive oil on medium high heat.  Mirepoix is a French culinary term for a combination of celery, carrots, and onions.  These are the basis for most dishes and give it a great umami flavor.  I won’t even try to describe umami to you, but here is my card.  Check out my post on umami on my blog, http://www.brb-eating.com.  Now, back to our ITALIAN sofrito.  After we sauté the mirepoix…sir, are you still with me?  So, after we sauté the mirepoix, we then add the chopped up tomatoes and add some red wine.  We let that reduce into a paste and voila, sofrito.  And to go back to your question as to what sofrito is; It’s usually used as a base for sauces, stews, beans.”

“I’ll just have the brisket.”

Alright, so it probably didn’t really play out like that, but it probably was very close.  I’ve been able to adapt the elevator pitch concept to our menu now and can talk about sofrito like no other person at work.  So in case you ever wanted to know about a dish at work, feel free to ask.  Just make sure you tell me if you want the Joycean version or the annotated version.  You may never get a chance to order.

Note: this recipe will give you extra sofrito to freeze or refrigerate for later.

~stuff

3 plum tomatoes or medium sized tomatoes, halved

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 medium cloves of garlic, sliced

2 tbs olive oil

1 tsp salt

1/2 fresh ground black pepper

1/2 cup carrot, diced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1 cup onion, diced

1/4 cup medium body red wine (I used Tempranillo (which is NOT Italian, but Spanish…shall I get started on talking about this? )

2 large bunches of kale, stems removed (or any dark, sturdy leafy green)

2 tbs broth (vegetable, chicken, or beef)

1 tbs butter

~steps

preheat oven to 250°f

mix tomatoes, 1 tbs of the oil, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper and lay out on a baking dish

roast tomatoes until skin begins to shrink and turn slightly brown, about 3 hours

sauté carrots, celery, onion on medium heat in a shallow pan with the remaining oil until

“sweated”, about 7 minutes

add contents of the baking dish, garlic and thyme included, and the wine and simmer on

medium-low heat until reduced completely, about 15 minutes

remove sofrito from pan and put 3 tbs in a large dutch oven on medium-high heat

add kale and sauté until greens begin to wilt

finish with broth and butter and stir until liquid begins to evaporate

add salt and pepper to taste

-serves 5-




…me…


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