Archive for the ‘fish’ Category

A good friend of J’s left Seattle for San Diego at the end of August. We said our temporary goodbyes over dinner with him and his wife, and their very energetic boy of three years.

Taking the heirloom tomatoes I found at the farmer’s market, I made a salad of tomatoes, thin slices of honeydew and thin strips of cucumber made with the long strokes of a vegetable peeler. I tossed these in a dab of oil and lemon juice, seasoned with salt and black pepper.

salad of heirloom cherry tomatoes, honeydew, and cucumbers

As promised, I attempted a beet risotto, which came out fantastically. I used a recipe taken from the Health section of the New York Times. I first roasted the beets in the oven the night before, and peeled them the next day. The undersides of my nails remained purple for a day or two. I didn’t realize how beautiful beets look on the inside, too, with concentric rings barely visible in their flesh when I cut them open.

roasted beets

The use of beet greens in this recipe really rounded out the flavor of the risotto. I was afraid that the beets would make the risotto taste too bland and sweet, although this is easily remedied by a squeeze of lemon and the addition of grated parmesan. These dark and leafy greens have a bitter bite on their own, but they are perfect as they mellow out in the creamy risotto. We had this risotto with some ridiculously inexpensive salmon fillets from Costco. (They were farmed — please forgive me!) The salmon was pan-seared and topped with a sauce of shallots, balsamic vinegar, and a spoonful of sugar.

beet risotto with pan-seared salmon

For dessert, we had cherry clafouti. I love saying “cla-foo-tee” (with empasis on the “tee”) over and over again. It makes me feel so French. But I digress. I was inspired to make a cherry clafouti by a dessert I had on an elegant dinner out this summer, and have since made it twice. A classic clafouti is traditionally made with cherries, but can be made with all other kinds of fruits as well. This dessert is so simple to make. It looks and tastes delicious, and yet it is not too indulgent. I would eat it for breakfast every day, if that were possible.

Julia Child’s Clafouti
serves 6-8

1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
3 cups cherries, pitted (some help here may be necessary — J was my designated cherry-pitter)
1/3 cup sugar
powdered sugar

In a blender blend the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in a buttered 7 or 8 cup lightly buttered fireproof baking dish. Place in the oven until a film of batter sets in the pan. Remove from the heat and spread the cherries over the batter. Sprinkle on the 1/3 cup of sugar. Pour on the rest of the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about for about 45 minutes to an hour. The clafouti is done when puffed and brown and and a knife plunged in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, serve warm.

cherry clafouti

As the cherry season ended, I was reminded that the last days of summer are drifting into the fall. Farewell, friend! Farewell, summer!


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My lab got together for a late celebration of the Year of the Pig (or Boar, however you like to call it) last week. It was a potluck dinner, and I was eager to attempt a few recipes, as my knowledge of Chinese cooking is severely limited. Case in point: a few months ago, I went to Ranch99 in search of star anise, a spice commonly used in Chinese cooking. After ten minutes of weaving my way in and out of the aisles in frustration, I spotted an employee wheeling boxes on a dolly. I desperately grasped for the Chinese name for star anise. In Chinese, the literal translation of its name is “eight-legged,” like an eight-legged star. I couldn’t remember how many legs it had, so I settled for the number five. In Mandarin, I asked, “Could you tell me where the five-legged are?” The guy looked at me quizzically, and repeated, “Five-legged?” I proceeded to explain that I was making beef noodle soup, and umm…you know, you put this thing in red-braised dishes. “Oh! You mean eight-legged!” He broke out into peals of laughter as I admitted that the name sounded right. He took me to the star anise, and I thanked him as he walked away, still chuckling. Putting the lack of chinese cooking know-how behind me, I was determined to produce a few good dishes to ring in the new year.

The first, whole sea bass (recipe from Epicurious), steamed with ginger and scallions, and lightly seasoned with soy sauce. Very simple to make, considering that I used to only cook filleted fish. A huge step for me, too, since I strongly dislike touching or even looking at dead fish. Reminds me too much of my pet fish that committed suicide by jumping out of a cup of water while I was cleaning his tank. Anyway, I think that handling the whole fish helped me overcome my disgust for dead fish. I actually enjoyed taking a picture of the uncooked sea bass.


The next, ketchup shrimp with scallions, ginger, and garlic, surrounded by baby bok choy. okay, so maybe “ketchup shrimp” doesn’t sound very appealing. but it is GOOD. My mom has been making this dish every time I go back home for a visit, and it is a favorite with my sister. The key to this dish is plenty of chopped scallions, minced ginger and garlic, and PLENTY of sauce that seeps into the shells of the shrimp (you can use prawns, too). My mom usually uses head-on prawns, but I thought the heads would scare my vegetarian friends, so I opted for headless shrimp instead.

Mom’s ketchup shrimp
– De-vein 1 lb medium-sized shell-on shrimp/prawns, using a pair of scissors and a toothpick to fish the veins out. Towel dry
– Coat shrimp in salt, corn starch, and cooking wine (I used Shaoxing). Let sit in fridge for 30 min – 1 hr)
– chop 3-4 stalks of scallions.
– mince 7-8 cloves of garlic
– mince ginger (similar amount as the garlic)
First cook the shrimp through in a bit of oil, but be careful not to overcook. Remove the shrimp from the pan. Adding more oil to the pan, sautee the onion, garlic, and ginger. Add several squirt-swirls of ketchup and a couple teaspoons of sugar, and allow ketchup to cook and caramelize (you can add more ketchup if you want more sauce). Add the shrimp and toss to coat.
Baby Bok Choy: Wash and blanch in boiling water. Remove from water. In a pan, heat a bit of oil. Add five slices of ginger. When you start smelling the ginger, add the bok choy. Very briefly cook by tossing the bok choy around in the pan, and season it with salt. When the bok choy starts to glisten nicely and appears slightly translucent, it’s ready.


Braised pork shoulder. I found the recipe online, but I can’t remember the source. I think Erin sent me something similar awhile back. Patience is key here, but the good thing is the dish pretty much cooks itself. Leave the pork simmering long enough so that the meat and fatty rind become soft and tender. The pork will have drawn in all the flavors and the color of the sauce.

This dish was one of my grandpa’s favorites. He loved eating the fatty rind more than anything else. I miss my grandpa…I wish he were still here so that I could make this for him.

Braised Pork Shoulder (Serves 10-15)

5 to 7 lb pork shoulder, with bone and rind (I bought two pieces of meat, one with the bone in, one without – the total weight came to be just under 5 lb.)
3/4 cup Shaoxing wine
1/3 cup dark soy sauce
6 crystals Chinese yellow rock sugar (each crystal about 1 inch sq).
1-1/2 tsp salt (I added more salt towards the end of the simmering time, because I found the sauce a little too sweet)
6 star anise cloves
1 cinnamon stick
6 garlic cloves (crushed)
4 thick slices ginger
1 whole scallion, trimmed
2 bunches spinach, washed
rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms, tossed into the reduced sauce and served with the pork
1. Put the pork in a large pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, simmer for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse.
2. Again add the pork to the pot with fresh water to cover, add the wine, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium, partially cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the spinach), and simmer the pork for another 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The rind and the fat should be very soft when it’s done.
4. Remove the pork from the liquid and keep it warm. Strain the sauce into a large skillet and reduce it over high heat. This may take a while, depending on how much liquid you end up with.
5. Meanwhile, steam the spinach until just wilted, salt it lightly, and keep it warm. When the sauce is reduced (it should be the consistency of a thick syrup), put the pork shoulder in the center of a large platter, arrange the spinach around it, and pour the sauce over.


And lastly, dumplings. Chinese New Year’s is incomplete without dumplings. Dumplings represent wealth, because they look a lot like the little gold bullion of ancient Chinese history. Potstickers are just pan-fried versions of dumplings. The pleated design characteristic of potstickers not only make the potstickers pretty, but it serves a function as well. The process of pleating the wrapper creates a flatter bottom to the dumpling, which allows for the dumpling to stand on its own and a better surface for pan-frying. As a note, though, nothing beats home-made wrappers, in both texture and wrapping ease. If only I had the time…

Vegetarian Potstickers
4 cups mung bean threads (also called cellophane noodles), softened in water and chopped roughly
10 oz. baked bean curd (available at Asian markets in the refrigerated section), diced into tiny cubes
16 shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped
2 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups Chinese chives, chopped
6 tsp soy sauce
3 tsp sesame oil
about 100 wrappers, packaged or home-made (round wrappers)

1. Heat 2 tsp of oil in a large pan/pot or wok. Cook garlic, then add remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Cook for 3 minutes. Adjust seasonings as needed.
2. Using a teaspoon, drop a small portion of filling into the center of a wrapper. Fold and pleat to encase. For ready-made wrappers, you must wet the edges by dabbing with water (I keep a bowl of water nearby and use my fingers to dab). Continue until you’ve used up all the filling.
3. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet on medium heat. Arrange the dumplings in the pan and cook until the bottoms are nicely browned.
4. Add 1/3 cup of water to the pan. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for five minutes.
5. Remove cover. If there’s still liquid in the pan, continue cooking uncovered until the liquid evaporates.
6. Using a spatula, loosen potstickers from the pan. Transfer to a plate by inverting plate on top of pan, and then flipping the pan/plate over.




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