Brandied Cherry Garcia Fro-Yo

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Last night, Peter and I went to the CPMC 2020 Gala to support the construction of the new hospital. The event was sponsored by Chanel and I think it was as glamorous as any hospital fundraising event could ever get. People couldn’t believe how well their doctors cleaned up.  So many people came to tell me how much they loved Peter. They were his peers, his former students, his patients and his bosses, people I had not met before, but I could see that they were sincere in their feelings. Talking to them about Peter made me happy and proud. It made the evening more meaningful for me.  Peter works harder then anyone I know, and sometimes I complain about his long hours or his sudden departure from a night out with friends because there was a heart attack patient in the ER. All parties are stressful for me, but last night the stress was worth it. It was wonderful for me to know that he is well appreciated by so many.  But I think what truly sustains Peter is not just people’s appreciation.  Medicine is his life’s passion.

Peter has a sweet tooth, but he needs to watch his sugar intake.  I made this very low sugar, low fat, but really yummy treat for him. He had a couple of scoops after dinner and told me that he was feeling the effect of the brandy even though I cooked it. I guess I will not feed this to the girls.

I have made different versions of the healthy cherry Garcia fro-yo before. Today, I made it with brandied cherries to give it a more luxurious and decadent taste.

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Homemade Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients:

2 cups fat free plain Fage or Greek yogurt of choice

4 tablespoon xylitol or sugar

A pinch of salt

1 packs Stevia

1 cup 2% milk or milk of choice

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup brandied dried cherries

4 to 5 tbsp shaved 86% dark chocolate bar

Preparation:

Soak the dried cherries in about 1/2 cup brandy and 1/4 cup water until rehydrated. Boil on high until the liquid is reduced to syrup. 

Chop or shave the chocolate.

Blend everything except chocolate and cherries in a blender.

Pour the yogurt mixture into the ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour the content into a large ziplock bag with the cherries and chocolate.  Lay it flat in the freezer for 20 minutes or until solid but not hard.  Squeeze the bag to mix the fro-yo before serving.

Let the machine churn for about 10 minutes. Slowly add the shaved chocolate and 3/4 brandied cherries as the machine churns.  Save about 1/4 cup of the cherries in brandy syrup to drizzle over the fro-yo when serving. Let churn until the ice cream is desired consistency.

Note:

If you like your fro-yo tart, use 2 1/2 cup of Greek Yogurt and 1/2 cup of milk.

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Easy Cha Siu in a Rice Cooker

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I had never followed any cooking shows before taking on the role of being one of the judges for a cooking related award. The past two weeks, I watched dozens of food documentaries and cooking specials.  I enjoyed all the documentaries.  Whether or not they are well made, they brought me interesting characters and engaging stories. Cooking specials, on the other hand, were often boring or disturbing for me to watch.  I now better understand why they are called food porn. Our hedonistic hunger is supposed to be satisfied by the cooking shows the same way our prurient thirst is quenched by porn films. We get off vicariously by watching dishes being cooked with so much butter, cream, salt and sugar by the most upbeat and cheery people, who exclaim nonstop how delicious everything smelled or tasted.

It seems that our natural relationship with food has somehow been ruined by the diet industry, its nutrition experts with their ever changing theories of what we can or cannot eat. Food has become less about enjoyment and contentment, and more associated with guilt. Hence we have food porn.

Answering the question of what we should eat, Michael Pollan, a renowned food author, said simply, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” By food, he meant that something your great-grand mother would recognize as food — a piece of chicken, a bunch of greens, a bowl of oatmeal or a slice of pound cake.  Energy bars with dozens of unpronounceable ingredients or Chicken McNuggets don’t count as food by his standard, I think.

I am not much of a food porn guzzler because I am quite content with what I eat. I don’t have restrictions or prohibitions. I cook what I want to eat. And cooking is a part of the enjoyment; it is the anticipation, the foreplay.

Today, I felt like eating a simple Chinese comfort food: cha siu, a sweet and savory roasted pork, on a bed of brown rice with stir fried bok choy. I discovered a great way to make cha siu — in the rice cooker for 12 minutes. It turned out tender, juicy and slightly charred at the bottom. It was delicious. (Am I not making my own version of food porn here? Am I not a nudist exhibitionist flaunting my food instead of my body?)

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P1050174Ingredients for Cha Siu:

2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into long strips about 2 inches in diameter

Ingredients for the marinade:

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 1/2 tablespoon Shao Xing cooking wine

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Cha Siu sauce (Chinese Barbecue Sauce)

5 to 6 slices of ginger

Preparation:

Marinate the meat for 4 to 8 hours. Lay meat in a single layer in the rice cooker  and push“quick rice” button, or for about 12 minutes if you don’t have a “quick rice” button. 

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Audrey and her friends making S’mores by the fire. I have never seen an inkling of guilt in her when it comes to eating. I love watching her enjoy food.

Brandied Figs Breakfast Cake

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Audrey and I are driving to Tahoe today.  The week of President’s Day had been called Ski Week in Angela and Audrey’s school for a long time until it was changed to President’s Week for political correctness. We never took the girls to the slopes when it was Ski Week simply because Peter and I are not skiers, but I liked the sound of Ski Week. It sounds a lot more fun than President’s Week. Political correctness can be so dull sometimes, certainly in this instance in my opinion. A few of Audrey’s friends are on the slope this week and she really wants to join them.  Audrey will be learning how to ski while I drink hot chocolate and read. I got up early to make this delicious breakfast cake with brandied figs for us — after all it is Valentine’s Day and figs have been an aphrodisiac associated with love and fertility since ancient Greece.

There is no added fat in this cake other than the  natural oil in the almond flour, but the cake is very moist.  These Calimyrna figs are so sweet that you need very little sugar. We had this for breakfast, but it is also a great afternoon snack or a dessert. Try it. It will pick up your spirit and mood without feeling guilty afterwards. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Brandied Figs Breakfast Cake (Gluten-free, No added sugar, Low-fat, Nutrient-rich)

Ingredients:

1/3 cup almond flour

1/3 cup + 2 tablespoon oatmeal four (I made mine from oatmeal in my Vitamix)

4 to 5 tablespoons xylitol or sugar (I used xylitol)

1 tablespoon additional xylitol to make powered sugar for dusting

3 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup non-fat Greek Yogurt (I used Fage)

1 1/2 heaping cups brandied figs (see recipe bellow)

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)

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Ingredients for Brandied Fig:

10 to 12 sun-dried Calimyrna figs

1/2 cup brandy

3/4 cup water

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Preparation:

In s small sauce pan, boil the figs in the water to soften them. When they are soft, pour in brandy and boil a few more minutes on high until the liquid is reduced to half.  Drain figs and cut into thick slices.  Set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 350c.  Grease an 8×8 baking dish.

Mix all dry ingredients well in mixing bowl.  Beat the eggs with vanilla and pour into the mixing bowl.  Add yogurt and mix all ingredients until it is smooth.  Add the figs and stir a little, but not too much.  Pour mixture into the baking pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center no longer sticks.  Cool on rack for about 15 minutes before slicing into 16 squares. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

I made powdered “sugar” in my coffee grounder with 1 tablespoon of xylitol.

In s small sauce pan, boil the figs in the water to soften them. When they are soft, pour in brandy and boil a few more minutes on high until the liquid is reduced to half.  Drain figs and cut into thick slices.  Set aside.

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Braised Duck & Vegetarian Lettuce Cups

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Braised wild game bird

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Vegetarian Lettuce Wrap

One of Peter’s patients gave him two wild game birds as a present.  I couldn’t tell what type of birds they were.  They were a little smaller than a chicken, but from the slightly iridescent feathers that were deliberately left on the wings they looked more like ducks than chickens.  So I prepared them the way my grandfather always did on Chinese New Year’s eve during my childhood. He was the first original foodie that I knew. I wrote about him in a previous blog when I cooked Kung Pao chicken, a dish from my grandfather’s home province of Sichuan.

This duck dish is called 酱鸭 —  “saucy duck,” a traditional Shanghaines braised duck with soy sauce, rock sugar, wine and a myriad of spices.  My grandfather would always save the sauce from the braised duck and use it to braise eggs and extra firm tofu in the following days. They were the most delicious eggs and tofu I have ever tasted. Meat and poultry were so scarce that we wanted the taste of them to last for as long as we could.

The wild game birds were extremely lean, but not at all tough. Though this recipe is for ducks, these wild birds turned out absolutely delicious. I saved the sauce as my grandfather did and will use it to braise eggs and tofu in the next couple of days.

Happy Year of the Monkey!

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Braised Wild Game Birds

Ingredients:

2 small wild ducks (or 1 duck)

3 tablespoons oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

8 thin slices ginger, separated

2 stocks scallion, chopped

4 star anises,

1 teaspoon Chinese peppercorn, separated

6 pieces dried orange peel

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup Shao Xing cooking wine

1/4 cup light Soy sauce

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 – 4 cups water or chicken broth

2 teaspoon honey + 2 teaspoon hot water

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Preparation:

Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a dutch oven with 3 slices ginger, 1/4 teaspoon Chinese peppercorn. Brown the ducks on both sides.

When the ducks are browned, discard the ginger and peppercorn, save the oil. Set the ducks aside in a plate.

Add the last tablespoon oil and sauté the garlic, ginger, star anises, peppercorn, orange peel and sugar until aromatic.

Add soy sauce, wine, vinegar and water and bring to boil.  Return the ducks to the pot.  Turn the heat to low and simmer for one to one and half hour, turning the birds at half way time.

If you braise a whole duck instead of wild game birds, this recipe is for one duck.

You can cook ahead and let the cooked duck sit overnight in the fridge.  Let it drain completely before cutting.

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Vegetarian Lettuce Cups

Ingredients:

1 cup cubed baked tofu or smoked tofu (You can find them in most super markets. I used braised tofu from Chinatown)

1 cup diced jicama

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup frozen peas

1 red jalapeño, seeded and diced

3 – 4 shiitake, fresh or dried, diced

3 slices ginger

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon Hoisin sauce

1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoon cooking oil

1 head butter lettuce

Preparation:

Wash and dry lettuce leaves.  Set aside on a plate.

Heat oil in a wok on medium high. Add ginger slices and stir until aromatic.  Add tofu, jicama, pepper, frozen peas and shiitake. Sauté for 3 minutes.  Add minced garlic, Hoisin sauce, Sriracha and salt and stir for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Do not over cook because you want the jicama cubes to be crispy.

Serve with a little Hoisin sauce, topped with chopped roasted peanuts and wrapped in lettuce leaves.

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Braised Pork with Arrowheads & Shiitake

Braised pork is also a very traditional Shanghainese dish for Chinese New Year.  Last Chinese New Year, I made it with winter bamboo and tofu skin.  This year I cooked it with arrowheads and shiitake.

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Pot Stickers

Pot Stickers are another Chinese New Year staple.  The shape resembles that of a Chinese gold bullion. You can either make them with store purchased wraps or make your own wraps. We made our own wraps this year with chopped Napa cabbage and braised tofu inside.

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Yuba noodle salad

Yuba noodle salad is a simple, easy and delicious dish I make with regularity. Everyone in the family loves it.

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Mocha Roca Fro-Yo

Lastly, the dessert. There is nothing Chinese about this one, but it’s one of our family’s favorites.  I posted the recipe in a previous blog.  The only change I made today was to replace the almond roca with mocha roca.

Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma

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I love Middle Eastern food — the intensely aromatic spices, the fresh herbs and vegetables, the creamy tahini and humus… so rich and varied in colors, flavors and textures, yet so simple.

One of the perks of my profession is traveling to different film festivals in places our family might not otherwise have visited — San Sebastian, Capri, St. Petersburg, Abu Dhabi…  In 2008, our family spent two weeks in Turkey at the Antalya International Film Festival.  It was one of the most special culinary experiences we have ever enjoyed.  Turkey was the one country that we never had to mention to the restaurants that Angela was a vegetarian, because there were always a wide variety of tasty vegetables everywhere we went. 

Now that the girls are older, it is more difficult for them to join me on trips.  Nowadays when I travel, Peter has to stay home to take care of the girls.  Last night, he lamented that he hasn’t had a real vacation since our last trip to Europe together in 2013. I promised to bring him back to Turkey someday soon. But tonight, I brought a little bit of Turkey back to him in the form of Levantine cuisine.

 

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Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma

Ingredients:

4 chicken thighs

1 red onion, cut into large chunks

Ingredients for Marinade:

Juice from 1 large lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

A dash of cinnamon

Parsley for garnish

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Serve With:

1 bunch radish

1 long cucumber

8 oz. assorted cherry tomatoes

Pita bread

Humus

Fried eggplant

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Preparation:

Mix the marinade and marinate the meat for one hour to twelve hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Mix the marinade, meat and onion together. Layer them on a parchment paper lined baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes.

Let the chicken thighs sit for a couple of minutes before slicing them.

Top with chopped parsley and serve with cucumber, tomatoes, radishes, eggplant, hummus and pita bread.  Or you can serve with whatever salad or grains that your prefer.

Note:

When I made the fried eggplant, I microwaved the cut eggplant in a sealed microwave safe container for 8 minutes until it is soft and wilted.  I than pan fry it.  This way you don’t use nearly as much oil.

Coconut Muffins with Pineapple Habanero Jam

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It was a beautiful Sunday morning with warm sunshine and clear blue sky, but unfortunately Peter was on call all day and the girls slept through most of it.  That’s what the girls do every Sunday — making up for lost sleep. I could’ve easily just eaten some leftover or toast or an apple for breakfast, but decided to make a real breakfast for myself and enjoy it while watching food documentaries.  I am one of the judges for the James Beard Award in the category of documentaries and TV specials.  My breakfast solitaire lasted for more than 3 hours.  

I bought a large bag of coconut flour a while back and left it in the freezer after experimenting with it once or twice.  This morning, I decided to make coconut muffins with it.  I had forgotten how absorbent coconut flour was and how it would expand with liquid. I ended up with 18 large muffins instead of the 12 that I had planned to make.  They would last us for the rest of the week.  A bottle of pineapple habanero jam that I received as a Christmas gift turned out to be perfect for the muffins.  The jam carried a hint of tropic to complement the coconut flavor of the muffins while the habanero gave a kick that woke up the taste buds.

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Coconut Muffins with Spicy Pineapple Jam

Ingredients:

1 cup wholewheat flour

1 cup coconut four

1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup xylitol or sugar

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1 19 fl oz can Mae Ploy coconut cream (If you cannot find coconut cream, you can substitute with coconut milk + coconut oil)

1 cup coconut milk or milk of choice

2 eggs

Pinch of salt

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Mix all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Mix all wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Mix wet into dry ingredients. 

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

The recipe makes 18 muffins.

Note:

Coconut flour is extremely high in fiber and very absorbent.  If the mixture feels a little dry, add a little more milk.

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Savory Egg Custard with Ling Cod

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Growing up in Shanghai, I often ate savory egg custard over rice. It was one of the first dishes I learned to make as a child. Eggs were rationed like pork, rice, cooking oil and many other essentials.  One of the reasons people made custard with their precious eggs was that eggs seemed to expand in volume when you steamed them into silken custard. I remember very clearly that if I had one egg, I would use a small rice bowl to steam a custard, and if I had two, I would use a large soup bowl.  No one used measuring utensils in those days; everything was done by feel and by experience.  Most times, we made it simply with minced scallion and a small dollop of lard; sometimes, we would add a little minced pork or thin slivers of ham.  Occasionally we would also steam the custard with clams. Clam custard is one of my favorite dishes to order when I eat at a San Francisco Chinese restaurant called the R&G Lounge.

If you have not ordered it in Chinese restaurants, you probably have had it as a warm appetizer called Chawan Mushi in Japanese restaurants.  It is prepared in individual cups or bowls with prawns and ginkgo nuts instead of fish.

Today, I prepared the savory egg custard with fresh ling cod fish, shiitake, ginger and scallion. Peter devoured it after a long day being on call at the hospital.  He called it delicious and soothing. 

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Savory Egg Custard with Ling Cod

Ingredients:

12 oz. ling cod, cut into bite size

8 dried shiitake mushroom, soaked and rehydrated

4 eggs, beaten

2 1/2 cup chicken broth

2 stocks green onion, chopped

1 teaspoon finely minced ginger

1 teaspoon thinly sliced ginger

1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes

Cilantro for garnish

1 teaspoon light soy sauce (optional)

1 teaspoon pure sesame oil

Ingredients for marinade:

2 teaspoons Shao Xing cooking wine

2 teaspoons soy sauce

Preparation:

Marinate the fish for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Beat the eggs.  Mix chicken broth and minced ginger with the eggs and pour into a large bowl or a corning ware as I did.  Add fish and shiitake into the egg mixture.

Boil water for steaming.  When the water boils, lower the container into the steamer and turn stove to simmer. 

Steam for 10 minutes. Open the lid and sprinkle chopped scallion, sliced ginger and pepper flakes on top.  Steam for another 10 to 12 minutes or until the custard is just set. Do not over steam or the egg and the broth will separate.

Before serving, pour a teaspoon of light soy sauce and a teaspoon of pure sesame oil, and sprinkle cilantro.  If you want to enjoy the custard by itself and not with rice, you can omit the teaspoon of soy sauce.

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Osso Buco Style Chicken on Creamy Polenta

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This hearty osso buco style chicken is a perfect dish for a cold winter day. It is yummy and healthy on its own, but extra delicious if you ladle it over a bowl of creamy polenta.  It is also the kind of food that will taste better the next day if there is any leftover. 

Though I am Chinese and didn’t grow up eating Italian food, Italian cooking comes naturally to me.  There are a lot of similarities in the way food is prepared, though often with very different seasoning.  We use onion, carrots and tomatoes in stews or braised dishes.  We enjoy pouring warm saucy food over rice or noodle.  We even love gruel similar to the texture of polenta.

In the first months after arriving on an American college campus, I had no money, but using a prepaid plastic card, I could eat everything to my heart’s content in the cafeteria. I lived on spaghetti and ice cream— spaghetti for its similarity to Chinese noodles, ice cream for its sheer sense of luxury.  

However, I didn’t fall in love with Italian food until my month long stay in Rome filming The Last Emperor at Cinecitta Studio in the late 80s. I hardly ate any Chinese food during that month and was surprised that I didn’t miss it all that much. (Well, to be completely honest, I did crave the taste of soy sauce once in a while.)

Now that I have lived in San Francisco for more than two decades, I consider Italian dishes comfort food.

So here it is, my Italian comfort food. 

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Osso Buco Style Chicken on Creamy Polenta

Ingredients for Chicken:

5 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

2 carrots, diced

1 onion, diced

3 stocks celery, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 cup + 2 tablespoon white wine, divided

2 cups chicken broth

1 sprig rosemary

3 sprigs thyme

6 tablespoons wholewheat flour

1teaspoon dried rosemary, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preparation:

Marinate the chicken thighs with 2 tablespoons white wine and 1/4 teaspoon salt and keep in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Mix the flour, garlic powder, pepper, chopped rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large shallow bowl.  Dry the meat with paper towel, dredge in the flour mixture and shake off the excess.

Heat a tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium high and brown the chicken thighs. 

Set the browned the meat aside in a plate.

Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet and add minced garlic, stir until aromatic.  Add the chopped onion, carrots, celery and tomatoes in the skillet and sauté for about 5 to 6 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and stir for another minute.

Return chicken to the skillet.  Pour in 1 cup of white wine and 2 cups of chicken broth.  Add the rosemary and thyme, tied together with a kitchen twine. Close the lid and bring to boiling temperature. Lower the heat to let it simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes.  If the dish feels to soupy, open the lid and turn the stove to high to reduce the liquid to desired level.

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Ingredients for Polenta:

1 cup dry polenta or yellow cornmeal

2 cups 2% milk

1 1/2 cup chicken broth

3 oz Gruyére cheese, shredded

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

In a medium sauce pan, heat the milk and the broth to a boil, lower the heat to simmer, slowly stir in polenta. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes until thickened, stirring often.  Add cheese and salt and stir for 2 minutes until cheese is melted. If the polenta feels too thick, add a little more milk.

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Ingredients for Gremolata:

1/2 cup minced parsley

1 teaspoon minced lemon zest

1 teaspoon minced orange zest

1 clove garlic, minced

Preparation:

Use a grater or a vegetable peeling to get the outer most layer of the lemon and orange skin.  Mince the zest with a knife.

Mix the zest with chopped parsley and minced garlic.

Note:

I dredged the chicken thighs in seasoned flour before I browned them to give them more flavor, but it is all right to brown them without the flour.

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I finished using the rest of the parsley and the lemon without its skin by making a salad with avocados, tomatoes, marinated olives and radishes.  The dressing was simply lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. I topped it with chopped pistachio nuts.  It is a very refreshing and satisfying salad.

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Baked Ginger Scallion Shiitake Rock Cod

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I did my weekly shopping at Costco today.  As usual, I brought a shopping list, but ended up buying many more items that were not on the list, such as a bag of organic roasted seaweed chips with brown rice.  They were addictive and I wish I never saw them.  There was no rock cod on my list, but I saw that the fillets were packed only hours before the store opened and decided to buy a tray.  Freshness is the key to preparing any good seafood.  That’s why many Cantonese restaurants have tanks that house the live fish or shell fish.  When we order fish we would always ask for “swimming fish.”  Well, rock cod packed on the same day is the next best thing to “swimming fish.” 

Though my hometown Shanghai is a a coastal city, growing up I seldom had fish, which was usually reserved for special occasions or Chinese New Year. I never had any “swimming” rock cod either, only belt fish or yellow croaker.  Nowadays, if you visit an authentic Shanghainese restaurant, you will see fried belt fish or braised yellow croaker on the menu instead of steamed cod.  I began cooking and eating rock cod after I married my Cantonese husband, who measures the quality of a Cantonese restaurant by its steamed cod.

Today, I prepared the rock cod fillets by wrapping them in parchment paper with sliced ginger, scallion, red jalapeño and Japanese shiitake mushroom and then baking them in the oven.  Wrapping the fish in parchment paper seals in the moisture and the flavor, and it also ensures the tenderness of the fish. It is like steaming in the oven. I love the intensely aromatic steam that escapes from the piping hot pouch when I open it. And the broth from the fish is absolutely delicious over rice.

This recipe is relatively easy and is one of the tastiest fish dishes that I have ever cooked.  Try it!

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Baked Ginger Scallion Shiitake Rock Cod

Ingredients:

4 pieces 4 oz rock cod fillet

8 to 10 dried Japanese shiitake mushroom, rehydrated and sliced

3 stocks scallions, 2 inch slices

1 red jalapeno, sliced lengthwise

1 tablespoon thinly sliced ginger

2 tablespoons or more light soy sauce, separated

4 teaspoons or more Shao Xing cooking wine or other Asian cooking wine

4 teaspoons sesame oil

Sesame seeds for garnish

Marinade:

2 tablespoons Shao Xing cooking wine

Preparation:

Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for an hour or longer until completely soft and rehydrated. Keep the soaking water.

Marinate the fillets in the cooking wine and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes in a sealed container.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Wrap the fillet individually in parchment paper with 1 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon wine, 1 teaspoon shiitake soaking water, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, topped with slices of ginger, scallion and shiitake.  If you prefer your fish a little saltier, you can increase the soy sauce to 2 teaspoons.

Fold the sides of the parchment paper together and seal with a metal paper clip on top. 

Arrange the packets on a baking sheet.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or so depending on the size of the fish.  I baked mine for 15 minutes because the fillets were thick.  You can fold the tail end in two to match the thickness of the body.  It is important not to over cook the fish.  If anything, you should err on the side of under cooking it.

Serve hot from the parchment or transfer to a shallow bowl. The broth is so delicious that you will need a spoon.

Note:

If you don’t have dried the shiitake mushrooms, you can make this dish with fresh shiitake.  Dried shiitake has a more intense flavor.

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Lemony Khorasan Wheat Salad

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I went to Amy Tan’s house for an Asian Pacific Fund charity dinner, which was meticulously prepared by an amazing amateur team led by Lance Lew, whose day job is director and producer of Asian Pacific America’s weekly show on NBC Bay Area.  The four-course dinner was a perfect melding of East and West flavors such as dried salted plum powder with pan seared scallops, pappardelle in black bean garlic Alfredo.  Innovative yet not fussy, it was one of the most delicious meals that I have had for a long time.  More power to passionate amateur chefs!  Cooking is an integral and enjoyable part of life, not a show or a competition requiring hard-to-pronounce ingredients or a showbiz personality. 

At the end of the dinner, Amy asked us to take some Meyer lemons from her abundant harvest.  Those are some of the most fragrant and juicy lemons that I have ever tasted and I decided to put it to good use right away in this Oriental Wheat Salad.  Oriental wheat is an ancient grain also called Khorasan wheat or kamut, and it contains more proteins, lipids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals than modern wheat.  It is also nutty and chewy and twice the size of other kinds of wheat.

This Oriental Wheat Salad is satisfying as a vegetarian meal in one dish, or it can be enjoyed as a side dish for grilled meats. It is really simple to make and very yummy.

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Lemony Oriental Wheat Salad

Ingredients for Salad:

1 cup uncooked kamut, cooked in 3 cups water, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon olive oil

2 stocks celery, finely diced

1 cup parsley, finely chopped

1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

1/3 cup chopped dried apricots

Pepper to taste

Ingredients for Dressing:

Juicy from 1 large lemon, about 2 1/2 tablespoon

2 tablespoon finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

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Preparation:

Cook the grain in a rice cooker or in a pot with 3 cups of water, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon olive oil.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.

When the grain is done, let it cook to room temperature.  Mix with the celery, parsley, walnuts and apricots.

Toss gently with the dressing and let sit for 20 minutes for the dressing to be soaked into the grain.

Note:

If you don’t have kamut, wheat berries or farro will work very well for this recipe too.

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Guests at the charity dinner

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Lance with Emerald Yeh and me