Lotus Root Salad with Soy Sesame ginger Dressing

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After pigging out for the past two days, I decided to eat light today.  Light, but very satisfying.  Our chef Duyen gave me a bag of fresh water chestnuts and a few packs of fresh baby corn so I could prepare the lotus root salad exactly the way she made it for me at lunch the other day — lotus root with snap sweet peas, baby corn and water chestnuts.  These four crunchy, refreshing and slightly sweet vegetables make a perfect combination.  If you have never tried these vegetables before, this dish will be a great way to introduce something new and exciting into your diet.

Lotus Root Salad with Soy Sesame Ginger Dressing

Ingredients:

2 cups thinly sliced and lightly blanched lotus root

1 cup baby corn, light blanched and diagonally sliced

1 cup lightly blanched, peeled and sliced water chestnuts

1 1/2 cup light blanched sweet snap peas

Green onion, chill flakes and sesame seeds for garnish

Ingredients for Dressing:

1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (optional)

1 1/2 tablespoon lime juice or rice vinegar

1 to 2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoon finely minced or grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon chopped green onion

1 tablespoon 100 % pure black sesame oil

P1090199Preparation:

Prepare the dressing by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl.  Set aside.

Boil a pot of water and when the water is boiling add washed water chestnuts.  When the water boils again.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Set aside to cool.  Peel the water chestnuts when they are no longer hot.

Boil another pot of water and when it is boiling, add baby corn.  When the is boils again, use a slotted ladle to take them out.  Rinse with cold water and set aside.  Add the sweet snap peas into the same boiling water.  When the water boils again, drain and rinse the peas with cold water.  Set aside.  Slice the baby corn when it’s no longer hot.

Boil the last pot of water and when it’s boil, add thinly sliced lotus root.  Drain when the water boils again.  Rinse with cold water and set aside.

Let the vegetables cool completely before serving.

Alternatively, if you want to prepare the salad ahead of time, you can mix the salad dressing without the sesame oil and set aside.  Mix the sesame oil with blanched and drained vegetables and leave it in a closed container in the fridge for up to 2 days.  Add the rest of the dressing before serving.P1090198

Red Cabbage Slaw with an Asian Twist

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I read an article on today’s New York Times about a 78-year-old Iowa man, who has been arrested and is now on trial for having sex with his demented wife in the nursing home.  Apparently, he visited his wife almost daily, sometimes twice a day, praying rosary by her bedside and taking her to church on Sundays, and occasionally he made love to her.  According to social workers in the nursing home, the wife was always happy to see her husband and they would hold hands and talk.  Sweet old man is all I can say. 

I asked Peter if he would visit me twice a day when I am institutionalized for dementia.  He just said, “All I want to know is what vitamins he was on?”  Well, whatever vitamins he was on have brought him big trouble now.  The problem was that she was so demented that she was not deemed fit to give consent to sex.  And without consent, sex is rape.  The demented wife who was not deemed fit to consent to sex had to go through an examination with a “rape kit.”  It that even legal?  Anyway, Peter just reminded me to add in my “Advanced Healthcare Directive” that he has my consent to do you know what.

Peter, who usually doesn’t like coleslaw, loved this red cabbage slaw with an Asian twist.  He seems to believe that it contains aphrodisiac properties, and is also a cure for headaches.  So, yeah…

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Ingredients for the Salad:

1/2 head red cabbage, thinly sliced

1/4 mint leaves, chopped or cilantro, chopped

2 tbsp minced green onion or chives

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1/2 cup chopped candied walnuts or candied cashews (I used cashews)

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Ingredients for the Dressing:

1 tbsp minced ginger

1 tsp minced garlic

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 tsp lime zest

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tbsp 100% pure sesame oil

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp fish sauce

1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce

2 tsp brown sugar + 2 tsp xylitol (you can use 4 tsp brown sugar if you prefer)

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Preparation:

Thinly slice the cabbage and put in salad bowl.  Mix all ingredients for the dressing in a bowl.  Pour the dress over cabbage and mix well.  Let sit for an hour in the fridge. 

Before serving, add everything else to the salad bowl and give it a few good toss.

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Venetian Cauliflower

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In her book , Mary Oliver wrote about the peculiar life force that we call habit, and how it gives shape to our inner lives, “In the shapeliness of a life, habit plays its sovereign role… The hours are appointed and named… Life’s fretfulness is transcended. The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers… And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real.”

Daily cooking has become a habit, a form of self realization, or an addiction.  Even on the days that I don’t have to cook, I will make something — a special after school snack, a healthy dessert or a fruit salad — just to mess around in the kitchen for a while. In the methodical preparation of food, life’s focus is simply on flavors, aromas and colors.  All other concerns fall away and turn into a haze of steams.  As I mix different spices, I conjure up faraway locales and the lives I could have lived in those places — some I have visited, and others I’ve only dreamed about. 

My need for daydreaming and quiet solitude, which used to be fulfilled only by reading, is now satisfied in the kitchen as well.  I can enjoy the pleasure of my alone time while being of service to my family.  I can have my cake and eat it too. 

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Venetian Cauliflower

Ingredients:

1 cauliflower

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red onion, finely sliced

Pinch of saffron, crumbled

⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

A dash paprika

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

½ teaspoon lemon zest

½ heaping cup raisins

¼ cup almond slices

1/4 cup water or chicken broth

Note from Chef Chen: This may look like a long list of ingredients, but it is actually a very simple dish to make.  I just put a generous amount of my favorite spices together with caramelized onion and raisons to cook the cauliflower.

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Preparation:

Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom, then remove the core. With a paring knife, cut into very small florets of equal size. Blanch florets in boiling water for 2 minutes. Cool in cold water and drain.

Put olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add saffron, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin, turmeric, paprika and red pepper. Season well with salt and pepper.

Add lemon zest, raisins and cauliflower florets. Toss with wooden spoons to distribute. Add water or broth. Cover with a lid and cook for about 5 minutes more, until cauliflower is tender. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with almond slices. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Adapted from:  cooking.nytimes.com

Mango Coconut Chia Pudding

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Yesterday Audrey heard formally from the director that she got the title part in the film Adeline.  This spring break will be a very special memory for both Audrey and me.  We will be playing mother and daughter in a film together!  Audrey will be playing a girl who tries to take care of her mother’s messy life.  She was so happy about the news that she decided to make a dessert to celebrate, but the dessert needed to stay in the fridge overnight.  So we all had it this morning.  It turned out to be perfect for breakfast — so refreshing, nutritious and delicious.  It reminded me of the tropical tapioca that Audrey and I loved to eat when we were in Malaysia last year while shooting Marco Polo, but this version is much healthier.  This pudding is so easy to make that it is almost magical.  You simply put everything in a mason jar, close the lid and shake.  And tomorrow morning — voila!  You feel pretty witchy eating these fattened up translucent live chia seeds, too.

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup full fat coconut milk

1/2 cup almond milk or low fat coconut milk or milk (Audrey used 2% milk)

3/4 cup fresh ripe champagne mango, diced

2 tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp sweetened or unsweetened shredded coconut (Audrey used unsweetened)

2 to 3 stevia packets, or 2 to 3 tbsp sugar/honey/xylitol, or sweeten to taste (Audrey used 1 pack stevia and 1 1/2 tbsp xylitol)

Audrey doubled the recipe and made two jars.

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Preparation:

Combine all ingredients in a large container. Mix well and close container. Refrigerate overnight or at least 5-6 hours.

Adapted from: skinnytaste.com

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Check out our other coconut recipes:

Beet Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit

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When Audrey visited me on the set of Marco Polo in Malaysia last year, she often rehearsed dialogue with Benny, the actor who played Kublai Khan.  Audrey would read all the other characters to help Benny memorize his lines. Did the acting bug bite her then?  I was surprised when Audrey expressed her interest in acting this week and sent in an audition tape to a young director who is shooting a short film in April.  I told her that she can do it if the shooting happens during spring break.  I have never wanted to involve my children in acting.  The profession can be a treacherous one because hard work doesn’t correlates with success.  There is too much uncertainty and not enough security in this business.  But I guess it’s no use telling her how acting is a bad profession when I do it myself.  I have long learned that you can’t teach your children by telling them things.  What you teach is what you are. 

We will find out in a few days if Audrey will do her debut role in Las Vegas during spring break.  Should I keep my fingers crossed for her?

If there is “beauty sleep,” is there beauty food?  I think the salad I made for dinner comes close to “beauty food” if there ever is one. 

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Beet Salad with Avocado and Grapefruit

Ingredients:

3 small cooked beets

1 avocado

1 large pink grapefruit

Salt and Pepper to taste

This simple salad is it’s own dressing.  With the oil in the avocado and the citrusy juice from the grapefruit, all you need is a little salt and pepper if anything.  I used organic cooked beets from Love Beets.  It took me less than 10 minutes to make this delicious and satisfying salad.  Give it a vigorous toss before serving to mix the flavors of the three ingredients.

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Quinoa Chickpea and Avocado Salad

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The weather has been so warm and sunny here in San Francisco lately that I could completely pretend it is summer.  So I decided to make this cheery, summery, delicious dish.  Try this salad!  It will transport you to June for a day.  

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Quinoa Chickpea and Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup quartered grape tomatoes

15 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup cooked quinoa (You can cook it with chicken broth or vegetable broth to give it more flavor.)

2 tbsp red onion, minced

1 tbsp green onion, minced

1 1/2 limes, juice of

kosher salt and fresh pepper, to taste

1 cup diced cucumber

4 oz diced avocado (1 medium hass)

Preparation:

Combine all the ingredients except for avocado and cucumber, season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Just before serving, add cucumber and avocado.

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Recipe adapted from skinnytaste.com

Penne Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion

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People do many different things to support a cause, some run marathons, I eat.  At various charity events, I have auctioned myself out to have lunches and dinners with generous donors who support those causes that I advocate.  I really enjoy meeting the interesting people from all walks of life over a delicious meal at a beautiful restaurant.  Is there a better excuse to pig out — for a cause that you believe in?  Today, our donors Charles and Lilian Huang contributed over $ 10,000 for a 1990 Institute project called Youth Voice on China Video Contest, in which students from US middle schools, high schools and colleges made short films expressing their views and feelings about China.  It is my hope that this project will help promote understanding and friendship between the peoples of America and China.

The lunch was very enjoyable — sumptuous food, beautiful ambiance and lively conversation — all for a worthy cause.

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I prepared a simple vegetarian meal today, and we ate it while watching the Oscars.

Penne Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion

Ingredients for Roast Butternut Squash:

1 butternut squash – peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

A few generous dashes of paprika, ground cumin, cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for Roast Onion:

1 red onion, chopped

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Other ingredients:

8 oz. uncooked 100 wholewheat penne pasta

2 tbsp or more shaved parmesan cheese

Chopped basil and sliced green onion for garnish (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat oven at 400F.  Spray a baking pan with olive oil.  Coat butternut squash with oil and spread it evenly in the baking pan.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Spray a separate baking pan with oil.  Coat the chopped onion with lemon juice.  sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 25 minutes or until soft.

When the butternut squash and onion are baking, cook the pasta according to package direction until al dente. 

Drain and mix the pasta with the roast butternut squash and onion.  Separate pasta into four plates and top with parmesan and sprinkle with basil and green onion.  Salt and pepper or a dash of cayenne to taste.

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Spicy Turkey Sausage Chili with Avocado

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Cleaning out the closet today, I debated the fate of an old sweater from the 1993 Telluride Film Festival.  I have pulled it out from the donation pile many times through out the years.  It’s more than 20 years old and quite tattered, but I just can’t part with it because there is quote on the sweater that I found beautiful.  It says, “Through out her youth, she was often disconcerted to discover her most secret, most formless sentiments and desires, given their own robust life every Saturday afternoon, at the picture show.”  This evocative image of an ordinary woman transfixed and transported in the cinema, is extraordinary to me.  I want to make films for her.

Some possessions I seem to discard without batting an eye lash, such as my old iPhones, but some others have a mysterious hold on me, such as this dear old sweater.  It goes without saying that it’s going back into the closet drawer.

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Spicy Turkey Sausage Chili with Avocado

Ingredients:

3 links lean turkey sausage, casings removed

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tomatoes, diced

2 tablespoon marinara sauce, or 1 tablespoon tomato sauce

3/4 chicken broth

1/2 tsp cumin, or to taste

1/2 can kidney bean, rinsed and drained

1/4 tsp paprika

1 bay leaf

fresh cilantro, for garnish

1 teaspoon lime juice for coating the avocado after it is cubed

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Preparation:

In a large skillet, brown turkey over medium-high heat, breaking it up as it cooks into smaller pieces.

When meat is browned, add wine, onion and garlic; cook 4 minutes over medium heat. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, cumin, chili, paprika, and bay leaf, stir for about 2 minutes.

Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for about 25 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf, add avocado (coated with 1 teaspoon lime juice) and cilantro.  Serve immediately.

This recipe makes 4 servings, but Peter and I each had two large bowls of it.  I had to refrain from licking the bowl.  Yes, it’s that good!

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Corn Chowder with Queso Fresco & Chive

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Audrey loved the Fisherman’s Wharf when she was little.  We would go there a couple of times a month, first stopping at the Musée Mécanique for an hour and then to eat her favorite clam chowder in a bread bowl at the Boudin Bakery, and finally at Candy Baron for some saltwater taffy. 

We haven’t been back to the Boudin since Audrey became a vegetarian.  After school today Audrey suddenly said, “Oh, I wish I could have a bowl of chowder.”

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Audrey and a friend at her favorite haunt Fisherman’s Wharf

I used the frozen corn from the freezer and made her a healthy and nutritious corn chowder. And according to everyone in the house it was much tastier than the clam chowder at Boudin.  Not to mention much healthier.

Audrey just wished it was in a bowl of sourdough bread.

Corn Chowder with Queso Fresco and Chive

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1/3 cup chopped scallions

1 garlic clove, chopped

3 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels

1 (6 oz) russet potato, peeled and diced

5 cups 1% milk

1 chicken bouillon cube (or Vegetable Better than Bouillon)

1/4 onion, chopped

1/4 cup fat free Fage

salt and fresh pepper, to taste

3 oz (6 tbsp) crumbled queso fresco or reduced fat feta

Preparation:

Heat a medium heavy pot or Dutch oven on medium heat. Add oil and sauté scallions and garlic and onion for 1 minute. Add the corn, potatoes, milk, bouillon, and cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the corn is tender, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and reserve 6 tablespoons of the corn kernels for topping. Add yogurt to the soup and purée in the blender in two batches, careful not to burn yourself; return to the pot.

Adjust salt and pepper, to taste and heat over low heat 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour into 6 bowls and garnish each bowl with 1 tablespoon each of corn kernels and cheese. Top with fresh chive.

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Recipe inspired by skinnytaste

Lemon Dill Baked Cod

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It’s approaching midnight and I’m still trying to finish reading the scripts that I received from China.  The film market is booming in China and there are many opportunities for me to direct my next film, but I’m yet to find a story that’s exciting to me as well as suitable to the censorship standard.  I will keep looking.  And in the meantime, I will cook.

Who am I?  If we are what we do everyday, which I think is the closest answer to this impossible question, then I am a cook.  At least for now.  As I busied myself in the kitchen with my pink batik apron, I actually thought, “I should buy myself a pretty apron.”  I used to think about buying sexy and glamorous dresses.  The ever evolving I.

Dill & Lemon Baked Rock Cod

Ingredients:

3  large cod fillets

1 lemon

1/2 cup white wine

1 teaspoon dill

1/2 sleeve of Ritz Cracker, crushed

3 tablespoon olive oil

Preparation:

Marinate the cod in the white wine in a large ziplock bag or a plate for 30 minutes.  Pat dry.

Coat the fish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 of the dill.

Crush the crackers and mix in the 2 tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining dill with fingers.

Preheat oven at 400F.

Bake the fish in a baking dish for 8 minutes and take the dish out of the oven, but leave the oven on.  Carefully discard the juice from the fish.  Squeeze half of the lemon juice on the fish and sprinkle the cracker mixture on top.

Return to oven and back for another 12 minutes.

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