In the mood for a Spicy Chinese Stirfry!

As a very amateur photographer, one of the most fun things about working on this blog has been trying to figure out how to make each dish look as good as it tastes.  So far, I am finding that meat is my biggest challenge, photography wise.  It can look so good in real life and then in the photo, it will look gray and unappetizing.  I’m working on that, but today, I found an even harder subject…Tofu!  Out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning of the recipe name “Mapo Tofu” and was surprised to find that it means, “pockmarked face lady’s tofu”  Well, I guess that one wouldn’t expect that dish to be lovely.  But it is tasty!
The three recipes that follow are bold and spicy.  You can, of course, adjust the amounts of the chilies and peppers up or down to suit your taste.
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Mongolian Beef

I wish that you could see the Mongolian Beef page in my copy of Chopsticks, Cleaver and Wok, by Jennie Low.  It is splattered, splashed and frayed.  That goes to show just how many times I have turned to this recipe over the years.  I like to use sirloin strip steaks instead of flank steak, which is what is called for in many Asian stir fry recipes.  It’s a bit more expensive, for sure, but I find that I can serve four easily with just two good-sized steaks and it has a wonderful texture when sliced very thinly and cooked quickly over very high heat.
1 1/2 pounds strip sirloin steak
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 green onions, slivered
2 fresh red chili peppers ( or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes)
Seasoning:
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
dash of pepper
1 tablespoon white wine (or dry sherry)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Sauce:
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons catsup
  Cut each steak crosswise into three pieces.  Trim fat from edges and slice across the grain very thinly…almost paper thin.  (a good sharp knife and cold meat will make this easier) Place in a bowl.
Add seasoning ingredients to beef.  Mix well.
Combine sauce ingredients, mix well, and set aside.
Heat wok or heavy skillet and add half of the oil.  Add half of the garlic and stir fry for 10 seconds over high heat.
Add half of the beef, spreading it out quickly, and let it brown nicely on one side undisturbed (about 2 minutes)  Then stir fry for another minute or two until beef is browned on both sides.  Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil, garlic and beef.  (Cooking all of the meat at once will lower the heat in the pan too much causing the meat to simmer. I sometimes have to cook this in many batches when serving a crowd but I just do it ahead of time and reheat it gently at serving time.) Remove second batch of meat to the plate while you briefly stir fry the green onions and red chili pepper for a few seconds then add all of the meat back to the pan.  Add the sauce mixture, mix thoroughly and cook for one minute, stirring.  The sauce should thicken a bit to coat the meat nicely.  Serve with rice.  (serves 4)
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Minced Chicken in Black Bean Sauce

This is a super quick stir-fry that I have been making for years.  I know that I got the recipe from a book…a paperback with Asian noodle and rice dishes….but I don’t have it anymore so I can’t give credit.  This is just so easy that I never copied the recipe.  It’s a bold sauce…kind of an Asian chicken spaghetti, if you will.

2 tablespoons peanut oil
6  boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of all fat and minced into small pieces
(you can actually buy ground chicken or turkey if you want to make this super easy…I just prefer the texture when I mince the chicken myself)
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1/3 cup Asian black bean sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
3 scallions, trimmed and chopped

Heat oil in wok or heavy skillet over high heat.  Add chicken in a single layer and sprinkle the minced garlic over the top (you may have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your pan)  Let cook undisturbed for several minutes until golden brown on one side.  It may be almost cooked through at this point.  Add the sesame seeds.  Using two utensils (I use a metal spatula and a big spoon)  toss the chicken and the sesame seeds around, breaking up the clumps and stir-frying until no longer pink.  Add the black bean sauce, soy sauce and red pepper flakes and stir to combine and heat thoroughly.  Remove from heat, add the 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, and let rest while you make the pasta.

Cook the pasta in lots of salted boiling water until just al dente.  Drain well then toss with the sesame oil.

Reheat chicken if necessary and serve over the spaghetti, sprinkled with the chopped green onions. Serves 6

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Mapo Tofu

This recipe is adapted from Potsticker Chronicles, by Stuart Chang Berman and it is new to my repertoire.  Living with three sons and a carnivore husband, I didn’t serve many meatless meals.  But I really like this dish and as the author says, the non vegetarian version is to substitute 1/2 pound sauteed ground pork for the portobello mushrooms.  The sauce is a bit fiery for sure but I just love the complexity of the heat…from three different peppercorns as well as chili paste. (Sichuan peppercorns can be found in Asian markets and specialty food shops…it is an important flavor in this dish)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon Asian chili paste
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/2 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 cup vegetable broth
1 package firm tofu, cut into cubes
2 portobello mushroom caps, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
chopped scallions or chives to garnish
brown rice, prepared according to package directions
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy skillet that has a lid.  Add the Sichuan peppercorns and black and white pepper.  Immediately add the chili paste, garlic and ginger.  Stir once.  Quickly add the soy sauce and the sherry.  Add the vegetable broth and stir.
Add the tofu cubes and portobello mushrooms.  Fold them in gently with a wooden spoon.  Add the sesame oil.  Cover the pan with a lid and braise for 15 minutes on medium heat.  Uncover.  Stir gently and slowly with the wooden spoon.  Continue to braise uncovered for 10 more minutes.
Stir the cornstarch mixture into the skillet and bring to a boil, stirring gently until thickened.  Serve over rice and garnish with the scallions or chives. (serves 4)
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In the mood for a Spicy Chinese Stirfry!

As a very amateur photographer, one of the most fun things about working on this blog has been trying to figure out how to make each dish look as good as it tastes.  So far, I am finding that meat is my biggest challenge, photography wise.  It can look so good in real life and then in the photo, it will look gray and unappetizing.  I’m working on that, but today, I found an even harder subject…Tofu!  Out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning of the recipe name “Mapo Tofu” and was surprised to find that it means, “pockmarked face lady’s tofu”  Well, I guess that one wouldn’t expect that dish to be lovely.  But it is tasty!

The three recipes that follow are bold and spicy.  You can, of course, adjust the amounts of the chilies and peppers up or down to suit your taste.

IMG_1500_2

Mongolian Beef

I wish that you could see the Mongolian Beef page in my copy of Chopsticks, Cleaver and Wok, by Jennie Low.  It is splattered, splashed and frayed.  That goes to show just how many times I have turned to this recipe over the years.  I like to use sirloin strip steaks instead of flank steak, which is what is called for in many Asian stir fry recipes.  It’s a bit more expensive, for sure, but I find that I can serve four easily with just two good-sized steaks and it has a wonderful texture when sliced very thinly and cooked quickly over very high heat.
1 1/2 pounds strip sirloin steak
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 green onions, slivered
2 fresh red chili peppers ( or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes)
Seasoning:
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
dash of pepper
1 tablespoon white wine (or dry sherry)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Sauce:
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons catsup
  Cut each steak crosswise into three pieces.  Trim fat from edges and slice across the grain very thinly…almost paper thin.  (a good sharp knife and cold meat will make this easier) Place in a bowl.
Add seasoning ingredients to beef.  Mix well.
Combine sauce ingredients, mix well, and set aside.
Heat wok or heavy skillet and add half of the oil.  Add half of the garlic and stir fry for 10 seconds over high heat.
Add half of the beef, spreading it out quickly, and let it brown nicely on one side undisturbed (about 2 minutes)  Then stir fry for another minute or two until beef is browned on both sides.  Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil, garlic and beef.  (Cooking all of the meat at once will lower the heat in the pan too much causing the meat to simmer. I sometimes have to cook this in many batches when serving a crowd but I just do it ahead of time and reheat it gently at serving time.) Remove second batch of meat to the plate while you briefly stir fry the green onions and red chili pepper for a few seconds then add all of the meat back to the pan.  Add the sauce mixture, mix thoroughly and cook for one minute, stirring.  The sauce should thicken a bit to coat the meat nicely.  Serve with rice.  (serves 4)

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Minced Chicken in Black Bean Sauce

This is a super quick stir-fry that I have been making for years.  I know that I got the recipe from a book…a paperback with Asian noodle and rice dishes….but I don’t have it anymore so I can’t give credit.  This is just so easy that I never copied the recipe.  It’s a bold sauce…kind of an Asian chicken spaghetti, if you will.

2 tablespoons peanut oil
6  boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of all fat and minced into small pieces
(you can actually buy ground chicken or turkey if you want to make this super easy…I just prefer the texture when I mince the chicken myself)
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1/3 cup Asian black bean sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
3 scallions, trimmed and chopped

Heat oil in wok or heavy skillet over high heat.  Add chicken in a single layer and sprinkle the minced garlic over the top (you may have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your pan)  Let cook undisturbed for several minutes until golden brown on one side.  It may be almost cooked through at this point.  Add the sesame seeds.  Using two utensils (I use a metal spatula and a big spoon)  toss the chicken and the sesame seeds around, breaking up the clumps and stir-frying until no longer pink.  Add the black bean sauce, soy sauce and red pepper flakes and stir to combine and heat thoroughly.  Remove from heat, add the 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, and let rest while you make the pasta.

Cook the pasta in lots of salted boiling water until just al dente.  Drain well then toss with the sesame oil.

Reheat chicken if necessary and serve over the spaghetti, sprinkled with the chopped green onions. Serves 6

 

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Mapo Tofu

This recipe is adapted from Potsticker Chronicles, by Stuart Chang Berman and it is new to my repertoire.  Living with three sons and a carnivore husband, I didn’t serve many meatless meals.  But I really like this dish and as the author says, the non vegetarian version is to substitute 1/2 pound sauteed ground pork for the portobello mushrooms.  The sauce is a bit fiery for sure but I just love the complexity of the heat…from three different peppercorns as well as chili paste. (Sichuan peppercorns can be found in Asian markets and specialty food shops…it is an important flavor in this dish)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon Asian chili paste
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/2 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 cup vegetable broth
1 package firm tofu, cut into cubes
2 portobello mushroom caps, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
chopped scallions or chives to garnish
brown rice, prepared according to package directions
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy skillet that has a lid.  Add the Sichuan peppercorns and black and white pepper.  Immediately add the chili paste, garlic and ginger.  Stir once.  Quickly add the soy sauce and the sherry.  Add the vegetable broth and stir.
Add the tofu cubes and portobello mushrooms.  Fold them in gently with a wooden spoon.  Add the sesame oil.  Cover the pan with a lid and braise for 15 minutes on medium heat.  Uncover.  Stir gently and slowly with the wooden spoon.  Continue to braise uncovered for 10 more minutes.
Stir the cornstarch mixture into the skillet and bring to a boil, stirring gently until thickened.  Serve over rice and garnish with the scallions or chives. (serves 4)
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In the mood for a Midnight Snack!

All of the recipes in this post were inspired by a lovely little book called Midnight Feasts, by Charmain Ponnuthurai. ( Subtitled An Anthology of Late-night Munchies.)  The author has collected recipes and recollections of midnight snacking from chefs, food writers, and actors, among others.   I’m a bit confused by Gwyneth Paltrow’s contributions to the book, Capon, Grandma’s style, and Chinese Duck(which cooks for 3 hours!)  But I do intend on trying the chocolate cake recommended by HRH The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, although perhaps a bit earlier in the day.  She guarantees that everyone who tries it will ask for the recipe!  I’ll let you know how that turns out.  The three recipes that I have chosen to represent here are all 5 minute affairs because that would be the extent of my dedication to a late night foray into the kitchen.  And, I do believe that these quick fixes are far superior to standing in front of the freezer eating ice cream from the carton.’

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Gillian Anderson’s Peanut Butter and Banana

When I tried these little frozen treats, I got the same slightly guilty feeling that I get when I let myself pinch off a bit of cookie dough.  But it’s just peanut butter and banana…nothing else!  
 
Take a banana and slice it end to end down the middle.  Take some peanut butter, smooth or crunchy, your choice, and lather it down one side of the banana as thick as your taste desires.  Place the other half of the banana on top like a sandwich.  Slice four or five times to create little sandwiches and wrap them in plastic wrap, twisting to close and place the whole lot of them in a plastic container in the freezer.  Then, in the middle of the night, open the freezer, and there you have a surprisingly delicious snack!  
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Goat’s Cheese and Runny Honey on Toast

This snack is based on several recipes in the book that use the grilled cheese concept. I think that I could eat this at absolutely any time day or night.
Heat up a ridged grill pan on your stove top.  Drizzle olive oil onto a thick slice of good crusty bread.  Grill the bread on both sides pressing with a spatula.  Remove the pan from the heat and top bread with slices of goats cheese.  Let sit for a minute or two to let the residual heat melt the cheese then drizzle with a couple of teaspoons of honey and sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper.  Yum!
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Emergency Cheesecake

Of course it isn’t cheesecake, but it does give you a similar satisfaction.  The crunchy grahams with the sweet/tart and creamy filling and the dollop of sweet fruit preserves.  Fresh fruit or nuts might be a nice addition as well.  This is my version of Rachel Johnson’s Instant Cheesecake.  She suggests a cup of sleepytime herbal tea to accompany.
Take 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt and mix in 2-3 teaspoons of light brown sugar and a teaspoon of lemon juice.  Stir well and serve in a small teacup with graham crackers and a bit of your best fruit preserves.  Serves 1
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In the mood for Pork Tenderloin!

Don’t pack up your grill just because Labor Day Weekend has passed!  I think that the next few months are the best for cooking and eating out of doors.  The crisp evening air of September and October make grilling a pleasure, instead of a hot, sticky chore. The first two pork tenderloin recipes are right at the top of my list when I want to grill.  But if you are already in the mood for some warm Fall flavors, scroll down and check out the pork tenderloin salad with roasted butternut squash.

Speaking of pork, this past weekend I had a wonderful lunch with some of my dearest friends at The Purple Pig, in Chicago, IL.  “Cheese, Swine & Wine”!  Of course, the swine was divine.  But we also loved the Roasted Corn with Mushrooms and Walnuts, the Salt Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Pistachio Vinaigrette, and the Whipped Feta “Smear” with Cucumbers.  Their website posts recipes so I will most definitely be trying some of them out here at home.

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Grilled Garlic Lime Pork Tenderloin with Jalapeno Onion Marmalade

I have served this dish at so many dinner parties that I had to retire it from my entertaining repertoire.  But   I will still have to make it for the family as it is such a favorite.  The recipe is straight out of Gourmet Magazine, September 1995.  By the way, don’t you miss Gourmet Magazine??
Serves 6-8
For the marinade:
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
cayenne to taste
4 pork tenderloins, about 3/4 pound each, trimmed
For the marmalade:
1 1/4 pounds red onions, chopped fine (about 4 cups)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 fresh jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons honey or sugar
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
To make the marinade:
In a blender or small food processor, blend marinade ingredients with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large sealable plastic bag, combine pork with marinade.
Seal bag, pressing out air, and put in a shallow baking dish
Marinate pork, chilled, turning occasionally, at least 1 day and up to 2 days.
Prepare grill.
Let pork stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before grilling.
Remove pork from marinade, letting excess drip off, and grill on an oiled rack turning every 5 minutes until a meat thermometer registers 150-160.  (15-20 minutes)
Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Serve with onion marmalade.
To make the Jalapeno Onion Marmalade:
In a large heavy skillet, cook onions in oil with salt and pepper to taste over moderate heat, stirring until softened.
Add jalapenos and cook, stirring one minute,  Add honey or sugar and cook, stirring one minute,  Add vinegar and simmer , stirring until almost all liquid is evaporated.  Add water and simmer, stirring until mixture is slightly thickened and onions are very tender, (the recipe says about 10 minutes but I find that it takes quite a bit longer to get them very tender, about 25 minutes, and I tend to need to add a bit more water as the marmalade cooks down.)  Season with salt and pepper.  Marmalade may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered,  Reheat before serving.
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Pork Tenderloin Crusted with Green Onion, Jalapeno, and Ginger

This is a Bobby Flay recipe from his book, Grilling for Life.

6 green onions, light and dark parts, halved crosswise
2 jalapeno chilies, stemmed and halved
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed

Combine the green onions, jalapenos, and ginger in a food processor and process until coarsely ground.  Scrape the mixture into a bowl and sir in all of the remaining ingredients except the pork.

Place the pork tenderloins in a baking dish, add half of the marinade, and turn to coat the pork.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes ad up to 4 hours.  Cover and reserve the remaining marinade at room temperature.

Heat the grill to high.

Remove the pork from the marinade,  Grill until crusty and charred on both side and cooked to medium well.  Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Cut the pork into slices and drizzle with the reserved marinade before serving.

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Mixed Greens with Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Butternut Squash and Port Reduction

This spicy main course salad is from Mixt Salads, by Andrew Swallow.  It has several steps but it is a whole meal on one plate so it’s not too time consuming when you think of it that way. I’ve made a couple of very minor changes to the original.  Chef Swallow calls this salad, “Porky”.   Serves 4-6
Spice Rub:
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon red chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 cups Port wine
Dressing:
3/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
8 strips thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into medium dice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste
3 pounds pork tenderloin
3/4 pound mixed greens, (I used red leaf lettuce)
4 ounces shelled pistachios, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine all spice rub ingredients in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
For the dressing:  Combine the vinegar, shallot, mustard and sugar in a blender and blend until smooth.  Slowly add both oils and blend until emulsified,  Season with salt and pepper.
Saute the bacon pieces over medium heat until crispy.  Drain and set aside.
In a bowl, toss the butternut squash pieces with the tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes , or until tender.  Keep warm for serving.
Increase the oven temp. to 400 degrees.  Spread the spice rub on a plate, dredge the pork in the spice rub, coating all sides and place on a baking sheet.  Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 150 degrees.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  When the pork has cooled, slice into 1/4 inch thick slices.
For each serving, toss 3 ounces greens, 2 ounces warm squash, 1 1/2 ounces bacon with 1 1/2 tablespoon of the dressing.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in the middle of the plate.  Top the salad with 4 ounces of pork tenderloin.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the port reduction over the top and sprinkle with 1 ounce chopped pistachios.
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