Tag Archives: asian

You’ve got time.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

What would you do with more time?

Do you have a stack of unread issues of the New Yorker, or trail maps to the 48 peaks over 4000 feet in the White Mountains? Though a cold blessing, many people working in DC and around the country, currently have some time to answer this question.

My answer is simple. I would cook. I would braise and bake, make stocks stews and sauces, I would preserve and tackle all those time consuming cooking feats that currently escape my hectic schedule. Recently, I decided to just go for it.

Enamored by the thought of  using the local harvest of Asian pears in a marinade, I decided to braise a bone-in pork loin roast. The sweet, earthy pears paired perfectly with salty, delicate Tamari soy. I ground in some of the bold, floral Szechuan peppercorns I had been playing with recently, along with bright, fresh ginger and sweet maple sugar. My first attempt, 12 hours in the marinade and 10 in the oven, produced tender pork lacking flavor, It tasted much better after a night in the fridge.

Already a two day recipe, I figured I had already crossed a line and headed right back in to the kitchen. On Monday, I patted the bone-in pork loin roast with a blend of salt, peppercorns and maple sugar for an overnight dry marinade. Tuesday morning, I added the liquid ingredients to infuse throughout through the day and night. Wednesday morning, I seared the pork and braised it in a 200 degree oven for 10 hours, then cooled it to room temperature so it could sit in the fridge overnight, taking on even more flavor.

Thursday, after returning home from work, I skimmed the fat from the surface of the marinade. Shredded the meat, tossing it in the thickened sauce and served it with an Asian pear slaw and bao bing, the thin Chinese pancakes served with mù xī pork.

The result? Four days of cooking, requiring less than two hours of work is worth every minute. The flavors are complex, sweet and grounded, everything you want from cool fall days that aren’t yet winter.
If your unwillingly at home from work, my thoughts are with you. May you find joy in the kitchen. Now is the time.

Asian Pear Slaw and Pulled Pork Pancakes

Ingredients:


For pork:IMG_3493-1

  • 4 tbs crushed Szechuan peppercorns or 2 tbs each crushed black and white peppercorns*
  • 1/4 cup maple or brown sugar
  • 2 tbs salt
  • 1 4-5# bone-in pork shoulder
  • 3 Asian Pears
  • 3/4 cups Tamari soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup Rice wine vinegar*
  • 4 tbs sesame oil*
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbs diced, fresh ginger
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil

For slaw:


  • 3 Asian pears
  • 2 tbs Tamari soy
  • 1 tbs rice wine vinegar*
  • 1 tsp sesame oil*
  • 
1/2 tsp maple or brown sugar
  • 1″ fresh ginger, grated

For pancakes:


  • 2 cups flour
  • 
1 cup boiling water
  • 
2 tbs sesame oil

*You know what makes this taste even better? The Lemongrass-infused rice wine vinegar and Wasabi Sesame oil from Sapore. I’m totally obsessed. The Wasabi Sesame oil is well worth an online order. Give them a call and they would be more than happy to ship you a bottle of Szechuan peppercorns too!

Serves 8

Directions:
Shredded pork:IMG_3514-1

  • Dry rub: Mix together Szechuan peppercorns, maple sugar and salt. Rub mixture into surface of pork roast and place in the fridge overnight.
  • Make the marinade: Puree Asian pears in a food processor. Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and ginger and purée. Add pork shoulder to marinade, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • Braise the roast: Pre-heat oven to 200. Remove pork from marinade, pat dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Warm oil in a dutch over medium-high heat. Sear pork on all sides.
  • Add marinade and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and place in oven and cook for 10-12 hours. Check every four hours to make sure you aren’t losing steam from your dutch oven. Add hot tap water to replace the liquid level as needed.
  • Rest the roast: Remove pork from oven, let cool and place in fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
  • Shred the pork and finish the sauce: Skim fat from surface and reheat pork on the stove. Remove pork and shred.
  • Strain the cooking liquid, reduce to a thick sauce and toss with pork.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Asian pear slaw:

  • Grate the Asian Pears the medium sized holes of a box grater.
  • Whisk together soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, honey and ginger.
  • Toss Asian pear with dressing and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. The pear will wilt over time, so dress it no more than 20 minutes before serving.

Mandarin Pancakes:

  • Add 3/4 cups boiling water to flour and stir together in one direction with a chop stick or spoon. Add additional water as needed for a slightly tacky dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes to an hour.
  • Roll the dough into a 1/2″ thick “snake” and cut into 2″ pieces.
  • Roll two pieces of dough into separate 3″ circles. Brush the top of each with sesame oil, and place the oiled sides together.
  • Roll the pancakes out into 6-8″ circles.
  • Warm a skillet over low heat. Add pancakes to pan and cook until brown spots appear, about 2 minutes. Turn and finish cooking, about 1 minute longer. Remove from pan and separate pancakes. Sometimes it take a little work to get them started. Keep warm by covering with a towel.
  • Repeat with remaining dough.
  • Serve pancakes with shredded pork and Asian pear slaw.
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What I haven’t cooked yet.

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Two weeks ago, Dave and Valerie from Sunnyside Farm gave me a Cinderella pumpkin, saying, “We bet you haven’t cooked this yet.” They were right. I’ve cooked Blue Hubbards, warty Peanut pumpkins and dark-green, lumpy, Italian Marina de Chioggia. But I had never cooked a Cinderella pumpkin.

The first thing I wanted to know was how it tasted. Grey and oblong, Blue Hubbards are sweet and rich. If you want classic pumpkin, for pie or soup, Hubbard is the squash for you. Peanut pumpkins, also know by their French name, Galeux d’Eysines, is mild and sugary. The “peanuts” are the result of sugars building up under the skin. Chioggia, on the Adriatic coast of Italy, is known for its candy-striped beets and it’s namesake pumpkin. Sweet, rich, drier and dense, it is the pumpkin of choice for gnocchi.

The Cinderella pumpkin, red and flat, is a French heirloom also known as Rouge vif D’Etampes. It is likely the pumpkin the Pilgrims and Wampanoags served at the first Thanksgiving. It is mild and not particularly sugary. It cooks down into a beautiful bright orange purée. Tasting more like dinner than dessert, I began to think of Asian flavors and dumplings.

Light Tamari soy, sweet palm sugar and rich, toasted sesame oil delivered the asian flavor profile. Purchased gyoza skins were a valuable shortcut for wrapping the dumplings. Riffing on sweet chile sauce (thanks Renee!), we combines Merken Chile Oil, Tropical Spice Vinegar, Lancaster County honey for sweetness and red miso paste for depth. The satiny texture and rich color of the sauce paired beautifully with the cooked dumplings.

And now I’ve cooked a Cinderella pumpkin.

Cinderella Pumpkin Dumplings

Makes 15-18 full dumplings or 25-30 half dumplings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Cinderella pumpkin purée*
  • 1 tbs palm sugar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Serrano Chili-Honey Vinegar**
  • 1 package round gyoza skins, thawed or 1 package of square wonton skins, cut round with a biscuit cutter.

For sauce:

  • 1 tbs Merken Chile Oil**
  • 1 tbs Tropical Spice Vinegar**
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp red miso paste

*To cook your pumpkin, scroll to the bottom of the directions.

**I’ve been shopping at Sapore again. Substitute Sherry vinegar for the Serrano-Chile Honey. Use a chile infused olive oil for the Merken and add white wine vinegar with a pinch of sugar in place of the Tropical Spice.

Directions:

  • Combine pumpkin purée with palm sugar, soy, sesame oil, ginger and Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar. Season to taste with a pinch of salt.
  • Wet the edges of two gyoza skins or wonton wrappers. Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of one wrapper.
  • Cover with second wrapper with wet sides faceing. Press together pushing out air. Cut around the filling with a biscuit cutter leaving 1/4” of wrapper outside the filling. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  • OR place a scant teaspoon of filling in the middle of a gyoza skin, wet the edges and fold in half, pressing out the air and making sure the dough seals all the way around without filling squeezing through. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  • Boil dumplings for 3-4 minutes, about 1 minute after they float to the surface.
  • Whisk together sauce ingredients and serve over cooked dumplings.

Cooking your pumpkin:

Method #1: Roasting

  • Cut your pumpkin in quarters.
  • Scoop out the seeds.
  • Rub inside with olive or vegetable oil and roast at 400F until the flesh can be easily pierced, through to the skin, with a fork.
  • Remove from oven, let cool, and scrape pumpkin flesh from the skin.

Method #2: Stove top

  • Quarter your pumpkin and scoop out the seeds.
  • Peel the skin with a vegetable peeler or knife.
  • Cut into a 1/2″ dice.
  • Warm 2 tbs olive oil in a large pan or 6qt soup pot, Cook until pieces begin to brown on edges, add 1/4 water at a time until pumpkin cooks down into a smooth puree, mashing as it softens.

Take out takeout.

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I love Asian food. Much to my husband, Jason’s, regret, I could eat it every meal of every day. If I had to pick favorites, they would be mú xī pork, tom yum soup and Thai eggplant. In pursuit of better health and frugality, I want to know how to make these at home.

It’s easier said than done. I’ve tried five recipes each for mú xī’s combination of cabbage, egg and pork wrapped in light, wheat flour pancakes, and the spicy, bright flavors of lemon grass, kaffir lime, cilantro and stock I’ve downed in bowl after bowl of tom yum. All to no avail.

Last week, after three dinners in a row of Thai eggplant, I finally cracked the code. Extra palm sugar and soy help lift and balance the earthy bitterness of the eggplant. Thai basil, chili oil and vinegar make it bright. Red peppers and shitake mushrooms give depth of flavor.

Now back to work on the other two*. Sorry honey.

*I’d welcome any suggestions on these two dishes! The sooner I get them right, the sooner Jason gets to stop eating my attempts week after week.

Stir Fried Eggplant

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbs peanut oil
  • 4 cups Thai or Japanese* eggplant cut in 1.5” cubes
  • 2 cups thinly sliced Shitake mushrooms
  • 1 medium red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Thai or Italian (common) basil, not packed

Sauce:

  • 2 tbs each soy sauce
  • 2 tbs palm sugar*
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tbs Merken Chile Oil*
  • 1 tbs Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar*
  • 1 tbs cornstarch

*Substitutions: Yes, there are a lot of ingredients here, and many you may not have on hand. Here are some easy substitutes. Thai eggplant are small and thin. You can cube a large, Italian eggplant and use that instead. Palm sugar tastes identical to Maple sugar. You can use brown sugar too. Merken Chile Oil and Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar are both from Sapore in DC. I’ve gone through two bottles of the Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar since Renee introduced it a month ago. Order them online, or use chili oil and rice wine vinegar from the Asian section of your grocery store.

Directions:

  • Heat 2 tbs peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and cook approximately 5 minutes until softened and golden. The eggplant will look translucent. Remove from pan.
  • Reduce heat slightly, add remaining tbs peanut oil in same skillet and add red pepper and Shitakes. Cook 3-5 minutes until softened.
  • While mushrooms and peppers cook, whisk together the sauce ingredients in a separate bowl with 1/4 cup warm water.
  • Add garlic and return eggplant to pan. Cook 1 minute.
  • Whisk sauce and add to pan. Stir with ingredients until it is reduced and coats the vegetables.
  • Add basil, stir through. Season to taste with white pepper and serve.

Take a chance on me.

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I love when a new recipe directs me to an ingredient I have never heard of or worked with before. There’s that moment of fear at the market when you say the name out loud for the first time, wondering just how horribly you botched it’s pronunciation. There’s a prickly moment of anticipation when you begin to cook and again when you taste it, knowing you may have completely screwed up, rendering it nearly inedible. Finally, there’s the moment when you serve it, smiling, to your dinner guests and tell them it’s quite possibly the best thing you’ve ever tasted, hoping desperately that they’ve never heard of it before either*.

This is cooking at it’s best. This is “What I Haven’t Cooked Yet” is all about. I  love nothing more than trying new things, taking a chance, failing miserably sometimes, and getting right back on that figurative horse. It’s the only way you learn, and there is joy and fellowship in sharing these adventures with others.

So grab some soba noodles – Japanese buckwheat pasta – rich, dark, Japanese tamari soy sauce, deep, roasted sesame oil and that odd beast, fresh, unsalted peanut butter, with a skim of oil over the top, and make this wonderful cold summer salad. Feel free to get it wrong a few times, but each time you bring it to the table smile, tell them it’s magnificent, and enjoy every minute of your time together.

*This, of course, is significantly more fun if you’ve just laid down the weekly grocery budget for something like dried porcini mushrooms or a rack of lamb. Soba noodles are cheap.

Asian Peanut Noodle Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound soba noodles
  • 3 medium cucumbers, peeled, halved, seeded and sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup fresh, unsalted peanut butter*
  • 3 tbs Tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar**
  • Sriracha hot sauce
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Fresh cilantro

*The oil separates and rises to the top in fresh peanut butter. Just stir it into the jar before using. You can find organic brands like Teddy Bear on your grocery store shelf. If you are allergic to peanuts, try Tahini, a toasted sesame seed paste, or another nut butter.

**Brand new from Sapore. The vinegar is actually fermented honey. OMG! You can substitute 1 tsp chili oil and 3 tbs rice wine vinegar which will give you similar heat, mild acidity and sweetness.

Directions:

  • Cook noodles by adding the package to boiling, unsalted water. When al dente, drain and rinse with cold water.
  • Make the dressing: Thin the peanut butter by whisking it with 1/4 cup warm water. Whisk in tamari soy, sesame oil and Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar (or chile oil and rice wine vinegar).
  • Add Sriracha to taste and dress salad. Start slow and make sure you don’t overpower the noodles.
  • Serve topped with cucumbers, fresh cilantro and sesame seeds.