Ketchup Worth Relishing
Anytime anyone says that the secret ingredient in a recipe is ketchup, you have the right to run away screaming. Not this time, though. The shrimp in this recipe are gloriously complex, with the perfect combination of ginger, Chinese Five Spice Powder, scallions and yes, ketchup. Don’t knock it till you try it. They should be called Glorious Ginger Shrimp.
As for the accompanying rice, this recipe is deceptively simple – replace plain water in the rice pot with unsweetened coconut water and cook as usual. Ok, not so deceptive, but the flavor is incredible, making this a nice addition to your next supper. It works particularly well for soaking up all of the lovely sauce from the aforementioned shrimp. Continue reading Ginger Shrimp with Coconut Rice
I’ve always thought of this vintage throwback as a weird amalgamation – crabmeat, cheese, water chestnuts and ginger all wrapped in a wonton and fried. Crazytalk! But altogether, it’s a delight – one that I first tried at the now closed tiki restaurant, Honolulu, that was right off the highway in Alexandria, Virginia.
Now, I find it hard to track down a good version from Chinese takeout places, and instead, make my own. If you love crab rangoon, but hate how many places use artificial crab meat, or worse, only cream cheese, then this is the recipe for you. Tender crab is perked up by sesame oil, ground ginger and the crunch of water chestnuts, with just enough cream cheese to bind it all together. Continue reading Crab Rangoon with Sweet Chili Sauce
Sashimi lovers, this one is for you. The combination of meltingly tender ahi tuna with soy and sesame is a dream. And it couldn’t be simpler to make – the key is tracking down a killer piece of tuna that is so fresh, it still wants to slap you in the face with a fin. Ok, maybe not that fresh, but you don’t want to go cheap on this one. The tuna is the absolute star. Continue reading Ahi Tuna Poke
Despite my undying love for New York City and all of its glories, I hate that sunshine there is at a premium. With much of the year swathed in gray, there’s something endlessly appealing about the 364 days of sunshine that Phoenix has to offer. I’ll probably never truly fit in here on the left coast (I’m an out-and-out East coast ex-pat, who bleeds 100% DC love when cut), but lemme just say that when Cali kids speak of their junkie-esque need for light on the regular, I kind of get it. My move out here to the lawless desert has provided me with blissful sunshine and true blue skies that could cure the seasonally depressed in an instant, and I’m totally hooked.
Nothing speaks more to my adjustment to the bright perfection out here in AZ than my urges to whip up all sorts of cold salads. From chilled pastas and crisp veggies sopping up vinaigrettes, to a simple toss of fresh berries, splashes of liquer and a chiffonade of mint, these chilled dishes keep my kitchen cool and my mood light. Tabbouleh is a favorite of mine – this herby salad is a quick accompaniment to grilled meats, a homey companion on a mezze platter of hummus and olives, or a throw together potluck favorite that pairs up with any and everything on the buffet line. Best of all, it’s a throw-together dish that is forgiving in terms of time – you can prep it ahead or even serve it right away. Arabic for “little spicy,” tabbouleh is the marriage of tart, spicy, savory and sweet – all that you want for a cool summer supper. Continue reading Simple Tabbouleh
In that I am an avid dumpling maker (so that I can afford to be a voracious dumpling eater), I tend to go through quite a bit of filling for the little buggers. Much like the hot dog/hot dog bun conundrum (12 hot dogs vs. 8 buns), I often find myself with more filling than I have wrappers for. What to do?!?
Given that the filling does not tend to keep very well (overnight at best, and never defrosted from frozen), I have found a quick and easy solution with wontons. The wrappers are easy to come by in the produce section of the market (usually with the tofu) and can be transformed into the loveliest of soups. In Chinese, wonton means “swallowing a cloud” – easily the perfect descriptor for a soup that is both complex and delicate at the same time.
So what’s the game plan, you may ask? Very simple. Bolster your leftover filling with some fresh shrimp, sesame oil and cornstarch. Fill the wonton wrappers and twist into little satchels until you are out of filling. Freeze the wrappers (as these guys do keep well) and make a pot of wonton soup. If you have leftover wontons beyond the soup, either pan fry and serve with soy dipping sauce or deep fry and serve with duck sauce. Last but not least, relish in your delicious frugality and trenchant wit. Probably the most important step of all.
Thrifty Shrimp Wontons
1 lb. of shrimp, peeled and chopped
about 1 c. of leftover dumpling filling
1 tbs. of corn starch
2 tbs. of sesame oil
1 package of wonton skins
1 quart of chicken stock
1 tbs. of soy sauce
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 inch of ginger, peeled
In a standing mixer or with a spoon, mix the leftover dumpling filling with the shrimp, corn starch and sesame oil. Fill the wonton wrappers with a teaspoon each of filling. Wet the edges with a bit of water and twist the corners together to form a little “money bag”. Dip the bottom of the money bag into a small amount of flour and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat until you have used up all of your filling. Set aside
Pour the chicken stock, soy and ginger into a pot and bring to a boil. Add as many wontons as you’d like to eat (no more than 10 per quart of stock) and cook for 4-5 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a handful of scallions. Dig in.
Variations on the Soup
As a means of extending the majesty, feel free to use any of these add-ins:
- handful of baby spinach
- handful of bean sprouts
- thinly sliced Chinese BBQ pork
- crispy fried onions or shallots
- thinly sliced chicken breast
- lo mein, mai fun or udon noodles
- peeled shrimp
Orzo is like a dependable friend – versatile, mixes well with others, but distinct and fun on its own. I’m an out and out fan. In lieu of the traditional radiatore pasta or bowties for a potluck stunner, why not outstanding orzo? This particular combination features peppery arugula, sweet tomatoes and salty mizithra cheese all gussied up with a light vinaigrette. It looks sunnier than Miss America in the Sahara desert.
Mizithra cheese is a rather fun addition – a hard sheep milk cheese made in Greece. It’s salty like feta, but drier and crumblier – perfect for a lively pasta salad. If you can’t find mizithra, you can certainly use ricotta salata or feta cheese. Also, try to use the best olive oil you can get your hands on – when you have a recipe with so few ingredients and little to no cooking, it helps to keep the flavors strong.
Orzo Salad with Arugula and Mizithra Cheese
1 lb. of orzo
2 heirloom tomatoes, diced
3 c. of arugula leaves, loosely chopped
1/2 c. of olive oil
6 oz. of mizithra cheese, crumbled
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of pepper
4 tbs. of rice wine vinegar
3 tbs. of sliced green onion
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt heavily. Add the orzo to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions. Drain and cool with running water. Drain again well and add to a large mixing bowl. Toss the orzo with the tomatoes, arugula, olive oil, cheese, salt, rice wine vinegar, pepper and green onions. Chill for at least 20 minutes and then serve.
Of the dishes that I crave in an almost manic way, pawing the walls like a crackhead needing a fix, wonton noodle soup is always on the top of the list. In college, it was brimming bowls of Cantonese Wonton Soup from Ollie’s Noodle Shop in NYC. The broth studded with crisp shallots and baby spinach featured the most lovely shrimp and pork wontons – I willingly braved the lines and the brusque service just to get my weekly fix. It was hard for me to imagine a wonton soup better than it, but once I tried the Roast Pork Wonton Noodle Soup at China Fun (also in NYC), I fell head over heels in love. Blubbery udon noodles, tender slices of barbecued pork and spinach and scallions swimming around in a steaming bowl of broth. And those wontons. God, I have dreams about them – I felt a Robert Rodriguez-style need to march right into the kitchen and shoot the cook as the rest of the world didn’t deserve to eat anything so damn good.
Continue reading Roast Pork Udon Noodle Soup