Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chinese Steamed Buns

Char Sui Bao. I pronounce it bow as in put a bow in your hair. These are great little portable morsels of meat and bread. Normally they are part of a dim-sum luncheon. Mmmmmm. If you have never had a dim-sum experience, I highly recommend it. When I left San Francisco, the main thing that I missed was the eclectic selection of restaurants. You could eat at any time of the day or night in any type of restaurant. Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Soul Food, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese.... you name it. It is a foodie's heaven. I learned to cook many of these ethnic dishes out of self defense when I moved to an area that had basically the blue plate special type of restaurant. Nothing wrong with diner fare, in fact I have some great comfort food recipies that I wil post at a later date. However, variety is the spice of life.

I've made this recipe for years based on a cookbook that my Aunt Rachel brought back from the Philippines where she and her Air Force Colonel husband were stationed. The wives of the officers were pretty much bored with lots of time on their hands. They spent their time taking classes and of course shopping. In addition to learning how to cook oriental food, she could also make and arrange silk flowers Japanese style. She was quite the elegant lady and a world traveler.

Often I will make Bao ahead of time and either reheat them for a snack or just put into a lunchbox to take to work. They are also good camping fare because they can be put into a backpack without harm and eaten cold.


1/2 tsp yeast
2/3 cup warm water
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp sugar
3 Tbs sugar

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ginger
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 lbs pork, cubed small (march chopped)
1 Tbs sherry (or sake)
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce

DOUGH: Dissolve yeast in water. Add flour, salt and sugar. Knead well. Cover with a wet cloth and let rise until the dough doubles. Prepare filling while the dough rises. Roll out dough slightly and cut into 12 pieces. Roll or form with fingers into 3 inch rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Place 2 tbsp of prepared filling in the center and bring up sides to the top. Pinch closed. Place seam side down and let rise. for 20 minutes.

FILLING: In a small dish combine the 1 tbsp sherry, 2 tsp sugar and 2 tbsp soy sauce and 1/4 cup of water. Stir and set aside. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan add the pork and cook stirring 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook two more minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook 30 seconds more. Cool mixture before adding to the dough rounds.

To cook the dumplings. Use a bamboo steamer or other rack. Spray rack with cooking spray or use a layer of lettuce leaves. Cover and steam for 20 minutes.

If you like a sweet dessert roll, instead of savory, use fermented sweetened bean paste as the filling instead of meat.

March Chopping. Technique. Using a chinese cleaver or good sharp chopping knife you rock the knife back and forth through the meat. More or less marching it through the meat. Take the cleaver and flip the meat over and continue marching and chopping and flipping, until the meat is fairly finely chopped. For this recipe I chop the pork into pieces about the size of peas.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Jello Salad and Some History

Ever wonder where Jell-o came from? What makes it actually "jell"? Knox Gelatine was invented before Jell-o by Charles Briggs Knox in the late 1800's when he saw how much work it was for his wife Rose to make aspic for jelled dishes. He established the Knox Gelatin company to make flavorless granulated gelatine, which is still a staple in pantries today.

The discomfiting reality is that gelatine is derived from the connective tissue and bones of animals. You know, that jelly like substance that pools under a roasted chicken when it cools? That's gelatine. Up until his invention women toiled for hours boiling calves feet to make jelly or aspic. Here is a recipe in case anyone is tempted to make the original. Veal was a very common cut of meat in those days so calves feet were not to rare. Where we get calves feet today.....dunno. I'm just has happy to buy a box of Knox. After his death Rose went on to become one of the most successful business women in New York.

In our modern convenience culture we are so divorced from where our food comes from and how it gets to the grocery store, that we never give it a passing thought. Knox and Jello are just there. Just like steaks and chicken drumsticks magically appear in shrink wrapped Styrofoam trays. Not so in this 1933 book of Knox Dainties. They gave homage to the source, calves... in charming drawings on their packaging. They also seem to give some credit to a couple of cherubic black and white children cooks.

Jell-o, the concept of flavored and sweetened gelatine was invented by Mary Wait and her husband who sold it to another person and so on. Eventually the company became a part of General Foods in the interesting history linked here There were some flavors that they experimented with that thankfully went away. Chocolate Jello?

The salad that I am presenting here is always a hit at BBQs and pot lucks. I often get requests for the recipe. It is not sweet and is often mistaken for a dessert which it is not. The first time I had it was at a special dinner hosted by my employer in the early 1970's. Mary Vorhees was the owner of the only local answering service in Paradise, California and I was one of the operators. We used the old style PBX machines like this one where you would plug in the wires and connect the two parties weaving the connections back and forth.

I felt like I was in a 1930's movie.....very retro. Mary was also a retro lady being about 60 years old (at least) in 1970. Her dinner parties were relics of a finer gentler age with all the niceties and formality that we hardly ever see today. She even had a maid to serve for these occasions. Crystal glasses for water and wine. Fine linens, candles and flowers. Translucent porcelain dishes and coffee cups for after dinner.

This salad was the first course followed by soup, then the entrees and dessert and coffee. Each person had an individual dainty moulded green salad on a leaf of butter lettuce. The moulded salads were decorated with beautiful vines and flowers of pastel tinted cream cheese piped around the bases and at the peaks of each mound of jelled salad. They were so lovely that we felt guilty eating them. I'm glad I did and immediately asked (what nerve!!) for the recipe and have had it ever since....almost 40 years.

Springtime Salad

2 packages Jello lime gelatin 3 0z packages
2 cups very hot water
1 large can crushed pineapple (not drained)
2 tsp grated horseradish

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 cup heavy cream, whipped stiff

Dissolve the lime Jello in hot water stirring well. Cool in the refrigerator and check periodically for it to begin to jell. This can take about 15 to 3o minutes. Stir it a bit occasionally to check and when it has the consistency of egg whites it is ready to add the other ingredients. Watch it carefully as it will start to jell almost all at once and if you wait too long your salad will be chunks of green jello instead of a beautiful creamy fluffy green concoction.

Meanwhile, while waiting patiently (or not so patiently) for it to jell, incorporate the horseradish into the mayonnaise with a small whip or fork. Even if you are tempted to, DO NOT LEAVE OUT THE HORSERADISH. You could cut it down to 1 1/2 tsp (you wimp), but if you leave it out the salad tastes boring and awful. When ready stir in the mayonnaise, the pineapple with juice and the walnuts.

Fold in the whipped cream with a spatula and pour the salad into a 2 quart mould or individual moulds for the fancy presentation. Chill until firm or overnight.

Or ....you can do like I do and pour it into any 2 quart bowl that you have handy and scoop it out when ready. Plop. Obviously, I'm not quite up to the presentation that Mary had created, but it still tastes great.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Swedish Tongue

Get your mind out of the gutter! This is a method of preparing beef tongue Swedish style that even people who swear they hate beef tongue will love.

When I was younger, beef tongue was a very cheap cut of meat, which probably explains why my Mother would make it frequently. No offense Mom, but I never much cared for the presentation. A big grey naked cow's tongue on a plate. Even when cut into slices, still a big rubbery tongue. Instead, this presentation is crisp breaded and sauteed slices that will leave people guessing what the meat is and asking for more.

Now that tongue is no longer a cheap piece of meat in the grocery store, in fact I can rarely find it, I have to pre-order these from a local cattle rancher. When he slaughters several cattle for his own freezer he is more than happy to give me the tongues and tails. Probably wonders why I would want such things. Well, here's why.

Swedish Style Tongue

3 lb (about) beef tongue
1 onion peeled and quartered
2 carrots peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 tsp salt
1 tsp rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 beaten eggs
bread crumbs

Cook the tongue: Scrub the tongue well under running water. Cut off some of the fat and saliva glands at the root of the tongue. (I know, you are right now going ick ick ick......get over it! Just imagine how commercial sausage is made and what is actually in it, if you want to gross out.)

Place the tongue in a large kettle and just cover with water. Add to the water the carrots, onions and spices. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 3 to 3 1/2 hours until it is able to be pierced easily with a fork. Peek now and then to add more water to keep the meat covered. Cool completly in the broth.

When cooled, reserve the broth by pouring through a sieve to remove impurities and toss away the veggies. Peel the tongue and cut away any fatty parts. Refrigerate until ready to use. You can prepare this a day or so before, just keep wrapped up in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

Swedish Style Tongue:
Cut the tongue into 3/8 slices, starting from the back end, not the tip of the tongue. Thin slices. Dip in egg and then in flour, back into the egg and then into crispy bread crumbs. Panko didn't exist in the stores when I obtained this recipe (about 1972 from Sunset Magazine I think) so I would make my own by using stale french bread and whirling it in the food processor or blender. Do NOT use the pre made kind that comes in the store, like Contadina. It will just make a heavy doughy covering instead of an airy crispness.

Saute each slice in butter, or a combination of butter and peanut oil, until crispy and golden brown. It won't take long. The slices are already cooked fork tender and are very thin. Keep warm on a plate in a low oven until all the slices are done.
Serve with a mild sour cream horseradish sauce on the side. Vegetables poached in the reserved broth as vegetable side dish (asparagus, carrots, potatoes). You can freeze and later use the reserved broth as a base for a beef soup.

Truly. No one will know you are serving them the dreaded and gross out beef tongue unless you tell them........ after they have eaten it. Be sure if you do this, your friends are the forgiving types.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pinwheel Gnocchi

This is a recipe that I've had for years and years..... at least 20. I don't remember where I got it from (maybe Sunset? or Bon Appetite) who knows. I have never seen anything quite like it since. Basically a potato gnocchi in a jelly roll format with a spinach cheese filing baked in the oven. Some people hoard recipes as if they were State secrets. My opinion is that recipes are to be shared for everyone to enjoy. Spread the wealth....and the calories.

Pinwheel Gnocchi

1 pkg frozen chopped spinach thawed
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 lbs Idaho baking potatoes
2 eggs beaten
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp melted butter

Make the filling: squeeze the moisture from the thawed spinach. Combine with the ricotta and 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Mix in the spices and set aside. You can refrigerate until ready to use, but do bring to room temperature for easy spreading.

Dough: Peel the potatoes and leave them whole. Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender or a skewer can be inserted, but NOT falling apart. Drain and toss the potatoes around back in the hot pan until the surface is dry. (This is how you should always treat potatoes that you are going to mash otherwise you will have watery potatoes). Let the potatoes cool just until you can handle them. Cut up if necessary and rice or mash very well. Builds up those biceps and reminds me of the "we must, we must we must improve our bust" exercises we did in school.

Add the beaten eggs to the slightly warm riced potatoes. (too warm and your eggs will scramble so be careful) Quickly, blend in 2 and 3/4 cups of the flour and mix to form a soft dough. The flour will bring down the temperature of the potatoes.

Knead, adding just enough of the rest of the flour to keep the dough from sticking. Roll out into a 15 inch square. Spread with the filling. Roll up jelly roll fashion and wrap the roll in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour to let it firm up.

Butter a large shallow casserole dish. Cut the gnocchi into 1 inch thick pieces. Lay in the pan overlapping slightly...like shingles. It may take several rows depending on the size of your pan. Brush the tops with the melted butter and sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 400 for 25 minutes until the tops are just turning a light golden brown.

Some tips. Don't handle the dough any more than you must or it will get tough. Add the potatoes while still warm. I use a potato ricer to 'mash' the potatoes. A very handy tool that I highly recommend. Every kitchen should have one. Because the potatoes will vary in size it's best to start will a smaller amount of flour than to add all of it at once and end up with dry floury dough. The delicate sweet flavor of the potatoes is what you want to come through. No salt in the dough......resist the impulse.

To cut the dough roll, use a serrated knife and clean off between cuts if the dough is sticking to the blade.

If you like (and I do because you just can't have enough ricotta and Parmesan cheese) you can make the filling recipe a bit larger., even doubled. Finely minced ham or prosciutto is also good in the filling. A little extra butter on top of each slice doesn't hurt either when serving.

These are a nice side dish for an Italian style roasted chicken. I also like the pinwheels fried in butter in the morning with eggs for breakfast.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Heart Attack on a Plate: Italian Sausage Shrimp Pan Roast over Pasta

Enough with the frugal food. Lets do something lavish. Full of calories. Full of taste. Heart attack on a plate. Damn the torpedoes. Full flavor ahead.

I made this recipe up after eating at John Asquaga's Nugget. The Oyster Bar serves a most delicious pan roast that has been their signature item since the 1950's. My favorite is the oyster pan roast. My husband who hates oysters prefers the shrimp and crab combo. Pan Roast is basically a smooth soup made from cream, wine, cocktail sauce and other secret spices and containing sea food. Sweet and slightly spicy (is that paprika?) with a faint tomatoey undertone. It's a real treat to sit at the Oyster Bar counter and watch them make the pan roast in steam heated bowls. Wham bam boodle, the cook moves like a practiced ballet dancer adding the ingredients, opening the hot steam vents, wooosh. Tossing the ingredients, whipping out bottles that contain the magic ingredients squirting just the perfect amount into the hot steaming metal bowl.

A short story to illustrate just what an iconic item the Pan Roast is and how seriously the Nugget takes this: Last summer we went to Reno (Sparks actually) and ordered our old standby favorite that we have to have each time that we have gone there for the last 17 years. It was completely inedible!!! Some one had tampered with the recipe and it was so freaking spicy you couldn't taste the seafood or anything else other than the hot spices. Our tongues were on fire. WATER!!! Upon leaving the restaurant, we complained to the hostess and she said that they had received a lot of complaints. Surely they haven't changed the recipe? Say it ain't so.

I sent an email to the Nugget expressing our disappointment and requesting that if they want to have a spicy version, please let us have the option of ordering the original. Within a day, I received a call at my office from the manager of all the restaurants in the Nugget . The big cheese was calling me! and wanted to know the time and date that we ate there. No they had NOT changed the recipe and he wanted to find out which of the cooks had taken it upon himself to spice things up. Turns out that they have hired several new Mexican cooks who persistently and secretly spiced up many of the recipes. The Nugget had received a lot of complaints and WOULD be taking care of this. Now, I don't especially want someone to lose their job..... but don't mess with my pan roast. The Nugget took this issue seriously and I was very impressed at the top down customer service.

Because this flavor is something we really like and we only get to taste it once or twice a year, why not use the basic sauce and mix it up a bit at home? I asked myself. I added Italian Sausage, which I had on hand at the time and use frozen shrimp (thawed out) both of which I buy from Costco in quantity and freeze for later use. Bow tie pasta which I always have in my pantry.

Italian Sausage Shrimp Pan Roast Over Pasta

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion sliced
3 garlic cloves minced
3 or 4 Italian sausages casings removed
1/2 lb medium to large size shrimp
2/3 cup white wine
1 14 1/2 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice
dash or two of Louisiana hot sauce
1 cup whipping cream
6 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

16 oz cooked pasta (penne or farfalle)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the onion and garlic until tender about 5 minutes. Break up the sausage with your fingers into bite sized chunks and add to the pan and saute for 7 minutes until done. Break up any larger pieces with a spoon. Drain off excess fat.

Add the wine and cook at a low boil until most of the liquid evaporates. About 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and juice and a couple dashes of hot sauce. More if you like a kickier flavore (But be aware: too much and you can't taste the delicate flavor of the shrimp and many Italian sausages contain spices already.) Simmer for 3 minutes. Add the whipping cream and simmer until thickened stirring frequently. About 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until opaque (not completely done as the shrimp will be tough and will continue to cook in the hot sauce) Stir in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over the pasta and top with cheese. Garnish with more fresh parsley and sprinkle with paprika. Serves 6 ......or 4 really piggy people.

If you want to prepare the meal a day ahead; it keeps well covered in the refrigerator and can be reheated. Prepare it up to adding the shrimp. Don't add the shrimp until right before reheating the next day otherwise you will have rubbery tasteless shrimp.

This is a great meal with a fresh Cesar Salad, some fruit and crusty french bread. Serve with a crisp slightly sweet white wine. Gewertzerminer or a Riesling is my favorite.You don't even want to know how many calories. Lets just say enough to satisfy the daily requirements of a family of 4 in a third world nation.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Rhubarb Pie and Michelle Obama

According to Michelle Obama some one is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so others can have more. Sounds like communism to me. I have earned my "pie" by hard work and getting an education. I suggest that since Michelle wants everyone to have pie, that people learn to make their own pies and NOT rely on stealing mine.

If people want pies. It takes a lot of practice to make a good pie crust. Lard is the best fat to use even if it is politically incorrect. Another tip for good pie crust is to keep the fat (butter, lard, shortening) cold. Use cold water and work the crust as

To that end: because I am always helpful and because it is strawberry season

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie

1 egg
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 pound fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pint fresh strawberries, halved
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup quick-cooking or rolled oats
1/2 cup cold butter

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg. Add the sugar, flour and vanilla; mix well. Gently fold in rhubarb and strawberries. Pour into pastry shell.

For topping, combine flour, brown sugar and oats in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

Mmmmmmm Pie.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Frugal Food Tips from World War II

Good tips on saving food and money never go out of style:

Don't you just love how happy they all look and how dressed up they are for cooking, shopping and sitting down to dinner?

Gray skies are gonna clear up
Put on a happy face
Wipe of the clouds and cheer up
Put on a happy face
Take of the gloomy mask of tragedy
It's not your style
You'll look so good that you'll be glad
That you decided to smile
Pick out a pleasant outlook
Stick out that nobel chin
Wipe off that full of doubt look
Snap on a happy grin
Spread sunshine all over the place
And just put on a happy
Put on a happy face
Gray skies are gonna clear up
Put on a happy face
Wipe off the clouds and cheer up
Put on a happy face
Take of the gloomy mask of tragedy
It's not your style
You'll look so good that you'll be glad
That you decided to smile
Pick out a pleasant outlook
Stick out that noble chin
Wipe off that full of doubt look
Snap on a happy grin
Spread sunshine all over the place
And just put on a happy
Put on a happy face

Preserving Food for VICTORY

If we think times are hard now that we have to pay extra for milk, eggs and butter. Now that flour has gone up in price from 1.29 for 5 pounds to 2.79 ...we might want to reconsider what we think of as hardship. Here is a book from WWII when there were actual food shortages and people dealt with it.

"Despite the wonderful mass production by the commercial canners, the smaller supplies that cannot get to market, when multiplied by the efforts of forty-five million women, will be a notable addition to the winter food supply and will release just that much more to feed staring nations and our own men bearing arms in the far corners of the world. The prices of canned goods are rapidly rising. Moreover, commercial canned foods may not be available next winter an you must feel your family. Even when the war is over, we must never again be as wasteful as we have been, as the devastated counties will still be underfed." By Anne Pierce 1942

How soon we forget. We take the abundance that we have now and throw it away. People who live in rural areas still can and preserve, but unless you are a real "foodie" in an urban area you are in a distinct minority. During WWII food was rationed and people established Victory Gardens in their communities or in their yards.

Meatless Menu from Sunset Kitchen Cabinet
Circa 1942

  • Garbanzos Espanol
  • Tomato Aspic Ring- Filled with Vegetable Salad
  • Hot French Bread
  • Olives and Pickles
  • Orange Pudding Cake (sans frosting)

Garbanzos Espanol

1 pound dried garbanzos

1 8 oz can tomato sauce

2 tbsp oil1 small onion sliced

1 clove garlic minced

few whole cloves

salt and pepper to taste

Wash and pick over garbanzos: put in a deep heavy kettle with 1 teaspoon of salt and lukewarm water to cover. Soak overnight. The next day add more water, if necessary, to cover garbanzos. Bring to a boil; skim off white foam; repeat 2 or 3 times or intil water is clear. Then add tomato sauce, oil and sesaonings. Cover and simmer gently for about 2 hours or until garbanzos are tender. Do not stir or disturb while cooking but watch to see whether more ater is needed to keep covered.

If the resulting sauce is thinner than you'd like it, drain it from the cooked garbanzos. Add a little smooth flour paste (allowing 1 tbsp flour for each cup of sauce) and simmer until thickened. For extra flavor, a sprinkling of herbs- basis, oreganok thyme or marjoram - can be added too. Then pour the sauce back over the beans and heat thoroughly before serving. Serves 8 generously.

In the 1930s to 40's anything with tomato sauce was considered "espanol". I would add some spice to this stew with about 1/8 tsp of red pepper flakes while cooking with the tomato sauce.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Cooking for the Depression

Evidently, according to all the talking heads, we are supposed to be in the midst of the next
Great Depression. The brain trusts from the main stream media who are parroting and squaking this mantra are too young to remember any really tough economic times. Their idea of a a disater and economic hardship is when their cell phones don't have full coverage or their plasma HDTV goes on the fritz or ...God forbid...oh the humanity!!!.... they have to use dial up.

Most people who experienced the real Great Depression are either dead or had the good sense to just get on with getting on in life without constant whining. They had poverty, lack of food, lack of jobs, lack of housing. They also made do and gave up what little luxuries that they had.

We are not in a depression. Maybe a mild recession. The last prolonged economic downturn was in the 70's. Having lived through that time myself and having really enjoyed the Jimmy Carter economic plan (not), I think I can make some valid comparisons and offer some helpful cooking tips for surviving this small downturn in the economy.

Hard Times Cookbook, 1970 by Gloria Vollmayer is a funny cookbook based on a crashed stock market theme. "Dedicated to our former stockbroker" ...... Apropos, since I'm a stockbroker. I bought the book when I lived in San Francisco in 1970 for $1.50, now selling for about $12.00 in vintage book stores. Now THERE is inflation.

The Gold Standard
Curried Hard Boiled Eggs
  • 8 large eggs, hard boiled
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp beau monde seasoning
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 cups milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/ cup Swiss Cheese shredded
  • bacon crumbles
Melt butter over low heat and blend in the flour curry powder and wine. (make a roux basically). Thin the sauce with milk, gradually adding the beau monde, salt and pepper.
Place eggs (sliced in half) in lightly buttered casserole. Cover eggs with curry sauce. Sprink top with crip fired crumbled bacon and some shredded cheese. Bake in 350 oven 20 minutes until bubbling hot.
This casserole is excellent when serven over cooked spinach, aparagus or broccoli.
So, there you have it. Cheap, meatless and nutritious. I must confess, I have no idea what beau monde seasoning is.
In my version of creamed eggs, that I learned from my Grandmother who was an actual participant in the "Great Depression" I just used curry powder, dash of cayenne, salt and pepper. No cheese. Chop up the eggs and stir into the cream sauce and serve over toast or in those puff pastry cups. A green salad or fruit salad on the side and you have a complete meal. Great for a quick brunch dish.