23 April 2008

Classic Cookbook Night: The Complete Asian Cookbook (Also, Grilled Chicken Show Down)

Sticking with the mid-1970s retro-ethnic cookbook theme, we turn from Tess Mallos's The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook to Charmaine Solomon's The Complete Asian Cookbook. Why? Because it has the best grilled chicken recipe in history. (Or at least that's what I thought until my most recent foray into China Moon.)

Two Recipes Enter; One Recipe Leaves!

Kai Yang (Garlic Chicken)
Adapted from Charmaine Solomon, The Complete Asian Cookbook (1976)

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces for grilling
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2-3 Tbs. lemon juice
Crush peppercorns in a mortar. Add salt and garlic and grind nearly into a paste, keeping some small chunky bits of garlic. Mix the cilantro and lemon juice into the garlic mixture to form the marinade. Marinate the chicken overnight before grilling. Sure, it seems stupidly simple, but I defy you to find a better grilling recipe for chicken (except maybe this next one).

Grilled Chicken With Orange Zest
Adapted from Barbara Tropp, The China Moon Cookbook (1992)
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces for grilling
  • zest of two oranges
  • 2 Tbs. garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. ginger, minced
  • 2-3 scallions, roughly chopped and smashed in a mortar
  • 0.25 cu. tamari
  • 0.25 cu. China Moon five flavor oil
  • 2 Tbs. China Moon Hot Chili Oil
  • 1 tsp. China Moon roasted szechuan pepper salt
See here for links to recipes for making the China Moon ingredients. Mix together the marinade ingredients and marinate the chicken overnight before grilling. Baste the chicken pieces with excess marinade while grilling.

So which recipe wins? They are both so damn good!

Time Machine Curry Paste

We also had fun veganizing some of the curry recipes in the Thailand chapter of the The Complete Asian Cookbook, which required making a curry paste. We opted for a red curry paste to make chili fried rice and also a tofu curry the next night. I had borrowed the book from my mom and was surprised to see how fast time flies. She made this curry for the first time nearly thirty years ago now!

Red Curry Paste
Adapted from Charmaine Solomon, The Complete Asian Cookbook (1976)
  • 7-8 hot dried red chilis
  • 1-1.5 yellow onions
  • 1.5 tsp. black peppercorns, toasted and ground in a mortar
  • 3 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and ground in a mortar
  • 1.5 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted and ground in a mortar
  • 2 Tbs. cilantro, roughly chopped
  • zest of one lime
  • 1-2 Tbs. lemon grass, shaved through a microplane
  • 1-2 Tbs. galangal root, shaved through a microplane
  • 1 Tbs. garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1-1.5 Tbs. shrimp paste (the paste, not the dried shrimp paste that comes in a block)
  • 2 Tbs. peanut oil
  • 1 tsp. tumeric
  • 2 tsp. paprika
Whiz everything to a paste in a food processor. Hey presto. It gets better as it sits. Also, it's not as concentrated as the curry pastes that come in a can, so you need to use a fair bit more than most recipes call for. The recipe doesn't seem very authentic, but it's nonetheless fairly good.

Things learned: just don't even bother cooking with a low or reduced fat coconut milk. (Also, making your own coconut milk is easy.)

20 April 2008

China Moon Popcorn

Now China Moon is even invading my popcorn.

China Moon Popcorn
Pop the corn in peanut oil and mix in 2-3 Tbs. of five flavor oil and 1-2 tsp. of hot chili oil. Dust with roasted szechuan pepper-salt. This was so good.

19 April 2008

China Moon Night: Dragon Noodles and Grilled Eggplant With Spicy Peanut Sauce

Dragon Noodles, Grilled Eggplant with Spicy Peanut Sauce, and Grilled Broccoli

The China Moon pantry made another appearance tonight. The big discovery is how enjoyable Tropp's cold noodle dishes are. The Dragon Noodle were really good. (Here's a recipe, but use 1/4 cu. Five Flavor Oil, 1 Tbs. China Moon Hot Chili Oil—see link below—and 1 tsp hot chili sauce, in place of the first two ingredients listed.) They'll make a great lunch tomorrow. We took the dish even further afield from traditional Chinese noodles by using whole grain soba noodles instead of the refined noodles she calls for, but the substitution worked well.

It's pretty popular and thoroughly vetted online, but here's my mini book review of The China Moon Cookbook anyway: First, be prepared to spend a whole day making all the ingredients needed to cook any of the recipes in the book. But don't let that fact hold you back; none of the ingredients are particularly difficult to make and the process is actually quite fun. The China Moon Hot Chili Oil alone is worth its weight in gold, and it and many of the other ingredients will certainly be useful when you're not cooking China Moon style.

Also, although we've picked out the quicker recipes to prepare so far, many of the dishes are quite involved (though not difficult certainly), so this is more of a weekend than workaday book. (An exception: the cold noodle recipes.)

If all of the above discourages you too much, than know that there are so many interesting techniques described in the book, and so many great side bars filled with anecdotes and history, that just reading the book is worthwhile even if you never cook from it. But why wouldn't you? Just about everything in it so far has been quite good verging on "awesome." Wholeheartedly recommended.

17 April 2008

Classic Cookbook Night: The Complete Middle East Cookbook

Falafel, Avocados and Oranges In Honey Sauce, and Baby Artichokes With Lemon Vinaigrette.

I think of Tess Mallos' The Complete Middle East Cook Book as a classic (it's been in print for nearly thirty years after all), but perhaps that's just because I grew up with it on the shelf. I remember my mom making phyllo, which was crazy. Why would you do that to yourself, mom?

I don't know if this falafel recipe is even remotely authentic or not (it seems dumbed down a bit), but these were some of the best falafel we've had in a while, even if a bit dry.

Falafel ("Felafel" from the Israeli chapter of the book)
Adapted from Tess Mallos, The Complete Middle East Cookbook (1979)

  • 1 cu. dried chick peas
  • 0.5 cu. bulgur
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbs. roughly chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. each of ground coriander and cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 4 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 0.25 cu. whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
Rinse the chickpeas, then place them in a container with 3 cups of cold water to sit for 20-24 hours. Pour 1 cup boiling water over the bulgur and let sit for 10 minutes before straining thoroughly. Grind your own cumin and coriander. Combine chickpeas through black pepper in a food processor and whiz them until finely ground and nearly a paste. Stir flour and baking soda into the chickpea mixture. Form the mixture into little balls, using about a 1 Tbs. for each falafel, then let the uncooked falafel sit for 15 minutes to half an hour. Deep fry the falafel in batches in oil heated to 350°F until golden brown (about five minutes).

Oddly, Mallos gives you no real advice on how to serve them or for a sauce to go with them. We made an overly garlicky tahini sauce and served them in pita pockets with veggies.

Avocado Im Dvasch (Avocados in Honey Sauce)
Adapted from Tess Mallos, The Complete Middle East Cookbook (1979)

The picture in the book of this dish looked thoroughly unappetizing, and yet I had to try it, which was a lucky thing because it's quite good.
  • 1 sm. yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 0.25 (a bit less) honey
  • 0.25 cu. lemon juice
  • 0.33 cu. olive oil
  • 1 grapefruit and 1 navel orange with wedges cut from the membranes and skin
  • 1-2 avocados, sliced
Whiz together the onion, mustard, honey and lemon juice in a food processor, then gradually stream in the oil. The sauce doesn't emulsify very well, so prepare for the sauce to look a bit broken with the onion purée a bit proud. Toss the sauce with the fruit and avocados, them make a nice arranged salad completely unlike the ugly mess seen in the picture above.

16 April 2008

Dinner Tonight: Taking the China Moon Pantry For A Spin

We flexed our flexitarian sides with this Cold ("No-Poached") Chicken Salad With Peanuts and Rice Sticks. The China Moon Cookbook really delivers. This salad was nice, but the grilled chicken with orange zest and garlic was perhaps the best grilled chicken I've ever made. Hey check out those pot-stickers with whole wheat wrappers—those are food.

12 April 2008

Toil, Trouble and Hot Chilis (Or, What I Did With My Saturday Night)

Five Flavor Oil, Hot Chili Oil, Preserved Lemons, and Pickled Ginger.

We've been cooking from some older books that require one to make a number of ingredients before actually jumping into the core recipes of the book. Last week I picked up Paula Wolfert's classic Couscous and other Good Food From Morocco. I was eager to bust out tagines of lemon, chicken and olives only to read Paula's admonition against using anything but real preserved lemons. Preserving lemons still freaks me out a bit, even though my mum seemingly always had some in our cupboard when I was growing up (it's her book afterall—in print since 1973). I decided I had to preserve some lemons myself, but they need a month to set up in their briny home. Once the lid was on the lemons, my dreams of Moroccan night faded somewhat and I picked up another older book to pass the time while I waited for the lemons.

Ironically, I picked out the late Barbara Tropp's China Moon Cookbook. I had forgotten that China Moon is the ultimate example of a cookbook that makes you pay your dues before you get to play with its fun recipes. And the fun recipes in this case require you to make several oil infusions, a number of ground spice mixtures, a pickle and several other concoctions besides. I was up all night tending my boiling vats of oil, chilis and fermented black beans.

While China Moon isn't exactly an herbivorous book—in spite of the fact that Tropp started out as a vegetarian and only succumbed to omnivory when greatly outnumbered by carnivores in Taipei—it's pantry filling array of infusions and spices are great for any herbivore to have on hand. In fact, we're thinking of giving bottles of the hot chili oil away as gifts. Crap, there goes the surprise.

Fennel and Citrus, Everyone's Doing It.

This salad of fennel, greens, olives and oranges was worthwhile, if a bit out of season. I was just overwhelmed by the sheer blogiquitousness of this combo last week. (You know, I try not to like The Kitchn, but I can't seem to stop following it.)

04 April 2008

Springtime Reminder: CSA

Hey, Spring is here and has been for a few weeks. Have you bought a share in a CSA farm yet? Here is MOFGA's list of CSA farms in Maine by county. About one hundred CSA farms produce four thousand shares of organic veggies in Maine.

03 April 2008

Pizza Night

Whole wheat pizza with basil-walnut pesto, caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms, spinach, red peppers and tomatoes.

Basil-Walnut Pesto
Conflated from recipes all over the web

  • 2 Cu. basil
  • 2 Cu. parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 Tbs lemon juice together with a small amount of zest
  • 1.5 Cu. walnuts or pecans or both (toasted in the oven then cooled)
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 to 1.5 Cu olive oil
  • Maybe some miso or nutritional yeast
But what was really good about the pizza was slicing crimini mushrooms and mixing them with some oil, salt, pepper and crushed garlic and then roasting them in the oven at 400° until they form little mushroom chips. These are so good it's hard not to eat them all before putting them on the pizza.