Plum sauce is one of several commonly used Chinese condiments. The sauce is both sweet and tangy, allowing the product to work well in a number of different applications.
The basic plum sauce is made using plums that have been allowed to ripen to the point where the flesh of the fruit is at its sweetest. As part of the preparation, the skin of the plum is usually removed by immersing the whole plums in hot water for a short period of time, allowing the skin to be peeled away from the fruit with relative ease.
Often you will find plum sauce made from other fruits, most commonly apricots. Or made from a combination of apricots & plums. It is also common to add other seasonings to plum sauce like garlic, star anise or Chinese 5-spice powder. The additional seasonings add different nuances to the flavor of the sauce and vary depending on the tastes of whoever is preparing it.
In this particular recipe, I’m using plum sauce as an ingredient in my sauce mixture rather than on its own. The combination creates a unique Asian flavor for the pork.
Asian Pork Chops
In a large skillet, brown chops in oil. Combine the plum sauce, orange juice, soy sauce, garlic, mustard, ginger & pepper; pour over chops.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover & simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
Remove pork chops to serving platter & drizzle with sauce. Sprinkle with sliced green onions & sesame seeds. Serve with steamed rice.
Stuffed pork tenderloin is an amazing way to amp up a simple cut of meat. Pork tenderloin is incredibly tender since it is essentially the ‘filet’. Because there is very little fat in a tenderloin, its perfect to stuff with all sorts of tasty things to bring in both moisture and flavor.
The ‘old-fashioned’ idea of surf & turf seems to still retain an odd appeal. Having seafood and meat on the same plate lets you alternate bites and flavors from two realms, but there is a better way of mixing ‘sea & land’. Actually, combining seafood and pork so they cook together produces something quite amazing. Pork with its mild but rich taste complements the clean, delicate flavor of seafood.
This seafood stuffing uses a blend of rice and barley along with crab, shrimp and some veggies. The seasoning brings it all together into a real special meal.
Pork Rolls w/ Seafood Stuffing
In a saucepan, cook rice & barley in vegetable broth until tender; transfer to a large bowl. Sauté onion, celery & mushrooms in 2 Tbsp butter until tender-crisp.
Combine sautéed vegetables with rice/barley mixture in large bowl. Stir in shrimp & crab meat; sprinkle with seasonings & toss to combine.
Using a meat mallet, pound out the tenderloin strips very thinly, then divide stuffing between them. Roll tightly, encasing the filling inside. If necessary tie with kitchen twine.
Roll the pork rolls in seasoned flour to coat lightly. Heat the butter & oil in a large skillet & brown the rolls well on each side. Remove rolls to a plate.
Add veg (or seafood) broth to skillet, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer making sure to stir in all browning bits from pork rolls; cook for 5 minutes. Season the broth with salt & pepper to taste, then pour into a casserole & place stuffed rolls on top.
Bake for about 45 minutes. Serve.
Bangus, the (unofficial) national fish of the Philippines, is called ‘milkfish’ in English. Milkfish has a distinct flavor; its not a neutral bland white fish. It’s natural flavor is mild enough that it can be cooked in the manner of white fish but it tastes best when its flavor is selectively paired with complimentary ingredients and cooking methods.
Milkfish is usually cooked in soups, fried, grilled, barbecued, stuffed or stewed in various spices, ginger and vinegar. Although milkfish is one of the bonier fish species, its a good source of protein and is rich in omega 3 fatty acids so it shouldn’t be missed.
Brion & I had never tried this kind of fish before so we picked some up that were smoked. The flavor was real nice and paired well with this simple veg mac & cheese meal. Its always great to try something different.
Vegetable Mac & Cheese w/ Milkfish
In a pot of salted boiling water, cook macaroni until tender. Drain & rinse; set aside in a dish.
In a saucepan, sauté leek until tender. In the microwave, cook broccoli & cauliflower for about 1 1/2 minutes, or tender crisp.
In the cooking pot, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add flour; stirring until flour is cooked & slightly browned. Slowly whisk in chicken broth & mustard. Stir in about a third of the cheddar cheese & season with salt & pepper. Carefully fold in macaroni, veggies & milkfish.
Spoon mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar cheese. Arrange diced tomatoes on top & lastly sprinkle with the tablespoon of parmesan cheese.
Bake until hot & bubbly & cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.
Coconut shrimp …. flavors of the tropics! When prepared correctly, you should end up with a significantly crunchy, thick crust of aromatic coconut, surrounding a center of plump & tasty, cooked shrimp. The concept is simple but it is possible to end up with rubbery shrimp. I found there are just a couple of key things to keep this from happening.
First, select the best possible shrimp you can find. My own choice is always the Marina del Rey, wild-caught Argentinian shrimp. You need a large or jumbo size. If your shrimp are too small, the ratio of breading to shrimp will be off and they will cook through too quickly, turning rubbery as the crust crisps up.
Adding a bit of Panko-style bread crumbs in with the coconut gives the shrimp an extra crispy crust as well as a flour dusting before you dip them into the egg wash. As much as I prefer not to fry things, these coconut shrimp seem the best when pan-fried in a combo of oil & butter.
The sweet/spicy sauce is very simple but plays a major role in the end result. We enjoyed these shrimp as the main course with Jasmine rice & steamed broccoli.
Coconut Shrimp w/ Sweet & Spicy Sauce
Sauce for Drizzling on Shrimp
In a food processor or blender, puree ingredients for sauce & set aside.
Using 3 separate bowls, place flour in the first, egg in the second & panko & coconut in the third.
Clean & devein shrimp. Dust them in the flour then dip in the egg & lastly coat with panko/coconut mixture.
Preheat skillet over medium heat. Melt butter & then add oil. Once the combo is heated, place the shrimp in the skillet & cook 2-3 minutes on each side, until lightly golden brown. Place cooked shrimp on a plate lined with paper towel. Serve with the sweet/spicy sauce --- its the ultimate condiment for the shrimp!
CELEBRATING VICTORIA DAY!
Victoria Day is the distinctly Canadian holiday that serves as the official marker to end winter. For Canadians, this is the first long week-end since Easter and a good excuse to celebrate the beginning of the summer season. Camping and barbecuing are the name of the game but this year in view of the pandemic crisis, things are quite a bit more subdued.
In keeping with the spirit of a ‘seasonal barbecue’ on this holiday, Brion & I are having some char siu pork tenderloin.
Char siu is a dish made from seasoned boneless pork. The pork is covered in a sweet, savory glaze and placed on wooden skewers or forks over low heat. Its cooked until tender but not falling apart. The use of the skewers changes how the meat cooks. It should heat slowly and evenly from all sides. The char siu marinade is very distinctive in its flavor.
Many cuts of pork can be used in char siu such as neck meat, pork belly and pork butt. Just about any lean boneless cut will work but I like pork tenderloin the best.
Char siu has been around for many years and was generally roasted over a fire. Nowadays, its either cooked in an oven or on an outdoor grill. No matter which way you choose to cook char siu, the shiny red glaze gives it a very unique look and flavor. Char siu doesn’t have a lot of fancy ingredients or a complicated procedure. Instead, it pairs a tasty marinade with a lean cut of quality meat for a super good meal.
Char Siu - Chinese Roast/Barbecued Pork
Whisk marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Cut pork in half horizontally to make two long, flat, thin pieces about 2 X 1-inches in thickness. Place the pork & marinade in a zip-lock bag. Marinate 24 - 48 hours in refrigerator (3 hours is the bare minimum). Soak wooden skewers in water while meat marinades.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a deep baking tray with foil.
Remove pork from marinade, save marinade. Thread meat onto soaked skewers. The skewers will naturally suspend the meat above the baking tray with plenty of room to ensure that the meat is cooked evenly from all sides. A small amount of water in the bottom of the baking tray will help to keep the meat moist while its roasting.
Pour reserved marinade in a saucepan & combine with the 2 Tbsp of extra honey. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat & cook for 2 minutes until syrupy. Remove from heat.
Around halfway through roasting, baste generously with the reserved marinade. Try to get as much marinade on the meat as possible as it is the key for getting the thick glossy glaze. When finished roasting, the meat should be tender but not falling apart. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
- One of the key ingredients that gives char siu its wonderful taste is hoisin sauce.
- Chinese five spice refers to a mixture of spices used commonly in Chinese cooking. Each brand varies in terms of content.
Although mandarin oranges are a traditional holiday food, they sure make a wonderful bit of sunshine for us still in the colder part of our year.
Very often when I go to make something and the recipe calls for orange or lemon zest, its not something I have on hand. I guess its all about thinking ahead and drying the citrus peels when I do have them. There is no magic secret … just time and patience. Wash and dry the fruit, lightly grate off only the top layer of peel. Transfer to a flat dish to dry then store the zest in a glass jar. When it comes time to use, crush some between your fingers before adding it to other ingredients. This will release the citrus essence and flavor.
There is no comparison between artificial flavors and real citrus zest in baked goods. These little mandarin tarts not only use it in the filling but the pastry as well.
There are various other uses for citrus zest such as in poultry marinades, baked into breads or for a splash of flavor in tea. These tarts made such a simple little refreshing dessert.
Mandarin Orange Tarts
Mandarin Orange Pastry Cream
In a bowl, whisk flour, sugar & zest. Add butter & blend with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the orange juice, using enough to form a dough that cleans the sides of the bowl.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface. Using a 2 1/2-inch cutter, make 12 circles & fit into tart pan cups. Line the pastry with foil & add pastry weights. Bake about 10-15 minutes. Remove weights & foil & bake 10 minutes longer until pastry is golden.
Mandarin Orange Pastry Cream
In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar & cornstarch until it turns pale yellow.
In a saucepan, combine milk & orange zest; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, slowly add a egg mixture a little at a time, whisking well until fully incorporated.
Return mixture to heat & keep whisking over medium heat until it thickens. Stir in orange juice. Transfer to a bowl & cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the pastry cream. When it comes to room temperature, refrigerate.
When cooled & you are ready to use the pastry cream, whisk with an electric mixer for 15-20 seconds to a smooth & spreadable texture. Spoon filling into baked tart shells. Top each with a couple of mandarin orange slices. Brush oranges with a bit of apricot jelly.
- If pastry weights are not available, reverse you tart pan & place pastry rounds over the bottoms of tart cups to bake.
- If you use canned mandarins for decoration, drain & blot on paper towel to remove excess liquid.
A little touch of exotic seems like a good idea in late February. When you think of bananas and papaya, doesn’t tropical come to mind? I never seem to have much luck when I bake with bananas. I would rather eat them raw, in fact you might say they are a staple at our house. But, I have hung on to this muffin recipe for a long time and never tried it. Papayas are not something I usually buy, but that soft buttery texture and slight musky undertone paired with banana should work magic in this recipe.
You will notice the name of the recipe says ‘spiced’ and when you read it there is only one teaspoon of cardamom spice in it. A little bit of this pungent spice packs a big punch so it is good to use it sparingly. The flavor of cardamom is wonderfully complex … herbal, spicy, floral and slightly sweet.
Cardamom is a spice that’s used in both sweet and savory cooking in many cuisines all over the world. No other spice more completely captures the essence of the exotic and that exactly what I was aiming for.
Spiced Papaya-Banana Muffins
In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cardamom & baking powder. In another bowl, combine mashed banana, papaya, oil & beaten egg.
Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring gently, then fold in pistachios. Stir ONLY until batter is combined.
Put batter in muffin tray cups lined with paper cups, filling each to about 3/4 full. Top with remaining chopped pistachios.
Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until baked through. Remove from oven & let them cool in the tray for 10 minutes, then put the muffins on a wire rack to finish cooling.
- This recipe makes either 7 large muffins or 14 medium size.
Today, December 25th our family celebrates my sister Rita’s birthday. She will forever be the special Christmas gift our family was so privileged to receive on that Christmas day. This time of the year makes us reflect on many different things. This moment, this day, this season will never come again. Treasure it and treasure those you love who make it memorable. I like to keep in mind that the best reflection of Christmas takes place in the mirror of our own hearts.
For many of us, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the aroma of turkey roasting in the oven. But that doesn’t mean you have to roast the whole bird to get the desired effect. Even though Brion and I probably like the dark meat almost better than the white, we have enjoyed quite a few little turkey ‘breast’ dinners.
This year kumquats are high on my list. They not only add a festive touch but paired with pistachios they seem to really enrich the flavor of the meat. Kumquat season is short and usually begins in November and lasts through the Chinese New Year in January. The name kumquat means ‘golden orange’ in its native Canton.
Although this recipe has about three parts, it comes together real easy. The pistachios form a nice crispy crust while the turkey breast stays tender and moist. It is so nice complimented by all the usual ‘side’ dishes of a turkey feast.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY RITA … WE LOVE YOU … ENJOY YOUR DAY!
SEASON’S GREETINGS TO EVERYONE
Candied Kumquats over Pistachio Crusted Turkey Breast
In a shallow dish, combine pistachios & bread crumbs. In a separate bowl, whisk together mustard, olive oil & honey.
Turkey / Stuffing
In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil then stir in contents of stuffing mix. Cover & allow to sit for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork & cool.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter a large piece of heavy foil, making a circle about the same size as the turkey breast. Keeping the whole turkey breast intact, flatten slightly to create a uniform thicken.
Dip the turkey breast in Dijon mixture, being sure to coat both inside & outside well. Next coat both inside & outside with pistachio/bread crumb mixture. Lay breast on buttered foil; top half of the breast with the turkey stuffing. Fold other half on top to enclose the filling. If necessary, use some toothpicks to secure stuffed breast during roasting time. Cup sides of foil fairly close to meat.
Roast, covered for 1 hour, remove top piece of foil & continue to bake another 1/2 hour or until 185 F. is reached on a meat thermometer. Remove from oven & allow to rest a few minutes before slicing.
While the turkey is roasting prepare your kumquats. Heat water & sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Once sugar water begins to boil, add (seeded) sliced kumquats, stirring to coat well. Reduce heat to low & let simmer until liquid is reduced to a syrup consistency. Remove from heat & serve with turkey breasts.
Years ago, a friend gave me a little jar of quince jam. We enjoyed the flavor but I never really gave it much thought. Recently, I came across quince paste in the grocery store. It looks quite similar to the guava paste I used in numerous recipes previously.
Of course, now its got my interest peaked to find out more about this fruit. It seems it’s a fall fruit that grows in a manner like apples and pears…… but the similarities end there. Quince are completely inedible when raw. Once cooked, they become soft and tender, usually with a nice syrup from the cooking process.
Quince fruit is native to Southwest Asia, Turkey and Iran. Historically, they were used to make marmalade. Quince cheese (also known as quince paste) is a sweet, thick jelly made from the pulp of the quince fruit. It is a common confection in several countries. Because this fruit is very high in pectin, it gels easily. Quince is sweetened with sugar and can be flavored with lemon juice, cinnamon and apple.
Quince paste is sold in squares or blocks, then cut into slices and spread over toasted bread or sandwiches, plain or with cheese. It is often used in filling for pastries or to glaze roasted meats.
I’m going to try it first in these pastries today and then maybe in a meat glaze another day.
Quince, Walnut & Cheese Palmiers
Open puff pastry sheet on parchment paper & roll it out into 10 x 10-inch square. Spread the quince paste over the surface then sprinkle with cheese & walnuts.
With a knife, very lightly score a line width-wise across the middle of the pastry. Starting at one side, roll up jelly-roll style, stopping at the score mark in the middle. Starting at the other side, roll up pastry to score mark.
Wrap the roll in the parchment paper & plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Preheat oven to 400 F. Remove roll & slice into 3/8-inch slices (or larger if you prefer). Place cut side up on a lined baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store in air-tight container.
Due to the fact that rice flour pairs perfectly with taco-worthy fillings such as avocado, beans, cheese etc. gave me inspiration for this meal. This flour is a staple of South east Asia, Japan & India. Rice flour or rice powder is very different from rice starch, which is produced by steeping rice in a strong alkaline solution.
The technique of frying with rice flour has become universal. Rice absorbs less oil than other flours while frying, resulting in fewer calories from fat and a less oily product. Even many fast food restaurants dust their french fries with rice flour to give them that characteristic, satisfying crunch. By blending traditional wheat or cornstarch batters with rice flour will lighten the batter up and reduces some of the ‘gumminess’.
Rice flour is well suited to crepes but it is important to make them in thin, crisp rounds. If they are too thick the most likely they will crack if you are wrapping filling inside.
The recipe I’m using for my crepe stacks is pretty much a basic crepe recipe with rice flour substituted for all purpose flour. For the classic Asian rice ‘crepe’, coconut milk and turmeric are generally used.
This combination of flavors was very interesting. The recipe seems kind of long but it comes together fairly quickly. It certainly will be a ‘keeper’ for us.
Rice Flour Crepes with Black Beans & Guacamole
Rice Flour Crepes
In a pitcher, whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes while preparing the rest of the recipe.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey; stir-fry until no longer pink. Stir in water chestnuts, carrot, cilantro, garlic, apricot preserve, soy sauce, ginger & red pepper flakes. Remove from heat & set aside.
In a bowl, coarsely mash avocados, lime juice, salt, garlic, onion & cilantro with a fork. Cover & refrigerate until ready to use.
In a bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken broth (or water). In a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup of the mixture with broth until smooth. Add to mixture in bowl & stir to combine well.
Heat griddle to a medium-high temperature. Using a 1/4 measure, pour batter on griddle. With bottom of 1/4 cup measure, enlarge crepe by making circular motion in the batter. Cook each crepe for about 2 minutes until bottom is lightly browned. Lay on a plate until ready to use making sure not to let them dry out.
On each serving plate lay one crepe. Spread each with some of the guacamole, top each with some of the turkey filling, black beans, diced fresh tomato & a sprinkle of smoked Gouda cheese. Repeat with 2 more layers on each plate. End with a swirl of guacamole for some eye appeal. Serve extra beans on the side if you wish.