Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lotus Root, Radicchio and King Trumpet Mushroom Vegetarian Stir Fry

     Healthy Stir Fry Veggies!
     Stir fry food was popular in American casual restaurants about 30 years ago.  Back then, it seemed like every restaurant had a token stir fry entrée on the menu.  National chain restaurants also got on the stir fry bandwagon.  
     Food quality issues were the main reason why stir fry food became a passing fad at casual restaurants and chain restaurants many years ago.  Chain restaurants used frozen vegetables to make stir fry and this entirely defeated the purpose.  Stir fry at cheap restaurants looked more like the vegetables were boiled in sauce till they were mushy, instead of being sizzled in a wok with little bit of hot oil till the vegetables had a crisp texture.  Cheap bottled teriyaki sauce was used to flavor stir fry at most two bit restaurants and this did nothing for the overall appeal.  Because so many restaurants served up such lousy stir fry back in those days, the stir fry trend burnt out long before its prime.        
     There is nothing like the real thing, when it comes to stir fry.  Asian restaurants always have nice stir fry entrées on the menu and the stir fry is made the way it should be.  All it takes for a home cook to learn good stir fry cooking techniques, is to watch a professional Chinese cook in action.  For example, watching an old Chef Martin Yan cooking show video will provide plenty of ancient Chinese secret stir fry techniques!

     Stir Fry Cooking Tips:
     • Have all the ingredients and the sauce preparation ready before you start cooking.
     • Cut the vegetables so they will cook quickly and evenly.  Cut the vegetables into shapes that will all finish cooking at the same time.
     • Mix the ingredients for the sauce together, so they can be added all at one time.  This includes combining thickening agents, like cornstarch, with the liquid ingredients.  
     • A sauté pan, mini wok or a wok can be used.  The shape of the pan really does not matter, but a wok is designed for stir fry.  Heat the pan or wok over medium/medium high heat before the first ingredient is added.  
     • A minimum of oil is needed.  Most stir fry dished require less than 2 tablespoons of oil.  The oil must be hot, but the oil should not be so hot that it smokes.  Be sure to select an oil that has a high smoking point.  Peanut oil, coconut oil and soy oil are the best choice.
      • Add hard vegetables or meats first.  Add the soft vegetables or leafy greens last.
      • Excessive browning of the vegetables can be avoided by tossing the ingredients as they cook in the hot wok.  Once the stir fry begins, a cook constantly has to maintain the food in the hot pan.  
      • If a sauce is used to flavor the sir fry, the sauce should be added when the vegetables just start to become al dente, so the cooked vegetables still have a crisp bite when the entrée is served.  The object is to add the sauce late in the recipe and bring the sauce to a quick boil while tossing the ingredients with the sauce, just before placing the entrée on a plate.
     *This entire recipe yields 1 entrée! 

     Be sure to have all of the ingredients ready before starting the stir fry! 
     This recipe uses a simple sir fry sauce that is not thickened with corn starch.  Thin Soy Sauce is a cooking soy sauce that is not as rich as regular table soy sauce.  It is available in flavors too.
     Step 1:  Par boil 6 to 8 thin slices of lotus root in salted water for 3 minutes.
     Place the blanched lotus root slices in ice water.
     Drain off the water and set the lotus root slices aside.
     Step 2:  Place 1/3 cup of vegetable broth in a small container.
     Add 3 tablespoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Korean Red Serrano Chile Pepper Paste.  (Korean style Sambal.)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Stir the ingredients and set the container aside.
     Step 3:  Prepare these hard vegetables:
     - 1/3 cup of petite carrot sticks
     - 1/4 cup of thin sliced onion
     - 1/2 cup of sliced bok choy.
     - 2 sliced water chestnuts.
     Place the hard vegetables in a container.
     Add the blanched lotus root slices.
     Set the hard vegetables aside.
     Step 4:  Prepare 1/3 cup of sliced King Trumpet Mushroom and set it aside.      
     Step 5:  Prepare these soft vegetables:
     - 1/4 cup of thin sliced seeded yellow squash strips
     - 1/4 cup of feather cut snow peas.
     - 1/2 cup of sliced radicchio.
     Place the soft vegetables in a container and set it aside.      
     Step 6:  Prepare these fresh herbs:
     - 8 whole Thai Basil Leaves.
     - 10 whole cilantro leaves.
     Set the herbs aside.

     Lotus Root, Radicchio and King Trumpet Mushroom Vegetarian Stir Fry:
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan or wok over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Briefly stir fry for a few seconds, so the garlic and ginger becomes aromatic.
     Step 2:  Immediately add the reserved hard vegetables.
     Stir fry and toss till the hard vegetables just start to cook.
     Step 3:  Add the reserved King Trumpet Mushroom.
     Add the reserved soft vegetables.
     Stir fry and toss till the vegetables are more than halfway cooked and a few golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 4:  Add the reserved sauce mixture.
     Bring the sauce to a boil while occasionally tossing the ingredients.
     Step 5:  Add the reserved fresh herb leaves.
     Toss the ingredients together one last time.
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the vegetable stir fry on a plate.
     Pour any excess sauce over the vegetables.
     Garnish the stir fry with a cilantro sprig.
     *Serve with some steamed sticky white rice on the side.

     This is a healthy plate of tasty stir fry vegetables!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Spicy Beef Stuffed Perilla Leaves en Drunken Buddha Hand Citron Piment Sauce

     Banchan Party Platter!
     Today's Spicy Beef Stuffed Perilla Leaves appetizer is a Korean style Banchan.  Banchan refers to petite portion side dishes that are served with a meal.  When Banchan items are served on a large platter, it is party time!  
     A good way to prevent looking at a grease smeared half empty party platter is to place a bed of sauce on the platter platter.  The sauce should be thickened, so splatters and drips are avoided when guests help themselves.  The sauce also should be colorful and appealing to the eye.
     One Buddha's Hand Finger Citron can be used to make several recipes.  A little bit of this fragrant fruit goes a long way.  The same goes for roasted red bell peppers.  The sauce on the platter in the pictures above actually cost much less than one dollar to make.
     Perilla is in the mint family of plants, just like basil.  Perilla has a nice complex basil mint flavor.  Most perilla leaves are wide enough to be stuffed.  A ground meat stuffed rolled perilla leaf is a nice hors d'oeuvre portion size.

     Spicy Beef Stuffed Perilla Leaves:
     This recipe yields about 16 to 18 stuffed perilla leaves.  (Enough for 1 medium size hors d'oeuvre platter.)
     Indonesian or Malaysian Sambal Paste is available at Asian food markets.  It sold as mild, medium or spicy hot.
     Step 1:  Place 8 ounces of ground beef in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced shallot.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground galangal.  (Thai Blue Ginger Powder)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add 2 teaspoons of spicy hot sambal paste. 
     *Add 1 or 2 pinches of sea salt if the Sambal is not salty tasting.
     Step 2:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the stuffing in a refrigerator.
     Step 3:  Trim the stems off of about 14 medium to large perilla leaves.
     Roll a small portion of the ground beef mixture into a short cylinder shape that will fit the perilla leaf.
     Place the beef on the pointed end of the leaf and roll it up like a mini cigar.  
     Repeat the perilla leaf stuffing steps till there is no more beef.
     Step 4:  Place the stuffed perilla leaves on a roasting pan that is lightly brushed with vegetable oil.
     Lightly brush the stuffed perilla leaves with vegetable oil.
     Add 2 ounces of water to the pan.
     Cover the pan with a lid or foil.
     Step 5:  Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Roast till the ground beef is fully cooked.  (The center temperature should be 160ºF.)
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Remove the lid from the pan.
     Keep the stuffed perilla leaves warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Drunken Buddha Hand Citron Piment Sauce:
     This recipe yields enough sauce to cover a medium size appetizer platter!   (About 16" x 10")
     This is a nice looking tasty garnishing sauce that is cost effective.  A modest priced Shaoxing Wine will add plenty of flavor. 
     Buddha Hand Citron (Finger Citron) is available at organic markets and specialty markets.   This is a very fragrant citron!    
     Step 1:  Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 3/4 cup of Shaoxing Wine.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced Buddha Hand Citron.  (The pith is edible on this fruit, but it is slightly bitter.  Use both the pith and skin for this sauce.)
     Add 3 tablespoons of raw sugar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of agave nectar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid back to a boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced roasted red bell pepper.
     Step 4:  Mix about 2 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of cold water to make a slurry.
     Add just enough of the slurry, while stirring, to thicken the sauce to a medium thin consistency.   The sauce should be able to easily glaze a spoon.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer the sauce for 10 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.  

     Spicy Beef Stuffed Perilla Leaves en Drunken Buddha Hand Citron Piment Sauce:
     Ladle enough of the Drunken Buddha Hand Citron Piment Sauce on an hors d'oeuvre platter, so it is covered with a thin layer of sauce.
     Arrange the Spicy Sambal Beef Stuffed Perilla Leaves on the platter so they look nice.
     *Garnishing with sprigs of cilantro is an option.
     Serve immediately while the hors d'oeuvres are warm!

     The flavors will inspire conversation!