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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chinese Steamed Whole Fish

My mom used to steam fish all the time. Especially salmon, since in British Colombia, fresh salmon was always in abundance. I remember the subtle aromas of the fish steaming, and the sizzle of hot oil which my mom poured over the fish with ease.

This classical Chinese fish preparation results in a delicately flavored, moist fish. It is extremely healthy and tasty.

Chinese Steamed Whole Fish
Serves 2

Approx 750 grams Whole Fish, scaled and cleaned
2 tbsp Ginger, minced
1/4 cup Green Onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Canola Oil

Rinse the fish under cold water, then pat dry. Cut off the head and tail if desired. Make three score marks on each side of the fish (about 1/2 inch deep). Rub the minced ginger inside and outside the fish, being sure to rub it into the score marks. Season the fish with salt.

Place the fish in a steamer basket (either a bamboo basket lined with parchment paper or a metal steamer over simmering water). Steam for 15 minutes. The fish should be moist and just cooked… the flesh should easily come off the bone and should be just barely opaque. It is really important not to overcook the fish.

Place the fish onto the serving plate. Sprinkle with the green onion and drizzle with soy sauce. Then heat the canola oil in a small sauce pan. When hot, pour it over top of the fish. You should hear the fish sizzle. Serve with steamed rice.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sri Lankan Sweet and Sour Egg Plant

In Sri Lanka, they call eggplant “brinjals.” During our time in the hill country, we tried a lot of food, and one of the many vegetable dishes served with our dinner was made with eggplant. It wasn't like the other dishes. This one had so many contrasting flavors... sweet, sour, salty. It was absolutely delicious.

Now back in Damascus, I was craving this dish, so I decided to try to make it. After doing a little recipe research, I managed to create a dish which seems to match the one in my memory. So, here it is. It's probably not authentic, but regardless, it tastes pretty good to me!

Sweet and Sour Egg Plant (Brinjals)
Serves 2 as a side dish

1 Medium Eggplant, cut into 1 inch strips (about 3 cups)
1 Small Onion, cut into thin slices (about ½ cup)
1 tbsp Canola Oil
1 tbsp Sesame Oil
1 tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
1 tbsp Sugar
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 tbsp Water
1/2 tsp Curry Powder
Spring Onion, thinly sliced (optional garnish)

Soak strips of eggplant in water for 2 minutes. Drain.

In a small bowl, mix together oyster sauce, soy, vinegar, sugar, garlic, water, and curry powder. Set aside.
Heat canola and sesame oils over high heat. Add eggplant and onion and cook until brown and soft. Add sauce mixture and stirfry until hot. Garnish with spring onion. Serve with rice or Sri Lankan hoppers.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chinese Chicken and Rice

I am Chinese-Canadian, but I have always considered myself more Canadian than anything. Perhaps it’s because I have never lived or even travelled in China, although I hope to someday. Or perhaps it’s because I have never found myself completely immersed in the Chinese culture. Whatever the reason, I find myself referring to myself as Canadian and then having to explain my background when questioned about my apparent Asian heritage.

But lately, I have been dreaming of Chinese food. The balance of sweet, salty, sour, and bitter; the freshness of ginger and spring onion; the comforting rice. So maybe there is more Chinese in me than I thought. Or maybe its nostalgia kicking in and I am just thinking of the foods my mom used to cook at home. Or maybe it’s because Canada seems to lack any sort of food identity that I can relate to (of course, there is poutine and salmon, but due to the multicultural diversity, you can get all kinds of food in Canada except food that is truly Canadian).

Whatever the reason, I find myself searching for Chinese foods to sooth my Chinese Canadian soul. And today, it is this chicken and rice dish. Now, usually this recipe should be made with glutinous rice, but in this part of the world, it’s hard to come by, so, I am working with what I’ve got!

Chinese Chicken and Rice

Serves 4

2 whole chicken legs and 2 wings, cut into pieces
1 tsp Canola Oil
3 cups Cabbage, shredded
1 tbsp Ginger, minced
2 cups White Rice (or glutinous rice if available)
4 cups Water
1/2 cup Green Onions, sliced
2 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar

1 tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp Sugar
1 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Sesame Oil
1 tsp Corn Starch
1 tsp Ginger, minced
1/2 tsp White Pepper

In a large bowl, mix the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken pieces. Toss to coat and let marinade for about 45 minutes.

In a large pan, heat the canola oil over medium high heat. Pour in the chicken and all of the marinade and toss for a few minutes. Stir in the cabbage and ginger and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the rice and the water. Bring up to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and let cook for about 15 minutes.

Add the green onion, the additional soy, oyster sauce, and rice wine vinegar. Stir, cover, and let cook for another 10 minutes. After 10 minutes has passed, remove from heat, and let rest, covered, for another 10 minutes. Serve, garnished with some fresh spring onion.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Veggie Chili

I never ate chili as a child. And to be honest, I bet my first encounter with the stuff was either on convenience store nachos or a fast food hot dog. Not exactly the most memorable experience, but I guess everyone has to start somewhere!

As you can see from my previous post, chili con carne is versatile and great served a multitude of different ways. Today, however, we are enjoying a different kind of chili. A vegetarian chili. Yup, that’s right. This one is not full of ground meat but rather with tons of veggies.

This spicy and hearty chili is great if you crave comfort food but you want to slim down. It has all the great flavors and textures of chili without the meat, which eliminates a lot of fat. Also, instead of using all the traditional garnishes like sour cream and cheese, garnish with spoon of yogurt and some scallions instead.

Veggie Chili
Makes 8 cups

1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Onion, diced
1 Chili, red or green, very finely chopped (do not omit this chili. If you don’t want your chili too spicy, reduce the chili powder)
2 cups Zucchini, chunks
1 cup Carrots, chunks
1 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Bay Leaf
¼ cup Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
3 tbsp Tomato Paste
625 ml Stock (vegetable or chicken stock)
½ cup Split Red Lentils
1 can Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Corn Kernels
Fresh Ground Black Pepper

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, add oil, garlic, onions, and chili and cook until they start to soften (about 2 minutes). Add the zucchini and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili, cumin, cinnamon, and bay leaf and let cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and tomato paste. Then add the stock and the lentils, bring up to a boil, and reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in the kidney beans and the corn. Season to taste. Great served over rice or pasta and garnished with a dollop of yogurt.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Healthier Cherry-Chocolate Cookies

I love healthy recipes. When they are delicious. And flavorful. And easy.

I don’t like healthy recipes when I don’t understand the ingredient list because of all the substitutions. When they taste like cardboard. Or rubber. Or artificial ingredients.

So, today, I want to make cookies. Healthy ones. Tasty ones. And sometimes, I think in our quest to make things healthier, we cut out all the fat and all the sugar, and we’re left with something unpleasant to eat. Well, that’s no good.

I don’t think you can’t make fat free, sugar free cookies and expect them to always taste good (of course, if you disagree, please share! I would love someone to prove me wrong). Each ingredient adds a little bit to the cookie, and although we can alter recipes, I do not think we can do without certain ingredients.

So, here is my recipe. I think this recipe has balance. Taste. Texture. Health. Simplicity. They do not compromise taste or texture even though they use smaller amounts and different kinds of fats and sugar and use whole wheat flour and oats instead of white flour.

After all, what is the point of making cookies that end up tasting like burnt toast? So enjoy these without feeling guilty, but of course, always in moderation!

Healthier Cherry-Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 24-28 cookies

Dry Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Wet Ingredients
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/4 cup nonfat milk
1 tsp vanilla

½ cup Dark Chocolate Chips or Chunks
½ cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. One at a time, beat in the oil, egg, vanilla, then milk. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and cherries.

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto cookie sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes or until browned around the edges.