Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Happy and tasty Chinese New Year with a Japanese twist…

My absolute favorite place to go to eat in Chicago on a Sunday morning is in our beautiful Chinatown for Dim Sum at Won Kow Restaurant. It is a true slice of heaven...

To be perfectly honest, the best ever Dim Sum I have eaten was at Kay Cheung Seafood in San Francisco’s Chinatown. However, this year my wallet can not stretch enought to dine out at either place to celebrate Chinese New Year. Yet Chinese New Year has brought out my outrageous craving for my all time Dim Sum favorite, the delicious gyoza dumplings…shrimp, pork, vegetarian…one bite of these and I am one happy litttle person.
Due to the freezing weather here and the very chilly economy everywhere, I decided to make my own vegetarian gyoza dumplings to celebrate.

Gyoza is a popular dumpling in Japanese cuisine.
Gyoza originated in China, and it is said to have been introduced to Japan in late 17th century.
Gyoza dumplings are cooked in various ways: deep-fried, boiled, steamed, or pan-fried. The most common way to cook gyoza is pan-fried. The bottoms of gyoza dumplings should be brown and crunchy. I like to steam fresh or previously frozen gyoza for 5 minutes and then pan-fry them in grape seed oil.

There are many types of fillings that are traditional for the gyoza dumpling. Ground pork or beef cabbage, chives and vegetables is what I have usually seen on the menu. The meat gyoza dumplings are wonderfully filling and rich as a main dish or an appetizer.

When I can get fresh, wild caught shrimp, I dice it fine then mash it with cabbage, onions, chives and a bit of lemon zest for a lighter filling. The shrimp-filled dumplings are called ebi-gyoza. However, my favorite gyoza and are the ones that you see here are vegetarian. The filling is a mixture of white cabbage, carrots, shallots, mashed edamame beans, white daikon radish, chives, sesame oil, ground ginger, salt and white pepper.

Gyoza wrappers are round and slightly thicker than wonton wrappers (wonton wrappers are square). You can find them in your local mega-mart in the refrigerated case.
Today I steamed my gyoza that I had made in a mesh strainer over 3 inches of water (make sure the water does not touch the mesh basket or the food). Before steaming, I rubbed the mesh with a tiny bit of grape seed oil so that the dumplings don't stick to the strainer.
I steamed them for 6-10 minutes until they were well cooked all the way through.

above are my efforts at vegetarian Gyoza

I serve my gyoza dumplings with dipping sauce.
I usually just dip in a high quality fermented Soy Sauce with no additives.
A good quality soy sauce only lists a few natural ingredients such as water, soybeans, wheat and salt. A sauce with a thin consistency is a good sign as a high quality soy sauce always has a light, thin consistency and a wonderful fresh flavor.
I like the Guangdong brand and also the Kikkoman brand that is widely available.

For another delicious gyoza dipping sauce, I mix :
3 Tbsp of good soy sauce

1 Tbsp of Rice Wine Vinegar

1/8 tsp ground fresh ginger

Hot Pepper flakes to your taste

A pinch of sugar

Mix well, dip the gyoza in your sauce of choice...


Gung Hay Fat Choy…
have a prosperous and good year...!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

kitchen tip Tuesday...simple copper care

I clean my copper cookware regularly to maintain its cooking properties and the glow of the beautiful copper I love so well.
The pots and pans that I have, are working pots and pans that get heavy use.
So keeping a showroom shine cannot be a priority for me. I am a culinary student and a serious home cook and baker. But I also want my copperware to stay in good shape and perform when I need it.

I realize I cannot keep them pristine and shiny as new, but I for one like the looks of well used copper with its lovely soft patina.
First on my list for caring for my copper is that I never put copper pans, bowls, molds, cookie cutters or utensils in the dishwasher. The alkaline properties of dishwasher detergent is as detrimental to copper as it is to my knives.

And, yes I admit that sometimes I do torture my copper pots and pans and use them on a burner where the heat is too high for too long a time. That creates a dark stain on the bottoms of the pots and pans that I try to remove when I wash my wonderful copper workhorses. There are dozens of powdered and liquid potions out there as well as chemical impregnated cloths that will do this job.

But the method that has always worked for me is simple and clean and green…
lemon and coarse grain kosher salt.
This method takes much less time and work than commercial copper preparations.
I also like that it is food safe and eco-friendly. Perhaps lemons seem more costly in these days of the ecomonic downturn, well I use what I have left after my morning tea. And I only clean my pots in this manner every few weeks or when it is necessary.

With these ingredients, I don’t have to worry if I have thoroughly washed and rinsed the chemicals off my pots or that I am washing toxic chemicals into my water system.

Cut a lemon in half and pour salt on the open side of the lemon. Rub this onto tarnished areas of the copper pot. The salt acts as a very mild abrasive as it melts and reacts with the lemon and cleans the copper. This method also creates an even matt patina on the pots that gives my kitchen a warm inviting glow when hung in a row above my stove.

Another approach to copper care was one I remember from my grandmother. She had a beautiful sparkling blue-green wide-mouth jar on her kitchen counter next to the sink.
It contained an equal mix of flour, salt, and white vinegar.
She mixed it all to form a paste. When she needed to clean her copper pots, she put some of this homemade mixture on a small white cloth and worked on her copper pots…
Viola...shiny and beautiful pots and pans.

I am so sorry I have been not as present lately as I like on this blog…
I have been off in the culinary world, working enormously hard, expanding, learning, and cooking up a storm. But at the same time gathering new info to impart to all of you.

Merci beaucoup to all my devoted readers for your patience and your loyalty to me and my fledgling blog. You all mean a great deal to me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009



You are Chicago's very own...
from our house to the White House...
and now you belong to the world.

We are filled with promise for our 44th President, Barak Obama, and our beautiful new First Lady Michelle, and their sweet children, Malia and Sasha.

We celebrate your Inauguration with cries of jubilation, hearts filled with joy,
eyes filled with tears, and souls filled with hope...
and we are bursting with pride, so much pride.
We are so proud of you all, and support you in your endeavors.

Congratulations Mr. President...!

Friday, January 16, 2009

not napping...

I am not napping...
I have had a few on-going graphics and architecture projects,
all with deadlines that I had to meet this week.

This does not mean I ignoring my culinary responsibility to my blog
and to all of you.
I have many posts written and images photographed that I had
planned to share with all of you very soon.
I just have do the work that pays the bills

I will be back very soon.
Merci beaucoup for your patience, I appreciate you all very much.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

gastronomie Indienne

These winter days after the Holidays, everyone I know is watching their pennies, their weight, and trying to stay warm. On that note, I was on the lookout for a few new recipes that fit into all these categories of inexpensive, healthy, full of flavor, delicious, aromatic and warming.
I wanted something different from the variations I always make on my usual rotation of winter recipes.

Then I remembered that one of my favorite inexpensive meals in Paris was at an Indian restaurant, Gandhi Opera Haute Gastronomie Indienne on 66, rue Ste-Anne.
This charming resto was close to my appartement and the spicy aromas of the food was always warm and welcoming, especially on those cool and rainy Paris autumn evenings.
(I took these first two images one of the times that I dined at the resto Gandhi Opera in Paris.)
My favorite meal always included Tandoori Chicken.
I wanted a simple recipe with those same wonderful spicy Indian flavors that I could make at home and often.

I found this simple and aromatic chicken recipe during my late-night searches of the video archives of the past episodes of Gourmet Magazine’s Diary of a Foodie. The wonderful episode on the cuisine and spices of Southern India inspired me to try the recipe that Ruth Reichl demonstrated.
Not only did this recipe fill all my criteria of being healthy and inexpensive, it was also simple. In addition, on a personal note, it would bring home a taste of my beloved Paris neighborhood to brighten these cold winter nights.

I did have some difficulty finding the Vindaloo Curry Paste in my local specialty stores so I ordered on-line from the Indian Food Store. The Indian Food Store website is chock full of wonderful Indian products and ingredients, and I received my order in two short days.

chicken vindaloo
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine’s Diary of a Foodie)


1 cup plain yogurt (not low-fat; preferably Greek-style, I used Fage brand)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint leaves ( or 1 tsp dried mint)

1 tablespoon vindaloo paste (I used Patak's brand)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

6 chicken legs, skin revomed.


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 500ºF.

Line rack of a broiler pan with foil.

Stir together all ingredients except chicken in a large bowl until combined well.
You can adjust the ratio of Vinadloo paste to yogurt to your taste as it is spicey.

Coat both sides of chicken legs well with yogurt mixture and set aside for 10 minutes as the broiler heats.

Transfer to broiler pan, arranging them in 1 layer.

Roast chicken until cooked through and charred in some spots, 25 to 30 minutes.

Skinning the chicken legs allows the spices in vindaloo paste to penetrate the meat, while the yogurt locks in moisture during cooking.

After testing this recipe several times, I urge you to try it.
It is delicious and you can make it as spicy or as mild as you wish.
As the curry and yogurt coated chicken sizzled in the super hot broiler, it perfumed my home with a lovely spicy winter-blues-busting aroma. This recipe was so very well received that I have now learned to make many more than 2 or 3 chicken legs per person. In addition, the leftover chicken makes a great take away lunch for work the next day.

I served the spicy Vindaloo Chicken legs with a cooling Tzatziki-style salad of peeled and seeded cucumbers covered in a mild yogurt dressing in a butter lettuce leaf. (See recipe below.)
This salad is a pleasant foil to the textures and flavors of the crispy, spicy chicken.
The resulting meal is delicious, healthy, inexpensive and really beautiful on the plate…and easy peasy…

Winter Cucumber-Yogurt Salad


1 large Cucumber

Butter Lettuce, 2 leaves per person

1 cup Greek Yogurt

1 small Shallot diced fine (I also have used dried chives…we are talking winter here.)

1 teaspoon granulate Garlic (NOT Garlic salt…!)

2 teaspoons dry Parsley (or 1 teaspoon fresh Parsley, finely chopped)

Several grinds of pepper, preferably White Pepper, but Black is ok as long as it is freshly ground

Kosher salt for the cucumbers


Peel cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise.

Remove seeds with a spoon. Dice or julienne cucumbers, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, wrap in 2 layers of paper towels and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Combine yogurt, shallots, granulated garlic, parsley and pepper in a bowl and refrigerate.

After 30 minutes, the cucumbers will have released some of their moisture so they do not make the dressing watery.

Add to cucumbers to the yogurt dressing mix and refrigerate until you are ready to serve on the leaves of butter lettuce.

This recipe makes enough for 2 to 4 small side salads.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

matcha tea cookies…

Even thought I baked like a mad woman before Christmas, I never get tired of cooking and baking to feed peoples stomachs and their souls.

A friend was in the hospital for a few days and loves to have a few cookies with afternoon tea. She also loves to drink Japanese green tea.
I made some of these simple and less-sweet cookies to compliment the tea as a small welcome home and get-well gift.

I have been making these Match Shortbread Cookies for well over ten years. The original recipe came from one of Martha Stewart’s very first TV shows that I watched religiously back in the day.

Matcha (Green Tea) Shortbread Cookies


2 cups bleached all purpose flour

1-2 tablespoons Match green tea powder (Matcha— See Note 1)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter (unsalted at room temperature — See Note 2)

1/2 cup powdered sugar (a bit more if your tea is very intense.)


Sift the flour, powdered tea and salt into a bowl.

In a mixer bowl, beat butter and powdered sugar until fluffy.

Add flour mixture to mixer bowl and mix slowly until dough just comes together.

Pull dough together carefully in a log, approximately 2 inches in diameter.

Wrap dough log and place in freezer for 30 minutes or until dough has firmed to the touch.

You can slice the dough into 1/4 inch rounds.

But for my cookies, I rolled out the well-chilled cookie dough and cut into shapes before baking.

(I had started using this scalloped 1 ½ “ cookie cutter to make these cookies as it came with a set of beautiful little silver airtight tin cylinders that perfectly containedand kept fresh exactly 12 little cookies. I had purchased it from Martha-by-Mail (the name of her first mail-order store on the internet). Each year purchased a ton of these little cylinders to package and give these unusual cookies as special gifts.
I was sorry to see that these sweet little cylinders were discontinued in 2005.
But I continue to use my Martha-by-Mail cookie cutter just for these cookies…a nostalgic gesture, I imagine, but I package them differently these days.)

Place on a parchment or Silpat lined cookie sheet, approximately 1 inch apart.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree F oven for 16 to 18 minutes (or until the cookies are just starting to turn golden around the edges), turning the pan halfway through the baking time.

Remove cookies immediately from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack
and dust with a mixture of vanilla powdered sugar and Matcha tea.
(See Note 3)

As the cookies cool, a light crust of sweetness of the sugar and the tea forms on the cookies.

Store in an airtight container.

NOTE 1 Powdered green tea is not merely green tea that has been pulverized in a food processor or food mill; it's a special kind of tea that has been prepared to dissolve nicely.

NOTE 2 Do not use the microwave to soften the butter, room temperature butter is the correct consistency for this recipe.

NOTE 3 Matcha Sprinkling Sugar

In a sugar shaker combine 1 part fine Matcha tea to 3 parts powdered sugar.
I always put in a vanilla bean pod that I had previously scraped-out the seeds for another recipe. I dry the vanilla bean well so that it is brittle and break it into 1-inch pieces.
I add these vanilla bean pieces to the sugar mixture to perfume it with vanilla.
This mixture keeps well for several months in an airtight container.
I usually just unscrew the lid of the sugar shaker and cover with two layers of plastic wrap and screw the lid back on tight.
This sugar mixture is also yummy sprinkled on a warm pound cake, ice cream and refreshingly light and sweet on berries and yogurt for breakfast.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

diamonds are a cooks best friend...

During the Holiday, as many of us, I did a great deal more cooking and baking than usual.
As I cooked and baked up a storm, I started to think about the one ingredient that was common in all the dishes and baked goods that I prepared…salt.
For me that means using kosher salt...pinched in to taste for cooking or accurately measured for baking.

At one point in my holiday cooking, I ran out of the brand of kosher salt that I use, Diamond Crystal. I ran out to a nearby market as it was snowing like crazy. All they carried on their shelves was Morton Kosher salt. I had not used that brand before, but I thought…well kosher salt is kosher salt.
Not so much…

I noticed a difference as soon as I poured the white granules into my favorite flea-market find saltcellar. The new-to-me kosher salt seemed much whiter and denser than my usual kosher salt.
Then I did the “finger to tongue” test, sampling first the tiny bit I had left of my usual Diamond Crystal kosher salt. It was light on my tongue and melted immediately. I tested the new salt in the same manner, it took so much, much longer to dissolve and remained crunchy for quite a bit until I took a swig if water to swallow the granules.

Before I went on with my cooking, I decided to do some research on these two salts to see if there was really a difference beyond what my eye saw and tongue detected.

According to Linda Carucci in her book, Cooking School Secrets for the Real World, ¼ teaspoon of Morton kosher salt contains 480 mg of Sodium as well as yellow prussiate of sodium, (a water soluble anti-caking agent).
While the same amount of Diamond Crystal kosher Salt, ¼ teaspoon, contains 280 mg of Sodium and nothing else…just salt.

I also read in another favorite book, Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed by Shirley O. Corriher (she is known to many of you as the "Food Historian" lady on Alton Brown’s Good Eats Food Network show).
She states that “Diamond Crystal salt crystals are actually pyramids, as opposed to grains, and more likely to adhere to food. In fact these hollow pyramids or crystals dissolve twice as fast as granular salts as Morton.”
So my tongue and taste were correct…

According to Alton Brown and Linda Carucci, fine cooks often cite many other reasons for preferring Diamond Crystal. Because the grains are bigger, taking up more room in the measuring spoon, Diamond Crystal has about half the sodium of table salt or even fine sea salts that are very popular these days with celebrity chefs.

Among another of its legendary attributes, the unique shape of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt crystals helps lettuce from wilting in a salad. Other Kosher salts cannot claim this virtue.

I can say with all honesty that I am glad that I ran out of kosher salt that snowy winter afternoon. It forced me to look at the one main ingredient in all our cooking and baking in a new light and with new respect. I imagine that makes a good start to this New Year.

Let the food adventures of 2009 begin…!
I hope you all will come along for the ride.