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Snackable

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Ahhhhh. Look at that. Perfect weather in my opinion. A sunny beautiful day, great for a run, about a perfect 18 C degrees outside (about 70 F or 72 F).

And you have guests coming over. New ones you’ve never met. And you are expected to provide dinner. And it is already 3 or 4 in the afternoon and you don’t have a menu. I know, first world problems. Anyway, I had a plan. And that was enough.

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I headed straight to the Viktualienmarkt here in Munich and bought amazing cheeses, some Italian sausages and ham, a selection of breads, beautifully fragrant muscat grapes, and a wild herb salad and headed home quickly. We were going to do a fancy “Brotzeit” and that was going to be good enough. No cooking.

Well, but just one thing. Fire roasted walnuts.

I was tempted by these at the market:

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But those huge walnuts have just come off the tree and are a lot of work because you have to first shell them and then peel off their bitter skins. Too much work.

Barbara Tropp has a simple but simply amazing recipe for walnuts in her cookbook “The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking” for a “light bite” or whatever she calls them. Basically a snack. I make them all the time because they are no fuss and easy and they always draw oos and aahs. If you just buy a bag of good quality shelled walnuts, this recipe comes together with very little active cooking time – maybe 10 minutes. They take about an hour and a half to prepare, but 80 minutes is just time while you wait for the walnuts to soak and then to bake.

Process?

Soak your walnuts in boiling water for 30 minutes. This releases the bitterness from the nuts. If you taste the water you have soaked them in, you will immediately taste the leached out bitterness. Spread them out after 30 minutes on a baking sheet. Put them in a pre-heated oven (about 110 degrees C, 225 degrees F) for 30 minutes. You are drying them out. If after 30 minutes, they are not dry in their centers, let them go for another 10 minutes or until you feel most of the water is gone from the nut meats. Then heat a couple tablespoons (for about two cups of nuts) of peanut oil in a pan on medium.

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Toss the nuts in, follow with about two tablespoons of sugar, constantly stirring the nuts. You want the sugar to caramelize and not burn. When you see the sugar is liquid, toss in about a teaspoon of salt and a couple pinches of cayenne pepper. Stir another minute and then remove from heat.

Put in a bowl to cool.

I served them with the cheese and fruit platter. You can store them in a tupperware container for quite a while.

And they work just as well with pecans. A mix of the two nuts is great.

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You’ll be surprised when you taste them. You are used to the slightly bitter flavor that walnuts have, but in these, it’s virtually gone. They are buttery and delicious. And your guests will keep reaching for them…:-)

Which happened.

 

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Posted by on October 18, 2016 in Chinese, Cooking at home, Famous Chefs

 

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Hot and Sour April Blahs

There has been an awful lot of this in the past month:

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That is, the finalizing of all the elements for the apartment…meetings, managing installations (actually, husband has been doing more of that, I have been baking cakes for the various installation teams to keep people happy and sugared up.)

And there has been an awful lot of this:

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Flying around the world and doing customer research with my colleague , (didn’t say “intern,”) Jonas. Which has been lots of fun and lots of work. We head to Australia for the final wave of interviews in two weeks, right after big move in to our new place is final.

So there hasn’t been much time for cooking, and when time has been there, not much desire. When you eat out for two weeks straight because you’re on the road, you come home and you don’t want to eat. Even if you have been on a treadmill most of those days for an hour, somehow you just feel like a piece of toast and cheese is JUST FINE, thank you.

But the typical April weather is here upon us Munich. Cold and damp and few hints of the sun. After two weeks of sun in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco and then a week of crappy weather in Hamburg, I needed to curl up under the covers.

But there is an instant fast cure that I remembered and even better is that it takes about 30 minutes to throw together, assuming ingredients are on hand. Chinese Hot and Sour Soup. It’s like instant regeneration. Fortified with the stuff, you can wait out another rainy day over here with a smile on your face.

Lucky Peach has an awesome recipe which I only tweaked a bit. Over here.

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • ½ C wood ear mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup other mushrooms – I’ve used shitake and King oyster mushrooms
  • 2 T neutral oil
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 1 T chopped fresh ginger
  • ½ C chopped scallions
  • 8 oz pork shoulder, cut into fat matchsticks (1″ long, ¼” wide)
  • 6 C chicken or pork broth – I used bullion cubes, which is just fine, really
  • 8 oz tofu, cut into fat matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup bamboo shoots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1/3 C rice vinegar
  • 1/3 C black vinegar
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • 2 T sriracha (or more to taste)
  • 2 large eggs (optional)

     

  • Cover the tree ear mushrooms with warm water and soak until plump and pliable, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat the neutral oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and pork and cook, stirring, until the aromatics soften and the pork whitens, about 4 minutes. Pour in the broth and bring to a simmer.

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  • Stir in the tofu, bamboo shoots, sugar, vinegars, soy sauce, pepper, sesame oil, and sriracha. Add both types of mushrooms. Return to a simmer and adjust the seasoning.

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  • If using the eggs, beat them in a small bowl and drizzle over the soup while gently stirring. When the eggs set into strands, divide the soup among 6 bowls and serve.

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Posted by on April 10, 2016 in Chinese, Cooking at home