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I can’t remember when I began making fried rice, but it serves well as an emergency meal, or a nice dinner for a few people.  If you keep your cupboard stocked w rice (white or brown), tofu (or any leftover cooked meat); and if you have a handful of Asian specialty ingredients, you can make this version of fried rice – it’s the first time I’m trying to write this thing down, which changes every time I make it.  My general approach doesn’t change much however.  It’s an economical dish, and it refrigerates well, if you have any left over.

I have never used a lot of oil or salt when I make this dish – and I often avoid restaurant fried-rice, generally because it’s saturated w oil and soy sauce.  I limit my soy sauce (and a little fish sauce) to the marinade for the protein- in this case tofu.

I’ll be as faithful as possible to the measurements and proportions I use.  First of all, rinse well a cup of white rice and cook with 1-1/2 cups of water- optionally adding a scant tsp of salt or less, to your liking.   If you use brown rice, it will take  longer to cook and will require additional cooking liquid – but it also packs a lot more flavor – and it’s a whole grain.  Fluff w a fork and allow to cool, while you prepare your protein.  Alternately, you could cook your rice w an equivalent measure of vegetable-, or chicken stock, maybe w a Star Anise thrown in for good measure- this will provide an almost indefinable flavor and some richness, and I highly recommend it.

Marinade:

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (or Umeboshi plum vinegar)

2 Tbsp rice wine

2 Tbsp water

Stir these liquid ingredients together and pour over 1/2 pound of tofu, cut into 3/4″ cubes (or a generous cup of shredded cooked chicken, leftover pork, sliced cooked beef, etc.)  Allow your protein to repose in the marinade, and as Alice B. Toklas says, acquire virtue.  This can be 10 minutes, or overnight in the refrigerator.  Meanwhile, have your vegetables ready for stir fry.

You can get prepackaged Asian-style veg in the freezer section of your grocery store.  I have often used a couple of cups of ordinary frozen mixed vegetables, and that makes a perfectly wonderful fried rice.

Today I prepped mine fresh:

1 med carrot, cut into thin matchsticks

2 med stalks celery, sliced thinly on the diagonal

2 med scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal

1/4 of a small head of cabbage, cut into med-fine shreds

1/2 green pepper, sliced thinly

1 small jalapeno pepper, sliced thinly on the diagonal

You will also need:

1 tsp finely grated ginger (or more)

1 finely minced or grated clove of garlic (or more)

1/2 tsp dried, ground shrimp powder

Since all your ingredients are now in place, you can start really cooking, and you are now only minutes away from meal-time.  It all starts moving very quickly.

Start with an egg or two, whisked in a bowl with 2 tsp cooking oil and 1/4 tsp white pepper.  In your wok or a large skillet place a Tbsp of cooking oil (and a few drops of sesame oil) and quickly let the egg set in a relaxed thin sheet.  Remove to a plate or cutting board and slice into slender ribbons.  Set aside.

Next, transfer your tofu (or other protein) from the marinade to the hot wok or skillet surface, with 1 Tbsp of cooking oil, and a few drops of sesame oil.  Allow to gain a little color and heat through very well, tossing lightly over med/high heat for a minute or two.  Remove the cooked protein from the heat, add to your collection of cooked egg; wipe out your wok or skillet and bring it back to heat.

Add ginger, garlic and dried, ground shrimp (or a bit of shrimp paste) if you happen to have it at your elbow, to the hot oil, and  agitate vigorously, careful not to allow anything to burn and become bitter.  At once, add all of your veg and toss around, until they are cooked as crisp or limp as your heart desires.  I usually only cook mine for 2-3 minutes, which allows them to retain their color, nutrition, texture and flavor.  Eat your vegetables! 🙂

Add your cooked rice to the veg and incorporate gently, adding the protein and cooked egg at the end.

Finally, I added a 1/4 c of chopped cilantro, and a couple of Tbsp of Thai holy basil.

This basic recipe I’ve made over the years, dozens of different ways, and it always somehow comes out well.  I forgot the bean sprouts.

I don’t know what else to call them.  When I bake bread, usually once a week, I take part of the dough, add an egg, extra sweetening & more butter.  This is what’s known as a rich egg- or sweet- yeast dough.  Make a kuchen, a stollen, Parkerhouse rolls.  You could even treat it something like croissants.

After a second rising and deflating, let the dough rest for a few minutes.  Then ease it out into a solid rectangle, about 10 x 16.  Brush 2 T of soft butter across 1/2, and fold it like a book.  Carefully roll out again, like a long rectangle, give a 1/4 turn and fold both edges into the middle, and close it like a book once more ; wrap with plastic, refrigerate and forget about it all for a while.  The gluten will relax, and in another 1/2 hr you’ll be ready to repeat the process one more time, which produces a couple dozen layers.

I finished with a 14 x 8 rectangle and divided it longways with a very sharp knife.  Then I cut each length by six = 12 portions.  I place them in a greased muffin tin, so they fan out on top.  After a 1/2 hr rising I gave them a spray of water and poppy seed and put them in a 375F oven for about 20 min.

Cool on a wire rack, and they are very good, even after they have cooled completely.

A few times a year I try to prepare recipes that I have never previously attempted in my life – sometimes because I lacked certain equipment, or ingredients, or nerve.  Yes, I have been intimidated by everything from Chopped Liver to Paella, MaPoDofu to Pheasant Wellington.

I found a gorgeous Paellera (a paella pan) at a church basement sale 2 days ago, and as I work up the courage to make paella in the near future, I decided to rev-up my engine by making Bouillabaisse for the first time.  I don’t know why I waited this long.

This recipe is adapted from the New York Times International Cookbook, which was gifted to me by a friend many years ago.  As I started fishing around for recipes (no pun intended) I finally settled on this recipe source, and incorporated parts of Bouillabaisse I & Bouillabaisse II.  I didn’t have any clams or mussels; however, I did have about a pound of good frozen cod, so I used that as well as some cooked and peeled frozen shrimp as a starting point.

I will record the version I adapted, but it is important to look at the original recipes, because they represent authentic approaches.  My attempt is a home-cook’s improvisation with ingredients at hand.

1 to 1-1/2# striped bass, black bass or other white, flesh,non-oily fish, about one & a half inch thick steaks

2 T olive oil

1 T butter

1 large onion, chopped (about 2 c)

1 large stalk celery, chopped

1 bay laurel leaf, dried or fresh

1 generous tsp saffron

salt & freshly ground pepper

1 cup tomato puree, plus 1 more generous cup or so of tomato pulp

generous pinch of dried thyme, or slightly more if it is fresh

1 big clove minced garlic

Tabasco sauce, several good strong dashes will do

4 c good fish stock (it can be found in some supermarkets, or you can make it w very little trouble, using fish bones, shrimp shells, etc)

about 18 shrimp (I used a 70-90 count/pound)

big pinch of anise seed, finely ground to dust

2-3 T chopped parsley

Over medium heat add the olive oil & butter to a deep, heavy vessel, adding onion, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, ground anise seed,and crumble the saffron well into the mix.  Bring to a boil, adding 1 cup of tomato, thyme and Tabasco.  I didn’t have fresh tomatoes, but I did have some very good home-canned tomatoes, so I used that – you will be using at least 2, and perhaps almost 3 cups of tomato in total.  Allow everything to simmer for 1/2 hour, after adding the fish stock, and reducing the heat to low.

After this has had a chance to mingle and the fragrances marry, and your kitchen starts to smell really good, lay your fish over the stew, cover and continue to cook gently for another 8-10 minutes.

About 5 minutes from the end of cooking add your shrimp (or other shellfish, and cook according to convention, which would otherwise be about 10 minutes)

Follow by strewing in chopped parsley, and gently incorporating, using the spoon to separate and flake the cooked fish into generous pieces that will fit onto a spoon.  If you use white wine (that would probably be about 1/2 c) and Pernod (an anise flavored liqueur- probably a Tbsp) you could add these during cooking.

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Serve with croutons – or as I did with hot buttered toast, from homemade bread.  This may not be the most faithful rendition of bouillabaisse evar, but making this helped me lose my fear of making it again.

A world famous dish can be created in your kitchen, and the grocery bill doesn’t have to be huge.  I took short cuts, but if you can lay hands on some clams, lobster or mussels – they would go in the pot, too.  The only really costly item is saffron, and there aren’t much ways around that.  It’s an overarching characteristic of the dish, in color & flavor.  You can almost eat bouillabaisse just by breathing it in.

I’d like to forward this recipe from a wonderful, compact Thai cookbook, and I’m sorry that I didn’t take photos.  I’ve mentioned this author in one of my cookbook gazetteers, a year or so back.  Eng Tie Ang published a modest volume of Thai cuisine in ‘Delightful Thai Cooking’, in 1990.

Fifteen years ago, I was happy to find her paperback title in a used book store in Minneapolis, which taught me how to shop for Thai recipe ingredients.  This was proved to be both complex and simple.  Fortunately we also have an excellent specialty Thai superstore in Minneapolis, http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2006/08/16/twin-cities-best-asian-markets

Gaeng Pet Gai (chicken curry)

4 T veg oil

10 dried red chilies, soaked, drained, chopped (I used Szechuan chilies and a hand-held food processor)

1 yellow onion chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

a 1″ dried, or 1 tsp ground galangal root (Kha, or galanga). It is sometimes referred to as Thai ginger in the local markets.  It’s also a stand-out flavor in a world-famous coconut chicken curry soup w straw mushrooms.  Do not be a stranger to this unfamiliar and beautiful spice.

1 trimmed stalk fresh lemon grass, cut into 2″ lengths (I also give them a good pounding w a wooden mallet before I slice them for cooking.  It brings all their beautiful perfume into the final dish.)

4 T fresh chopped coriander

1 tsp ground nutmeg (this ingredient caught me by surprise, but it’s good)

6 kaffir lime leaves (I used dried, but fresh is always better)

1 T ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp salt (I used a little less, and it was fine)

2 boned, skinned chicken breasts, in 1″ cubes (I used 4 whole thighs)

1 can bamboo shoot (6 oz), cut into fine shreds (I used an equivalent amount of shredded, sour young bamboo shoots)

one 14-oz can coconut milk

20 fresh Thai basil leaves

Heat oil in a medium sized pot, stir-frying the chilies, onion and garlic until they become highly fragrant.  Add galangal root, lemon grass, fresh coriander, nutmeg, kaffir lime leaves, ground coriander, cumin and salt.  Cook for a couple of minutes over med-high heat.

Add chicken and agitate for a minute or 2 before adding bamboo shoots (or bamboo shoot-kraut) and coconut milk.  Cover & simmer 20 min over low heat, until chicken is tender.  Fold in the Thai basil leaves, and serve over steamed white rice (of course Thai rice is recommended, but I use Basmati).

*if you use powdered or dried lemon grass -or galanga powder, add both during the last 10 min of cooking, according to Madame Eng Tie Ang

Here are a few recipes that visitors online have requested at one time or another –  My favorite Shoofly, Hoppin John, and Moravian Love Feast Buns.  I don’t have photos for any of these at the moment.

There are 2 types of Shoofly Pie- one is generally referred to as ‘wet’, the other ‘dry’. This is the wet variety (that just means it’s not dry like cake- it should come out very moist, almost like a bread pudding.) Some people only put the crumbs on the bottom of the pie shell, others put the molasses mixture on the bottom. I put most of the crumbs on the bottom, and scatter the reserve over the top.

unbaked 9″ pie pastry
3/4 c flour
1/2 c br sugar
1/2 t cinnamon (generous)
dash salt
2 T butter
1/2 c molasses (I use dark)
3/4 c very hot water
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/2 t baking soda

Cut the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl mix molasses, soda & hot water- beat in the egg yolk quickly so it doesn’t scramble and get hard. Put most of the crumbs in the bottom of the pie shell so it is roughly even- it doesn’t have to look perfect- no one’s going to see it because you’re going to pour the molasses mixture all over it anyway.  Sprinkle w remaining crumbs over all & bake in 375 oven for about 40-45 min

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My Hoppin John  (a special New Year’s dish)

* sort, soak overnight, and drain one dry # of black eyed peas (drown them in water)
* a  ham hock or meaty ham bone (sometimes I substitute smoked turkey)
– or today, I used an Andouille sausage in place of all of the above
* 2 medium onions, divided
* 3 large cloves garlic, halved
* a bay leaf
* 1 cup rice
* 1 can (10 to 14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with chile peppers, juices reserved
* 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
* 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
* 3 stalks celery, chopped
* 1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, minced
* 2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
* 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 4 green onions, sliced

Preparation:
In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine the drained black-eyed peas, ham bone or ham hocks, and 6 cups water. Cut 1 of the onions in half and add it to the pot along with the garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil NO SALT added, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until the beans are tender but not mushy (probably a couple of hours). Remove the ham bone or hocks- or turkey-, cut off the meat; dice and set aside. Drain the peas and set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf, onion pieces, and garlic.  If salt is introduced as the beans cook, they will become tough & unpleasant.  Season them after they have completed cooking.

*Five Bean Rule:   give the pot a good stir, pick out 5 random beans and pinch them.  If they all squish and yield between your fingers, they are perfect.

Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice, cover, and simmer until the rice is almost tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Chop the remaining onion then add to everything else. Cook until the rice is tender. Stir in the sliced green onions and the reserved diced ham.

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Moravian Love Feast Buns
(recipe from the Moravian Music Journal– this is from about 30 years ago).  This communal act of  worship has been described as an Agape Feast, where collective resolve is strengthened among the community,  and goodwill is affirmed.  The two key food components are Lovefeast coffee, which is like a mild sweet cafe au lait; and a soft, sweet raised bun, which goes perfectly with coffee or cocoa- or in many locations on many occasions,  orange juice, tea or Kool-aid.
oven 350 degrees

1 c mashed potatoes
1 c sugar
½ t salt
½ c warm water
1 T grated orange rind
1 t. grated lemon rind
½ t nutmeg
5-6 c flour
½ c scalded milk
½ c butter
3 pkg dry yeast
2 eggs, beaten
1 T orange juice
1 t. lemon juice
½ t. mace

Cool potatoes to lukewarm. Scald milk, adding sugar, butter, and salt.
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Into sugar mixture stir the lukewarm milk, potatoes, yeast, eggs, lemon/orange rinds & juices, nutmeg/mace.

Stir in 2 ½ c flour until smooth
Add enough additional flour to make soft dough and knead till satiny. Let rise till double, punch down cover & rest for 5-10 min.

Shape into approx. 2” balls, and place on greased pans, not touching; let rise till doubled.
Bake 15-20 min. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar when fresh from oven

Usually I find a reason to make gingerbread once or twice a year.  There are a lot of good recipes out there, and I’ve tried quite a few over time – from James Beard, to Joy – but I think the version I’m going to use for a while is adapted from Dolores Cassella’s World of Baking, which I praised a year or so ago in one of my cookbook gazetteers.   Cassella followed up by producing another stunning baking book, A World of Breads.  I have relied on both of these fine volumes believe it or not for almost 35 years.

I’ve only made a couple small changes, which I’ll note.  This is very dense, satisfying and keeps extremely well.

1 c boiling coffee (you may use water or orange juice)

1 c butter

1 c dark brown sugar

1 cup dark (not blackstrap) molasses

3 large eggs

2-1/2 c flour – I have been substituting 2 Tbsp cocoa powder for an equal amount of the flour

scant tsp salt

1-1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

and I like to add the grated rind of one orange

I also like to add 1/3 c of chopped crystallized ginger, which gives a nice warmth, and some added texture

Combine the butter, brown sugar and molasses in your mixing bowl and pour the boiling liquid over all, stirring until everything is melted and amalgamated well.  I let it cool to room temperature before beating in the eggs.

Blend the dry ingredients together and add all at once to the wet mixture, beating simply until smooth.  This batter goes into a greased 9 X 2 X 13″ baking pan, and bakes at 325F for 1 hour.

You don’t need to dress this bread up with anything – not even butter, it’s so rich.  However, people do serve this with all sorts of accompaniments.  At the Riverside Cafe in Minneapolis, gingerbread was always a favorite when we served it- our customers often ordered it with a scoop of honey-sweetened, vanilla-scented whipped cream.   It’s also good with ice cream, cream cheese frosting, lemon sauce- you name it.  It is comforting in cold weather, and homey all year ’round.