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FOOD HOLIDAY: International Pancake Day

Scallion Pancakes

Scallion Pancakes

Monte Cristo Pancakes

Top: American-style scallion pancakes. Photo and recipe by Joelen Tan for Krusteaz. Middle: Chinese-style scallion pancakes from Zesty South Indiana Kitchen. Here’s the recipe. Bottom: Monte Cristo Pancakes, like the sandwich but with pancakes instead of bread. Photo courtesy Bakerita.com.

 

International Pancake Day is held each year on Shrove Tuesday, also called Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras (which is French for Fat Tuesday) and in the U.K., Pancake Day. The date changes each year according to the date of Easter Sunday, and can vary from February 3rd to March 9th.

Shrove Tuesday is the last day of feasting before Lent begins, on Ash Wednesday. It is observed mainly in English speaking countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. But it is also observed elsewhere.

Each country has its own customary food.

  • In Spain it’s an omelet (tortilla) made with sausage or pork fat.
  • In Lithuania, Poland and Portugal, it’s doughnuts (fried dough pastry), a custom brought to Hawaii by Portuguese laborers in the late 1800s.
  • Pastry or sweet buns are consumed in Estonia, Finland and Sweden.
  • In the U.K., Canada and Australia, the custom is eating a meal of pancakes.
  •  
    Why pancakes?

    They’re a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. (The same applies to doughnuts and other pastry). The Lenten fast emphasizes eating plainer food and refraining from food that would give pleasure. In many cultures, this means no meat, dairy or eggs.

    Your Pancake Day celebration does not have to include conventional pancakes with a sweet syrup. Here are ideas for the savory palate.

     
    RECIPE: EASY SCALLION PANCAKES

    This recipe adds garlic powder and sliced scallions to regular pancake batter (or use a conventional Chinese Scallion Pancakes recipe).

    Serve them alongside steak and eggs or simply top with butter. Can you serve them with bacon and sausage? Absolutely!

    This recipe was developed by Joelen Tan for Krusteaz, who used its Buttermilk Pancake Mix. Prep time is 5 minutes, total time is 10-12 minutes.

    Ingredients For 4-8 Pancakes

  • 1 cup buttermilk pancake mix
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions or green onions
  •  

    Preparation

    1. HEAT a pancake griddle or skillet over medium heat and grease lightly. Whisk together pancake mix, water, garlic powder and scallions until combined. The batter will be slightly lumpy; do not overmix.

    2. POUR 1/4 cup of batter onto the preheated griddle and cook pancakes for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
     
    We enjoyed ours served with Korean beef bulgogi and a fried egg, adding an Asian twist to American steak and eggs.
     
    MORE SAVORY PANCAKE RECIPES

  • Bacon, Corn & Cheese Pancakes recipe
  • Bacon Potato Pancakes With Corn Salsa recipe
  • Monte Cristo Pancakes, with ham and cheese recipe
  • Potato Chips & Beer Pancakes recipe
  • Potato Pancakes (Latkes) recipe
  •  
    *Shrove is a form of shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and penance. It was/is customary for Christians to be “shriven” before the start of Lent.

     
    SEE ALL THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PANCAKES.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Americanize Fried Rice

    To celebrate the 2016 Chinese New Year, a holiday that runs through February 13th, here’s a fusion idea: a fried rice fusion of Chinese and American ingredients.

    For the home cook, the beauty of fried rice is that it is very adaptable. Like chow mein, it’s perfect for those nights when you’re cleaning out the refrigerator and want to get rid of leftover meat and vegetables.

    As a side dish, fried rice is an alternative to steamed rice. The most basic dish consists of rice, chopped green onions and eggs, stir-fried in a wok with some oil, and optionally seasoned with soy sauce or sauce.

    Fried Rice becomes a main meal by adding meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables. At Chinese banquets, fried rice is often the last dish of the main meal, served right before the dessert course.
    The oil may be seasoned with aromatics such as garlic before the rice and other ingredients are stir-fried together in a wok. Other

  • Meats often include beef, chicken, or pork; and lobster and shrimp on the seafood side.
  • Popular vegetables include bean sprouts, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, celery, corn, mushrooms and green peas.
  • Seasonings include chiles, spices and soy sauce or oyster sauce, plus aromatics such as onions or green onions and garlic.
  •  
    HOW DO YOU “AMERICANIZE” FRIED RICE?

    You forge a path by combining anything that appeals to you—not just traditional Chinese ingredients, but your favorites from any of the world’s cuisines.

  • What’s in your fridge or pantry is unique to you. We found black beans, chicken sausage with apples, ham, hard-boiled eggs, pickled vegetables (including sweet gherkins), prosciutto and turkey. We even added orzo, tiny pasta shaped like grains of rice.
  • Add nuts and dried fruits. Almonds or cashews, dried apricots or prunes are a nice touch. Cashews pair well with canned pineapple chunks. “Trail Mix Fried Rice” works, as does this recipe for Pork Fried Rice with Dried Apricots & Pistachios.
  • Veggies can be the biggest “Americanization”: In addition to the popular Chinese ingredients), look at American produce. Cauliflower and roasted root vegetables go nicely. We added uncooked grape tomatoes at the very end of a recipe, and liked the freshness. Fennel and radicchio add a gourmet touch. Don’t rule anything out—with the possibility of beets, which can “bleed.” Kale fried rice, anyone?
  •    

    Chicken Fried Rice

    Shimp Fried Rice With Brown Rice

    Top: Chicken Fried Rice with diced chicken and proscuitto and chiles from Melissa’s The Great Pepper Cookbook. Second: Shrimp Fried Rice made with brown rice and dried apricots, from CalRice.org.

  • Use your favorite source of heat, from chopped jalapeños to sriracha sauce. Anchos and chipotles (smoked jalapeños) add smoky flavors. Default to fresh-ground black pepper or cayenne from your spice rack.
  • Instead of using leftover white or brown rice, try saffron rice or a more exotic rice, such as black or red rice (here are the different types of rice). You can try any leftover cooked grain, from couscous to quinoa. It won’t be fried rice, per se; but it will be good!
  • Consider a sauce or gravy. Fujian rice, a popular dish in China, is served with a brown sauce.
  • Pick an interesting garnish. In China, popular garnishes include fried shallots, cilantro, parsley, sliced chiles, or carrots carved into flowers or other shapes. We especially like cilantro and parsley, as well as fresh basil. Fresh herbs bring brightness to the dish. But you can forge that path with other garnishes. We’ve used strips of pimento as well as citrus zest (any citrus works) and sliced black olives.
  •  

    Ginger Fried Rice With Fried Egg

    Pineapple Fried Rice With Edamame

    Top: A twist from Spice Market in New York City. Leaving out soy sauce keeps the rice white. It’s topped with a fusion concept: a fried egg and crushed panko bread crumbs. Bottom: Pineapple Ginger Fried Rice from Whole Foods Market incorporates Japanese edamame, miso, brown rice and cilantro.

     

    FRIED RICE HISTORY

    While the exact origins of fried rice are lost to history, it’s believed that it was invented sometime during China’s Sui dynasty (589-618 C.E.) in Yangzhou (Yangchow), an eastern coastal province. Yangchow Fried Rice is still the standard by which all other Chinese fried rice dishes are judged, the rice tossed with roast pork, prawns, scallions and peas.

    Thanks to Rhonda Parkinson of ChineseFood.About.com for these tips on cooking fried rice.
     
    THE SCOOP ON FRIED RICE

    The key to making good fried rice is to use rice that has been previously cooked. Day-old rice is fine, but rice that is two or three days old is even better. Older rice is dryer, ensuring that the dish will be neither wet nor mushy. Long grain rice, which is fluffier and less sticky than other types of rice, is ideal.
     
    Cooking the Eggs

    There are two main techniques, and either is fine:

  • Scramble the egg and mix it in with the rice during the final stage of cooking.
  • Fry the beaten egg and cut it into strips to use as a garnish. We’ve happily substituted tamago, Japanese egg custard, for this.
  •  
    Cook The Ingredients Separately

    Each of the ingredients in fried rice is cooked separately and combined in the final stages of cooking. This is to maintain the distinct flavors of each. Simply remove each ingredient from the pan after you cook or heat it and set it aside while you cook the others.
     
    Choosing The Seasoning

    Some cooks use only a pinch of salt, believing that the flavor should come from the stir-fried ingredients. Others season the dish with soy sauce or oyster sauce. Thick soy sauce gives the rice a dark color. It’s really a matter of personal preference.

     
    You Can Freeze Fried Rice!

    Just reheat the frozen rice in a frying pan, or microwave it with a bit of broth (whatever you have—beef, chicken or vegetable).

     
    No Wok Required!

    Finally, you don’t need a wok! A deep skillet will do. We use this teflon-coated “wok pan” with a handle. We vastly prefer it to a conventional wok.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pork & Apricot Fried Rice

    If you’re a fan of pork fried rice, how about whipping up a batch of Pork and Apricot Fried Rice for the Chinese New Year?

    This recipe is from Chef Ingrid Hoffmann, who serves it as a light lunch with just add a salad. You can play with the recipe and substitute other grains.

    You can roast a pork loin just for this recipe, or roast one for dinner the day before and make enough extra to use in the fried rice.
     
    RECIPE: PORK & APRICOT FRIED RICE

    Ingredients For 6 Servings
     
    For The Rice

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, diced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  •  
    For The Pork

  • 1½ tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1½ pounds boneless pork loin, cut into ¼-inch chunks
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup celery, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  • Garnish: ¼ cup pistachios, toasted (substitute chopped or sliced
    almonds)
  •  

    Pork Apricot Fried Rice

    Dried Apricots

    Top: Pork and Apricot Fried Rice from Chef Ingrid Hoffmann. Bottom: Dried apricots for the pork fried rice. Photo by Olha Afanasieva | IST. Have extra apricots? They’re one of our favorite snacks. You can turn them into candy by dipping them halfway in melted chocolate. Set them on wax paper until they dry.

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the rice: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring often, until the rice looks chalky, about 2 minutes. Add the pineapple juice, water, apricots and salt and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid is below the surface of the rice and tunnels form in the rice. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook until the rice is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

    2. COOK the pork: Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the pork with the salt and pepper. In batches, add the pork chunks to the skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

    3. ADD the garlic, ¼ cup of cilantro, celery, scallions, soy sauce, sherry vinegar and ginger to the skillet. Stir-fry until the celery is tender, about 3 minutes.

    4. RETURN the pork to the skillet. Add the rice and stir-fry until well mixed, 3 to 5 minutes. To serve, sprinkle with the pistachios and the remaining 1/4 cup of cilantro and serve hot.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Walnuts On Pizza

    Apple Walnut Pizza

    Blue Cheese Walnut Pizza

    Chicken Alfredo Pizza

    Top: Apple Cheddar Pizza With Walnuts from OhMyVeggies.com. Center: Pear, Blue Cheese & Walnut Pizza from 2Teaspoons.com. Bottom: Chicken Alfredo Pizza With Walnuts & Gorgonzola from Pillsbury.com.

     

    We’d never had walnuts on a pizza—or even thought of it—until a recent excursion to Paulie Gee’s pizzeria in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.

    The restaurant serves both conventional pizzas (arugula, mushrooms, pesto, sausage, etc.); but we can get those elsewhere. Instead, we go for the more unusual selections, such as:

  • Gouda, Sliced Canadian Bacon & Maple Syrup
  • Beef Brisket, Pickled Red Onions & BBQ Sauce
  • Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Prosciutto, Dried Bing Cherries
    & Orange Blossom Honey
  • Speck & Pickled Pineapple (a better version of ham-and-pineapple pizza)
  •  
    This time, we chose a “special” topped with walnuts, goat cheese and baby spinach. We loved the toasty, nutty crunch—plus the opportunity to deny the carbs we were consuming by focusing instead on the added nutrition of the walnuts: protein, fiber and different phytonutrients (types of antioxidants).

    We then returned to the office to research other approaches to walnut-topped pizza.
     
    We found quite a few pizza recipes that combined walnuts with different cheeses—blue, cheddar, goat and others—with fruits (apples, pears) and with more conventional pizza toppings (bacon, ham).

    So this tip is for home pizza makers: Try some of these ideas for a gourmet Super Bowl experience or for a new take on the comfort food.

    You can also add some of the ingredients to delivery pizza and frozen pizza.
     
    TAKE A BITE OF WALNUT PIZZA

    So many walnut pizzas, so little time to try them all!

  • Apple Cheddar Pizza with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts Recipe
  • Arugula, Goat Cheese & Walnut Pizza Recipe 1 and Recipe 2
  • Blue Cheese, Pear & Walnut Pizza Recipe 1 and Recipe 2
  • Caramelized Onion, Walnut & Goat Cheese Pizza With A Beer Crust Recipe
  • Chicken Alfredo Pizza With Gorgonzola & Walnuts Recipe
  • Gorgonzola, Pear & Walnut Pizza Recipe 1 and Recipe 2
  • Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Arugula & Walnut Pizza Recipe
  • Walnut Pesto and Zucchini Pizza Recipe
  •  
    SUMMER WALNUT PIZZAS

    These are summer recipes that require seasonal ingredients such as fresh tomatoes and summer squash (yellow squash, a close relation* of zucchini).

  • Summer Squash Pizza with Goat Cheese and Walnuts Recipe
  • Walnut Pizza with Arugula and Yellow Tomatoes Recipe
  •  
    Today we’re making the Caramelized Onion, Walnut & Goat Cheese Pizza,; and we have fresh baby arugula so we’ll add that, too, when the pie comes out of the oven.

    What’s your choice?
    __________________________________
    *Both zucchini and yellow squash are varieties of the species Cucurbita pepo, which also includes crookneck squash, scalloped squash, straightneck squash, vegetable marrows (no relation to bone marrow, but a name given to the mature fruit (see below), zucchini and cocozelle, a type of zucchini with pale green or yellow stripes. Zucchini and yellow squash are picked from the vine before they are mature, but are are tender. If they remain on the vine and grow to maturity, they are larger, drier and tougher—and referred to as marrow.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Winter Fruit Substitutes

    Fuyu Persimmons

    Fuyu Persimmons

    Fuyu persimmons can substitute for summer
    tomatoes. Top photo by Jirkaejc | IST.
    Bottom photo courtesy Good Eggs | San
    Francisco.

     

    Eating seasonally, a practice that has always existed in culinary meccas like France and Italy (and existed everywhere by default prior to modern transportation and food technology), is an idea that’s been promulgated for some 40 years in the U.S., first by chef and restaurateur Alice Waters. The the “farm-to-table” movement and subsequent awareness of sustainability and carbon miles continue to underscore the need to change the on-demand desires of American consumers.

  • Instead of asparagus in winter, for example, the idea is to substitute seasonally available leeks, broccolini or broccoli rabe.
  • Instead of longing for fruits that aren’t in season, reach for those that are: apples, cactus [prickly] pear, cherimoya, dates, grapefruits, kiwifruit, mandarins (clementines, tangerines and others), papaya, oranges, passion fruit, pears, persimmons, pomegranates.
  •  
    Seek them out not only as hand fruit, but to substitute in recipes for out-of-season fruits.
     
    WINTER SUBSTITUTES FOR SUMMER FRUITS

    Some do better when frozen than others, and fruits, frozen at their peak, are an option. But if you want fresh-to-fresh, here are some good substitutes:

  • Berries: pomegranate arils
  • Cantaloupe: kiwifruit, mango, papaya
  • Cherries: raspberries, dried cherries
  • Honeydew: green grapes, kiwifruit
  • Peaches: mangoes
  • Pineapple: cherimoya
  • Tomatoes: persimmons, radishes, red bell peppers or pimentos*
  • Watermelon: red grapefruit
  •  
    SUBSTITUTE PERSIMMONS FOR TOMATOES

    Perhaps the most missed fruit or vegetable is the fresh tomato, a staple of salads and sandwiches. Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog, residing in the produce capital of America, writes:

    “Even in balmy California, farmers market tables once straining under the weight of plump tomatoes and juicy peaches look comparatively sparse, bearing dusty tubers and hearty greens instead.

    “I’d never dream of making classic tabbouleh† in winter, when only mealy tomatoes shipped halfway across the globe can be found in markets.”

    Her solution: Substitute persimmons for bland imported tomatoes. The recipe is below.

    “It makes perfect sense the moment you taste the persimmons in this light salad” Hannah notes. “Their juicy, meaty texture and natural sweetness are an excellent substitution.” She adds even more seasonal produce to the standard tabbouleh recipe:

    “Pomegranate arils lend tart, crunchy bursts of flavor. And while parsley could be the sole herbaceous element, I felt compelled to toss in those unloved green carrot tops that are all too often discarded, rather than savored as they should be.”

  • You can substitute persimmons for tomatoes in any vegetable salad.
  • You can try them on sandwiches; although we prefer jarred roasted red bell peppers (pimento or pimiento*), sundried tomatoes in olive oil (drained) or plumped in water, or peppadews.
  •  

    RECIPE: WINTER TABBOULEH

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 1/4 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 Fuyu persimmon, peeled, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups carrot tops, minced (or substitute parsley)
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
  • Optional: 1/3 cup pomegranate arils
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the bulgur, turmeric and vegetable broth in a small saucepan and place over low heat. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cover, turn off the heat, and let stand for 15-20 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Let cool slightly. Meanwhile…

     

    Persimmon Tabbouleh

    Eat seasonally: Substitute persimmons for tomatoes in winter salads. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     
    2. PREPARE the fruits and vegetables accordingly, and toss them together in a large bowl. Add the cooled bulgur, followed by the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust flavors according to personal preference.

    3. COVER and chill for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to marry.
     
     
    WHAT ARE PERSIMMONS?

    In the late 1880s, the first persimmon arrived in the U.S., brought by a naval commander returning to Washington D.C. from Japan.

    Here’s more about persimmons, including how to enjoy them at every meal of the day.
     
     
    *What is a pimento? Also spelled pimiento (a variation of the Portuguese spelling; pimento is Spanish), the pimento is a heart-shaped variety of Capsicum annuum, the same genus and species as the familiar red bell pepper. Its flesh is sweet, succulent, and more aromatic than that of the red bell pepper. Pimento is what is used to stuff green olives, and is ground into paprika. The standard pimento measures 3 to 4 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. Some varieties of pimento are actually hot. In the U.S., they are typically sold pickled, as hot cherry peppers. Don’t confuse pimento with pimenta, which we know as allspice and is also called the Jamaica pepper, and myrtle pepper.

    †Classic tabbouleh ingredients are bulgur wheat, parsley, tomato and onion, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

      

    Comments

    TIP: Hot Chocolate From Chocolate Chips & Other Hard Chocolate

    It’s snow and ice today on the East Coast; when we look out the window we see…white. So we’re deferring our scheduled tip to tomorrow, to publish something more comforting:

    Hot chocolate from chocolate chips, chocolate bars, even Hershey’s Kisses.

    Even if you have no cocoa powder at home, you’re still in the chips if you have solid chocolate in any form. Baking chips are the easiest because you don’t have to chop them; although if you have a good chocolate bar—) or Lindt—the chocolate flavor will be better. First…
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COCOA AND HOT CHOCOLATE

    You’re familiar with cocoa and hot chocolate, terms often used interchangeably. Technically, they’re different. There are also drinking chocolate and sipping chocolate—terms that don’t seem to have existed in the U.S. prior to the end of the 20th century (and the growth of the artisan food movement).

  • Cocoa or hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder and is less rich than hot chocolate. That’s because to make cocoa powder, roasted cocoa beans are ground to a thick paste and pressed between hydraulic plates, which squeeze out about half of the cocoa butter. Products made from cocoa powder are erroneously called hot chocolate.
  • Hot chocolate contains all the cocoa butter; and some better brands even add extra cocoa butter for richness and mouthfeel. It was the original hot chocolate, made in Switzerland by blending hot milk with chopped chocolate bars (THANK YOU, Switzerland!). Authentic hot chocolate is made from ground chocolate plus sugar.
  • Drinking chocolate/sipping chocolate are European terms for hot chocolate. The product has relatively large pieces of chocolate—disks or pellets, but also beads, shavings, or large ground pieces—that are then melted in hot milk or water. If you were to eat it, it would taste just like chocolate from a chocolate bar.
  •  
    RECIPE: HOT CHOCOLATE FROM CHOCOLATE CHIPS & BARS

    This is a very rich recipe, combining whole milk with half and half. If you want something less rich, use less half and half or all milk.

    Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 15 minutes.

       

    Hot Chocolate From Chocolate Bars

    Chocolate Chips

    Top: Chop up chocolate bars to make rich hot chocolate. Chocolate chipsalso work, especially top-quality ones from Barry Callebaut or Guittard, available at KingArthurFlour.com. The company also sells sugar-free chocolate chips. Bottom: Melt chocolate chips into hot chocolate.

     
    Ingredients For 3-4 Mugs Or 6 Smaller Cups

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bars*
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Optional flavors: cinnamon, mint (extract, Junior Mints), orange zest
  • Optional toppings: whipped cream, chocolate shavings, sprinkles
  •  
    *While semisweet chocolate is the standard, you can use milk chocolate or white chocolate. White hot chocolate is splendid:

     

    Hot Chocolate Made From Solid Chocolate

    Dutched & Natural Cocoa Powder

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the milk and half-and-half in a saucepan. Warm slowly over medium-low heat. When the milk is very hot but not yet boiling, stir in the chocolate chips.

    2. STIR until melted and taste. If it’s too rich, add more milk. If you’ve used a high percentage cacao bar and the chocolate is not quite sweet enough, add sugar one teaspoon at a time.

    3. STIR in optional flavors. Pour into mugs and top as desired.
     
    EVEN MORE HOT CHOCOLATE: RECIPES, FLAVORS & TIPS TO MAKE RICHER HOT CHOCOLATE

  • Everything you need to know.
  • The differences between cocoa and hot chocolate, including more types of, what we’ll categorize as, hot milk drinks flavored with chocolate.
  • The difference between regular and Dutched cocoa powder.
  •  
     
    PHOTOS: Top: Melting a chocolate-covered marshmallow into hot chocolate at Dominique Ansel. Bottom: Natural (left) and Dutched cocoa powders. Photo courtesy SilkRoadSpices.ca.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Bibimbap, A Korean Classic For The Lunar New Year

    We love bibimbap (bee-bim-BOP), a signature Korean dish. It’s a variation of our currently trending rice bowl. The word literally means “mixed rice”—rice mixed with several other ingredients.

    We’ve written about bibimbap previously, but for the eve of the lunar new year (this year, it’s Sunday, February 7th), it’s especially appropriate. It’s what Koreans traditionally eat on their new year’s eve.

    It also happens to be Super Bowl Sunday; if your friends are foodies, this is a good dish for a crowd.
     
    WHAT IS BIBIMBAP?

    A bowl of warm white rice is topped with seasoned vegetables*; sliced beef, chicken or seafood; and a raw or fried egg. The yolk of the egg (or the entire raw egg) binds the ingredients when they are mixed together.

    Chile paste, fermented soybean paste or soy sauce are served as condiments. After the ingredients are blended each individual diner, condiments added at the table.

    For visual appeal, the vegetables are often placed so that adjacent colors complement each other.

    The recipe below, from Good Eggs, requires 15 minutes of active time, and a total of 35 minutes. It doesn’t require you to be handy with a knife: Instead of thin slices of beef, you use ground beef.

    If you like bibimbap as much as we do, you can experiment with other grains. Quinoa bibimbap with kale, anyone?

    RECIPE: BIBIMBAP RICE BOWL

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 2 cups of sushi rice
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 tablespoons of mirin (rice wine†)
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce, plus a little more for seasoning
  • 1 cup kimchi
  • 4 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch radishes, shaved thinly
  • 1 bunch of scallions, both green and white portions, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Raw or fried egg for each serving
  • Optional: other vegetables as desired
  •    

    Bibimbap

    Bibimbap

    Top: Bibimbap served with a raw egg at Kristalbelli | NYC. Bottom photo: The ingredients mixed together. Photo courtesy Good Eggs.

  • Optional: chili paste/red pepper paste (gochujang), sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds
  • ____________________________________
    *Commonly vegetables used include bean sprouts, julienned cucumber, julienned or shredded daikon (Japanese radish), julienned zucchini, nori (dried seaweed), shredded carrots, sliced mushrooms or whole enoki mushrooms, and spinach. Diced tofu, either uncooked or cooked, can be added.

    †Mirin and saké are both called “rice wine.” Both are fermented from rice; mirin has a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content (as an analogy, thing of sweet and dry vermouths. If you have saké but no mirin, make a substitute by adding a half teaspoon of sugar to the saké, and warm it slowly to dissolve the sugar.

     

    Bibimbap

    Dolsot bibimbap, bibimbap served in a very
    hot stone bowl (our favorite way to enjoy
    bibimbap at restaurants). Photo courtesy
    Souschef.co.uk.

     

    Preparation

    1. RINSE the rice a few times in a fine mesh sieve until the water runs clear. Add the rice to a pot and cover with water. Let it soak for 20 minutes, then strain it again. Add the rice back to the pot and add 3 cups of water. Bring the rice and water to a boil, uncovered. When the water reaches a rolling boil…

    2. TURN the flame to low, cover the pot and let the rice simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn the heat off and let it steam for 10 minutes with the cover on. After 10 minutes, fluff the rice with a fork: It’s ready. While the rice cooks

    3. HEAT 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, add the meat and break it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Turn the heat down and add the soy sauce and mirin, and stir. Cook for another 5-6 minutes, until the meat is cooked through. Remove from the heat.

    4. SERVE: Spoon some rice into a bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds, a splash of mirin and a little bit of soy sauce. Top with beef, cilantro, scallions, radishes, cilantro and a spoonful of kimchi.

     

    BIBIMBAP HISTORY

    Bibimbap was traditionally eaten on the eve of the lunar new year, to enable households to use up all of their leftovers before the start of the new year. All of the leftovers were put in a bowl of rice and mixed together.

    Use up your leftovers, or buy fresh ingredients. Or plan a party: Like paella and other rice main dishes, bibimbap is a good dish for a crowd.

    Of course, bibimbap can be made from scratch with chosen ingredients. Each region and each cook has a preferred mix of ingredients.

    At Korean restaurants you can get dolsot bibimbap (stone pot bibimbap), served in a stone bowl so hot that the ingredients sizzle. The raw egg cooks as soon as it’s mixed in.

    Before the rice is placed in the bowl, the bottom can be coated with sesame oil, which makes the bottom of the rice cook to a crispy state, like the soccorat at the bottom of the paella pan.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Really Good Chinese Egg Rolls

    Egg Rolls

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/egg rolls redstixs 230r

    Top: Egg rolls with BBQ pork and sweet and
    hot chili dipping sauce, from the National
    Pork Board. They’re baked, not fried (recipe).
    Bottom: Egg rolls from Red Stix | NYC, served
    with a mix of rice vinegar and soy sauce.

     

    For the Chinese New Year, why not make your own egg rolls? Serve them as an appetizer, or as a snack with a cold beer.

    EGG ROLL HISTORY

    Like Chinese chicken salad, crab wontons, duck sauce, fortune cookies, General Tso’s chicken and sweet and sour pork—not to mention the pu pu platter—the egg roll is a Chinese-American invention. Food historians believe it was first created in New York City in the early 1930s.

    But over time, what was initially a richly layered roll with a mix of bamboo shoots, roast pork, scallions, shrimp and water chestnuts evolved into a bland cabbage roll—a stuffing of shredded cabbage, flecked with bits of pork and carrot. [Source]

    If you’d like to go back to the golden age of egg rolls, make your own! If you don’t like to deep fat fry, you can bake them.

    This recipe came to us via Melissas.com, from Chef Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook.
     
    RECIPE: CHEF MARTIN YAN’S EGG ROLLS

    Ingredients For 12 Pieces

  • 12 egg roll wrappers
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • ¾ pound ground pork, chicken or beef
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 12 ounces green cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 medium carrot, finely shredded
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • Cooking oil for frying
  •  
    Don’t forget the condiments: hot mustard, jalapeño pepper jelly, plum sauce, ponzu sauce, sweet and sour sauce, Thai sweet chili sauce (sweet and hot) or just plain soy sauce. We like to serve two different options: Colman’s prepared mustard (a better version of “Chinese mustard”) and Thai sweet chili sauce (you can buy it or make your own).
     
    OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS

    You can add just about anything to an egg roll, as long as it’s finely chopped and well drained (don’t add moisture).

  • There are fusion egg rolls that include pastrami (a Reuben egg roll) and corned beef and cabbage egg roll.
  • The menu at Rhode Island’s Egg Roll Cafe features the classic egg roll plus these flavors: Bacon-Egg-Cheese, Cheeseburger, Crab Rangoon, Fajita, Ham-Egg-Cheese, Pizza, Shrimp, Spinach & Feta, Steak & Cheese and Taco, among others.
  • Check out this recipe, featured in the Merced [California] Sun Star, which includes classic ingredients plus peanut butter and cinnamon. The creator, Fanny Go, was born and raised in Southern China (where there are no egg rolls) and now lives in Chicago.

    In addition to her basic recipe, she suggests these optional extras which you can incorporate into Chef Yan’s recipe:

  • ½ cup boiled shrimp, cut into dime-size pieces
  • ½ cup shiitake mushrooms, soaked, squeezed and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup well-drained bamboo shoots, julienned
  • ¼ cup water chestnuts, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup bean sprouts, well drained
  • Editor’s choice: Chinese sausage (if you can get hold of it)
  •  
    Once you get the hang of it, you can experiment with your favorite fillings, from vegetarian to Swiss cheese—or anything that goes well with beer or wine.

    Back to Chef Yan’s recipe:

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT a wok or stir-fry pan over high heat until hot. Add the oil, swirling to coat the sides of the pan. Add the pork, ginger and garlic; stir-fry until meat is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Drain the excess oil.

    2. COMBINE the pork, sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil in a medium bowl. Set aside for 30 minutes.

    3. COMBINE the cabbage, carrot and green onions in a large bowl. Add the meat mixture; toss well and let it cool slightly.

    4. FILL the rolls: Place a wrapper on a clean flat surface in front of you so that it looks like a diamond. Place 3 tablespoons of filling in the center. Fold the bottom point up over the filling and roll once. Fold in the right and left points. Brush the beaten egg on the top point. Continue rolling until you have a tight cylinder. Place the filled rolls on a baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth while filling remaining rolls.

    5. FRY: Heat 2-3 inches of cooking oil over medium-high heat in a large pot or wok, to 350°F. Add the egg rolls, a few at a time, and fry until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

    Serve with sweet and sour sauce, plum sauce, hot mustard or jalapeño pepper jelly.

    Recipe copyright Yan Can Cook, Inc., 2014
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EGG ROLLS, SPRING ROLLS & SUMMER ROLLS

    It can be very confusing, but we’ve done our best here to explain the differences.

    While some countries, including China, serve fried egg rolls and spring rolls, the terms are not synonymous. An egg roll has a heavier pastry wrapper of wheat dough that contains eggs—hence the name. The cooked roll can be sliced into sections. Spring roll wrappers are made without egg. A fried spring roll is very fragile and can shatter like phyllo.

  • Egg rolls are deep fried. The wrappers are thicker, making egg rolls more of a filled pastry. They can have a vegetable, egg, meat and/or seafood filling. The filling varies by chef, and can include chopped shrimp, ground beef, ground chicken or turkey, matchstick-sliced pork or Chinese sausage, minced cabbage, carrots, garlic, ginger and mushrooms.
  •  

    Egg Rolls

    Spring Rolls

    Top: Chef Martin Yan’s egg rolls, served with sweet and sour sauce. Photo courtesy Melissas.com | Yan Can Cook. Bottom: Translucent rice paper enables spring and summer rolls to show off the ingredients inside. Photo courtesy Nature Box.

     

  • Spring rolls can be fried or not. The fried versions use thinner wheat wrappers and are narrower and more finger-like. They can be filled with pork and/or shrimp. Spring rolls can also be served in an uncooked rice noodle wrapper. These are traditionally eaten during the Spring Festival in China, hence the name; and are also popular in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Thee rice noodle wrappers are moistened into pliancy and translucency, then filled with seafood, bean thread vermicelli, red lettuce or Boston lettuce leaves, shredded cabbage and carrot, plus wonderfully refreshing herbs—fresh mint, basil and cilantro leaves. They are served with a sweet chili dipping sauce.
  • Summer rolls are made in the style of spring rolls, but with more seasonal ingredients. They are always in a rice noodle wrapper and never fried. The ingredients can be cooked, raw or a mixture, and the colors and shapes show through the translucent wrapper. Ingredients typically include pork and/or shrimp or vegetables, rice vermicelli (noodles) and fresh herbs (basil, cilantro and mint). The dipping sauce for summer rolls is typically a blend of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce or tamari, with minced scallions and a splash of toasted sesame oil.
  •  
    The dipping sauces for the different rolls can be mixed and matched. Our favorites include peanut sauce, a blend of peanut butter and hoisin sauce with garlic; sweet and hot red chili sauce; and rice vinegar/soy sauce.
     
    The way to best learn the differences, of course, is to go out and eat them, or make them at home. But note that even restaurants and retail establishments can abel these different rolls incorrectly.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Stack Cake Party

    Stack Cake

    Stack Cake

    Stack Cake

    Top: Strawberry Jam Stack Cake from Sweet Auburn Desserts, photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn. Here’s the recipe. Middle photo from TheSimpleElements.com. Here’s the recipe. Bottom photo from Maman Bakery Cafe | NYC.

     

    Do you have plans for Valentine’s Day? If you have nothing going on, why not round up a group of friends and neighbors and have a stack cake party?

    What’s a stack cake?

    STACK CAKE HISTORY

    Stack cake is an old-fashioned concept from the Southern Appalachian Mountains. It originated as a wedding cake alternative in that economically-challenged region.

    Each guest or family would bring a layer for the cake, and the bride’s family would provide the filling. The layers would be assembled at the party.

    The result: a rustic layer cake with no icing but lots of heart.

    Beyond weddings, stack cake parties were another way for people to get together to exchange recipes and gossip.

    Many types of cake layers could be brought, from sponge-like layers to cookie-like layers. In order stop the typical seven or eight layers from toppling over, each layer was sometimes pressed very flat.

    These days, another un-iced cake, called naked cake, is enjoying its moment. Unlike stack cake, the whole naked cake is made by one person, in one flavor. The sides of the cake aren’t iced, although the top usually is.

    Rather than an economical way to assemble a cake, naked cake economizes on calories and labor, by not frosting the sides.

    YOUR STACK CAKE PARTY

    You never knew exactly how the layers would add up. Even if you told everyone to bring an eight-inch layer of yellow cake or chocolate cake…well, what are the odds that they’d match, even if you provided a recipe?

    Besides, isn’t it more fun if to have a pot luck cake with different layers: carrot, chocolate, devil’s food, gingerbread, red velvet, vanilla and, well, we’d like a layer with big chocolate chunks?

    All you have to do is:

  • Tell everyone what size to make their layer cake (eight inches is standard).
  • You can cap the layers at four or five, or make two cakes.
  • You can assign flavors, or let the universe decide what you get.
  • You provide the filling and some icing to decorate the top.
  • Or you can delegate those, too, and just focus on the beverages.
  •  

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Egg Drop Soup

    Chinese Egg Drop Soup

    Fresh Cilantro

    Top: Egg drop soup is known for its strands
    of eggs. Bottom: A fresh herb garnish
    —chives/green onion, cilantro or parsley—
    makes a big difference. Photos courtesy
    Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

    Chinese egg drop soup is a very simple concept: chicken broth with thin strands of cooked egg. The strands are created by pouring a thin stream of beaten eggs into hot broth at the end of cooking.

    It’s the easiest dish you can make to celebrate the Chinese New Year—also called the Lunar New Year, since other countries in Asia celebrate the holiday. With no added fat or carbs, it’s also spot-on for new year’s diet resolutions—American or Chinese versions.

    The recipe below, from Good Eggs in San Francisco, is more sophisticated than what you get at Chinese restaurants in the U.S. Star anise and miso give the soup so much flavor, it becomes a knock-your-socks-off alternative to the standard American version—typically a bland, gummy (from too much cornstarch) soup.

    While you’re at it, make your own Chinese fortune cookies for dessert!
     
    EGG DROP SOUP HISTORY

    In China, the dish that we call egg drop soup is called egg flower soup. Food historians can’t pin a date on the emergence of the recipe, but the domestication of fowl for eggs was recorded as far back as 1400 B.C.E.

    Similar recipes combining chicken broth and eggs appear in other cultures as well.

  • In France, tourin, a garlic soup, is made with chicken stock that is drizzled with egg whites and thickened with an egg yolk. Unlike egg drop soup, the egg whites are whisked in rapidly to prevent strands from forming.
  • The Greeks added fresh lemon juice to create avogolemono soup. The eggs are added for body and don’t create strands.
  • In Italy, the addition of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese created stracciatella. As with egg drop soup, the eggs form strands.
  •  
    In China, versatility is the name of the game.

  • Tastes vary across regions, with southern Chinese preferring to thicken the broth with cornstarch, and northerners favoring a thinner soup without it.
  •  

  • Tomatoes, corn and green peas may get tossed in as well.
  • Other add-ins can include bean sprouts and tofu cubes.
  • Familiar garnishes may include black pepper, chopped green onions (scallions), and a drizzle of sesame oil, but that’s just the beginning of a whole slew of possibilities.
  •  
    In the U.S.:

  • The soup is thickened with cornstarch, as is done in southern China.
  • It is typically served without a garnish or extra add-ins—but make yours as customized as you like.
  • We like to add cooked chicken strips and chopped green onions, plus fresh cilantro or parsley—whichever we have on hand.
  •  
    As with any recipe, you can (and should!) make it your own.

     

    RECIPE: CHINESE EGG DROP SOUP

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.

    You can buy the broth or make it with this recipe.

    Ingredients For 2-4 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek, halved and sliced into thin pieces
  • 1 quart chicken broth/bone broth
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons miso paste
  • 4 eggs
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat in a big soup pot. When the oil is hot, add the leek and cook for about 6 minutes, until it is soft and starting to turn golden brown. At this point, turn the heat down to medium and carefully add the broth. Then whisk in the star anise, soy sauce and vinegar.

    2. ADD the miso: Pour a ladleful of the broth into a small bowl and add the miso. Whisk to incorporate, then pour the enhanced broth back into the pot. Simmer for about 15 minutes. While the broth cooks…

    3. WHISK the eggs vigorously in a mixing bowl that has a pouring spout, until the whites and yolks are completely (and we mean completely) combined. When the broth has simmered and you’re ready to eat, turn the heat to high and bring the broth to a boil. As soon as it’s boiling, turn the heat back down to low and wait until the broth is at a steady simmer.

     

    Star Anise

    Midget Corn

    Star anise is perhaps the most beautiful spice. Photo courtesy SilkRoadSpices.ca. Bottom: Customize your soup with ingredients like baby corn. Photo courtesy Alibaba.com.

     
    4. At this point, hold the bowl of eggs in your left hand and slowly stir the broth with a whisk in your right hand. Pour the egg into the broth in a slow and steady stream and watch it form an eggy ribbon as soon as it hits the broth. (If it doesn’t immediately form a ribbon, the broth needs to be hotter—so stop pouring and turn up the heat for a few minutes before trying again.) Continue to pour and stir slowly until all of the eggs are in. Let the broth stand for a few minutes for the eggs to finish cooking, then garnish with parsley and serve.
     
    WHAT IS STAR ANISE?

    Perhaps the prettiest spice, star anise (photo above) comes from an evergreen tree native to Vietnam and China. Although it is not related to the herb anise, it closely resembles anise in flavor since both contain the organic compound anethole.

    Star anise, the seed of the tree, is harvested from the star-shaped pericarp*.

    It is widely used in China, where it is a component of Chinese five-spice powder; in India it is a major component of garam masala. It is also prominent in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisines. In Vietnam, you’ll find it in our favorite soup, pho. It is widely grown for commercial use in China, India, and most other countries in Asia.

    The French use it in mulled wine (vin chaud).
     
    *Pericarp is a type of plant tissue, the outer layer of the flower’s ovary wall. It surrounds the seeds, in this case, the star anise.
      

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