Friday, October 21, 2016

New England Clam Chowder (about 6-7 servings)

New England clam chowder

I love to eat a good piping hot bowl of clam chowder especially on a cool and/or rainy day. I prefer my chowder to be more soupy and light with lots of clams instead of thick and heavy. I think the best tasting chowders are made using half and half and fresh clam broth to create a light broth. There is nothing better than to load up on fresh clams. Here I use Downeast steamer clams (from Maine) and cherrystone clams. The result is delicious!

New England Clam Chowder (about 6-7 servings)


2.2 lbs Downeast steamer clams (about 1 cup of chopped clam meat)
About 1 1/2 lbs cherrystone clams (about 3/4 cup chopped clam meat)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (use what you have) or butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 1/2 oz pancetta, diced
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1 small stick celery heart, chopped
3 cups fresh clam broth (from Downeast steamer clams)
One container half and half (pint or 473 mL)
A handful of sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp fish sauce


1) Soak the clams for about 5-10 minutes, scrub them and let them drain.
2) Use a steamer basket and place the Downeast steamer clams inside. Use about 2 cups of cold water to steam the clams for about 3 minutes or until they open up. Remove the clams and reserve the broth for cooking. Remove and discard the loose rough skin on the clams.
3) Boil the cherrystone clams using about 2 cups of cold water. Once the clams opens up remove the clams and reserve the broth (for dipping the clams).
4) Dip the clams into the cherrystone clam broth (from step 3) to remove any bits of shells or grits.
5) Rough chop the clams and reserve.
6) In a large pot over medium high heat. Add oil or butter. Add onion and pancetta. Saute about 1-2 minutes or until the onion is soft.
7) Add potatoes and celery. Saute about 2-3 minutes.
8) Add the clam broth and clams. Once the liquid starts to boil turn the heat down to low. Cook for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard any foam that floats to the top.
9) Add half and half, thyme and season with fish sauce. Turn the heat up a little. Avoid letting the liquid boil. Once the contents have heated up turn off heat and serve.

*I grow the thyme in pots so I can use them when needed. You can remove the leaves and just use them in this chowder. I put some leaves in and some sprigs for a more rustic look. Be sure not to eat these sprigs though. 
*If you don't have access to fresh clams you may use canned clams and canned broth. The fresh clams are very sweet and I highly recommend them.
*The celery heart is more tender so I prefer to use that over the tougher outer ones.
*You can substitute bacon for the pancetta.
*I prefer the Idaho potatoes in this chowder since they are more starchy than some others. Besides they are grown right here in the United States!
*If you are in Idaho you may be interested in this museum: 
*Below are a few Fall photos that I took this afternoon near my home in New Hampshire.

pumpkin patch (New Hampshire, 2016)
New Hampshire, 2016
New Hampshire, 2016
New Hampshire, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

Ivanka's Czech Guláš (about 10-12 servings)

Ivanka's Czech Guláš
I met Ivanka through my friend and neighbor Inge. Ivanka worked with Inge in the airline industry before she retired. However, in her spare time, she has some rental properties and this has been keeping her active. She lives in Colorado and visits New Hampshire annually. On this trip I learned that she left Prague at age 22 and walked all night with her brother to Italy nearly 5 decades ago to escape communism. The walk was dangerous but they made it out of Czechoslovakia without getting shot or arrested. After arriving in Italy the police helped them to various places where they stayed temporarily and eventually they immigrated to New York. Initially life was tough for them but things improved after they had jobs and safe housing...the typical story of many immigrants in the United States. Ivanka and I share something in common besides escaping communism at a young age. We both enjoy good food, good friends, a passion for travel and a deep appreciation for what we have in life and for an opportunity to accomplish something from nothing.

Ivanka knows I like to experiment with cooking so she graciously gave me a gift bag with bottles of caraway seeds, a kitchen mitt and towel, and a large chocolate bar. She had mentioned that the Czech goulash must have caraway seeds. When I asked her on this trip how she makes her goulash she tells me to fry some onion, sear some meat (either beef or pork) dredged with flour, and add stock--all very vague. Strangely these types of cooking tips sound very familiar! After probing further about her recipe she responds, "yes, add caraway seeds, paprika, salt, and pepper." Her mother had added green peppers and mushrooms to her goulash but that style is not the typical Czech way. She cautions me not to burn the paprika since it will make everything bitter. She always sears her meat to keep it moist and flavorful. She loves lots of spices so she adds jalapeno peppers in her goulash. She tells me you can eat the goulash with anything you want; even baguette or knedlíky (Czech dumplings) as she prefers. Here is my goulash known as guláš in Czech that is totally inspired by my friend Ivanka. Thank you, Ivanka for the cooking advice and gifts!

searing the meat
seared meat
Ivanka's Czech guláš over pasta--YUM!
Ivanka's Czech Guláš (about 10-12 servings)


About 5-lbs pork, cut into about 1-inch cube, washed and drained
About 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup
2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
2 1/2 Tbsp whole caraway seeds
2 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
5  large garlic cloves, chopped (about 2 Tbsp)
60-oz beef broth (unsalted)
Oil (vegetable, canola, corn or whatever you have) for searing meat
2 tsp salt


1) Spread 3/4 cup of flour onto a plate. Coat the meat into the flour.
2) Heat a large pot (use a cast iron pot if you have one) over medium high heat. Add a little oil. Once the pot is hot line the pot with the flour dredged meat. Do not stack the meat on top of each other. Brown the meat for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the seared meat. Continue to do this this until all the meat is seared.
3) Add the onions. May turn down the heat a little if the pot is too hot. Cook the onion for about 6 minutes until it is brown but not burned. May add a little oil if needed.
4) Add caraway seeds, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, cumin, and garlic. Saute for about a minute.
5) Add the remaining 1/4 cup flour and any flour leftover on the plate into the pot. May add a little oil if needed. Stir and cook for another minute. Add a little broth and mash the flour a little to prevent clumping.
6) Return the seared meat into the pot. Add the rest of the broth (and more if needed) to submerge the meat. Turn the heat back up. Once the liquid starts to boil turn it down to low. Skim off any impurities or foam that float to the top. Cover the lid and cook for 45 minutes or until the meat is soft.
7) After 45 minutes uncover and let the liquid boils off for another 10-15 minutes to help reduce the liquid a little. Season with salt.

*I did not have time to make the dumplings so for a quick meal it was eaten with pasta.
*I prefer to use unsalted (and all natural) beef stock or broth. This way I can adjust the salt at the end according to my taste. 
*I used "pork butt" in this recipe. I trimmed some of the fat off the meat but not all of them. I like some fat on my meat for flavors. According to Ivanka you can use either pork or beef. The pork was on sale this week and it looked fresh and labeled as "all natural". The pork worked out well. I gave some of my first batch of goulash to Ivanka to sample while she was here and she tells me "it tasted very good". I omitted the cayenne and used water instead of broth. Hopefully the second time around will be much improved!
*This recipe is probably plenty for at least 10-12 servings.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Pan-Fried Citrus Salmon (serves 2-3)

pan-fried citrus salmon
This is one of my favorite easy marinades for pan-fried salmon...mostly because it is tasty and I generally have these ingredients in my kitchen. When the salmon is cooked just right it is moist and delicious. I normally check for doneness by piercing with the tip of a sharp knife into the thickest part of the salmon. Cooked salmon will appear opaque. I remove the pan from the heat when the majority of the salmon meat is opaque and the center is still slightly translucent. As the salmon is still hot it will continue to cook further. I normally serve my salmon with steamed rice and sauteed vegetables such as asparagus and mushrooms.

Pan-Fried Citrus Salmon (serves 2-3)


About 1-lb salmon, scale and cut into 2-3 pieces
Juice from 1/2 small orange
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp turbinado sugar
1 tsp chopped chives
About 1/4 tsp grated orange skin
Pinch of salt


Mix orange juice, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, chives, orange zest, and salt in a small bowl. Drizzle the sauce over both sides of the salmon. Keep the salmon skin face up and let the salmon marinade for about 10 minutes. Pan fry with a little vegetable or canola oil for about 4-5 minutes on each side over medium high until it is cooked through. Turn heat down slightly if the pan gets too hot.

*As usual, you may adjust the seasoning according to your taste. I prefer to grate the ginger, garlic and orange skin instead of chopping. The fine consistency of these items makes everything taste better.
*Once home I scale the salmon skin completely so I can eat it. The fried skin is quite tasty. Some people pay top dollar in restaurants just to eat the skin so don't waste it!
*While cooking the salmon I cover the pan lightly with a piece of tin foil to prevent the oil from splattering and to help cook the salmon faster. If you do not have foil you may use a lid to partially cover the pan but avoid covering the pan completely. Remember you are frying the salmon not steaming it.
*This recipe works for both farm-raised and wild salmon. However, I find that farm-raised salmon tend to have more fat and this is a plus for great taste and extra moisture, especially for pan-fried or grilling. I have used a similar marinade for grilled jumbo shrimp in the past but just added more garlic and ginger and substituted soy sauce with a few drizzle of fish sauce to intensify the flavors.
*This Simple Sauteed Asparagus and Mushrooms (below) is quite easy to make. I sauteed a little diced pancetta (about 2 ounces) with a little oil for about 30 seconds over medium high heat. Add the cut asparagus (1 bunch or about one pound) and saute about 1 minute. Then add the sliced baby bella mushrooms (about 10 ounces) and saute about 3-4 minutes until the everything is cooked but the asparagus is still crunchy. Add a pinch of salt and remove from heat. After removing from heat a little liquid will come out of the mushrooms. While cooking I do not add extra liquid. You may omit the pancetta if you do not eat pork. I like my mushroom slices to be a little thicker for this particular dish so I slice each one into 3-4 slices.
*If interested please check out my previous blog on How to Prepare Fresh Asparagus for Eating.
*Many people visit New England especially Maine and New Hampshire to view the beautiful Fall colors on the trees. Below are a few photos that I took of a tree in front of my house (in New Hampshire). You may check out Foliage Tracker for the peak time to visit New Hampshire. Here is another link with more information on When to Find Peak Color in New England.

simple sauteed asparagus and mushrooms
Fall in New Hampshire, USA (October 2016)
sky view from my front yard today
Fall in New Hampshire, USA (October 2016)
this is from the same tree as above photo but a week earlier

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Chicken and Preserved Lime Soup

chicken and preserved lime
In July I made a batch of chanh muối or preserved limes and have only used them for making drinks but not for cooking. If the limes are well made they will not get moldy and can last indefinitely. This simple chicken and preserved lime soup known in Vietnamese as "gà tiềm chanh muối" is a popular dish in my Teochew family. I don't want to overcook the chicken and dry out the meat so I simmer it for 20 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it cook further for an hour. The preserved lime provides a distinct mild citrus flavor and aroma, unlike any other chicken soups. According to my mother, it is enough to use one lime per chicken. She discourages against cooking the lime too long or over high heat since it may crack and make the broth bitter. This cornish hen is larger than most I have seen despite the label that it is "all natural" and "cage-free". I don't know about you but I prefer my chicken feather-free and clean. Pull out any feathers you see. If your bird has a tail and you want to keep it be sure that the fecal sac is cut out. It is located on top of the tail. Below is a photo of the cleaned bird and you can see that a piece (where the fecal sac once sat) had been sliced off by the tail. For this recipe, I season my broth with 2 teaspoons of fish sauce and 2 teaspoons of salt but as with any dish, I encourage you to adjust the amount according to your taste buds. You can serve the cut chicken separate from the broth or put the cut pieces back into the broth. I prefer to keep the skin on the chicken pieces.

Chicken and Preserved Lime Soup


One (about 2.2 lbs) cornish hen, cleaned and keep whole
Enough water to submerge the entire hen (I used about 9 cups)
1 whole Chanh Muối (Vietnamese Preserved Limes)
Fish sauce and salt to taste (I used 2 tsp salt and 2 tsp fish sauce)


Rub the whole hen with salt and water, remove and discard any feathers and fat that you can see, and rinse it clean. Place the hen in a pot (preferably one that is taller than the top of the chicken) breast (thickest part of the bird) down and add the neck if it comes with one. Pour enough water to submerge the whole hen. Keep the pot uncovered. Turn heat to high. Once the water starts to boil turn heat down to a gentle simmer. After 5 minutes add the whole preserved lime. Let everything simmer for another 15 minutes. Skim off and discard any foam or impurities that float to the top. Season the broth with fish sauce and salt. Turn off heat and cover the pot. Let it steep for an hour. Remove the lime and chicken from the pot. Cut up the chicken and serve it with rice and the flavorful broth.

cornish hen--ready to cook

Thursday, September 29, 2016

My Roman Holiday Pizza (serves 1)

My Roman Holiday Pizza
Recently my husband and I visited Rome for a fabulous 8-day vacation. This was my first visit. It was one of the most fascinating cities that I have ever visited. There was so much to see. We walked an average of 10 miles a day and we still did not get to see everything. Everywhere I looked there was something interesting to see or do; beautiful sculptures, fountains, artwork (inside and outside), columns, museums, churches and cathedrals that are like museums themselves, amazing architecture, ruins, restaurants with outdoor seating offering delicious dishes using fresh local ingredients and great wine. To top it off the Romans are very friendly people.

One evening while walking in the Roman Forum near closing I was among a few people who were being herded out by 2 young men. They apologized for making us leave the ruins. I imagined it must be a tough job especially at this time of the day and they agreed. They needed to close up so they could eat since they have been working all day. While walking out and on the topic of food I asked if they cook. One of them pointed to his co-worker and said, "my friend here is a very good cook. He makes delicious pizza". He simply uses water and "0" flour. He likes to add fish on his pizza. I have not seen too many people put that on pizza but thought it sounded good.

Roman Forum
The day before I left Rome I bought 2 small bags of Farina Tipo 00 flour and a small bag of semolina flour. We decided to carry on our 2 small suitcases for convenience. In Chicago O'Hare the TSA staff pulled my luggage aside and just left it there with a few other bags from other passengers. He did not notify another TSA staff to come inspect them. We had a very short layover, it took about 20 minutes before someone to finally come (and this was after I had asked several times) to check my bag and to manually sweep my body for dangerous weapons. The man had to test my flour bags twice with a special paper probably to make sure they were free of explosives or recreational drugs. So these tiny bags of flour nearly made me miss my flight home! Mind you I paid money to be TSA-Pre for better services at the airport security.

Today I am off from work so I woke up early and made the dough inspired by the young man I met at the Forum. I wrapped and let it rest for 6 hours before using. I am also inspired by the thin crusts and no pizza sauce from the pizzas that my husband ate during our trip. Here is my home-made pizza totally inspired by my trip to Rome. I used a total of 3/8 cup of warm water for this recipe. Initially, I used 1/4 cup of water. I then add about half of another 1/4 cup to finish forming my dough. I also noticed some of the pizza dough was a bit bread-like so I added a little yeast.

pizza dough
Pizza Dough (1 pizza)


1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 C warm water
1 C Farina Tipo "00" flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 C warm water


Mix sugar, yeast and 1/4 cup warm water. Stir and leave for about 10 minutes.
Next, pour flour onto a working surface. Make a well in the middle. Add the yeast and water mixture. Work the liquid into the flour. Mix the salt and 1/8 C warm water. Gradually add this liquid into the flour until a dough is formed. Knead for about 7-10 minutes until the dough is smooth. Wrap the dough loosely in plastic or cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest. I let the dough rest for about 6 hours.
*You may not need to add all of the 1/8 cup of water to make the dough. Use just enough water to form the dough. If the dough is too dry then add a little more water. If you happen to add all 1/8 cup of water at once and the dough is too moist then add more flour. I find that it is best to add liquid gradually. 
*When you let the dough rest it stretches easily. You will find that you can roll it out easier and it does not tend to shrink much.

My Roman Holiday Pizza (serves 1)


1 Pizza Dough recipe (see above)
1 large ripe tomato, sliced thinly
A small handful of pea shoots
About 2 oz of Market Basket Pizza Four Cheese (low-moisture mozzarella, provolone with smoke flavor, Romano and Parmesan cheese)
About 2 oz diced pancetta
Leaves from a few home-grown fresh sprigs of oregano


Preheat a pizza stone over 500 degrees F oven on the third rack from the bottom.
Use extra flour to dust. Roll out the dough as flat as you can get it without tearing or making holes. Layer on the tomato slices, pea shoots, cheese, pancetta and oregano leaves in that order. Once the oven is heated, sprinkle some flour over the stone and gently slide the pizza over to the stone. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the crust is golden.

*May add more or less of the ingredients to your pizza and layer however you prefer.
*The tomato came from my parents' garden. It was very ripe, juicy and sweet. I left the seeds in.

freshly baked pizza

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Fresh Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

My friends and neighbors Jim and Karen (yes, the same Jim and Karen who gave me a duck some posts ago) have a garden with a variety of tomato plants, basil, lettuce, acorn squash and other vegetables. Recently I was over at their house and marveled at their productive garden. They made me coffee and this delicious salad with toasted bagels for a light brunch. Jim agreed to write some posts for me and this is his first one. We are going to call it "From Farmer Jim's Corner". Thank you Jim and Karen!

Jim and his garden (2016)
Jim and Olive (2016)
From Farmer Jim's Corner

Fresh Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
Fresh Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

This can be a great appetizer or a side salad. Using fresh garden tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella are the key ingredients. Start out with a base layer of arugula salad greens. Then layer on tomato slices, mozzarella cheese slices, fresh basil leaves, and tomato slices in that order. Sprinkle dried oregano and if interested spread a little thinly sliced red onion over the top. Drizzle the balsamic vinaigrette over the top layer. Chill or serve at room temperature with a glass of red wine.

balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

Use Signature Italian Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix (see photo above) and add balsamic vinegar, olive oil and water to make a dressing. Follow instructions on the package insert for the exact measurements. Karen uses a bottle with a lid to shake all the ingredients to blend. Any leftovers can be refrigerated.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Sauteed Bottle Gourd and Tomato (serves 2)

Sauteed Bottle Gourd and Tomato
The bottle gourd came from my parents' garden in Maine and the tomatoes came from the garden of my friends Karen and Jim. I did not remove the seeds from the bottle gourd since they are still immature.

Sauteed Bottle Gourd and Tomato (serves 2)


1 Tbsp canola oil (may use another type of oil that you have or prefer)
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 large garlic clove, smashed, chopped
1 bottle gourd (about 3 1/2 lbs), peeled sliced into bite size
2 vine ripe tomatoes, cut each tomato into 6 slices
About 2 Tbsp soy sauce
About 2 tsp Broth Base & Seasoning (chicken flavored)
1/2 tsp sugar
2 small bunch scallion, cut into 1 inch lengths


Heat a large pan over high heat. Pour in oil once the pan is hot. Add ginger and garlic and saute about 30-45 seconds. Avoid burning the garlic. Add gourd and saute about 5 minutes or until the gourd slices are a little translucent. Add tomatoes and season with soy sauce, broth seasoning and sugar. Cook about a minute, add scallion and turn off heat.

How to Prepare Fresh Asparagus for Eating

peeling asparagus stalks
peeled and cut asparagus
How to Prepare Fresh Asparagus for Eating

I was not sure if this post "How to Prepare Fresh Asparagus Stalks for Eating" was even necessary. However, I have seen too many people just trim off as much as 2 inches off the base of the asparagus stalks. They clump the stalks together and slice several inches off no matter how tender or tough the bases are. I think this is a huge waste. I also have seen the other extreme where people just don't trim off anything. If the asparagus stalks are young and tender that would not be an issue. However, this is not always the case.

If you want to maximize your asparagus stalks for eating then here is a simple solution. Peel about 1 1/2 to 2 inches at the base and trim off the woody end. You will know if the base is too woody because you will have a hard time cutting into it. This process will yield more tender and tasty asparagus and will help it cook faster.

Steamed Manila Clams (serves 2)

steamed Manila clams
This is a simple and quick soup using live Manila clams. I harvested the Irish moss (seaweed) in New Hampshire, kept them frozen and flew them to Seattle, Washington with me. Despite having been previously frozen and thawed, this seaweed tastes the same as freshly harvested. You may use a little of the store bought dried seaweed if you do not have access to fresh ones. By a little I mean even just half a tablespoon will be sufficient since they will expand when hydrated. Rinse the dried seaweed a few times before adding to the pot. Cooking the clams whole will release their salty juices. Omit chicken stock if you find the dish has enough salt for your taste.

Check out Maine Seaweed Festival 2015 for a picture of Irish moss. 

If you are in Seattle and would like to listen to some great blues check out Highway 99 Blues Club for events. It's located between the ferris wheel (waterfront) and Pikes Place (see photo below).

live Manila clams
Steamed Manila Clams (serves 2)


About 1 cup coconut water (or water)
40 live Manila clams (about 1.3 lbs)
3 thin slices of ginger
1/4 tsp grated ginger
1/2 baby lemon, cut into 3 wedges
1/3 cup fresh or frozen Irish moss (seaweed), washed well, hand torn into pieces
1 bunch of scallion, green parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 tsp Broth Base and Seasoning (chicken broth powder)
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice


Heat coconut water in a medium sized pot. Once the liquid starts to boil add clams, ginger, lemon wedges, and Irish moss. Turn heat down a little if the liquid is boiling too hard. Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until the clams open up. Stir occasionally or take the pot and shuffle a few times to ensure the clams will cook evenly. As soon as the clams open up add scallion. Give the broth a taste. Mix chicken broth powder with some clam juice to dissolve the powder and add to the pot if you prefer more salt. Stir or shuffle the pot to mix everything and remove from heat. Serve with a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Space Needle and EMP museum (2016)
inside EMP museum (2016)
Daniel Castro Band (Highway 99 Blues Club, Seattle 2016)

Sauteed Savory Clams in Shiso and Chives (serves 2)

sauteed savory clams in shiso and chives
I have never eaten savory clams in the past but on my recent trip to Seattle, Washington I purchased some to try. These clams are tasty and are almost sand-free. They taste similar to Manila clams but are much more economical.
The interior of the clam shells is a pretty lavender hue. Cooking the clams whole will release their salty juices. Omit the chicken powder if you find the dish has enough salt for your taste. Enjoy this as is, with toasted baguette, rice, noodles or whatever you prefer.

fresh savory clams
Sauteed Savory Clams in Shiso and Chives (serves 2)


2 Tbsp canola oil
About 1 tsp grated ginger
2 large garlic cloves, grated (about 1 Tbsp grated)
75 live savory clams (about 2.5 lbs)
1 Tbsp mirin
1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp Broth Base & Seasoning (chicken broth powder)
1/2 tsp chili powder
About 1 tsp turbinado sugar                                                                          
About 1 cup sliced shiso leaves (both green and purple if available)
1/3 cup chopped Chinese chives
2 small bunch scallions, green part only, cut into 1-inch lengths


In a large pan heat oil over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic, saute for about 30-45 seconds. Avoid burning the garlic. Add clams, mirin, sesame oil, chicken powder, chili powder and sugar. Turn the heat up if needed. Saute about 7-8 minutes or until the clams open up. Once the clams open up add shiso, chives and scallions, saute about another minute and remove from heat.

clownfish (Seattle Aquarium, 2016)