Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sweet Autumn Soup (about 6 servings)

This sweet Autumn soup consists of sugar pumpkin, sweet potato, melanga, banana and coconut milk. It is inspired by these dessert dishes known as chè in Vietnamese that my mother sometimes made for us at home. There are so many classic chè dishes. Here I came up with a medley of different ingredients that I already have in my kitchen. I have never seen anyone make chè this way but this is my blog and I am going to make it my way! :D I diced up all of the vegetables and fruits and cooked it in water. After everything is soft I added a can of coconut milk and a little brown sugar. I used a hand masher and gently mashed the cooked vegetables and fruits still in the pot. This can be served hot or cold. 

Sweet Autumn Soup (about 6 servings)


Ingredients:

One small sugar pumpkin, skin and innards removed and discarded, roughly diced
One large sweet potato, skin removed, roughly diced
1 small melanga, skin removed, roughly diced
2 ripe banana, sliced
Water
A can of coconut milk (400 mL)
Sugar to taste

Method:

In a large pot add pumpkin, potato, melanga, and banana. Add enough water to submerge all the ingredients. Cook until the melanga and potato are soft (these will be the hardest ingredients). Once all the ingredients are soft add coconut milk and sugar to taste. Gently mash everything while still in the pot.

*Add as little or as much sugar as you prefer. I made mine by adding just a few tablespoons of sugar since the bananas were very sweet. Serve immediately since the banana tends to turn dark if sits too long. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Easy Method to Dry Parsley


I hate wasting food. When I have too much herb such as parsley I like to save it for future use. I find that I can easily dry and store them. I just chop the leafy parts and scatter it on the plates for a few days to air dry. Once it is completely dry store it in an airtight container. Wash the stems and save them in a bag in the freezer for future use. This is great for making stocks or soups.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Stir-Fried Gourd and Chicken in Oyster Sauce (serves 2 as part of a shared meal)




This summer my parents had a very productive year with a bountiful harvest ranging from different leafy greens, beans, and herbs from their garden. I have never seen them grow gourds but this year they harvested dozens of them. I was lucky to be a recipient of some of their organic home-grown gourds. On their way through this area they stopped for a visit and dropped off food and produce from their garden. I recently made a soup using one of the gourds. Today I have decided to make a stir fry with another. I was very surprised to find that the gourd tastes very much like cucumbers.

Stir-Fried Gourd and Chicken in Oyster Sauce (serves 2 as part of a shared meal)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp oil
1 cup scallions, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch lengths
2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
6 oz chicken meat, sliced and chopped
2.6 lbs bottle gourd, peeled, de-seeded, sliced into bite size
2 Tbsp of vegetable or chicken broth
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
A pinch of sugar
A drizzle of fish sauce (about 1/4 tsp)

Method:

1) Heat a pan over high heat. Once the pan is hot add oil.
2) Add scallions and garlic once the oil is heated. Saute about a minute. Avoid burning the garlic.
3) Add chicken and saute about a minute or until the chicken is just cooked.
4) Add gourd, saute about a minute. Add broth. Turn heat to low. Saute about another 5 minutes or until the gourd is soft.
5) Season with oyster sauce and sugar. Cook another 30 seconds.
6) Add fish sauce and turn off heat.

Cod and Clam Chowder (makes about 3 quarts)

cod and clam chowder with toasted baguette slices
cod and clam chowder with oyster crackers
and a sprinkle of ground black pepper

The cool autumn days are good for some piping hot chowder especially in this part of New England! Some clam or seafood chowders can be quite thick and heavy. I prefer my mine with a lighter, thinner consistency so I use clam stock and half and half. I find this technique to be more flavorful and less rich to digest. I saved the clam juice or stock in the freezer to make this. My chowder is also not so salty. However, feel free to add more salt or fish sauce if interested. I use a cast iron pot to make this chowder since I find it more economical by using less heat. Once you add the half and half avoid letting the contents boil. Turn the heat to low and let it slightly simmer. I prefer to eat my chowder alone or with toasted baguette pieces. My husband on the other hand, enjoys his chowder with oyster crackers. Of course, these crackers are quite deceiving since there is not a speck of oysters in them...as my father-in-law found out when he first came to the United States! In New England many places will serve their chowder with a small bag of these crackers. 

A beautiful autumn day
near my home (New Hampshire, USA, 2015)
looking up from my own back yard
(New Hampshire, USA, 2015)

Cod and Clam Chowder (makes about 3 quarts)


Ingredients

2 Tbsp oil (may also use half oil and half butter)
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 celery sticks, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 sprigs fresh thyme, pull some of the leaves off from the stems
1 bunch scallion, green part only, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
2 Tbsp dried flat leaves parsley (see below)
5 cups clam stock (preferably home-made)
3 russet potatoes, peeled, cubed
12 oz cod fillet, cubed
About 1 lb steamer clams, cooked and meat removed (about 1/2 cup, may cut each in half)
About 1 lb littlenecks, cooked and meat removed (about 1/2 cup, may cut each into 2-3 pieces)
2 cups half and half
1 Tbsp fish sauce (or more according to your taste)
Ground black pepper, garnish (optional)

 Method

1) Heat a pot over medium heat. Once the oil is hot add onion and celery. Saute about 2 minutes until the onion is soft.
2) Add thyme stems and leaves, scallions and crumble in the dried parsley. Saute about a minute.
3) Add the clam stock. Once the liquid comes to a gentle boil turn heat to medium low. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the celery is soft.
4) Add the potato. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the potato is soft.
5) Once the potato and celery are soft to your preference then add the haddock and clams. Cook about a minute or two until the haddock is just cooked.
6) Add the half and half and season with fish sauce.

*You can substitute fish sauce for salt and vice versa.
*Use fresh parsley if have any. I had some dried up so I used this instead. I prefer to use parsley and thyme since they will not overpower the favor of this chowder.
*Littlenecks are clams. These have less sand and grits in them. The steamers have more sand and grits so you may want to rinse them after you have harvested the meat.

dried parsley
dried parsley

*If you have too much parsley it is quite easy to dry it for future use. Just chop the leafy parts and scatter it on a plate for a few days to air dry. Once it is completely dry store it in an airtight container.

Friday, October 16, 2015

My Maine Seafood Stew (serves 4-6)

This dish is inspired by a fisherman's stew known as cioppino. I have made this dish in the past and it was always tasty with or without the wine. This time I am using a variety of seafood--salmon, swordfish, lobster, shrimp, crab, steamers (clams), mussels and squid. The seafood is cooked in a tomato-red wine sauce with some of the mussel and clam juice. My parents stopped by on their way home to Maine. My sweet little brother left his wife and two kids to spend a week with my parents for my father's birthday. They flew to Denver, Colorado and drove over 2000 miles for some spectacular sight seeing. They also met up with their childhood friends (from Soctrang, Vietnam) and one of my brother's best friends (from Bangor, Maine). They tell me the mountains were amazingly beautiful and the birch trees have golden leaves at this time of the year. Happy birthday Pá!

happy birthday Pá!!
My Maine Seafood Stew (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

3 roma tomatoes (seeds removed), roughly chopped
1/2 cup of parsley leaves and stalk, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried red chili flakes
5 garlic cloves, smashed and diced
1/2 onion (about 1/2 cup) chopped
2 uncooked Italian sausages, sliced into bite size pieces
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bunch of scallions (about 3/4 cup) chopped
2 roma tomatoes (seeds removed), chopped
1/2 lb swordfish steak, 1-inch cubed
1 salmon steak (about 0.8 lb), scaled
1/3 cup red wine (any good drinking wine)
1 cup clam/mussel juice*
6 oz Maine lobster meat
2 oz Maine crab meat
10 large shrimp (shells removed, tail intact, back scored to remove the black veins)
1/2 lb squid, cut into rings and/or scored and cut into bite size
8 large Downeast steamer clams (about 1.1 lbs), cooked and removed from shells, rinsed to remove grits and sand
1 lb mussels, cooked and removed from shells, rinsed to remove grits and sand
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 Tbsp good fish sauce
A large pinch of sugar

Method:

1) In a blender add 3 chopped roma tomatoes and parsley stalks and leaves. Puree and set aside.
2) Heat a large pan or pot over medium high heat. Add oil.
3) Once the oil is heated add chili, garlic, onion, and sausages. Saute until the onion is soft.
4) Add thyme, scallions, and 2 chopped roma tomatoes. Saute about 2 minutes.
5) Add swordfish, salmon, pureed tomatoes/parsley, wine and clam/mussel broth. Once the liquid comes to a boil turn heat down a little. Cook for about 5 minutes. Turn the salmon and swordfish cubes to cook the other side.
6) Scatter lobster, crab, shrimp, squid, clams, and mussels over the pan or pot. Cook until the salmon and swordfish are cooked through. Add parsley the last 5 minutes of cooking.
7) Season with fish sauce and sugar.

*I cook the clams and mussels in about 1/2 cup water for about 5 minutes or until the clams and mussels opened up. I carefully remove the juice and leave the grits and shell bits behind. If you do not want to do this you can also purchase clam juice from the store. 
*My mother tells me she would make this a little differently. She would saute the squid, shrimp, lobster, crab meat and swordfish cubes in garlic/onion and a little oil. Once the raw seafood is just cooked then remove them from the pot to set aside. Cook everything else and then return the cooked items to the pan/pot at the end of cooking time. This will add more flavor. However you decide to cook this be careful not to overcook the seafood.
*A few photos below were sent to me from my brother, Phu. He took my parents out to Colorado for a week long visit.



Thursday, October 1, 2015

Steamed Scallops on a Bed of Noodles (makes 4 appetizers)

Sadly I am eating my last bag of scallops in the freezer. It's time to contact Rimrack Fish for more of Mike Anderson's fresh catch! However, at the very least my husband and I are enjoying every bite of them! My friend and co-worker tells me her husband loves steamed scallops and noodles at one of the restaurants in Boston Chinatown. From her description of the dish I thought I should try it out and see for myself what she is talking about! I decided to come up with this dish inspired both by Sana's memory and my mother's steamed whole fish using scallion, ginger and bee hoon (in Teochew) or green bean thread noodles. Be sure to soak the noodles in water until pliable. This takes about 15-20 minutes. When the scallops are steamed just right they are sweet and moist. It takes about 5-7 minutes to steam them.

Seasoned Sauce for Steaming

Ingredients:

2 tsp broth base and seasoning (chicken flavored)
2 tsp water
2 tsp mirin (rice wine)
1 tsp soy sauce
A pinch of sugar

Method:

Mix all ingredients together until well blended.

ready for steaming
Steamed Scallops on a Bed of Noodles (makes 4 appetizers)

Ingredients:

1 small bundle of green bean thread (about 1.5 oz), soaked in water for 15-20 minutes to soften, drained
4 scallop shells or plates that can handle steaming
8-12 large whole scallops, tough muscles and grits removed, washed
1 green scallion blade, cut into 2 inch lengths, julienned
1 green scallion blade, chopped
About 4 thin slices of ginger, julienned
1 portion of the Seasoned Sauce for Steaming (see recipe above)

Method:

1) Divide the bean thread into 4 equal portions and place each portion onto the shell or dish.
2) Add 2-3 scallops on top of the bean thread.
3) Top with julienned and chopped scallions and ginger.
4) Drizzle the sauce over each shell or plate.
5) Steam over medium high heat for about 5-7 minutes or until the scallops are just cooked.

Tropical Scallop Ceviche (serves 2)

I have a bag of frozen scallops that I have been slowly defrosting overnight in the refrigerator. I also have some cut pineapple, an avocado, limes and some tomatoes in my kitchen. With these ingredients on hand it's quite difficult for me not to make ceviche. Here is my tropical scallop ceviche. Cheers!

Ingredients:

1 Hass avocado, diced
1/4 cup diced pineapple
1 roma tomato, de-seeded and diced
4 oz scallops, tough mussels removed, grits and sand removed, washed, drained, sliced into 3-4
Juice of 1 lime (about 3-3 1/2 Tbsp of juice)
Sea salt to taste
1 scallion blade, chopped
A few small pinches of Hawaiian black lava sea salt, garnish (optional)

Method:

In a medium sized bowl add avocado, pineapple, tomato, scallop, lime juice, sea salt to taste and about 3/4 of the scallions. Mix well. Divide the contents into 2 glasses. Garnish with the rest of the chopped scallions and black lava sea salt.