Friday, August 27, 2010

Arab Levant / Syrian Spiced Fish [Samaka Harra]

Yield: Makes 6 servings
Preparation Time: 1:20 hours

6 large garlic cloves, peeled

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 fresh red or green long chili peppers, cored and seeded

1 small onion, cut into pieces

1 large, ripe tomato (about 9 to 10 ounces), peeled and seeded

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds

1 whole sea bass or red snapper (about 6 pounds), scaled, gutted, and cleaned but left whole with head and tail on

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves

1. In a mortar, pound the garlic and salt together until mushy. Put the chili peppers and onion in a food processor and chop finely. Add the tomato and process in bursts until it is chopped. Remove to a medium-size bowl and stir in the pounded garlic, tomato paste, and cumin.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Score the fish in 3 places on each side. Lay the fish in a baking pan and coat with the olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then cover with the chili pepper sauce. Bake the fish until the dorsal fin feels as if it will come off with a tug, about 1 hour, basting with the accumulated olive oil in the baking pan. Sprinkle with the coriander and serve.

Variation: Preheat a gas grill on low for 20 minutes or prepare a charcoal fire. Place the fish on a rack inside a large aluminum baking pan, for example, the kind you use to roast a whole turkey. Place the aluminum pan on the grilling grate, draw down the hood or cover, and grill until done, 45 minutes to 1 hour, making sure some smoke can escape through vent holes. The fish is done when one of the dorsal fins almost comes off when you pull on it.

Arabic Spiced Fish

(Yield: 2 servings)

2 (4-6 oz) fillets of white fish (I used haddock)

2 TB canola oil

1 TB all-purpose flour

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp each allspice, cinnamon, and curry powder
[** OR the ready-made fish spices from Jerusalem!]

Salt and pepper

Prepared couscous or rice, for serving (I used whole wheat couscous)

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a shallow bowl mix together the flour, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, curry, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pat the fish dry, dredge it in the flour/spice mixture, and gently shake off the excess.

In a medium frying pan, add the oil and sauté over medium to medium-high heat; add the fish when the oil is hot (when it starts to ripple). Sear the fish until golden brown on the first side (about 3-5 minutes), then flip the fish and sear it until browned on the second side (about 3 minutes). Transfer the fish to the oven to finish cooking (about 3-5 minutes). The fish is fully cooked when it’s opaque in color and flakes easily with a fork.

Serve the fish on top of couscous or rice, alongside Tahini Salad.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stir Fried Rice Cakes 炒年糕

Ingredients: (All are my rough estimation)

-half pack of dried nian gao - soak overnight
-a few tbsp of dried shrimps - soaked and chopped fine
-200g lean pork or belly - slice, marinade with some pepper, cooking wine and light soy sauce
-2 leaves of Chinese cabbage - sliced
-a few Chinese mushrooms - soaked and sliced

Variation on Basic sauce:
- dark soy sauce
-1 tbsp oyster sauce
-1/2tsp chicken seasoning powder
-a few tablespoons of water
- sesame oil
- salt and sugar and white pepper

+ Chinese dark vinegar as dipping sauce on the side


Stir fry dried shrimps till fragrant, add in mince pork, stir and break up the pork into smaller pieces and fully cooked. Add in mushroom, nian gao, stir for a while. Add the vegetables and continue to stir fry. Add basic sauce, stir till well combined, simmer a while (covered) till nian gao is soft.

Lion’s Head Casserole 獅子頭

3 lb./ 1 head napa cabbage
1 lb. chopped pork
1 1/2 Teaspoon of salt
1/2 Tablespoon of sesame oil
1/2 Teaspoon of rice wine
1/4 Teaspoon of black pepper
1/4 cup water chestnuts
1 Teaspoon of chopped green onion
1 Teaspoon of chopped ginger root
1 Tablespoon of cornstarch
1 1/2 Tablespoon of soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon of water

Rinse cabbage lightly and remove 4 outer leaves; tear rest of cabbage into small squares; drain. Heat pan and 6 tablespoon of oil; stir fry cabbage sections until soft and add 2 cups of water; cook for 5 minutes over medium heat; remove and place in the bottom of a heatproof casserole.

Chop pork finely and mix with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon of rice wine, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of chopped green onion, 1 teaspoon of chopped ginger root, 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch, 1/4 cup water chestnuts.

Lightly throw mixture against inside of mixing bowl to combine ingredients; separate into 4 portions and shape into balls. Coat each ball with pre-mixed 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch, 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1/2 tablespoon of water.

Heat pan and 6 tablespoon of oil; fry pork balls on all sides until golden brown; remove and place on cabbage in casserole; cover pork balls with 4 outer cabbage leaves and add1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce; cover and simmer 1 hour over low heat; serve.

Tip: Try experimenting with bread to include in the meatball mixture. It adds a nice texture!

Red-Cooked Pork Roast 紅燒肉

1 fresh pork butt or leg, about 7-8 lbs.
6-8 dried Chinese black mushrooms, pre-soaked in 1 c. cold water for at least 30 mins.
4 chunks fresh ginger (each at least thumb-size), peeled.
6 green onions, roughly chopped (including white portion)
2 c. cooking soy sauce (not “light soy sauce”)
1 c. cooking wine or sherry
1 c. rock sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
8 star anise
1-2 c. vegetable or meat broth (or as needed)
vegetable oil

Fill large Dutch oven or pot (big enough to fit pork) with water until about half full, and put on stove over medium heat.

Rinse pork under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels.

When water in pot comes to a boil, add pork. Cook until juices seep out and liquid is foamy, or about 15-20 mins.

Remove pot from stove. Take pork out and immerse it in another large pot or bowl of icy cold water. Let pork remain in water for about 5 minutes.

Transfer pork to a large strainer; let drain well, for 30 mins. Meanwhile, remove the soaking mushrooms from their water; set the mushroom water aside. Discard the boiled water from the large cooking pot, and rinse the pot.

Heat about 1T oil in the pot over low heat; add ginger and green onions and toss until browned. Remove ginger and onions to a small bowl.

Add 1-2 T oil to pot, and increase heat to medium. When oil is hot, add pork and turn so it browns on all sides.

Add ginger and onions back into the pot; add soy sauce and wine. Let come to a boil, and turn pork. Add rock sugar, salt, pepper, anise and mushrooms, and let come to a boil.

Add the reserved mushroom water and enough broth so that pork is at least half submerged in liquid. Reduce heat to low, and cover pot.

Simmer pork over low heat for 4-6 hours until very tender; when done, any outside fat layers on the pork should look glazed. About every hour, turn pork so that all sides soak up the red-sauce, and add more broth as needed.

Let pork cool slightly, for about 15 minutes, covered. Transfer to large serving bowl.
Serve with hot rice.

Tea Eggs 茶葉蛋

12 eggs, preferably at room temperature
1/4 c. dark soy sauce
4 star-anise
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. chicken or vegetable broth
3 black-tea teabags

Put eggs in a pot and add enough water to cover. Put on stove over moderate heat, and let eggs boil for 10 minutes. Transfer eggs to a large bowl of cold water; let cool for at least 30 minutes.

Remove eggs from water. Gently crack eggs on kitchen counter or cutting board, making sure that the shells remain on the eggs. Do not peel. Set aside.

Put all remaining ingredients in large pot and add water (at least 4 c. water, or enough to cover the eggs). Put on stove and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and then add cracked eggs to pot. Let cook for at least 1 hour, or until egg shells and eggs take on the tea-broth’s brown tint.

Remove eggs from pot and serve, warm or chilled. (Eggs are usually served unpeeled; diners peel them themselves).

Save tea-broth in a container in refrigerator. To re-heat leftover (unpeeled) eggs, put tea-broth and eggs in pot and heat over medium temperature.

If you want to experiment with color and taste, substitute an oolong teabag for one of the black ones.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Salt-baked Fish (Cout de sel)


whole fish, e.g. trout
4 kg of large crystal salt (a.k.a. "Kosher salt")


1. Preheat the oven to about 400 F.
2. Rinse fish but keep the heads and tails on.
3. Line a baking tray with a thick layer of salt. Place bay leaves on top (optional). Lay the fish in it. The fish may be marinaded with some herbs, or left as they are. You can also mix herbs in the salt: try herbes de provence in the cavity and some lavender in the salt.
4. Cover the fish with another thick layer of salt.
5. Bake. For about 2 lbs of fish, plan on roasting in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. An instant read thermometer can be inserted through the crust to check temperature if you are uncertain but you will risk breaking your crust. If you are nervous wait until the end of the cooking time and check it only once.
6. Serve with aioli, or this:

A perfect sauce for this fish is a simple herb-garlic-olive oil mix. A top quality Meyer-Lemon Olive Oil is wonderful and fresh herbs are a must. Chervil is wonderful with fish, and an underutilized herb in American kitchens. Look for it in your produce section, it's mild licorice scent is perfect for a fresh shallot, olive oil, dressing or accompaniment.



* 1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
* 1 glove garlic, minced
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
* 2 tablespoons tahini
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Prick eggplant with a fork and place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Bake the eggplant until it is soft inside, about 20 minutes. Alternatively, grill the eggplant over a gas grill, rotating it around until the skin is completely charred, about 10 minutes. Let the eggplant cool. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, drain off the liquid, and scoop the pulp into a food processor. Process the eggplant until smooth and transfer to a medium bowl.

On a cutting board, work garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt together with the flat side of a knife, until it forms a paste. Add the garlic-salt mixture to the eggplant. Stir in the parsley, tahini, and lemon juice. Season with more salt, to taste. Garnish with additional parsley.