Friday, October 10, 2008

Global Hot Pot

What could be more festive than a group of friends and family sitting around a communal cooking pot? This kind of gathering satisfies a primal subconscious need for family, food, and fire in everyone. It brings people together in a way that eating a traditional three-course meal does not. Taking the time to cook, savour, and converse, everyone feels that they have participated in a celebratory ritual. It is a pleasurable and memorable dining experience that is easy to prepare, stress free for the cook, and entertaining for your guests.

Hot Pot 1: One method of hot pot involves each diner swishing a thin slice of meat into the broth until it is done, and then dipping it into a variety of sauces. Tofu and vegetables are left to simmer in the broth until ready to eat. At the end of this meal, noodles or rice can be added to the broth for a nutritious and satisfying finale. (Shabu shabu, Swiss Fondue, Beef Bourguignon, Mongolian Fire Pot, and Szechwan Hot Pot are examples of this style.)

Hot Pot 2: Another style of hot pot consists of adding layers of fresh ingredients to a broth, beginning with those richer in flavour, and allowing everything to simmer together until a desired degree of cooking is achieved. At this point, everyone helps themselves. The broth is served along with the ingredients, and seasoning and condiments can be added. (Bouillabaisse, Sukiyaki, Kimchi Chige are delicious examples.)

Kimchi Chige (Korean Hot Pot)
Ingredients (serves 4-6 people depending on appetite)
2-3 cups sour kimchee, cut in 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup juice, from kimchee (optional)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1 dash salt and pepper
2 tablespoons crushed red hot peppers
2 cloves crushed garlic
1-2 lb cooked pork ribs, boiled beforehand
2 doz fresh oysters
2 blocks tofu (med firm) rinsed and cubed
1 head of Chinese cabbage, washed well
1 bunch of spring onions
1 bunch of chives
1 cup of brussel sprouts (these are in season right now, so we used them)

Combine top 7 ingredients into saucepan and bring to boil.
Stir occasionally. Adjust flavour of broth according to degree of spiciness….
Simmer over medium heat until kimchee is tender.
Pour into communal cooking pot.
Add a portion of the pork ribs, oysters, veggies, and tofu.
Simmer 5-8 minutes.
Serve with steamed white rice.
Add another portion of ingredients and simmer.
*Can add more water or broth from cooked ribs to simmering ingredients as needed.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Aromatic Asian Herbs

The next time you grab a handful of herbs from your herb garden, rather than focus on traditional favourites – oregano, basil, rosemary, parsely – try being a little more adventurous and innovative.

Asian herbs are aromatic, pungent, refreshing and interesting. They can be substituted for many of our traditional herbs in such recipes as pesto, gremolata, herb butters, salad dressings, salsas, soups, marinades, scented vinegars and oils, flavoured teas and liqueurs. Countless recipes from different cuisines can be adapted to create unusual and appetizing global flavours.

In Thailand, herbs such as lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil, and cilantro are used in abundance. Chinese cuisine tends to use more spices than herbs. However a pungent herb that is often used to embellish soups, fish dishes, dipping sauces, and stirfries is Chinese parsley, also called cilantro. With its earthy flavour, cilantro is one of the most popular herbs worldwide. Chinese chives are also a popular herb in this cuisine and are used freshly snipped over wok recipes, egg and fish dishes, salads, and sauces - they have a stronger, spicier taste than N.American chives. Some of the most commonly herbs in Japanese cuisine include shiso, chrysanthemum leaves, mitsuba, kaiware, and sansho. Mint and curry leaves are used extensively in Southern Indian cooking. Sprigs of heavily scented curry leaves are adding during the cooking of curry and then removed before serving. Fragrant mint leaves are used in many Indian chutneys, yogurt dishes and desserts.

(a classic condiment for Osso Bucco)
2 ½ tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
2 ½ tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp finely chopped garlic

Thai Gremolata
(use on grilled fish or steak)
fresh finely chopped cilantro leaves
lime zest
finely grated garlic

Japanese Gremolata
(use on grilled fish or steak)
fresh finely chopped shiso leaves
uso zest (Japanese citrus)
finely grated ginger and garlic

There are no rules with these garnishes.
Season and experiment according to taste and mood!