A mission statement

Hello, and welcome to My Kitchen and I. Every year I choose a cuisine to explore. This year, it's the year of the Snake! And I'll be continuing to cook mostly Asian foods, particularly Chinese dishes. Have I finally found the best cuisine in the world? Come explore and cook with me and let's find out. Please feel free to share your stories and comment on anything you see here, and thanks so much for visiting. Hope you enjoy the Year of the Snake in food!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Epic Gingered Pork, Asian Pear sandwiches

I don't know about you, but when I'm in the midst of the holiday season, there's no time to spend in the kitchen.

I still want to eat good healthy food, of course, but it has to be simple.

It has to be quick.

And, not at all least, it has to feel a little bit healthy.

And so was born this little sandwich — epic — if I do say so myself. It is great as a main course, but would also work on smaller buns, slider-style, for a fun party appetizer.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Green Tomato Salad -- gratitude for abundance #letslunch

This spring I planted four tomato plants in the back corner of my mostly inactive garden, hoping for an abundance of red, ripe garden-grown tomatoes. But I guess I was a little late planting them. And then there was a drought, which didn't help matters.

The garden thus produced only two ripe tomatoes for me this year, and left me with a whole bunch of green tomatoes that have absolutely no chance of ripening before frost.

To say I was disappointed in my gardening efforts, would be understating things a bit. Nothing in my opinion is better about summer than a garden-ripe tomato. Slice one up on a plate, alternating with fresh mozzarella cheese, some olive oil, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and fresh-cracked black pepper. This is such a superb lunch, one I could eat every day.

Now I do remember how once upon a girlhood my grandmother would make bacon, lettuce, fried green tomato sandwiches. And those were good. She usually made them at the beginning of the season, to celebrate the ripe tomatoes soon to be had. I went to rescue a green fall tomato to eat a sentimental dinner in her honor, though I wasn't feeling too celebratory about it. Rooting around in the still healthy tomato plants, I was saddened by just how many green tomatoes there really were. Easily 7 quarts.

How sad, I thought, to just waste them. But frost was coming, and there are really only so many BLGT sandwiches a girl is willing to eat. If they were just a little further along ... But ripening such green tomatoes ...

Well, that's just about as substandard as it gets, to me anyway.

More green tomato recipe ideas
collected at My Green Tomato Pinterest board
Out of idle curiosity I googled green tomato recipes as I munched on my BLGT. There surely couldn't be much ... could there?

I was actually surprised. Curried pork stirfries, asian pear salads ... people had some really creative ideas for their green tomatoes.

And so I started think ...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sesame chicken "bat" wings for Halloween week

A few weeks ago I ripped out my carpets, and since then I've been working on resanding the lovely hardwood floors that were hiding underneath. I've been so deep in dust, it's been hard to think about cooking anything, but today it was a beautiful day and sooner a later, a girl misses her kitchen, and a girl wants to eat a home-cooked meal instead of pizza, hot dogs and take-out Chinese.

And so, with a beautiful Saturday — perhaps the last suitable for barbecuing outside — I decided to play hooky from the renovation project.

Time for some fun in the kitchen!

A few weeks ago the lovely #letslunch bunch challenged us to come up with a scary food idea. Even though I couldn't participate this time, the wheels in my head went to work any way.

My idea? Faux bat wings made from chicken wings.

This idea really turned out beautifully. I know I will be adjusting the spice mixture down the line, but my first stab at it was really pretty good.

Here's what I did:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

From Paris with Love — Saumon avec Sainte Nectaire

Le Tour Eiffel

Monday I cooked breakfast and lunches for the week, a task I usually have finished on Saturday, so Tuesday found me doing a task I usually have done well before Sunday — writing this blog.

Everything has been a ker fuffel since I came back from Paris. My schedules just don't wanta sync  up any more. It's like I need a vacation just to get over vacation. Does that happen to anyone else after vacation?

Paris has always had a reputation for its food, so I had some fairly high expectations. Of course, knowing that it was a fateful fish dinner that famously lured Julia Child into the world of French cooking, I made sure my first real meal was fish as well.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Chinese Grandmother's Tofu — Mapo Doufu (麻婆 豆腐)

I first had Mapo Doufu on what was probably the coldest day of the year. We were in the midst of an ice rainstorm, and it was so cold, icicles were forming almost instantly on anything outside, living or otherwise. The streets had become slippery slides for automobiles and most of the sane and sensible were safely ensconced in warm homes underneath fuzzy blankets sipping hot cocoa, or perhaps something stronger.

My niece is fond of saying no one ever cheers after eating
tofu but I beg to differ. I really like this dish. To me tofu has the
consistency of fresh mozzarella and a similar blandness that
allows it to blend well with almost any sauce. Unlike
mozzarella, though tofu retains its shape and doesn't melt.
I, on the other hand, was walking the neighborhood taking pictures of nature's debacle. Just as I was about to call it an afternoon, I happened upon a poor postal worker with icicles hanging off the brim of her hat, delivering the last of the day's mail. She was a good sport and let me take a few pictures of her in such misery. It was then I noticed in the gathering grey twilight a little red and blue sign that said open in brash neon light.

It was the only cheery thing in sight. Downtown was otherwise locked up tight and the stores were all dark and vacant as mummy eyes. I wandered toward the sign with camera and curiosity in tow. Who was brave enough to remain open on a day like this, and what on earth were they doing?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sweet and Sour Salad #letslunch Farmer's Market Post

As I write this, I am actually on a plane heading to see a friend, and then off to Paris, which I like to think of as the Farmer's Market of the world. I have heard so much about the food in France and particularly the Farmer's markets, I cannot wait to at last see them for myself, and of course I will post some pictures once I return.

Farmer's markets are a wonderful thing, regardless of which country or community you are in, and my local Farmer's Market right now is all about the tomatoes. They are literally at every table, and they all look so gorgeous.

But tomatoes are one of the last things I think of when I think of Asian cuisine!
So I was surprised — pleasantly — a couple weeks ago when a Chinese friend presented me with a nice bag of garden grown tomatoes from his garden.

Ooo la la! It is nice to have friends, and it is even nicer to have friends who have garden tomatoes.

We both agreed that store bought tomatoes aren't worth eating, and that it was only garden-grown for us.

And so, inspired by this gift, I started reading about tomatoes and China, and discovered that after all, Chinese people do know and like this vegetable, even though their term for it is, quite literally, foreign eggplant.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Julia Child's Kunming Connection #Sundaysupper #CookingforJulia

A post in honor of Julia Child's 100th birthday written for #sundaysupper #cookingforjulia ...

Everyone knows Julia loved French cuisine, but Julia's first culinary love was not French. Julia's first romance with food was in fact, nowhere near France. Her first love affair with food was in Kunming, China, where she and her future husband Paul slowly but surely fell in love.

Julia served in Kunming during the latter part of World War II, arriving in the city shortly after Paul. They were both in the OSS, the precursor of the CIA. The agents serving in Kunming were actually forbidden to travel out of bounds, but that did not stop Paul and Julia from seeking out new culinary adventures every chance they got.

The city's name by the way, translates roughly to the City of Eternal Spring, and the weather is mild year-round, similar to California, where Julia grew up. There are, in addition, many interesting cultural sites in hiding amidst the blue mountains and eucalyptus trees.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chinese Soup — 中国汤

I'm not really sure if I understand what makes a soup truly "Chinese."

Is it just the ingredients put into it?

Or more the philosophy behind it?

Do Chinese people ever get in a hurry and just make soup on the fly out of whatever's on hand?

Or is it always a slow-simmered yin-yang affair?

Would they be adverse to a pre-made broth, as long as it was a homemade broth of the slow-simmered variety?

Or is that idea too Western to be authentic?

I've always got a few jars of slow-cooked stock in my freezer. There's some in quart jars for soup and some in pint jars for sauces. They're perfect when I have run into a challenging week. And this, my friends, has indeed been one of those weeks.

I've been moving furniture since last week. Then on Sunday, a few wonderful people came over to help me get rid of my carpet. The previous owners, you see, had cats and I'm allergic to cats. And I was allergic to the carpet those cats had left behind. But now the carpet is gone and things are much better for me and that little thing called breathing.

But, I've still got boxes and furniture stacked to the ceiling of my dining room. And my clothes are hanging in the bathroom whilst I patiently await floor refinishing and painted walls. The arrangement is OK. The stuff I have to have I can get to for now. But it's a bit like living in some sort of weird hotel with no room service. I feel like I should order a pizza and eat on the floor, not cook in the kitchen.

So when I glanced at the fridge this week and started thinking of what to make for my lunches, I was really looking for something simple. Something easy.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Feast of the Free Fishes

3 Free fish
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 T sherry
1 inch pc fresh ginger minced
mountain of celery leaves

Once upon a month, I run up to a little Asian market on Olive Boulevard in St. Louis for a month's worth of cooking ingredients for my Asian cooking adventures.

I say that it's little, but this market is not really that little. It's actually closer to the size of a super Walmart, and it's stuffed full of just about every imaginable ingredient. You can find chicken feet. You can buy all manner of fresh fish. You can find eels and a thousand varieties of tea. One time I thought they didn't have something I wanted, but then a store manager took me right to it.

There is, I will warn you, an odd smell when you walk in the door. I don't know what it is. But if you can get past that intimidating smell, there's a whole new realm of new and exotic cooking ingredients awaiting exploration. I say realm, because there is such a kingly amount of ingredients — but the prices won't set the peasants back too much either.

Last trip, the fresh produce aisle sported my favorite bing cherries for 99 cents a pound, and a large bunch of what looked to be organic green onions for only 99 cents! Closer to home I'd have paid $2.99 a pound for the cherries and $1.99 for the green onions. These weren't on my list, but I know a good deal when I see one, and the cherries were delicious!

I don't know that this is the "best" Asian supermarket in all of St. Louis. But it is right across from the King Wonton tea house where I had my first steamed pork bun, so it's earned a soft spot in my heart. It's definitely worth a stop at both places if you're looking for a little adventure at reasonable expense, but if you go, you absolutely must stop at the teahouse for steamed buns. I insist.

On the way home last time, I stopped off at a gas station to refill my tank and whilst rearranging my bags, I felt something cold among the double dark soy sauce and chrysanthemum tea. Something cold and ... squishy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Totally Cool Green Hummus & beef satay #sundaysupper beat-the-heat

Now I know this is not a very Asian dish. Forgive me, please. But I was having my very own personal Iron Chef moment. It was the end of the month, and just about everything was running low. I didn't even have any soy sauce!

All I could find in the pantry for protein were some lentils I'd bought last year and never did anything with. And in the freezer there was some asparagus and a bit of feta cheese.

I started out making a lentil salad. It didn't thrill me. But I couldn't let it go to waste, either. I have a rule since coming back from Haiti, and I just can't help it. It may not make any difference whatsoever, but food in my kitchen doesn't go to waste if I can help it. No matter what!

Putting away the dishes, dusting, finishing the laundry, it seemed as if I were doomed to another lentil salad the next night. Then, as I trudged to the kitchen, a lightning bolt struck.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chinese tea eggs 茶叶蛋 -- great breakfast for on the go

A great beat-the-heat recipe because you can cook an
entire week's worth of breakfasts in one pot.
The first place I found these little gems mentioned, I thought the recipe book referred to them as Japanese tea eggs, but a friend from Japan says he never heard of these before.

Then I saw eggs just like them in the book Culinaria Southeast Asia: A Journey Through Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. They were called cháyè dàn (茶叶蛋 ), pronounced chah-yay dan where the marks represent rising or descending tone respectively. You could think of it like saying chah? yay! dan!

The Chinese tea eggs were prepared exactly the same way as the other cookbook had specified. So I think these really are Chinese. Not Japanese, as I had been thinking all this time.

In any case, these marble eggs have become my go-to summer breakfast. They look very elegant no? But they are so seriously simple, a child could make them. And they are a great beat-the-heat recipe. You can cook an entire week's worth of breakfast in one pot in just 20 minutes! They are Super fast! Super easy! What's not to like?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Steamed Buns with BBQ pork -- perfect food

A little while back a friend took me to an authentic tea house in St. Louis, where I had my first steamed bun. It was love at first bite. These little beauties are called baozi (包子), pronounced like you're saying bow in bow-wow followed by zit without the "t."

Steamed buns take just 15 minutes on the
stovetop and they're done. That makes
them the perfect summer bread. They're also
ideal for using up any little dab of leftover
barbecue that isn't quite enough for a meal.
Check below for more great barbecue
ideas from the #letslunch bunch!
The version I had were filled with a little barbecue pork, and they were Delicious. I have been craving them every day since eating the first one. So of course I had to learn to make them! Right away!

Can you say addictive? These certainly are.

I like them for breakfast. They're great with lunch, too. Why not have one for dinner? They'd make a nice little snack before bed. Gee, one more couldn't hurt, could it?

What is that five buns already?

I can't stop eating them!

These are ideal for using up any dab of leftover barbecue that's not quite enough for a meal. They are also a good excuse to squirrel away a couple of ribs before dinner where no one but you can find them. Save everyone else's waistline right? Because, we're thoughtful like that.

These buns will reheat well if you want to steam several at once, but the dough also keeps well for three to five days in the refrigerator or you can freeze them. That way you can steam a fresh bun any time you want. Although I warn you, that power may be dangerous to your waistline. These things are that good!

The buns only take 15 minutes on the stovetop start to finish, which is why they are the perfect summer bread. There's no oven to preheat. It's just 15 minutes on the stovetop in a bamboo steamer and then a little round ball of blissful bread filled with a delicious barbecue is all yours.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Persistence Pizza

The pizza I made at the Kitchen Conservatory.
It was indeed as delicious as it looks!

In my family, dad's stubbornness is legend.

Grandma often told us the story of how the willful toddler hadn't gotten his way and held his breath until he passed out!

Yes, my dad is that stubborn.

And I have inherited this persistence.

Which I refuse to call stubborn, actually. That word has a negative connotation, and I believe this is a powerful gift. No, we don't give up when others would. Is that truly bad? Society needs a few people like that don't they?

I have actually been trying to bake bread since my 20s. Back then, I baked a lot of bricks instead. So many that the ex purchased a bread machine for me, presented with the words, "You'll never be able to bake a decent loaf of bread on your own. So I got you this for Christmas. Just use it instead."

But of course I don't give up that easily ...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Winter Melon Soup 冬瓜汤 — Wonderful!

My sister gave me a wonderful book exploring the cuisines of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia called Culinaria Southeast Asia. She knows how interested I am in Asian cuisines, so this was almost the perfect gift for me. There are so many interesting pictures and stories in this book, I know it's going to be a fascinating trip!

The first recipe I made from the book did not disappoint. This was a very interesting soup, traditionally made with winter melon and flavored with ham. The book lists it under Singapore, but the Chinese friends I spoke with knew about this soup and say it is more widespread.

According to Chinese medicine, winter melon
is a cooling soup and should be eaten in summer.
Properly prepared, it is a "detoxifying" soup.
Winter melon itself has no flavor, but has the intriguing ability to soak up whatever flavors you cook it with.

In fancier restaurants, the winter melon serves as its own soup tureen. The seeds are scooped out of the inside and the outside is then carved with beautiful figures and symbols for good luck and fortune. These carvings are so elaborate, they can take an entire afternoon or more to finish. The soup is then steamed for five hours. So it is very labor intense and must be ordered in advance. I'm told it can cost a few thousand dollars for this soup!

But you can enjoy the same flavor at home for much less, even if it doesn't come with elaborate carvings of fantasy creatures on the outside. The key ingredient ...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Asian-spiced Quick Pickles

Been rethinking this blog a little bit. Seems like it got away from what I intended it to be.

Soo ... after some time thinking ...

I have deleted a few posts that I intended for another purpose, left some posts that still don't really fit but have no other purpose, and moving forward ...

Here's a little recipe I wrote last week, a bit of fusion courtesy of my lovely Grandma Bibb's quick pickle recipe. This was kind of a brainstorm whilst making a little bowl of tuna chirazashi. Most of the recipes I've seen just have plain cucumber, and, after trying that a few times, I realized I just really don't like plain cucumbers in my sushi bowl. I thought about how my grandma used to make quick pickles, and wondered how it would taste with rice vinegar and sesame oil instead.

It was QUITE delicious, even if I do say so myself, in a bowl of chirazashi. It's also a delicious snack on its own. I hope you enjoy this dish. Try it, I know you'll like it! :)

For more great fusion recipes, check out the #letslunch bunch on twitter or follow the links below the recipe.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

An Aztec-inspired chili

#letslunch January challenge — chili.
My take — Aztec.
Go here for more great chili recipes!
Cowboys on the trail are often credited with the invention of chili, but given that chile peppers were being traded throughout the Americas thousands of years ago, I have to wonder if it doesn't predate the wild west by quite a wide margin.

Smithsonian researchers have found the starch grains characteristic of chiles at seven sites ranging from the Bahamas to southern Peru dating as far back as 6000 years. One cave had as many as 7 different kinds of chiles!

Chile peppers are almost always found in the company of corn, according to the researchers, and I have read where some native Americans claim the first chili had no beans, only corn. In Panama, chiles were found with both corn and yams, which to me sounds quite delicious!

Other common foods those ancient chefs worked with ....