April 2, 2015 Roasted Salmon with Ginger Shiitake Glaze



Salmon is on our dinner menu once a week and I am always looking for new and interesting ways to prepare it. Always a healthy dinner choice, salmon is a good source of protein, potassium, selenium, B vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids. This recipe from Fine Cooking magazine , salmon with ginger and shiitakes has become a new favorite for us.

The original recipe called for broiling the salmon but I have adapted it for the way we cook salmon most of the time in non grill months, roasting. The fish is seasoned simply with salt, pepper and  ground coriander, you can use whatever seasoning blend you choose that compliments the recipe. What makes this recipe special is the topping, a marriage of a glaze and chunky vegetable mix that is spooned right before the fish is done. A flavorful combination of red pepper, shiitake mushrooms, ginger and scallions is seasoned with honey, ginger, rice vinegar, soy and sriracha. The topping is easy to do and  can even be made several hours in advance,

I substituted tamari for the low sodium soy sauce that was called for in the original recipe. Maybe you have seen tamari on you supermarket shelf next to the soy sauce and wondered what makes it different. Tamari and soy are both the by-products of fermented soybeans.Tamari is a Japanese soy sauce and is thicker, less salty with an umami quality to it.  It is made by collecting the liquid that drains from miso, fermented soybean paste. Since it is brewed only from soybeans, water and salt, it is gluten free. Sriracha, once a product I could only find in Asian markets is commonplace in supermarkets today. Add Sriracha to your own liking, if you don’t have it, another hot sauce or a few pepper flakes can stand in.  In case you didn’t know, sriracha is a Thai hot sauce made from chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. I recommend the Huy Fong brand that has a rooster on the label. I plan to make my own version from the large collection of hot peppers we have in the near future.

Roasted Salmon with Ginger Shiitake Glaze

Serves four


  • 1 1/2lbs salmon filet
  • 2T canola oil
  • 1/4t ground coriander
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3c finely diced red pepper
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 2T finely chopped ginger
  • 1c shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into fine dice
  • 1/4c honey
  • 3T rice vinegar
  • 1T Tamari style soy sauce
  • 1t Sriracha (or to taste)
  • 1t cornstarch mixed with 1t of water




  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut salmon into individual servings and salt and pepper lightly (kosher or sea salt) and sprinkle with ground coriander. Let the fish sit at room temperature while you prepare the sauce.
  2. In a 12″ skillet over medium heat,  cook the red pepper, scallion whites and ginger in 2 tablespoons of canola oil.
  3. Stir occasionally until the pepper and scallions start to soften and brown, about 3 minutes.
  4. Raise the heat to medium high and add the mushrooms and sprinkle with salt. Cook stirring until they soften and brown, about three minutes.
  5. Add the honey, vinegar, tamari, chili sauce and a 1/4c water. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Whisk the cornstarch and water together and stir this into the glaze. Return to a simmer and cook until the glaze thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
  7. Coat a pan that will hold the filets comfortably with 1T canola oil or non stick spray. Measure thickest part of filet with a ruler (every 10th of an inch equals 1 minute of cooking time at 450° F.)
  8. At 1 minute prior to calculated time of completion, raise oven temperature to broil,  remove fish from oven and coat evenly with the glaze. Return the salmon to the oven to broil the topping, this could take 1-2 minutes. Watch this step carefully.
  9. Serve immediately or be sure to remove from baking pan immediately (so that the fish does not continue to cook.)
  10. For a more translucent preparation decrease cooking time by 1-2 minutes.
  11. Serve fish on warmed plates.





February 17, 2015 Stovetop Smoked Salmon with Kaffir Lime Sauce



I discovered my love of cooking in the early eighties and a good time for me meant a trip to the cookware store. In those years I was the proverbial gadget queen. Some of them were good purchases, a KitchenAid stand mixer, food processors in different sizes, a serious ice cream maker, all very useful when I was catering. One purchase I made that was a good investment was a stovetop smoker. Made by the Camerons company, the one I purchased thirty years ago looks exactly the same as the one they sell today, at about the same price. The smoker is made from dishwasher safe stainless steel. It is a rectangular box (15″x11″) fitted with a wire rack that sits over a drip tray with a lid that slides on for a snug fit. The handles fold out from the side of the box and stay relatively cool during the cooking time but I would still advise using a potholder. One source said it easily fits over a burner but I have always used it over two burners.

I confess I haven’t used this smoker as much as I probably should. I have smoked cheese, shrimp and, of course, salmon. The Camerons company sells wood chips in oak, alder, hickory and cherry that I have used in the past. This time I chose a different smoking medium, tea. I followed a smoking formula that I have used previously with tea smoked chicken. Brown sugar is used because when sugar caramelizes it forms volatile compounds that enter the air as smoke. This gives the salmon a bittersweet caramel flavor. Rice adds it’s own flavor and absorbs the moisture the sugar creates. This is important because the smoking mixture should be as dry as possible, the goal is to create smoke, not steam. I chose Lapsang souchong, a black tea from the Fujian province of China and Joe’s favorite. The tea is dried over a smoking pine fire that gives it a sweet, clean smoky flavor. I also used some orange peel to add some of it’s aromatics.

The smoking medium is placed on the base, lining the bottom with foil makes for the easiest clean up. Next is the drip tray, then the wire rack. If you spray the wire rack with a little non stick spray it will make the salmon easy to remove. Place the salmon on the middle of the rack so that the smoke can circulate freely around it. Slide on the lid and close it completely. I turn the burners on to medium high until I see the first puffs of smoke wafting out, then I back it down to a low simmer. The guide states that for every 6 ounces of fish, allow ten minutes cooking time, so the one pound piece of salmon cooked in less than a half hour.

The salmon can be served as an appetizer or a main course. Serve with an accompanying sauce.  Horseradish and sour cream or tzatziki would be good choices. I made a sauce that I found on the Martha Stewart website using both lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Since I would venture to guess most people don’t have a stovetop smoker, though it is a good investment, a heavy pot or wok lined with foil with a rack that suspends the food over the smoking mixture and a foil lid would be a reasonable substitute.

The booklet that came with the smoker gives recipes for fish, poultry, meat, sausages, cheese and even eggs! It is also suitable for outdoor use, either over a campfire or on the rack of a barbecue. Quoting directly from the booklet it is, “perfect for slimmers” that’s how dieters are referred to in the U.K..  It describes the smoking technique as one that is “widely used in Europe” and it “puts pleasure back into eating.” I must agree, it is a healthy way of cooking and the salmon turned out moist and quite delicious, just lightly scented with smoke. I won’t wait so long in between next time to use the stovetop smoker.

Stovetop Smoked Salmon

Makes 1 pound


  • 1 lb. salmon fillet, pin bones removed
  • Kosher salt and granulated sugar

Smoking medium

  • 1/3c loose tea (I used Lapsang souchong, other aromatic teas could substitute)
  • 1/3c rice (any type)
  • 1/3c brown sugar
  • Several strips of orange zest.


  1. Check the salmon for any pin bones and sprinkle the surface generously with sugar and kosher salt. Place in refrigerator uncovered for one hour.
  2. Set up the smoker and line the bottom with foil for the easiest cleanup.
  3. Scatter the smoking ingredients over the bottom of  the pan.
  4. Place the drip tray over the bottom.
  5. Spray the food rack with non stick spray for easy removal of the fish
  6. Center the salmon on the rack so that the smoke will circulate around the fish easily.
  7. Slide the lid on and turn the burners on to medium high. As soon as you see the first puff of smoke, turn the burners down to a simmer. You should still see some smoke escaping, if not, turn the burners up a little.
  8. Smoke the salmon for about 25 minutes or to your desired doneness.
Sprinkle the salmon with kosher salt and a little sugar to bring out the moisture in the fish.
Sprinkle the salmon with kosher salt and a little sugar to bring out the moisture in the fish.


I still keep the smoker in the original box.
I still keep the smoker in the original box.
The smoking mixture of brown sugar, rice, Lapshang souchong tea and orange peel.
The smoking mixture of brown sugar, rice, Lapshang souchong tea and orange peel.
Center the salmon on the rack over the smoking medium.
Center the salmon on the rack over the smoking medium.
Lapsang souchong tea has a smoky aroma.
Lapsang souchong tea has a smoky aroma.
Now we're smoking!
Now we’re smoking!
One pound of salmon will takes less than a half hour.
One pound of salmon will takes less than a half hour.


Kaffir Lime Sauce


  • 1T olive oil
  • 3 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 3-4 stalks lemongrass, cut crosswise into 2-inch lengths
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, fresh or dried, cut into thirds
  • 1T chili paste (I used sambal oelek)
  • 1/4c red wine
  • 1c canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2T heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


Ingredients for the sauce.
Ingredients for the sauce.


  1. Heat olive oil in medium skillet over low heat. Add shallots and cook until soft and translucent, about 1 minute. Crush the lemongrass pieces and add to the skillet; cook for 30 seconds. Rub the lime leaves between your hands to bring out their aroma, add them to the skillet and cook 30 seconds more.
  2. Add chili paste and cook, stirring, until browned, about 15 seconds. Add wine and cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Strain mixture into a small saucepan through a fine mesh sieve; discard solids, I used a food mill for this step. Add cream to saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook sauce until liquid is reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.

September 10, 2014 Grilled Asian Eggplant Salad


It’s a great time of year to try out some new eggplant recipes. Whether from the farmers market, your local CSA or your own garden, freshly harvested eggplants are at their best. Our garden has produced an amazing array of eggplants this summer. Bright fuchsia Dancer, slender dark violet Orient Express, pure white Clara, beautifully variegated Nubia, all the varieties we have harvested this year have thin skin and minimal seeds.
What we most often consider to be Asian eggplants are the long slim tapered varieties.   Actually Asian eggplants, whether Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Indian can be round or pear shaped, pure white or lime green and as small as an egg as well as the dark purple we are most familiar with.
In this Thai-style recipe for a yam or salad, eggplant slices are brushed with oil and grilled. If the weather is inclement or you just don’t have the time to fire up the grill they can be cooked indoors on a ridged grill pan.

Save the seasoning until after the grilling the eggplant. It’s then the creamy flesh will soak up the flavor of the ginger and soy, transforming the once raw bitter slices to something delicious.
Though not necessarily typical of this type of salad, I served the grilled eggplant slices on salad greens. Our lettuces have made their late summer return to the garden and I tossed some assorted greens with a few sweet cherry tomatoes, basil and mint. I used the small spicy leaves of Thai basil and Vietnamese mint that doesn’t overpower the salad. An Asian style vinaigrette combining the traditional combination of hot, sour salty and sweet dresses the greens and enhances the flavor of the grilled eggplant.

Beautiful dark purple Orient Express eggplant.

Grilled Asian Eggplant Salad

Serves four


  • 1/4 c freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 c peanut or canola oil
  • 3 T finely minced shallot
  • 1 1/2 T fish sauce
  • 2 t granulated sugar
  • 1 to 2 Thai bird chiles, minced, or 1-1/2 to 2 serrano chiles, seeded, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T minced fresh ginger
  • 1-1/2 T soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 lb. long, slender Asian eggplants, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 4-5 c baby lettuce leaves
  • 10 to 12 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (about 2 cups)
  • 1 c  packed fresh basil leaves, Thai, if you have it
  • 1/4 c packed fresh mint leaves, I used Vietnamese mint (very mild)


  1. Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire.  Alternately heat a grill pan over medium high heat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk 3 Tbs. of the oil with the lime juice, 2 Tbs. of the shallot, the fish sauce, 1 tsp. of the sugar, and the chiles. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. In another small bowl, combine 2 tsp. water with the ginger, soy sauce, the remaining 1 Tbs. shallot, and 1 tsp. sugar.
  4. Arrange the eggplant halves on a rimmed baking sheet, brush both sides with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant, covered, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Alternately grill the eggplant in a grill pan, 3-5 minutes on each side until tender.
  5. Combine the lettuces, tomatoes, basil, and mint in a large bowl. Re whisk the lime dressing and toss just enough into the salad to lightly coat the greens. Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the salad to a platter and arrange the eggplant over the salad. Spoon the ginger mixture over the eggplant, and serve immediately.


May 25,2012 Stir Fry of Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushrooms


Mature bok choy in the garden.

Bok choy, bak choy, choy sum, however you name it we enjoy this Chinese vegetable year round. From the garden in the spring and again in the fall, first in it’s baby stage as thinnings all the way to the mature heads that finish out the season. In the off months I go to the Asian markets to purchase Shanghai Bok Choy, the smaller heads that we prefer. Bok choy always makes an appearance as a side dish at our Chinese New Year dinner.
Bok choy is from the Cantonese dialect literally meaning “white vegetable”. Low in calories and high in vitamins A, C and K as well as calcium and iron, it is classifed as a brassica or cabbage. It’s flavor is definitely not “cabbagy”, it is light, crisp and delicate. If you don’t  grow your own, choose bok choy that is unblemished and firm to the touch.  This recipe helped us to use up our first planting of bok choy, with many more rows to come.

Stir Fry of Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushrooms

Serves 6

  • 2lbs bok choy-if large, leaves cut in half lengthwise
  • 3/4lb shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and caps sliced thinly
  • 4T oyster sauce
  • 1/4c lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1T cornstarch
  • 1T Asian sesame oil
  • Peanut oil for stir frying
  • 3 large cloves garlic-sliced thinly
  • 2T fresh ginger peeled and cut into thin matchsticks

    Bok choy leaves washed, trimmed, ready to be blanched.












  1. Blanch large bok choy leaves in a large pot of boiling water until the white stems are softened, but not limp,  drain in colander.
  2. Combine the oyster sauce, chicken broth, cornstarch and sesame oil in a small bowl. Whisk well to dissolve the cornstarch.
  3. In a large wok, heat a tablespoon or so of  peanut oil over medium-high heat. The wok is ready when a drop of water sizzles on contact. Add bok choy and cook tossing frequently with 2 wooden spoons or tongs until stems are softened and slightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Add shiitake mushrooms and stir fry for one minute. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly until aromatics are tender, fragrant and starting to brown, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add sauce to wok and use spoons or tongs to mix with the vegetables. Simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

    All ingredients must be ready to go for a stir fry.


Thinning out the sauce with a little chicken stock.

February 29, 2012 A Leap Year Post

Happy Leap Day! In a bit of a leap year stretch I am going back again to Chinese new year for this post. One of the courses we include each year is Mongolian Hot Pot. Hot pot is a method of cooking thinly sliced meats, seafood and vegetables in a simmering broth.The Chinese have been using this cooking method since the Tang dynasty over a  thousand years ago. The ingredient possibilities are endless, but since this is one of many courses we have narrowed the choices down for our party to thinly sliced chicken breast, various seafood; littleneck clams, cockles, shrimp, scallops, monkfish, mussels and produce such as snow peas, mushrooms and sprouts. The morning of the party we went to Hellers Seafood for our order. Today, Joe spotted something in the refrigerated case that we don’t see every week. Fresh Florida frogs legs, not something that would appeal to me, or to most people I thought, but Joe insisted we get some. At least he and Alfred would enjoy them. So the legs had their own special tray to pass between the three hot pots. Surprisingly quite a few people were adventuresome and tried the frogs legs. Tastes like chicken I have been told…

Basic Recipe for Hot Pot

Equipment needed

  • A portable burner
  • Butane fuel canister for the portable burner
  • Cooking pot for the simmering broth
  • Utensils- Chopsticks and tongs to put the uncooked food in the broth, Chinese wire strainers or slotted spoons for retrieving cooked food from the broth
  • Bowls, spoons and a discard plate for the shells

    A tray of ingredients ready for the hot pot.

For hot pot cooking

  • Homemade chicken broth or low sodium canned is okay
  • Thinly sliced chicken breast
  • Chunks of mild white fish, monk, halibut etc
  • Mussels
  • Clams
  • Shrimp-we use medium, shell-on
  • Scallops
  • Mushrooms-we have used enoki, shiitake, oyster
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Snow peas
  • Baby spinach leaves
  • Coriander leaves
  • A few hot peppers


  • Soy sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Chili garlic sauce
  • Sesame oil

This year Joe made his own unique accompaniments; coriander mustard sauce, spicy sesame sauce, spicy Szechuan peanut butter sauce and Szechuan pepper salt.  They are worthy of their own post.

Bring a large pot of chicken broth to a simmer. There should be enough stock to fill all of the pots for table side dining 2/3 of the way full and more for replenishing. The food to be cooked should be prepped and on a tray. Do this several hours in advance, cover food with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Four diners per pot seems to work best. Slower cooking items like the clams and mussels should go in first, the vegetables toward the end. Eat as you go. It’s a fun way for a group to cook together. Add some pre-soaked rice noodles to the broth at the end  to make a flavorful soup.

The texture of frogs legs is said to be like chicken wings.

February 19, 2012 Dumpling Making

For the past seven years I have made many wrapped hors d’oeuvres for our Chinese New Year party. The food for this holiday is all about symbolism. Spring rolls represent wealth because they are said to look like gold bars. Dumplings look like gold coins and their round shape signifies family reunion. Chinese wrappers are a breeze to work with. I probably should qualify that statement. As a caterer, I am certain I made thousands of appetizers and entrees over the years with phyllo dough. Phyllo can be quite temperamental, it tends to crack,dry out and sometimes disintegrate if not handled properly. Pre made won ton, and spring roll wrappers were much easier to use. In addition to covering them with a damp towel when working with them the only thing I had to learn about these wrappers were the shapes and how to wrap them correctly. So the next challenge was to make my own wrappers. Last year I made Shanghai Soup Dumplings and this year I was ready to improve upon my fledgling ability.   I read and watched many tutorials on dumpling making, realizing this wasn’t a skill  I would develop overnight. The website I found to be the most helpful was www.asiandumplingtips website of cooking teacher and cookbook author, Andrea Nguyen. Because of the amazingly clear information on the website I purchased her book, Asian Dumplings. I feel I have only scratched the surface in dumpling making but at least I have learned to make my own. I am not including any recipes with this post, visit her website and purchase her book, she is a excellent teacher.


Dumplings and potstickers ready for the steamer and frying pan.

 A Shanghai soup dumpling from Chinese New Year 2011

 The steamed dumplings had a vegetable filling of spinach, carrot, and shiitake mushrooms.

February 15, 2012 Strange-Flavor Eggplant

A dish that I have to make every year for the Chinese New Year celebration is strange-flavor eggplant. It is Joe’s absolute favorite and I must admit, because it is a dish that benefits from being made several days in advance, I occasionally forget to put it out with all the other side dishes.

Strange flavor eggplant was made famous by the late Chinese scholar, chef and restaurant owner, Barbara Tropp. I have enjoyed reading and cooking many dishes from both her books, The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking and China Moon, named for her Chinese bistro. It is in China Moon, that she shares the recipe for Strange Flavor Eggplant in a chapter entitled, “Nuts, Pickles and Nibbles”.  Ms Tropp says of strange flavor, “a classic name  for a series of Chinese dishes that typically employ a mixture of vinegar, sugar and chili, this is strange as in “wonderful, unique or ineffable”. Fushcia Dunlop in her book “Land of Plenty” describes strange-flavor as one of the 23 flavors of Sichuan. “It is the harmonious mixing of salty, sweet, numbing, hot, sour, fresh-savory and fragrant notes,” she states.

The flavor is not so strange, but quite addictive. The texture is reminiscent of eggplant caviar, it can be eaten as a side vegetable or as a dip, as she suggests with garlic croutons. Hopefully this summer  I will remember to make strange flavor when our garden is producing copious amounts of eggplant.

The cooked eggplants remind me of deflated balloons!

The eggplants were easy to peel, be sure to let them cool first!

Cooking the eggplant with the sauce and aromatics

This year the strange-flavor eggplant made it to the table!

An assortment of beautiful eggplant from a previous season’s garden.

Strange-Flavor Eggplant from the China Moon Cookbook

She says this will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, but it never lasts that long for us! I usually make a double batch.


  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds large eggplant (Italian or globe)
  • 2 Tablespoons corn or peanut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • thinly sliced green and white scallion rings for garnish


  • 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green and white scallion rings
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes


  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon hot water

Preheat the oven to 475F. Position the rack in the center position.

  1. Prick the eggplant well in several places with a fork or the tip of a sharp knife and remove the leaves. Bake on a baking sheet, turning once, until fork-tender, 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the size.
  2. While still warm, remove the stem end and the peel, scraping off and retrieving any pulp. Chop up the pulp and process the pulp and any thick baking juices in a food processor or blender until nearly smooth.
  3. Combine the aromatics in a small dish. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl, stir to dissolve the sugar.
  4. Heat a wok or large heavy skillet over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add 2 tablespoons corn oil, swirl to glaze the pan, reduce heat to medium high. When hot enough to foam a scallion ring, add the aromatics and stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds, adjusting the heat so they sizzle without scorching.  Add the sauce ingredients and stir until simmering. Then add the eggplant, stir well to blend, and heat through.  Remove from heat and adjust seasonings accordingly. Stir in sesame oil.
  5. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally. It will achieve fullest flavor if the eggplant is refrigerated overnight. Serve at room temperature with a sprinkling of scallions.

February 13, 2012 Red Bean Ice Cream

Birds nests, lily bulbs and red beans are just a few of the not so common ingredients in Chinese sweets. Chinese dinners usually end with fruit and traditionally sweets are not served with meals but with afternoon tea. Ice cream certainly wouldn’t be on any list of classic Chinese sweets, so for our Chinese New Year Celebration I thought I would put an Eastern twist on a Western classic.

Adzuki beans are used in Asian desserts such as red bean soup or glutinous rice balls filled with red bean paste. Adzuki beans originated in China and are harvested in November and December. They are believed to strengthen the heart and aid circulation and fatigue.  I thought it would be fun to feature these small reddish-brown beans in ice cream.

Some of the recipes I saw started with a pre-made paste that is available in  Asian groceries but I wanted my beans to have a little more texture I started with a fresh vacuum-packed container of beans. As with any recipe, older beans could lose moisture and require a longer cooking time.

Fresh adzuki beans ready for an over night soak.

They took a little longer than I expected, but now at the right consistency.

The finished product, creamy with a bit of texture from the beans.

Sweet Adzuki Bean Paste

  • 1 cup adzuki beans
  • 1 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt

1. Rinse beans, cover with water in bowl and soak overnight.

2. Drain beans, rinse well. Put beans in saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and drain.  Return to the saucepan and add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to the boil and then simmer, skimming any scum from the surface. Continue to simmer until beans reach desired softness, 30-45 minutes.

3. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered, stirring frequently until beans thicken, at least another 30 minutes. Stir beans frequently so that beans do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, add a squeeze of lemon and a  pinch of salt and stir well. Cool to room temperature before adding to ice cream base.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Using the formula from Fine Cooking Homemade Ice Cream Recipe Maker

Adzuki Bean Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar or to taste
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 cups adzuki bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large metal bowl with several inches of ice water. Set a smaller bowl in the ice water. Pour one cup of heavy cream into the inner bowl. Set a strainer on top. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl.

2. Warm one cup of cream with the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan until tiny bubbles form around the edge of the pan. In a steady stream pour half of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisk constantly to prevent eggs from curdling.

3. Pour egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a rubber spatula until the custard thickens. I like to use my thermapen thermometer to monitor this process closely. The temperature should read 175-180, don’t overheat or the custard will curdle and become sweetened scrambled eggs. Immediately strain the custard into the chilled cream. Once the mixture has cooled, add  teaspoon of vanilla extract and two cups of the sweetened adzuki beans. Transfer adzuki custard to refrigerator to chill overnight or at least 4 hours.

4. Freeze custard in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.

Additional note-check the custard before freezing to make sure it is at your desired sweetness level, if not, add a tablespoon or so of honey or agave sweetener.

February 3, 2012 Clay Pot Lamb

Clay Pot Lamb-written before the Chinese New Year celebration 2011

The Christmas decorations have long been stored away, the tree, untrimmed, outside the conservatory door waiting for its tractor ride down to the compost pile, a thick blanket of snow on the ground.  That could only mean one thing; our annual Chinese New Year party is only a week and a half away.

Our past celebrations have feted the dog, pig, rat, ox and tiger and this is the year of the rabbit.  Some aspects of the menu remain the same, barbecued pork buns-steamed this year, spring rolls, dumplings in the form of pot stickers and steamed “cook and sell”.

We always have three entrees, Festival Fish is a perennial favorite, a return this year to Peking duck and since our acquisition last year of a trio of clay pots, we wanted to choose an entrée that could be cooked in one.  Last year we made Lamb Shanks with Plum Sauce, a dish that only took a few minutes to prep but slow cooked for hours.  The goal this year would be the same, a dish that would languish on the stove while we were busy with other tasks.  Clay or sand pots date back to antiquity when Chinese kitchens had no ovens, only a fire to cook over.  The pots are beige in color, banded with wire crosshatching with a smooth brown interior.  They need to be treated before their initial use, soaked overnight in cold water, drained the next day, filled with cold water, brought slowly to a boil, and then drained.  The pot is now ready for use.

The dish I decided to experiment with is the simply named, Lamb Stew in a Clay Pot.  According to author Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, the stew is a representative dish of Xi’an, a region renown for its lamb cookery.  Lemon leaves and sugar cane make this dish distinctively from Xi’an.  I sat down with the recipe, checking to see what I needed to purchase and what was already a part of my growing Asian pantry.  Bean sauce, dried black mushrooms, Chinese white rice wine, check.  Leeks, fresh ginger, sugarcane were part of the shopping list.  The lamb to be used in this recipe was leg of lamb, cut into three slices across the bone by the butcher.

This is where our problem began.  List in hand we hit the local Wegmans.  I almost knew I wouldn’t find the bean curd sticks called for in the recipe, which would probably require a trip to Chinatown in Philly.  I was pleasantly surprised to find sugarcane, courtesy of Melissa’s, a specialty produce company.  No fresh water chestnuts or bamboo shoots, but I knew I had some canned ones at home. Dried tangerine peel, I just substituted Clementine peel, a Clementine is in the same family as the tangerine.

Now for the lamb, Joe was at the meat counter, ordering some Flintstone style t-bones to cook that evening on the fireplace grill.  I found a bone-in leg of lamb, a bit larger than what the recipe called for, but fine, none the less.  I walked toward the meat counter, only to hear my husband say “Nooo”.  He would do this himself, thank you very much.  No big deal.  I didn’t see what the problem was; the meat guy has an electric band saw and could make short work of the piece of meat.  But I didn’t want to hurt Joe’s feelings.

The next day we proceeded to make the recipe.  The bone proved to be too much for our knives, so out came our newest kitchen tool, a hacksaw that he cleaned off and sprayed with Pam.

It did the trick; bone and meat were separated, and then marinated in ginger, white rice wine, salt and sugar.   I prepped the “mis en place” and we were ready to go.  A quick stir-fry and then into the clay pot.  An hour and a half later, meltingly tender lamb with some unique flavors. It turned out to be a delicious dish that tastes even better the next day.  It will be a welcome addition to our New Year’s Menu.


Adapted from The Chinese Kitchen, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo author

Lamb Stew in a Clay Pot

Makes 10 servings

  • 3 lbs butt end of leg of lamb, cut into 3 equal slices across the bone by the butcher

For the Marinade:

  • 1 T ginger juice mixed with 2 T Chinese white rice wine or gin
  • 1 ½ t salt
  • 1 ½ t sugar
  • Pinch freshly ground white pepper

To cook the lamb:

  • 2T peanut oil
  • Six ½ inch thick slices ginger
  • 3T bean sauce
  • ½ lb leeks, white parts only, well washed cut into 1 ½ inch julienne
  • ½ c Chinese white rice wine or gin
  • 2 ½ cups or more if needed, Chicken stock
  • 12 small Shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, washed and stems removed
  • 3T oyster sauce
  • 8 1×2” pieces of tangerine or Clementine peel
  • ¼ lb fresh water chestnuts or jicama, peeled and cut into ¼” slices
  • 2c bamboo shoots in 1 inch cubes
  • 1 9 inch long stalk fresh sugarcane, outer skin peeled, cut into three pieces and each piece quartered lengthwise
  • 4 dried Kaffir lime leaves
  • ½ t salt

1. If not done by the butcher, cut the lamb in three equal pieces across the bone.  Separate the meat from the bone.  Trim the fat and discard.  You should have 1 ½ pounds of meat. Cut the meat into 1 ½ inch cubes.  In a large bowl, combine cubed lamb and bone with the marinade ingredients.  Allow to rest at room temperature for 2 hours.  Separate the lamb and bone from the marinade and reserve separately.

2. Heat a wok over high heat for 1 minute.  Add peanut oil and swirl to coat the surface.  When a wisp of white smoke appears, add the ginger, stir and cook for 20 seconds.  Add the bean sauce and leeks and cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Add the lamb and bone, stir, and cook for 1 minute.  Add the wine, stir, and cook for another minute.  Turn off the heat and transfer ingredients to a clay pot

3. Add the stock, mushrooms, oyster sauce, tangerine peel, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, sugarcane and kaffir lime leaves.  Mix together thoroughly.  Ingredients should be covered by liquid, if not, add more stock to cover.  Cover and bring to boil over medium heat.  Lower heat to a simmer, in a clay pot for 1½ hours.  A regular pot, with a lid cracked will take a little longer.  Stir the contents frequently during cooking.  The meat should be tender.  Taste to see if salt is needed.  Turn off heat.  If using a clay pot, serve at the table.   Otherwise transfer the contents to a heated tureen and serve as a stew in individual bowls.

The author also mentions that this dish is usually served with a green vegetable such as Chinese broccoli with fried onions.