Monthly Archives: July 2010

Home Cooking, Chinese Style

I had a friend from India who I used to work with and one day, she asked me how Chinese people stay so slim. I said I didn’t know.  She said she was surprised at how Chinese people managed to stay thin when all we ate was fried food like Sweet and Sour Chicken, and Egg Rolls.  I laughed and told her that was the American version of Chinese food and that I didn’t know any Chinese people who cook that type of food at home much less eat it at a restaurant.

So in recognition of real Chinese food, I thought I would share a favorite Chinese recipe of mine that I got from my mom. When you want a freakishly good Chinese meal, you go to my mom.  She can put a bunch of seemingly disparate ingredients together and 95% of the time end up with a fantastic meal.

Without further adieu, I give you Shanghai style Chinese Rice Cakes.

Ingredients:

1 bag of Chinese Rice Cakes (if frozen, empty bag into a big bowl and thaw in water)

1 large head of Chinese Mustard Greens (buy at the Asian Market)

1/4 bag of Baby Bok Choy

1/2 cup Fresh bamboo

1 – 2 shiitake Mushrooms

Some type of meat: chicken, beef, or pork – 1/2 lb

2 cloves Garlic

1/2 Tablespoon Ginger

Soy Sauce

Chinese Rice Wine

Kosher Salt

Canola Oil

Sriracha Hot Sauce (Bright red sauce with a green cap)

Cooking Instructions:

Prepare the mustard greens 2 days in advance by first cleaning them thoroughly. Spread open a leaf, layer it on the bottom of a large container, sprinkle liberal amounts of kosher salt on the mustard green. Repeat the process until no leaves are left.  This step tenderizes and breaks down the mustard greens.  Cover and place in refrigerator at least 2 days in advance.

Mince both the garlic and ginger and set aside. Slice the meat into 1/4 strips.  Marinate meat with all of the ginger and garlic, add a 1 tablespoon of rice wine and 3 tablespoons of soy sauce.  You can do this the night before.

Squeeze the mustard greens of any liquid (handful at a time).  Chop the greens into small pieces.  Set aside.

Clean bok choy, rough cut and include white stems.  Set aside.

Julienne fresh bamboo. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in the wok/saute pan over high heat.  Add meat, cook for 3 – 4 minutes max. Stir constantly.  Transfer meat to a separate bowl.

Return wok/pan to heat, lower heat to medium high heat.  Add mustard greens.  Stir frequently, cook for approximately 10 minutes or until greens are cooked.  Add 1/4 cup of water during the cooking process as necessary.  You don’t want leaves to dry out.  After 10 minutes (regardless if leaves are cooked or not) add bamboo and shiitakes. Stir together.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Add bok choy.  Keep stirring, cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Add meat back in and place rice cakes on top (if thawing, make sure to strain all the water out from the rice cakes).  Cover the wok/pan.

This will steam the rice cakes and soften them.  Check the consistency of the rice cakes after 5 minutes.  Should be soft and chewy.  Cook longer if needed.  Once cooked, mix all ingredients together in pan.  Add soy sauce to taste.

Serve.

For the brave ones out there, add Sriracha (makes everything taste 100x better).  Promise.

Also – the key to Chinese cooking, at least with this dish, is that you can be flexible with the ingredients.  Add more/less depending on what you like.

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Master Chef? More like master sucks…

J and I caught the premiere of Master Chef last night.  You know, I was excited to watch something approximating Top Chef that wasn’t on cable.  We don’t have cable because we are cheap asses.  But we actually don’t miss it all that much because we do a lot of television viewing via our computer which we hook up to our television.  It’s really the best of both worlds.

Back to Master Chef and how much it sucked.  I like cooking shows, whether it’s Top Chef or something on the Food Network (Sandra Lee and Paula Deen being the exceptions) because I like watching people actually cook.  The food makes me hungry and I salivate in front of the television.  However, Master Chef was really short on any actual cooking. Instead, I had to watch a grown man cry because he wanted to cook so badly (huh?).  One of the judges, the one who I think is the Tom Colicchio wannabe, looked like he was about to burst out laughing a bunch of times.  The production looked kind of cheap and it also looked like they were using the set of Chopped.  I don’t really find it interesting to watch judges eat.  And really, Gordon Ramsey is such a DRAMA QUEEN.  Was the food THAT bad that he needed to physically eject from his mouth?

We were disappointed but I’d love to hear what anyone else thought of it…

GIANT vegetables from our garden!

Well giant would be an appropriate description if it was opposite day.

In reality, they look like this:

You have to admit, that tiny carrot and mini beet are pretty cute.  I mean obviously, if we had to sustain ourselves on these kind of vegetables, we would be eating bugs pretty quickly.  J, my husband is the gardener, the green thumb.  Plants practically sprout from his fingertips; he just has it.  Me, on the other, I have the thumb of death.  I always have great intentions with my plants, but we just don’t understand each other.  I think it’s thirsty, and it’s not. I think it looks fine, and it’s dying for a drink.  You see?  So I stay away from our pretty garden except to weed because that is one thing the thumb of death is good at. Killing plants.

I leave you with a quote from Jim Gaffigan, a damn funny man, and also a link to our favorite garlic bread recipe.

Jim Gaffigan on food: We’re never satisfied when it comes to food. “You know what’d be good on this burger? A ham sandwich. Instead of a bun, let’s use two donuts. That way we can have it for breakfast. Look out McGriddle. Here comes the donut-ham-hamburger!”

Garlic Bread Recipe from a great recipe blog, 101 Cookbooks.


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I’m a weenie…

When I’m not feeling well.  I just want to be coddled and taken care of.  Reality is, my toddler doesn’t care if I’m sick or not, she wants to read The Foot Book for the 18th time that hour and I’m the only one for the job!

I do have a process I follow when I’m sick:  two vitamin c tablets a day, as much sleep as I can get (which is really not much) and hot, steaming comfort tea.

The ingredients to my comfort tea are:

3 -4 thin slices of ginger root

1 heaping spoon of Buckwheat honey (has a VERY strong smell, like a barnyard as J says, but do not be deterred as it is very good for you, especially if you have a cough)

1 heaping spoon of regular honey (we buy the local honey at the Honest Weight Food Co – Op, which by the way we are completely in love with)

1/4 lemon slice

Hot water

A big mug

Just combine all the ingredients and increase/decrease the amounts to your liking.

Voila! I have a delicious, comforting, hot cup of tea that immediately soothes me and makes me feel like tomorrow I just might feel better.

Another thing that made me feel better today…news that the Olive Garden is coming to Clifton Park!  I read it on one of my favorite food blogs, Table Hopping on the Timesunion website.  Steve’s the food dude and he keeps my husband and I up to date on what’s going on around here.

About the Olive Garden, I love their salads, but feel so-so about the rest of their food. But my dear husband, is a bit of food snob and it’s like pulling teeth for him to even step into an Olive Garden with me. However, I will win that fight once Olive Garden makes it way up here.  He knows it, I know it, and now you know it.

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The First of Many

Today I attempted to make Bubble Tea from scratch.  I had my first upstate NY bubble tea yesterday and was not impressed, so I figured if I want some good bubble tea, then I damn well better do it myself.  Bubble tea by the way, is an Asian drink, prepared many different ways but always with large clear tapioca balls at the bottom that you slurp up through a wide straw.  Sounds weird and it looks weird but it’s so refreshing and I love having texture in a drink!  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea (HA! I hate puns!) but I have to say Asians seem to particularly love it and in this instance, I don’t deviate from my culture’s peculiar concoction.

My favorite type of bubble tea is with jasmine green tea, a small amount of simple syrup, and LOTS of tapioca balls.  Really if the drink was 80% tapioca balls, I would be the happiest Asian on the block.

Anyway, I brewed some jasmine green tea, and chilled it.  I boiled some water and threw in the tapioca balls (which weren’t big enough which I didn’t figure out until I cooked them).

The tapioca took forever to cook, a lot of them stuck together and 30 minutes later, some of them were still undercooked. I  need to refine my technique here obviously.

The simple syrup was really easy – 1/2 part of white sugar, 1/2 part of brown sugar to 1 part water. Since I didn’t need too much, I did a 1/4 cup of each sugar to 1/2 cup of water. I stirred the syrup on medium high heat, and when the mixture started bowling, I took it immediately off the stove.

I excitedly put it all together and took my first sip with my big straw that I had been saving for just this occasion.  I have to say I was mildly impressed with myself.  Cindy, as my sister Diana said, it’s just tea with tapioca balls but still, I made it all by myself.  And it was good.

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Dining at the Senior Hour

The Foodie family plus my sister descended on New World Bistro and Bar in Albany, NY tonight.  My sister had a hankering for their amazing adobe chicken wings and their even more amazing Bloody Mary.

We arrived promptly at 5 PM with the Senior crowd.  FF (my 18 month old daughter) has a 7:30 PM bedtime so we eat dinner as humanly as possible.

The hostesses were lovely and friendly.  Actually before I get into anything else, the service at this restaurant is fantastic, everyone was very attentive, helpful, followed through on our requests, and went the extra mile to find crayons for my daughter so that she could then fling them willy nilly around the restaurant.

Five minutes after we sat down, our table looked like this…

Here in descending order of tastiness is what we ordered (1 being the best, 10 being okay):

1.  Adobe Chicken – crispy, full of flavor, and just delicious.

2. Bloody Mary – perfect balanced blend of horseradish, spice, and a subtle flavor of vodka.

3. Tuna Tartare – we have had this dish each of the three times we have been to this restaurant.  It’s delicious with the light flavor, soft texture of the tuna, mixed with the crispness of the chip, mixed with the kimchi aioli was mouth-watering.  However, the portion was noticeably smaller this time.

4.  Watermelon Salad with house made queso fresco – This was so light and refreshing, and the watermelon was a surprising but interesting addition.  I couldn’t get enough of this but J and my sister were not as impressed.  I would order this dish over and over again.

5.  New World Burger (cheddar/jalapeno) – Unfortunately because I ordered this medium well, I kind of shot myself in the foot as I didn’t enjoy the burger as much as I did before.  But either way, the New World burger is a delicious burger, the bun is nice and soft and the fries are pretty good.

6.  Sweetbreads with baba ganouche – My sister and I did not try this as I don’t venture into organ meats.  According to my husband, the sweetbreads were not creamy and slightly overcooked.  The baba ganouche was good.  However, the caper berries were a nice touch and added a different flavor to the dish.

7.  Salmon ceviche – J did not like this at all.  It was swimming in sesame oil, and it killed the rest of the flavors in the dish.

8.  New World Pizza (Pizza was with tomato sauce, Romano, and mozzarella cheese) – This pizza was completely disappointing.  The sauce was missing and uninspiring with no taste because the Romano cheese overpowered everything.

Overall, after eating at New World three times now, the appetizers are the items that shine on the menu and I will keep on recommending their burgers.  Our bill for all of that food plus a beer for J was $93 plus tip.

The meal and the food was enjoyable, but our nearly 18 month old daughter cannot sit in the same spot for more than 2 minutes.  So when I say that we ate “together”, each of the three adults took turns entertaining and/or corralling her to keep the other diners safe from her destructive path.

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What did you do with the steak fries???

So I went to the Gingerman last week in Albany.  That is probably in our top ten favorite restaurants in the area.  I love the ambiance, the casual but delicious food, the great wine list.   I can just wax on and on about the place.  It’s also like a hidden gem buried deep inside the student ghetto on Western Ave.

I went with a good friend of mine and was raving about how delicious the steak fries are (side note: I am a french fry connoisseur.  I have even been to the place where french fries were born, Belgium.  I take my fries seriously.).  We order, she gets a panko encrusted chicken sandwich with brie and raspberry on foccacia.  I got their warm turkey sandwich with cranberry, dressing, and overall deliciousness.

I was really excited about the fries.

But then…the food comes, and WHAT? there are lame Sysco fries on my plate.  They’re not even cooked all that well, and are completely bland.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  At least, both sandwiches were extremely delicious and consumed probably a little too quickly (at least mine was).

I asked the really friendly hostess, what happened to the awesome steak fries?  She said she didn’t know but would let the kitchen know that I missed them.  Bless her heart.

I will continue to go back and hold out hope that the kitchen will make the right choice and bring back those amazing steak fries.

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Desperately in search of a good cannoli…

My family lives on Long Island, so I get to enjoy delicious pizza, real bagels, and other tasty delights whenever we go and visit.  Unfortunately I developed an addiction the last time we were down there.  My brother, very sweetly, brought home some desserts from the Alpine Bakery in Smithtown, NY.  These desserts included some very innocuous looking cannoli.  I actually ignored those cannoli for a while, who needs a cannoli when you can eat amazingly soft and delicious rainbow cookies???

But I was silly and it was a mistake I will never make again because once I took a bite of that cannoli, my world changed.  I’m not really a dessert person but MAN, these cannoli were good.  They had chocolate chips in the cannoli filling and the filling was probably 50% crack, it was so good. It had a sharpness to it and some lemony flavor and it was just yummmm, there just wasn’t enough to satiate my sudden addiction.

Which brings me to today.  My husband thoughtfully brought some cannoli home from Villa Italia in Schenectady, NY.  Let me just say this, Villa Italia makes a damn good cake, but they got nothing on those cannoli I had on Long Island.

My search continues…

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Hello world!

My name is Cindy.  The hubs is named J.  The tiny, crazy person living in our house is our daughter we will refer to as Future Foodie (FF).  She is almost 18 months old and will be accompanying us on our food adventures in the Capital Region, NY and beyond.

We live in Clifton Park but love to explore the surrounding cities for good food: Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga Springs, etc.

We love to eat.  That pretty much describes us as a family.  We talk, eat, and think about food alot.  At least my husband and I do.  FF goes crazy for certain things and then flings other food items across the room in disgust.

We love living in the Capital Region, but there’s alot of mediocre food out here. So, in the 6 years we have lived here together, we have been excited and disappointed by our food experiences.

Our goal (which never really changes) is to find some damn delicious food in this area.

We will chronicle, review, and provide general discourses on what we’re eating.  We may even venture into other arenas…

It’s just about our bedtime (yes, we’re lame) but gosh darn it, we have full time jobs and an energizer bunny for a toddler.

Good night until next time…

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