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Adios Folks – the end of the line.

by spicydiva

I was so unhappy to see a spam like ad appear on my blog the other day – decided it was time to call it quits.  So  – almost a whole year of “Year of Food” =- very fun while it lasted – but time to say good-by and off to something new.  Happy Cooking. Spicy


Irish Stew for Stu on St. Patrick’s Day

by yearoffood

Brussels sprouts Pasta from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters

Two “9”’s – about time!!   We loved both of these dishes.  I floured and browned the beef before adding everything to the slow cooker to simmer away all day, making the house smell lovely.  I had purchased Brussels sprouts and had decided to thinly slice them, sauce them in olive oil with garlic and crushed red pepper and toss them with linguine.  I looked in the Chez Panisse book just to see if Alice had any others suggestions – and she did.  Her recipe for Brussels Sprouts Pasta was very similar but she added sliced red onions, a squeeze of lemon juice at the end and suggested a topping of toasted bread crumbs.  Easy and very delicious.  I threw some French bread in the food processor, sautéed the crumbs in olive oil and added salt, pepper, parsley, and a little parmesan to the mixture.  It was the perfect crunchy topping to sprinkle on the pasta.   Plenty of left overs so tomorrow dinner is already done.

Stir Fried Chili Scallops with Bok Choy

by yearoffood

Stir Fried Chili Scallops with Bok Choy from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge by Grace Young

So – So Scallops – better but not the caramelization I wanted.  The recipe called for the scallops to be sliced in half but I didn’t want them to be thin – I adjusted the recipe to allow for this and they did almost turn out – but alas another “8”.  The sauce called for Chili Bean Sauce which I haven’t used before and it did have a nice rather different taste.  I am determined to master the perfect scallop but I think my wok will have to wait a while before I attempt my next dish.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

by yearoffood

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes Again from Bellwether Farms Ricotta Recipe

Ricotta pancakes – luscious hint of lemon, ridiculously delicious – enough said.  Rainy, rainy day – perfect breakfast.

Wacky Wok

by yearoffood

Szechwan Shrimp & Must Have Black Bean Crab from Wok Fast by Hugh Carpenter

Still Searching for Wok Hay but did find Wok Fire!!!!!
I went on a shopping spree at my closest Asian Market – prowling the isles, reading labels and asking for help locating special soy sauce, chili bean sauce, dark sesame oil, fermented bean curd, etc.  I  actually had to clean out my kitchen cabinets just to have room to put everything away when I got  back home.  At least ingredient wise I should be ready for any recipe.

O.K.  I’m not the master wok chef yet but I have learned a few things such as wok sizzle is great but wok flames shooting up around the pan are not really desirable.   I was so excited to hear the sizzle that Grace Young, in her book Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge, says is imperative to hear when stir frying that I got a little carried away cooking last night’s dinner.   I tried to flip the veggies around swiftly, twirling the wok as I worked, but managed to flip oil out onto the burner and suddenly there were flames shooting up all around the pan.  Well – the wok can take it and I figured that the oil needed to burn away for the flames to stop so I just kept on cooking but flipping a little less vigorously and cautiously watching the flames .  I’ve read that master chefs in China will sometimes have 2 foot tall flames shooting up around the sides of their huge woks as they cook – I will try not to go there again in my kitchen.    That was my most exciting lesson – be careful with hot oil.  The Szechwan Shrimp was delicious but the sauce was watery.  The Black Bean Crab wasn’t watery but definitely had too much sauce – it was pretty fantastic though.   Hugh Carpenter says to always mix up a small bowl of cornstarch and water to have ready to add to any stir fry look too watery.  Hugh’s book starts with all the basics – very well done – and then lists many sauces that can all be interchanged in any of the recipes that follow.  He states that most of the recipes yield between ½ and ¾ cup and that should be enough for one recipe.  The Thai Black Bean Sauce that I used last night made double that amount and I added all of it to the dish.  It did taste wonderful but definitely would have been better with less sauce – so no more than ¾ cup to a recipe.  Might take a wok break tonight but I did just see a picture of Scallops and Bok Choy that looks amazing.

Chinese Scallops with Chili-Ginger Oil and Black Beans

by yearoffood

Chinese Scallops with Chili-Ginger Oil and Black Beans from Island Flavors by Sam Choy

In keeping with the black bean theme I found Sam Choy’s recipe for scallops and gave it a try.  I have really never had luck with scallops – I never seem to get the correct crispness on the outside- but these turned out great.    A “9”!!!  So nice to edge away from some good “8’s” and get a little closer to finding my Wok Hay masterpiece.  This recipe called for cooking the scallops and thinly sliced ginger for 2 minutes and then adding sliced red and yellow bell peppers and preserved black beans for 2 more minutes.  The scallops were lovely day boat scallops and they still weren’t cooked through so I dumped everything out and put the scallops back in the wok for a few more minutes.  Sam is right that this dish tastes as good as it looks served up on fresh spinach leaves.  Instead of preserved black beans I used my own black beans mixed with some Black Bean Sauce.  The stir fried ginger slices exploded with taste as you bit into them – how fun.  I will probably slice the ginger into even thinner slices next time.

Texas Caviar with Tortilla Chips

by yearoffood

Texas Caviar with Tortilla Chips From Entertain Like a Gentleman by David Harap

Bright colors, bright taste, what’s not to like about this black bean salad?   Served with tortilla chips it was a great starter.  I was so excited that the last bag of beans that I had left from the Rancho Gordo shipment was Midnight Black Beans – the very ones called for in this recipe, so I had to go for it.  A nice “8” for last night and also a great lunch today tossed into my “go to” cabbage slaw – just shredded cabbage with seasoned rice wine vinegar.

Frittata Muffins

by yearoffood

Frittata Muffins at

Frittata muffins for breakfast – a good “8” and pretty cool looking.  The review on line said that the veggies and bacon sort of stuck to the bottom on the muffin tins and suggested mixing the sautéed mushroom, peppers, green onions and bacon with the 6 eggs, ¾ cup cream and 6 oz. sharp cheddar before filling the muffin tins.  Good idea, but they still stuck to the bottom.  Maybe only cook them at 350 for 25 minutes instead of 30.  They did have a very nice taste.

Fried Marinated Artichokes with Remoulade

by yearoffood

Fried Marinated Artichokes with Remoulade From Lidia’s Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich

What do you mean the fishermen didn’t catch any crab – that doesn’t work into my dinner plans at all.  I was so excited to make crab cakes last night but as they say “The fish just weren’t biting” and the crab fisherman came home empty handed.  Wow, I guess I will just  have to think of fresh local fish as not being a sure thing.   I still made the sauce but had it with an appetizer instead.  The  Remoulade sauce was delicious and the little  fried artichokes were great.  Lidia says this is the ideal recipe to serve when unexpected guests arrive and all you have is a can of artichoke hearts in the cupboard and beer in the fridge.  I think it might even be better with artichoke hearts that aren’t marinated – next time I will try some of each.

Still searching for Wok Hay

by yearoffood

Seasoning my wok was really easy – wash it, rub it with safflower oil, and then bake it upside down at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Guru Randy from The Wok Shop suggests doing it twice.  The final step is to stir fry some leeks or onions until charred in a little more oil.  Stir the leeks so they touch all parts of the wok and push them into the wok as they cook.  Throw out the charred leeks and wipe out your wok and you are done.  I have used my wok three times this week but I am still searching for Wok hay – the prized, elusive, seared taste that comes only from stir-frying in a wok – the ultimate achievement longed for by chefs according to Grace Young.  My dishes – Shanghai-Style Shrimp and Vegetarian Fried Rice both (from The Breath of a Wok), and Stir Fry Bok Choy with Black Bean Sauce (from Fast, Fresh and Green by Susie Middleton) were all in the “8” range – good but not outstanding – so the Wok hay search goes on.  I will definitely make the Bok Choy and Fried Rice again – the shrimp probably not but the sauce with it was really great.   After the prep work, wok cooking is very quick and since you really want to eat the food right away, it is difficult time-wise to include another dish as part of the meal.  Rice of course is easy but with a veggie dish like the Bok Choy I’m still working on how to include a meat or chicken side that will be ready at the same time but that requires no work from me.     Still having fun with the wok but will take a little Italian break tomorrow.