Mango chutney with a hint of spicy… lather that onto something yummy!

I made mango chutney a while ago, and let it sit in the refrigerator.  In fact, it’s still there, but I’m afraid to eat it now that it’s been sitting there for a while.  We didn’t even get to use it!  I know.  Such a tragedy.  And such a waste, too!  Sigh.  I’m still kicking myself for it.  When I realized that we hadn’t touched the chutney, I had an epiphany that I was lacking skills in the food preservation area.  But I’ve been too afraid to learn with the numerous online instructions because the last thing I want is to misread the instructions (which I often do a lot of), and then die from botulism.

Luckily, a friend from work was talking about how he made a strawberry balsamic peppercorn jam (yum, right??) during his weekend off.  I immediately hugged him and said that I would pay him if he could teach me how to can.  We made a date, and I learned how to can just a few days ago!  It was a jammin’ (no pun intended; okay, maybe just a little) party.  It was such an exciting, yet somewhat scary process.  All I could think about while learning to can was botulism, botulism, and botulism.  Ugh.   But as the studious learner that I am, I took plenty of notes and transcribed them onto the computer as soon as I got home.

I was determined to can something the next day.  So as I peered into my refrigerator, I immediately took notice of the mango chutney that had been sitting in the refrigerator.  Unfortunately, guilt overtook my happy emotions as I poured the old chutney into the trash can.  So, in honor of my first batch of mango chutney, I decided to make it again, this time to preserve it so that we can use it at the pace we want without having any pressure of eating it right away!

And it couldn’t have been anymore perfect the second time around…

Mango chutney with a hint of spicy (adapted from Simply Recipes)

6 cups ripe mangoes (about 4 large mangoes), peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2.5 cups sugar
1 cup white distilled vinegar
1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
4 whole small dried red chilis (optional)
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods, cracked

Using a piece of thin muslin cloth, tie up the cinnamon stick, whole cloves, and cardamom pods into a bundle.

In a medium-sized stockpot over high heat, combine sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil, while stirring occasionally.

Add mangoes, onions, raisins, crystallized ginger, garlic, whole red chiles, and the muslin-tied spices to the vinegar-sugar solution. Reduce the heat to medium-high heat and cook, uncovered, until syrupy and slightly thickened, about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Pour into sterilized, hot jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace; close jars. Process in a water bath for 15 minutes.

Makes 5 (1/2 pint) jars.

My Chinese Family, Part I (and Chinese chive dumplings with shrimps and scallops)

As I get older and with each year that passes me by, I’ve begun to notice my parents aging.  I still consider them young for their age, but they aren’t as youthful and spry as they once were.  They complain of aches and pains that weren’t present before.   They have ailments for which they need medicate.  They doze off while we watch TV together, just like how they used to complain of their parents doing so while they spent time together.  They’re becoming more forgetful.  They are slowly being adorned with wrinkles and gray hair.  It has made me realize how little I know about my parents.

My partner has been pushing me to document my parents’ life stories, and to also document the recipes that we grew up with.  She wants to ensure that we can pass down our family stories to the next generation.  You see, I know very little about my family history.  I can recall bits and pieces of my parents’ childhood, but not enough to tell a story.  It saddens me.   I had so many opportunities to spend time with my great grandfather and grandparents to learn more about them and their life in China, but I didn’t.  Hindsight is always 20/20, right?

I lost my heritage while desperately immersing myself into Western cultures while growing up as an Asian-American.  I didn’t want to be Chinese.  I thought I was the ugly duckling next to my non-Asian classmates while in grade school.  I wanted to be the blond hair, blue-eyed girl next door.  If someone asked me what I was, I’d quickly respond with, “American.” I hated checking the “Asian” box for my ethnicity.  I used to always wonder to myself, why did I have to be Chinese?  Why me?  It just wasn’t fair.  I can also recall how I didn’t like to be out in public with my parents because I was so embarrassed by their broken English.  Thankfully, this all changed during the mid-90s when Amy Tan came out with The Joy Luck Club that I gained some pride in my nationality.

I realize that it’s not too late to start interviewing my parents and my relatives.  I just don’t want to keep procrastinating this project or else it might just be too late.  So I’m going to do what my partner suggested, and dedicate a series titled, My Chinese Family.   I hope you’ll enjoy the stories and the recipes, as much as I have as a child and still do as an adult.

To start off this series, I wanted to dedicate this post to my Mom.  She is my hero.  The most influential person in my life.  My brother and I are very lucky to have her as our Mom.  She’s also an amazing chef… we ALWAYS look forward to Monday night dinners at Mama Chang’s!  One of the ultimate comfort foods for me is my Mom’s Chinese chive dumplings with shrimps and scallops.  My Mom doesn’t cook with recipes… it’s a little dash of this, and a little dash of that.  So it was always hard trying to cook with my Mom when I was growing up.  And to this day, it’s still hard because now I’m trying to translate her dashes into measurements :)

Chinese Chive Dumplings (Jiaozi) with Shrimps and Scallops

1 large bunches of Chinese chives, rinsed and drained, chopped into 1/4-inch dices
1 pounds scallops, chopped into 1/4-inch dices
2 pounds shrimp, chopped into 1/4-inch dices
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth or water
3 packages pot sticker wraps (or homemade dumpling dough)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients together, except for the Chinese chives. Using a pair of chopsticks, mix the ingredients in ONE direction [This technique allows everything to combine; whereas, if you were to mix in all directions, the mixture would separate, rather than come together. It works because my Mom says so :)] until thoroughly combined, about 5 minutes. [Your forearms will certainly get a good workout.]  Next, pour in the Chinese chives and mix in one direction for another five minutes until all the ingredients have been thoroughly combined.  This may sound yucky to some, but take a piece of the Chinese chive and place it in your mouth to test the seasoning. If it seems bland, adjust the seasoning with adding a little extra more salt.

Heat a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium. [Trust me, you'll want to do this ahead of time to get the water to boil faster because you'll want to eat those dumplings immediately after their wrapped. And besides, you never want to watch a pot to boil water or else it'll just take longer (or so it seems).]

Prepare a small bowl of water and cut open the pot sticker wraps. Place a small portion (about one heaping tablespoonful or a little more if you are advanced) of the filling into the middle of each wrapper. Wet the edges of the dumpling with water. Fold the dough over the filling into a half moon shape and pinch the edges to seal. Continue with the remainder of the dumplings.

As you get down to the last few dumplings to wrap, turn the heat to high to boil the pot of water. Once it comes to a boil, add a teaspoon of sesame oil [this helps them to not stick] and half the dumplings, giving them a gentle stir so they don’t stick together. Bring the water to a boil, and add 1/2 cup of cold water. Cover and repeat. When the dumplings come to a boil for a third time, they are ready. Carefully drain and remove. If desired, they can be pan-fried at this point.

Serve with your favorite Chinese dipping sauces. I love to dip mine with a mixture of soy sauce, white distilled vinegar, and a homemade Chinese XO sauce. Yum.

Grilled two cheese pizza with prosciutto, arugula, and lemon vinaigrette.

Grilled two cheese pizza with prosciutto, arugula, and lemon oil.  Now that’s a mouthful of tasty goodness.  Today was a lazy Sunday, and I didn’t feel like spending an entire afternoon cooking in the kitchen.  I needed to catch up on my “So You Think You Can Dance” shows!  It was four shows behind!

So luckily, we had all the ingredients for our favorite pizza, fired up the grill, and voila!  Dinner was ready in 15 minutes.  It was the perfect lazy meal.  In fact, do you know how lazy dinner really was?  We bought ready-made pizza crust (not dough, just crust) a few months ago and kept it on hand in the freezer for days like these.  And now I’m sitting on my couch, typing this post, and catching up on my DVR’ed shows.  Life is good :)

1 homemade or store bought pizza dough (or ready-made pizza crust)
8 ounces of smoked mozzarella, cut into 1/4 thick slices
4 cups arugula leaves, packed (it seems like a lot now, but it gets wilted down during the cooking process)
8 slices of prosciutto
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon

Preheat grill. Brush grates with vegetable or corn oil.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Place arugula leaves into a large bowl, and dress it with the lemon vinaigrette. Toss to mix well. Set aside. [I know it may seem like a lot of arugula at this point, but it will wilt down during the cooking process.]

Roll out pizza dough according to your recipe or store bought instructions. Once the grill is hot (you can hold your hands an inch over the grates for no more than 2 or 3seconds), carefully place the pizza dough onto the grill. Grill for about two minutes on one side. The pizza dough will also immediately puff up. Flip the pizza dough onto the other side and grill for another two minutes. Remove from grill onto a cookie sheet with tongs. Close the lid of the grill to retain its heat. [If you are using a ready-made pizza crust, cook it for two minutes on each side to get the grill marks and flavor.]

Place slices of smoked mozzarella around top of the pizza crust. And then in this order, spread all of the arugula leaves around, layer with prosciutto slices, and top with crumbled goat cheese.

Place the cookie sheet onto the grill and close the lid. [This allows for the toppings to cook without burning the pizza crust.] Cook for about five minutes, or until the cheese has melted, the arugula has wilted, and the prosciutto has crisped up a little. Carefully remove the cookie sheet from the grill. Using tongs, slide pizza onto a cutting board. Squeeze some lemon juice over the pizza. Using a sharp knife or pizza slicer, slice the pizza and enjoy!

Baked Falafels Drizzled with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

My partner has been on a quest to find the best falafels in town.  She’ll compare the falafels to this little Greek restaurant on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, CA, that she just loved.  But it all seems to disappoint in comparison.  I’ve found several recipes for homemade falafels, and all of them involve deep frying.  And although I know that’s how it should be done, I just can’t bring myself to deep fry at home.  I just don’t want the smell of fried oil lingering around our house for days, but also because I’m on a quest to continue keeping us on a healthy eating track.   So I was extremely happy when I came across this recipe, and had to give it a try!  Not only was it super easy to make, it was also a delicious healthy alternative.  My partner really enjoyed these baked falafels thoroughly, and said it was definitely a close second to the real thing :)

Baked Falafels Drizzled with Lemon-Tahini Sauce (adapted from Can You Stay For Dinner?)

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
6 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Taste the falafel mixture, and adjust seasoning to your liking. Scoop the bean mixture into a bowl and shape into 16 equal sized patties. Place on a greased baking sheet, brush each with olive oil and bake for 25, or until browned and crispy on the outside.

Serve as an appetizer, over a salad, or in a pita wrap with the lemon tahini sauce drizzled over the falafels.

Makes 16 falafels.

Calories per falafel: 35

Lemon Tahini Sauce

3 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons water
1 garlic clove, mashed into a paste

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, salt, water, and garlic paste. Adjust seasoning with salt and/or lemon juice.

Makes about a 1/3 cup.

Hummus

I laughed at my parents when they bought a small freezer for their garage.  In fact, I thought they were silly for needing extra freezer space.  I told them to just clean out their freezer and it’ll open up lots of space for them.  Well, I ate my words recently.  I seem to eat my words often :)

Our freezer in the house was filled to its capacity, from top to bottom.  I even cleaned out the freezer and tossed out foods that we were no longer going to eat.  But it was still full.  We were shoving things into every little nook and cranny that we could find.  So much so that one of our shelves toppled over because it was weighed down so heavily with meats/seafood.  It was also getting to a point where we would have to take out all the items from one of the shelves just to find one item we needed.  It was just ridiculous.  I finally broke down.  I, too, bought a small freezer for the garage.  We moved all of our meats and seafoods to the extra freezer.  It was liberating!  We can actually see what’s in our freezer in the house, and pull things out without everything tumbling onto our toes!

I was embarrassed to tell my parents about the purchase, but sucked it up and told them.  This time they laughed at me :)

Hummus

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), no sodium added
1/2 cups tahini sauce
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, mashed
2 1/2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup water, plus extra if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Paprika (optional)
Toasted pine nuts (optional)
Parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water. Drain excess water.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, water, and olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt, starting at a half a teaspoon. Process. Adjust seasoning again with a half teaspoon of salt. Repeat until the seasoning is to your liking.  [If you like it creamier, add a little more water. If you like it more citrusy, add a little more lemon juice.]

Spoon hummus into a serving dish. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top of the hummus, and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.

Makes 3 cups.

Rice-less Spicy Tuna “Handrolls”

Homemade spicy tuna handrolls are our go-to meals when we feel like having sushi.  We have a great fishmonger, Stan, that sets aside fresh ahi tuna for us.  He’s so convincing, too, because when we’re not there for fish, he’ll tell what he has in fresh that day, and we immediately order a pound or two.  Like last weekend when we were there specifically for ribs, and walked out with five pounds of ribs and one pound of ahi tuna.  We even told ourselves in the car on our way to the market that we were only there for ribs, and nothing more.  If only we weren’t so easily convinced…

It had been some time since we had spicy tuna sushi, and we were craving sushi that day, too.  So it really worked out in our favor.  The only problem was that I was too lazy to make rice.  I know.  What in the hell kind of Asian am I?!  I’m questioning myself, too, as I type this sentence.  I know it’s not hard, but I was too lazy to pick myself off the couch to make rice, and by the time I looked up at the clock, it was already nearing 1 p.m.  And I didn’t want to eat too late because we had plans to eat yummy things for dinner.  So, I had to forego the rice :(

However, on the flip side of this, I got to eat more of the spicy tuna “handrolls” because it was guilt-free eating without all the carbs! :)

Rice-less Spicy Tuna “Handrolls”

1 pound sushi grade fresh ahi tuna, cut into 1/2 inch dices
1/4 cup flying fish roe
2 stalks of green onion, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce, plus more to adjust level of spiciness
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Salt, to taste

Nori seaweed sheets, cut into 4″x 3″ strips

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the salt and mix well. Add more Sriracha sauce if you prefer it to be more spicy, or add less to begin with if you like it less spicy. Mix well again. Adjust seasoning with salt to your liking.

Spoon spicy tuna mixture into the middle of each Nori strip, and enjoy! :)

Hawaiian Pineapple Coleslaw

My friend/boss had her wedding at the Hilton Waikoloa located on the Big Island of Hawaii. The backdrop of her wedding was the view of blue waves crashing against the rocks, and the sun setting. The scenery was beautiful, breathtaking, and oh so romantic. The wedding was simple and sweet. It couldn’t have been anymore perfect.

The dinner. Oh em gee. It was one of the best wedding meals ever was in Hawaii. It was just absolutely phenomenal. It was so fresh and so flavorful. And trust me, we know good wedding food from so-so wedding food. We consider ourselves wedding food experts. Why so confident, you wonder? We attended six weddings last year, and we have four weddings this year. That’s a whole lot of weddings and wedding meals.

The first course was a salad, followed by some of the yummiest clam chowder ever. Then came the main entree… a clam/shrimp bake presented in these gigantic steamer baskets. Holy smokes, it was AMAZING. But one of the most memorable parts of that dinner was the Hawaiian pineapple coleslaw served with the main course. I’m not usually a big fan of coleslaw because of the copious amounts of mayonnaise that is involved. But that coleslaw was incredible. It was crunchy, sweet, tangy, and not so mayo-y. It provided a refreshing contrast to the seafood, corn, and potatoes. I wish we could have boxed some of the leftovers to nosh on back at our hotel because it would have made for the perfect midnight snack! We swore that we’d come home and attempt to make the Hawaiian pineapple coleslaw, but just didn’t. Well, our barbecue cook-out served as the perfect purpose to bring it back. And ya know, it was good as we remembered it to be.

Hawaiian Pineapple Coleslaw

6 cups of shredded green cabbage or 1 head of cabbage, shredded
1 1/4 cup of fresh pineapple, chopped into small dice
1/3 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
2/3 cup of reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons agave syrup
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix cabbage and pineapple in a large mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, and agave syrup.

Add dressing to the cabbage and pineapple slaw. Mix thoroughly to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover, and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

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