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A Lovely Lemon Cake for Your Spring Holiday Table!

We made this luscious lemon layer cake for our Welcome Spring classes in March, and not only is it a stunner it is beyond delicious. The intense lemon flavor is just perfect for spring. It is in fact a Triple Lemon Layer Cake because it features lemon cake, lemon curd between the layers of cake and a lemon buttercream outer frosting. Garnish with long twists of lemon zest and silver dragees for a very elegant finish. This beautiful baked creation is a perfect focal point for your Easter or Mother’s Day table.

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Recipe: Triple Lemon Layer Cake

Summary: This beautiful and delicious lemon cake is perfect for your springtime special occasion table.

Ingredients

  • For the cake:
  • 2 1/3 cups cake flour; more for the pans
  • 2 ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
  • ¾ cup butter, completely softened at room temperature; more for the pans
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 cup butter, completely softened
  • 2 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • For the filling:
  • 1 recipe lemon curd

Instructions

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven; heat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Generously butter and flour two 8 x 2-inch round cake pans. (We like to use Baker’s Joy spray to be sure that every bit of the pan is evenly covered.)
  3. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.
  4. Pulse 1/4 cup of the sugar with the zest in a food processor until well combined.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the butter and lemon sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1-1/2 minutes. (This step is important so be sure to give it at least a full minute, you want fluffy butter for a fluffy cake!)
  6. Add the remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar and beat until smooth (about 1-1/2 minutes). Beat in a quarter of the milk just until blended.
  7. On low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk in three batches, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; beat just until blended.
  8. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed just until foamy. (When beating egg whites it is important that not a drop of fat – yolk, butter, etc., makes contact with the whites or they will not inflate!)
  9. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium high, and beat just until the whites form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted.
  10. Add a quarter of the whites to the batter and gently fold them in with a whisk or a rubber spatula (you are doing this to lighten the batter mixture so that the rest of the fluffy egg whites can combine with it without being crushed); continue to gently fold in the whites, a quarter at a time, being careful not to deflate the mixture.
  11. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Smooth the tops with the spatula. Bake until a pick inserted in the centers comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes.
  12. Run a table knife around the inside of the pans and carefully invert each cake out onto the rack. Flip them right side up and let cool completely.
  13. While the cake is cooling, make the lemon buttercream icing. Whip the butter and lemon zest in an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy, then gradually add the sifted powdered sugar. When the powdered sugar has been incorporated, add the lemon juice.
  14. Now, make four layers out of your two cakes. It’s important that they are completely cool before you do this. With the palm of one hand pressed on top of a cake layer, cut each in half horizontally, using a long serrated knife. (Just take your time doing this, inspecting both the front and back of the cake as you go to be sure that the knife is going in and out evenly. Keeping pressure on top with your hand is key, and also using a thin knife like a ham knife.)
  15. Put one of the four cake layers on a serving plate, cut side up. With an offset spatula or a table knife, spread a generous 1/3 cup chilled lemon curd on top of the cake layer. Lay another cake layer on top, spread it with another generous 1/3 cup lemon curd, and repeat with the third cake layer, using the last 1/3 cup lemon curd. Top with the fourth cake layer.
  16. Spread lemon buttercream icing all over the outside of the cake. Decorate or garnish as you like.

Quick notes

Here is Fine Cooking’s recipe for Lemon Curd Cake Filling: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/lemon-curd-cake-filling.aspx

This cake is lovely garnished with long curls of lemon zest and silver draggees, or with well-washed edible flowers such as snapdragons, violets or johnny-jump-ups.

Preparation time: 45 minute(s)

Cooking time: 40 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

MAKE AHEAD: This cake can be made ahead and stored chilled  for up to two days. It is also nice to bake the cakes and make the lemon curd the day before, tightly wrap and chill them, and then the morning of your event you can make the icing and assemble the cake. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
 

How To: Grilled Pizza

Summer isn’t over yet – we’ve still got some time to get busy on our grills before the autumn chill settles in for good, so I’d like to share one of my new favorite grilling “recipes” with you: grilled pizza.

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Yes, grilled pizza. In July my sister, Molly, and her husband, Joel, had a pizza grillin’ party the first night of their pre-wedding-festivity-week as friends from all over trickled in and gathered at Joel’s family farm. The fun, communal decorate-your-own activity totally meshed with the lighthearted celebratory vibe. This is a great technique to add to your repertoire for entertaining kids, friends, family, etc! Not to mention, it’s just the most delicious pizza. We East Coasters know that it’s all about the crust, and grilled pizza crust is a revelation nonetheless. Similar to the Indian flatbread naan, you can count on your pizza base to be crusty on the outside, and still faintly chewy on the inside. And with fresh tomatoes and other produce peaking right now, what better time than late summer to pick up this new skill.

Joel grilling pizzas.

Joel grilling pizzas.

A note on the pizza dough: I like to buy pizza dough from local pizzerias. Joseph’s Italian Market on the corner of 313 & N. Fifth Street will sell you a fresh pizza crust for about $3. Wherever you are, just call around and ask. Go out and pick up the dough shortly before you plan to use it and specify that you’d like it “ready to go.” (If you’re using it later you will want dough that still needs rising time.)  If you prefer to make your own pizza dough, here is a great recipe.

Recipe: Grilled Pizza

Summary: This is more of a template than a recipe – experimentation is strongly encouraged!

Ingredients

  • One pizza dough
  • Sauce (see notes)
  • Cheese (I recommend fresh mozzarella)
  • Toppings (whatever you want!)

Instructions

  1. Begin by heating your grill to high heat, about 450 to 500 degrees. Clean and oil the grill grate.
  2. Divide the dough into quarters and stretch each one out to a reasonable thinness. Shape doesn’t really matter!
  3. Once your grill is good and hot, lay the pizza crusts on it. What you’re doing right now is searing them, a technique in which you cook something (often a protein) over very high heat until it forms a crust and “releases itself”. So your crusts will probably stick until they are ready to flip. This is the only tricky part. Stay with them and keep gently nudging with your spatula until they move easily – once they have seared, flip them and sear the other side, then remove them from the grill. This will probably take about one to two minutes per side.
  4. Turn the grill heat down to a low medium.
  5. Now you can sauce them, decorate them, etc. However you want!
  6. Once the grill’s heat is at about 300-350 degrees, or medium heat, pop the pizzas back on and close your grill lid. Check on them every couple minutes and once your cheese is melted and toppings are cooked, this will probably take about 5-7 minutes, remove from the grill and enjoy!

Quick notes

*** If you have access to fresh, delicious, flavorful tomatoes you should definitely make your own sauce. Here’s a rough guide: Chop up 1-3 cloves of garlic. Chop up a few tomatoes (about a pound). Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat, add garlic, cook, being careful not to burn, for about 30 seconds to a minute until it becomes fragrant. Add tomatoes and their juices and a generous pinch of sugar, some salt and freshly ground pepper. If you like spicy, add some red pepper flakes. Let this cook, bubbling and reducing, for about 10 minutes until it’s nice and thick. Stir in a little sliced basil and remove from the heat.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

 

Two Ways with Summer Greens

On Saturday I was at the Longview Center for Agriculture in Collegeville, PA demonstrating two quick and delicious ways to prepare the nutritious, versatile leafy greenery hitting farm stands near you in hearty abundance as spring turns to summer. The Farm Market at Longview features a wonderful selection of their own organic produce as well as a wide array of locally produced dairy products, meat, baked goods and other such items.

The Farm Market at Longview Center for Agriculture

The Farm Market at Longview Center for Agriculture

In recent years these healthy vegetables have become pretty trendy, and for good reason. Menus and recipes are increasingly featuring vitamin-packed and satisfying Kale and Swiss Chard, and you may also notice a plethora of fresh Collard Greens and Bok Choy in your local farm markets and grocery stores this summer.  If these are new ingredients for you I suggest you try them! The following recipes are suitable for any of the aforementioned greens.

Farm Fresh Kale, Bok Choy and Swiss Chard

Farm Fresh Kale, Bok Choy and Swiss Chard

A few notes on preparation: each variety of these leafy veggies can be prepped for cooking in basically the same way – you want to remove not only the stems but also the center stalk if it is prominent and cut these reedy sections it into thick matchsticks, except for Bok Choy – I like to cut Bok Choy stalks into bigger chunks since they are more tender than the stems of the other greens (if you find some nice Baby Bok Choy you can just cut each section in half and leave the leaves on the stems). Then slice the green leaves into strips, sometimes I even roll them up and cut them in a thick chiffonade. Keep the stalks and greens separate as you will want to add them at different times during the cooking process.

My demo station at The Farm Market.

My demo station at The Farm Market.

 

These recipes are both guidelines that should easily be integrated into your recipe-less cooking routine – the measurements are approximate, feel free to adjust them according to your tastes and the size of your bunch of greens!

Recipe: Sesame Garlic Stir-Fried Greens

Summary: This recipe is wonderful with Bok Choy, Swiss Chard or Kale.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 bunch leafy greens, preferably locally sourced and organic, separated into stems and leaves and chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Instructions

  1. Add vegetable oil to wok or large sauté pan over medium-high heat; when it is just “smoking” add garlic and cook until it releases its aroma, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add stems to pan and cook, stirring vigorously so that garlic doesn’t burn, until stems begin to soften and brighten in color.
  3. Add leaves and cook, stirring, until they are wilted.
  4. Liberally season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove pan from heat, toss with sesame oil, and serve at once.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

 

 

Recipe: Vinegar Braised Greens with Bacon

Summary: A delicious way to prepare Kale, Collards and other heartier greens.

Ingredients

  • 2 thick slices high-quality bacon, cut into strips (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced (optional)
  • 1 bunch leafy greens, preferably locally sourced and organic, separated into stems and leaves and chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar (Tarragon, apple cider, white or red wine vinegar all work nicely)

Instructions

  1. Add strips of bacon to wok or large sauté pan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned.
  2. If a decent amount of fat is rendered off the bacon, pour off all but 1 Tbsp. If not, add enough olive oil so you have about 1 Tbsp of fat in the pan.
  3. Add garlic, if using, and allow to cook until it becomes fragrant, stirring, about 30 seconds, then add stems from the greens. Cook, stirring continuously so garlic does not burn, until stems become brighter in color and tender.
  4. Add leaves, followed by vinegar, stir to combine and deglaze the pan, then reduce the heat and allow to cook 1-5 minutes* until greens are wilted and soft.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Quick notes

*Bok Choy requires less cooking time than Kale or Swiss Chard, and Collards need the most.

**For my favorite breakfast ever, add some 1/8” diced sweet potatoes once the bacon has begun to cook, then continue with the garlic once the sweet potatoes have begun to brown. Omit vinegar. Top with a fried or poached egg and have a wonderful morning!)

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 10 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

 

I will be at Longview Farm Market again on Saturday, June 8 from 10-11:30 am.

Warm Chocolate Raspberry Cake

This cake is just amazing. Sometimes all of the food we make at The Cooking Cottage blurs together and specific dishes can be difficult to remember – not this cake, which we’d made in the fall for a private party, and all very much looked forward to all day leading up to class when we made it again last Friday night at Entertain with Style.

It is a perfect cake for entertaining. Luscious, moist and delicious and it actually “frosts” itself, thanks to melted chocolate chips in the bottom of the pan, and it couldn’t be easier to serve. You can make it ahead of time and let it stay in the pan on your counter, or keep it in its pan and bring it along to a party. When you are ready for dessert, pop it back in the oven for about 10 minutes, invert onto a serving plate and you’re ready to go! We recommend garnishing with fresh raspberries… A little vanilla ice cream wouldn’t hurt, either.
Happy Baking!

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Recipe: Warm Chocolate Raspberry Cake

Summary: So delicious – guaranteed to impress!

Ingredients

  • 3-oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips work well)
  • ½ cup seedless raspberry jam (if your jam is seeded, warm it up and run it through a sieve to remove seeds)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup + 1 Tbsp baking cocoa
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup seedless raspberry jam
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Raspberries to garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the chocolate, ½ cup jam and the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until smooth.
  3. Pour into a buttered 9-inch cake pan.
  4. Combine the cocoa and water in a bowl and mix well.
  5. Add the milk, vanilla and ⅓ cup jam and mix well.
  6. Cream the butter and two sugars until light and fluffy.
  7. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  8. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
  9. Add to the creamed mixture alternatively with the jam mixture beating well after each addition.
  10. Pour evenly over the chocolate mixture in the cake pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
  11. Cool in the pan for 10 to 12 minutes.
  12. Run a knife around the edge and invert onto a serving platter.
  13. Let stand, covered, at room temperature in the cake pan. Garnish with raspberries.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

This is a wonderful recipe, adapted from former Cooking Cottage guest chef and culinary extraordinaire, cookbook author Pam Anderson. The fabulous blog she keeps with her two daughters, Three Many Cooks, is here.

The genius in the vegetarian conversion of this French Onion Soup recipe is found in its broth. Miso & red vermouth mingle with a high quality vegetable stock (we recommend the Kitchen Basics Organic line for all of your store-bought stock needs) to create the trademark depth of the rich beef broth we’re accustomed to in this classic soup. A high-quality crusty baguette will help elevate your soup into the out-of-this-world-delicious territory a good FOS should always inhabit.

*A note about cooking with Miso: I bought the red miso called for in this recipe at the Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting, PA. Whole Foods stocks it in their refrigerated soy product section, and it comes in a plastic carton similar to a cottage cheese container. Miso is a staple in Japanese cooking, and comes in three basic varieties: white or yellow, red and black. It’s composed of fermented soybeans – as a general rule, the darker its color, the longer it spent fermenting and more intense its pungency. Because it’s a fermented product it will keep in your fridge for a very long time.. think a year plus. Miso is a nice addition to nearly any soup, it can be used in sauces and also makes very tasty salad dressings.

Recipe: Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Summary: This recipe, adapted from Pam Anderson’s, makes a deeply satisfying vegetarian version of the classic French Onion Soup by incorporating red vermouth and miso with a hearty vegetable stock.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra oil for brushing bread
  • 4 large onions, about 2 ½ lbs, thinly sliced (a mandolin works well for this)
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 quart high quality vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • ¼ cup sweet vermouth
  • ¼ cup red miso
  • Salt to taste
  • 18 slices nice crusty baguette bread (1/2 inch thick)
  • 6 slices Swiss, Gruyere or Provolone cheese
  • 6 Tbsp grated Parmesan

Instructions

  1. Heat the butter and 2 Tbsp olive oil in a soup pot over high heat. (Don’t use a coated or non-stick pot, or you’ll have a very difficult time caramelizing your onions!)
  2. Add the onions and sugar and cook over medium to high heat, stirring every couple minutes but being careful not to burn, until dramatically reduced and a light caramel brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook onions, stirring frequently, until rich caramel, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
  3. Meanwhile, heat broth in a saucepan until piping hot.
  4. When the onions are fully cooked, sprinkle with the flour, mix it with the onions until a paste forms.
  5. Stir in the vermouth and then the hot broth, using the liquid to deglaze the pot – scraping the bottom and sides with a wooden spoon to remove the tasty stuck-on bits and incorporate them into the broth.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, for about 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
  7. Whisk in the miso, allowing it to “bloom,” and adding water as necessary to achieve a lightly thickened soup. (This is important – now that your miso is added, do not let the soup boil. Like yogurt, in contains living probiotics and enzymes and you don’t want to kill them.)
  8. Taste the soup, and if it needs it add a little salt.
  9. When ready to serve, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and turn the broiler on high.
  10. Lightly brush both sides of the bread slices with oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Toast under the broiler, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, a couple of minutes per side. When broiling something, keep an eye on it – it will go from perfectly toasty to charred very, very quickly.
  11. Place 6 ovenproof soup bowls on a rimmed baking sheet. Ladle the hot soup into the bowls. Top each with 3 toasts, a cheese slice and then grated Parmesan. Broil until the cheese is melted and spotty brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Our Family’s Favorite Thanksgiving Recipe

Tonight is the first of our Thanksgiving Done Right classes at The Cooking Cottage this year.  We’ll be making some twists on old favorites to update your Thanksgiving table and add a little extra flavor to your joyous celebration.  This year Molly, Peggi’s youngest daughter, will be hosting Thanksgiving at her home in Michigan, and Peggi and Herb will be joining her there.  Kate, Peggi’s middle daughter, will be staying in PA to celebrate with her fiance’s parents, and Winnie & Pete will join that holiday feast.  And Alysia, Peggi’s oldest, will stay out on the West Coast for Turkey Day – joining her boyfriend’s family in Tahoe (not a bad place to go for holidays, huh?).  So while we regret that we won’t all be together for the holiday, we will all still be in the company of people we love, and there’s one recipe that we will all make sure shows up on our tables this Thanksgiving as it does every year:

 

Recipe: Golden Creamed Onions

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. pearl onions, blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes, drained and peeled (if using frozen pearl onions you can skip this step, but be sure to drain the frozen onions well)
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup minced parsley leaves

Instructions

  1. In a deep skillet large enough to hold the onions in one layer combine the onions, butter, sugar, salt and enough water to cover the onions by 1/2,” bring the water to a boil and boil the onions until the liquid is almost evaporated. Cook the onions over moderate heat, swirling the skillet, until they turn golden and begin to brown.
  2. Add the cream, bring the liquid to a boil and boil the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened slightly.
  3. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley.

Quick notes

The onion mixture may be made one day ahead, kept covered and chilled, and reheated in a skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until it is hot.

Number of servings (yield): 8

The Cooking Cottage wishes you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving, with much to be thankful for and, of course, delicious home-cooked food on the holiday table!

Recipe: Thai Shrimp & Coconut Soup

Here is the recipe for the extremely tasty Thai soup we made in last week’s Soup’s On! classes.  This soup is a meal in a bowl, especially if paired with a nice Asian inspired salad (think mixed greens, Asian pear, sunflower seeds, cucumber, red bell pepper in a soy-sesame vinaigrette).  Also, a lovely presentation, this would be a wonderful dish to serve to casual supper guests.  If you want to make ahead, remove from heat after shrimp are just cooked.  Reheat to add remaining ingredients and serve.

 

Recipe: Thai Shrimp & Coconut Soup (Tom Khaa)

Summary: This is a delicious, authentic and easy to prepare soup – a great recipe to use if you want to cook more exotic, restaurant-style dishes at home!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups medium-grain white rice, cooked according to package directions
  • ½ lb. large shrimp (21-30 ct.), peeled & deveined
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup shallots, sliced
  • 1 T. garlic, minced
  • 1 T. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 T. lemongrass, minced
  • 4 cups Asian Flavored Chicken Stock*
  • 2 14-oz. cans coconut milk
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • 2 T. fresh lime juice
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 1-2 Thai or Serrano chiles, thinly sliced in rings
  • 1 cup cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, sliced into half moons
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cup dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup torn fresh mint leaves
  • ¼ cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup whole fresh cilantro leaves
  • Lime wedges

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger and lemongrass.
  3. Saute until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar; bring to a simmer and cook 5 more minutes.
  5. Stir in the shrimp and chile rings; simmer just until the shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes, taking care not to overcook them.
  6. Remove soup from heat and add the cucumber and red pepper.
  7. Divide cooked rice among bowls and ladle soup over it.
  8. Garnish each serving with peanuts, fresh herbs, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 18 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

*To make Asian Flavored Chicken Stock, add 3 quarter sized slices of ginger, smashed, and one 4″ stalk of lemongrass, smashed, to your regular chicken stock recipe, OR lightly simmer the ginger and lemongrass in pre-prepared chicken stock for 20 minutes.

Hong San Duo : A Chinese Dish for Tomato Season!

Last night for dinner I prepared a traditional dish from the Chinese province of Yunnan and thought I’d share it here.  Yunnan is a fascinating region located in the southwest part of the country, sharing its borders with Tibet, Burma, Laos and Viet Nam.  The province is home to many minority groups and a cuisine that scrumptiously combines the flavors of South East Asia and greater China.

Hong San Duo with brown rice and blanched bok choy with garlicky oyster sauce.

A friend of mine, with the very fitting English name of Jazzy, hails from Yunnan and, now in Beijing, she has been giving me cooking lessons in her home kitchen the way her mother and grandmother taught her.  This dish, Hong San Duo – best translated as Red Triple Mince – will be absolutely delicious in the U.S. this time of year as one of its three principle ingredients is the tomato.  In Yunnan, Jazzy tells me, the utmost care is given to select the finest ingredients and they are prepared without too much fanfare or spice, the focus instead is on fresh, natural flavor.  In this dish, the tomato does the work.  Well, you do the work, too, because there’s a lot of mincing involved but it’s an easy and delicious dish – and not what you think of when you think Chinese!

       

Recipe: Hong San Duo (“Red Triple Mince”)

Summary: A fresh and simple dish from Yunnan Province, China.

Ingredients

  • One 1/4 lb tomato
  • One long green pepper
  • 1/4 lb pork
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 t. + 1 T. vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. First, mince the pepper. Cut the stem off, but leave the seeds. When you think you’ve minced it enough, keep going for a minute or two until you’ve got a pile of teeny tiny pepper bits. Move to one side of a plate.
  2. Next, peel the tomato and mince. Move to a bowl.
  3. Dry your cutting board.
  4. Now for the fun: mincing the pork. Cut off and discard any very fatty bits and slice the pork very thin, then just start whacking away until you achieve a very fine mince. A cleaver will come in handy for this!
  5. It’s time to cook! Make sure all of your ingredients are handy because this part goes fast.
  6. Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat until it is “smoking,” then heat 1 1/2 t. vegetable oil and stir fry the pork until it is not quite cooked, remove from pan.
  7. Add 1 T. vegetable oil and when it’s hot, add garlic, cooking for 30 seconds until it becomes fragrant.
  8. Next add the pepper and cook with the garlic for about a minute, then add the tomato, leaving its juice behind in the prep bowl.
  9. Add the salt and mix it all together, then return the pork to the pan, add the soy sauce and stir fry for about 2 minutes until the pork is cooked all the way through.
  10. Have a little taste and add more salt or soy sauce if necessary, and then it’s ready to serve hot with rice.

Variations

Long green peppers have a little bit of a kick to them, if you can’t find one substitute a green bell pepper and add a pinch of chili powder if you’d like to make up for the spiciness.

Please note, there is no need to be terribly specific when it comes to measuring ingredients for this dish. Equal parts tomato, pepper and pork with seasonings to taste and you’ll be fine.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 5 minute(s)

Diet tags: Reduced carbohydrate, High protein, Gluten free

Number of servings (yield): 2

Culinary tradition: Chinese

Calories: 207

Fat: 14

Protein: 13

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Chicken With Brandied Fig Sauce

Late this afternoon my husband & I took a “wine run” over to our favorite wine shop in Flemington and threw the bikes on the back of the car for a ride along the Delaware on the way home. Of course we were starving when we returned and anxious to sip a little wine, so I quickly put together the following chicken recipe, using one of my favorites: fresh figs.  It was delicious, took less than 20 minutes and would be perfect to serve to company – they’ll be impressed when you flame the brandy!

CHICKEN WITH BRANDIED FIG SAUCE
1 Tbsp minced scallion, onion or shallot (whatever you have)
2 Tbsp brandy
6 Tbsp chicken stock
1/4 tsp Dijon
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used Trader Joe’s organic)
1 large fresh or dried fig, chopped

Preheat grill or broiler.
In a small saucepan, sauté onion until translucent, adding 1 Tbsp water to prevent scorching.
Add brandy and flambé
Add chicken stock & mustard. Simmer to reduce liquid until reduced by ½.
Grill or broil chicken 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
Stir fig into sauce and simmer another 2 -3 minutes. Remove from heat and ladle 2 Tbsp over each chicken breast.

To serve, slice chicken breasts and fan on plate. Top with sauce.

Would be delicious served with polenta, though I served it with sliced grilled sweet potatoes, onions, jalapenos and a Caesar salad.

Oh Wow Cow Indonesian Vanilla ice cream made the perfect dessert – after all we drove right by on the way home – had to stop and get a pint!

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