Butterfly on flower after thunder storm
Butterfly on flower after thunder storm
Congee or Jook is a Chinese staple that is eaten any time of day or night. It is healthy and good for you as well as a tasty snack or meal depending on what you put in it. The basic Congee is simply rice and water. One part rice and 3 parts water and its brought to a boil and then simmered for several hours to a consistency of porridge. When I was growing up in Chinatown, New York City, besides dim sum for breakfast, you can order a bowl of jook. You can have it plain which is simply rice or you can have things like fermented bean cake, preserved radish, chicken, pork, fish, ginkgo nuts, 1000 year old eyes (I’ll get into that one later), and many many more.
At home most families will make it with chicken, pork, turkey, using the carcass instead of throwing it away. For instance, after Thanksgiving each year, I use the turkey carcass and make turkey jook. The bones are put in the pot after the simmering starts and whatever pieces that is left over is shredded and put in the pot also. I’ll also add ginkgo nuts to it to add a natural sweetness to it. Pork is also a good ingredient to put in, a nice pork chop with the bone would also give the jook a nice flavour when it is done.
When someone is ill in a Chinese household, a large pot of Jook would be made, plain so that it is easily digestible and the person that is ill will not have many things to chew. Also being plain, if the person has a unsettled stomach the plain rice porridge will not upset their stomach any more then it needs. When I was a child, if I was sick, had a fever or some illness and I can’t eat much of anything I would be served a bowl of plain jook. This serves the purpose of providing me with a nourishing meal and also providing me with the needed fluids to keep me hydrated. As you begin to get better, then things like soy sauce, preserved radish, scallions, etc can be added.
Garnishes for congee can be scallions, preserved radish, peanuts, Asian Parsley, and my favorites are Crullers, and the above mentioned 1000 year old eggs. Now before you make that face, the name is not what it really is, sort of. It is duck, chicken or quail egg that is preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime and rice hulls for several weeks or months depending on the method of processing.
The yolk becomes a dark green or grey colour with a creamy consistency and the odor of sulfur and ammonia. The white becomes a dark brown, translucent jelly with little flavour. This egg can also be sliced like oranges slices and served on a plate as a appetizer. The crullers are the favorites of children because it is a long fried piece of dough and you break it up and put on top of the jook or you can simply dunk it into the jook and take a bite of it.
Make yourself a large pot of jook and like a blank canvass try different things and soon you’ll discover which ingredients are your favorites. Though if you ask any Chinese family how they make it you’ll come away with a different recipe each and every time.
Congee (Jook), scallions, 1000 year old eggs, chicken
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Iprefer to make simple meals when I cook though on occasions I’ve been known to go overboard. But when I am in a mood for pork I prefer to cook my favorite which as you can tell from the title, Pork Chops with Marsala and Fennel. Pork chops is one of those cuts that if done right the meat is tender, juicy and very flavourful. But the flip side, it can be a hard slab of meat that is as tough as leather and almost as tasty too.
Marsala wine is used in many Italian dishes and though dry is very fruity and brings out the flavour of the pork. It is a wine produced in the region surrounding the city of Marsala in Sicily, Italy. The most common use of Marsala in cooking is the popular dish Chicken Marsala which is flour coated, pounded chicken breast halves and braised in a mixture of Marsala, butter, olive oil, mushrooms and spices.
Pork Chops, Marsala Wine, Fennel
This dish has pork chops, Marsala wine, fennel, onions, garlic, tomato paste and parsley. Like all my dishes I prefer to use Chinese parsley because it has a mintier flavour over the more decorative but less tastier parsley.
This this goes well anytime when a quick easy to make meal is in order, serve it with a nice hearty bread and the wine of your choice and you have yourself a filling and tasty dinner.
One of my favorite steaks is a Ribeye, cooked gently on a grill or broiler depending on weather. Tonight it was raining, no, pouring buckets outside and after midnight when I got home from work. I decided to celebrate the first day of a new semester at TC Lounge at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York. My choice for dinner is decided two ways; either during the course of the night some craving hits me or while driving home I get my inspiration for that nights dinner.
Tonight my inspiration was one of my favorite cuts of steak; ribeye done rare. One reason I love a good steak is that the accompanying sides can be many things, string beans sauteed in black bean and garlic sauce, asparagus tips, or in this case I used red onions and sweet orange bell peppers sauteed with Marsala Wine, sweet Georgia Peaches and parsley as garnish.
Ribeye, Onions, Sweet Bell Peppers, Marsala Wine, Georgia Peach, Parsley, Ithaca, New York
It’s another easy fast meal to make for yourself and as good as any restaurant can offer you. I cook with wine as it brings out the flavours of the vegetables. The combination of the sweet bell peppers and the red onion compliments the taste and the texture of the ribeye. And there is no better way to add some sweet fruit along with the main course to cleanse the palate.
One of my favorite things to whip up for a quick meal is hot dogs. Either you grill, boil or use a pan/griddle to prepare your hot dog depends on mood, time and weather. This time I used a cast iron pan and on low heat grilled up these hot dogs. I also chopped up onions and sauteed them until soft. I put the hot dogs on a toasted bun and then I finish the onions with 1 tsp of tomato paste, 1/4 cup of ketchup, 1/2 tsp of Worcester Sauce and 1/3 cup wine (white or red) and then put over my hot dogs.
Hot Dogs, Onions, Toasted Bun, Tomato Paste, Ketchup, Worcester Sauce, red or white wine
Most of my childhood memories occur during summers; swimming, hiking, vacations to far away lands and most of all food. My fondest memories were the summers when we went to Coney Island and most of all stopping at Nathans for their famous hot dogs. Another favorite from Nathans that isn’t mentioned is their corn on the cob. First my family would each order their corn on the cob, served hot right out of the boiler and then dipped in a vat of butter and placed on a paper holder still oozing with the hot butter. We’ll cover it in salt and eat each kernel while butter is dripping down our chins. Then we tackle the famous hot dog with mustard, onions and relish. But this is another story.
During the summers I prefer to grill like many folks because something about burning food over an open flame brings out the Cave Man in many of us. One of my favorite things to grill is chicken. Yes I like steaks, hot dogs and hamburgers too but I love serving and eating grilled chicken. I use a 24 year old grill that pretty much looks the same as the day I bought it give or take a few rust spots here and there. It still grills great though its not the biggest grill. You put a few pieces of meat, corn on the cob and potatoes and that pretty much takes up the entire grilling space. But it does a great job and one day I may replace it with a larger grill but in the meantime I’ll make do. I prefer using charcoal over gas because I love the smell of charcoal or wood. I love that it leaves the flavour of the wood you are burning underneath. I would use a gas grill in the winter because it will be too cold to stand there and admire the fire as it heats up the charcoal but during the summer when I have all the time in the world, give me wood or charcoal anytime.
Charcoal Grill, Ithaca, New York
When it comes to chicken on the grill I like to keep it simple. I use a marinade I learned from my mother in law, light soy, dark soy, ginger powder and garlic powder. Mix and marinade chicken for an hour or so and then simply grill over nice coals or wood embers. I cook mainly thighs and legs and wings. My family prefer the taste of dark meat chicken over breast meat because the dark meat does not dry out like breast meat. It has a gamier taste because its the working part of the bird, the muscle meat. I grill the underside of the thigh first and then turn it over to caramelize the skin then finish grilling from the underside. The drum and wings I turn constantly to caramelize and cook evenly and then once I have the proper caramelization I put it off to the side and allow the radiant heat to finish.
Chicken, Grilling, Charcoal, Ithaca, New York
Served with corn on the cob and baked sweet potato slices round off the dinner tonight. This light and tasty dinner is easy and fun to make and makes for a nice summer dinner. Next time you are given a choice, try this chicken recipe and make your own summer memories.
Chicken, sweet potato slices, corn on the cob, Ithaca, New York
Pretty day at Hagg Lake. Found a new trail and a secret beach.
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This weekend I spent two days in Maine and the second day we went to a whale watch in Boothbay, Maine. I was excited to sail out over the open waters of the Atlantic once again. We didn’t see any whales though near the end of the furthest point we did spot a spout but we couldn’t locate the whale or any of the pod. I was not disappointed regardless because I just loved being out at sea and tasting the salty spray of the ocean on my lips.
We disembarked back at the pier and scoured the many choices of restaurants offering mouth watering treats, this being Lobster Fest. We decided on Mine Oyster in Boothbay, Maine because of the specials on Lobsters and the greeter showed us the Oyster selections. One of the delectable choices that caught my eye was the Glidden Point Oysters. He said it was a local oyster and it has a nice briny taste. Needless to say, as a oyster lover I just had to get a taste of these delightful mouthfuls.
Glidden Point Oysters, Mine Oysters, Boothbay Maine
A dash of horseradish, cocktail sauce and lemon juice on each one, you simply put the shell up to your mouth and slurp the wonderful briny meat into your mouth and savor the taste. Uninitiated people have this misconception that oysters are slimy. Freshly shucked and clean oyster are tasty and do not have a fishy smell or taste. It should have a briny taste of the waters it came from and once you’ve had a raw oyster I think you agree it is one of the best treats the sea has to offer.
Another thing you do when you come to Maine is to eat lobster. We’ve come at the perfect time of the lobster season because this is the time when lobsters molt out of the old shell and grow a new shell. If you get one that have recently molted you’ll have a nice soft shell lobster. People will happily pay a little more for the soft shelled lobsters because the meat will be a little sweeter due to the seawater soaking into the lobster. The shell when it’s new is porous and seawater will make the lobster a bit heavier and the meat sweeter. I was lucky enough to have two of these lovely creatures during my stay in Maine.
Maine Lobster, Mine Oyster, Boothbay, Maine
Each person have their own method of eating a lobster. My method is to break the body or carapace and eat the soft green stuff called tomalley. It’s considered a delicacy and true aficionados of lobsters will tell you the great enjoyment when eating lobster is the tomalley. Then I work on the tiny legs and the body of the lobster right above the tail. I slowly break each leg off and squeeze and pull up to get each little leg meat out. Then I break off the body part and slowly extract the juicy meat from the body. Next comes the claws. Each section I slowly crack or break off the shell and extract the meat and savor the large part of the claw last, dipping in melted butter and having it drip down my chin for each claw.
The last and final is the tail. Pinch the base of the tail and using a fork glide the meat right out of the shell and you have yourself one mouth watering, sweet lobster meat. Dip in butter and savor the sweetness of the lobster as you chew and give your Thanks to the sea. Being a soft shelled lobster I was able to peel the shell right off and afterwards I was happily licking my fingers of all the butter off my fingers.
So, when in Maine, eat lobster and any other seafood that pleases your palate because nothing is better then food taken right out of the water and onto your plate.