Kwas ‘Ne Polish Soup

It is a cold and rainy Saturday and some friends are planning to stop by later for a glass of wine.  What better reason than to make a large pot of mom’s Polish Kwas ‘Ne (pronounced VASH-nuh, at least in our household).  Although we’ve never come across this recipe in cookbooks or even online, it’s been in the family for years (note to our readers: you might’ve figured out that one of us is Taiwanese; the other has strong Polish roots and grew up eating this soup).

Some have referred to this recipe as “sweet and sour soup”, and my five year old niece calls it “pickled soup” (most likely from the vinegar added at the end).  Whatever you call it, this makes for a fantastic and hearty meal that is always a hit with first-timers, and reheats well even after being frozen (so freeze whatever you don’t eat!).

Kwas ‘Ne Polish Soup

Serves 10 / Prep & Cook Time: about 4 hours

Ingredients:

  • peppercorns
  • 1 large brown onion
  • 1 pork shoulder or other ham bone (about three to four pounds)
  • 1 five-pound bag of brown potatoes
  • 6 eggs
  • ¼ cup of vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Cut a two inch by two inch piece of cheesecloth, fill it with peppercorns and coarse salt and, using excess threat from the cheesecloth, tie into a ball.  Throw this into a large pot of salted water. Dice the large onion and add to pot along with the pork shoulder or other ham bone.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for at least three and a half hours.

 While the spices, onions and pork simmer (and create a heavenly smell in your kitchen), peel the potatoes, cut them into eighths and then store in a bowl of cold water.

After about three and a half hours or so, test the pork with a fork to see if it’ll fall of the bone with little resistance.  If so, remove the entire pork shoulder from the broth and place on a cutting board.  At this point, drain the potatoes from the cold water, add to the broth, bring to a boil and then simmer.

Clean the pork off of the bone and remove the fat, then shred into manageable pieces and salt.  Once the potatoes are cooked through (about the time you are finished preparing the meat), add about half of the now shredded and salted pork into the pot (the other half can be used for anything else you desire including pulled pork sliders, spicy pork tacos, a filling for an omelet, etc.).

With the onions, potatoes and pork now waltzing together in the broth, bring to a full boil once again.  At boil, crack and beat six eggs into the soup and then reduce heat.

Cracking in the eggs.

Add salt and the vinegar and you are ready to serve!

Chinese Dumpling Soup

Remember the delicious Homemade Chinese Dumplings we made!? We were so excited about our final product that we cooked them TWO separate ways in one meal. First, we pan-fried the dumplings to make delicious pot-stickers. And second, rather than boiling them and eating them straight, we cooked them in a home-made broth and made a dumpling soup. The  crisp Fall weather is here so it’s about the right time to for some soup dishes. Don’t underestimate this clear broth base, the ginger in this soup brings an additional layer of warming sensations and it is unexpectedly flavorful and comforting. And believe it or not, it’s probably pretty good for you too!

Chinese Dumpling Soup

Serves 2 / prep and cook time: 20 min

Ingredients:

  • 12 Chinese dumplings (frozen ones will work, too!)
  • 4 cups chicken or mushroom broth
  • 1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into match sticks
  • 3 spring onions, cut into 2-inches pieces, both white and green parts
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, cut into thin strips (We used a mixture of fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tb Chinese cooking wine or sake
  • 1 tb white wine vinegar (or Chinese dark vinegar if you have it)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • pinch of salt

Instructions:

Put the chicken broth, ginger, mushroom, soy sauce, cooking wine, vinegar and sesame oil into a soup pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the spring onions and adjust the heat so the broth simmers, about 10 to 15 minutes. Slowly add the dumplings into the broth, give a little stir so the dumplings don’t stick together. Cook for about 3 minutes. When the dumplings float up to the surface, cook for another 6 minutes. They are done when the skin in translucent. Divide among warm bowls and serve.

We made 6 dumpling per serving as a side dish but you’re more than welcome to add more dumplings and turn it into a main dish. We also were running low on vegetables when we made it, but this broth goes well with almost all vegetables, such as napa cabbage, broccoli, spinach, snow peas…. you name it. Throw in some greens right before you drop in the dumplings, it’ll only make the soup healthier, and of course, better tasting!!!

Homemade Chinese Dumplings And Potstickers

Just another beautiful Sunday afternoon and we are sitting in the apartment with nothing planned… such a luxury to have some relaxing time like this after a busy week of work. We randomly watched a video clip my mother sent me, a video introducing traditional Chinese food and the making of some famous dishes. As we watch them make all the doughy delicacies with all different kinds of fillings, we started to crave something similar. We want to make some dough, too!! We didn’t even finish the clip before we decided to take the challenge and make some Chinese dumplings for dinner, from scratch!

I remember making dumplings with my aunties and grandma in Taiwan when I was still a little kid. The adults would prepare the meat filling and dough wrappers and I would help filling, pinching and, of course, eating! It was easy, fun, and satisfying!

Well, nobody is around to prepare the fillings and wrappers for me but I crave for that old experience, so I am stepping up to recreate this fun and delicious recipe. Base on some memories and some research, this is our Eat.F.G. recipe.

Chinese Pork Dumplings

Makes about 40 dumplings / prep: about an hour, cook time: 10 min

Ingredients:

For the dumpling wrappers:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup cold water
  • pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 1 lb ground pork (pork is what they use for traditional chinese dumplings, and we like to honor that!)
  • 1/4 head (about 1 pound) of  cabbage
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 green onions, minced (both white and green parts)
  • 1 tb fresh ginger root, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 3 tb soy sauce
  • 1 tb Chinese rice wine or sake
  • 1 tb toasted sesame oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the dipping sauce:

  • 3 tb soy sauce
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar ( or Chinese black vinegar if you can find it)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
  • 2 tsp hot chili oil (optional, but have I mentioned that we like it spicy?!)

Instructions:

To make the dumpling wrappers: put the flour in a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup of water and a pinch of salt into the flour. Slowly mix it with your hands, add the remaining water if it gets too dry. Knead the mixture until it forms a soft dough, place the dough on a lightly floured counter and knead nut ill smooth. Set the dough on the side and let it stand for 10 minutes, (perfect time to prep the filling here). Roll the dough into a long baton-like roll and cut it into 40 small pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece to a thin circle, about 3 to 4 inches in diameter.

Flour + Water, pre-kneading!

Roll the dough into a baton-like roll, and cut into small pieces

Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into small circles

To make the filling: finely chop the cabbage into very small pieces, sprinkle the 1 tsp salt and mix well to dehydrate the cabbage. Give it a few minutes and then squeeze out the excess water (it should look like the picture below). Combine the cabbage with ground pork, green onion and the rest of the seasoning and mix well.

Fresh cabbage, finely chopped and squeezed!!

Filling with all ingredients mixed in.

To make the dumplings: get a small dish with water. Place about a tablespoonful of filling in the center of a dough circle. Dip your finger in the water and moist the edge of the dough, fold the circle in half, and use index finger and thumb to pinch the edges of the dough on one side of the dumpling into “pleats”, pressing each pleat against the flat side of the dough to seal the dumpling as you go. I usually start from the center to the corner and make about 3 pleats on each side, but any direction would work. Firmly pressed the pleaded side of the of the wrapper against the flat side and make sure the dumpling is completely sealed (we don’t want the dumpling to burst open or have any leakage during cooking). Line up the finished dumplings on a floured surface to prevent them from sticking together.

There are so many ways to cook the dumplings. Most of the time they are either steamed, boiled or  pan fried. Pan fried dumplings are also known as pot stickers, it is definitely the most popular kind. Tonight, we are having dumplings, TWO ways!! For the first kind, we’ve decided to make some pot stickers, and for the second kind, instead of boiling the dumplings in plain water, we are making some Chinese Dumpling Soup as we like to take things to the next level!

To make the pot stickers, drizzle about 1 tb oil in a pan and heat it up. Place the desired amount of dumplings flat-side-down in the pan, turn the heat low and fry the dumplings for about a minute, or until golden brown. Add 1/2 a cup of hot water and cover, let it steam for about 6 minutes or until all water has evaporated. Remove the dumplings, now pot stickers, serve hot with dipping sauce!

Dumplings sitting flat-side-down in the hot pan!

I know it looks very complicated with the long lists of ingredients and instructions, but it really is not hard. The first few dumplings we made looked a bit funny, but they soon started to look better and almost professional as we got into the rhythm.  I must say it is VERY rewarding when we finished and had a whole army of fresh dumplings lined up in front of us.  All we needed to do was to decide which way to cook them so we could eat them all up. The dumplings store very well too if you’er not planning on eating all of them immediately. Just separate the dumplings with wax paper so they don’t stick together in the container and tuck it in the freezer. The dumplings should store up to a month or so.

That’s the project of our Sunday, and I’m pretty proud of our end product. And I am also very happy to announce that after all these years, the experience of making dumpling remains the same: it’s easy, fun and very satisfying!

Tuna Tartar with Avocado

Today was hot and humid outside, one of those summer days where I just didn’t have an appetite for anything. I walked into the neighborhood fish market to look for inspiration for dinner as seafood always seems lighter and it seemed to suit the weather perfectly.  It didn’t take me too long before I set my eyes on this big block of tuna sitting on a pile of crushed ice…. clear, translucent pink sushi graded tuna, there was no way I was turing that down.  We love raw tuna, and we do make some five-star-world-class seared tuna…(I’m not bragging, I’m just telling the truth!!)… but today, it’s simply too hot and I don’t want to mess with anything involving heat. I think we’re going to keep it all raw and make some tuna tartar with avocado, because avocado is awesome, and it goes well with tuna! Now THAT’s my answer for dinner!!

Tuna Tartar with Avocado

Serves 2 / Prep time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb sushi grade tuna steak
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado
  • 1/4 cup scallions, minced (use both white and green parts)
  • 1 lime (or 2 tb lime juice)
  • 1/2 TB soy sauce
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper each
  • toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  • rice cracker (optional)

Instructions:

Cut the tuna into 1/4 inch (or smaller) cubes and put aside. In a large bowl, mix together the scallions, line juice, soy sauce, hot sauce, and salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the tuna and let it sit for a few minutes. White waiting for the flavors to blend in with the tuna, peel the avocado and remove the seed. Dice it into 1/4 inch dices, or lightly mash it with a fork. Carefully fold the avocado into the tuna mixture, sprinkle with some sesame seeds or some extra scallions for garnish. Arrange the rice crackers on the side right before serving so the crackers don’t become soggy.

This has been a very popular appetizer in many fine dinning restaurants. Who would know this sophisticated dish is so easy to make. The portion here is suggested as an appetizer for two people, but I could devour this whole thing without sharing, no problem at all.  This is also a easy dish to make at parties to impress your guests. Make it ahead and let it sit for a couple hours.  The flavor stays very well with time, just make sure to keep it cool to maintain the freshness. Enjoy!!

Mediterranean Roasted Fish with Potato

Exactly a year ago from today, we took some time off for a sailing trip in Croatia. During our one week vacation, we sailed around the Dalmatian Coast.  Once we settled into our island of the day, we would explore the area to find the best restaurant in town and reward ourselves with a local feast. Usually we’d find a seaside restaurant, watching the sunset while sipping some local wine, and then following up with a hearty dinner.  Seriously, life can’t get any better from there. We didn’t have a bad meal throughout he whole trip, but some were definitely better than others which we will never forget. Besides the more common staples such as steak and lamb dishes, the fish dishes are definitely to die for. In Croatia, almost all the fish were served whole, as in from head to tail. Some restaurants even bring over a tray of fish for you to choose from.

Whole fish on the plate in Croatia!

If you don’t mind deboning the fish (I grew up in Taiwan eating fish like that, deboning a fish is almost second nature to me, no big deal at all!), these are the dishes that you don’t want to miss. There is this particular dish we had on an island called Hvar, a whole fish baked in herbs with sliced potatoes. With just a few simple ingredients, this fish is so unexpectedly light but flavorful… here’s the picture of it:
When we got back from Croatia, we could not stop think about that dinner. We’d sail back to the town of Hvar to order this dish again, but in reality, recreating something similar in the kitchen would be the fastest way to have a little taste of Croatia again.
Mediterranean Roast Fish with Potatoes 
Serves 2-3 (depending on the size of the fish) / Prep-time: 45 min
Ingredients:
  • 1 big red snapper ( I think the one we got was about 2 and a half pound)
  • 3 or 4 small potatoes (thinly sliced)
  • 1 leeks (thinly sliced)
  • olive oil
  • garlic (minced)
  • fresh parsley (chopped)
  • capers
  • lemon
  • dry white wine
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Pre-heat oven 375F
Rub the fish with olive oil. Combine garlic, parsley, capers, wine and lemon juice, and pour the mixture over the fish. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour yourself  a glass of wine and take a sip, we’re recreating the Croatian lifestyle here. Mix the sliced potatoes and leeks, season it with olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. In a baking dish, arrange the potato-leek around the fish. Bake for 20-30 min or until done.

Ready to put in the oven.

You’ll have to debone it at the table before eating, if you don’t know how, you might have to invite a Chinese guest to share the dish and help you with that!!

Tuna Niçoise Tartine at Bouchon Bakery

Tuna Nicoise Tartine

Happy Bastille Day!! What a perfect occasion for some Parian style cuisine. well, actually, we didn’t realize it’s Bastille Day until we walked into Bouchon Bakery.  Bouchon Bakery in Timer Warner Center is definitely one of our favorite restaurants in the city. Whenever we come to Columbus Circle, even though there are many other restaurants in the area, Bouchon Bakery is always our go-to place for a nice and simple sit-down lunch.

As we sat down at the bar, we were presented with the Bastille Day Special Pre-fixe Menu – A three course lunch with dishes like moules au saffron, poulet roti with polenta, and peach melba for 38 dollars, not a bad deal at all. I can’t say we weren’t tempted, but we both went for the Tuna Niçoise Tartine on the regular menu instead. There’s something magical about this Tuna Niçoise here, we (or at least me) can never manage to turn it down. The tartine is basically an open-faced sandwich– with a big generous mountain of tuna salad on a slice of fresh pain de campagne (which is a round French country-style loaf similar to sourdough), topped with thinly sliced radishes, eggs and sprinkles of sweet paprika and fresh chives. The tartine is served with a side of field green salad and baby pickles, just enough to round out a perfect meal. Instead of drowning the tuna in heavy mayonnaise, Bouchon Bakery’s chef, Tomas Keller, blends the tuna with shallots, capers and other herbs for a flavorful mix, and finishes it with Garlic Aioli to give it the sweet and creamy sensation. This is a tuna niçoise sandwich that bursts with flavors, yet nothing overwhelms the freshness tastes of the tuna,  it’s creamy but light,… ahhh…. it’s just extremely satisfying and yet healthy. How I want to give the chef an award for this wonderful creation. Even the bartender told us that this dish has changed  a lot of people’s impression on tuna salad. It is no doubt one of the best sandwiches on our lists.

We walked out of the bakery feeling all nourished and happy, wondering how great if we could get the recipe for this yumminess…..AND, guess what I found in one of my magazine teared pages, THE RECIPE!! It’s unfortunate that name of the magazine was torn off, but i’m glad the recipe was kept untouched. We haven’t had a chance to test it out yet, but here it is…. and we sure will have another post once we get our hands on it..

Tomas Keller’s Tuna Niçoise Tartine

Adapted by Bouchon Bakery

Serves 2 /  Prep time 30 mins; Cooking time 20 mins (plus cooling)

Ingredients

For Sandwich

  • 2   Thick slices pain de campagne (or sourdough if not available)
  • 2   Leaves of butter lettuce
  • 2   Hard boiled eggs, thinly sliced
  • 8   Niçoise olives
  • Finely chopped chives, sweet paprika, extra virgin online oil to serve

Confit Garlic Aioli

  • 3 Garlic, peeled
  • 3/4 Cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Cup Canola oil
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice

For Tuna Salad

  • 2 tsp flat-leave parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp chervil (or celery if not available), finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chives, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp golden shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp capers, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 5 oz drained canned tuna in oil

Method:

  1. For confit garlic aïoli, combine garlic and half the olive oil in a small saucepan, cook over low hear until garlic is soft (20-30 minutes). Strain (reserve garlic), combine garlic oil with canola oil and remaining olive oil, set aside. process egg, lemon juice, and reserved garlic in a small food processor until smooth. Add combined oils and process until thick and emulsified. season to taste, adjust consistency with a little water if necessary.
  2. For tuna salad, combine 1/4 cup of garlic aïoli, herbs, shallot, capers and lemon juice in a bowl. Add tuna and mix until just combined, season to taste.
  3. To serve, spread the bread slices with a little garlic aïoli, top each with lettuce leaves, layer with tuna salad, egg and radish slices. Garnish with lives, chives and paprika, drizzle with olive oil, if desired, and serve immediately.
  4. Bon Appétit!!

Asian Spiced Roasted Peanuts

These are some yummy spicy peanuts that totally deserve a post on their own. The first time we made these peanuts is when we were recreating a Thai Salad we had from a restaurant. We’re so obsessed with spicing everything up and decided to spice up the peanuts, too. Since we used some soy sauce in the mix to spice things up, and we mostly used them to top off our Thai dishes, I decided to name these delicious delights Asian Spiced Roasted Peanuts. They’re awesome as a snack too, it’s great to make a little extra and save it for later (if you can manage to not finish it all). The savory and spicy combo is just perfect with some ice cold beer in a hot summer day!

We didn’t do a precise measurement when we’re making it, but the flavor is very simple, you can’t go wrong with these ingredients. Here’s the recipe:

Asian Spiced Roasted Peanuts

  • 2 cups  Unsalted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup  Soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Brown sugar
  • Sprinkles of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Sprinkles of hot sauce or oil of your choice (we used this Mongolian Fire Oil as shown in the picture)
  • Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.  Mix soy sauce, sugar, and all the hot sauces in a big bowl, add the peanuts in and toss them around to coat evenly. Roast the peanuts (stir occasionally) for 15-20 minutes or until it’s golden brown.

Look at these good looking peanuts. The glaze comes from the sugar and the soy sauce; the redness comes from the hot oil and chili flakes, since we usually like to crank up the spice meter. Chop them in the salads, or eat them just like that. They’re addictive, too…. just giving you a heads up.

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