Tofu and Sauerkraut Salad

Tofu and Sauerkraut Salad By Michelle Chang One of my favorite vegetables in Taiwan is cabbage. It is a vegetable that can be found in all seasons and is easy to store in the refrigerator. After washing and slicing, cabbage can be stir-fried directly with garlic and become a very delicious vegetable dish. It has a crisp texture and a sweet taste. In addition to stir-frying, cabbage is also suitable for use in soups or to be pickled. In Taiwan, there is a famous street food called, stinky tofu. It is a type of fermented tofu and is most often prepared by frying it to a crispy golden brown and serving it with a plate of pickled cabbage. The pickling sauce is sweet and sour, sometimes with a touch of spicy taste, and the pickled cabbage will take the greasiness out of the fried tofu. (Note: This preparation of cabbage is a pickle, not a fermentation.) Food is a necessity for human’s body and spirituality, a source of security. For an immigrant who has left his home country, the first thing he needs to find in a foreign country is the familiar food of his home country. When I arrived in France, I started to look for cabbage in the supermarkets and open-air markets in France. I saw a kind of cabbage called "Chou Blanc", but after I bought it, I found that it was very hard and not suitable for quick stir-fry. Most commonly, Chou Blanc is fermented, which is also known as sauerkraut. I personally do not like stewed vegetables, so fermenting chou blanc is the best way for me to eat it. There are many kinds of vegetables that belong to the cruciferous family, including cauliflower, broccoli, and radish. The interesting thing is that the cabbage family can be considered like the cheaper truffle. Because in the cabbage family there is the same DNA as in truffles - sulfur. These sulfur-containing organic compounds (truffles or fermented cauliflower, kale, etc.) produce a sulfurous, garlicky smell through microbial decomposition, so when you open a container of fermented cabbage (broccoli, radish...), don't put your nose to it yet. Let these unpleasant smells dissipate and then taste the richness of its chemical reaction. The chemical reactions between the various flavor-presenting amino acids and the mono- or disaccharide molecules that break down in fermented cabbage produce a fascinating flavor that makes them…

Olive all’Ascolana

Olive all’Ascolana By Elisabetta Ciardullo One of the perks of being a Personal Chef is that I get to experiment with many ingredients and dishes, doing things that maybe I would have skipped if I had to cook just for myself or my family, out of laziness or health concerns. One of my greatest discoveries were the Olive all’Ascolana, which are a traditional street food -like dish from the city of Ascoli Piceno, in the Marche region. I never tried this specialty growing up, somehow, I missed it: probably in Italy there are many more local specialties that I have never heard of, so big is the variety of food and the imagination of my compatriots. Olive all’Ascolana are basically pitted olives stuffed with a mix of different meats, usually pork, veal, and chicken, and the omnipresent parmigiano cheese. Breaded and then fried, they are crispy on the outside and soft and tasty on the inside. You start eating them and you never stop – the right size for a one-two bites appetizer. This recipe seemed straightforward to replicate also here in the US – but don’t get too thrilled because we will never be able to make the same thing. The variety of olives used in Ascoli is exactly the “ascolana”, which is a plump, large, and sweet olive. Needless to say the production area is so limited that it doesn’t even cover the growing demand in Italy, let alone the export abroad: the ascolana olives are thus impossible to find here, as far as I know. But to make something that reminds the unforgettable taste of the original olives, I experienced substituting ingredients and adapting the recipe. After a couple of tests, I am now convinced that the Castelvetrano olives work better because of their plumpness and texture; they have a beautiful deep green color; they are definitely more acidic and saltier, so they need a good rinse before using for this recipe. The stuffing of the olives has also evolved with time: originally a mix of 3 meats, is now an exercise in imagination, also in Italy: fish and vegetarian fillings have become common. I prefer to make the meat filling with chicken breast, in order to make them palatable to a broader range of guests. I also tried a vegetarian filling version but was not happy with the results – many more sessions of testing await…

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup By Marta Díaz Megías Pumpkin is an underappreciated vegetable. Most think of carving one for Halloween, even though it is packed with flavor, vitamins, minerals, color and above all, creaminess of taste and texture. There is also an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction once it is eaten, whether in soup form, as a casserole, or as a side dish. Peeling and preparing pumpkin is not pleasurable but it is a job worth doing. This soup can be a starter to a light main course, or a main course served with a salad. Any kind of pumpkin will do as long it is fresh. Ingredients: 3 fl oz virgin olive oil 1 onion peeled and finely chopped 1 tsp granulated sugar 1½ lbs. pumpkin, peeled and diced ¾ inch root ginger, peeled and chopped 2 carrots peeled and sliced 1 potato peeled and chopped 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon ground white pepper ½ teaspoon ground coriander 70 fl oz boiling water 2 oz unsalted butter 1 tablespoon lemon juice 3 fl oz double cream (optional) To Serve: Salad or arugula leaves, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds. Preparation: 1. Heat large heavy pan, add the olive oil, onion and sugar and sauté on a high heat for a minute 2. Add the pumpkin and mix. 3. Add the chopped root ginger, carrots, potato, salt, white pepper, and coriander and mix for a minute or so. 4. Pour in the boiling water, add the butter and cover with a lid. Allow to simmer gently on a moderate heat for 20 minutes. 5. Liquidize the soup and then pour back into the pan. Add the lemon juice and the cream and serve when you are ready. A Few Notes: The cream can be omitted and served on the side instead if you prefer. The consistency of the soup can be determined through personal preference. Feel free to thin the soup by adding more water. Arugula leaves give a nice contrast with their fresh, peppery taste. Marta Díaz Megías was born and raised in Madrid, Spain and is as an official Translator/Interpreter from the Catholic University of Paris. She has always had a personal passion for cooking and started her own catering company in Madrid, and taught cooking courses for several years as well. Marta now lives in Southern California and loves promoting Spanish cuisine.

Garbanzo Beans with Spinach and Clams

Garbanzo Beans with Spinach and Clams By Marta Díaz Megías Spanish spinach and garbanzo beans is a must try dish, especially popular during the cold winter months and during lent. This dish comes from Ancient Persia (modern Iran), where Arab traders got their hands on it and introduced it to the Mediterranean. There are records of spinach being a popular Spanish vegetable by the end of 12th century, and it was an important ingredient in Moorish and Sephardic Jewish cuisine in Spain. Garbanzos originally came from the Middle East and made their way into the Spanish kitchen by way of Phoenicians. They are of big importance in the Spanish cuisine, and they are a primary ingredient in many popular Spanish dishes. Garbanzos are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, high in protein and a great replacement for meat in many vegetarian and vegan dishes. I have added spinach to my recipe, but it can be made without clams. [foogallery id="7526"] Ingredients: 2 cups dry garbanzo beans 1 Leek 1 red onion 1 spring onion 1 green peppers, cut in long pieces 4 peeled tomatoes 3 peeled carrots cut 2 bunches of fresh spinach 2 garlic cloves 1 ½ cups of fresh clams Fresh parsley a splash of white wine salt virgin olive oil Preparation: 1. Place the garbanzo beans in a large saucepan or bowl with salted worm water. Let it stand 8 to 24 hours. Drain before cooking. 2. In a pressure cooker place garbanzo bean, peeled onion, leek and let it boil for a short time, then remove foam on the top. 3. Add the rest of vegetables except spinach, close pressure cooker and let it cook for 10 minutes starting to count when it beeps. 4. Remove, onion, spring onion and leek, grind it and place it back in the cooker. 5. Add spinach, close cooker, and let it cook for 5 minutes. 6. Right before serving, place some oil in a pan with the garlic cloves (than you remove later), a splash of white wine and some finely chopped fresh parsley and clams, sauté he clams until they open. Add to the garbanzo bean mix, heat it up and then serve. Marta Díaz Megías was born and raised in Madrid, Spain and is as an official Translator/Interpreter from the Catholic University of Paris. She has always had a personal passion for cooking and started her…

Spinach Pie Genoa Style

Spinach Pie Genoa Style By Elisabetta Ciardullo In Italy savory pies are love affairs: every region has its own secret recipe for a variation on Torta Rustica, with a multitude of filling, but always with a couple of omnipresent ingredients: flour dough, lots of vegetables, a couple of eggs and cheese. As you see right away those are very filling and satisfying pies, that can be brought to work for a quick lunch, or as a snack during the Sunday hike or for the day at the beach. And as always inspired by the need of feeding the family without breaking the bank, often reusing some leftovers or some wild growing vegetables to be picked for free. I discovered the method that we are going to use for this one from my dear friend Marica, from Genoa. To tell you the truth she made it for me with butternut squash filling, and I was flabbergasted. It could be a very welcome main dish for the vegetarians at your Holiday table! In Liguria people mostly use different kinds of green leafy vegetables for the filling, some of them growing wild in the fields; to simplify a bit and no to put you off we will use spinach, readily available already washed in every grocery store. You could also use what is labeled as “power greens”, a mixture of young kale and spinach, or chard. The secret of this delicious pie is in the dough: instead of using a store-bought puff pastry or a bread style dough, we are going to make something that, strangely enough, makes me think of the crispy baklava dough from our Arabic countries’ neighbors. Layers of thin, super thin dough, hand rolled, and brushed each time with the fantastic Extra Virgin Olive Oil preferably from Liguria as well. Strange? Not so much, just fusion ante litteram: Genoa was one of the most important Maritime Republics from the X century through all of the Middle Ages, flourished during the Crusades, became very rich supporting the Spanish Monarchy in the XVII century and stayed independent through the end of XVIII century when it was conquered by Napoleon. In all this time Genoa never stopped crossing the Mediterranean Sea with its fleet of merchant ships, and trading with all the people of the Mediterranean basin, thus the influence. This dish can be made ahead and reheats beautifully. It can also…