Jan 13, 2015


Shaoxing Rice Wine
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One third of Hawaii's population can trace some Chinese heritage in their family tree. The love of Chinese food comes naturally here. Unfortunately, ingredients for Asian recipes are hard to come by in this country. One ingredient that comes to mind is the "elusive" Shaoxing rice wine.

River City of Shaoxing
Shaoxing rice wine has a written history of more than 2500 years, and is China’s oldest alcoholic drink. It originates from the region of Shaoxing in the Zhejiang province of eastern China in the south wing of Yangtze River Delta. Among all the Chinese rice wines, Shaoxing rice wine best embodies all the characteristics of Chinese rice wine and is widely used as both a beverage and a cooking wine in Chinese cuisine. In 2006, the Shaoxing rice wine brewing technique was listed as a national heritage.

Zhejiang provence of eastern China where
Shaoxing rice wine comes from.
Click on photos to view large
Shaoxing rice wine is made from top-quality polished glutinous rice, wheat, and pure water from Jianhu Lake. Shaoxing wine is noted for its amber color, complicated flavor of sweet, bitter, sour and spicy, with a mellow fragrance. It comes in three varieties: shang niang, which is robust; chu yeh ching, which owes its pale green color and delicate flavor to young bamboo leaves added during fermentation; and hsiang hsueh (fragrant snow), which is sweet and pale. These wines are very popular with urban and rural people, and is the drink of choice during festivals, banquets and social gatherings especially in southern China. Chinese rice wines are usually warmed to about 95˚F to 131˚F, or 35˚C to 55˚C before drinking, as warming allows the aromas in the wine to better develop. It is also an essential ingredient in Chinese cuisine. In Chinese recipes, Shaoxing rice wine is used to flavor sauces or as the acidic base to marinate meat, poultry or seafood. It's also widely used in braising and stir-fry, and is often added at the beginning of cooking to add umami to the dish.

Shao Xing Hua Diao Chiu
(5 year old Chinese Shaoxing Rice Wine) - 15% alcohol
16.9 fluid ounces - $7.49 + Shipping and "Surcharge"
$32.46 total. The "Surcharge" is because I live in Hawaii,
however they ship free with NO "Surcharge", 
if you live on the mainland and purchase 
$75 worth of merchandise, which isn't hard to do.
Available through eFoodDepot.com
Unfortunately this wine is hard to get in this country, especially in Hawaii. This is probably because of its popularity throughout mainland China, as well as in Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Because of this, many Americans have been looking for Shaoxing rice wine on the internet. If you look at the comments foodies make about this product, you find that it is only available in large cities like New York, usually in Chinatown.

Many Chinese recipes ask for Chinese cooking wine, I strongly suggest that you use Shaoxing drinking wine instead. It will add much better flavor to the dish. Most cooks say that cooking wine is made with an inferior wine and has too much salt added.
I was able to find this brand of Shaoxing rice wine on eFoodDepot.com with no salt added (see photo to the right). It came beautifully packaged in a small jade colored ceramic bottle, only 5 1/2 inches tall and 3 1/2 inches wide, with 16.9 fluid ounces of rice wine inside, enough for many recipes. Another very popular brand in this country is Shaoxing Pagoda brand rice wine. It has 16% alcohol, and seems to be the most available here, but beware, be sure and get the "drinking" wine", not the"cooking" wine, both made by this same brand.

Shaoxing region of Zhejiang,
where the wine has been produced since the fifth century.

The Chinese cook with wine everyday for even the simplest recipes. Just like wine made here in the U.S., there are many types of Chinese wines: distilled from rice, glutinous rice, wheat, sorghum, millet, ginger, tea, herbs, berries, bamboo and fruits. The difference between Chinese wines and U.S. wines is that Chinese wines have a higher alcohol content (15% to 40% proof). However when used in cooking, some of the alcohol is burned off leaving a wonderful layer of flavor that is hard to come by otherwise. If you can't find Shaoxing rice wine, I find that brandy makes for a good substitute, but you risk loosing the character of Chinese cuisine. Another note, Shaoxing rice wine can be stored at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, and does not have to be refrigerated.

To get you started using Shaoxing rice wine in a recipe, try this simple dish, "Braised Chinese Chicken Wings with Carrots and Snow Peas" (recipe below). Of course, first things first, you need to find yourself a bottle of good Chinese Shaoxing rice wine, because without it you will never be able to recreate authentic Chinese dishes. This wine is not expensive at all, I have seen it go for as little as $4, and up beyond $20... if you can find it, it's worth the effort. 

Interesting Chinese Shaoxing rice wine websites:
• This website (winner of the best Asian weblog in 2014) will give you a taste of how beautiful Shaoxing is, with amazing photos of the lifestyle and culture. (Click here)

• Occasionally I buy hard to find Asian food products online from efooddepot.com, like the rice wine pictured above. This company is the largest online ethnic foods retailer online, with over 8000 food products.

• Here's a wine blog I found interesting, it's about tasting different Chinese rice wines (click here). 

• This excellent site takes you on a tour of Chinese markets in New York's Chinatown including Mike's Wine and Spirits Inc. that sells Shaoxing rice wine (click here). 

• Chinese wine culture is very interesting, check out the #1 Chinese food website to learn more. They have lots of interesting recipes as well.

Shaoxing rice wine recipes:

Braised Chinese Chicken Wings 
with Carrots & Snow Peas
This is a delicious recipe, but a little messy eating the wings. Serve with extra napkins.
Braised Chinese Chicken Wings 
with Potatoes and Carrots
Click on photo to view larger

Marinade Ingredients:
2 tablespoons Shaoxing Rice Wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon potato starch (or corn starch)

Ingredients for Braising:
12 chicken wings mid-section, organic chicken if possible
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces (optional)
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 3" matchsticks
1 cup snow peas, stems and threads removed
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup water
2 star anise (available in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
a pinch of salt to taste
3 tablespoons spring onions, cut to rounds
1 teaspoons potato starch with 1 tablespoon of water to thicken sauce

Marinate chicken wings in marinade for 4 hours, refrigerated. Heat wok or large skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add oil, when hot, add the marinated chicken wings, without the marinade. Stir fry the chicken wings continuously until skin is a golden brown (about 10 minutes). Add the water, star anise, potatoes (if using), carrots, soy sauce, salt, sugar, oyster sauce. When water boils, lower to medium heat, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the cover, add snow peas, and continue cooking about 6-8 minutes until the sauce is thickened, and the chicken wings, and the peas and carrots are cooked through. If you want the sauce thicker, add the potato starch and water mixture. Taste sauce and add salt to taste (may not be necessary as oyster sauce is salty already). Dish up, sprinkle with spring onions and serve hot with white rice on the side! Makes 2 large servings.

Shaoxing Pot Stickers
Ingredients for pot stickers:
3 cups chopped napa (Chinese) cabbage (about 4 ounces)
4 dried shiitake mushrooms (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
5 ounces lean ground pork
5 ounces ground chicken breast
1 large egg white
48 gyoza potsticker skins
1/4 cup canola oil, divided
1 1/3 cups water, divided

Ingredients for sauce:
3 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced green onions
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Shaoxing Chinese rice wine
2 teaspoons chile puree with garlic sauce
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

To prepare dumplings, cook cabbage in boiling water 1 minute or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Cool; chop.

Place mushrooms in a small bowl; cover with boiling water. Cover and let stand 30 minutes or until tender. Drain mushrooms; chop.
Combine cabbage, mushrooms, 1/4 cup green onions, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and next 7 ingredients (through egg white) in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours.

Working with 1 gyoza skin at a time (cover remaining gyoza skins to prevent drying), spoon 2 teaspoons pork mixture into center of each skin. Moisten edges of gyoza skin with water. Fold in half, pinching edges together to seal. Place dumpling, seam side up, on a baking sheet sprinkled with remaining 1 teaspoon cornstarch (cover loosely with a towel to prevent drying). Repeat procedure with remaining gyoza skins and filling.

Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 12 dumplings to pan; cook 3 minutes. Add 1/3 cup water. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until water evaporates. Repeat procedure with remaining canola oil, dumplings, and water.

To prepare the sauce, combine 3 tablespoons chopped ginger and remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Serve sauce with dumplings. Makes 16 serving of 3 per serving.

Chinese Sweet & Sour Fish
1 firm white fish (or equivalent fish fillets)
2 tablespoons oil
6 slices ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon potato starch (or corn starch)
2 spring onions, sliced to rounds

Sauce Ingredients:
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine

Mix sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Rinse fish and dry. Rub a coating of oil all over the fish. Heat wok to medium heat and add oil when the wok is hot. Add the ginger slices and stir till fragrance released. Add the fish in, being careful of oil splatters. During the first minute of cooking, use the spatula to lift and shift the fish around a bit. (Sometimes I just shake the wok back and forth lightly.) This will help to prevent the fish from sticking to your pan. Lower the heat and cook for another 2 minutes or until golden brown. Flip fish over (add a bit more oil if needed) and cook for 1 minute, lifting and shifting as before to prevent the fish from sticking. Then cook another 2 minutes or until golden brown.

Add garlic to the wok around the fish and stir till fragrant. Add mixed sauce ingredients to wok, cover and cook fish over low heat for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce is reduced by half. Stir 2 tbsp of water with the starch into small bowl then pour into the sauce, stirring constantly. Once the sauce is thick and glossy turn off heat. Transfer to serving platter, sprinkle with spring onions and serve. Makes 2 servings.

Shaoxing Braised Pork Belly
Shaoxing Braised Pork Belly, or "Red Cooked Pork" as it is known in China, is a very popular comfort food. This dish, like most braised meat dishes, is better if left overnight and reheated the next day.

3/4 pound of lean skinless pork belly (cut into 3/4-inch thick pieces)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cloves of garlic peeled
1 1-inch piece ginger, cut into "coins"
3 tablespoons Shaoxing Chinese rice wine
1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 cups water
green onions, shredded and sprigs of cilantro for garnish

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the pork for a couple minutes. This gets rid of impurities and starts the cooking process. Take the pork out of the pot and set aside.

Over low heat, add oil and sugar to your wok. Melt the sugar for about 3 minutes until the sugar is slightly brown, then add the pork. Raise the heat to medium and cook until the pork is lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

Turn the heat back down to low and add the garlic, ginger, Shaoxing rice wine, soy sauce, and water. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until pork is fork tender. Every 5-10 minutes, stir to prevent burning and add more water if it gets too dry. Once the pork is fork tender, if there is still a lot of visible liquid, uncover the wok, turn up the heat, and stir continuously the sauce has reduced to a glistening coating. Garnish with shredded scallion and cilantro. Serve with Chinese steamed buns (recipe) or Kings brand Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls. Makes 4 servings.

Pork Wonton Soup with Shaoxing Rice Wine
2 quarts lower-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 3-inch piece fresh ginger, 1 inch finely grated (1 teaspoon) and 2 inches thinly sliced
1/4 pound lean ground pork
2 large scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced (green and white parts kept separate)
1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon Asian sesame oil; more as needed
20 square wonton wrappers
2 romaine lettuce heart leaves, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced crosswise

In a 4-quart saucepan, bring the chicken broth, 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, and the sliced ginger to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and let the ginger steep while you make the wontons.

Combine the pork, the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, the grated ginger, scallion whites, rice wine, cornstarch, and sesame oil in a medium bowl and mix gently by hand.

Arrange the wonton wrappers on a clean work surface and put 1 teaspoon of the pork mixture in the center of each.

Fill a small bowl with warm water. Dip your finger into the water and run it along the edges of a wonton wrapper. Fold the wrapper diagonally over the filling, pressing out any air, to make a triangle. Press the edges firmly together. Moisten the two points on the long side of the triangle and pinch them together over the filling to seal. (The finished wonton should look like a pope’s hat.) Repeat with the remaining wrappers.

Remove the ginger from the broth with a slotted spoon. Raise the heat to a lively simmer, add the wontons one at a time (so they don’t stick together), and cook until the pork is done, 5 to 8 minutes. (To check, pull one wonton out and cut it open to make sure the pork is cooked through.)

With the slotted spoon, divide the won tons among 4 soup bowls. Divide the lettuce among the bowls. Season the broth to taste with 1 or 2 drops of sesame oil and divide evenly among the soup bowls. Sprinkle with the scallion greens and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Chinese Beef Vegetable Stir-fry
Ingredients for the beef:
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
3/4 pound beef tenderloin, trimmed of any silverskin, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips

Ingredients for the stir-fry:
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
2 small serrano chiles, minced (2 tsp.)
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/2 medium red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1/2 small cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 ounces snow peas, cut on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick strips
1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots, drained and cut into matchsticks
3 tablespoons canned shredded Sichuan preserved vegetable, drained (or whole, cut into matchsticks)
2 tablespoons chicken broth or lower-salt chicken broth
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 medium cloves garlic, minced

In a large bowl, whisk the oyster sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine  sugar, cornstarch, and pepper. Add the beef and toss to thoroughly coat. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Heat a 14-inch wok over high heat for 45 seconds. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl it around the sides of the wok to coat. When a wisp of white smoke appears, add the ginger and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, 20 to 30 seconds. Add the chiles, carrot, bell pepper, cucumber, snow peas, bamboo shoots, and preserved vegetable and stir-fry until the vegetables are brightly colored and just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large plate; discard the ginger.

In a small bowl, stir the chicken broth and cornstarch until smooth; set aside.

Wipe out the wok and clean the spatula with paper towels. Return the wok to high heat for 45 seconds. Add the remaining 2-1/2 tablespoons peanut oil and swirl to coat the sides of the wok. Add the garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the beef and its marinade, spreading it in a single layer around the sides and bottom of the wok; tip the wok from side to side to keep contact with the flame so the meat browns evenly on the underside, about 2 minutes. Stir the beef, add the vegetables, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Make a well in the center of the mixture, stir the cornstarch mixture to loosen, and add it to the wok. Stir the liquid until it bubbles, about 1 minute, then toss everything together and serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Beef-Broccoli Stir-fry 
with Shaoxing Rice Wine
1 pound London broil, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
1/4 cup soy sauce (divided)
1/4 cup Shaoxing rice wine (divided)
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/3 cup low-sodium homemade or store-bought chicken stock
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
3 scallions, whites finely sliced, greens cut into 1/2-inch segments, reserved separately
4 tablespoons vegetable, peanut, or canola oil
1 pound broccoli florets (about 1 1/2 quarts)

Combine beef, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine in a bowl and toss to coat. Place in refrigerator and let marinate for at least 20 minutes at room temperature and up to 3 hours.

Meanwhile, combine remaining soy sauce with corn starch and stir with a fork to form a slurry. Add remaining Shaoxing rice wine, chicken stock, oyster sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Set aside. Combine garlic, ginger, and scallion whites in a bowl and set aside.

When ready to cook, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Add half of beef and cook without moving until well seared, about 1 minute. Continue cooking while stirring and tossing until lightly cooked but still pink in spots, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of oil and remaining beef, adding beef to same bowl. Wipe out wok. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon oil and half of broccoli. Transfer to bowl with beef. Repeat with remaining oil and remaining broccoli. Return wok to high heat until smoking. Return beef and broccoli to wok and add garlic/ginger/scallion mixture. Cook, tossing and stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add sauce and scallion greens and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until lightly thickened, about 45 seconds longer. Carefully transfer to a serving platter and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Chinese Cold Asparagus Salad
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimed, cut into thirds at a slight angle, and left to soak in water for 15 minutes
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Chinese Shaoxing rice wine
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil (or less, to taste)
1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed but whole

Roasted sesame seeds for garnish

Drain the asparagus. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and put the asparagus in for just one minute. Drain and run under cold water. Drain again. Leave in a colander.

Mix the rest of the ingredients for the dressing. Just before serving, put the asparagus into a bowl. Remove the garlic from the dressing and toss the dressing with the asparagus. Serve garnished with sesame seeds. Makes 4 servings.

Jan 4, 2015

"As American As Apple Pie"

Old-Fashioned Double-Crust Apple Pie
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The first apple trees were brought to the New World by the Pilgrims who carried apple spurs with them from England. It was the Pennsylvania Dutch, who came over in the 18th century (and who were, of course, German, and not Dutch) who perfected apple pies and made them a famous part of American cuisine.

American soldiers during World War II did their part to popularize the apple pie. When asked by journalists why they were going to war, a common slogan used as a response was, “For mom and apple pie”. The phrase was picked up by writers who turned it into "as American as Mom and Apple Pie". By the 1960s, Mom got left out and the phrase appeared as it does today. Apple pie was quickly adopted as “the” American thing by the 1960s.

The closest thing to an apple growing in Hawaii is the pineapple, apple banana, mountain apple, or if you are a guy, your adam's apple, none of which are related to real apples. Hawaii has an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown locally, but not apples. We get our apples from the mainland, where nearly 90 percent of our grocery items come from.

Photo by Scott Bauer
We usually see 5 or 6 varieties of apples in our grocery stores, but their are many different kinds of apples, 7500 known cultivars to be exact. 

Most people consider the crisp and acidic Granny Smith apple to be the best apple for apple pie, however many cooks use a combination of apples, which add more flavor and texture to the pie, such as the sweet, juicy and tangy, Mcintosh apple. Other apple pie apples might include the Gala, Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Jonathan, even the Fuji apple. The worst apple for baking is the Red Delicious apple. These apples are sweet, crisp and grainy. They lack a tart element and a rich apple flavor, which is what makes apple pie so great.

It's also good to know why they say "an apple a day keeps the doctor away". The fact is that apples are low in calories and free of fat, sodium and cholesterol. They are also rich in fiber, disease-fighting anti-oxidants and a variety of vitamins and minerals including potassium, folate, niacin and vitamins A, B, C, E and K. Eating apples has been associated with lower risk of a variety of cancers, stroke and diabetes. In addition, these nutritional powerhouses may help protect the brain from developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and even lower a person’s risk of tooth decay.

Now that you know what the apple can do for your health, here is what apple pie can do for your sweet tooth:

Old-Fashioned Double-Crust Apple Pie
Ingredients for crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice and chilled
1/4 cup ice water

Ingredients for filling:
3 pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small dice
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar*, for sprinkling

9 or 10-inch deep-dish glass pie plate

In a food processor, combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse in 1-second bursts until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle the ice water over the dough and pulse in 1-second bursts until it just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather any crumbs and pat it into 2 disks. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. On a floured work surface, roll out 1 disk of the dough to a 12-inch round, a scant 1/4 inch thick. Ease the dough into a 9 or 10-inch deep-dish glass pie plate. Roll out the second disk of dough to a 12-inch round. Transfer to a wax paper–lined baking sheet and refrigerate.
In a bowl, combine the apples with the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add the lemon zest and juice and toss well. Let stand for 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves slightly.

Scrape the apples and any juices into the pie plate and dot with the butter. Cover with the top crust and gently press the edges together. Trim the overhanging dough to about 1 inch and pinch to seal. Fold the dough rim under itself and crimp decoratively, or use the tines of a fork to press and seal the crust edge. Brush the pie with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Cut 3 small gashes in the top of the pie to vent the steam.

Bake the pie on the lowest shelf of the oven for 30 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 365°F and bake the pie for 45 to 50 minutes longer, until the fruit juices are bubbling through the steam vents and the crust is deeply golden on the top and bottom; cover the pie loosely with foil halfway through baking to keep it from getting too dark. Transfer the pie to a rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving. Makes 8 servings.

*Note: Turbinado sugar is a sugar cane-based, minimally refined sugar. It is medium brown in color and has large crystals. It's often mistaken for traditional brown sugar because of its light brown color, but it's made in a different way. Turbinado sugar is a popular topping for cinnamon cookies and toast, and is commonly used in graham cracker piecrusts. Chefs may also use it on creme caramel, since it melts and caramelizes well. Given its higher moisture content, it can harden if exposed to too much air. Manufacturers recommend storing it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Honey Apple Crumble
4 cups peeled, sliced apples (Golden Delicious, Jonathan, or Granny Smith)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, divided
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375°F, and butter a 1-1/2 quart baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine the apples, 1/4 cup brown sugar, lemon juice and honey. Toss to coat apple slices, and pour into baking dish.

In a small bowl, cut the butter into the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cinnamon and salt. Sprinkle mixture over apples, and top with pecans.

Bake in preheated 375°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until bubbly and brown on top. Serve warm. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Apple Galette
A galette is a rustic French tart, but at the end of the day it is just a pie without a plate. I make this same recipe using fresh sliced apples, pears, or plums.
Apple Galette
Click on photo to view larger

Ingredients for crust:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Ingredients for filling:
1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup apricot preserves
Whole milk

For the crust, blend flour and salt in processor. Add butter and blend, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 2 tablespoons ice water and blend just until dough begins to clump together, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep dough chilled. Soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Roll out dough between sheets of parchment paper to 1/8-inch-thick round, 14 inches in diameter. Remove top sheet of parchment. Using bottom sheet as aid, transfer dough on parchment to large unrimmed baking sheet. Chill 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine apple slices, 2 tablespoons sugar, and lemon peel in medium bowl; toss to blend. Spread preserves over crust, leaving 1 1/2-inch plain border. Arrange apple slices in concentric circles atop preserves, overlapping slightly. Using parchment as aid, fold plain crust border up over apples, pinching any cracks in crust. Brush crust with milk. Sprinkle crust edges and apples with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake galette 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until crust is golden, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Slide long thin knife between parchment and galette. Let stand at least 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Jan 3, 2015

This Incredible Thing Called BARLEY

So what is this thing called barley and what makes it so incredible? Barley has been around for a long time, more than 17,000 years ago, humans gathered the seeds of plants and ate them. It was one of the first domesticated cereals. It's a member of the grass family that was widely eaten by peasants in Medieval Europe, and was probably used in one of the first alcoholic drinks developed by Neolithic humans. Considered a whole grain, de-hulled barley still has its bran and germ, making it a nutritious and a popular health food. I hate calling barley a health food because so many health foods just don't appeal to most people. I like to think of it as a rice substitute that tastes better, and is much better for you, with more substance and flavor. Listen to these health benefits:

• Whole grain barley is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals essential to health.

• The U.S. FDA has allowed barley foods to claim that they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

• Barley, like all whole grains, reduces blood pressure.

• Eating barley has been shown to lower LDL "bad" cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

• A flood of recent research indicates that barley's ability to control blood sugar may be exceptional, offering an important tool against rising rates of diabetes.

• Barley has more protein than corn, brown rice, millet, sorghum or rye, and is higher in fiber and lower in soluble (starch) carbohydrates than almost all other whole grains. While the fiber in most grains is concentrated largely in the outer bran layer, barley's fiber is found throughout the whole grain.

• Barley may help you feel full longer, and thereby help you control your weight.
Barley – even pearl barley – may help reduce visceral fat and waist circumference.

Pearl barley (or pearled barley) as we know it in the grocery store, is dehulled barley which has been steam processed further to remove the bran. It may be polished, a process known as "pearling". Dehulled or pearl barley may be processed into a variety of barley products, including flour, flakes similar to oatmeal, and grits. For me, the best use of barley is in rustic soups and stews, and in barley bread.

Barley is used commercially for animal feed, to produce malt (an important ingredient in beer production), for seed and for human food applications. Approximately 51 percent of the barley crop consumed in the US is used for animal feed. Forty-four percent is used for malt production, 3 percent as seed and only 2 percent for food products. In addition to domestic use of barley, exports of the grain averaged about $155 million for barley and its milled products, $44 million for malt and malt extracts and $269 million for beer between 1991 and 2000.

Barley is the fourth largest grain crop after wheat, rice and corn. It is grown in many different countries throughout the world. Besides the US, producers include Australia, Canada, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. Barley is grown in 42 states in the U.S. North Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Colorado, Wyoming, Virginia, Minnesota, Maryland, South Dakota, Oregon and Utah are the biggest producers.

If you haven't discovered barley, first check out these recipes, then look for it in your grocery store. Most recipes call for "pearl barley", some "whole grain barley", and others, "barley flour". Buy it, take it home, then try one of the recipes below.

Barley & Bone Marrow
2/3 cup pearl barley
4 8-inch long grass-fed beef marrow bones cut lengthwise
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
8 Ritz crackers, crushed, or bread crumbs
parsley leaves for garnish

In medium saucepan with lid, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add 1 cup pearl barley and return to boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Makes about 2 cups. While the barley is cooking, place the beef marrow bones on a foil lined cookie sheet cut side up. Sprinkle each bone with a little salt. Roast the bones for 15 minutes at 400˚F. Remove the marrow from the bones in small pieces with a small spoon, and add it to the cooked barley. Add the chopped parsley and Cajun seasoning and stir the mixture. Return the mixture to the bones and sprinkle each bone liberally with crushed Ritz crackers or bread crumbs.

Place the bones back on the cookie sheet and put it on the middle shelf of your oven. Broil on medium just until the crackers are toasted, a minute or so (watch carefully). Serve immediately, garnished with parsley leaves. Serve with a small spoon, like a grapefruit spoon. Makes 4 appetizer servings.

Note: If you can't get the bones cut lengthwise, cut them across the bone about 2 inches in length, 4 bones per serving, however the stuffing is much easier to remove if the bones are cut lengthwise.

Sausage & Eggs with Barley
1 cup pearl barley
3 cups chicken broth
12 ounces bulk turkey sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley leaves
4 eggs
Salt and pepper

In medium saucepan with lid bring chicken broth to a boil. Add barley; return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Set cooked barley aside. Crumble sausage into large skillet. Add chopped onions; sauté over medium heat until sausage is browned. Drain off fat. Add cooked barley and parsley to sausage. Stir and continue to cook until barley begins to brown. Spoon barley-sausage mixture into 4 large ramekins or other oven-safe single-serving dishes. Break an egg over each serving. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in 375°F oven for 10 minutes or until eggs are set. Makes 4 servings.

Tuna-Barley Salad 
with Herbed Lemon Dressing
Ingredients for salad:
1 cup pearl barley
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1/2 cup green bell pepper strips
1/2 cup red bell pepper strips
1 cup sliced zucchini
2 cans (6-1/2 ounces each) tuna packed in water, drained

Ingredients for herbed lemon dressing:
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Combine barley and chicken broth in saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Cool. In the meantime, steam or microwave broccoli and cauliflower florets about 2 minutes or until partially cooked. Cool. Combine broccoli and cauliflower with cooked barley, peppers, zucchini and tuna. Combine ingredients for Herbed Lemon Dressing; fold into barley mixture and toss gently. Makes 6 servings.

Asian Barley-Chicken Salad
1/2 cup pearl or whole grain barley
1-1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 pound snow peas
2 cups cooked and cubed chicken
1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained
4 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup prepared teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot or ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

In medium saucepan with lid, bring water to a boil. Add barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. (If using whole grain barley, it may be necessary to increase cooking time to 50-55 minutes. It may also be necessary to drain off any unabsorbed liquid after cooking.) Cook carrots in boiling water for 5 minutes. Add snow peas and cook 1 minute longer or until carrots and snow peas are tender-crisp. Rinse cooked vegetables and drain. Combine cooked barley, cooked vegetables, chicken, water chestnuts and green onions. Blend together oil, teriyaki sauce, vinegar, gingerroot and garlic powder in a small bowl. Pour over barley salad and mix well. Cover salad and refrigerate until chilled. Makes 6 servings.

Greek Barley Salad
1 cup pearl barley
3 cups water
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 small green or red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

In medium saucepan with lid bring water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Add barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, oregano and 1/4 teaspoon salt; pour over hot cooked barley. Cool to room temperature. Gently stir in onions, parsley, tomatoes, bell pepper and feta cheese. Serve salad chilled or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Barley-Lentil Soup
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup chopped onion
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
7 cups salt-reduced, fat-free chicken broth, divided
1-1/2 cups small fresh button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1-1/2 teaspoons dried leaf thyme, crushed
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Spray 4-quart saucepan with non-stick cooking spray. Add onion and garlic; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots and celery; sauté 3 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Mix in 6 cups broth, mushrooms, lentils, barley, tomato paste, thyme, curry powder and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 60 to 70 minutes or until lentils and barley are tender, but not mushy. Blend in remaining broth, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and serve. Makes 8 servings.

Baked Chicken with Apples and Barley
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 medium tart green apple, chopped
1-2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup whole grain barley kernels
2-1/2 cups chicken broth
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt (or a little minced garlic)
3 tablespoons orange marmalade or apricot jam

Heat oil in large skillet; sauté onion, bell peppers and garlic 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chopped apple and curry powder; sauté 4 minutes longer. Stir in barley and chicken broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes.

Pour barley mixture into large baking dish or casserole. Arrange chicken breasts over barley and season with garlic salt. Cover and bake in 375º F oven for 45 minutes. Remove cover; brush chicken with marmalade. Continue to bake, uncovered, 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Barley Burgers
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon prepared steak sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 avocado, seeded and scooped out
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon coarse garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon Asian chili sauce
6 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
6 lettuce leaves
6 slices tomatoes

In 1-quart saucepan heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in barley; brown for 2 minutes, stirring. Add water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 35 minutes. Cool. In large mixing bowl combine cold barley, ground beef, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Add egg and mix until mixture is blended. Form into 6 patties. In large skillet heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add patties and cook for 4 minutes per side. In the meantime, combine avocado, garlic salt and chili sauce in bowl. Coarsely mash and set aside. To assemble hamburgers, spread base of each bun with avocado mixture. Top with lettuce leaf, tomato slice, burger and another spoonful of avocado mixture. Place on top of bun and serve. Makes 6 burgers.

Beef Barley Chili
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 can (28 ounces) cut tomatoes
1 cup water
1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto or red beans, undrained
Grated Cheddar cheese or crumbled tortilla chips, for garnish

Heat oil in Dutch oven or heavy 4 to 5-quart pan over medium heat. Add ground beef and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until beef is no longer pink. Add barley, tomatoes, water, chili powder and salt. Cover and cook 30 minutes over medium-low heat. Add undrained beans and continue to cook 15 to 20 minutes to blend flavors and finish cooking barley. Serve in bowls topped with grated cheese or crumbled tortilla chips, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Barley
6 large tomatoes
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup pearl barley
2-1/4 cups water
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
Additional pecan halves, for garnish

Cut tops from tomatoes. Scoop out pulp and reserve to use in soups or sauces. Sprinkle centers of tomatoes with salt and pepper. Invert tomatoes on paper towels to drain. In a medium saucepan with lid, bring water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon butter to boil. Add barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. In a small skillet, sauté chopped pecans in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add pecans to cooked barley along with chopped bell pepper and green onion. Fill tomatoes with barley mixture. Place filled tomatoes close together in baking pan. Add 1/4 cup water to pan. Cover with foil and bake at 375° F for 20 minutes. Garnish each tomato with a pecan half, if desired, and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Rustic Barley Bread with Sunflower Seeds
Not only does this crusty bread have a wonderful nutty flavor, it has a distinct texture from the barley and whole wheat flour, not to mention the sunflower seeds. The other thing is that it's easy to make, and you don't even need to use a hand mixer. This bread keeps very well for 4 or 5 days.

2 1/4 cups barley flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups white bread flour
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Special equipment: large bowl (large enough to knead the bread in with your hands), plastic wrap, Dutch oven for baking the bread, parchment paper.

In a large bowl, add the flours, the yeast, sugar, and sunflower seeds, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Make a well in the middle and add the olive oil, water and salt. Mix with your hands until you have a rough dough and then start kneading. It will need about 5 minutes of kneading before you have a pliable dough that’s not sticking to your hands or to the sides of the bowl but remains slightly sticky. The dough will be kind of heavy due to the type of flours used, it will not be airy and light like a dough made exclusively with white flour.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place, allowing the dough to proof and double in size. It will take about 45 minutes to proof, depending on how warm the room you leave it in is, 80˚ to 85˚ is ideal.

Once the dough has proofed, take it out of the bowl and knead it for a few seconds just to deflate it a bit on a clean surface (don’t flour the surface). It should feel smooth, somewhat soft and not sticky. Shape it into a ball and then press the top to flatten it. Using a large knife, slash the top three times and then, using a Dutch oven, take a large piece of parchment paper, crimp it and line the Dutch oven with it. Place the dough on the parchment paper, put on the lid and place Dutch oven in the oven that has been preheated to 435˚F. Immediately turn heat down to 375˚F and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for about 25 minutes more, until the bread has taken on a golden brown color and the interior temperature reaches 200˚F. As a general rule, a bread loaf is ready when it makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Remove the bread from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for up to an hour before slicing. Makes one loaf.

Barley Scones with Lemon Glaze
Ingredients for Scones:
1 cup barley flour
1 cup all-purpose wheat flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries (may substitute currants, raisins or dried cherries)
1 cup nonfat milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel

Ingredients for Lemon Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

In large bowl, mix together flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in cranberries. Mix in milk, butter, egg and grated lemon peel. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto baking sheet, creating 12 equal portions. Bake at 375° F for 15 to 17 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool scones slightly. Combine Lemon Glaze ingredients; stir until smooth. Use pastry brush to glaze tops of cooled scones. Makes 12 scones.

Barley Pudding
This is a Scottish recipe that is usually served as a dessert or for breakfast as a nice change from oatmeal.

1 cup pearl barley
1/3 cup currants, or chopped soft prunes, or chopped dates
1/3 cup golden raisin
4 1/2 cups water
1/8 teaspoon salt
superfine sugar, to serve with the pudding
light cream, to serve with the pudding

Mix the barley and water in a heavy-based saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one-and-a-half hours, stirring occasionally. Add the currants, raisins and salt and simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve sprinkled with sugar and the cream. Makes 6 servings.