Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Chinese Orange Sauce Marinade

Everyone once in awhile I order in from the local Chinese restaurant. And no matter what I order I seem to wind up with a couple of small containers of orange sauce. Like little packs of soy sauce, which also invariably come with the meal, these containers usually elicit rolled eyes and a bank shot into the trash.

But recently I thought, maybe I can put them to good use. I know the ingredients of this cloying sauce probably aren't all that great--but I also hate to waste. So it occurred to me to use one of these containers in a marinade.

Now you can find any number of recipes for orange sauce online, so if you don't want to use these make your own. But if you, too, have been struggling with what to do with these unasked-for sauces, try this marinade. I use it for salmon, shrimp, chicken and pork--and brush it onto roasting vegetables, particularly winter squashes.

The ingredients are simple: one container of the orange sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, spiced white vinegar (a fabulous condiment from the Philippines), one ginger-garlic flavor bomb, and the zest of a small orange.

Whisk it together and what you'll have is a sauce that combines sweet and salty, the brightness of ginger and orange zest, the depth of sesame oil, acid and heat from the vinegar, and the umami of soy sauce. It's a marinade so good you'll actually look forward to getting those containers the next time you get Chinese takeout.

Orange Sauce Marinade
(printable recipe)
Yield: 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons (1 takeout container) Chinese restaurant orange sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons spicy white vinegar (available at Filipino markets or 99 Ranch Market) or rice vinegar
1 ginger-garlic flavor bomb
Zest of one small orange

Combine all the ingredients and whisk together. Store unused marinate in the refrigerator.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Chocolate Sourdough Snack Cake

After years of living without a sourdough starter in my fridge, it's back. And that's thanks to my friend Joanne Sherif of Cardamom Cafe and Bakery. I just wrote about her new Friendship Bread project for my last Close to the Source post for Edible San Diego.

With her new project, Joanne is sharing her sourdough starter every Friday morning. If you haven't cultivated starter, you need to know that it requires regular feeding with equal parts flour and water--but before you add the new you have to discard much of the old. Those discards are what she's sharing--and encouraging those of us who take it in hand in our homes to do--hence, "friendship bread."

I got some of that starter on that Friday morning and on Sunday decided to feed it. But I didn't have anyone to give my discards to. So, what to do?

I spent some time online trying to come up with a recipe to make. Now you may think that sourdough starter is strictly for use in leavening and flavoring sourdough bread.

Not true.

Sourdough starter, whether freshly fed or discarded, can be used in all sorts of applications: pancakes and waffles, cakes, quick breads, muffins, crackers, and crepes. Joanne has been using hers for cornbread and banana bread, which you can buy at the bakery.

I had a limited range of options only because of simple quantity--my first discards were limited to half a cup. When I fed the starter I added four ounces each of King Arthur white whole wheat flour and water. So, I should have more discards this weekend. (And note, I add ingredients by weight, not volume.) Unless I need more starter for a big baking project, I'll add two ounces of flour and water each in the future, let it sit on the counter for several hours until it bubbles up, then store it in the fridge. I put a line on the see-through container that shows the starting point so I can see how much it grows. Because it's being refrigerated I only need to feed it weekly. If left on the counter, it would need daily feeding. I don't think I have enough interested friends to share discards from that or the time to use it up daily.

As I scoured online resources I came across a site I wasn't familiar with but that I discovered, along with the ever-reliable King Arthur Flour, is hugely informative: Cultures for Health. The site has an entire section devoted to how to use discarded starter. And from there I found my recipe: Chocolate Sourdough Snack Cake.

Yes, I was lured by biscuits, including biscuits with cheddar cheese, and pretzels, and English muffins... but I didn't have enough starter. Curious about a sourdough dessert, and honestly getting a little desperate, I clicked on desserts and found this cake. Bingo! It sounded divine--and only needed half cup of starter.

This recipe is super simple and yields a deep chocolate brownie-like consistency. It calls for baking in a cake pan, but I fiddled around with measurements and decided to use a loaf pan instead--and it worked just fine. I also didn't have non-alkalized cocoa powder and worried that since the recipe called for baking soda there might be an issue. But no, it all turned out well. (I've since found--and ordered--natural cocoa powder for when this comes up again.)

I actually didn't taste much of a sour/tangy flavor from the starter, but the cake benefitted in moistness and richness. And, oh, how wonderful it is with a cup of coffee or tea.

And, really, the point of this bake was to demonstrate to myself that I could relax a bit about having a starter again since the pressure is off to bake bread at a pace I can't keep up with. And, if anyone would like my discards, let me know. I'm happy to share when I feed on Sundays.

Chocolate Sourdough Snack Cake
From Cultures for Health
(printable recipe)


1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. cold, strong coffee
1/2 cup fresh sourdough starter
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened, non-alkalized cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts or naturally sweetened mini chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Line an 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper; lightly butter and set aside.
3. Mix unrefined sugar and butter together in a large bowl until sugar is thoroughly incorporated into butter. Beat in egg, vanilla, coffee, and sourdough starter.
4. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
5. Blend dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until batter is mixed through.
6. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips. Do not overmix.
7. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
8. Cool on a rack and serve plain or frosted.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Coddled Eggs with Chives and Cheese

One way to chronicle my family's eating habits is by my parents' travels to Europe when we were in our late childhood and teens. Earlier than that, there were car trips but nothing very remarkable when it came to food. But once my dad became deputy director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the '70s, they started going abroad and we started eating differently.

A trip to London led to afternoon tea in Encino--not so much with the full complement of scones and pastries and clotted cream, but certainly the tea, which wasn't a feature of our lives before that. And English breakfast tea started showing up in the morning instead of coffee.

A trip to Amsterdam led to buttered toast with hagel--chocolate jimmies, specifically the DeRuijter brand (which is available online and at some specialty markets in San Diego; I found them awhile back at 99 Ranch Market.). And then there were the Tom Aches, Dutch pancakes made by our family friend Tom van Leeuwen, and taught to my dad, who taught me.

We started drinking espresso brewed in a machine my dad bought after returning from a trip to Italy. My mom found the Pioneer Boulangerie on Main St. in Venice, near Santa Monica, to buy baguettes and cheeses after they had been in Paris. My sister, brother, and I found ourselves learning about pâté and brioche and gougères. We were using olive oil, Dijon mustard, French jams, and cornichons. We didn't eat salami; we ate salumi or charcuterie.

And we were making coddled eggs.

Yes, my parents went to England one summer and came back with these beautiful little porcelain coddlers. Instead of scrambled eggs, we were now filling these delicate containers with butter and cheese and ham and herbs--and eggs, of course. Then they'd get sealed with their metal screw-on lid and, using the small loop on top of the lid, gently lowered into simmering water. The ideal result was an egg that had an opaque cooked white with a runny yolk, surrounded by melted cheese and other miniature accompaniments. Eating the egg required a tiny spoon, such as you'd use with a cup of  demitasse, and some toast for dunking.

I grew to love coddled eggs and still have the two porcelain coddlers my parents gave me from one of their moves. But I fell out of the habit of making them. Recently though I came across a Food52 ad on Facebook for glass egg coddlers and I was smitten. Because they were clear you could actually see how the egg was cooking. And the large removable handle was more user friendly than the little loop. They came in different sizes--to accommodate one to six eggs. I had to have one.

I ended up buying a 4-ounce coddler--same manufacturer--on Amazon (hey, free shipping!). It can hold two eggs, but works fine with one.

Now those who love making coddled eggs usually make them with cream. But it's not necessary. You can keep it simple with just salt and pepper or include whatever add-ons you like--cheese, ham, bacon, herbs, finely chopped vegetables... Do rub the interior with butter to prevent sticking--and add a little for flavor, too. And be sure to use really great, really fresh eggs. My favorites in San Diego come from Schaner Farms at the Little Italy Mercato.

So, here's how to make coddled eggs:

Place the empty coddler in a saucepan and fill the pan with water up to about three-quarters of the way up the coddler--below the lid.

Remove the coddler and bring the water in the saucepan to the boil.

Take off the lid and smear the interior of the coddler with butter. Place a small piece of butter on the bottom and any cheese or herbs or protein--but save some for the top, too. Crack an egg and add it to the coddler (for larger coddlers, add more eggs to fit). Then top with more butter, salt and pepper, and more flavorings. Place the lid on the container and seal.

Place the filled coddler in the boiling water, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for 8 minutes and remove. If you're coddling more than one egg, it may require another minute or so.

Remove the lid and serve with toast.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Chile Verde Redux

Come New Year's Eve I become a hermit. I prefer being home with the dogs than out on the iffy roads filled with partiers. It's become kind of a tradition for me to cook up a stew--usually chile--that I can then enjoy for days and revisit later in the winter since I make enough to freeze.

One of my favorite stews is a Green Chile Stew my friend Laura Levy introduced me to about eight years ago. It's made with Hatch chilies, which are specific to New Mexico. But, here's the thing, the chiles are available in the fall. While over the years I have found vendors in San Diego who sell them, I neglected to buy any this year. In the past, I would buy several pounds, then roast and freeze them to use for just this moment.

Hatch chiles have a distinctive smoky, earthy flavor that similar chilies, like Anaheim, don't have. But I was craving this chile and so I started down the Google path to see what the experts would suggest as a substitute. I came across a piece written by the brilliant Tasting Table Food Lab writer J. Kenji López-Alt. It asked that very same question: Can you make a great chile verde without Hatch chilies? His answer was yes--and contends that while authenticity is nice, he'll settle for delicious.

Once I read the piece, which also addresses technique, I decided to experiment and play with some of his suggestions, while still keeping what I love about Laura's recipe. So...

1. I'm using poblano and Anaheim peppers. López-Alt suggested cubanelle peppers, but they're not in season now and hard to find in San Diego anyway. He also brings in jalapeños and since I like some heat, in they went, too.

2. López-Alt also includes tomatillos--both for flavor and their pectin to thicken the stew. I love tomatillos and a thick stew so in they went.

3. I took up the suggestion for roasting not just the peppers, but also the tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeños. You purée them together with cilantro and add to the stew. Essentially (although López-Alt doesn't say this), you create a stunning salsa verde. So you could take the first three pieces of instruction in the recipe alone and have yourself a winning salsa verde. By the way, I have long broiled peppers (no gas stove) and then let them steam in a paper bag. I like his method of steaming them in a bowl topped by a plate.

4. I did not follow his directions for the pork, beyond salting it. I really enjoy the texture and flavor of masa-tossed and browned pork. And, to extract more smoky New Mexican flavor from the chile, I added some Chimayo chile powder I have stored in the freezer.

5. I did end up braising the stew for three hours in a low-heat oven with the lid askew to let a little steam out instead of much more quickly on the stove. And loved it--the stew cooks evenly, benefitting by being surrounded by gentle heat, and the pork becomes truly tender.

Now, that three-hour braise time ended up not working for me for New Year's Eve because I got too late a start. So, I broke it up over two days, prepping the salsa verde first that afternoon and refrigerating it overnight. The next morning while watching the Rose Parade I trimmed the pork shoulder and salted it. An hour later I was in full cooking mode. By noon I had the chile in the oven and by 3 p.m. I enjoyed my first bowl, the house filled with its spicy, earthy aroma. The pork and theYukon Gold potatoes were as tender as you'd desire after a good braising. The chile was far spicier than I'd imagine it would be but still very enjoyable. Because it was looser than I wanted, I cooked it a little longer on the stove and added a little more masa to thicken it--but later as I was letting it cool to refrigerate it thickened on its own, so don't worry that much if it's soupier than you think you want.

I still love Laura's version of her stew, but this is a wonderful variation and the science behind the changes makes sense to me.

Chile Verde
Adapted from recipes by Laura Levy and J. Kenji López-Alt
(printable recipe)
Serves up to 10


3 cups chopped roasted New Mexico or Hatch chilies - skins and seeds removed
OR, if not available:
5 poblano peppers
5 Anaheim peppers

2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed
2 jalapeño peppers, stems removed and sliced in half lengthwise
8 whole garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper
2.5 to 3 pounds cubed pork shoulder
3 tablespoons masa flour
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground Chimayo pepper
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
32 ounces chicken stock
2 additional tablespoons masa (if needed to thicken)


1. Roast poblano and Anaheim peppers by placing them directly over the flame of a gas stove until deeply charred on all surfaces, about 10 minutes total. If you don't have a gas burner, broil them or char on an outdoor grill. Place peppers in a bowl and cover with a large plate. Let steam for 5 minutes, then peel. Dry chilies, discard seeds and stems, and roughly chop. Transfer to bowl of food processor.

2. Preheat broiler to high if you didn’t broil the peppers. Toss tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeños with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Pour onto to rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Broil until charred, blistered, and just softened, turning once halfway through cooking, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to the food processor along with any exuded liquid.

3. Add half of cilantro to the food processor and pulse mixture until it is roughly pureed but not smooth, about 8 to 10 one-second pulses. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve (can make this the day before).

4. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 225˚ F.

5. Dredge pork cubes in masa flour in plastic bag until all pieces are coated. Brown in oil in large Dutch oven or pot. Add onions and lightly cook until slightly colored (not browned). Stir frequently and scrap up brown bits from bottom of pot. Add cumin and Chimayo pepper. Stir till fragrant.

6. Add potatoes, chicken stock and pureed chili mixture to pot and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Cook for about three hours.

7. Remove from oven and skim excess fat. Check consistency; if it needs to be thicker slowly add a small amount (no more than two tablespoons) of masa at a time and stir until thick. You can also heat it up on the stove to a good simmer and let reduce. Too thick? Add some water. When it’s reached the right consistency for you, stir in remaining cilantro and season to taste with more salt.

8. Garnish with sour cream, diced onions, cilantro, cheese, and lime wedges. Serve with corn bread or homemade tortillas.

The chile can be chilled and stored in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen. The flavors will deepen over time.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tapestry and Cooking Like an Israeli

Phew, we're past the holidays and feeling newly refreshed. Okay, I know, Jauary 2 is the ultimate hangover day, even if you haven't been drinking. But it is time to get back to real life and work and events. One coming up this weekend is Tapestry: A Community Celebration of Jewish Learning, which will be held on January 6 at 7 p.m. at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center. The evening will feature a havdalah ceremony closing out Shabbat, followed by two hour-long sessions featuring everything from Jewish values for parenting teens, Jewish mysticism, The Inner Lives of Hebrew Letters, and Yoga to Building an Epic Spiritual Fitness Plan, and Cooking Like An Israeli.

What got my attention, of course, was Cooking Like an Israeli, a food demo being presented by The Spice Way's Debbie Kornberg. So I spent some time talking with Kornberg about what she plans to do in the demo--and got a terrific recipe from her Roasted Eggplant with Tahini that I'm sharing below.

Kornberg, who has been in business in her Encinitas shop for two-and-a-half years, has products also at Harvest Ranch Market, and is collaborating with Premier Fitness Camp, will be exploring ways to cook healthy foods and digs back to biblical times to show its impact on contemporary cuisines, using, of course, spices.

So, she'll be demonstrating how to make Moroccan Dukkah, a dry dip with blanched toasted almonds as a base, but includes sesame seeds, cumin, salt, and nigella seeds. Nigella seeds, in fact, date back to the time of King Tut, so these are ancient seasonings. The Dukkah recipe she'll be sharing is from our mutual friend, cookbook author Kitty Morse.

Kornberg will also be preparing Fattoush, a salad with arugula, cherry tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, Feta, and purple onion that also features pita bread seasoned with za'atar and sumac and baked like croutons that are then tossed into the salad.

Finally comes the Roasted Eggplant with Tahini Dressing. Kornberg wants people to understand tahini's versatility--that it's not just a sidekick to hummus. In this dish, the tahini is blended with garlic, lemon juice, Hungarian sweet paprika, and water. The eggplant is sliced into long halves and baked to soften. It's then placed on a serving dish and the tahini sauce is poured over it, along with pomegranate seeds. It can be an appetizer course served with pita or other flat breads.

Roasted Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranate
by Debbie Kornberg
(printable recipe)
Serves 4 to 6 people

1 eggplant
1/2 cup The Spice Way Fresh Tahini
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon The Spice Way Hungarian Sweet Paprika
¼ cup to ½ cup water, depending on desired consistency
2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped finely
1 tablespoon The Spice Way Hummus Tahini Seasoning Mix
1/8 cup pomegranate seeds

1. Slice eggplant in half down the middle so you have two long “boat” halves. Place on a non-stick cooking sheet at cook in the oven at 450 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until fully cooked and toasty brown on top. During the cooking process, poke holes on top to help cook the eggplant all the way through. 

2. While eggplant is in the oven, start tahini sauce. In a food processor, mince garlic. Add tahini, lemon juice, paprika and water. Continue to blend. (Use less water first test out the consistency. (With more water, it makes a great salad dressing too!)

3. Take cooked eggplant out of the oven and with a knife cut a crisscross pattern along the meaty surface of the eggplant and cut along the sides to help release the eggplant from the skin but still keep it inside. 

4. Place eggplant on serving dish. Take tahini and pour over roasted eggplant and garnish with remaining parsley, tahini seasoning mix and pomegranate seeds. Serve as an appetizer course with pita, pita chips or any kind of flat bread. 

Tapestry registration info: Pre-registration $45; JCC Member Price: $40; Teachers $18.  At the door tickets will be $55 if any remain. Registration begins at 6:15 p.m., Havdalah begins at 7:00 p.m. To see the entire lineup of speakers, sessions and to register go to sdcjc.org.  Or call the JCC Box Office: 858-362-1348.

The Spice Way is located in Camino Village Plaza at 260 N El Camino Real, Encinitas. Kornberg offers free cooking demos at the store. On January 14 she'll be doing a session on Meal Prepping and on January 20 she'll have a demonstration on cooking with spaghetti squash, using pesto, black truffle, and pasta sauces. To see upcoming events, visit the website.

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