22 February 2013

gwai lo fried rice

Gwai Lo (鬼佬) -- Cantonese slang for Caucasian -- literally means "ghost man" in Chinese. It’s sometimes translated into English as foreign devil. Although some consider it an offensive, racial slur, I like it.

I had an ex who was Chinese but wouldn't let me cook Chinese food. He much preferred my non-Asian dishes; to him, they were new and different. I guess for him it was the same reason I liked his culture -- same but opposite.

Fried rice is a staple of Chinese diets, but something I've never tried to make until recently. As a gwai lo, who was told not to cook Chinese, I guess the thought of making it was always kind of intimidating to me.

But now I've found that it's incredibly simple, almost foolproof. I've found the secret to making good fried rice is all in the egg. It should be cooked in the wok first, and always in an even crepe-like solid. Once formed, break it apart into pieces while still in the wok, then remove from the pan.

A basic recipe for fried rice that can be added to according to whatever you have available:

1 - 2 green onions, as desired
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
4 tablespoons oil for stir-frying, or as needed
4 cups cold cooked rice
1 - 2 tablespoons light soy sauce or oyster sauce, as desired

Wash and finely chop the green onion. Lightly beat the eggs with the salt and pepper.

Heat a wok and add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the eggs. Cook eggs in a single layer, rotating the wok to ensure it is even. When it has set, break the eggs apart into pieces and remove.

Add 2 more tablespoons oil. Add any meat ingredients, then vegetables, then the rice. Stir-fry for a few minutes, using chopsticks or a wooden spoon to break it apart. Stir in soy sauce or oyster sauce as desired. Add green onions.

My favorite variations:
- Chopped ham, small cooked shrimp, frozen peas & carrots, scallop XO sauce (first picture above)
- Chinese sausage, smoked mussels, mushrooms, baby corn, peas & carrots (second picture above)

13 February 2013

meyer lemon ice cream with blueberries

I’ve mentioned before that my friend Tom has a Meyer lemon tree growing in his backyard in Florida. It’s quite a prolific bearer of fruit – he and Julie usually end up with more lemons than they can consume or give away.

A couple of weeks ago Tom sent a bunch of lemons to me. The cost of shipping by FedEx must have been crazy high, but I was delighted to get them and we've enjoyed their sweet, juicy flavor and the thoughts of sunshine they elicit in our otherwise rainy Vancouver winter.

Despite the gloomy weather, ice cream is always in season here. Making use of Tom’s lemons, I improvised a recipe that makes use of fresh mint and is refreshingly on the tart side. The summer mood was enhanced by serving it with locally grown blueberries, purchased last summer and frozen for just such a time of need.

1-1/4 cup strained lemon juice
1 cups sugar
4 cups half-and-half
Pinch or two of kosher salt
Lemon zest from 1-2 lemons
Fresh mint, finely chopped

Juice and strain lemons. Combine with sugar in food processor and mix well. Meanwhile, zest 1-2 lemons and chop the mint.

Transfer liquid mixture to a bowl and stir in half-and-half, adding the salt, lemon zest and mint. Pour into ice cream maker and let it do its thing.

Serve on toasted blueberry waffle with fresh blueberries.