Dacha on the Delaware

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On Sunday we went to Vadim’s and Galina’s for a late lunch.  They have a beautiful European style country house whose living room picture window affords an uninterrupted view of the frozen Delaware river.  The gazebo next to the river was built and decorated by Vadim.

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My idea was to get a photo of the house during the daylight hours but we were delayed and distracted by a very old and very fat chihuahua shivering and whining at the kitchen door. When we called the number on the tag, the people were very defensive and denied all knowledge of the dog, supposedly not understanding how we got their phone number. The dog also had a senior citizen owner’s tag attached and was very well cared for.  My husband and I imagine that on the way back from dumping Mom at the senior citizen’s home, not wanting to bother with taking the dog to a shelter and really too stupid to remove the tags, this brilliant couple threw the dog into a snow drift and accelerated home.  The woman told me to never use her phone number again.  I assured her that I wouldn’t but that the animal shelter probably would.  These people are polluting the gene pool!  Simpleton b*****ds.  Anyway, too upset to think straight, I didn’t think about photographing the outside of the house until this morning and also there was so much to see inside of the house!

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Every painting, carving, decorative flourish, sculpture and woodwork was created by Vadim.  This bench says, “Love thy neighbor.”

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Upstairs and downstairs, each wall was covered with Vadim’s paintings.  We were dazzled!

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Like the Louvre, we’ll have to visit the house again and again to see everything and also because the ambiance is so relaxed and comfortable and we adore Vadim and Galina :)  A Russian balalaika painted by Vadim.

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In Russia, Vadim received a teaching degree in history but has worked in various art media for most of his life.  When we asked why he had not shown some of his pieces in a gallery, he replied that he had but didn’t like the gallery scene.  Galina says that he can’t bear to give up anything because he considers them his children :)

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When Vadim is not painting the table tops, he takes a break in the kitchen.  This is his homemade gravlax.  Delicious!

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Galina made these scrumptious, meat stuffed blinis.  They went down a treat with a chilled vodka ;)

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As if it was not enough that they have this wonderful, art filled dacha on the Delaware river, they also have this, intelligent,  talented, handsome, composer, producer and guitarist son, Benya Barshai.  Blood will tell.  Check out Ben’s work on this website.  I wonder what happened to our kids….  :)

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I did bring a Jamie Oliver inspired bruschetta topping to share, however the original recipe included chilli but, not wanting to set Vadim’s and Galina’s little Russian souls on fire, I substituted with roasted sweet peppers :D

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Jamie grilled his vegetables over charcoal, probably in the summer, in clement weather. The top of the stove worked just fine for me.  I grilled these in a non stick pan with a cast iron skillet on top.

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This is a good recipe and I will make it again.  Thanks Jamie.

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Vegetable Bruschetta Topping with Roasted Peppers

1 large aubergine

2 large courgettes

Olive oil

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 1/2 lemons

1/4-1/3 cup chopped roasted red pepper

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 small bunch mint leaves, chopped

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Score the aubergine and courgettes, then sear in a hot non stick skillet with a cast iron skillet pressing down on top until the vegetables are brown.

Place each vegetable half in an aluminum foil packet, then sprinkle with the olive oil, the zest and half of the lemon juice.  Seal the packets and roast in a 400 F oven for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Remove the skin of the aubergine, then chop the aubergine flesh and the courgettes, then place in a bowl. Add the the remaining lemon juice, the red pepper, the garlic, mint, salt and pepper to the bowl, mixing well to blend.

Serve with baguette slices or whatever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Appetizer, Cooking, English, Food and Wine, Hors d'oeuvres, Recipes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

“So This Is Where She Makes Her Mistake”

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In some classic literature novel there is a character who always says, “So this is where (he/she) makes (her/his) mistake.”  I think it was Mr. Wickfield in David Copperfield, but I’m not sure.  Still, it’s a quote I’ve always liked for some reason :)

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Just before we made our last wine run to New Jersey, I saw a post on radish (daikon) cake for Chinese New Year.  I’m not really sure where I saw it but give me a shout out if it was your post.  I probably commented on it.  Anyway, I wanted to make it and picked up some items at the Asian market in New Jersey with this in mind, even though I didn’t have the recipe and therefore was not quite sure about the ingredients and quantities.

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When I got back home, I was still not sure where I saw the recipe, so had to search the internet for any recipe for Chinese radish cake.  The one I found could be it but I think not. It was a good recipe but at first I thought I made my mistake with sausage, mushroom, bacon and shrimp overkill.

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The real mistake was in the radish and flour quantities.  I should have had 3 radishes not 1 and then figured out what they meant by 8 oz; I think it was weight, not cup, because when I took a cup of flour out of the 16 oz bag, it was no where near half empty.

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I did get the flour right for the amount of radish I had.  I used 1 1/2 cups of flour and that seemed to work.  I don’t have a kitchen scale yet (amazon.com) because the very nice digital one is in France.  Again, the quantity of flour and radish allowed me to fill only one pan instead of the two the recipe calls for and the “loaf” lost a lot of it’s smooth elegance, bearing a close resemblance to a Christmas fruit cake :D

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I’m not saying it wasn’t good, because it was.  It just wasn’t elegant, more like hearty :D

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Another thing.  I used fresh mushrooms instead of the dried because I could and they were very pretty in the store.

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No recipe today.  Follow the link for the real thing.  Tomorrow we go to Vadim and Galina’s for lunch at their home on the Delaware river.  I’m taking the camera ;)

 

 

Posted in Appetizer, Asian, Chinese, Cooking, Food and Wine, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Lady Fingers

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When I was in New Jersey, I bought a pork belly at the Asian Market, thinking to make Shinae Robinson’s caramelized pork belly again.

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And I did, but what I really wanted to make today was lady fingers/okra/gumbo.  That, and to use my new vegetable noodle making machine.  Roger’s going to love this :D

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You just stick the vegetable onto the machine and turn the handle.  I’m going to have so much fun with this :)  Vegetarian, vegan and gluten free people rejoice!  You can just eat the courgettes like this, in a salad or whatever you do AND it will be pretty!

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Anyway.  Withered, meaning dry and shriveled.  Here’s the picture.

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I found these sad ole things in the back of the refrigerator crisper and wondered if I should toss them and go to the store for regular scallions.  Nah, they cleaned up fine.

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I need a bigger pantry and an Asian supply store located in Honesdale.  That way I need never worry about running out of Gekkeikan, the supreme Japanese sake.  Gold.  Or shichimi togarashi which must be in the Sens pantry  :(

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Okra seems so southern U.S. to me or Nigerian.  However, it is widely used in both East Asian and Indian cuisine because they know what’s good :)

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I wanted to sprinkle some shichimi togarashi on my cooked lady fingers but I didn’t have any.

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Instead I used some of my neighbor Caroline’s Spanish Rub.  It worked out fine.

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I mixed in the courgette noodles with fresh udon noodles and fried tofu for a spicy stir fry. Mah-velous!  Inspiration for the recipe here.

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To be honest, I did have a problem with the caramelized pork belly and it was the same problem I had last time.  I must be an idiot because I didn’t learn.  Way too much pork fat ends up in the sauce when it is cooked in cubes in the tajine.

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The last time this happened, I resolved to cook the pork belly whole on a rack to burn off some of the fat for the first hour, then cube it and continue with the recipe.  I recommend you do this even if I didn’t.

Lady Fingers

1lb okra, trimmed and sliced diagonally

1 tbsp peanut oil

2 tbsp sake

1 tsp sugar

2 tbsp soy sauce

Shichimi togarashi

Stir fry the okra on high in the hot peanut oil for 1 minute, add the sake and continue to stir fry for 1 minute,  Add the sugar and stir fry for 1 minute, then add the soy sauce and stir fry for 1 minute.

Sprinkle the okra with the shichimi before serving.

 

Spicy Udon with Courgette Noodles

1 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp chilli paste with garlic

2 tbsp lime juice

2-3 tbsp canned sweet red beans (yude adzuki)

2 tbsp soy sauce

3 single servings of fresh udon noodles

4 cups water

2 tbsp sesame oil

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups courgettes noodles or ribbons

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup fried tofu, cubed

Mix together the sugar, chilli paste, lime juice, beans and soy sauce, then stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Set aside.

Bring the water to a boil, then drop in the noodles and boil for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and set aside, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Heat the sesame oil in a wok, then drop in the garlic and stir fry until aromatic.  Add the courgettes to the wok, season with the salt and stir fry for about 2 minutes.  Add the reserved noodles, water and chilli paste mixture to the wok, mixing well to heat.  Stir in the tofu and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, Japanese, Main dishes, Recipes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Cabbage with Turmeric, Bacon and Tomatoes

 

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The vegetables in the refrigerator bins have been giving me accusatory looks for a while now.  It’s not like they’re people or anything, nor are they quite alive, just dying a slow ugly death in the refrigerator bin.  Not really into reality dramas, I’ve tried to ignore this because I don’t like cooking random vegetables just because they have that “it’s over” look. Still, compost heap-less, I had to do something.

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Do tomatoes go with cabbage I asked myself.  Yes, I think so because people are always putting a tomato sauce on stuffed cabbage.  So that’s why.  I trimmed the blackened leaves from the cabbage, threw out the cherry tomatoes that had gasped their last, took out the wok and fished in the freezer for a chunk of my lardon like bacon.

It was good.  Vegetarians could eat this if it wasn’t for the bacon.  I think Uzbeks would like it too :D

Cabbage with Turmeric, Bacon and Tomatoes

1/2 cup bacon, diced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/4 small onion, thinly sliced

1 small cabbage, shredded

Salt and pepper

1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp cider vinegar

Brown and crisp the bacon in a wok, then remove and set aside.  Remove all but 2 tbsp of the bacon fat, then add the garlic and onion, stir frying for a minute or two.  Add the cabbage, season with salt and pepper and continue to stir fry for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and turmeric, continuing to stir fry for about 2 minutes.  Finally, add the water, cover and steam for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the reserved bacon and vinegar and serve.

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Recipes, side dish, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Vadim’s Bones

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The family was excited about trying a new Uzbek restaurant, Cafe Vostochniy Palace, in the neighboring town of Hawley, especially after we looked at the google images for Uzbek cuisine!

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In fact the food we were offered at the Vostochniy Palace bore only a faint resemblance to the rich and interesting cuisine of Uzbekistan.  This supports one of my beliefs; not everybody who opens a restaurant can necessarily cook.  The only thing we liked in this restaurant was the tea cup.

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First of all, not everything on the menu was available.  In fact, of the 5 items we ordered, 3 were not available.  This doesn’t really bother us because it used to happen a lot in West Africa and we adjusted by always asking before ordering if they had everything on the menu.  If only we had known.  Secondly, the descriptions of their plates were whimsical; schnitzel was called schnitzel and two other meats that were schnitzels were called something else.  Thirdly, everything was dry and the chicken schnitzel cold, as in pre-breaded meat taken from the refrigerator and plunked on a plate without the accompanying side of mashed potatoes. Fourthly, appetizers, mains (cooked or not) arrived all together, just shoveled onto the plates and plunked down in front of us unattractively.  Ugly.  I have other pictures but I really can’t be bothered.  So there.  We need never discuss this restaurant again.

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Vadim had given me some bones to make soup with and when we got back from the restaurant, I thought I would roast them and use them to make a pho stock.

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As the bones were slow roasting, Jessie constantly sniffed the air and whined hungrily, so I just gave her the bones when they had cooled.  She was grateful.

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After that, I called our neighbors Skip and Caroline and invited them to share wine, blueberries, cheese and conversation.  The smartest thing I did all day :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Russians

 

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I could never understand countries like the Soviet Union who strictly regulated or prevented their citizens’ travel to other countries.  Who made travel so difficult and near impossible that when Russians were allowed to exit, it was like they won the lottery or died and went to heaven, which made the Soviet Union a big, open, combination minimum security prison with a maximum security branch in Siberia where Hell truly did freeze over.  Obviously the Communist party officials didn’t think this one through.  It wasn’t a good image for the country inside or outside.

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Finally in the 1970s some party official woke up, out of vodka and stone cold sober, with a very rational thought.  “Hey, wait a minute, we’re anti-Semitic.  Why are we preventing the Jews from leaving?  Let those people go!  It could improve our image and tidy up our country with an humane ethnic cleansing!”  The Russian Jews could have cared less about Soviet reasoning and packed immediately.

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Unfortunately, every official wasn’t out of vodka nor sober and most found it difficult to surrender authority over a captive people; sort of like the Pharoah/Moses thing except that the Jews were all out of plagues and the Soviets were experts at foot dragging.  Isn’t history interesting?!   At least from my point of view  :D

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Anyway.  Our friends Vadim and Galina Barshai exodus-ed from the Soviet Union in the 70s.  Unhappily for Galina, her father Lev Blitshtein an official of the Soviet Ministry of Meat and Dairy Industry, was not allowed to leave with his wife, son and daughter because he “knew too many secrets about the Soviet meat industry.”  Color me nonplussed  (:-   In fact Galina’s mother, in order to emigrate with her children was forced to divorce her husband because, wait for it,  Soviet emigration law prohibited the splitting up of families. Color me shaking my head and reaching for a shot of chilled Stolichnaya.  12 years later, after Lev had forgotten everything he ever knew about meat, he was allowed to join his family in the U.S.

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Vadim and Galina are so cool and so interesting that I thought we would get to know each other even better by eating and drinking together for a very long time, a la M. Parret, while exchanging our life experiences.  This meant I would have to make dessert 😲

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It’s the blueberry season in Chile.  So that’s why.  I thought to make panna cotta, an easy dessert that I like and know how to make, topped with a blueberry compote.  Sorted!

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Whenever I make panna cotta, my guests are always so impressed and complimentary,   thinking that I must have worked my fingers to the bone.

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“Thank you”, I say with a modest simper while inside I’m going, “tee hee, tee hee hee.”

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It’s also the quail egg season at our local Quail R Us Plus.  So fresh!  I gobbled 2 before I made the salmon plates.

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I wanted to top the quail eggs with a little red lumpfish caviar but there is no caviar in Honesdale and I’d only embarrass myself and others if I asked :D

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So anyway, I wanted the meal to be easy enough to allow me to chat,  yet with a certain amount of elegance to show our guests how much we appreciated their company.  A smoked salmon beginning can set the tone ;)

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For the main course I went with a Georgian inspired tajine of garlic chicken with leeks and sweet peppers that we had enjoyed before and that again acknowledged our guests, followed by a plate of cheese and salad that M. Parret would not have adored but he wasn’t there to criticize, being where he is normally and correctly, in France  :D

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Thanks to a timely run to New Jersey for “correct” French wine and Russian vodka, we were properly supplied for a laid back, wonderful lunch with our new friends.  Galina brought home made dessert blintzes to share over coffee.  Marvelous!

Panna Cotta with Blueberry Compote

3 cups fresh blueberries

1/3 cup sugar

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 1/2 bars of white baking chocolate, chopped

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp boiling water

2 tsp gelatin

250 g plain Greek yogurt

Cook the blueberries, sugar, water and lemon juice in a sauce pan over medium heat, stirring until the blueberry skins have burst and the sauce has thickened, about 8 minutes. Cool the mixture and refrigerate until ready to use.

Combine chocolate, cream, sugar and vanilla in a sauce pan over low heat.    Cook and stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and heated through.   Set aside for 5 minutes.  Dissolve the gelatin in 2 tbsp boiling water, set aside and allow to cool slightly. Add gelatin to cream mixture, stir and set aside for 15 minutes.   Whisk in the yogurt. Pour into dessert glasses and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Top the panna cotta with the blueberry compote before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Appetizer, Cooking, Dessert, Food and Wine, Georgian, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Size Matters

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Back in the day, before Perdue and Tysons, I was always impressed with large poultry.  “Look and this big ole, juicy chicken” I would triumph to my husband in grocery stores, who frankly didn’t care until it was cooked and on the table :)  I guess I was hungrier then, young and active.

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In fact, everyone I knew liked large poultry, roasts, steaks, vegetables and fruits; big was a good thing and with our lifestyles, we needed it.  I guess that’s why “they” started GM-ing and hormone-ing everything when families were larger and most of the population earned their living with physical labor and were tired AND hungry at the end of the day.  “People need to eat!, “they” said. “Let’s experiment and see just how big we can grow things!”  “No one in America should ever be hungry!”  “Three meals a day!”  “Balanced!”   And stuff like that.

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Jessie “Jane”.

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Anyway.  I got over my obsession with large poultry on a trip back to the States for home leave when, for the first time and the last, I bought a huge Perdue “oven-stuffer” that was layered with half it’s weight of dis-gusting, dis-colored fat!  I almost heaved as I was removing slab after slab of greasy chicken lard.   Bleah!  I almost heaved again :(

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Around about this time, I started “cooking cute.”  I discovered bento boxes and Japanese cuisine.  Fresh, flavorful ingredients in adequate but reasonable portions.  Thank you Japanese people!  Since then, no matter what I cook and serve, ingredients and their size matter.  Tiny, sweet turnips!  Baby bok choy!  The baby-er the better!

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This is a stir fry I’ve made several times using a variety of  greens and it’s good each time. Try to find hakurei turnips if you can.  I didn’t, but I did find these vegetables at the fabulous Asian food store in New Jersey.  Going back tomorrow to pick up 6 cases of wine and take another turn through the Asian market  ;)

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What is wrong with the garlic here?!  Maybe they do not adore garlic in Pennsylvania? With good reason.

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I thought the garlic in Germany was bizarre!

Teriyaki Cornish Game Hens

3 cornish game hens (not Perdue nor Tysons), spatchcocked

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp sesame oil

Season the hens with salt and pepper, then rub with olive oil.  Preheat the oven to 425 F, place the hens, skin side up in a roaster with rack, then roast for 25 minutes.

In the meantime, heat the soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic and sesame oil to boiling, stirring until the the sugar is dissolved.  Take off the flame and set aside.

Brush the hens with the teriyaki sauce and return to the oven for 5 minutes.  Brush again with the sauce, turn the birds skin side down and brush the insides, then return to the oven for 5 minutes.  Turn the birds skin side up, brush a final time and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Bok Choy and Turnip Stir Fry

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

6 small turnips, cut into chunks

Salt and pepper

2 cloves garlic, slivered

2 bay leaves

3/4 lb baby bok choy, halved and leaf tips trimmed

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Heat the oil in a wok, add the turnip chunks and season with salt and pepper.  Stir fry until brown, then add the garlic and bay leaves and continue to stir fry until the garlic is aromatic.

Stir in the bok choy, stir frying for about a minute, add the vinegar, then cover and steam for about 4-5 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, Japanese, Main dishes, Recipes, side dish, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments