Chinese Food; 'A' Wines; Restorative Dishes; Eating the Roman Way; Desserts to Die For

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Recipes and information from today's Good Food

Carl Chu is the author of Finding Chinese Food in Los Angeles: A Guide to Regional Chinese Cuisines, published by Crossbridge Press. He spoke about the hot pots at:

The Little Lamb (Northern Chinese food)
120 S Atlantic
Monterey Park

These recipes are from Jean-Marie Josselin of 808 Restaurant at 8980 University Center Lane in La Jolla (858) 552-1048.

Clear Black Chicken Soup with Ginseng and Licorice
This was an easy one for me and still my favorite during winter. Of course licorice was a favorite of mine since I was a kid. The general store where I grew up always carried licorice sticks--you needed to chew on the bark to get the flavor--I guess this was an inexpensive way for my mother to keep me occupied and free of candies for awhile. While I have to admit that black chicken was a novelty for me the first time I tasted it, the meat is actually very good and tasty.

  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp. chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 3-inch piece ginseng, sliced
  • 3-inch piece licorice root, sliced
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 baby bok choy, split in 4
  • 4 Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 baby corns
  • 1/2 cup julienne leeks
  • 1/2 cup julienne carrots
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup chicken breast, sliced and cooked
In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chili flakes, garlic, minced ginger, ginseng and licorice root and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and pass through a colander. Add bok choy, mushrooms and corn. Simmer another 5 minutes and pass through colander again. Place the julienne leeks and carrots in four soup bowls; add the broth, vegetables, and the chicken. Serve hot.

Bamboo Steamed Iceberg Lettuce with Oyster Sauce
At first when I had this dish in China, I was reluctant as to how the flavor would work. Of course Chinese cuisine is often based on simple flavors. I was sold on the first bite and I love to replicate this dish on my vegetable sampler, because it's unusual and always creates a stir among customers.
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 oz oyster sauce
Bring a saucepan filled with water to a boil and place a medium size bamboo steamer on top. Place lettuce in steamer, cover and cook for 2 minutes or until the lettuce is cooked but still crunchy. Remove from the steamer and place on a serving dish. Serve with side of oyster sauce.

This recipe is from Elizabeth Faulkner, owner of Citizen Cake in San Francisco.

Devil's Food Cake with Lavender and Orange Chocolate Buttercream

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups or 7.5 oz all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup or 2 oz cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp soda
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1.5 sticks or 6 oz unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups or 6 oz brown sugar
  • 2 tsp dried lavender flowers, grind in coffee grinder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup or 4 oz whole milk
  • 1/2 cup or 4 oz yogurt
Cream butter, brown sugar and lavender for 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and then the melted chocolate and mix until smooth. Alternate the dry ingredients with the milk-yogurt mixture in three stages, beginning with the dry and ending with the dry. Spoon into two 9" buttered and parchment-lined cake pans and bake at 325oF for 20 minutes. Cool completely.

For the buttercream:

  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 3 sticks or 12 oz unsalted butter
  • Zest of one orange
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon orange liquor
Combine the water and cocoa powder in a small saucepan over low heat and stir constantly until smooth and shiny. Set aside. Cream the butter with 1/3 cup of the powdered sugar and orange zest. Add the melted chocolate, salt and vanilla. Add the cocoa mixture and slowly add the rest of the powdered sugar. Fill and frost the cake and garnish with chocolate shards or shavings and lavender sprigs.

Suzanne Dunaway is the author of Rome at Home: The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen, published by Broadway Books.

Asparagi all'Uovo con Parmigiano (Asparagus with eggs and Parmesan)
Serves 4

I have included this dish with the frittate because it is made with eggs. When the first magnificent asparagus arrives in spring, thick as twigs and meaty, this dish is served in trattorie as a main course, or at least a first course, like pasta. I love it for an easy Sunday nights supper in place of our regular pizza.

  • 2 lbs thick or thin asparagus
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1/4 wine or vegetable broth
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Break off the white ends of the asparagus to the tender green part. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet or omelet pan, add the onion, and cook until translucent. Add the spears, and cook on medium for 5 minutes or so until they begin to brown. Add the wine or broth, cover, lower the heat, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until just tender.

Make four spaces in the asparagus for the eggs by pushing some of the asparagus to the side of the pan and leaving some in the middle. Melt the butter in the spaces until sizzling, then break an egg carefully into each space. Sprinkle with Parmesan, add a spoon of water, cover, and steam the eggs over medium heat just until set but not cooked through. Place the skillet under the broiler for one minute to brown the cheese and finish cooking the eggs.

Carefully lift out an egg with some of the asparagus to each of four warmed plates, and serve with more grated Parmesan.

Frittata di Carciofi (Artichoke)
Serves 4

I remember watching a very old lady at the open market peeling and paring artichokes with lightening speed, tossing them into a bucket of water filled with lemon wedges to keep them green, and could not believe my luck. The luxury of prepared artichokes (second only to having someone cut up all the fruit for a macedonia or shell fava beans) makes the cooking time for this dish about 15 minutes, start to finish. I often use leftover Carciofi alla Romana for the subtle mint flavor they impart to the eggs, a spirited combination.

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lbs baby artichokes, peeled to the yellow, trimmed and sliced thin, or 2 cups sliced, cooked artichoke hearts
  • 2 Tablespoons minced onion (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • A few drops of lemon juice
Turn on the oven broiler. Heat the olive oil in a seasoned skillet or omelet pan (the frittata will come out more easily), and cook the artichoke slices until crisp and golden brown around the edges, covering the pan for a few minutes to cook them through, about 10 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until translucent. Beat the eggs with a spoon of the Parmesan, and season to taste. Add the butter to the pan, and when it is bubbling, pour the eggs over the artichokes, shaking the pan to cover. Cook for a few minutes on medium heat to set the eggs, then sprinkle with a little more Parmesan and lemon juice, and place under the broiler until golden brown. Serve with additional Parmesan.

Bieta, Spinaci, o Cicoria in Padella (Chard, Spinach, or Chicory with Garlic and Hot Peppers) Serves 4

Saut-ed greens are quick and easy. You can even take this dish further in 15 to 20 minutes by cooking the greens until they become brown and crisp around the edges, well worth the wait. You will need twice the amount of greens for this method as they shrink to nothing.

  • 1 to 2 pounds spinach, chard, or radicchio
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small dried hot pepper
Wash the greens and drain well. Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, add the chard, chopped, toss with the oil, and cook, covered, until wilted. Remove the cover, make a little space in the middle of the greens and add another tablespoon of olive oil to the space, then the garlic and hot pepper. Cook, uncovered, until the chard is very soft and serve with lemon wedges. Or continue cooking, uncovered, until most of the moisture has evaporated and the greens are crispy and slightly browned all over.

Variation: Use butter in place of olive oil for a truly decadent dish. Spinach is particularly good in butter, with just a pinch of nutmeg stirred in at the end.

Limoncello (Lemon liqueur)
Often drunk after dinner as a digestive, limoncello became popular several years ago and then suddenly, every trattoria had its own version. It is normally too sweet for me, which is why I make my own.

The following recipe is from Maria Teresa Bolacchi who prefers to call her unique homemade brew by the lovely name, "limoncino." Take off the zest with a micro-plane or vegetable peeler, and double this recipe, as limoncello makes great gifts. This recipe is also delicious and unusual when made with oranges or tangerines.

  • 3 1/2 pounds thick-skinned lemons, Eureka are best
  • 1 1/2 bottles pure grain alcohol (known as Everclear, found through liquor dealers)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 cups water
Peel or grate the zest from all the lemons. Put the zest in a large glass container with a lid along with 3 cups of Everclear. Close tightly and wait one month. Strain and remove the zest. Boil the water with the sugar, let cool, and add this mixture to the lemon mixture with the rest of the Everclear. Keep for two weeks before serving, then decant and keep in the freezer or refrigerator. Good over vanilla ice cream.

The Challenge: Wines to Match Difficult Foods (such as all those beginning with the letter "A")

Foods that are Green and begin with "A":

Apples (green)
These are the most challenging because they carry in their taste profile: tartness, sweetness and bitterness. Interestingly, all of these also have a relationship with lemon. Even the green apples need the citrus to keep them from becoming a "brown" food that starts with the letter "A".

'01 Pio Cesare Gavi, Piemonte, Italy:
This bright, straw-colored wine, from the Cortese grape, looks a bit like lemonade in color. In aroma, it has a green, citrusy nose that immediately smells fresh.

Once tasted, the fruit blooms in your mouth with a flowery, crisp finish. Perfect to sweeten up the slight bitterness from the artichoke or asparagus. And, it also cleanses the palate. The wine adds some sprightliness to the mellow avocado.

Salads, whitefish, cold chicken, seafood all will match perfectly.

'01 Dulcis, San Silvestro Moscato d'Asti, Piemonte, Italy:
Almost white in color, totally green apple blossom in nose. This version of the versatile "grapey" grape, Muscat (Moscato in Italian) is gently sparkling, totally refreshing.

Enjoy this with all the "A" foods as well as those that are salty (prosciutto, nuts) and creamy cheeses. Works equally well as an aperitif or dessert wine. Feeling adventuresome? Try it with lobster!

Foods that are not necessarily Green, beginning with letters other than "A":
'02 Tortoise Creek Chardonnay/Viognier Blend, Languedoc, France:
Tortoise Creek uses French wine, blended by British winemakers. The result gives complex (due to the blending) yet, fun and enjoyable crowd pleasing wines. This blend is 75% Chardonnay and 25% Viognier. The color is light gold and instantly, the Viognier gives the aroma of fresh peach, pear and apricot. The Chardonnay gives the backbone and the clean finish to the taste. Unlike wines from California, this one sees no oak which accounts for its ability to maintain its crisp freshness.

Will pair well with all "A" foods as well as those beginning with "L" as in lettuces, leeks and lima beans.

This time of year, pea tendrils are in fashion. This wine would be excellent with a crab and pea tendril pasta. As the season develops, the wine will pair with picnic foods, potato chips, olives, almonds, walnuts and grilled whitefish.

Challenging Foods that are not Green:

Onions (green, white and red)
Fresh tomatoes
Animal Crackers
Mexican dishes
White Chocolate
Rich Game
Liver (always a strong reaction to this listing!)
Dark Chocolate
'02 Angeline Pinot Noir
Angeline wines are the second label of the famed Martin Ray winery. The grapes are sourced from the same quality vineyards as Martin Ray wines. They are blended in a fresh, fruit forward manner to delight your palate with lush flavors. This wine is a brilliant garnet color with aromas of berries, plums and candied fruits. On the palate the experience is full with cranberry and spicy cherry. These fruits are balanced with a creamy vanilla that smoothes out the texture.

This is a perfect match with liver, sashimi, chocolates, oily fish and animal crackers.

'99 Les Domaines Vin de Pays d'Oc, France:
This little Syrah wine grows on the sun drenched hills of Corbieres, France. The color is ruby-garnet red, with an open and spicy nose. Once in your mouth it becomes succulently fruity with medium body. A long and savory finish.

All of the above "difficult" foods as well as all rustic foods and aged cheeses.