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This simple cold salad is a fairly straightforward interpretation of the kind of side dish you are likely to be served in almost any Chinese restaurant in Beijing. Cucumber Salad is sometimes cool and refreshing, and other times mind-blowingly spicy. In some restaurants you’ll find extremely simple Cucumber Salads, some consisting simply of cucumber and vinegar. At the next place you could be served something equally complicated. My interpretation blends two of my favorite Chinese ingredients in a simple dressing that I learned to make while in Beijing. Enoy!
- 2 English Cucumbers
- 2 Hot Red Peppers (fresh or dried, seeded & coarsely chopped)
- 4 cloves Garlic (peeled & halved)
- 1/4 cup Sesame Oil
- 1/2 cup White Rice Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Sugar
- 1/8 cup Pepper Flower Oil or Lucky Trio Oil(this ingredient is optional, but I highly recommend adding it)
- 2 teaspoons Sesame Seeds
- 1/2 cup Rehydrated Wood Ear Mushrooms
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh Cilantro leaves
Start by mixing your dressing. Combine the oils, vinegar, and sugar in a small bowl and whisk them until the sugar dissolves. Give it a quick taste, and adjust it if necessary. Add the garlic and chile peppers to the dressing and set it aside. Next, chop the mushrooms into bite sized pieces and toss them into a large mixing bowl. Chop the Cilantro leaves coarsely and add them to the bowl. Now it’s time for your cucumbers. Chop your cucumber into bite sized sticks, similar in shape to carrot sticks, but about half the length. Toss them into the mixing bowl as well and mix them together with the mushrooms and cilantro. Add the dressing (freshly whisked) and sesame seeds right before serving the salad. Keep the dry salad cool and covered while you are waiting to serve it.
My sister, Sarah held a small get together on Saturday night where I shared my “mad dumpling skills” with two of our girlfriends, Jessica, and Anne. There were a lot of laughs while we attempted to roll out wrappers and stuff our funny little dumplings. Sophia, my dumpling teacher from Beijing, would have been ROFL if she had seen our collection of ass dumplings. But despite their strange looks, our dumplings tasted pretty great. One of these days I’ll get the hang out of folding them correctly. Until then, I guess you could say that I specialize in the making of ass dumplings.
To go along with our pile of dumplings, I made up a quick Cucumber Salad, one of my favorite Chinese Salads. It is pretty simple, consisting mainly of chopped cucumber, a little rehydrated wood mushroom, a couple cloves of garlic, and a chile pepper. It’s dressed with Sesame Oil, Rice Vinegar, and a little sugar. Delicious! Sarah made a kickin’ side dish as well. She made up a plate full of Braised Baby Bok Choy that was out of this world. I wasn’t a huge fan of bok choy while I was in China, but Sarah’s version was very nicely done.
Here’s some photos that Sarah took from our little cooking adventure. Enjoy!
Tonight Scott and I made The Kitchen Bible’s Chicken Tikka Masala recipe that he found through Cookstr.com. Had I taken a close look at the recipe initially, I probably would have realized that though it was pretty tasty, it wasn’t too authentic. The final dish had a very acidic taste, probably from the boat load of lime juice involved in the sauce and marinade. It was also lacking in the spice department. It contained plenty of cilantro, some red chili, and a bit of turmeric and cumin. A classic Garam Masala spice blend would have been a better choice. Anyway, the final dish was pretty tasty, but hardly a knock-out, and not all that much like what I expect Chicken Tikka Masala to taste like. Next time I try for Tikka Masala, I think I am going to try Pioneer Woman’s version, which came highly recommended by my littlest sis, Cait.
Tonight I cheated a bit and used a few canned/pre-made things to cook dinner with. One was a can of Enchilada Sauce ala Old El Paso, another was a set of low carb wraps, and the last was a packet of Taco Seasoning. (Old El Paso strikes again!) What I made with it all was something that I would call, “not exactly enchiladas”. Where classic enchiladas are extremely delicious, they are also extremely time consuming. Today, I wasn’t into the whole six hour cooking thing, so this funny little Mexican casserole was born.
- 4 Low Carb Wraps
- 2 tbs. Olive Oil
- 1 tsp. chopped Garlic
- 1 lb. Lean Ground Turkey
- 1 packet Taco Seasoning
- 1 can Red Enchilada Sauce
- 1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
- crap loads of shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Start out by slathering the bottom of your casserole dish with olive oil and chopped garlic. Because I had made roasted garlic that morning, my olive oil was lucky enough to have garlic bathing in it all day. Lucky, but not necessary. Oh! This would be a good time to preheat your oven to 375. Next, toss your ground turkey into a fry pan and let it cook up until it is nice and brown. Add the beans, break up the meat, then add 2/3 cup of water. (Or whatever your taco seasoning calls for.) Pop in the taco seasoning, then stir the meat and beans over the hot burner until all of the water evaporates. If you are addicted to spicy food, like I am, go ahead and sprinkle on some extra Cayenne Pepper. A little mouth fire never hurt anyone. Now remove the mixture from the heat and set it aside.
Next, pour half of the enchilada sauce into a wide, shallow bowl. Dip one wrap into the sauce, coating it completely. Now fill the wrap with as much of the meat and bean mixture as it can hold. Fold it up like a burrito and place it into the casserole dish. Repeat this with each of your wraps. Ideally, you’ll use up all your meat, but if you don’t, don’t worry. It will taste pretty ding dang good when you scoop it up in a spoon, smother it with shredded cheese, and pop it into your mouth. (See? It pays to be the one cooking dinner.) Speaking of shredded cheese, you’ll need it soon. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the top of your little burritos and then smother the whole thing with shredded cheese.
Place the casserole into the oven and let it bake for about 20 minutes. The whole thing should be bubbling and oozing in a very seductive way. If your casserole is already golden and crispy on top, then take it out. If it needs a little extra push, try broiling it for an additional 2 – 5 minutes. After you’ve removed it from the oven you’ll want to dive right in, but it’s best to let it sit for a few minutes before you get into it. Try serving it along with sour cream, Spanish rice, or guacamole. A salad would be a great addition as well, since this casserole is a bit in the heavy side.
Tonight, I took on a recipe from The Pioneer Woman. This spicy chicken stir fry is meant to be served over pasta, but it works well as a wet, soupy stir fry too. Perfect for me and Scott Bobleo, who is currently on a low carb kick. I cooked up some pasta on the side and we both had it our way. The spice of this dish is totally adjustable, depending largely on the Cajun Spice Blend you are using. I like it to be pretty hot, so when I blended my spices it was with a heavy hand on the Cayenne Pepper. I even went so far as to toss in some Red Pepper Flakes toward the end. Mwa ha ha.
Here’s the blend I created for this dish. Naturally, I didn’t use all the spice, so I stored the rest in an empty spice jar that I had cleaned out and set aside last week. Now next time I need some Cajun Spices they’ll be just a reach away.
Cajun Spice Mix
- 1/8 cup Salt
- 1 tbsp. Cayenne Pepper
- 2 tsp. Black Pepper
- 2 tsp. White Pepper
- 1 tbsp. Paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
- 2 tbsp. Onion Powder
- 1 tsp. Basil
- 1/2 tsp. Chili Powder
- 1/8 tsp. Thyme
- 1/8 tsp. Clove Powder
- 1/8 tsp. Mustard Powder
When you blend your own spices make sure to mix them well. Many spices can clump up or settle to the bottom. I throw mine into a mortar and pestle to make sure they are well blended. You could also use a kick-ass blender or food processor. (Like a Magic Bullet.)
Due to necessity I had to change a few things from Pioneer Woman’s original recipe, but it still turned out really delicious. It has a rich flavor that sings even under the heavy blanket of spice. No fresh tomatoes, so I used a can instead. (I drained them as well as I could though) And, sadly, I had no fettuccine, but I did have some angel hair.
This particular meal was so good that Scott Bobleo has asked me to mark down his fondness for it. That way, he’ll know what to call it next time he wants to eat it. Oh and he wanted me to relay a huge “thank you” to The Pioneer Woman for inventing his new favorite meal.