Global Cuisine

bokchoysaladRecently I learned that bok choy is the number one vegetable in China. It seems to be the number one vegetable in my CSA box lately. It's a very healthy vegetable with a ton of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K plus and is even a good source of calcium and iron, but I have to admit, after serving it steamed or sautéed again and again, I was looking for a new way to prepare it.

As luck would have it, at a Chinese New Year's dinner I stumbled upon a terrific dish at Fang restaurant. It was served raw, as a salad with a soy and sesame vinaigrette alongside some chunks of short rib. Bok choy is very mild flavored but it has great texture. The leaves are tender and somewhat herbal without being bitter, and the stems are very juicy and crisp. I had never considered using bok choy in salad but after trying that dish, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Looking around online I found plenty of Asian inspired recipes for bok choy salad, and a few takes on coleslaw and even a chopped salad. My idea was to make a more Italian style salad using extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and Parmigiano Reggiano. The result is a salad at once familiar and yet fresh. It's a great choice for a potluck or dinner party, because it is very sturdy and won't easily wilt. You could mix in other greens, add cherry tomatoes or even fresh fava beans when in season.

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porkdumplingsI love the custom of Chinese dim sum because it brings friends and family together at the table. This style of food is enjoyed with small plates, which allows the diner the opportunity to enjoy many different dishes in small quantities. For me it's a way to find a favorite and stick with it. In every Chinatown in the United States you would be hard pressed not to find a restaurant offering dim sum or what I like to call Chinese brunch. I remember my first time at a dim sum place in New York with a group of Asian friends. I was lucky to have help in deciphering the menus and communicating with the waitresses, who brought out the food on trolleys and took orders by stamping slips of paper. It's truly an experience that transports the nonnative eater to China.

It's been many years since I've had good traditional dim sum and my longing for dumplings has increasingly grown since. With the arrival of Chinese New Year, there is no better reason to make my dim sum favorite, shu mai, at home. These dumplings are typically made of shrimp and pork, but they can also be made of pork and mushroom, and even mutton, depending on the regional cuisine. No matter the filling, shu mai always retain a characteristic look: they sort of resemble little volcanoes with filling erupting from their tops. They only need limited skill to form the shape and the best shortcut of all is using wonton wrappers instead of making the dough. It takes just minutes to bring together this easy dim sum, which also makes a fun party appetizer.

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taco.steak_.crispy.sm_.jpgWhen ever I am asked what would my last meal be, the answer is always the same; a crispy taco.  Crispy tacos are way at the top of my list of favorites and I have absolutely no will power when it comes to ordering in a Mexican restaurant.  Intellectually, I know I should be ordering the soft tacos with grilled chicken or grilled shrimp in a Verde sauce.  But I just can’t seem to help myself.

Growing up, a typical day was swimming at the Nathan’s pool, doing some arts and crafts, and then gathering up my friends and riding our bikes to Taco Tio. Taco Tio was a typical little taco stand about 3/4 of a mile from my house. Food was ordered through a sliding mesh screen and there were a few stools that sat under the outside, very high counter.  I would order my crispy tacos, sit on those stools,  and watch the lady make and assemble my afternoon snack. When Taco Tio closed and a sub shop tooks it place, it was a sad day in the neighborhood.  And to this day, I have had a hard time replacing the taste of both their tacos or those memories.

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Spanish-Style-Quinoa-the-perfect-addition-to-any-mealLast weekend I found myself alone in the house for like a day, something that never happens. I immediately turned the television to HGTV so I could watch hours upon hours of House Hunters episodes. Then I made myself a big batch of quinoa! My husband does not consider quinoa a meal or a favorite, but it was just me and HGTV and this dish. Total bliss.

I love Spanish flavors, it reminds me of being in Spain and driving around the countryside. If you’ve ever driven through the heart of Spain then you know it is filled with olive trees. They have something like 700 million olive trees planted there, the scenery is an endless blur of them. 

The olive influence is apparent in Spanish cuisine with all the olive oil produced there. But saffron and figs also make a big appearance in many Spanish dishes. I have had some of the best and some of the strangest food in my travels through Spain, but the big, bold flavors have always stuck with me.

The olives give this dish a savory and salty taste, but the saffron is apparent in every bite. One would think the figs would play a larger role in sweetness, but they are just a nice background flavor. I would serve this with fish or grilled chicken for a light summer meal.

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sandiegoskyline.jpgMy love affair with food began in the dim dark ages of the glorious 1990’s, when neon was king and it was cool to rock a mullet while listening to Marky Mark and his Funky Bunch.  Born in San Diego and being brought up by a Hawaiian family from beautiful Kaneohe, greatly impacted my palate, and brought me to the culinary forefront well before my time.

The Hawaiian family unit is a large extended conglomeration made up of relatives and friends of the family, which basically makes dinnertime feel like riding ‘It’s a Small World’ at Disneyland, where everyone I’m not related to is either an ‘aunt,’ ‘uncle,’ or a ‘cousin.’ So in other words, it made finding a prom date that wasn’t a cousin, quite difficult. (That’s my excuse)

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