Summer Cooking Series Night 3: Local Food Asian Style

For the third and final evening of our summer cooking series, our instructor Nanci coached us through a menu of Asian flavours: Pork (and Tofu) and Greens stirfry, Fresh Spring Rolls, and homemade fortune cookies.  Nanci grew up in her parents’ Chinese restaurant and has also traveled extensively.  Her advice about Asian cooking: Cook at a high heat and quickly.  If you’ve ever had wilty stirfry, it’s because the greens were cooked too long.

We started the evening with the hardest part – homemade fortune cookies.  (For the record, Nanci’s father told her she was crazy to make her own fortune cookies!)  We all got to practice the technique on round pieces of paper before attempting the cookies.  They may not have been the prettiest cookies, but they sure were tasty!  We also made our own fortune’s in the style of mad libs.  Everyone wrote a noun, a verb and an adverb on pieces of paper, which Nanci distributed amongst the finished cookies.

Next up, the group tackled the spring roll sauces and chopped all the vegetables for the stirfry.  The vegetables and herbs (swiss chard, baby bok choy, chinese cabbage, cilantro and basil) all came from the Halifax farmers markets, as did the pork, tofu and eggs, showing that it is possible to cook international cuisine with local ingredients.

With spring rolls tightly wrapped and the stirfry quickly cooked, we sat down to enjoy the meal.  My fortune: You will run passionately with apples.  Hmmm… apt. 🙂

Martha Stewart’s Fortune Cookies
•    Makes 15
•    30-40 minutes
Ingredients
•    5 tablespoons unsalted butter
•    4 large egg whites
•    1 cup superfine sugar
•    1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
•    Pinch of salt
•    3 tablespoons heavy cream
•    1 teaspoon almond extract
•    Nonstick cooking spray

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet liberally with cooking spray. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine egg whites and sugar, and beat on medium speed, about 30 seconds. Add flour and salt, and beat until combined. Add butter, heavy cream, and almond extract, and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.
Pour batter on baking sheet in tablespoons for each cookie. Cook 3 to 4 per cookie sheet allowing room for some spread. Spread with the back of spoon from the centre outward into a thin 5-inch circle.

Bake until the edges of the cookies turn golden brown and have pocked holes like pancakes. It will take about 7 minutes but watch carefully to make sure that they do not burn.

Transfer baking sheet to a heat-resistant surface. The next step needs to be done as quickly as possible since the batter will dry quickly and once it does it cannot be folded.

Slide a wide thin spatula under each of the cookies. Using your fingers, fold the cookie in half, pinching the top together to form a loose pouch or semicircle. Hold the cookie with your middle fingers inserted at each open end. Then place your thumbs up in the middle of the cookie and with your middle fingers bring the two sides down and together so that your middle fingers are together.
It can take some time to get this right. If you do not want to waste batter, practice folding with a circle of paper first.
Write your message on a long strip of sturdy art paper, such as Japanese moriki. Place the fortune in one of the open ends of the cookie once it has cooled.

Fresh Spring Rolls

•    Makes 10-12 rolls (20-24 once cut in half)
•    30-40 minutes

Tahini sauce
•    3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
•    1 small garlic clove, minced
•    1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
•    1 teaspoon vegetable oil
•    6 tablespoons water
•    1 tablespoon tahini
•    1/2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
•    1 teaspoon tomato paste
•    3/4 teaspoon sugar

Chop onion and mince garlic. Cook onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes in teaspoon of oil in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until pale golden, about 4 minutes. Whisk in remaining sauce ingredients: tahini, hoisin, tomato paste and sugar. Simmer, whisking, 1 minute, then cool.

Cilantro-chili sauce
•    4 cloves of garlic
•    2 shallots finely minced
•    1 teaspoon sweet chili pepper or chili paste
•    2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro stems
•    2 tablespoons sugar, preferably brown
•    1/4 cup of water
•    2 limes or lime juice

Mince garlic and chop shallots finely. Simmer garlic, onions and cilantro stems in shallow frying pan in water. Add sugar, chili. Bring to a boil, simmer until reduced a bit. Let cool. Add lime juice to taste.

Fresh Spring Rolls
•    ½ package rice vermicelli noodles
•    2 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
•    1 package (8-inch) rice-paper rounds, plus additional in case some tear
•    ½ head red-leaf lettuce leaves, ribs cut out and discarded and leaves halved
•    1/2 cup thinly sliced Napa cabbage
•    1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
•    1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
•    1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
•    1/3 cup coarsely shredded/julienned carrot (2 medium carrots)

Preparation
Cover noodles with boiling-hot water and soak 15 minutes, then drain well in a sieve. Pat dry between paper towels and toss with rice vinegar and salt to taste.

Chop various vegetable ingredients and place them in separate serving bowls.

Rolling
Use a large cutting board and shallow bowl or baking pan filled with tepid water. Soak 1 rice-paper round (make sure there are no holes) in water until pliable for about 12 seconds. Rub with the palm of your hand on cutting board.

Arrange 1 piece of lettuce on bottom half of soaked rice paper, folding or tearing to fit and leaving a 1-inch border along edge.

Spread a dollop of tahini sauce over lettuce and top with with mint, basil, cabbage, and noodles. Roll up rice paper tightly around filling and, after rolling halfway, arrange cilantro and carrot along crease. If this separate step is difficult cilantro and carrot can be added with the other vegetables. Then fold in sides and continue rolling. Transfer summer roll to a plate. Cut each roll in half.
Use the cilantro chili sauce and any remaining tahini sauce for dipping sauce.

Pork & Greens Stir-Fry

•    Serves 4
•    25 minutes in preparation
•    10-15 minutes to cook
•    200g (7oz) pork tenderloin OR tofu with 1 1/2 tbsp ginger, 2 cloves garlic minced and 2 tablespoons of soya sauce and 1 tablespoon water
•    2 bunches of greens such as bok choy, turnip greens, chard or other substitute
•    3 tbsp vegetable oil salt and ground black pepper
•    2 sliced green onions
•    1 red chilli
•    1/2 cup vegetable broth

Sauce
•    1 tbsp cornstarch
•    1 tbsp vegetable broth (from earlier half cup)
•    2 tablespoons soy sauce
•    1 ½ tsp. sesame oil
•    2 tbsp sherry/red wine/port (can substitute any acid- orange juice/ red wine vinegar)
•    1 ½ tsp hoisin sauce
•    2 tbsp water
Garnish
•    2 sliced green onions & ½ tbsp ginger & handful of chopped cilantro

Preparation
Cut the pork into strips and place in a non-metallic dish with 1 ½ tbsp ginger, 2 tbsps soy sauce, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 tbsp water. Set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil water for vegetable broth (if using cubes). Prepare the sauce so that it is ready. Mix cornstarch and vegetable broth together until smooth. Add port & hoisin. Set aside.

Cook
Heat a wok over a high heat and add the oil. It should be hot enough to evaporate a drop of water quickly. Stir-fry the pork for 2-3 minutes until pink is gone. Season and set aside. Add the trimmed spring onions and the deseeded, sliced chilli and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes using vegetable broth to steam/stir fry. Do not let the leaves go wilty. Put them aside.

Add the sauce ingredients to the pan: soy sauce, sesame oil, sherry and hoisin sauce, then stir-fry for 2 minutes or until the sauce is syrupy. Continue to add tablespoons of water until the sauce is desired consistency. Bring back pork/tofu and greens. Sprinkle the remaining green onions and remaining half tablespoon of ginger and cilantro. Serve.

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