About Mastering and Enjoying Home Cooking. Drink, Cook, and Live Well!

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Steve"s Mole


2 tblsp guajillo powder

1 tblsp ancho powder

4 cups home made chicken stock

3 tomatillas,  cut in half 

2 tomatoes, cut in half

2 tablespoon Manteca ( lard )

1 onion, halved and thickly  sliced

½ head garlic, peeled and sliced

⅓ cup chopped peanuts

¼ cup raisins

2 tsp cumin 

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tblsp allspice 

5 whole cloves

3 cinnamon sticks

2 star anise

5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

3 tablespoons white sugar

Water as required

1 teaspoon salt

Italian Roasted Eggplant


2 large eggplant 

1 vidalia onion, chopped 

4 cloves garlic,minced 

1 fresh hot red chili, seeded and chopped

2 tbsp chopped basil

1 small can tomato paste 

1 tsp salt 

Pinch of sugar or balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 

Preheat oven to 375°F. 
Trim the ends off the eggplant and cut lengthwise into eighths. 
Place skin side down on a baking sheet and roast until the flesh is browned.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, cook briefly. Add onion and chilies the stir fry until onions are clear. Add eggplant, 
tomato paste and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add basil, and a pinch of sugar. Toss. Add chopped basil, and correct seasonings.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Best Thai Coconut Fish Soup


Thai often combine fish flavors with lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, and coconut milk. For color they use a variety of colorful vegetable and herbs.

Bruised lemon grass
2 tblsp of olive oil
1/3 cup assorted grape tomatoes
Minced garlic
Scallions separated into two portion, white, a green
Minced ginger
Sliced mushrooms 
Fish sauce
10 Snow peas
Lemon peel 
3/4 pound white flesh fish ( haddock, cod, pollock, or catfish )
8 shrimp ( prefer head on, but cleaned)
Cilantro, Thai basil and or fresh spinach add-in with greens of scallions
Coconut milk

Optionally, add bruised kaffir leaves when adding coconut milk

Heat a wok until hot, add oil, when smoking, add garlic, ginger, scallions whites, smashed lemon grass. When cooked, add tomatoes, snow peas, fish sauce, lemon, black pepper, pinch of salt, coconut milk. When hot, add fish, shrimp and cook 4 minutes. Then add cilantro,basil,scallion greens. Serve.

Tantanmen - Spicy Japanese Noodles

With a massively flavorful, spicy broth as its secret weapon, Tan Tan Ramen (Tantanmen) is a Japanese noodle soup that is certainly not for the faint of heart. The familiar aromatic combination of garlic, ginger, and scallions cozies up to the likes of miso, toasted sesame, peanuts, and Sichuan sesame paste.

1/4 cup dried wood ear mushrooms
1 cup hot water
Soak the mushrooms in hot water 30 minutes, discarding hard parts, cut up

8 cups pork stock ( pork bones boiled 12 hour slowly)
1 1/2 cups rich chicken broth
3 tablespoons grape seed  oil
8 shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails off
2 pieces squid (tubes), cleaned and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rings
16 fresh bay scallops, trimmed
1/2 cup thinly sliced pork belly 
3 cups chopped napa cabbage
8 fresh shiitake mushrooms, ends trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup peeled and sliced carrots
16 pea pods, trimmed of their ends
3 cups bean sprouts or waterchesnuts
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
Couple of sautéed shrimp for each bowl
4 (7-ounce) pieces frozen ramen noodles
2 scallions, both white and green parts, thinly sliced on an angle

Dash of hot chili oil or Szechuan pepper

Decorate bowls with a softish egg half, steamed boy choy, few peanuts, fried squid, pan fried scallops

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Hunan Braised pork belly Hong Shao Rou from Woks of Life

Hong Shao Rou, also known as red braised pork belly, is a traditional Chinese dish from the Hunan and Zhejiang provinces that holds a special place in Shanghai cuisine. The dish features pork belly braised in a mixture of soy sauce,  caramelized sugar, and various spices, resulting in tender, flavorful meat with a glossy, caramelized coating. 

The Shanghai version consists of pork belly cut into thick pieces, caramelized sugar to achieve a signature red color and sweetness, and both light and dark soy sauces to add depth of flavor and color.

The Hunan version, which is more traditional, will also include the Shaoxing wine, a Chinese cooking wine that enhances the overall flavor, and aromatics such as ginger, garlic, star anise, and cinnamon add complexity, dried chili peppers, bay leaves, and scallions. 

Unlike the Shanghai version, which is a mix of sweet and savory, the Hunan version is more spicy and aromatic. 

The cooking process begins with blanching the pork belly in boiling water to remove impurities. Sugar is then melted in oil to create a caramel base, and the pork is simmered in a mixture of soy sauce, wine, and spices for about an hour until it becomes tender and infused with flavor. The final step involves reducing the sauce to a thick, glossy coating on the pork.

The slow braising process ensures that the pork belly achieves a melt-in-your-mouth texture. Often served with steamed rice or vegetables to balance its richness, Hong Shao Rou is a beloved comfort food in Chinese cuisine, appreciated for its deep flavors and satisfying texture.

12 oz lean, skin-on pork belly
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp rock sugar (rock sugar is preferred or you can use granulated sugar)
3 tbsp Shaoxing wine 
Garlic, minced
Ginger, minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 cups (500 ml) water

Step 1/6

Begin by slicing your pork belly into 3/4-inch (2 cm) thick pieces.

Step 2/6

Heat a pot of water until boiling, then add the pork belly pieces and cook for a couple of minutes. Remove the pork from the pot, rinse it, and set it aside.

Step 3/6

Over low heat, add oil and sugar. Cook until the sugar melts slightly, then add the pork, the ginger, the garlic, Cinnamon. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the pork is lightly browned.

Step 4/6

Reduce the heat to low and add Shaoxing cooking wine,  dark soy sauce, and water. ( I pre measure the wine, soy and water in the same large measuring cup.)

Step 5/6

Cover the wok* and cook over medium heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the pork is meltingly tender. 

Stir every 5-10 minutes to prevent burning, and add more water if it becomes too dry.

Step 6/6

Once the pork is done, if there is still a lot of liquid, uncover the wok, increase the heat, and stir continuously until the sauce reduces to a syrupy consistency. Serve with white rice.

* A flat cover smaller than the wok will also work, to retain steam.

Shaoxing Wine

Monday, June 3, 2024

Bok Choy


1 tablespoon peanut oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 or more slices of fresh ginger, smashed, then chopped finely

8 heads baby bok choy, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

Sea salt or  soy to taste

Cook in boiling water til just tender. In a fry pan, heat the pan, when hot, add the garlic and ginger. Stir with a chopstick. Add the cut up choy. Stir or toss  to coat. Eat over steam white rice

Snap Pea Salad

 Nothing is fresher from the garden that is hardy even sweeter than snap pea greens. The nice thing about harvesting them is that the grow back rapidly and I include snap peas too. Combine with other favorite green and enjoy as a salad to company.

Preparing Artichoke so they Look Great


The ingredients are best of the start of the season which starts in spring. The first crop of artichoke yields the fattest chokes. The stem are giant, so you going to haft to peel the stem and discard the small leaves at the stem of the flower. Cut a lemon if half. Now trim each petal by cutting off the top quarter of each leave one leaf at a time. Don’t cut into its neighbor. Now, using a serrated knife, chop off the top of the choke, bend the choke to the cutting board so you trim the top of the choke evenly. Now cut off the stem, leaving only 1/2 an inch stub. Rub the cut with lemon to prevent discoloration.
Fresh globe artichoke

Cook for 1 1/2 hour or until tender.

Chill for a couple of hours. Serve with ramekins of butter, a a mustard mayonnaise.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Jalapeno Green-Tomato-Mango Chutney

Chutney was an English equivalent of a Hindu word. The condiment was probably brought back
to England first by the East India Trading company maybe as early as the 17th century. For the
Hindu and Indians, chutneys are typically eaten on special occasions such as weddings or by the
well-to-do3. Chutney, in this book, refers to condiments either fresh or cooked that contain fruit.

My recipe was originally modeled after English Major Gray Chutney. I found that by making it
spicier, the resulting chutney became a lot more interesting. This recipe is largely based on taste
and, would seem, at the outset, to be very over spiced. In actuality, vinegar moderates everything
in time and the chutney is just right after 6 months. Once canned, it will last several years. When
canning anything, you must insure all equipment is sterile. A hot jar lift and a mason jar canning
funnel would be useful otherwise hold jars with oven mitts. 

Serve chutney with broiled or grilled fowl, steak, lamb, pork or roast. (It’s good on toast!)
Although preserved chutneys are available in India, nobody there has ever heard of Crosse and
Blackwell Major Grey’s Chutney.

All things chickeny and mutt'ny
Taste far better when served with chutney
This is the mystery eternal:
Why didn't Major Grey make Colonel?

Crosse and Blackwell was originally founded as West and Wyatt, the company was purchased in
1830 by Edmund Crosse and Thomas Blackwell. Today the Crosse & Blackwell brand is part of
The J.M. Smucker Company family of products. “Since 1706, Crosse & Blackwell products have captured the exotic flavors, textures and aromas of the world’s most interesting cuisines. Many of our savory products feature historic flavors connected to the culinary traditions of Great Britain. Our chutneys are boldly flavored condiments combining choice herbs, spices, and luscious tropical fruits and vegetables. Originally derived from Indian cuisine, its name comes from the word
“chatnu,” meaning “to taste.”

2 cups bottled water to start (more if needed later)
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup of Apple cider vinegar
2 cups (or more) of sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
Kosher or sea salt to taste (no iodine salt)
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons prepared hot mustard
1 tablespoon ground cloves (quite a lot)
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground mace or ½ teaspoon nutmeg
A lot of fresh peeled ginger (1/3 pound) sliced thin on a mandolin.
10-15 red and green jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded and sliced lengthwise then in half
10 – 15 large firm mangoes, peeled, coarsely chopped. (see note 2)
2 large white onions cut wedge-wise lengthwise not in slices
10-20 large green tomatoes1, sliced length wise (squeeze out extra seeds)
1 pound golden raisins
3 tablespoon lime juice (juice from two limes)

If you don’t have access to green tomatoes, you may use more mangos.
Bring water, lime juice, salt, spices, sugar, corn syrup and vinegar to a high boil. Adjust the salt,
sugar, vinegar and water to get correct sweet-sour. The salt level should be a bit more salty at
this point to compensate for the fact we have not added the solid ingredients. Add the solid
ingredients and heat ingredients to a boil and add more water if it’s needed. Cover and boil 5
minutes. Pull off heat. When the mixture is not so hot, ladle it onto sterile quart sized mason
jars, and tighten to seal. Place sealed jars in a pot of boiling water with the water level about half
way up the jar. Boil the jars for 20 minutes. Remove for heat and cool. Set aside in a dark
cupboard for at least 6 months to mature.

1. If you don’t have access to green tomatoes, you may use more mangos.
2. About Mangos: When ripe, mangoes are fully colored from green to yellow with a red
tinge, feel fairly firm but yield when pushed and have a fruity aroma. Do not use soft or
mushy fruit or ones that have bruises. Wash the fruit, cut off the stem about ¼ inch up so
a peeled fruit will stand upright on the cutting board. Cut off the cheeks of the fruit with a
large knife and use a smaller knife to trim around the woody core. Avoid slices too deep
that include cutting into the tough woody core. Coarsely chop the mango pieces. If you
wish to, you may use your hands to further remove some of what clings to the mango
cores over a bowl. Mango come into season around January and at peak season become
inexpensive and best flavored. (January through March)
3. Chutney is expensive at around 50~95 cents an ounce. So making your own chutney is a
real cost saver if mangoes are in season.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Manicotti (Italian stuffed pasta shells)

This is the Roman way of preparing this dish.

Chopped fresh wilted spinach, wrung dry in a towel
Parmesan cheese
1 Large whole egg, beaten
Garlic, minced very fine
Black Pepper and white pepper
Pinch of Salt
Ricotta cheese
Fresh basil leaves or dried if that’s all you have
Parmesan sauce or Alfredo sauce
Marinara sauce
Marjoram or oregano or both
Manicotti shells or tubes

The filling is all the ingredients save the sauces and a reserve perfect leaves of basil as garnish. I prepare individual dishes with oval chaffing dishes because they look pretty. 

Fill tubes gently with fingers or a piping bag. Put white sauce on the bottom in individual chaffing dishes, add the shells, and top with the red sauce. Prinkle with Parmesan. Place on a tray to catch spillage. Bake in a 400 oven for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. You may find you need to turn down the over the last 15 minutes.

Fresh sprigs of basil help the disk more fancy. 

Cleaning the sides of the chafing dishes help them look nicer.

Bon Appétit

1. ricotta has a mild flavor like a soft, malleable mozzarella with an even fresher milk taste, and a rich, luscious mouthfeel.
2. I would suggest tasting the filling before filling the pasta to sample the seasonings.
3. Using chopped frozen spinach is okay but wring dry to remove excess water after defrosted.
4. Wipe dishes before cooking so they look their best. Garnish with basil.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

What constitutes a great soup?


Some of the best things that come out of my kitchen are soups. I think the best example that comes to mind is a rich, highly reduced stock that is unsalted until its finished the cooking cycle. Good soup needs to reduce as much time as it needs. The white pork broth found in Tonkotsu Ramen stock takes boiling pork bones slowly for 14 hours. Chicken thighs take 4 hour on a reducing boil over low heat. More interesting soup use complimentary ingredients.

What to add to enhance the flavor:

Oyster sauce
Red or white wine
Herbs and spices
Bread, beans, vegetables*, corn, lentils, olive oil, meat, chicken, or shell fish, lobster, haddock, cod, herring, coconut milk

Some favorite vegetables include corn, pablano chilies, fresh tomatoes, fresh green beans, squash, potatoes, zucchini, and cilantro, or parsley.

For example, see tortilla soup recipe on this blog.

Strange Soup Modeled liberly from African Bitter Leaf Soup


1/3 Cups raw, ground pumpkin seeds
I large potato, cut into large lumps
2 tomatoes, quartered
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 tsp. Concentrated tomato paste
1 lg. onion, cut into large slices
Red pepper
1 lb. chicken wings
1 cup kale or spinach
1/3 cup of olive oil
1/3 tsp turmeric
1/3 cup chopped parsley

Sauté chicken in olive oil until slightly browned*. Add 1 of chicken stock. Add potatoes, tomatoes, raw pumpkin seeds, garlic, onion, salt, turmeric, parsley, red pepper, and tomato paste. Cook 30 minutes. Add kale that has been chopped. When the kale is done, add two tablespoons of sherry. 
Simmer 10 min, soup is ready to serve.

* chicken and diced onion or leeks(white portion) can be cook together for more flavor.

In the picture above, the soup is serve with steamed bread made from pounded plantains. This picture does not show clearly, it’s made from chicken wings. Feel free to add chilies or even beef or shrimp. Marrow bones and added scallions might be nice.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Eggplant Lasagna or Mellazani

Eggplant Lasagna Roman Style or Mellanzani Ala Romano
Elena Mantini taught me how to cook this in Rome when I was only 12 years old. This is a superb dish and always amazing to guest who especially have never had eggplant. It has the “WOW factor”. I prefer it to regular Lasagna. This dish, however, resembles lasagna in the eating without all the carbohydrates. Sometimes something called “Eggplant Parmigiano” is served in the United States that is cut thick, undercooked, tough, bitter and unappealing. Do not confuse that with this. This is very delicate. Mellanzani is like very tender lasagna. Five cheeses and Elena’s sauce (see recipe sauce_elenas_spagetti.doc) make this recipe very simply one of the very best. The alternative way of preparing the eggplant is the traditional Roman way and is a bit more work but uses a bit more oil.
Preheat oven to 375 F.

5 medium young egg plants, sliced very thin (1/16th of an inch) 
1 pound grated mozzarella cheese
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup grated Reggiano Parmigiano cheese
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
Resplendid freshest unfiltered cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs made with olive oil, garlic and stale
Italian Bread or omit. Do not use store bought.
4~5 cups of Elena’s Sugo de Pomodori e Guanciale - Red Tomato Sauce (Elena
Rich Spicy Marinara Sauce) (substitute Marinara Sauce if making a vegan dish.)

Use the most firm young eggplants you can find. The younger eggplants have fewer seeds and are less bitter. Cut off the top stem section of the eggplants and, optionally, peel them to make a more tender lasagna. The eggplant is cooked twice: First, it the oven by itself, and secondly as a casserole, hence, there is no reason to peel off the skin. Cut the egg plants into thin even slices about 1⁄4 to 1/16th inch thick. Lay the slices out flat, not overlapping, on parchment paper with or without cooking sheet pans, without overlapping. Place in hot oven (375 F) to cook and drive off the moisture. After 10-15 minutes or so, turn the slices over. Salt would help draw out moisture from the eggplant but it is not recommended as the cheese is also salty. When the eggplant is ready, it will be limp and almost completely dry. Some slices may be slightly brownish as shown. This is fine.

When cutting the parchment paper, make them the size of the pan. Excessive paper could smoke a bit.
In a large steep wall glass or ceramic oven proof dish, assemble, as in the case of lasagna, layers of ingredients. Add a layer of sauce to the bottom of the dish, followed by eggplant, followed by dollops of ricotta, sprinklings of mozzarella cheese, and some of the other cheeses. The repeat, sauce, eggplant, etc. The last layer ends sauce, bread crumbs, Romano and Parmigiano cheese and a slight drizzle of olive oil.
“E una cosa fantastico” – a fantastic thing!
I have found out recently that I can pre-cook the eggplant in much greater quantities by using the BBQ gas grill and at slightly high temperatures. In this case, I handle the eggplant with long thongs.
Winter egg plant is usually available in larger pieces but is abundant with seed and a little bitter. Japanese eggplant work fine but buy plenty of them.
Alternative Preparation Ingredient
Olive oil
8 eggs, beaten
2~3 cups all purpose flour Plenty of paper towels

Alternative Way of Preparing Eggplant Slices
Peel and slice as above. Salt one side of all the eggplant slices, place salted side on paper towels to draw off bitter fluids for ten minutes. Salt other side; turn over slices and a place salt side down on new stack of dry paper towels for another 15 minutes. Wash eggplant in plenty of cold water to leach off excess salt, and pat dry. Allow to dry out on paper towels for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, preheat a Teflon coated grill until 400F. Beat 8 eggs until creamy yellow. Place in bowl for dipping. Get out a plate or shallow bowl and put two cups of all purpose flour. Dredge eggplant slices in flour, knock off excess flour. Dip slices in beaten eggs, shake off excess then cook each slices of eggplant on lightly oil grill until golden brown on each side. Drain on paper towels. Continue until All slice done.


Sunday, April 7, 2024

Stir-Fried Tong Ho ( Chrysanthemum greens)

Tong ho is Cantonese. Although not found very much in America, it is chock full of nourishment.

This dish is slightly bitter, but the other spice counter the bitter.

Chrysanthemum greens
Oil for stir fry
Oyster Sauce
Soy Sauce
Hosin sauce

Roast Pork Stew with Garden Vegetables

 This recipe is to rescue beef stew which always seemed to be stringy, when made with beef. First rub the Boston butt, Then marry the cuts of the pork, with greats vegetables and a roux turned into a rich gravy.

Red potatoes
Celery, cut fine
Carrots, cut into 1/2” pieces
Large Onion cut to  quarters
2 cloves of Garlic
Ginger, 1/2 small thumb
1qt chicken stock
1 tsp. Dry mustard
Chicken powder, low salt
1 1/2 tsp. White pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbls. Flour
Kitchen Boquet
1tbs. Concentrated tomato paste
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
32 oz beef broth.
Roast the pork in your favorite spices. Don’t forget salt and pepper.

Make an mixture of butter a flour, called a roux. Add white pepper, and cream, Kitchen Boquet, concentrated tomatoe paste, mustard, and Worcestershire Sauce. Cook in chicken stock along with port.

In a separate pot, cook vegetable wt beef broth until tender. Season with garlic, ginger, sage, rosemary, thyme, and a little sugar.

 Combine meat, roux, and vegetables.