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Dorothy Ng's blog

What's Cooking?: The Year of the Dragon

 

Happy Belated New Year!  Based on the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year came early this year on January 23, 2012.  The Year of the Dragon is considered very lucky especially on my father’s side where at least four generations of family members were born in the Year of the Dragon.  Our personalities seem to reflect this.  We are quite an intense lot; short-tempered, and passionate about things.

What's Cooking?: Stories and Memories

 

Have you ever had a song that brings you back to a particular memory in time?  Or a movie you watched that reminded you of an event in your life?  I have.  Whenever I hear “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles, I’m reminded by the kindness of a neighbor who bought me my first 45 rpm record. Remember those? Funny, we didn’t even own a phonograph player to listen to it, yet I loved that single.  Or, watching Ben Hur, the only movie I remember my father taking me to see in a theatre.   Well, what does this have to do with cooking you may ask?  Our lives are made of many such stories as it relates to cooking and food as well. 

What's Cooking?: The Unassuming Tofu

When I go into a large Asian supermarket in Flushing, I am amazed to see the whole length of the refrigerated aisle filled with tofu products.   This does not even include other sections with their large sheets of tofu or dried goods.  It has such a diversified use that it is chameleon-like as it takes on the flavor of whatever it is cooked in.  In itself, it is rather bland but when combined with seasonings, meats, and sauces, this unassuming food becomes an essential component.

What's Cooking?: A Birthday Tradition

 

A tradition I’ve created in my family since my children were young was to let them request a special menu for their birthdays. They looked forward to suggesting dishes they would like to have for their birthday dinner.  When they were young, the menu was simpler like fried chicken, pizza, lasagna or noodles.  As they grew up, their palates and food selections also did, with the exception of my youngest who still requests lasagna.  

What's Cooking?: Cheers!

 

Cocktails, Sodas, Smoothies, Shakes, Juices, Teas, Coffees!  There is a whole host of drinks that will enliven our mundane tastes of the usual, especially for the heat filled summer.  These refreshing and tantalizing beverages will bring a whirlwind of activity among your guests to create various concoctions of their own.  When I ask some of my colleagues what their favorite cocktail is, such delight appears on their faces.  One favorite is “Cool as a Cucumber” with muddled cucumber, Absolut, St. Gemain, ginger beer, and a twist of lime from Morton’s in Chicago.  Another colleague loves her Bourbon Manhattan but she reminds me not to forget the best “lemonade” ever - a shot of Southern Comfort, a squeeze of a whole lemon and a tablespoon of sugar.  It makes a great whiskey sour!  Well, if they’re happy describing them to me, I could imagine how "high in spirit" they would be after consuming these drinks.

What's Cooking?: A Well-Seasoned Cast Iron

 

Quite a few of my colleagues and friends have approached me about cast iron cookware.  My own cast iron collection includes 3 skillets of varying sizes, one flattop, a griddle skillet, and a Dutch oven.  All are manufactured by Wagner.  It is well used every day in my home, more than any other cookware I own.  As you can see, I’m a big fan of cast iron and I prefer it over some of the more expensive cookware.  It is inexpensive and very durable.  Another benefit is the natural source of iron it provides to the food.  I value this versatile cookware that has great heat retention and can bake, stir fry, braise, stew, pan fry and deep fry to perfection any food you cook on it. 

What's Cooking?: Braising

 

Braising is a cooking technique that can transform a mundane piece of meat into a dish that will satisfy the most discriminating palate.  It is similar to stewing in that it uses relatively low temperatures while simmering.  However, braising uses less liquid resulting in a rich concentrated sauce.  It also uses large pieces of meat.  More important, the meat is first seared.  This essential step ensures the meat will retain its juices, keeping it succulent and moist.

What's Cooking?: Peking Duck

After recuperating from the nonstop holiday festivities, I took some time to reflect on the coming New Year.  Aside from the post-holiday detox after the recent overindulgences, I decided to direct my approach toward choices I will be make this year guided by the adages “simpler is better” and “less is more.”  Next, I thought I should be a little more adventurous and expand my culinary repertoire.  This may suggest something difficult and time consuming which may contradict my first New Year’s resolution – keep it simple.  Nevertheless, I met this challenge when I chose to make Peking duck.  My husband loves duck but I never roasted one because I thought it very fatty.  When I mentioned it to my best friend, she advised me, “Order the Peking duck at a restaurant.  You’re unbelievable! (diplomatic meaning for 'you're crazy').“ 

What's Cooking?: A Season of Giving

With all the amazing dishes, mouth-watering baked goods and dazzling decorations that inspire our creative senses, one of the best things I love about this holiday season is the time of giving.  I appreciate the thought and care people take in choosing their gifts.  Homemade culinary gifts offer a more personal and satisfying touch to gift giving.   Friends and family who are food lovers like me value the effort.  The expression of delight and joy when they take a bite of something that is scrumptious makes all the difference.

What's Cooking?: Autumn Harvest

pie

As I survey the colorful array of apples, pears, grapes, winter squash, persimmons, and pomegranates, they remind me of autumn jewels waiting for me to spirit them away to my kitchen.  For me, it is the season to open the ovens, and bake those pies and tarts!  I excitingly gloss over new recipes and retrieve the time-tested favorites.  The first apple pie of the season is sort of a celebration in our house.  With great anticipation, we can’t wait to have a flaky crust embrace these luscious slices in the hot oven.  The apple pie I make is filled with the combination of what I name as the “3Gs” - Granny, Gala, and Golden Delicious apples and then it is covered with a rich brown sugar crumb topping.  So good with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on that crunchy topping!

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