Don’t sweat it, it’s cucumber soup!

After that long, brutal winter here on the East coast, summer is almost, almost, upon us, friends. As much as I hate the cold, I love winter foods. There’s simply nothing as soothing as stewed meats, and soups. Heck, I’d have a big bowl of beef noodle soup in the middle of August in DC, with or without air conditioning. But. There’s really no need to sweat it. (Sorry,)

Several years ago I discovered cold cucumber soups. There’s several varieties with more or less the same ingredients of cucumber, herbs and plain Greek yogurt. It’s one of the few things I make that takes almost no time at all, and tastes like I’ve spent hours preparing. The flavors are refreshing yet complex, especially if you add a few pepper flakes.

I’ve served it at dinner parties. Eaten it as a stand-alone meal. Recently, I even brought it out during a baby shower, and a barbeque. Yes! Cold soup can be served even at a larger gathering.

I’ve served it at dinner parties. Eaten it as a stand-alone meal. Recently, I even brought it out during a baby shower, and a barbeque. Yes! Cold soup can be served even at a larger gathering.

Ingredients:

4 cups of diced cucumbers, seed removed

1.5 cups plain Greek yogurt. (For the keto-conscious I recommend Fage’s 5%)

⅓ cup fresh dill

⅓ cup parsley or cilantro

A pinch of thyme

3-4 cloves of garlic

A few red pepper flakes (optional)

⅓ cup olive oil

Enough truffle oil to drizzle on later

Salt and pepper

Equipment:

1 large mixing bowl

1 immersion blender

Instructions:

Take all your ingredients, except truffle oil, salt and pepper. Blend in large mixing bowl until smooth. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a tiny drizzle of truffle oil on top. Use whatever leftover herbs as a garnish.

That’s it. Promise.

Enjoy!

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Individual rabbit pies, oh my!

Don’t ever trust me to hold a box of croissants for you.  I will eat it all and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.  It’s not just flaky, buttery pastries that I love.  I’m a huge fan of French cooking in general.  There’s not a single French dish I’ve tried and I haven’t loved.

It’s not just flaky, buttery pastries that I love.  I’m a huge fan of French cooking in general.  There’s not a single French dish I’ve tried and I haven’t loved.

Imagine my joy when I discovered a French recipe that combines flaky puff pastry with meat. I’ve never had a rabbit with mushroom and leek pie before I discovered the recipe in a friend’s cookbook: Lapin de Compagnie en aumônière.   And boy did the recipe sound amazing!

I’ve made it twice now and, I’ve modified the recipe a bit.  I won’t kid you, it’s labor intensive.  There’s no reason why you can’t substitute chicken for the rabbit if game-meat isn’t your thing.  Chicken might even be more tender as rabbit meat can be a bit tough, but with this method, it turned out amazingly tender. To thicken the sauce the original recipe called for flour.  But when my husband, Dave was on the ketogenic diet, I stopped using flour to thicken my sauces.  Just allow a bit more time to cook the liquid down.  When Dave had his pie, he gave me his pastry puff top.  I didn’t complain.

Equipment:

1 soup pot or Cast Iron Dutch Oven

1 large saute pan
1 small sauce pan
1 large strainer
2 or 3 Pyrex bowls

2 small Porcelain Bowls. Every rabbit fits in two of these bowls.  Not only are they pretty, but they are oven safe!

Ingredients:

1 whole rabbit, cut into 8 portions
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, halved
1 leek, divide between the green and white parts. Half the green portion and shred the white
button mushrooms, about two little boxes from your grocery
1 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock (recipe to follow)
1 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup cream
1 puff pastry sheet

1 egg yolk, beaten
salt
pepper

Step 1:
Combine the carrots, onion, green leek, celery, wine, chicken stock, bay leaves and thyme with the rabbit in a soup pot (or Dutch oven) and bring to a simmer. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper. Add a bit more water to cover the rabbit.  Remove the carrots, onions, celery after about 20-30 minutes. DO NOT DISCARD!  Save it in a separate container.

Let the rabbit continue to cook in the stock for the full hour or until the meat can be easily separated from the bones.  Then remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Step 2
Remove the rabbit from the stock and remove the meat from the bones.  Try to shred the meat into smaller pieces with your fingers or a fork. Strain the stock, and throw away the bones.

Step 3
Cook the mushrooms and shredded white leek a saute pan with butter until softened, then combine with the reserved vegetables and shredded rabbit meat.

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Step 4
Heat up the stock in a sauce pan and let it cook down until it’s reduced by half. Add cream and let the liquid thicken.  Pour enough of the liquid until it coats the veggie and meat mixture. Then let it cool before dividing it into the ceramic serving dishes.

Step 5
As your mixture is cooling, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Roll out your puff pastry and using a small dish cut out rounds that will cover your serving dishes with a slight overhang.  Now place it gently over the top of the filling and crimp down the edges to seal each dish.  Don’t forget to pierce few holes in the center of each pastry.  Brush the pastry with egg yolk.

Step 6
I would place each assembled pie dish on a cookie sheet before popping it into the over for each removal.  


Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry puffs up and turns a beautiful caramel golden color.

Enjoy!

Grandma’s Kou Rou

My late grandmother often made this recipe whenever people gathered in her home.  I regret there are no pictures of those dinner parties, with a table covered with dishes full of differently prepared food and people squeezed in shoulder to shoulder.  What strikes me as an adult, is that she made all her feasts on a little coal burning cast iron stove, similar to this one:

Just like grandma's stove

Primitive, yes, but this was 1980s China.  My grandmother thought her two-burner propane stove was much too technologically advanced.

I remember, out of every dish she made, everyone always raved about my grandmother’s version of the triple cooked pork belly.  (It’s actually called Kou Rou, or upside down meat in Chinese, but I think triple cooked pork belly is more descriptive.)  There’re several versions of this dish out there, but nothing beats Grandma’s, amiright?

Later, my aunt made this dish for my husband Dave.  The juicy chunks or pork and distinct flavors left a lasting impression on him.  When he started the ketogenic diet, Dave requested that I recreate the triple cooked pork belly, back here in America.   Sadly, there are no written copies of any of my grandmother’s recipes.   My grandmother was illiterate and the custom was to pass down family recipes via kitchen-apprenticeships which, until recently, preserved them for generations.  So I crowd-sourced various family members for their memories of the ingredients and preparation.  What I got from various relatives was a pinch of this and a dash of that.  I did my best to approximate how much a unit of “dash” or “pinch” and convert it into a more coherent recipe.

Keep in mind, this is a labor intensive recipe that takes some planning.  Give yourself one day at least to soak the mustard greens.  Follow the first two steps.  The last step can be done an 1 hour and 15 minutes before serving.

Tools:

soup pan
frying pan
Stainless Steel Steamer

large microwave safe bowl

Ingredients

2 lbs pork belly
2 green onions
2 slices ginger
3-4 garlic cloves
2 Star Anise

2 tablespoons oil (I use olive believe it or not)
1 tablespoon soy sauce (doesn’t really matter if it’s light or dark)
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar (or rock candy)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste

5-6 oz. dried preserved mustard greens from any Asian grocery store.(About 3 cups after soaked overnight and thoroughly washed)

Now I call this dish triple-cooked pork belly for a very good reason.  Here we go:

Step #1:

Flavor a pot of cold water with 1 star anise, 1 green onion and a few slices of ginger root. Put the pork belly into the cold water mixture.  Bring to a boil on medium high heat, then immediately reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Fish out the pork chunks and set aside to let it cool off a bit.

Step #2

Heat a pan (or wok, if you have one) with some cooking oil over low heat.  To make sure the oil is hot, throw in some more of the sliced ginger and wait for it to start sizzling.  Then pour in red wine, soy sauce and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add sugar to thicken the sauce.  You want it to turn into a thick caramel texture.  If it gets too dry, add a bit more wine.  If its not thick enough, turn up the heat a notch and keep a close eye on it till it thickens.  Then place the pieces of pork into the pan and let it fry in the sauce.  Turn over a few times to glaze the pork belly.  Once there’s a nice golden brown coat on every side of the pork, wrap it in a container or plate and refrigerate for 2 or more hours.  DO NOT WASH OUT YOUR  PAN!

Step #3

Prepare a large steamer 3/4 of the way with water.  Heat the unwashed pan you used to glaze the pork and add the last bit of oil.  Heat for a minute or two then toss in the last green onion, the last bits of ginger slices, along with the drained mustard greens.  Fry it up until it’s fragrant and turn off the heat.

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Preserved mustard greens

Now take the cold pork belly out of the fridge and slice it nice and thin with a sharp knife.  Line the slices of pork along your large round bowl.  Fill the bowl, leaving a half inch at the top and pour in the mustard greens.

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Kou Rou

Set the bowl in your steamer and steam on high heat for 75 minutes.  Once it’s steamed, let it rest for 5 minutes then pour off some of the liquid in the bowl into your pan again and let it simmer and reduce to a nice slightly thick sauce.  I refuse to use cornstarch in my sauce, so a little bit of patience is key.  Your liquid WILL reduce.

Now, your pork has cooled slightly. Place a large serving plate over the top of the bowl.  The plate should overlap the bowl rim.  It’s very important that it does as you will hold the plate firmly over the bowl and flip the bowl over.  You’ll have a nice mound of pork belly on your plate.   Pour the sauce over it and serve to your guests.

Enjoy!

Love the dinner party

I had quite a weekend, in terms of cooking, last weekend.  I made a few treats for a dear friend’s bridal shower, and then hosted a dinner party for some old friends.

Let’s tackle the dinner party first.  You have to love dinner parties.  Either throwing one or attending one.  What’s more ubiquitous across cultures than sharing a meal in the home?

My typical dinner party starts with an appetizer, main entree of some sort of meaty dish, with a few sides and then dessert.  This time around, I broke my own rule.  One friend happened to love my stewed oxtail, another friend loves duck.  Also, I still had some of the lovely tuna Dave caught vacuum sealed and frozen, I decided to do an air, land and sea themed dinner.

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Air, land and sea.

Both the tuna poke and oxtail are keto friendly.  The duck, eaten without the pancake as Dave did, can also be part of your diet.

 

 

 

Eat more oxtail

I’m truly delighted that nowadays when you mention oxtail, not everyone will cringe or shrink back in revulsion.  How about you?   What do you picture when you hear oxtail?  Does it look like this:

I happen to love the oxtail as a stewed meat.  It’s bone, cartilage, and bits of fat releases an amazing flavor slow cooked.

Recently I decided to steal a page from the classic French boeuf bourguignon and use oxtail instead of lean beef.  Instead of using flour to thicken the sauce, I let the lid of my dutch oven open slightly, lowered the heat and increased the cooking time.  Thus, it too can be part of the keto diet.  No flour.  No sugar.  Still pretty delicious.

Ingredients

One 6-ounce slices of bacon (apple prefer apple wood smoked)
3 pounds oxtail
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, diced
Salt and pepper
3 cups red wine. I use whatever I have on hand
1/4 cup cognac
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock (Can be made yourself ahead of time)
4 cloves mashed garlic
2-3 sprigs of thyme
2-3 sprigs of rosemary
2-3 sprigs of flat parsley
1 bay leaf
half a stalk of celery
18 to 24 pearl onions
3 1/2 tablespoons butter

I highly recommend dicing all the veggies before hand. Tie the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, parsley and celery with kitchen twine in a bouquet garni.  Set aside.

Sizzle and brown bacon in a dutch oven. Let the fat render out. Take the bacon out and set aside. Brown each piece of oxtail, sprinkled with salt and pepper
until all the pieces of oxtail are brown. Put it aside with the bacon.

Toss in diced onions and garlic and sprinkle lightly with salt. Fry until soft and aromatic. 

Add cognac. Let it boil off, scraping the side and bottom of the pot.
Slowly add in wine and beef stock. Toss in bouquet garni. I left a bit of string on one end to tie around the handle. It makes for easier removal later.

Now add in oxtail and bacon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook, covered for 2 + hours. I leave a bit of the lid ajar to let out steam and ensure
the sauce thickens. When the beef is tender and falling off the bone it’s ready.

30-45 minutes before serving, heat butter in a large skillet, then toss in the mushrooms, onions, and carrots. Cook until there’s a bit of brown to the carrots.  Pour everything into the dutch oven and cook till ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Almond Butter

Yesterday I posted about Phat Fudge!  One of the key ingredients in my version is almond butter.  The fat nuts contain is an essential part of the ketogenic diet, but I don’t think I need to explain the health benefits of nuts.

Now buying almond butter is quick and easy, and no doubt having a jar of almond butter that lasts a while feels less wasteful.  Still, what sort of additives do those jars contain to increase shelf life?  And will those additives countermand all the goodness of just almonds?  Just how much harder would it be to make your own?

Almond butter is surprisingly easy to make.  Buy a bag of raw almonds, toast it in the oven and blend it in a food processor until creamy.  Add a tiny bit of oil, if you must, to make the almond butter smoother quicker.

Ingredients:

2 cups of whole raw almonds

1 clean jar for storage

(Optional:  1/2 teaspoon sea salt. 1 tablespoon MCT Oil)

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees F for about 15 minutes. Pour the toasted almonds into your food processor and let it blend.  Occasionally stop the machine and scrape down the sides.

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Eventually, the almonds will release its own oil turning the crumbles into dough, then into a paste, and finally to butter.  It’ll take somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.

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If you lack patience and want to cut the process time, when the almonds start to clump together pour in a tablespoon of MCT oil or something equally flavorless and healthy.

That’s it!  Enjoy!

For further reading on the benefits of almond butter, I’ve included the links below:

Almond Butter versus Peanut Butter

Should YOU Eat It

Phat Fudge!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Peking Duck (Beijing Roast Duck), I am preparing a duck dinner, and I really make it rest in the fridge for five days.

So what am I doing in the meantime?  Well, to help my husband Dave maintain his weight loss, I make Phat Fudge!  This a snack idea Dave came across as he decided to journey into the ketogenic diet.  To satisfy his mid-afternoon munchies, Dave’s relies on a handful of nuts or phat fudge to stave off hunger and give his energy a boost.

The credit for the original idea goes to The Paleo Chef, Mary Shenouda.  I tweaked the recipe to fit Dave’s palate.  This is truly key to Dave’s weight loss.

Ingredients:

1 cup Almond butter

1 cup grass fed butter (I recommend Kerrygold unsalted butter)
1/4 cup Raw Cacao Paste

1 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp cinnamon (ground is fine)
honey (depending on how sweet you want it, anywhere from 1/2 tbsp to 1 tbsp)
1 tsp vanilla (not pictured, but necessary)
*Optional:  Handful of cacao nibs, slices of toasted almonds, walnuts, flax seed or whatever you want to add to your fudge.

  1.  Since I make my own almond butter, I find two cups of raw almonds make slightly more than 1 cup almond butter.  So I use about as much as I believe is a cup, scrapped from the food processor into a sauce pan .  Throw in 8oz  or 1 cup of butter and whisk the two together on low heat until it’s melted and combined.
  2. Add honey, then raw cacao.  Whisk well until cacao paste has completely melted.
  3. Add in the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Pour the mixture into a silicon ice cube tray.  I usually add some cacao nibs and walnuts to the bottom of the tray before pouring in the hot mixture and then top it with some more nibs and walnuts for a nice crunch.  Pop into the freezer to set.

That’s it!  Enjoy!  #phatfudge  #eatplaycrush