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A Holiday Guest Dinner from the Far East

by Lou Seibert Pappas

This Far Eastern dinner tantalizes with its spicy overtones. Fresh coconut chunks introduce the meal. Ginger root lends a spark to the colorful orange carrot soup. The Indonesian skewered chicken is seasoned with coriander. For a truly fresh aroma, the seeds are preferable to the ground spice. Use a spice mill, pepper mill, or coffee grinder to powder them. Accompany with savory cracked wheat and finish with warm papaya. Pour a Cabernet Blanc, a Gamay Rose or a Gewurztraminer for a superb companion. You might center the table with an arrangement of tropical fruits.

Fresh Coconut Appetizers
makes about 3 dozen

1 coconut
1 lime, cut in wedges
Freshly ground nutmeg

Select a fresh coconut, shaking it to see that it contains lots of liquid, and refrigerate it until ready to use. To crack the coconut open and save the milky fluid: puncture one or two of the three spots on the shell using an ice pick or small screwdriver, and drain the liquid into a container. Reserve for the papaya dessert. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the coconut on a baking pan and heat in the oven for 30 minutes. Then crack it open and the meat will separate easily from the shell. Cut the meat into 1/2-inch pieces. Serve on a platter.

Gingered Carrot Soup
makes 4 servings

3 cups chicken stock or broth
1 large sweet onion, chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and cut in one-inch chunks
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
1 garlic clove, minced
Dash liquid hot pepper seasoning
1 tablespoon peanut butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine
Garnish: chopped chives or diced red-skinned apple

Place in a saucepot the chicken stock, onion, carrots, nutmeg, ginger, garlic and pepper seasoning. Cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and puree in a blender with peanut butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the wine and heat through. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chives or apple.

Peppercorn, Mushroom, and Watercress Salad
makes 6 servings

1/2 teaspoon hot peppercorns
1 teaspoon sesame paste (tahini)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
Dash liquid hot pepper seasoning
2 slices peeled fresh ginger, cut into slivers
2 bunches watercress, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

Using a dry frying pan, roast the peppercorns for three to four minutes over low heat, shaking the pan often. Remove from heat and crush in a mortar and pestle or grind in a pepper grinder. In a serving bowl, mix together the peppercorns, sesame paste, soy, sesame oil, vinegar, sugar, garlic, pepper seasoning and ginger. Add the watercress and mushrooms and mix lightly.

Indonesian Chicken Sat»

1-1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast, leg of lamb, or lean pork cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
4 teaspoons freshly ground coriander seeds
Dash cayenne
1-1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
Sat» Sauce (recipe included)

Cut the meat into one-inch cubes. Place in a mixing bowl the onion, coriander, cayenne, sugar, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice and soy; mix well. Add the meat, stir to coat, cover and chill several hours. Thread the meat on skewers and broil or barbecue over medium coals until cooked through. Serve with Sat» Sauce.

Sat» Sauce

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped shallots or green onion
salt and liquid hot pepper seasoning to taste

Saut» cumin, coriander, turmeric and pepper in butter for one to two minutes, stirring constantly. Add peanut butter, lemon juice, water, brown sugar, garlic and shallots or green onion. Season with salt and liquid hot pepper seasoning.

Cracked Wheat with Dried Cranberries
makes 4 servings

1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
8 threads saffron
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2/3 cup fine cracked wheat for bulghur
3 tablespoons dried cranberries, golden raisins, or currants

In a skillet over medium heat, saut» onion in oil with the ginger, cinnamon, allspice and saffron, stirring, until soft. Add the wine and stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the cracked wheat and cranberries; cover, remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. To serve, spoon into a small custard cup lined with plastic wrap, pat down, and invert on a dinner plate; repeat with remaining servings.

Sugar Snap Peas
makes 4 servings

1 pound sugar snap peas
1 tablespoon extra-virgin oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Add the sugar snap peas to a pot of boiling salted water and cook until still slightly crunchy, about two to three minutes; drain and toss with the oil and salt and pepper.

Baked Papaya with Vanilla Bean
makes 4 servings

2 small papaya
1 piece (4 inches) vanilla bean
1/3 cup fresh coconut milk
1 lime, cut in wedges
Flower blossoms

Halve the papaya and scoop out the seeds. Place the halves on a baking pan. Cut the vanilla bean into one-inch lengths and split open, scraping a few seeds into each papaya half and dropping in a piece of the bean as well. Spoon in some coconut milk. Cover with foil. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through. Serve each half on a dessert plate, garnished with a wedge of lime and a blossom from the garden.

Lou Seibert Pappas is a former food editor of the Palo Alto Times Tribune and a home economist with Sunset Magazine. She currently writes food, home, and travel-related articles for national magazines and newspapers and is the author of more than 30 books.



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