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A Festive Asian Light-Style Menu

by Lou Seibert Pappas

An aromatic whole steamed fish makes a dramatic presentation for guests and one that is surprisingly easy to achieve. A large wok, about 16 to 18 inches in diameter, creates an ideal steamer when fitted with a rack and a large lid. Accompany with steamed short-grain rice; its gelatinous nature makes it easier to eat with chopsticks than long-grain rice. Commence the meal with a decorative chicken broth swirled with egg and spiced with minced ginger. Mu Shu Chicken is an optional addition to the menu if you are serving several guests. Savor a spicy spinach salad adorned with the whimsical enoki mushrooms, and finish off with a frosty pale green apple sorbet sparked with bits of hot candied ginger. This can be made even without an ice cream maker.

Pour a dry Gewłrztraminer from Thomas Fogarty or Chappelet or a Sauvignon Blanc from Flora Springs, Grgich, Merryvale, or Robert Mondavi Winery -- their Reserve bottling is superb.

Egg Flower Soup
Makes 6 servings

1 quart chicken stock or canned low-fat chicken broth
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 slices peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup slivered cooked roast pork or chicken
2 green onions, chopped
1 egg
Cilantro for garnish

In a saucepan, bring the stock to a boil with the soy and ginger. Add the pork or chicken and onions. Whisk the egg until frothy and pour it into the hot broth. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl with a fork. Serve in small tea cups with a few leaves of cilantro for garnish.

Ginger and Soy-Seasoned Whole Steamed Fish
Makes 4 servings

1 whole rock cod or red snapper fish, about 1 3/4 pounds
2 green onions
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
Cilantro sprigs and green onion top "fans" for garnish

Rinse the fish and pat dry. Place on a heat-proof platter. Chop the white part of the green onions; cut the green part into 1-inch lengths and sliver one of the ends into narrow strips about 1/4-inch-long and set these aside. Mix together the sherry, soy, sesame oil, and ginger and set aside. Pour enough water into the wok or steamer to come within an inch of the rack. Cover and bring to a boil. Place the platter of fish on the rack, pour over the sauce, and strew the chopped onion on top. Cover and steam for 15 minutes or until the fish is just firm to touch. Garnish with the cilantro sprigs and green onion fans and serve the fish whole. At the table, peel back the skin, and fillet the fish from the bones to serve.

Mu Shu Chicken
makes 6 small servings

6 small flour tortillas
3 shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water 15 minutes
2 green onions
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
6 ounces boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/8-inch thick strips
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup sliced waterchestnuts
1 stalk fennel, thinly sliced diagonally
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Wrap the tortillas in foil and heat them in the oven for 10 minutes. Soak the mushrooms in cold water for 10 to 15 minutes. Chop the white part of the onions. Cut the green stems into 1 1/2 inch lengths, then make several 1/4-inch slashes in one end of each one, and place the stems in a bowl of ice water and let stand 5 to 10 minutes to fan out. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablepoons of the canola oil and sesame oil. Add the chicken, the chopped white onions, and ginger, and stir-fry 1 minute. Add the garlic, mushrooms, jicama or waterchestnuts, and fennel, and stir-fry 1 minute. Add the soy and vinegar and heat, stirring to deglaze the pan.

In a small skillet, heat the remaining oil. Pour in the beaten eggs and scramble until barely set. Spoon the eggs onto a serving dish, cover with the mushroom mixture, and surround with the onion fans. Serve with the hot tortillas and let each person fill them with the hot egg and mushroom mixture, then fold and enjoy.

Sugar Snaps and Jicama

serves 4

1 pound sugar snap peas
1/2 cup julienned jicama
2 teaspoons canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the stem ends from the sugar snaps and steam them with the jicama for a few minutes, just until the peas are al dente and still bright green. Toss with the oil to give a sheen and season with salt and pepper.

Spicy Spinach Salad
serves 6

Curry Dressing: follows
1 bunch spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 pound button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds or pistachios

Curry Dressing: Place in a bowl 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon dry white wine, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, 3/4 teaspoon curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper; stir until dissolved. Mix in 1/4 cup canola or safflower oil. Chill.

Prepare Curry Dressing. Place in a bowl the spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Pour over dressing and mix lightly. Scatter over the sunflower seeds.

Green Apple Sorbet with Candied Ginger
makes 6 servings

6 large Granny Smith apples
1/4 cup lemon juice
7/8 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons candied ginger, slivered

Core and slice the apples, leaving the peel intact. Place the apple slices in a plastic bag with a zip-lock top and pour in the lemon juice; seal and toss to coat the apples. Place the bag in the freezer and freeze until the apples are solid, about 1 to 2 hours. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook until the sugar is dissolved; let cool and chill. When ready to serve, puree the apple slices with the syrup in a food processor, pureeing until the mixture is light and fluffy. Spoon the sorbet into wine glasses or dessert bowls and serve at once, garnished with ginger. Or refreeze the sorbet and serve later.

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.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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