Bitter melon is not called bitter melon for nothing … yes it is very bitter … but if you take out the seeds, it won’t be bothersome. Besides life needs a little bitternes … so you can better appreciate the good things – right?!? Big smiley face. It is also very healthy and makes delicious dishes. This interesting plant is hugely popular all over Asia particularly in India and China. My recipe this week is from China. No worries no exotic ingredients … you just need garlic and ginger for seasoning. The recipe is from the following source.
Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) originated in India and became popular in China in the 14th century. It is now used all over Asia. It is a bitter plant that is also sour. According to Chinese Medicine, its bitterness makes it great for the Fire element in the summer (cooling) and detoxifies the liver and its sourness supports the liver ( Wood element) . It also improves digestion. In Ayurveda, it is considered a great pitta pacifying remedy that is immensely valuable for the hot months. Western research has found it to be beneficial for the prevention/treatment of many problems including diabetes, cancer, infections, skin problems, dysmenorrhea, immune system, autoimmune diseases, and colds/flus. (If you have any of these problems, please see a practitioner first though.)
Today, we often don’t get enough bitter flavor in our diet but it is important for good overall health. Chefs use sweet flavored foods to balance out the bitter flavor. In this recipe, mainly the carrots, chayote squash and potatoes do this job. If you don’t like or don’t have all these vegetables, feel free to use any sweet vegetables you have on hand and/or think would work well together. For instance, we don’t have winter squashes yet so I used zucchini instead. In addition. the pungent ginger and garlic are essential to balance out the bitter flavor as well and the bitter flavor will be barely noticable. Honestly this is a nice tasting soup.
Where can we get bitter melon in the United States? They are easily available at Asian grocery stores and are sold by Asian farmers at the farmers’ markets. You might be able toget them at smaller grocery stoes too.
Please note that the soup on the picture does not have chicken. I also added lemon grass because I have it in my garden and has a nice flavor.
.25-.0.5 lb of chicken thighs or breasts (skinless)
1 bitter melon
1 chayote squash or zucchini or any squash
4 regular carrots, cut into small chunks
2 Roma tomatoes, quadered
2 small potatoes, cut into small chunks
2 stalks celery , sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small chunk ginger, about 2 tablespoons chopped
salt to taste
Make the chicken stock. Omit if using store bought.
Cut bitter melon in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Discard seeds. (They come out easily).
Meanwhile peel and chop the ginger and the garlic. Cube the tomatoes and the potatoes. Clean and slice the squash, carrots, celery. When ready slice the bitter melon.
Cut the chicken up into small pieces.
Put all ingredients in a medium sized pot, cover well with chicken stock and cook covered for about 45 minutes or untill vegetables are soft. I added the zucchini in the last 20 minutes.
This delicious summer dessert quickly became a favorite in my family. The tasty base is topped with the delicate meringue and the red currants. Red currants are available right now. They are bursting with sweetness and acidity and are perfect in sweets in the summer. Of course, you can add as much sugar as you like or as little as you like … that is the beauty of making your own cake. Please feel free to experiement.
2 cups (30dkg) flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 sticks (25 dkg) butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4- 1 cup of sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
5 egg yolk
1/4 cup of almond flour, optional
pinch of salt
2 1/4 cups of red currants without stems
5 egg whites
1/4-1 cup of sugar ( I used 1/4 cup)
handfull of breadcrubs
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Add baking soda and vanilla to the flour. Cut the butter into the flour.
Add the yolks one by one. Mix well.
Add the almonf flour, mix.
Butter a deep baking dish. I used a 9″ round deep dish (2 1/2″ deep). Sprinkle some flour.
Spread the dough evenly on the bottom of the form.
Let it rest for 1 hour if you can.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 340 F.
Beat the egg whites untill hard. Mix in the sugar, and the salt. Gently mix in the currants and the breadcrubs.
Pour on top of the baked cake base.
Bake for 15 more minutes ar 340F and then turn heat down to 300F. Bake for 15 more minutes.
Let the cake sit for a few hours before serving.
Decorate the top with fresh currants, optional.
Serve at room temperature maybe with a little vanilla ice cream.
Kohlrabi has such an interesting flavor but I have never thought of making a salad with it … until I found this recipe. The kohlrabi is drizzled with some olive oil and lemon juice and is paired with the savory cheese and thyme and voila! … a delicious salad is made!
If you like kohlrabi, you might be intetested in my kohlrabi soup recipe. Please click here.
Serves 2 people
1 kohlrabi (green, purple or white)
handfull of hard goats’ cheese or sheeps’ cheese or any stronger flavored hard cheese
juice of 1/2-1 lemon
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a few springs of fresh thyme
Peel the kohlrabi. Shave it on a grader.
Shave the cheese on the grader as well. I like to crumple some of the cheese to cover the kohlrabi and put some shaved pieces on the top. The amount is something like a handfull.
Pour on the lemon juice and drizzle on some olive oil.
I love summer. It looks like there are so many vegetables finally ready to eat. I enjoy rhubarb too but there was not much else here in the Midwest for quite a while and now all of the sudden we have so many more to choose from. So ended up picking yellow beans for this week.
I’m presenting a simple Hungarian yellow bean soup recipe that many Hungarians know how to make but I added my litte twist to it. I like reading about foods and experiementing with them. So I was reading that Hungarian cuisine was a little bit different when Hungarians lived in their oiginal place in Asia. Over the years they lost some of the ingredients and picked up new ones. So I had the idea why not add chickpeas and curry to this bean soup. Who knows maybe our ancestors made the soup like this back wherever they came from ?!? …
The sweet yellow bean is nutritious and is high in fiber but really is not the most exciting vegetable. The real flavor IMO comes from the seasoning especially from the dill. Dill is a unique sweet plant that gives the zesty, tangy flavor with slightly bitter undertones. It helps digestion and calms the mind. Also, adding the sour cream or yoghurt is a must at the end … and then you get a pleasant sweet and sour soup. As I have said I added chickpeas to the dish. If you look at a chickpea, you can see it resembles the heart and is considered to be beneficial for the heart. It is a good source of iron and unsaturated fats.
I often make this soup into more of an entree by adding an egg or other protein, it is very filling this way for sure. I just put the soup in a jar and take it with me in the summer. It is an instant lunch on the go for me. Oh yes and I get the stares from Hungarians … what is that dish?!? … lol.
Serves 4 people
1 lb of yellow beans
1 cup of dried chickpeas or canned (18oz)
oil (vegetable, lard)
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp curry powder
1 chopped large tomato
vegetable or meat stock (I used pea shells)
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, optional
1-3 bay leaves
1 yellow pepper or its left-over’seed house’, optional
handfull of dill, chopped
2 Tbsp of white vinigar
1 cup of dried or 1 can of chickpeas
salt and black pepper
red pepper to taste
sour cream or yoghurt to garnish
Clean and soak the chickpeas overnight or for at least 8 hours. Remove the soaking liquid and cook in fresh cold water for 3 hours. A pressure cooker would greatly reduce the cooking time. (Omit if using canned chickpeas).
Making the soup base: Saute the onion in some oil until translucent. Add garlic, paprika and curry powder, mix and after 1 minute add the chopped tomato. Mix and cook for about 5-10 mintes or until tomato has cooked into a sauce.
Wash the yellow beans. Cut the ends off on both sides and discard. Cut them up into 1 inch pieces. Clean and cut the carrots. Oh and I almost forgot I like to put in zucchini too. So wash and cut zucchini into about 1 inch pieces.
Add the cut up yellow beans, carrot slices, bay leaves, zucchini and the stock. I like to add a yellow pepper for flavoring or at least its ‘left-over’seed house. Cook for about 30-45 minutes or until the beans are soft. Remove the pepper/pepper sedds and bay leaves.
Add the cooked or canned chickpeas with its liquid and the white vinigar.
Salt and pepper to taste. Add the red chili pepper if desired.
Serve hot with chopped dill and sour cream/yoghurt.
Are you looking for something more interesting than a simple lemonade? Check out this fabulous drink with its unexpected twist … the sweet berries and the refreshing lemons are mixed with fragrant basil … ahhh just the perfect drink for the summer…
Last summer, when we were on vacation, I ventured into getting a drink called blueberry lemonade with basil. I had never heard of this drink before but it sounded interesting so I ended up ordering it … and it was a pleasant surprise, something I had never had before. So I tried to recreate it at home and here is what I came up with.
juice and the peel/rind of 1 fresh lemon juice
1 cup of fresh blueberries, frozen is fine (blackberries or raspberries would work too)
handful of torn fresh basil leaves
1-3 tablespoons granulated sugar or honey (depending on your taste)
3 cups of water, I used carbonated water
Ice for serving (0ptional)
In a pitcher, combine all the ingredients together ex the ice and lemon slices for serving.
Let it stand overnight or at least for a few hours in the refrigerator.
Strain off the large pieces.
If you wish, serve with fresh basil leaves, blueberries, lemon slices and ice.
We just celebrated the Summer Solstice so summer is definitely here. Zucchini is one of the first summer vegetables that appears at the farmers’ market. Fritatta is a popular Italian dish and also is my favorite way to prepare zucchini. Italians often make it for ‘lunch on the go’ because it tastes good as it is … it does not have to be reheated and is an interesting and unique dish. If you have eggs, cheese, onions, zucchini and olive oil you can make zucchini frittata. The secret is in the preparation.
So let’s look at those secrets … no worries it is not a difficult dish to make. The main secret is to cook it slowly. It is kind of a ‘slow food’ meaning that it is cooked slowly on low heat starting in cold olive oil. This was rather a hard concept for me at first because I always heat the oil before I put onions in a pot … but once you taste the dish, you will understand. Also, it prevents the olive oil from burning- I’m guessing. Another secret is to not dry it out so basically don’t over-cook the eggs. And that is about it other than the usual, use good ingredients.
The recipe is from Marcella Hazan’s cookbook Essentials of Clasic Italian Cooking.
So let’s look at why we should incorpoate zucchini in our summer diet. The watery zucchini is cooling and refreshing and is great to overcome the summer heat. It has a tender texture with a slightly sweet flavor and pairs nice with something a little more robust like eggs and cheese. It is also packed with nutients and is rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin B and C.
Oh and I can’t forget about the basil, the other main ingredient. It is in the mint family along with the other remarkable Mediterreanian herbs like oregano, mint, rosemary. It is not an accident that Mediterreanian chefs use basil on a regular basis. The aromatic basil is used in cooking for making food taste better and has numerous health benefits. For more information on basil, please check out this article.
1/4 cup of cold pressed olive oil, divided
1 large onion (1 cup), finally chopped
2-3 medium sized zucchini
5 large eggs
1 Tbsp dried oregano
a handfull of fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup of freshly graded Parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper
2 Tbsp of butter
Put half of the cold oil, and the onion in a large pan. Turn heat onto low heat, (not simmer) and cover. Cook until the onion wilts and becomes greatly diminished in bulk for about 20-30 minutes. Then uncover and continue cooking until the onion gets a nice golden brown color. I turn the heat a notch up here. This is going to be a lengthy process but it is an importamt part of the dish.
Meanwhile, prepare the zucchini. Soak them in cold water for 20 minutes to loosen the dirt. Scrub and wash off any dirt. Cut off both ends. Slice them thin.
When the onion is nice and golden brown, add salt and the sliced zucchini. You can put the sliced bacon in here if you plan on using it. Turn heat up to medium high and cook them until they are softened and have a light nut brown color. Stir frequently.
Making the fritatta. Melt the butter gently, add the whisked eggs with the torn-up basil, freshly ground black pepper and the cheese. Cook carefully until the eggs have set and thickened and the bottom has a light brown color (not burnt) and only the top is runny. Turn the broiler on. I use the low broiler for 3 minutes.
These cookies are made to celebrate the Summer Solctice. Summer Solstice is the celebration of the longest day of the year, really the celebration of the Sun. It is a ceremony done especially in places that have long days of darkness and cold. It is surely a huge event in the Northern European countries but you can enjoy it in your own backyard wherever you live. Gather some edible flowers and make these delicious cookies to celebrate this beatiful time of the year!
IMPORTANT! You can use any flowers that your heart desires just make sure they are edible. Many of the flowers sold in stores are cultivated versions of wild plants and might not be suitable for eating but even in the wild, not every plant is edible. Of course, do not pick from areas that have been sprayed. If you don’t have edible flowers, no worries. You can still make the cookies with the icing and just use the flowers for decorations on the side.
Having said this here is a list of flowers that might be helpful for deciding which ones to use: calendula, chamomile, clovers, native echinacea, wild iris, wild daisies, dandelions, lavender, wild roses, St John’s wort, rosemary, thyme, sage. I ended up using flowers that are growing in my garden right now. These were petals of chamomile, calendula, clovers, lavender and leaves of rosemary.
These are tasty sugar cookies and the icing works well with the cookies as well … it will harden in about an hour or so after you put it on. Also, the icing recipe uses some milk. I don’t think the milk is a big issue if you have the cookies out for a couple of hours but they should be refrigerated otherwise for storage. Of course, you can make these cookies without the flowers for a fun summer dessert, too.
1 & 3/4 cups of all purpose flour
¾ cup (12 Tbsp) softened butter at room temperature
¼ cup honey
¼ cup brown or cane sugar
1-3 teaspoon minced organic thyme
1-3 teaspoon minced organic lavender buds
1-3 teaspoon minced organic rosemary
1-3 teaspoon minced organic sage
a few crushed cardamom seeds
pinch of salt
edible flowers (please see note above)
3 teaspoons milk
1 cup of powdered sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon. ( I also added lavender buds to the second batch of icing)
For colouring, I used store-bought natural food yellow dye or you can use turmeric or St John’s wort tinture too.
Combine your milk and icing sugar. Slowly add in your colouring and mix until you find the desired colour/consistency.
Preheat Oven to 300 F for 20 minutes before you start baking.
Beat flour, sugar, herbs (levendar, thyme, sage, rosemary, crushed cardamom seeds) and soft butter together until creamy. I did it by hand easily but you can use a food processor.
Slowly drizzle in honey while beating until mixture pulls together. I did this part by hand, it was very easy. The dough should make a ball.
Divide into four smaller balls and chill for an hour or so.
Roll out on a floured surface and cut into round shapes. Add flour as needed.
Bake at 300 for 10-15 minutes. I baked the cookies for 12 minutes until the bottoms were nice and golden brown. The cookies will harden after you take them out.
Spread a small amount of the icing (recipe above) on the top of the cookies evenly. Do them in batches of 10 as the icing can harden.
Decorate using the flowers and herbs of the sun: Please note above on how to choose flowers.
Salsa is one of my favorite sauces. It is easy to make as it takes less than 10 minutes to prepare. You can spice up many dishes with it and can be made of course as spicy as you like it.
The most important ingredient is the tomato. You will need ripe, soft and tasty tomatoes. My favorite heirloom tomatoes are not ready yet but I find the hydroponic tomatoes a nice alternative. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, you can use canned tomatoes, of course the results will not be the same. I personally just use the tomatoes as they are and don’t remove the skin or the seeds.
3 medium sized tomatoes, cored
1/2 of a small red onion, chopped or 3 scalions, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
juice of 1 lime or lemon or 2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
handful of cilantro,chopped
1/2-1 fresh chili pepper or jalapeño pepper, chopped or to taste
Chop up the tomatoes. I prefer using a very sharp knife. You can use a food processor but your salsa will be more liquidy and IMO not as strong tasting.
In the United States and Europe, rhubarb is known as the pie plant and in fact we tend to use it in sweet dishes; however, in Asia, it is more used in savory dishes. Today,I’m presenting a savory dish that was inspired by a blog. The rhubarb gives the sour taste that is balanced out nicely with the sweet and hot Chinese sauce and the bitter bamboo shoots. I chose broccoli as the main vegetable for the dish. If you prefer a vegetarian alternative, please check out my previous recipe that is a similaly made with tofu.
Rhubarb is everywhere here in the Midwest right now. It is almost ready in my garden but it has been available for a few weeks at the farmers’ market for sure. It is actually a healthy plant. Rhubarb has favorable health effects in the spring and the summer as it is cooling and detoxifying to the liver. The stems are good source of antioxidants, vitamin K and fiber. The Chinese also use the roots for its medicinal properties. In fact, it is so important for the Chinese that they consider it to be one of the ten most important herbs for healing.
So what’s up with the ketchup? Is it Chinese? … I think of American cooking when I hear the word ketchup but in fact it originated from China. It is basically a sweet and tangy sauce made with tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and spices. It actually means fish sauce as they traditionally addded fermented fish sauce. For this recipe we just need the basic ketchup, so go ahead and just use store-bought ketchup – unless of course you want to make it yourself.
This is a very tasty dish! I really wanted to make a dinner with rhubarb and I found this recipe. I made a few changes to suit my taste. I cut the pork into long strips instead of squares. I replaced the green peppers with broccoli. Also, I wanted to bring in more of the bitter flavor so I added bamboo shoots to offset the sourness of the rhubarb. And for garnishing, I also added peanuts to get a bit of crunchyness. I think this is a fabulous recipe with an interesting twist to the usual sweet and sour pork dish that is served in restaurants with pineapples.
300g pork fillet, cut into thin long stipes or 1 inch cubes
About 3 medium stems of rhubarb (200g) cut into 1 inch batons – please use a scale
1 Tbsp soft brown sugar
1 large onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin slivers from top to tail
2 heads of broccoli
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped (1 Tbsp)
sesame oils, for frying
1 small can of bamboo shoots
2 cups of raw rice (or rice noodles)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small thumb of ginger, peeled and grated
1 Tbsp of corn starch
2 Tbsp tomato ketchup
4 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup of water
5 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1/2 mild red chilli pepper (optional), finely chopped
handfull of chopped peanuts
Prepare rice according to its instructions. I used rice noodle last time.
Cut the pork pieces into longer (2 inches) thin (half inch) stripes. You can do squares too but the Chinese do long stripes traditionally.
Whisk together the marinade ingredients, add the pork, cover well and set aside for at least half an hour or up to a couple of hours.
In another bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients. Cover and put aside.
Heat oil in a large frying pan and add the rhubarb batons in a single layer. Cook for about a minute and a half and keeping them moving. Add a heaped tablespoon of soft light brown sugar, toss and cook for about minute more. You want them to have tenderised but still to have some bite. If they start breaking up, you’ve gone too far. Whip them off the heat immediately. Scoop into a bowl and set aside.
Take the pork out of the refrigerator, pour off the marinade and dry with a towel.
Put a tablespoon of vegetable oil, I used sesame oil in a wok and stir-fry the pork on a medium-high heat for three or four minutes, until golden brown. Remove and keep to one side.
Make sure you’ve prepped all the vegetables before you start cooking the main event, because it they will cook fast.
Saute the sliced onion until translucent. Add the ginger and the broccoli and continue sauteing for about 5 minutes or until it is crunchy on medium high heat. Give the sauce (from above) a quick whisk, then pour it into the pan. Add the rhubarb and the bamboo shoots and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for three or four minutes until thick. Add the pork and toss and coat well until the pork is warm.
Add soy sauce and chilli pepper if needed.
Serve over rice, garnished with the sliced spring onion , cilantro, nuts.
Here is the season that we had been waiting for since the winter! We have been witnessing the buds emerging on the plants and maturing into full grown plants … oh and the days getting longer and warmer. Now finally we can appreciate what nature can give: warmth, light and food. This is a great time to get outside, socialize, travel, eat the abundant fruits and vegetables or just have fun. We can take an advantage of all the gorgeous flowers blooming outside and bring them inside.
In Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with a natural element so summer is associated with Fire. Also, each element has corresponding western organs. The western organs of the Fire element are the Heart and the Small Intestines and in addition, the Pericardium and the Triple Warmer are included. Also, this element contains the Mind, a rather difficult concept for Westerners. (I capitalized the organs because in Chinese Medicine, it is more like an organ is considered to be the organ itself and its energetic functions)
One of the elements in nature is Fire, in fact, it is probably the most important one for our survival. Fire or warmth is essential to keep the body going, our metabolism and our whole body depends on it. According to Karl Jung, Fire is needed to have clear perception. Also, “psychotherapists believe that ‘cooking’ is important for meaningful changes to occur in their patients”. In fact, “throughtout the history of humankind, the symbol of Fire has always been synonymus with life”.
In Chinese Medicine, the heart, the Emperor of our body, is not necessarly treated directly as it depends on other organs for its nourishment. Basically, you are to take care of your body in order to keep the heart healthy. For prevention, we are supposed to attend to all the other organs all year around to help the heart function properly. There are several foods that are beneficial for the Heart but this list is pretty short. So this could be a quick write-up if I just wanted to list these foods but there is so much to this element and it is quite fascinating.
It is believed that if the heart is not happy, nobody is happy. So let’s see what would be ideal for a happy heart. The heart needs to be warm, neither cold or hot. So avoid getting overheated during the summer and getting too cold during the winter. Another factor that can influence our heart is our emotions. Emotions out of balance can negatively effect the heart. Furthermore, the heart’s energy tends to move downward that the bitter flavored foods support.The heart also enjoys nourishing foods. So let’s see what we can do with cooking and eating.
The heart’s ‘partner’, the Small Intestine is responsible for sorting out the pure from impure, separating the wheat from the chaff. It absorbs the usable food for assimilation and gets rid of the useless material through the colon. This is also true not only at the physical level but at the spiritual level, too. The Small Intestine helps the body sort through important information and toxic information. So the healthy Small Intestine helps us in letting go of unneeded things in our life and by the same token an unhealthy Small Intestine will accumulate toxins leading to the pollution of our body, mind and spirit.
We can certainly nourish the small intestines with food. It is part of the elimination system in our body so food would be important. Fiber rich foods will make the intestines work more efficiently and hence result in a more efficient absorption of nutrients. Foods like nuts and seeds can supply this necessary protein and fiber. Of course, any kind of whole grain is helpful as well in providing fiber. In addition, it is summer, so we can take an advantage of all the fruits and vegetables, they are an excellent source of fiber. Probiotics such lactobacilus and bifidobacterium can be beneficial for the small intestines as well which can be found in yoghurt, kefir, fermented foods etc.
The biggest issue during the summer months is the heat. So all cooling foods especially the brightly colored fruits and vegetables are great. In Chinese Medicine, the red color is associated with the Fire element. It is believed that consuming foods that are red (watermelon, strawberries, red beans, goji berries, red peppers, chili peppers, hibiscous flower) and heart shaped (chickpeas) are beneficial for the heart.
Also, to help calm the mind and deal with the heat of the summer, it is recommended to eat a more simple diet with light foods and avoiding complicated dishes. Oyster shells, whole grains, mushrooms, barley, oats, cucumber, basil, mulberries, lemon, ghee are especially useful. The flavor of the summer is bitter and it is recommended to eat bitter foods because it brings energy from the brain, the mind down to the body. (Summer bitter foods include all whole grains, bamboo shoots, celery, dill, lettuce).
To work with the summer season, mainly its heat, we need to make some changes to our cooking methods. Of course, most people will eat some raw foods; however, cooking some food is still recommended supplementing the raw foods. Cooking should be quick on high heat using little salt and more water. Add hot, pungent natured foods to your meal and eliminate heavy foods to avoid sluggishness. In hot climates, it is customary to add lots of hot peppers to open up the pores and release the excess heat from the body. (Of course, this should be done with some caution as too much hot pepper can injure the stomach).