Salmon with Dried Shiitakes in a Marsala Cream Sauce; Potato and Carrot Chips

This is a variation on a classic French dish made with Madeira wine and heavy cream that I found while thumbing through Larousse Gastronomique. I like Marsala wine a bit better and it is what I had on hand. For the dish you will need:

Two salmon filets



Olive Oil

1 tsp. of butter

4-5 dried shiitake mushrooms

1/2 cup of Marsala wine

1/4 cup heavy cream

Juice of one lemon

Parsley and/or chives for garnish

First, salt the salmon well and set aside. In a bowl, pour boiling water over the dried mushrooms and let them soak for at least half an hour. You can use fresh mushrooms of your choice here. I like to use dried now and again because they have an earthiness and depth of flavor not found in fresh mushrooms. They can overwhelm a dish if you’re not careful, but since I was dealing with a rich fish with sauce I felt they could really add something.

Remove the mushrooms from their bath and remove the stems. Slice the caps in about 1/4 inch slices. Heat some olive oil and the butter on medium high heat. Dredge the salmon in the flour, add it to the pan and reduce heat to medium. Add the mushrooms and sauté a few minutes on each side. You want a nice crust. Remove the salmon from the pan. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Be sure to scrape the pan to get all the flavor from the salmon. Reduce the wine by about half and add the heavy cream and lemon juice with the pan off of the heat. Whisk continuously to avoid separation and curdling. Add the salmon back to the pan and cover in the sauce. Plate with some green garnish (I used chopped flat-leat parsley) and potatoes on the side.

For the potatoes:

On a mandolin (or with a knife if you have way more patience than I do) slice a potato on the thinnest setting possible. You should be able to see through them. Chop a carrot finely and put a bit of carrot on a slice of potato. Take another slice of potato and sandwich in the carrot. Fry these in vegetable oil until crispy. Salt and serve on the side. The carrot here is more for visual accent. You can try this with just about anything (meat, shrimp, mushrooms etc.).

This dish is gluten-free other than the dredging flour. You could easily use gluten-free flour as a dredge.


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Giwa: Satisfying Korean Food for Winter Days


When we lived in New York City, I went to school and worked at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School and University Center, more commonly known as CUNY Grad. One of the nice things about working there, which offset the constant annoyance of tourists (the Grad Center is on the opposite corner of The Empire State Building), was that the area is filled with really good Korean restaurants. They vary in price from cheap to very expensive. Our favorite was Mandoo Bar, which served up wonderful dumplings and noodles. I hadn’t really had great Korean since we moved to Philly– until Giwa opened up down the street from where I work.

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Restaurant Week at Django

It’s Restaurant Week in Philadelphia, and Joe invited me out to dinner for a Date Night (which is something we old married folks like to do every so often). Django has a great reputation as one of the best BYOBs in the city– and in Philly, the BYOB capital of the east coast, that’s saying something. They’re part of the Buy Fresh, Buy Local alliance as well, so we headed to 4th and South, bottle of cabernet sauvignon in hand, to give them a try.

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Asiago, Mascarpone Cheese and Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Seared Sea Scallops

This is a simple, light yet elegant meal I put together the other night. The ravioli is from Trader Joe’s. Despite the name they were not very cheese flavored, so I would suggest using some grated cheese of your choosing.

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Siu Mai (Steamed Shrimp and Pork Dumplings)

OK, I’ve done a second Chinese recipe, and I have to tell you, this is fun.  Maybe it’s just because it’s a novelty for me, but I’m really enjoying using techniques like stir-frying and shaping dumplings.  It’s just a good time in the kitchen for me. 

Last night we made siu mai (or shu mai), a steamed dumpling that’s become quite popular in the US.  You can get it at most Japanese restaurants (it’s not as common in American Chinese restaurants, though its origins are Chinese) or frozen at Trader Joe’s.  This is another recipe from the Eileen Yin-Fei Lo book.

Well, I say last night, but it was a two-day process.  It’s not difficult, but the meat needs to marinate overnight.  For the meat mixture, you are mixing diced shrimp (peeled and deveined, please!), ground pork and diced shiitake mushroom caps.  The marinade is a mixture of peanut butter, dark mushroom soy sauce (Best! Condiment! Ever!), sesame oil, Chinese cooking wine, rice wine vinegar, sugar, pepper, salt, and cornstarch.  It’s supposed to have an even consistency, but mine was pretty lumpy so I took it for a quick spin in the Cuisinart.  I put it in a covered bowl and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

The next day is the fun part: shaping the dumplings.  Lo gives instructions for the dough, but she also advocates buying fresh dumpling wrappers if available, so I picked some up at the Chinese supermarket.  I suspect that the wrappers I bought may be a bit bigger than what she was going for, though, since the recipe says it makes 36 dumplings and I got 16.  My siu mai looked exactly like the pictures in the book, only bigger.  Eh, what are you gonna do? 

So, shaping the dumplings.  The dumpling wrapper is a thin, circular piece of dough.  Take that into your left hand, and with the right scoop out a good bit of meat filling– three or four tablespoons, I’d say.  Smooth it onto the wrapper, and then use your fingers to fold and shape it.  You’re creating a little basket shape that’s open on top, and you want to flatten the filling on top so it all cooks evenly.  I used a cookie sheet to hold them while I was making them, and tapped the bottom on the cookie sheet so it was flat and stood up on its own.

Next, steaming time!  The recipe calls for 7 minutes in the steamer, but since they were big we did 10 minutes.  We steamed four at a time and they came out perfectly done and fragrant.  We put some dark mushroom soy sauce on them and oh my god, were they delicious.  The mushroom flavor was dominant, but shrimp and sesame were prominent too.   When they start to cool down, the dough starts to toughen a bit, so these are best eaten piping hot.

The great thing about these is that they freeze really well.  Once we’d eaten our fill, we let them cool and then froze them for about two hours on a cookie sheet, just enough to let them solidify.  Then we wrapped them up, put them in a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer for a rainy day!  Lo says they’ll last for about two months, and to heat them up you just need to steam them for 3-5 minutes. 

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Serious spices at Chung King Garden

Strictly speaking, this is a cooking blog, and as such should not contain restaurant reviews. But why impose arbitrary limits? This is a blog about good food, and learning about cuisines that are new to me and possibly to you, and believe me, this restaurant delivered on both counts.

Chung King Garden is in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, a few convenient steps away from Market East Station. When we lived in New York, Joe and I loved to explore Chinatown on the weekends, but when I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy we stopped going, with heavy hearts. Now that I know it was a misdiagnosis, I’m thrilled to be able to eat my way through Philly’s Chinatown.

This particular spot comes highly recommended by my friend Lynn, who grew up in Taiwan and loves spicy food. Chung King is known for super-spicy, authentic Szechuan cuisine. She suggested we try out Chung King and get lots of different dishes, and if you know me you know I’m not about to turn down an offer like that. So Lynn, my friend Joel, and my husband Joe and I met up last night and started ordering.

The menu is long and involved, with sections for dry-panned meats, water-boiled items, soups, etc. There’s also a page at the very back with “American Chinese Food,” which is clearly for the tourists. I don’t know how Chung King’s General Tso Chicken rates, and I don’t care. This is Chinese food far above and beyond what corner takeout joints deliver.

Joel is a vegetarian, so we ordered a mix of meat and veggie dishes. Lots of the vegetable dishes here do contain meat, but when Lynn asked in Chinese, the servers were happy to leave it out.

Ma Po Tofu: I’ve had this dish in its gloopy American form, and wasn’t impressed, but this was divine. Cubes of creamy, silky tofu came in a light but fiery orange sauce, with dry spices sprinkled liberally on top– black pepper and anise, definitely, and I think possibly cloves as well. They left the pork out, and I’m curious what that would be like, but the dish certainly didn’t suffer.

Quick Fried Lamb: Visually, this looks the most like what Americans expect: a meat stir-fried with vegetables and served with rice. The lamb was sliced thin and surprisingly tender for having been quickly stir-fried. There were fried pieces of garlic and ginger as well as bamboo, and some seriously tasty wood-ear mushrooms. The heat was slow but intense. (Joe had the leftovers for lunch today and says that it got even hotter overnight.)

Bok Choy with Mushrooms: A non-spicy dish. This was very simple, just bok choy, mushrooms, and a basic white sauce, but the ingredients were fresh and the mushrooms had a savory, deeply satisfying flavor.

Loofah: Yes, like the sponge. This dish wasn’t on the menu, but apparently it’s a special fairly often, and Lynn asked for it. This is the outer part of the live sponge, stir-fried in a light white sauce. It has the color and texture of a honeydew melon, but the taste is more savory and green-vegetable-like. Lynn, who’s had it before, said it wasn’t the best example she’d had– it gets slightly bitter if it’s not very fresh. We all ate and enjoyed it anyway, though.

Chicken with Spicy Peppers: This is the dish I’m still craving today, even though my body is punishing me for eating so much of it. I’ve never had such a flavorful, addictive variation on popcorn chicken! The dish is simply tiny breaded chunks of chicken meat and pieces of dried red chilies, apparently fried quickly at very high heat. There’s no sauce, and there doesn’t need to be– you just pick out golden brown bits of fried chicken from their hiding places among the peppers. It’s very hot, and absolutely impossible to stop eating, even when you are very full.

We washed everything down with $2 Tsingtao– I’m not normally much for lagers, but this had a pleasant fruity quality and really matched the spicy food.

Oh, and the bill? $63, for four of us, alcohol included. Can’t beat that. The service was on the slow side, but they were friendly and helpful. It’s a clean, pretty, roomy restaurant, and we spotted a karaoke room in the back. And it didn’t hurt to have such excellent company!

I’m definitely looking forward to going back and experimenting– there are lots of creative soups (tomato and scrambled egg soup? I’m in!) and after a couple of Tsingtaos you might even talk me into trying some organ meats. Maybe. Either way, I need more of that spicy chicken, just as soon as my system recovers!

[where: 915 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19107]

Chung King Garden in Philadelphia

Mushroom Polenta, and Leftover Breakfast Mushroom Polenta

Joe invented this riff on the Moosewood Cookbook’s plain polenta recipe last night for a party. Then I got a migraine and we ended up not making it to the party, so now we have a ton of polenta to doctor up for brunch today. The recipes, courtesy of Joe:

Joe’s Mushroom Polenta

5c water
1 1/2 c cornmeal (we used roasted cornmeal, which has a distinct, delicious flavor)
4 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
1 tbsp black truffle oil
1 ripe, fresh tomato, peeled and diced
1/2 c aged gouda, shredded
1 tsbp parmesan, shredded
olive oil to taste

Boil 4 cups water. While it’s boiling, mix 1 cup of water with the cornmeal. Mix until it forms a batter. When the water boils, spoon the batter into the boiling water. Whisk until smooth.

Lower heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, gently stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on this– it likes to bubble over.

Turn off heat and add the mix-ins– mushrooms, gouda and some olive oil. Stir in. Taste, and add salt and olive oil as needed.

In a separate bowl, mix diced tomato, truffle oil, parmesan, salt and pepper.

Serve in a bowl, topped with tomato mixture. This should be enough for several people, 4-6 maybe? This made a bowl big enough to bring to a party, at any rate.

And if you have leftovers…

Breakfast Polenta

Leftover polenta
Leftover tomato mixture

Get your cast iron pan nice and hot, and fry the bacon in it. Remove bacon to drain on a paper towel.

Polenta should be easily slice-able. Fry in the bacon fat. Serve with bacon and top with either tomato mixture or dark honey (we used buckwheat honey).