Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New Blog

Hello friends!

Sorry for being absent for several days.  I've been working on our forum and we now have a new blog!  What was is now  I've asked my niece, Abi to help me spruce it up and enable more features.  She's so smart!

The change is primarily to reflect the direction of our mission.  Over the course of the next few weeks you will see a new banner, more features, new recipes, as well as more posts regarding Hummingbird Hill Jams.  I don't want to spoil the surprise so I'll stop here.  Check back often, and as always I welcome your comments.

Remember, food bridges people!

Please click here to be redirected to

Friday, September 6, 2013


Chopped parsley, oregano and garlic

Salt, white wine vinegar, olive oil and pepper flakes

Prepared Chimichurri

One of my favorite go-to condiments is Chimichurri.  This is an Argentinean sauce made from herbs, oil and vinegar, and is always served alongside grilled meats.  This sauce is vibrant both in taste and appearance.  No need for extraneous rubs or marinades.  Chimichurri enhances the flavor of meat cooked over an open fire with its herbaceousness that brings to mind the grass that the steer was raised on.
1 cup firmly packed fresh parsley, trimmed of thick stems
3-4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1.        Finely chop the parsley, oregano and garlic, or process in a food processor.  Transfer to bowl.
2.       Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt and red pepper flakes.  Adjust seasonings.
3.       Serve immediately or refrigerate.  If chilled, return to room temperature before serving.  May keep refrigerated for 1-2 days.
I first had Chimichurri years ago when some co-workers and I went to an Argentinean restaurant for lunch.  I ordered sweetbreads and they ordered other grilled meats.  All of the tables had bowls of this bright green sauce.  I didn’t care much for the sweetbreads but I fell in love with the sauce!  It was good on everything – even bread.  So we looked on the internet and found several versions.  Some ditched the oregano, some had other herbs.  But the one constant ingredient is the parsley.  As with most recipes, you can personalize this by adjusting the vinegar or the pepper flakes.  But no matter how you make it, it will be good.  Chimichurri wakes up the flavor of anything you dip in it.
What would you dip in Chimichurri?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hong You

Ingredients for Hong You

Sichuan peppercorns

Chile de arbol

Crushed ginger, garlic and cinammon

Combining soy sauce and sugar mixture with pepper mixture

Spices cooking in the oil.

Oil and spices poured into bowl with peppers.

Letting Hong You cool in bowl.

Hong You ready for storage.

I love spicy food and I constantly look for new sources of heat.  So when my March issue of Saveur came I was elated to find that one of the feature articles was about Sichuan food.  I have long heard of this spicy cuisine of China, and have eaten Mapo Tofu many, many times.  I also make Spicy Eggplant often.  But this article by Matt Gross gave so much information, and better yet, mouth-watering recipes.  An important ingredient in most Sichuan dishes is Hong You which I was very eager to make.
Hong You (Sichuan Red Chile Oil)
2 cups canola oil
4 star anise
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 cao guo or black cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 stick cinnamon, broken in half
1 3" piece ginger, smashed
1 cup (about 32) chiles de árbol, stemmed and chopped
3 tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
½ tsp. kosher salt
Heat oil, star anise, garlic, cardamom, cloves, bay, cinnamon, and ginger in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden, 15–20 minutes. Transfer to a 1-qt. glass jar with chiles, peppercorns, soy, and salt; let cool to room temperature. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard garlic and ginger; seal jar and let sit at least 24 hours. To use, strain oil, discarding solids. Store refrigerated up to 3 months.
Let’s talk about the ingredients.  Garlic, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, ginger, chile de arbol and soy sauce are pretty easy to find; most grocery stores carry them.  That leaves only the black cardamom pods and Sichuan peppercorns. 
I’ll be honest with you – I couldn’t find the black cardamom pods.  I live in the Los Angeles area and have easy access to vast numbers of Asian grocery stores but I didn’t find it.  The store employees didn’t know what “black cardamom” was, and I was probably mispronouncing “cao guo”.  Not wanting to delay trying the recipe any longer, I used green cardamom.  I later learned that “cao guo” is one of two kinds of black cardamom.  The smaller variety is used in Indian and Pakistani dishes, mainly in sweets.  The larger of the two, cao guo, is used in Chinese and Vietnamese dishes.  This one has a smoky aroma and flavor because it is dried over an open flame. 
The Sichuan peppercorn is not even remotely related to peppers.  In fact, it is the dried rinds of tiny fruits from a small thorny tree in the citrus family known as prickly ash, according to Karen Shimizu (Saveur, March 2013).  Shimizu adds that Sichuan peppercorns are responsible for the buzzing, tingling sensation that is one of Sichuan cuisine’s most distinguished characteristics.  So you get the tingling from the Sichuan peppercorns, and the spiciness from the chile.  Because they affect different systems of our nerves, we get dual sensations when eating Sichuanese food.  It’s kind of like getting a punch and a kick!
So after having made it and letting it steep overnight, I couldn’t wait to pour it over my fried fish and steamed rice.  I used only the oil like the recipe said.  I did get the punch and the kick – but it was not as strong as I had imagined.  I guess I was expecting it to be a condiment like my regular Hot Chile Oil (Heat 1 cup of peanut oil to 225° - 240°F, remove from heat, dump 1 cup of crushed peppers.), but it wasn’t.  As the recipes in Saveur indicate, Hong You is used to cook food.
While I am still a little disappointed with the not-so-spicy Hong You as a condiment, I do have it to cook with.  I am looking forward to using it in Stir-fried Pork Belly with Chinese Chives or Triple-Cooked Spareribs with Chiles!
Have you ever tried a recipe and it was not what you were expecting?  What did you do with it?


Monday, September 2, 2013

Lemon Chicken

Pounded chicken tenderloin ready to be dredged in flour, salt and pepper.

Sauteing chicken tenderloins.

Lemon slices and capers sautéing in butter.

Lemon Chicken

Lemon Chicken with Linguini

Several years ago my friend Cynthia and I went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant or what she ordered. What I do remember is the simple but delicious dish I ordered.

As soon as I tasted my food that night I fell in love with the simplicity and taste of this dish. I had to have it again! Armed with just a memory of how it tasted I set about to recreate it. This has since become one of my daughter’s favorite.


Lemon Chicken with Linguini


2 ½ lbs chicken tenderloins
2 C flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ - ½ C olive oil
5 tablespoons butter, divided
3 lemons, sliced cross-wise into ¼” discs, divided
2 tablespoons capers
½ teaspoon minced garlic
1 lb linguini cooked according to package directions, reserving 1 cup of cooking water
¼ C minced Italian parsley (optional)


1. Wash chicken tenderloins then pat dry. Place 3 inside a plastic bag. Place plastic bag on top of chopping board. Gently pound tenderloins with a rolling pin or small frying pan until they are ¼” thick. Be careful to keep them intact. Continue with the rest of the tenderloins.

2. Heat oil in skillet on medium heat.

3. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge tenderloins in the flour and shake off excess. Saute tenderloins until they are pale to golden brown. Continue to saute in batches and set aside.

4. In same skillet, add 2 tablespoons butter and sauté half of the lemon slices and half of the capers, about 3 minutes. Using wooden spoon gently mash lemon pulp from the slices to express juice. Add cooked tenderloins and stir gently to coat, about 3 minutes. Transfer to platter and keep them warm.

5. Wipe skillet with a paper towel then add garlic, remaining butter, lemon slices and capers. Saute about 3 minutes, gently mashing lemon pulp to express juice. Add cooked pasta and gently toss to coat. Add ¾ cup pasta cooking water to create a thin sauce. Add more if pasta seems dry or if you want more sauce. Toss to coat again.

6. Serve pasta and chicken tenderloins together. Garnish with minced Italian parsley.


I use chicken tenderloins because it is more delicate and easier to pound. That said, care is needed from pounding too hard. We are trying to make a chicken cutlet, not chicken tenders! Remember, the meat must remain intact. 

“Cooking water” refers to the water the pasta is cooking in. When the pasta has finished cooking, reserve a cup of the water and set aside. And then drain the pasta into a colander. Why? The cooking water contains starch and salt (provided you added salt in the first place, and which is highly recommended). This cooking water will help to emulsify and bind your sauce, or help to thin your sauce. In our Lemon Chicken dish, the cooking water will emulsify our sauce by binding with the oil and butter to create a silky coating for the pasta. It is better than plain water because it contains starch which acts as a thickener. You may use any kind of pasta you want.

Notice that I did not say to add salt to the dish. This is because there is salt in the flour mixture, salt in the butter, lots of salt in the capers, and salt in the cooking water. Of course you may add salt if you wish.

Speaking of capers, what are capers? According to Huffington Post, tiny capers are picked from a shrub-like bush (Capparis spinosa), long before the buds ever flower. The capers are then dried in the sun and later brined or packed in salt. Sometimes capers are allowed to mature to a fruit about the size of an olive. These are sold as caper berries and are brined to be eaten like pickles or olives. It's quite common to see them included in an antipasti platter. Capers aren't new to the culinary scene -- they've actually been around since ancient times. They're grown in parts of Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean region, including north Africa, southern Europe and Turkey. Capers are also grown in California.

Why add butter to oil? Simply because it adds luxuriousness to the dish. 

What restaurant dish have you recreated at home?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Roast Tomato Soup

Tomatoes, onions, garlic, oil, salt and pepper

Roasted tomatoes

Roasted tomatoes with bay leaves and stock
Using an immersion blender

Roasted Tomato Soup with cream and garnished with roasted grape tomato

My plants bearing medium-large tomatoes are in full bloom.  So with an abundance of tomatoes but not enough to can, Roasted Tomato Soup sounded good.  When I Googled “roasted tomato soup”, this one sounded best to me.  This is adapted from Tyler Florence’s recipe on
Roasted Tomato Soup
2 ½ lbs fresh tomatoes (mix of plum, heirloom grape)
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 small onions, sliced
½ C vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons butter
½ C chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)
¾ C heavy cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray. If using vine cherry tomatoes for garnish, add them as well, leaving them whole and on the vine. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.
Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot (set aside the roasted vine tomatoes for later). Add 3/4 of the stock, bay leaves, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by about a third.
Wash and dry basil leaves, if using, and add to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, adjust consistency with remaining stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish in bowl with a splash of heavy cream and 3 or 4 roasted vine cherry tomatoes.
OMG! This was quite a revelation because up until a few years ago I was not fond of tomatoes, raw or cooked.  Tomato soup sounded and looked like water-downed catsup, or tomato juice at best.  But this soup!  This soup was so rich and delicious!!  My family and I couldn’t get enough of it.  Roasting not only concentrates the flavor of the tomato but adds to it by way of caramelization.
As I said above, this recipe is adapted from Tyler Florence’s recipe.  For instance, I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.  This did not make a difference in the flavor because the outcome was rich and robust.  I also substituted sage for basil simply because I did not have basil.  Therefore you can add practically any other herb you have on hand such as oregano, thyme, tarragon, etc.  Just be sure to adjust the amount to your taste.  And finally, I only added the cream as a garnish to maintain the soup’s tomato-ey color and flavor. 
If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can transfer the soup to a regular blender or food processor to puree it.  Then transfer it back to the pot to finish cooking.
Since I harvested more tomatoes the other day, and can’t possibly use them all, I roasted enough for 3 more batches of this soup.  After cooling the roasted tomatoes I transferred them to a freezer-safe container. This way whenever I want Roasted Tomato Soup in the fall or winter, all I have to do is defrost a packet, add broth and finish off the recipe.  This is a quick way to preserve my tomatoes without having to can them or take up a lot of freezer space. 
So when are you going to make this soup?


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower


It was cool and foggy where we live last week and I suddenly got a craving for roasted vegetables.  So I added potatoes and carrots to my roasted chicken.  I also made Roasted Cauliflower for my vegetarian husband.

Roasted Cauliflower with Plum Sage Jam


1 ½  teaspoons roasted garlic

1 ½ tablespoons Plum Sage jam

2 teaspoons lime juice

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon minced fresh sage

1 teaspoon minced fresh mint

1 large head cauliflower

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Rack should be at the lowest level.  Grease bottom of baking pan.

In a small bowl whisk together roasted garlic, jam, and lime juice.  Slowly pour olive oil into mixture until an emulsion is formed.  Add sage, mint and salt.  Set dressing aside.

Trim cauliflower of leaves.  Slice into “steaks” about ¾- inches thick.  Place slices in baking pan in a single layer.  Bake until edges of cauliflower turn a little brown, about 25 minutes. 

Drizzle jam dressing over cauliflower slices.   With rack still at the lowest level, change oven setting to broil.  Broil until cauliflower has browned some more and jam has caramelized, 5-10 minutes.


Roasted garlic is made by taking an entire head of garlic, cutting it half crosswise and pouring about 1 tablespoon olive oil on it.  Roast in 350°F until garlic is tender about 45 minutes.  When cool, squeeze softened garlic into a bowl.  Add oil from roasting pan and store refrigerated.

Roasting any vegetable concentrates its flavor.  Doing so to cauliflower which is kind of bland, gives it a rich, smoky flavor.  By roasting the jam dressing with the cauliflower, you will experience an explosion of flavor!  Lime juice tempers the sweetness of the jam, fresh sage heightens the earthiness of the herb in the jam, and fresh mint adds a refreshing finish.

This dressing may also be used in salads or as a marinade for roasted pork loin.  What would you use it with?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Snow Peas with Tofu

Chinese rice wine

Chinese rice wine label

Soy sauce
Sesame seed oil

Snow Peas with Tofu

I was in the grocery and bought some really fresh snow peas.  Initially I thought of stir frying them with a bunch of other vegetables but instead opted for a simpler dish. 
Snow Peas with Tofu
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 C sliced green onions
1 lb deep-fried tofu
1 lb snow peas, trimmed
½ C Chinese rice wine
¼ C soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sesame seed oil (optional)
Saute ginger and green onions in oil on medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add deep-fried tofu, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.  Add snow peas, toss to coat.  Add rice wine and soy sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until snow peas are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.   Add sesame oil just before serving.
This dish would make a great vegetarian meal served with some rice, or part of a meal with meat.  It is very pleasing to the eye with the vibrant green snow peas and golden deep-fried tofu.  It is fragrant from the combination of green onions, ginger, soy sauce and rice wine.  The snow peas provide a nice crunch from not being cooked too long, and the puffy deep-fried tofu is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  The addition of sesame oil brings everything together and lends a luxurious silkiness to the dish.
 As with any stir-fry you can jazz up this dish with mouse ear mushrooms, cashew nuts, canned baby corn, bamboo shoots, sliced water chestnuts, sliced carrots, pieces of dried chile de arbol, oyster sauce,  etc.  The possibilities are almost endless!  Just be sure to cut meat or vegetables bite-sized so they cook quickly and evenly.  Deep-fried tofu can be found in most Asian markets.  You can also deep-fry it yourself.
Let me know if you need help finding some of the ingredients.  What will you put in your next stir-fry?