Saturday, July 4, 2009

Szechuan Food Is Easy and Flavorful...... Try It!

Chinese Food has long been favored by many for it's wonderful flavors, contrasting colors and textures and unique ingredients, yet people often were fooled into thinking that it's hard to make; in reality there are many great dishes that are easy to prepare, even if they have multiple ingredients, and are quick to prepare making them a good choice when you need something different. Plus, if you take a good look at how these dishes are prepared and what they contain you'll find this cuisine to be healthy too!

Fresh ingredients, fast preparation and lots of color and texture. What a great change from most reduced calorie or healthy alternatives which can become routine, boring and bland. Or maybe you just need to incorporate some changes into your diet, something out of the ordinary to make a weekday dinner into something memorable that your family can look forward to. So give it a try and practice on these relatively easy to make dishes and surprise yourself and your taste buds.

Don't be put off by the chilies or spices contained in the recipes, feel free to use less but try to not omit it altogether or the flavor will not be the same. Substitute chilies too for others that you like more. Don't ever forget that cooking is creative, flexible, adaptable and fun. Recipes are only a guide and it's not like baking which is chemistry and formulas must be followed and while there is some creativity when you are creating new recipes in baking, the basic tenets must be adhered to or failure will result (it's the reactions between certain elements that give you the results that matter, the flavorings are just extra...) so just keep it in mind.

4 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, about 7 oz each
2 egg whites
2 tbl cornstarch

2 tbl rice wine, dry sherry or cooking wine
1-2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
2 tbl sesame oil
1 tbl soy sauce
2 tbl brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp crushed dried red chili(to taste)
1 tbl ginger minced , cut into thin strips
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
3 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tbl vegetable oil

Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Cut the chicken breasts into thin strips. (Partially freeze chicken breasts first to make this easier, if you like).

Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Whisk the cornstarch into the egg whites. Coat the chicken strips in the cornstarch mixture. Heat 1 cup oil in the wok. Cook the chicken strips briefly in the hot oil until they turn white. Remove the chicken and drain on paper towels.

Clean out the wok and add 1 tablespoon oil. When the oil is hot, add the carrots. Stir-fry briefly and add the peppers. Make a "well" in the middle of the wok and add the sauce. Heat brie
fly, then mix the sauce in with the vegetables. Return the chicken to the wok. Stir-fry 1 to 2 more minutes. Stir in the green onions. Serve with rice.

SPICY BEEF WRAPS- Any kind of lettuce can work with this or you can use tortillas or pitas too. Used with lettuce, this is a low carb dish as well as fitting in other diets as well. F
un to make and eat, kids love it, and great as an appetizer of for guests too! You can substitute the meat (use soy protein, tuna, ground chicken or turkey...)

3 tbl soy sauce
2 tbl dry sherry (or white wine or Shaoxing wine)
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lb lean ground beef
2 tbl oil
2 tbl chopped fresh ginger
1 tbl chopped fresh garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

8 oz water chestnuts (or use jicama cut in strips)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 sweet red pepper, chopped in small pieces
3 tbl finely chopped scallions
1 tbl sesame oil
20 cup-shaped lettuce leaves (such as iceberg,bibb or Boston)

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sherry, cornstarch, sugar and salt; stir well and set aside. In a medium bowl, use a spoon to break up the ground beef; gently mix in soy-sauce mixture. Set aside 10 to 15 min.

Heat wok or large, deep skillet over med-high heat until very hot. Add oil and swirl to coat pan; add ginger and garlic. Cook for about 1 min, stirring, until fragrant but not browned. Crumble in beef, and use spatula or large slotted spoon to break it up and spread meat over pan to help it cook evenly. Cook until it changes color on one side, 1 to 2 min. Turn meat and cook another min undisturbed. Toss well, using a spatula to break up any large chunks. When meat is co
oked, add pepper flakes and scallions, then toss well. Add sesame oil and remove from heat, tossing until sesame oil is well blended. Transfer meat to serving plate; serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Arrange lettuce cups on serving platter; fill each with a spoonful of beef or provide lettuce cups and plate of beef and let guests assemble lettuce packets themselves.

SZECHUAN NOODLE SALAD- I have been known to add shredded chicken or beef or lots of veggies to this.... experiment and find your own mix. You can also make the sauce ahead of time and keep in the fridge to make quick anytime!

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
1 1/2 tbl sesame oil
2 tbl fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp honey
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes (or more....)
2 tbl sugar or artificial sweetener
1 lb spaghetti
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
4 scallions
3 tbl toasted sesame seeds

Place peanut butter, soy sauce, warm water, garlic, ginger, honey, sesame oil, sugar and red pepper flakes in food processor (or blender) and blend till smooth. This dressing can now be stored in sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Cook spaghetti in lightly salted water till desired doneness. While pasta is cooking, cut yellow and red peppers into 1/8" strips. Use scissors or knife to cut scallions into thin slices. When pasta is ready, drain. Toss together with dressing, peppers, scallions and sesame seeds and serve within an hour.

Note: Up to half of the peanut butter may be replaced with Asian sesame paste (this is not the same as tahini). You may also replace up to half of the soy sauce with tamari sauce.

SZECHUAN FRIED EGGPLANT- Here's a very easy and tasty dish to serve anytime!

4 eggplants (halved lengthwise and cut diagonally into 2 inch pieces)
2-3 tbl chicken broth
1 tsp sugar (you could use sugar substitute too)
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp garlic, finely chopped
1 tbl chili bean sauce
2 tsp fresh ginger root, finely chopped
peanut oil (for frying)

In a wok heat oil and cook the eggplant pieces for 3 to 4 min, or until lightly brown, remove from wok, drain on paper towels and set aside.

In clean wok, heat 2 tbl of oil, add chili bean sauce, stir rapidly, add the ginger and garlic and stir until fragrant.

Add the stock, sugar, and soy sauce. add the eggplant pieces and let simmer for 2 min. stir in the scallions and serve.

GINGER BEEF- Here's another foolproof and extremely easy recipe you can prepare anytime. Great flavor, goes especially well over rice. You can also make it with chicken.

1 lb beef tenderloin steak or sirloin steak (you can use whatever you have too)
3 tbl soy sauce
1 tsp Chinese wine or bourbon
1 tsp sugar
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 inch cube fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tbl oil
1 cup celery, cut in small pieces
1 cup carrot, cut in small slices or sticks
1/2 sweet red pepper, cut in slices
1/2 med onion, cut fine (or you can use green onion in pieces)
1/2 can bamboo shoots, in pieces or sticks (you can use jicama too)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, use more or less)

Cut beef into thin, 2 inch strips. Combine soy sauce, Chinese wine or Bourbon, sugar, garlic, ginger root and cornstarch, and pour over beef; let marinate in refrigerator for at least one hour. Heat oil very hot in skillet; sear beef pieces quickly by tossing in pan and stirring frequently. Do not overcook. Beef should be cooked only about 5 minutes.

There you go, some easy recipes to try. I'm sure you'll find these a great addition to your regular meal rotation.... Have a great time!......

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