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The Occidental Tourist
Nov 22nd, 2004

Usually when I check a cookbook out from the library, I will mark the recipes that look interesting and copy them down before returning the book. Sometimes I have to renew the book several times if there are lots of recipes that catch my eye. But very, very rarely, I read a book from the library and then must immediately go out and buy it. The Occidental Tourist by Stan Frankenthaler was one such cookbook. I read it from cover to cover and then immediately sat down at the computer and ordered it from Half.com (dude, it was cheap, like 3 bucks and it's a beautiful book - must not have caught on and sold well). The author is the owner/chef of a Boston restaurant called Salamander, and the cuisine is Asian fusion. I think what I love about the book is that it's not specific to one region or one cuisine and not tied down by tiresome attention to authenticity - but yet the recipes are elegant and complex in taste if not in preparation. Many of the recipes are probably weekend recipes rather than weeknight ones as they require a bit of time and many require advance marinating, but they're not horribly complex and fussy like some chef's cookbooks can be.

The first dish I cooked out of the book was Yang Chow Fried Rice. According to the blurb it is classic Cantonese and a nice change from a lot of soy-drenched fried rice recipes. This one has no soy.

Unfortunately, one thing it does have is Szechuan peppercorns, an ingredient that was banned from import into the US in 2000. Luckily as of September imports have started up again with new heat-treated spices that won't harm the US citrus crop. However, these peppercorns (which aren't really pepper but the round fruit from a plant related to prickly ash, whatever that is) haven't made their way to a grocery store near me yet. You can order them online and I plan to do so, but for now I just left them out of the recipe.

One note of caution - go light on the ground star anise in the Sweet Spice Mix. I added a bit much and it dominated the dish. I'd suggest upping the ratio of coriander to star anise from 2:1 to 3:1. The missing peppercorns might balance out the anise, I don't know, but just use a light hand. Add a little and then taste before adding more.


Yang Chow Fried Rice

1 tbsp light sesame oil
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 cup peas, blanched
1 cup diced ham (1/2 lb)
1/2 pound shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and deveined
3 eggs, beaten and scrambled in large curds
4 cups cooked jasmine rice (completely cooled)
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 tsp Sweet Spice Mix
1 tsp kosher salt *see below
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper


Place a wok or skillet over medium-high heat, and when it is hot, add the oil. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until lightly caramelized, about 1 minute. Add the bell pepper and red onion, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the peas, ham, and shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3
minutes. Add the eggs and rice and keep things moving; don't let the rice stick to the sides of the pan. Add the scallions, Sweet Spice Mix, salt, and pepper, continuing to stir until heated throughout, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sweet Spice Mix

2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp star anise pods (or less)
1 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns

Place the spices in a dry skillet and cook over medium heat until they are lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Allow to cool, and then transfer to a spice grinder. Grind until smooth. This stores well in an airtight glass or plastic container for up to 3 months.

-Stan Frankenthaler, The Occidental Tourist
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© 2006, Kimberly Cooperrider | kymmco@excite.com