Fresh Picks by Nina Simonds
One of the foremost authorities on Asian cooking tells us what she's loving right now.
Nina Simonds is an award-winning journalist and author of 10 books on Chinese cuisine and culture, including the bestselling A Spoonful of Ginger and Spices of Life, both of which won both the IACP and the James Beard Foundation Book Award for Health. In 2001, Newsweek magazine named her one of “America’s Top 25 Asian Hands. Her video blog is featured regularly on Hungry Beast, the food section of The Daily Beast. She was a correspondent/contributing editor for Gourmet magazine for seven years and was also a regular contributor to The New York Times and O magazine. Simonds’ articles have appeared in Cooking Light, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Health, Harper’s Bazaar, Bon Appetit, Family Circle , and Self magazine. Presently, she is working on her 11th book, Asian Express: Irresistibly Delicious, Healthy, and Convenient Meals for the Busy Cook, which will be published by Rodale Press in 2012.
If you are looking to load up on flavor but not fat, this exotic salmon recipe is just what you need.
I love to introduce cooks to easy, accessible recipes that are delicious and health-giving. This is one of the joys of traditional Chinese food that was first introduced to me when I went to live in Asia over 30 years ago. This dish is one of my personal favorites. I like to use wild salmon, but alternatively you can use any firm-fleshed fillet. Try it hot or cold. You can cook it in a steamer, in the oven as recommended below, or wrap the whole thing in wax paper and microwave for 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked. For an easy, delicious dinner just add rice to this meal-in-one classic.
Hot and Sour Steamed Salmon with Greens
For the salmon: 6 salmon steaks, about 6 ounces each 2 ½ lbs baby bok choy or bok choy, stem ends and leaf tips trimmed 8 to 9 whole scallions, ends trimmed, cut into thin julienne slices on the diagonal 3 heaping tablespoons fresh ginger cut into very thin julienne shreds
For the dressing: 6 tablespoons soy sauce 3 ½ tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce ¼ cup sugar, or to taste 2 tablespoons minced garlic
Trim the tough outer leaves from the bok choy and discard. Rinse the stalks and leaves and drain. Cut the stalks in half lengthwise. Cut the halves diagonally into 2-inch sections. In a bowl, toss the scallions and ginger with the bok choy sections. Arrange on a heatproof platter. Mix the ingredients of the dressing, and pour into a serving bowl. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Place the salmon steaks on top of the greens. Pour into a roasting pan several inches of water and heat until boiling. Carefully place the platter of salmon and vegetables on top of a rack or steamer tray in the roasting pan. Cover the top of the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake 9 to 12 minutes, or until the fish is cooked. Serve the salmon from the heatproof platter or arrange the steamed vegetables and salmon on serving plates. Spoon some of the dressing on top and serve with steamed rice.
Soup dumpling shops may be a dime a dozen, but these are the best of the best.
Din Tai Fung is an award-winning dumpling house in Taipei, Taiwan, that put xiaolongbao (Shanghai soupy buns) on the culinary map. There are now branches all over the world, but the best are still in Taipei. I remember going to the original branch as a student when I was studying Mandarin in Taiwan in the early '70s. It was not a fancy place with two floors, yet it was almost always packed. I adored their Shanghai dumplings. This was years before I visited Shanghai, which I have now been to many, many times and even at the source, the original restaurant in Taipei made the best dumplings I had ever tasted. These days, when I go to Beijing, no matter how short the stay, I try to visit the Din Tai Fung near the embassies. I recently shot a video at this restaurant instructing diners how to eat the dumpling so it doesn’t spurt all over your shirt or tie.
Meet the good side of grains in this internationally adventurous and robust cookbook.
Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck. In this inspirational book, author and cook Maria Speck draws from her Greek mother’s cooking and the foods of her European upbringing to offer a sumptuous and alluring selection of recipes that would appeal to any cook. She introduces the diverse family of whole grains, including faro, barley, quinoa, and spelt, which are now widely available in any well-stocked supermarket and highlights their versatility in delicious and satisfying breakfasts, breads, salads, soups, main dishes, and desserts. Think about tasting Red-Wine Braised Lamb with Wheat Berries or Creamy Breakfast Farro with Honey Roasted Grapes. The dishes are a pot-pourri of delectable treats from Greece, Southern France, Italy, and Turkey.
A unique cultural retreat experience awaits you on the other side of the world
The Linden Center, Dali China. Dali, located in the furthest western region of China at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains, is renowned for its scenic beauty and still-unspoiled destinations in China. It is also located in the Yunnan province, one of the most ethnically diverse regions in the country. It is in this magical place that Jeanee and Brian Linden, who have been studying, traveling, and doing business in China since the early '80s, realized their dream of restoring an expansive and luxurious courtyard house to its former glory in an ancient village. The Lindens want their guests to experience the ebb and flow of daily life in a small village that still retains the traditions of China’s past. They also offer visitors courses and lectures in painting, antiques, Chinese arts and crafts, tea-making and cooking, as well as excursions to local markets and other “must-see” destinations.
Nina Simonds is an award-winning cookbook author, journalist, and video blogger.