Moules Marinière

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Moules marinière is a classic mussel dish found on just about every French menu ever. It also happens to be ridiculously easy to make. All you need are a few ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, some fresh mussels, a few minutes to spare and voila, you’re good to go.

Make sure to pick up a loaf of crusty French bread before you make this dish too; it’s a perfect vehicle for soaking up the shallot and parsley-flavored broth. There are countless recipes for moules marinière but my favorite is the one I slightly adapted from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. The butter to shallot to wine ratio is just right.

Moules Mariniere

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
salt and pepper
4 pounds mussels, scrubbed
4 sprigs parsley, finely chopped

1. Heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the shallots. Cook for 2 minutes, until the shallots are soft and just beginning to brown. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the mussels to the same pot and cover with the lid. Cook just until all the mussels are open, about 8 minutes. Shake the pot, keeping the lid pressed on top, then add the parsley and shake again. Pour into a warmed serving bowl and serve with bread.

Gyoza

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Gyoza, or Japanese potstickers, differ from their Chinese counterparts in that they have a thinner wrapper. They have a richer garlic flavor too, and are usually served with a soy-based rice vinegar and chili sauce. Sometimes I make a double batch as I’m wrapping the gyoza and stick the extras in the freezer – they make for a quick, delicious meal later on, and they’re much healthier than the store-bought frozen version.

Gyoza

Ingredients:

2 cups finely chopped cabbage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground chicken or turkey
1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts
4 green onions, minced
3 tablespoons sake
1 tablespoon oyster-flavored sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 package potsticker wrappers
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chicken broth

1. In a bowl, toss cabbage with salt; let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and press cabbage to extract excess moisture. Add ground chicken, water chestnuts, 3 minced green onions, sake, oyster-flavored sauce, 1 tablespoon ginger, garlic, and cornstarch; mix well.

2. In another bowl, combine rice vinegar, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, remaining minced green onion, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon of minced ginger to create dipping sauce. Set aside.

3. To shape each potsticker, place a teaspoon of filling in center of one wrapper. Brush edges with water; fold wrapper over filling to form a half-moon. Press and pleat edges to seal. Set filled potsticker down firmly, seam side up, so that it will sit flat.

4. Place a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat sides. Add half of potstickers, seam side up, and cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup broth, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until dumplings are tender and liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

5. With a spatula, remove potstickers from pan and place them on a serving platter. Repeat to cook remaining potstickers. Serve warm with dipping sauce.

Braised Mushrooms and Tofu

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This is one of the first Chinese dishes I learned to make. I was still a kid and had just picked up Martin Yan’s Culinary Journey Through China, and though I didn’t really care for tofu at the time, I wanted to acquire a taste for it. This is the dish that did it.

Browning the tofu long enough to create a crispiness on the outside and spongy texture on the inside is key, so don’t rush this stage of the recipe. If you do it right, the browned tofu absorbs the savory, salty black bean sauce perfectly.

Braised tofu and mushrooms

Ingredients:

1 package extra firm tofu
2/3 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons black bean garlic sauce
2 teaspoons oyster flavored sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 green onion, sliced
1/2 pound white or cremini mushrooms, halved
1/4 pound oyster mushrooms, halved
6 shiitake mushrooms, halved
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1. Cut tofu in half horizontally to make 2 pieces. Slice each of these halves into six rectangular pieces to make a total of 12 slices of tofu.

2. Combine the chicken broth, black bean garlic sauce, oyster flavored sauce, sugar and sesame oil in a bowl to make the sauce.

3. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat sides. Add the tofu and cook, turning once, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove tofu and set aside.

4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat sides. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the sauce, reduce heat to low, and cover, then simmer until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens.

5. To serve, arrange the tofu in a circle around the edge of a serving plate. Place the mushroom mixture in the center and garnish with green onions.

Tomato, Basil, and Ricotta Crostini

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I know I posted a crostini recipe not even two weeks ago, but this one is too good to not share. The key to these extremely simple tomato crostini is in the quality of the tomatoes, so ideally, wait until tomatoes are in season to make these babies. Even better if you have access to a tomato vine or two.

Adapted from A Platter of Figs, I made this recipe countless times last summer when I had access to both fresh tomatoes and homegrown basil. Throw a dollop of creamy ricotta cheese on there too, and you’re in heaven.

Tomato, Basil and Ricotta Crostini

Ingredients:

1 large shallot, finely diced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced, plus another peeled garlic clove
2 pounds tomatoes, diced
1 loaf Italian ciabatta
1/2 pound fresh ricotta
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
A handful of basil leaves

1. In a bowl, mix the shallots and vinegar with a little salt. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the garlic and the cherry tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently. Leave to marinate for a few minutes.

2. Cut the ciabatta into 1/2-inch slices. Spread the slices on a baking sheet and toast on both sides under the broiler until golden. Rub the toasts very lightly with a peeled garlic clove.

3. Spread a tablespoon of fresh ricotta on each toast, them put them on a platter. Spoon the marinated tomatoes over the toasts. Sliver or tear the basil leaves and arrange over the crostini.

Chinese Chicken Salad

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I know, I know. Chinese chicken salad is about as unauthentic as an ethnic dish can get. Even though it’s been done time and time again, this version that I adapted from Martin Yan’s Chinatown Cooking has become one of my favorite recipes. It’s healthy, fresh and most importantly, delicious. I usually make a double batch and store the dressing separately so that I can have leftovers the next day. Don’t be deterred by the long ingredient list; it’s actually very straightforward to make.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

1 skinless chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/4 rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons plum or hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for deep-frying
2 heads romaine lettuce, thinly shredded
2 green onions, thinly sliced
8 wonton wrappers, cut into 1/4-inch wide strips
1 ounce dried bean thread noodles, broken into 2-inch long pieces
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds.

1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Rub the chicken breasts with the salt and five-spice powder. Lay the chicken on a baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Cool the chicken on a rack until cool enough to touch, then shred the meat and set aside.

2. Make the dressing: Whisk the rice vinegar, honey, plum or hoisin sauce, sesame oil, mustard, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, ginger and vegetable oil in a bowl until well blended. Set aside.

3. Pour enough vegetable oil into a wok to come to a depth of 1 inch. Heat over medium-high heat to 350F. Carefully slip a few of the wonton strips into the oil and fry until light golden brown, about 20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining strips.

4. In the same wok, deep-fry the bean thread noodles in small batches, stirring them gently to separate the strands, until they puff and expand, about 10 seconds. Remove and drain on paper towels.

5. Place the lettuce in a large salad bowl and top with the green onions. Scatter the chicken on top, pour the dressing over the salad, and toss together. Scatter the wonton strips, fried bean thread noodles, chopped peanuts, and sesame seeds over the top.