Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cook Book Book Club, Meeting #3

The Cook Book Book Club got together today to prepare recipes from the James Beard Award winning Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop.
The focus of the book is Chinese home-style cooking, which turned out to be relatively easy to execute once we were able to get our hands on the proper ingredients. Fortunately, we live in a city where exotic ingredients are relatively easy to acquire. I have rapidly become familiar with the layout of the 99 Ranch market in Van Nuys.

We had thirteen women at the table today, which added up to fifteen dishes, plus rice and tea. The daughter of one of our members recently returned from China, of which she said, people basically eat rice with small bits of dishes to flavor it, and when we started going through the cookbook, we realized the portions were too small for everyone to get a taste. We suspended one of our rules for this session and everyone doubled recipes to make sure there would be enough to go around. 

The menu:
 Hot & Sour Soup,(vegetarian), P. 242
Northern Style Boiled Dumplings w/Ginger Pork Filling in Schuanese Chili Oil Sauce, P. 298
Xian Pot-Sticker Dumplings (non-vegetarian), P. 308
Tuzi's Slow-Cooked Ribs w/Red Fermented Tofu, P. 102
Slippery Wood Ear Salad w/Cilantro, P. 60
Stir-Fried Garlic Stems w/Bacon & also vegetarian version w/Mushrooms, P. 206
Schuanese Dry-Fried Green Beans (vegetarian), P. 150
Smoky Eggplant w/Garlic
Pock-Marked Old Woman's Tofu, P. 76
Spinach in Ginger Sauce, P. 64
Chinese Broccoli in Ginger Sauce, P. 182
Cold Chicken w/Spicy Sichuanese Sauce, P. 48
Mussels with Black Bean Sauce, P. 146
Bear's Paw Tofu, P. 80

I was able to use my new "summer" dishes, Coastal Breeze Blue from 222 Fifth. I found the dishes a few months ago at HomeGoods, but my initial decision to purchase only eight place-settings was a mistake because we usually have at least 10 people over for dinner on Sundays. With the help of Replacements, Ltd., I got the balance of dishes to make sixteen place-settings.
The pattern has shells and sea horses, and will look very nice with my Rogers Bros. antique flatware pattern called Columbia.

The menu for lunch:
Hot & Sour Soup (vegetarian version) made by Laura Brennan
When I first invited Laura to join the cook book group, she indicated that she didn't do much cooking. She said the Hot & Sour Soup was definitely outside her comfort zone, but she did a great job with it and her son enjoyed it as well.
Slippery Wood Ear Salad with Cilantro made by Nan Cohen
 I'm familiar with Slippery Wood Ear Fungus as ingredient in Hot & Sour Soup, but this salad, with its very spicy chile, did awaken the mouth for the rest of the meal.
Northern Stye Boiled Dumplings with Ginger Pork Filling in Schuanese Chili Oil sauce made by Catherine Fleming
Poor Catherine had a spill on her way to the house, and I can only imagine how her car must smell with the sauce sloshing out of the dish, but the dumplings were delicious.
Xian Pot-Sticker Dumplings made by Lisa Klink
Tuzi's Slow-Cooked Ribs with Red Fermented Tofu made by Christine Valada
On a day when there was a lot of last-minute finishing going on in my kitchen, the Slow-Cooked Ribs were finishing up in the oven and only needed to be put on a platter at the last minute.
Stir-Fried Garlic Stems with Bacon made by Mary De Longis
Mary was kind enough to do both the bacon version and the vegan mushroom version of the Stir-Fried Garlic Stems. Most of us enjoyed both versions, but it was especially nice for our resident vegetarian to have a version she could eat. The garlic stems look a lot like string beans.
Stir-Fried Garlic Stems with Mushrooms by Mary De Longis
Schuanese Dry-Fried Green Beans (vegetarian version) made by T Valada-Viars
Smoky Eggplant with Garlic made by Michelle Heinig Resnick
Pock-Marked Old Woman's Tofu made by Liz Mortensen
Bear's Paw Tofu made by Julia Roberts
Chinese Broccoli in Ginger Sauce made by Sharon Baker
Spinach in Ginger Sauce made by Liz Mortensen (foreground)
Cold Chicken with Spicy Schuanese Sauce made by Laurie Perry
Mussels with Black Bean Sauce made by Amie Brockway-Metcalf
Laurie Perry was so happy with the Cold Chicken with spicy Schuanese Sauce, she's planning to make it a staple for picnics at the Hollywood Bowl. It was very refreshing and is a good choice for a summer meal.

I was delighted that Amie decided to make the Mussels with Black Bean Sauce. I love mussels, but the cleaning takes such a long time. She told us that her vendor provides them already scrubbed. They were terrific and I would have been happy to make a whole meal of them.

We had two tofu dishes, plus fermented tofu was used to flavor the ribs. The Pock-Marked Old Woman's Tofu contained fermented black beans while the Bear's Paw Tofu was fried. The Pock-Marked Tofu got better and better as we sampled leftovers after lunch was over. Lunch was actually heavy on vegetarian dishes with the string beans, broccoli, spinach, and eggplant.

All of us agreed that it was a particularly good cookbook. I am likely to try more of the recipes because it makes Chinese cooking very accessible and the portions are good for the three or four of us on a weeknight.