August 19, 2012

International Bento (China): Chicken wings bento

My last post reminded me that I've really fallen down on posting my bentos, so here's another one: Chinese-inspired chicken wings ("Beijing Wings" from Cook This, Not That!), pork fried rice, and baby bok choy with spicy vinaigrette.

The pork fried rice is much like pork fried rice anywhere - a bit of egg, a bit of bbq pork from a Chinese butcher, some onion, leftover plain long grain rice. There's an art to a great fried rice, but this one was just a quick, cobble-together: tasty, but not truly a classic of its kind.

The bok choy in vinaigrette did not enjoy waiting in the fridge until morning, and it looks as though I may have over-steamed it, too, as it's usually a bit brighter green. The vinaigrette is a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sambal oeklek, minced ginger, and minced garlic. I don't use measurements when I make this up, but I don't use much oil. It's more like a dipping sauce than a real vinaigrette, but it goes beautifully on steamed or stir-fried bok choy, gai lan, or other strong greens.

The wings are fairly simple to make, and are baked instead of fried, so, theoretically a bit healthier for you, even though the skin's still on.

Beijing Wings
Adapted from Cook This, Not That!

Serves 3 - 4

1 kilo chicken wings, jointed (freeze the tips for making stock)
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar (or honey)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1 - 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (half a lime)
toasted sesame seeds
1 green onion, sliced

Combine the soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add the wing sections (you can also buy just paddles or drumettes) and stir them around until they are well coated. Cover the container with its lid or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour, four or eight hours being better (ideally, do this after breakfast to be ready for dinner).

Preheat the oven to 450F, and line a baking sheet with foil. Spray the baking sheet with a thin layer of canola spray (or brush lightly with peanut oil). Drain the wings from the marinade (discard the marinade). Lay out the wings in a single layer on the foil, and bake for about 15 minutes. The skin should start to get crispy. Turn the wings over and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.

In a large skillet, melt the butter and Sriracha, stirring to combine. Remove the wings from the oven, and quickly add them to the skillet. Toss the chicken around in the hot sauce, and saute for a couple of minutes. Remove the chicken to a platter, and garnish with sesame seeds and thinly sliced green onion.

August 04, 2012

Ethiopian Beet & Potato Salad (and Bento)

Ethiopian cuisine has wonderful salads. The cool lemony character of this one is quite refreshing, and the two-tone pink and purple appearance is pleasingly cheerful. This recipe is adapted from Meskerem Restaurant (Washington, DC), by way of Epicurious, as well as local versions of the dish as served here in Vancouver. It is vegan, gluten-free, and great for picnics, bento, or any other packed meal.

Ethiopian Beet & Potato Salad

Serves 8 - 10
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 1 hour

450 grams yellow potatoes
450 grams red beet roots
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons peanut oil*
1/2 onion (yellow or red), finely diced
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely diced
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
Pinch ground fenugreek seeds

Wash and trim the beets, and simmer in a medium saucepan for about 35 - 45 minutes (depending on size), or until tender. Remove the beets from the liquid, and slice in half. Use a paper towel (or three...or a dexterous use of spoons to be waste-free) to remove the skins from the beets – they should just rub right off. Dice into bite-sized pieces. You may want to protect your cutting board from the pink dye in the beets – a couple of layers of waxed paper, or waxed paper over newspaper should work. Protect your hands, too, or you will have pink fingers/nails, although it comes off in a day or so. (Note: you can also roast the beets in foil or parchment instead of simmering them, especially if you happen to have oven on for some other purpose.) Wash all cutting boards etc. right away to minimize stains.

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, gently simmer the peeled and bite-sized diced yellow or white or red-skinned potatoes for 20 – 25 minutes, or until tender. Drain the potatoes, and let them dry out a little in the warm pot.

While the beets and potatoes are cooking, dice the onion and jalapeño, and place them in a large serving bowl with the lemon juice and peanut oil. When the potatoes have dried off a little, add them (still warm) to the onion mixture, and gently combine. Add the beets, and stir through until everything is a lovely pink shade. Toast the yellow mustard seeds just until they start popping, then pour them over the salad, along with the salt and fenugreek powder. Stir well to combine. You can make this ahead by a day or three. Keep tightly covered in the refrigerator.

* For peanut allergies, substitute the mild-flavoured vegetable oil of your choice. Canola works well.

My International Bento: Ethiopian edition, contains Berbere-baked chicken drumsticks, Ingudie & Yellow Peas Wat, and Beet & Potato salad. Hearty, and delicious!