Chicken Stir-fried with Cashews or Peanuts


This is one of the first recipes I taught in the 1970s when my family and I returned to the US from years in Malaysia. It’s an ancestrally Chinese dish that was common in Malaysia, but was also frequent in urban Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines. 

This is a richer dish than an ordinary stir fry of chicken with vegetables and cashews. At fancy restaurants in Asia it is sometimes served in a crispy “bird’s
nest” of fried shredded taro.


The recipe serves six, with rice.


2 pounds boneless skinless breasts

Juice from 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger (no need to peel)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup snow peas or broccoli pieces

1 sweet red chili pepper or 1/4 of a large red bell pepper

3/4 cup cashews, dry-roasted (peanuts can be substituted)

3/4 cup sunflower or canola oil, plus more if needed



1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 1/2 teaspoons sweet bean paste or hoi sin sauce (both available at Asian groceries),

1 tablespoon rice wine, sake, or dry sherry

1 teaspoon rice or white vinegar

4 1/2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil (available at Asian groceries)


Trim off any tough or fatty parts of the chicken and cut flesh into 1/2 by 1-inch pieces. Grate ginger and press out the juice with a garlic press or twist it in a moistened corner of dish towel and squeeze it to express the juice. Add ginger juice to chicken, along with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, plus the salt. Mix well and let marinate at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.


If using snow peas, remove their stems and tips and pull off any tough strings from the peas. Cut peas in half on a sharp diagonal. If using broccoli, cut the pieces lengthwise into tiny flowerets about 1/2 inch on the top. Slice pepper in 1/4-inch strips, 1-1/2 inches long. Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl.


In wok or large frying pan, heat oil to moderately hot. Quickly pre-fry chicken, half at a time, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn slightly brown. Lift chicken out of the oil and place in a bowl.


When chicken has been pre-fried, pour off all except 2 tablespoons of the oil (save it for other meat cooking.). Heat pan and add the pre-fried chicken. Stir and fry until just hot. Stir sauce mixture to “dissolve” the cornstarch, and add it to the pan. Stir and fry until sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Add snow peas or broccoli and pepper and bring back just to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring. Taste sauce and add salt if necessary. Stir in most of the cashews (or peanuts). Serve on a platter. Sprinkle with remaining nuts. 



Easy Fresh Basil Sauce for Appetizers or Pasta Salad


While Pesto, the classic basil sauce from the Genoa region of Italy, is basically a sauce for pasta, it is also a convenient topping to add flavor and color to canapés, marinated cheese, sandwiches and pasta salad, and even pizza. Commercially made pesto is available in small jars the US, as it is in Italy. It tends to be expensive.

Easy Fresh Basil Sauce for Appetizers or Pasta Salad


Pesto is somewhat complicated to make, requiring in addition to fresh basil leaves, pine nuts and pecorino or Parmigiano cheese. Because I’ve been making appetizer dishes for our restaurant’s catering, I’ve often needed a basil-based condiment for highlights or marinade. So I make a much simplified basil sauce that serves our needs.


Here’s a recipe for this simple sauce. It makes a small quantity, since not much is needed for most things. But the recipe can easily be multiplied if needed. Use it for lightly topping sliced fresh mozzarella for a side dish, or put a little on thinly sliced Toscano or Asiago cheese on a cracker (and add a couple drops of honey!). Or marinate fresh mozzarella balls or chunks with it for Caprese skewer appetizers. It can be mixed, in limited quantities, into pasta salad or drizzled onto sandwiches or other dishes where fresh basil highlights would be exciting. Mix some of it into a little more olive oil for a wonderful dip for crusty bread.


12 medium-large fresh basil leaves

Easy Fresh Basil Sauce for Appetizers or Pasta Salad
Basil Sauce served with Fresh Mozzarella
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 to 3 drops vinegar

A pinch of sea salt

A pinch of freshly ground black pepper


Rinse and drain the basil leaves. On a cutting board mince them very finely, almost to a paste, with a chef’s knife. Place basil in a small dish from which the sauce can be served. Gently stir in the remaining ingredients. Allow to season at least 10 minutes, then stir again.


The sauce tastes best when used within an hour or two of making it, but it will store for a day or two refrigerated.





Prussian Meatballs Echo from a Vanished World

The historic and cultured East Prussian capital, Königsberg, is gone.

KFounded in the 13th century by Teutonic Knights as a Germanic outpost on the Baltic Sea, Königsberg ("king’s mountain") grew rich in the Middle Ages as a Hanseatic League port, and was the ancestral home and continued coronation place of the Prusssian kings. The city boasted a major university, cathedral, and opera house.


Severely bombed by the Allies in World War II, Königsberg was overrun by the Soviet Army. The German population was forceably expelled, the historic buildings were  destroyed, and the city was annexed and repopulated as Kaliningrad, part of Russia.


But one specialty of the imperial Prussian city lingers. “Königsberger Klopse” [KERH-nigs-ber-ger KLOP-zeh], the city’s celebrated namesake meatballs, still survive in North German cuisine.


I first had this luscious treat, as a teenager, at the home of a European couple my mother knew. Edy, the wife, who grew up in pre-war Germany, added exotic touches of curry to her otherwise very German caper sauce. This recipe, which took me considerable trial and error to develop, reproduces what I experienced at their home.


The recipe serves six plentifully -- in the German manner. Accompany the meatballs and their sauce with buttered boiled potatoes or noodles .

6 tablespoons finely minced onion
2 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
6 tablespoons quick-cooking oatmeal
1 (2-ounce) can anchovy fillets, including their oil
6 tablespoons unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3/8 teaspoon allspice
2 eggs

2 tablespoons water
2 pounds ground beef chuck or 1 pound each ground chuck and ground pork

4 cups low-salt chicken broth or water
3 (1/4 inch) slices of onion
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons flour mixed with 1 teaspoon sunflower or canola oil
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Minced parsley for garnish

Gently fry onion in oil until softened. Transfer to mixing bowl.

With chef's knife on a cutting board, coarsely chop oatmeal. Add to the bowl. Pour oil from anchovies into the bowl. Mince anchovies finely, and add to the bowl. Add crumbs, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, the nutmeg, pepper, allspice, eggs and water. Beat everything together lightly. Add meat and mix thoroughly, kneading with your hands.

Shape into 6 large evenly sized meatballs, packing them firmly. Wet your hands with water for the final shaping. Set meatballs on waxed paper.

In a wide pot, simmer chicken broth or water, onion slices, bay leaves, and salt. Gently place meatballs in the water. Cover pan and steam meatballs 10 minutes over medium-low heat. Carefully turn them with a large spoon. Steam them 10 more minutes. Turn once more, and steam a final 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them rest, covered, another 5 minutes.

With slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to shallow serving bowl. Cover loosely with waxed paper or a lid, and keep them warm.

Remove bay leaf and onion from broth. Add curry powder. Boil broth down to about 2 cups. Reduce heat. Whisk in flour-oil mixture. Simmer 2 minutes, whisking often. Remove from heat. Stir in capers. Taste sauce, and add salt if needed.

Spoon sauce (do not pour from pan) over meat balls. Dust with minced parsley. Serve with boiled, buttered potatoes or buttered and dilled egg noodles.



Deviled Egg Salad – for Appetizer or Sandwiches



At the risk of blasphemy, I’m starting to write about Deviled egg salad on Easter Sunday. Worse yet, I made it today, on Easter, as part of dinner.


For many centuries, for Christians the egg has symbolized Christ emerging victorious from death and the tomb after his crucifixion, as a baby bird emerges living from inside its seemingly dead shell. But while Christians have long venerated the egg at Easter, it actually goes back much further to pre-Christian pagan traditions as a symbol of new life, rebirth, and springtime, when nature reemerges from the dead of winter. All of that was captured by early Christians.


Given the positive religious veneration of the egg, it’s ironic that Deviled Eggs are quite popular. This even includes at church receptions and pot luck socials. Of course some church traditions, especially in the South, delicately refer to these questionably named treats as “Stuffed Eggs.”


The Devil has, to my knowledge, little to do with dishes named after him. It’s a fun theme used by cooks in recent centuries to indicate that mustard is a prominent ingredient in the dish. Mustard, being hot and sulfurous, suggests the fumes emanating from a smoldering volcano with its fire and brimstone, which is supposed to be the Devil’s lair. Early people almost certainly assigned the active volcano pit metaphor to their sense of what Hell must be like.


After all that, I’m not actually making Deviled Eggs (which I like) at Easter, but rather an egg salad influenced by seasonings in Deviled Eggs. This egg salad can be an appetizer or dip, or can in the traditional way be a sandwich filling.


The recipe makes sufficient egg salad for appetizers for six people or can make two to three hearty sandwiches.


4 eggs, hard-boiled 13-15 minutes and cooled

1 tablespoon Dijon or spicy brown mustard

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon cider or wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Large squirt of hot sauce or large pinch cayenne

Paprika for garnish


Shell and rinse the hard-boiled eggs and put them in a mixing bowl. With a fork break uo the white and yolks thoroughly, so the white is in tiny pieces. Add all the remaining ingredients except the paprika  Mix thoroughly. Let rest ten minutes, mix again and then taste it. Add a little salt, if needed.


The egg salad can be stored, cold, until serving time, up to a day. If serving as an appetizer, spoon into an attractive serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika. Accompany with crackers or crudités for dipping or spreading. Otherwise, use as a sandwich filling.




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