All Under Heaven by Carolyn Phillips

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All Under Heaven is a comprehensive guide to the cuisines of China, all 35 of them. Did you even know there were 35 Chinese cuisines? Cynthia Phillips does and she wrote the book. The cuisines are organized geographically, starting with the North, and the Manchurian Northeast, down the Yangtze River and Environs, down to the Coastal Southeast, across the Central Highlands and off to the Arid Lands of the West. There is also a huge section on the fundamentals of Chinese cuisine. There’s also valuable tips you won’t find everywhere, such as removing boar bristles and pinfeathers or how to fold  a chopstick wrapper into a chopstick holder three different ways.

This book would be worth it, just for the Basic Recipes section. This is a great reference book, with an extensive glossary and great tips. With all the other sections, though, it is a huge book, with more than 350 recipes and so heavy, I rested it on a pillow on my lap to read because it is too heavy to hold for long.

It would be nice to have a few color photos, but the illustrative sketches are superior to photos for the technique and tips. Photos can have too much information, simple line drawings show only the relevant and important elements.

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This is an outstanding cookbook, one of those that will be a classic that anyone serious about learning Chinese cooking will invest in. It is written with authority. The variety of recipes is vast and vegan and vegetarian recipes are noted in the sectional recipe lists, making it easier to select what you like. Phillips also notes when you can substitute pork for chicken, for example. This is important because cooks need to know they can stray from the recipes. Good cooks learn best from cookbooks that are not too prescriptive, but allow for options.

As outstanding as it is, I have to point out to one flaw that irked me. There are frequent historical and cultural notes, some of the most important elements in the book, and they are in red print and small san serif text. I really wish the folks who design books would spare a thought for people who struggle with really fine print. I would prefer darker ink, so the contrast is more stark, making it easy to read.

I received a copy of All Under Heaven from Ten Speed Press through Blogging For Books.

Cookbook Reviews

I write book reviews on my other web site and realized some people who follow this site have no idea about that site and vice versa. So here’s a catchup of links to books reviews.

Rocket & Chickpea Salad with Cantaloupe Dressing

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I made the salad dressing earlier and let it refrigerate so the flavors were mellowed and blended. I used a Magic Bullet™ but a blender or food processor would work even better.  My inspiration was a Linguini al Melone I had several years back at Martinelli’s, a wonderful local deli that closed last year. The linguine has a melon cream sauce. It was as delicious as it was weird, so every taste, I was thinking this is so weird, it tastes so good.

I thought melon might be just sweet and creamy enough to pair very well with rocket – which I have a lot of thanks to the Oregon Food Bank Harvest Share. Rocket is peppery and its bold flavor takes some thought to balance.

Melon Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup of melon
  • 1/4 small yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add everything together and pulse until smooth. You may adjust ingredients to your taste, but remember it is a dressing so you want the flavor more intense than what you would eat plain. It should be tart and sweet. Honey might be a good substitute for sugar, but I don’t have any except buckwheat honey and that is too smokey a flavor for this.

Toasted Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans

Open a can of chickpeas, drain and rinse thoroughly. Drain so they are dry. You can pat them dry with a paper towel if you are in a hurry. Heat a cast iron pan on the stove a medium high heat, about 7 out of 10 on an electric stove. Add the chickpeas without oil and toast them, shaking the pan frequently so they do not burn. When they first begin to pop in the pan (just a little pop, not like popcorn) shake some salt and paprika on them and keep shaking and roasting until they are browned and slightly toasted. I would normally roast them in the oven but it’s over 90°.

Rocket Salad

Cut a very small yellow onion in half length-wise, cut off the ends and then slice thinly length-wise for small strips of onion. Then chop two stalks of celery on the diagonal for nice thin, but longish pieces. Then add about 4 cups of rocket. You can see that about half the salad volume is rocket.

Toss the chickpeas on top and stir. Add the dressing when you serve so the dressing does not make the chickpeas mushy.

This is a delicious salad. There is the bite of the onion, the earthy celery, the peppery rocket and the smoky, salty paprika of the chickpeas and blended and worked together with the sweet and tangy cantaloupe dressing.

This makes 4 servings, though you could make it in smaller batches and save the toasted chickpeas for something else.

 

Sausage, Rocket & Tomato Pasta

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I heated a cast iron pan on medium low (3 of 10) and on another burner put a pot of salted water on to boil.

In the cast iron pan, I tossed in a pinch of fennel seeds, about 1/4 tsp or so and let them heat while I removed the casings from 3 breakfast sausage links. I added the sausage and, using a fork, smashed it up to little bits of pork. There was not much fat, but it was enough to cook this without any additional oil. I added 2 TBSP of diced yellow onion. Then I diced a small Roma tomato and added it. I let them cook.

I added 3 handfuls or 3/4 cup of dried egg noodles. I ended up with about 1 cup of noodles when it was done cooking.

I added 1/4 cup of sour cream to the cast iron pan, strained the pasta and stirred it into the sauce and then added a big handful, a cup or more, of fresh rocket. I stirred and removed from the heat so it just warmed but did not cook the rocket.

Grate just a bit of asiago or parmesan cheese on top.

This made one serving. It has a peppery flavor from the rocket, a bit of heat from the sausage and this wonder deep flavor coming from the fennel. The sour cream gave it a nice creaminess and added some fat that it really needed to soften the acidity of the tomatoes and the peppery rocket.

 

Potato Salad with Green Beans

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So, I started out making a potato sad that I intended to use rocket in, to use up some of the rocket I have, but then I got around to adding the rocket and changed my mind and added green beans instead. I am glad I did because the freezer was just starting to extract the liquid from the beans and would have soon dried them out.

This is a pretty standard potato salad. I boiled 4 potatoes in salted water and hard-boiled 4 eggs. I use Martha Stewart’s method to boil eggs and it never fails me. I am not going to reinvent boiling eggs. When the potatoes were done I ran cold water on them to chill. I also chilled the eggs. I then boiled some salted water and blanched the green beans. I did not want them mushy and wanted them to stay bright.

So then I chopped up one whole yellow onion, the potatoes, the eggs and the green beans and tossed them together. I drained a can of black olives and crushed about 1/3 of the can.

In a bowl, I missed 3 TBSP mayo, 1 tsp of mustard, 3 TBSP of apple cider vinegar and a 1/2 tsp of sugar, salt and pepper. I made it to taste and added to the salad and blended.

This made 4 to 6 servings and was better the next day. It’s nice and tangy with the mustard, the olives add an earthiness that I love.

Fresh Tomato Rocket Soup with Basil

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The Oregon Food Bank Harvest Share gave huge bags of tomatoes. As soon as I saw the tomatoes I thought of making tomato soup with basil. They also gave out big bags of rocket, a peppery salad green that is wonderful as an accent and highlight in salad but a bit strong on its own. I thought it might make a good flavor accent in the soup. It worked.

This is a recipe that will make almost four quarts of soup, enough to freeze for later and enough for several servings. Enough to share with friends.

In terms of prep, do not worry about chopping things fine. I only cut the onions in quarters. After all, it’s all going to be pureed anyway.

Put a big stock pot with a cover on medium heat. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add 2 yellow onions. I cut into quarters, but you can dice if you like. Crush 6 cloves of garlic and toss in after the onions are nearly softened.

Toss in the bag of tomatoes, about four pounds or so. I poked the tomatoes with a knife just to make them release their liquid faster. Add salt and pepper. Put the lid on top. It needs to fit tightly because I am not adding any water. Leave it to cook for 20-30 minutes and check. There should be plenty of liquid with no need for water or broth.

Add 1 cup of fresh basil and 2 cups of rocket. Add salt and pepper. Put the lid back on for another 10 minutes.

Let cool and puree with an immersion blender, regular blender or a Magic Bullet.

This makes a great tart, peppery tomato soup. The flavors are really rich and deep, with a lovely tang. I served with just a bit of fresh rocket on top. It keeps well because tomato is very acidic and there is no dairy in it.

Tangy Banana Tostada

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I had an overripe banana and absolute no desire to turn the oven on for muffins or bread. It was in a bowl right next to the package of  pre-made tostadas and I got this wild idea that it just might work. It did.

I crushed the banana with a fork and spread it on the tostada. Then I sprinkled some Tajín on it, though you could just use some chile powder and salt. Then I chopped up about two inches from a green onion and sprinkled on top.

I liked the flavor mix the tart and sweet and salty, but I do think the banana might be even better spread on two tostadas. A bit more salt and crunch ratio would make it a bit more tasty. Next time I have overripe bananas, I will try it again. It was a nice breakfast and would make a good snack.

 

Bok Choy and Mushrooms over Rice

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Heat a dry cast iron pan to medium and add 1 cup of sliced mushrooms. Cook them just a bit, because that keeps them from getting mushy and deepens their flavor.

Remove from the pan and add 1 TBSP of olive oil. Slice 1/4 yellow onion and crush 1 clove of garlic and add to the pan. Add 1 tsp of fresh ginger or 1/4 tsp of dried ginger, salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are transparent, make sure the garlic does not burn. Then add back the mushrooms.

Take three stalks of bok chop and chop into inch long pieces. Cut about 6 cherry tomatoes in half, Add and cook until tender. Add salt and pepper and toss in about 2 tsp of soy sauce.

Serve over rice. Makes one generous serving. The mushroom flavor is deep and rich and they are toothsome, not mushy. The tomatoes add some sweetness, the boy chop a bit of crunch. Delicious and filling.

Jamaica Jerk Cole Slaw with Pepitas

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So this is going into my regular rotation and will be made again and again and again and again and again. It’s a flavor sensation as they say.

First, I love cabbage. It’s my favorite vegetable and I would eat it ever more often that I do, but I already eat it more than I should as it tends to upset my stomach a bit. If not for that it would be perfect, sharp and peppery in its own self and so ready to blend with other foods, to accept and incorporate seasonings and dressings. Delicious cooked or raw, hot or cold and with all that, it’s inexpensive and keeps well stored in a cool, dark place. So yeah, it’s great stuff. But wow, this makes it even better.

  • 1/2 head of finely chopped cabbage
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 2 TBSP rice vinegar
  • 1 TBSP white wine
  • 2 tsp Jamaica Jerk seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

So, I cut up about 1/2 a head of cabbage, about 8 cups of cabbage. I cut the onion in thin slices. I heated a cast iron skillet on a low medium with NO oil. I added the sliced onions and stirred them steadily so they did not get any char. I wanted a light caramelization that sweetened the onions without softening them too much. That’s why no oil and the medium low heat.

In another dry pan, I toasted the pepitas until they began to pop and turn toasty brown.

When the onions and pepitas were cool, I mixed them in with the cabbage.

I mixed the rice vinegar, white wine and the Jamaica Jerk and the bit of sugar. I mixed them together well, poured on the salad, put a lid on the bowl and shook really hard because there’s not a lot of dressing to coat everything.

I stuck it in the fridge for a couple hours so the vinegar “cooked” the cabbage. Every time I happened to walk by I shook it some more because there really is not any extra dressing, so it needs some shaking.

This made 8 servings and you know what? The last serving did not sit in a pool of dressing. This kept the salad nice and crisp, but rich in flavor. Jamaica Jerk is spicy, so adjust to your taste. It leaves a delicious wonderful aftertaste, too.

 

 

Fruit Fusion Gumbo

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I asked friends to suggest names for this one. It’s a delicious fruit salad made with plums and cucumber which are botanically a fruit.

So I cut up a cucumber and 3 plums. There were two different kinds of plums, hence the different colors. I chopped up about 2 TBSP of yellow onion. Dumped them all in a plastic container and then made a dressing.

Dressing: Mix together. Buckwheat honey takes a long time to mix in but keep at it, it will dissolve. You can add more vinegar if you like. There is no olive oil or anything so it’s not a vinaigrette. It just seems to me that the juices in the fruit really do not need oil. Pour the dressing on the fruit. Put the lid on the bowl and shake it up. Refrigerate  for an hour or so and it will be delicious.

  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp of chile powder
  • 2 tsp of mustard
  • 2 tsp of buckwheat honey and
  • rice vinegar, about 1/4 cup

 

This made 6 servings. There are things that get better and better the longer they sit, so making a single serving would be silly.