So the past couple of weeks have been exciting for me. I was interviewed by Lari Robling of The Philadelphia Daily News for an article in her Top Cooks series. The focus was on wok cooking. This all came about because of my association with the Wok Wednesday online cooking group. That article ran last Thursday. Then on Friday, one of my Wok Wednesday dish images was published in the Chicago Tribune in an article by Bill Daley that focused on online cooking groups.
My sister asked me if I needed an agent. I thought that was funny.
No, I am not famous. I am just someone who likes to cook and bake and share with other people who like to do the same.
So today I share the two articles so those of you not in my general area can read them. Enjoy!
BY LARI ROBLING, For the Daily News
POSTED: March 21, 2014
AS THEY say, history repeats itself. For Marlise Gross, of Cherry Hill, history got a little update from the Web.
When Gross was a youngster, her parents were members of a gourmet dinner club. “When it was my parents’ turn to host, my mom would pore over Bon Appetit magazine to select perfect recipes,” she said. “It was a way for them to try new foods and learn new cooking techniques.”
Today, Gross is part of an online cooking club that brings like-minded cooks together via the Internet to learn from each other.
She found the group through the Facebook page of one of her favorite cookbook authors, Dorie Greenspan. A group member’s interest in wok cookery gave rise to Wok Wednesdays, and Gross eagerly signed up.
Wok group members meet on the Internet and are cooking their way through Grace Young’s book, Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge. Every two weeks, the site host posts new recipes on the Wok Wednesday blog. There’s a Facebook page as well. Members post their experiences with the recipe along with photos on their own blogs and on Facebook.
Grace Young herself checks in to help choose recipes and answer questions. Young said the group has about 425 members.
Gross, who has 6-year-old twins, noted that she and her husband, Harris Gross, don’t go out to eat as often as they used to. Online cooking clubs allow them to try new things without having to make reservations or get a babysitter.
“I like the group because you can see what others have done, and it makes you want to give it a try,” Marlise Gross said.
Joining the group was easy: All Gross had to do was buy the book and a wok. “The book tells you everything you need to know to buy a wok and properly season it,” she said.
Filling the pantry
Finding ingredients can sometimes be challenging because Asian ingredient names are not standardized.
For example, Gross was looking for Sichuan peppercorns, only to find out that it was labeled as Dried Prickly Ash in the Asian market where she was shopping. Fermented beans are also difficult, because most labels have no English on them.
But it’s all part of the fun.
Wok cookery goes quickly, Gross has found, so it’s best to have all your ingredients chopped and ready to add at the proper cooking time. Dinner gets on the table faster that way, too.
A basic Asian pantry includes garlic, ginger, dark soy sauce and regular soy sauce, dry sherry and chicken broth.
“With those ingredients on hand you can make pretty much anything,” said Gross. “Second-line pantry items to have on hand are hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, mushrooms, carrots, onions and beef, chicken or other proteins.”
Cooking with a group also helps the participants learn and understand the techniques.
“I never knew some vegetables such as broccoli had to be blanched before stir-frying,” said Gross. “Whenever I tried stir-frying before, I had some soggy vegetables and some overcooked. Blanching the thicker vegetables makes everything cook evenly.”
Gross also likes that Asian cuisine has a healthy appeal, and that ingredient substitutions are easy.
A classic shrimp dish from Young’s book can be used in a simple salad or taken over the edge by serving it over buttered pasta.
“I actually came up with this adaptation because I was making buttered noodles for the kids and didn’t have time to make the rice,” said Gross. “I put the shrimp over the noodles and it was good! Then I started adapting the recipe even more.”
She added, “My husband doesn’t like really spicy dishes, so I used poblano pepper in place of jalapeño. Changes like that are easy.”
Sichuan peppercorns aren’t really pepper, so they are handled differently. They are pan roasted until fragrant and slightly smoking. Once cooled, they are ground and stored in a jar.
CLASSIC DRY-FRIED PEPPER AND SALT SHRIMP WITH PENNE
For the shrimp:
2 tablespoons plus three-fourths teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
4 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 medium cloves)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced poblano pepper, without seeds
For the pasta:
1 pound penne pasta
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
In a large bowl, combine 1 tablespoon salt with 1 quart cold water.
Add the shrimp and swish the shrimp in the water with your hand for about 30 seconds. Drain. Add 1 more tablespoon salt to the bowl with 1 quart cold water and repeat. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and set on several sheets of paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the shrimp dry.
In a small bowl combine the remaining salt, sugar and ground peppercorns.
Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 2 tablespoons of the oil, add the garlic, ginger and chili. Using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant.
Push the garlic mixture to the sides of the wok, carefully add the shrimp and spread them evenly in one layer in the wok. Don’t crowd the shrimp. Cook undisturbed for 1 minute, letting the shrimp begin to sear. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and stir-fry 1 minute or until shrimp just begin to turn orange. Sprinkle on the salt mixture, and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until the shrimp are just cooked. Remove from heat.
For the pasta: Fill a large pot with water and add salt. Boil. Add penne to the pot and cook per the package directions (about 10 to 12 minutes). Drain.
Add the butter and Parmesan and mix until all the pasta is covered. Pour the shrimp mixture over the pasta and toss. Serve. Serves 4.
Source: Marlise Gross, adapted from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, by Grace Young
Find Wok Wednesdays at wokwednesdays.wordpress.com and on Facebook. Marlise Gross’ blog is thedoubletroublekitchen.com.
Lari Robling is the author of the cookbook Endangered Recipes: Too Good to Be Forgotten. Nothing makes her happier than championing the home cook. Follow her on Twitter @larirobling.
To see the original article as published, click here.
Kung Pao Chicken
( Marlise Gross / March 21, 2014 )
Marlise Gross used four chili peppers instead of the eight called for because she doesn’t like foods too spicy. “I think the dish would have been enhanced by using lightly salted peanuts, instead of unsalted.”
- Marlise Gross of Cherry Hill, N.J.
Bill Daley, Tribune Newspapers
3:17 p.m. CDT, March 21, 2014
Laurie Woodward is flying from her home in Pittsburgh in April across the country to Mukilteo, Wash., to serve as matron of honor to a bride she’s never met. And it’s all because of baking.
“She’s one of my best friends,” says Woodward of the bride, Peabody Rudd.
Although the two have never met in person, they’ve baked together online via a blog called Tuesdays With Dorie (tuesdayswithdorie.wordpress.com). Woodward, a stay-at-home mom of three, started the blog in 2008 as she tackled cookbook author Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours” — recipe by recipe. She asked family and friends to join her in baking and blogging, the idea caught on and people just joined in.
“I’m still sort of shocked. I started it on a whim,” says Woodward.
Cyber-friendships like Woodward and Rudd’s are increasingly common as cooks head to the kitchen with laptops, iPhones and other devices. Cooks are finding themselves tied together as much by mouse clicks as apron strings. Fostered by various social media platforms, Web-based cooking communities have formed, offering friendship along with recipes, giving exposure to various members’ blogs and offering the possibility of cyber-exchanges with famed cookbook authors.
These author-focused cooking groups are like the neighborhood cooking clubs of old but on a much broader scale, says David Leite, New York City-based publisher of the online food magazine Leite’s Culinaria. Social media, he says, allows readers, cooks and authors to interact freely with one another to a degree never imagined before.
“It’s a globalization of what has always gone on and it’s becoming a huge phenomenon,” Leite says. “What the Internet and social media have done is retire the gatekeeper. It’s been democratized.”
That democratization is key. For while these groups offer terrific attention — authors say they love it — this type of community is developed at the grass-roots level. Take the two groups devoted to Greenspan, for example.
“They are not driven by Dorie or her publisher,” says Betsy Pollack, a Lexington, Mass.-based blogger and a coordinator for French Fridays With Dorie (frenchfridayswithdorie.com),a second group formed by Woodward to cook through Greenspan’s “Around My French Table.”
“They came from a community of people who were interested in cooking the recipes she had,” Pollack says. “It is up to an individual to say, ‘I really like this book and I want to share it with other people. Let’s start a group.’”
Matthew Lardie, a blogger from Durham, N.C., did just that. A member of Tuesdays With Dorie, he started Wok Wednesdays (wokwednesdays.wordpress.com) because there wasn’t an outlet for folks interested in stir-frying like he was. Now, the rapidly growing group — 432 members at last count — is working through Grace Young’s “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge.”
What does a cook get out of participating in such a group?
Well, for some members of the Baked Sunday Mornings community (bakedsundaymornings.blogspot.com), it will be their photographs in the next cookbook from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, co-owners of Baked bakery and cafe in Brooklyn, N.Y. The group has been working its way through three earlier books from the bakers. So trusted have members become that Lewis and Poliafito asked a number of them to test recipes for the next book. Including their photos is meant to underscore their contributions, says Lewis, who describes many of the group’s members as friends.
“Cook with people for four or five years and they become your coffee klatch,” says Trevor Kensey, an Irvine, Calif.-based blogger and a member of French Fridays. “Food bloggers share a lot of themselves. Over time, you get this long-form narrative of what’s going on in people’s family.”
Kensey says participation in French Fridays means pushing culinary horizons by cooking dishes he normally wouldn’t, honing skills and getting immediate feedback from other members checking his work.
“I’ve learned there is no dish I can’t make,” he says. “I’m not intimidated by anything. If I want to make it, I can. The group has given me a lot more confidence. I’ve learned to trust my gut in making substitutions and recipe tweaks.”
For Rob Baas, a blogger from Alvaton, Ky., the appeal of Wok Wednesdays is watching how members tackle the recipes and trying recipes he would otherwise not do. (“Heck, I ate eggplant for the first time in 25 years because of Wok Wednesdays!” he wrote in an email.) He also likes interacting with Young, who is a frequent presence on the site.
Young says she feels compelled to participate in the group because wok cooking can be intimidating to newcomers, and she wants to help. But she notes approvingly that often Wok Wednesday members jump in and help one another before she can post a comment.
Rubbing cyber-elbows with cooking notables is clearly a draw for members in community cooking groups.
“It’s thrilling when Dorie leaves evidence in a comment that she was there,” says Kensey. “People stare at it and are very thrilled by it. I know I am. … Where else does this really happen where the elite, the star, mixes so well with her fans?”
Greenspan says she enjoys the interaction with group members and does take note of their reaction to recipes, and has responded accordingly.
“I’ve offered more alternatives,” she says. “I’ve made some gluten-free variations when I could. I made raisins more optional than I used to. Who knew there were so many raisin haters out there?”
Kung pao chicken
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 7 minutes
Makes: 2 to 3 servings as a main dish with rice, 4 servings as part of a multicourse meal
This spicy chicken dish from Grace Young’s “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge” has been the most popular recipe so far at Wok Wednesdays, a social media-based cooking community founded by Matt Lardie in 2012. It “generated the most comments and discussions by far,” he says. Look for Shao Hsing rice wine, Chinkiang vinegar and Sichuan peppercorns in Asian markets, or use the substitutes suggested.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chicken broth
1 tablespoon Chinkiang or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
4 to 8 dried red chili peppers, snipped on one end
1/2 teaspoon roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns, see note
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
3/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1/2 cup minced green onions
1. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon cold water. Stir to combine. In a small bowl combine the broth, vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine.
2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon peanut oil; add the chilies and ground Sichuan peppercorns. With a metal spatula, Stir-fry 15 seconds or until the chilies just begin to smoke. Push the chili mixture to the sides of the wok. Carefully add the chicken; spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed, letting the chicken begin to sear, 1 minute. Then stir-fry until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through, 1 minute.
3. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil into the wok. Add the bell peppers and stir-fry 1 minute or until the peppers begin to soften. Swirl the broth mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is just cooked through. Add the peanuts and green onions, sprinkle on the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt; stir-fry until the green onions are bright green, about 30 seconds.
Note: Put Sichuan peppercorns in a dry, cold wok or skillet and remove any tiny stems. Stir over medium-low heat until the peppercorns are very fragrant and slightly smoking, 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn. Once they’re cooled, grind them in a mortar; store any extra in a jar.
Nutrition information per serving (for 3 servings): 519 calories, 33 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 141 mg cholesterol, 23 g carbohydrates, 33 g protein, 983 mg sodium, 6 g fiber
Cook along with French Fridays
Curious about cooking along with a cooking community? Try this Indian-accented soup from Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table.” The cooks of French Fridays with Dorie are slated to discuss their results with this recipe beginning March 28.
“There’s nothing authentically French or Indian about this soup, but it’s one I started making in Paris after I’d brought a few little sachets of mixed spices in the city’s small Indian neighborhood,” wrote Greenspan in her recipe introduction. “Without the fresh ginger, turmeric, and garam masala (a mix of cardamom, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg and other somewhat sweet spices), it would be a delicious but fairly conventional root vegetable and barley soup. With the spices, it’s a surprising, satisfying and very warming soup, one that’s welcome on a cold winter’s night.”
To read comments, see photos posted by members or comment yourself, visit frenchfridayswithdorie.com after the online event begins.
Vegetable barley soup with the taste of Little India
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes to 1 hour, 10 minutes
Makes: 6 servings
From “Around My French Table” by Dorie Greenspan.
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 to 3 onions, chopped
3 big carrots, trimmed, peeled, chopped
1 parsnip, peeled, trimmed (cut out the core if it’s woody), chopped
3 cloves garlic, split, germ removed, chopped
1 piece (1 inch long) fresh ginger, peeled, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, or as needed
Freshly ground pepper
Turmeric to taste (start with about 1/2 teaspoon)
Garam masala to taste (start with about 3/4 teaspoon)
Red pepper flakes, optional
6 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
1. Warm the oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, parsnip, garlic and ginger; turn them around in the pot until they glisten with oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over low heat, about 5 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, garam masala and red pepper flakes, if you’re using them. Cover and continue to cook very gently, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft but not colored, about 15 minutes.
2. Add the broth or water; heat to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the barley. Reduce the heat. (The broth should just simmer). Cover and cook until the barley is tender and considerably puffed. (The kernels will blossom and open a little.) Depending on the type of barley you have, this can take from 15 to 40 minutes. Taste and add more salt, pepper and/or spices as needed. Ladle the soup into bowls; finish with a drizzle of olive oil, if you like.
Nutrition information per serving: 142 calories, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, g carbohydrates, g protein, mg sodium, g fiber
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC
To read the original article as published, click here.