San Francisco speech pathologist Daisy Choy grew up in Hong Kong, with consistent access to fresh fish. This dish is healthful, using ginger and green onions as star ingredients in its simple sauce. Choy’s cooking is said to be a reflection of her ancestors from Shun Tak in China’s Guangdong Province, where the food is known for being fresh and light.
Serves 2 to 4.
Note: You’ll need a steamer basket, preferably a large bamboo one. If you don’t have one, you can use a thin plate, seated on a cookie cutter inside a large skillet filled with an inch of water. Serve with cooked white rice. (Adapted from her recipe in “Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories From the Tables of Immigrant Women,” by Anna Francese Gass.
For the fish:
• 1 lb. white-fleshed fish fillets, such as grouper, red snapper, sole or flounder
• 1 tsp. ground ginger
• Pinch fine sea salt
• 1 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
• 1 tsp. cornstarch
• 3 green onions, white parts only (reserve the greens for the sauce)
• 1-in. piece of fresh ginger root (unpeeled), cut into thin strips
• 1 to 2 tbsp. peanut oil
For the sauce:
• 2 tbsp. peanut oil
• 2-in. piece peeled fresh ginger root, cut into matchsticks
• Green parts of 3 green onions, cut crosswise into thin slices
• 1 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
• 1 tsp. pure sesame oil
To prepare the fish: Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Combine the ground ginger, salt, white pepper and cornstarch. Coat both sides of the fish with the seasoning mixture.
Cut the whites of the green onions into long strips; reserve 3 or 4 pieces and use the rest to line the bottom of a large bamboo steamer set atop a pot filled with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Arrange the fish on top of the green onions, then place those reserved green onion pieces and the ginger root on top of the fish. Drizzle the fillets with 1 to 2 tablespoons peanut oil, as needed, then place a round of parchment paper on top of the fish. Cover with lid and steam/cook for about 8 minutes, or just until the fish is opaque. (Grouper may take up to 12 minutes.) Discard the parchment.
To make the sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil until shimmering in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger root and the greens of the onions; cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and 1 tablespoon water. Cook for 5 minutes, until heated through.
Discard the green onions and ginger atop the fillets (and the whites of the onions beneath them), then arrange the fish on a platter. Drizzle the sauce over the top and serve right away.
Nutrition information per each of 4 servings (using grouper):
Calories 250 Fat 16 g Sodium 320 mg
Carbohydrates 3 g Saturated fat 3 g Dietary fiber 0 g
Protein 23 g Cholesterol 40 mg
Cornmeal and Okra (Bajan Cou Cou)
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: Cou cou is the national dish of Barbados, traditionally served with salt cod or fish fried with onions and gravy. The locals know the dish as “turned cornmeal,” because you have to keep the cornmeal moving in the pot to prevent lumps. Adapted from “Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories From the Tables of Immigrant Women,” by Anna Francese Gass.
• 8 oz. fresh okra (stemmed), cut crosswise into thin rounds
• 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
• 1 c. coarsely ground or stone-ground cornmeal
• 1 tbsp. salted butter
Combine the okra, 1 teaspoon salt and 4 cups water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the vegetable is very soft, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander set over a heatproof bowl to reserve all the cooking liquid, which will have thickened from the okra.
Add the cornmeal to the now-empty saucepan along with 1 cup of that reserved cooking liquid. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly to reduce the formation of lumps (a few will form, which is OK). Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for about 30 minutes, stirring with a spatula every few minutes. The mixture will be pourable to start, then it will thicken to the consistency of lukewarm oatmeal. If it seems too thick, add more of the reserved liquid 1/4 cup at a time. Stir in the okra and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Add the butter upon serving, so that it is just melting into the mush.
Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:
Calories 100 Fat 3 g Sodium 390 mg
Carbohydrates 17 g Saturated fat 1 g Dietary fiber 3 g
Protein 3 g Cholesterol 0 mg
Baked Butter Mochi
Makes 16 (2-inch squares).
Note: You’ll find this type of softly chewy, baked mochi served in Hawaii as a sweet treat, although if you are familiar with other renditions, this one calls for less butter. Serve with softly whipped cream or ice cream. Adapted from “We Are La Cocina: Recipes in Pursuit of the American Dream,” by Caleb Zigas and Leticia Landa. Find mochiko (sweet rice flour) in larger supermarkets as well as in Asian markets.
• 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 1 1/3 c. sweet rice flour (also called mochiko, see Note)
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
• 1 c. whole milk
• 3/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. coconut milk
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Use a little butter to grease a 9- by 9-inch baking dish. Line the bottom with parchment paper so that 2 sides of the paper create a bit of overhang; this will make the slab of baked mochi easy to extract.
Sift together the sugar, sweet rice flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Add 4 tablespoons melted butter, whole milk, coconut milk, eggs and vanilla, whisking to form a smooth batter. Pour into the baking dish, smoothing the surface with an offset spatula.
Bake on the middle rack until the center is set and the surface is golden brown, 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely in the pan. Use the parchment to lift out the slab of baked mochi. Trim the edges all around (snacking bits for the cook or helper), then cut the slab into 16 equal squares (about 2 inches each).
Nutrition information per square:
Calories 110 Fat 5 g Sodium 60 mg
Carbohydrates 14 g Saturated fat 4 g Dietary fiber 0 g
Protein 2 g Cholesterol 30 mg
Dona Luz Salad
Note: This is served at Veronica Salazar’s El Huarache Loco restaurant in Marin County, Calif., and was inspired by the vegetable salads her mother, Dona Luz, made when Salazar was growing up. The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 1 week in advance. Adapted from “We Are La Cocina: Recipes in Pursuit of the American Dream,” by Caleb Zigas and Leticia Landa.
For the dressing:
• 1/4 c. fresh lime juice (from 1 or 2 limes)
• 2 tsp. dark brown sugar
• 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
• 1/3 c. mild extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad:
• 1/2 c. hulled, unsalted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
• 8 oz. small potatoes, preferably red or purple, or a combination of colors, scrubbed well
• 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
• 1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed well and cut into 2-in. squares
• 2 large handfuls (2 c.) fresh watercress
• 1/2 c. packed cilantro leaves
• 8 to 10 grape tomatoes, each cut in half
• Freshly ground black pepper
• Flesh of 1 ripe avocado, cut lengthwise into quarters, if desired
• 1/2 c. crumbled queso fresco, for garnish
For the dressing: Whisk together the lime juice and sugar until the latter has dissolved. Add the jalapeño, then gradually drizzle in the oil, whisking, to form an emulsified vinaigrette. (Or you can combine all those ingredients in a small jar, seal and shake until well blended.)
For the salad: Toast the pumpkin seeds in a small, dry skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan to avoid scorching. Cool completely.
Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cool water. Bring to a boil over high heat, add salt and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender enough to pierce easily with the tip of a knife. Drain.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into halves or quarters. Transfer to a mixing bowl, along with the lettuce, watercress, cilantro and tomatoes. Pour in the dressing and toss to coat evenly. Taste, and season with more salt and the pepper, as needed.
Divide among individual plates. Top each portion with an avocado wedge, if using, and garnish with the crumbled queso fresco. Drizzle more dressing over each portion, as needed.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 430 Fat 35 g Sodium 320 mg
Carbohydrates 28 g Saturated fat 6 g Dietary fiber 10 g
Protein 10 g Cholesterol 0 mg