Friday, February 2, 2018

Dog alert – it is our year!

Phyllis Louise Harris
February 2018

The lunar calendar marks February 16, 2018 – February 4, 2019 as the year of the dog. People born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982. 1994, 2006, and this year are under the sign of the dog and I am one of them! We are said to be kind, loyal and sincere.

Legend says that when Buddha prepared to leave earth, he called all the animals to him to bid farewell. Only twelve showed up. The first to appear was the rat followed by the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. As a reward he named the twelve years in the Chinese zodiac after them in order of their arrival. Unfortunately, 2018 is predicted to be an unlucky year for the dog, so do be careful!

You might start with lucky food traditionally served at Chinese New Year celebrations. A whole fish, complete with head and tail, represents abundance for the coming year. Long noodles are said to ensure long life. Round, golden fruit such as kumquats predict wealth and good fortune. Peanuts ensure fertility and round dumplings good luck.

There is nothing more festive than the Chinese New Year celebration with its lion dances, colorful costumes and fireworks designed to please the Gods and ward off evil. A few celebrations in Minnesota include the Minnesota International Chinese School 2018 Chinese New Year Celebration and Carnival, February 11 at Valley View Middle School in Edina. The Chinese New Year Celebration at the Mall of America, February 17 and 18. The annual Lion Dance by the Fong family at David Fongs Chinese Restaurant at 9329 Lyndale Avenue South in Bloomington, February 22, 23, and 24. Reservations are necessary for this popular event. Call 952-888-9294.

Or make your own celebration with lucky foods from your favorite take-out restaurant. Better yet, make your own from recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875.

And, for all of us dogs, please give us an extra helping to get us through the year ahead!

Jixiang Ruy! May good fortune be according to your wish.

__________________________________________


Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, in bookstores and on amazon.cm.

Buy online: Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at:


__________________________________________


Monday, January 8, 2018

Thank you and farewell Florence Lin

Phyllis Louise Harris
January 2018
Last March I wrote a birthday thank you to Florence Lin for her incredible talent and influence on my life. She passed away on December 27, 2017, and I am printing this again as a tribute to her life.

She was born in China during the era of women’s bound feet and male dominated households, but went on to become one of the greatest influences in the understanding and appreciation of Chinese cooking in the United States. Florence Lin also changed my life.

It was 1974 and I had just moved to New York City where I now had the time and resources to explore whatever peaked my interest. I had long been a fan of Chinese food and looked for classes in cooking this classic cuisine. I found one in the basement of a pasta store in my neighborhood and was soon learning the wonders of stir-frying. The teacher, Millie Chan, was a delight and extremely patient with some of the “students” who used the time to chat with each other in their native language. Turns out they were gathering recipes to give to their cooks at home to replicate. They had no intention of cooking it themselves. But, Millie could see I was serious about learning and after the sessions ended suggested I continue classes at the China Institute in America where her teacher and mentor was teaching.

The first day in class about 20 of us sat on folding chairs at long tables in the Institute’s teaching kitchen and heard Florence Lin say, “When you finish this class, you will be able to make Chinese dishes out of whatever is in your refrigerator.” I thought about the odd variety of things in my refrigerator and very much doubted her promise. Now, 42 years later I know she was right!

For the next 14 years I made Chinese dumplings, noodles, sir-fries, deep-fries, sauces, salads and whatever else she was teaching. Today, I still have my recipes and class notes – about 300 of them. We cooked everything! Even things I did not know were edible. Pigs’ ears, chicken feet, broccoli stems, pig snouts - all were made very tasty and while I may not have liked some of them, they were certainly edible. When my daughter and I travelled through China with Florence, we had the privilege of taking classes with master chefs and to taste hundreds of Chinese dishes that are not served in the U.S. My love of Chinese food and Florence’s training led me to create a company dedicated to Asian food, to becoming food editor of Asian Pages for 20 years writing more than 500 columns, to writing a history of Asian food in Minnesota published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, and to create an EMMY® award-winning television show that tpt produced and still broadcasts today. None of this would have happened without Florence Lin.

Florence is one of those exceptional teachers who really likes what she does and understands the subject completely. Initially she learned to cook by following her family’s chef around the kitchen and then learned more from her aunt and grandmothers. She learned even more when she went with her father on his silk merchant business trips throughout China, something unheard of in the 1930s pre-war China when daughters were never involved in the family business. At each stop she could sample local cuisine and expand her knowledge of Chinese food. Combined with her own creative skills Florence Lin’s Chinese cooking is like none other.

When Florence came to America in 1949 to marry her fiancé K.Y. she did not speak English. While she had a college education, without the language skills she could not get work. While K.Y. pursued his career in finance and she raised their two children, Florence concentrated on her mastery of English and went on to become one of the most influential cookbook authors and food writers in the U.S. Julia Child and James Beard were among her friends and students. Paul Newman was a fan of her cooking. National food companies consulted her on Chinese culinary issues. She taught cooking classes in New York, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, New Jersey, Georgia, and throughout the country. She taught at the China Institute for more than 25 years and in 2014 was given a lifetime achievement award by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

But that is only part of Florence’s story. As a teenager she joined Chiang Kai-shek’s Youth Army to fight the Japanese invasion of China where she taught new recruits how to handle their rifles. Later in life she would also fight other wars against cancer and her husband’s Parkinson’s disease. The first book she wrote was turned down by 18 publishers, but she went on to publish five cookbooks and was primary consultant and recipe creator for another. She also wrote dozens of articles for the New York Times and a variety of national publications. Current cookbook authors and celebrity chefs refer to her work as an inspiration for their own efforts.

This month Florence will be 96 years old. She is retired and lives in New York near one of her daughters whose family is delighted to have grandmother nearby to make their favorite dishes, or at least supervise their renditions. I am happy to say she is still my friend and mentor who continues to work with me even long distance on culinary issues. I wish everyone would have had the privilege of attending her classes but everyone can still learn from this great teacher through her cookbooks. While they are out of print, used copies are available on various websites. Pick up one or all and read them from cover to cover. You will begin to understand the flavors and complexity of Chinese cooking and the basics of making it properly.

Start with her first book Florence Lin’s Regional Cooking of China, published in 1975 when it was named Best Cookbook of 1975 and was a Book-of-the-Month selection. Florence Lin’s Chinese Vegetarian Cookbook followed in 1976 and makes every vegetable a treat. That was followed in 1978 with Florence Lin’s Chinese One-Dish Meals, and in 1979 with Florence Lin’s Cooking with Fire Pots. In 1984, William Morrow Publishers convinced her to write Florence Lin’s Complete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings and Breads that was reprinted in several sold out editions including paperback.

By the way, while she was writing each book she tested the recipes in many of her classes and I got to be part of that process as well. Also pick up a copy of Time Life Foods of the World: The Cooking of China (1968) where you will find her first publishing effort and the first book in the U.S. to truly explore in depth the cooking of China. She tells the story of providing the editors with a recipe for Egg Foo Yung at their request. They came back to her with the complaint there was no “gravy” on the Egg Foo Yung. When she explained she created the dish as it is served in China they insisted on adding gravy for the American audience and she did.

Thank you Florence Lin for so many delicious memories!

__________________________________________


Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, in bookstores and on amazon.cm.

Buy online: Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at:



__________________________________________

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Homemade Chinese dumplings, wontons and buns are easier than you thought!

Phyllis Louise Harris
September/October 2017

I picked up some steamed dumplings at a wok station in a local supermarket recently. It reminded me how much fun they are to make them at home and how much better they taste than take-out! Now you, too, can make homemade dumplings, wontons and buns with the expert guidance of some local cooking teachers.

Chinese native Ada Dong is offering three different classes in dumplings through the Minneapolis Community Education Adult Enrichment program.  On October 17, 6:15 – 8:45 pm at the Southwest center, she will help you create ZongZi, a sticky rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves. Cost is $25 plus a $15 food fee.
On November 20, 6 – 9 pm, at the Lake Harriet center she will help you master pan-fried dumplings and cost is $29 plus a $10 food fee.

And, on November 29 from 5:45 – 8:45 pm at the Southwest center she will help you tackle pot stickers, momo water dumplings and tapioca-pearl bombs. Cost is $29 plus $10 supply fee. For more information or to register go to www.mplscommunityed.com , adult enrichment programs, or call 612-668-3939.

For Chinese wontons and potstickers there is a class at St. Louis Park Community Education, Lennox Community Center kitchen, October 16, 6:30 – 9:00 pm at a cost of $25 plus $14 food fee. Or try steamed buns on December 4, 6:15 – 9:15 pm for $25 plus $14 food fee. For more information go to www.slpcommunityed.com or call 952-928-6442.

One of the nicest things about homemade dumplings and buns is they can be formed then frozen to cook later in just a few minutes. You can also learn how to make them with the step-by-step directions in the classic cookbook, Florence Lins Complete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings and Breads, published in 1986 by William Morrow. Now out of print, used copies are still available from Amazon and in local used bookstores. In it Florence takes you step by step through the process and gives you a wide variety of fillings and sauces. She also explains the methods for making the dough by hand or with a food processor.

The book also includes homemade noodles, spring rolls, steamed buns, pancakes, breads, wontons, and my favorite, mushroom puffs. These light, flaky bites of heaven can also be frozen to heat and serve in just a few minutes.


So why settle for take-out when homemade is better and not that hard to do. Happy cooking!

__________________________________________


Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, in bookstores and on amazon.cm.

Buy online: Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at:


__________________________________________

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sushi, noodles, local wine, curry and more at the Arboretum

Phyllis Louise Harris
July/August 2017

Beautiful trees, colorful flowers, melodious song birds – all things that come to mind about the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen. But now you can add sushi, noodles, Minnesota wine, and curry as well.

The Arboretum offers a multitude of classes and events throughout the year but right now there are a few you should not miss. Start with PinKU Japanese Food Dinner with Sushi Chef John Sigimura on August 17 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.  A graduate of the Sushi Institute of America Sigimura offers a tempting array of dishes. What a great way to learn more about this classic cuisine. Cost is $65 for Arboretum members: $77 for non-members including Arboretum admission.

Indian food from a food truck? Janene Holig, executive chef of Hot Indian Foods does just that and was named one of the top eight Indian food trucks in America in 2016. She will be at the Arboretum September 21 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm with her truck and a special dinner of her Indian cuisine. Cost is $45 for members and $57 for non-members. She will even give you a few recipes to try at home.

Dinner with winemaker and Chef Ben Banks of Sovereign Estate Winery will offer four of his Waconia based wines along with appropriate dishes to savor. October 5, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at $65 for members or $77 non-members.

Oodles of Noodles on Saturday, October 28 from 9 to 11 am shows you how to turn a variety of vegetables into noodles. Hands on learning, tasting and take-home samples for your family are all created by Kris James, certified culinary herbalist, and chef/culinary educator. Cost is $39 for members and $52 for non-members.

Making Tea with Skill – An Exploration of Chinese Gongfu, Saturday, January 13, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. The Chinese tea ceremony designed for beauty, relaxation, comfort and enjoyment is an art in itself. Kris James shows you how Saturday, January 13, 9 – 11 a.m. Cost is $39 members and $52 non-members.


There are also classes and events featuring bees, soup, tarts, apples and so much more at the Arboretum. For a complete list and registration information go to http://arboretum.umn.edu/cookingclasses.aspx . Space is limited so do register early. If you are not already a member, consider joining to support this amazing endeavor with its 1200 acres of beautiful landscape where you can hike, stroll, ride, picnic, or just enjoy its natural beauty. The Arboretum is just one more reason to enjoy living in Minnesota.



__________________________________________


Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, in bookstores and on amazon.cm.

Buy online: Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at:


__________________________________________

Monday, June 19, 2017

1031 Ways to Enjoy Minnesota Summers

Phyllis Louise Harris
June 2017

My first job other than babysitting was picking raspberries for 5 cents a pint. At age 13 this was a big deal because my weekly allowance was 50 cents.  On a good day I could earn $1.20 for four hours of picking and while the season lasted only a few weeks it was still more money than I had ever earned. The best part of the job was at the end of the season the grower allowed pickers to keep the berries they picked and I could sell them for 30 cents a pint! My grandmother canned a lot of raspberries that year and I had never felt so rich.

While the prices have changed, the opportunities for picking your own raspberries abound in Minnesota. Not only raspberries but also strawberries, blueberries, peas, beans, tomatoes, apples, and a variety of home grown produce and locally made products. But those are only a few of the opportunities available from local growers and producers. You can even stomp grapes in the fall at some wineries if that is your wish or how about popping corn right off the cob.

In fact, Minnesota has more than 1031 places to enjoy homegrown food and locally made products all carefully catalogued in this year’s Minnesota Grown Directory. It is free to you from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture at www.minnesotagrown.com .

If picking your own food sounds like too much work visit any of the state’s 180 farmer’s markets where everything is already freshly picked just waiting for you to take home. They are open all over the state featuring strawberries, peas, beans, greens, mushrooms, flowers and so much more. Next month it will be blueberries, raspberries, corn and tomatoes. Then apples, pumpkins and fall root vegetables.

One of my favorite local markets is the Mill City Market next to the Guthrie Theater open Saturday mornings with a wide variety of produce, products, entertainment and educational programs. Visit the museum next door and take a tour of the flourmill. It is a real eye-opener. Another Saturday morning favorite is the Northeast Market on University Avenue and 7th NE. It is small, easy to walk through and has a wide variety of choices. The Minneapolis and St. Paul Farmers Markets are always packed with shoppers so I like going to the smaller ones for easier access. Or check out the markets across the state. You might also plan a trip or two to the 41 wineries in the state or the 600 vineyards growing special Minnesota grapes for award-winning wine. Want to live on a farm for a few days? You can with farmstays.

You never know what you will find once you start looking around and that is really the best part. One Saturday at the St. Cloud Farmers Market I found a beautiful bunch of sweet peas, a flower I had not seen since I was a child. The unmistakable perfume was a wonderful reminder of the past and of course I had to buy them and take them home.

So from Ada to Zumbrota travel the state and enjoy the wonderful, bountiful beauty of  Minnesota homegrown everything! Or just stay home and check out local markets. Happy summer!!

__________________________________________


Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, in bookstores and on amazon.cm.

Buy online: Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at:


__________________________________________