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Susanna Foo Fresh Inspiration

by: Susanna Foo

New York NY: Houghton Mifflin 2005, $35.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-618-39330-7

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2006 Issue: 13(3) page(s): 23

Subtitled: New Approach to Chinese Cuisine, this book written with Foo's dear friend Hermie Kranzdorf, suggests it a more revolutionary approach than her first cookbook, Susanna Foo Chinese Cuisine. It was reviewed favorably in Flavor and Fortune’s Volume 2 (4) in 1995 and is on this magazine's web site www.flavorandfortune.com

Many pages are illustrated with lovely photographs by Tina Rupp, some before and others after the recipe. Before the recipes, two pages discuss the author's three favorite items of equipment, the Benriner, flat bottom wok, and microplane grater. With these and a cleaver, Mrs. Foo does not complicate things using many more. Lots of her words assure no mistakes.

The recipes are divided into eleven food-related chapters, followed by mail-order sources, and an index. They are interspersed with particularly useful general information including the Chinese way of brining, where pork belly comes from, about Brussel sprouts, etc. Too bad they are not listed in their own index. They are, however, found in the general index. The rear cover offers kudos from seven top-flight western cooks.

The dishes are said to be radically simple, fresh and easy, and with changing ideas about Chinese cooking. Easy they are, delicious, too. Simple, perhaps less so. A number need fifteen ingredients; and about half of them require pre-preparation before the half-dozen cookery paragraphs. Her excellent Green Beans recipe is given below; her original in but four paragraphs.

This Chinese resource classic is not an ocean away even if the recipes are titled Cauliflower Risotto and made with milk, butter, and Parmesan cheese or Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce made with tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, and heavy cream, or Baked Napa Cabbage Gratin using butter, heavy cream, two cheeses and Japanese bread crumbs known as Panko.
Long Beans, Fennel, and Basil, Chinese Style
1 pound Chinese long beans
1 medium fennel bulb
1 cup soybean or light olive oil
1 small sweet red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut in julienne strips
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons dried shrimp, soaked for fifteen minutes, drained, and minced to a paste (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preparation: 1. Remove ends from the beans, and cut then into two-inch lengths.
2. Cut fennel in half, cut out the core, and remove any tough outer leaves, Halve again. The cut into one-quarter-inch thick lengthwise slices.
3. Heat oil until it reaches 375 degrees F. Add beans, red pepper, and shallots and stir-fry for about one minute until beans and pepper are slightly softened. Then drain in a colander set over a large bowl.
4. Return one tablespoon of the oil to the pan, add the dried shrimp if using them, and the minced garlic and saute for thirty seconds.
5. Add fennel and the stock, reduce heat to low, and stir-fry for about five minutes or until fennel is tender.
6. Add the bean mixture, lime juice, and soy sauce and cook until vegetables are firm-tender, about two minutes.
7. Turn off heat, mix in the basil, and season to taste with the salt and pepper; and serve.

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