Bites & Starters


This Asian rice based porridge is called either Jook or Congee depending where you might be in Asia or in Asian communities elseware. Congee is specifically identified as a Chines rice porridge from Guangdong province. Both are considered a breakfast porridge often encountered early in the morning simmering over red hot charcoal nestled in rustic clay hibachis. Jook’s aroma beckons as it wafts through the chilly morning air as the sun begins to rise.

What I am about to propose may not be quite as picturesque, but cooking J ook in an Instapot has its merits. The rice broth cooked under pressure delivers a silky soft porridge saturated with the flavor of ginger and the scent of kaffir lime in just 15 minutes. Of course you can cook this recipe on the stove top as well with about aone hour cooking time.

In either case, carry on with a quick saute of the mushrooms along with shallots and garlic that are then added to the porridge and you have a comforting bowl of Jook to begin your day!

Gingery Jook with Mushrooms

  •  1 quirt home made chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 inch finger of fresh ginger root, peeled and divided into thirds
  • 3 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
  • ½ cup jasmine rice, unwashed

Place the ingredients in the Instapot, or stock pot for stove top cooking. Lock the Instipot lid into place. Press Pressure cook., and set timer for 15 minutes.

For stove top cooking, set the pot over medium low heat with a lid on. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching, and cook at a low simmer for 50 minutes to an hour. Ideally the rice should be translucent and just barely holding its shape.

Meanwhile you can prepare the mushrooms.

  • 8 white mushrooms, well cleaned, stems remove and discarded
  • 8mushroom caps, thinly sliced 
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • pinch of sea salt
  • t twist of fresh ground white pepper
  • 1\4 cup white wine (Chinese cooking wine, or sake)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium low heat. Add the shallots and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and saute until they soften and begin to color. Add a little wine and continue sauteing until the e pan is nearly dry. Add the remaining wine and contuse sauteing. Season with salt and pepper and continue sauteing until the mushrooms are just starting to brown. When the skillet is nearly dry remove from the heat and set aside.

When the Instapot has finished, best to allow the pressure lower for 10 minutes and then you can carefully unlock the lid. Fish out the ginger and the kaffir lime leaves and discard.

Remove the container with the rice from the Instapot, placing it on a towel on your work surface.
For a very smooth Jook, use an immersion blender, or blender, and puree until the rice and stock are emulsified, smooth, and creamy. Otherwise you can skip the blending for a heartier texture.

transfer the sauteed mushrooms to t the Jook and stir to combine. Add the soy sauce, lemon juice and stir to combine.

Jook is traditionally served with an array of condiments and garnishes.

That said, I recommend thinly sliced spring onions, coriander (cilantro) leaves, and gomasio (recipe here) lightly sprinkled over the surface.

                                            Jook’s subtlety is its allure!

dried pinto beans


To read my original post, Dried Beans; how to cook (Basics) published April 2013 (click here)

As much as I do love the idea of a pot of aromatic dried beans bubbling away on the stove for hours on end, more efficient cooking methods are now a consideration well worth exploring. I had been using my finicky old pressure cooker as an alternative to slow cooking beans, but it was sadly lost in transit. Enter the Instapot! I admit I was reticent at first about taking a leap, but my utility bill spurred me into action. After much research I placed an order.

I have to say my Instapot is a marvel! It is a pressure cooker without all the hissing and fuss, or a lingering t thought of a steamy explosion. My very first go around with my Instapot delivered perfectly cooked dried pinto beans in just 30 minutes!
I followed my no old standby cooking methods. No pre- soak for the beans and no salt until the beans were fully cooked.
A few words about sourcing your dried beans. This is tricky business. Know your source! The age of dried beans vary widely and this does matter. Buy organically grown dried beans from a reliable vendor rather than relying on supermarket varieties that may be old and take hours rather than minutes to cook. I have been sourcing dried beans from Rancho Gordo in California for years. They offer an extensive selection of top quality dried pulses at competitive pricing, and wonderful customer service.

Cooking dried beans using an Instaapot

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans, rinsed
  • 6 or 7 cups water( hot water speeds up the process)
  • aromatics of choice and sea salt to taste after the beans are fully cooked.

Suggested aromatics: peeled garlic clove ,¼ cup diced onions, a pinch of ground clove for pinto beans, and epazote (click here for info) small chipotle chile (optional)
Add the beans to the Instapot along with the aromatics and water.
Move the lid of the Instapot into the locked position.
Choose pressure cook and then choose manual high pressure.
Set timer for 25 minutes or 30 minutes for very soft beans.

The Instapot will shut off automatically.

Cancel the keep warm button and Let the Instapot cool for at least 10 minutes.
If you want to release steam manually move the valve to the venting position and release steam carefully. Or do as d I do and just let the pressure reduce naturally.

You can then salt the beans to taste.

Before serving transfer the beans to a container using a slotted spoon and pour the cooking broth into a separate container. Add just enough reserved cooking broth to just cover the beans before serving or before refrigeration.
If you prefer a richer broth simply mash some beans into a paste and stir into your beans, then warm as needed and serve.
Be sure to save any cooking broth that is left over. The broth is ideal for adding to stir-fries or when sauteing.

Keep in mind cooked dried beans have a lovely earthy flavor all their own their own. Season accordingly.

Buen Provecho!

Dragon Fruit

Decidedly exotic, dragon fruit’s origins are rooted in ancient Mexico, Central America, and Peru. This arresting looking “dragon” like fruit grows on the hyjocereus climbing cactus that is now found throughout the tropics thanks to traders who transported this exotic cactus fruit throughout the Caribbean, the Pacific islands, South and Southeast Asia, and Australia centuries ago. Today dragon fruit hybrids are now widely available worldwide and well worth a try!

The exterior skin color ranges from deep red, to hot pink or yellow. The interior flesh can range from white to pale pink. The flavor and texture is best described as subtle with a pear or kiwi like profile. Dragon fruit is ideal when combined with other assertive tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple, passion fruit, and citrus fruits.

Dragon fruit is rich in antioxidants, vitamin c, magnesium, and encourages probiotic growth.

Preparation is relatively easy. Simply cut away the fiery dragon like leafy wings and discard. Peel away the skin until the pale interior flesh is revealed. Slice the fruit crosswise into one inch thick discs, reveling very pale flesh dotted with tiny edible black seeds. Slice the disks into one inch strips, and then into bite size cubes. Best to refrigerate the prepared dragon fruit until you are ready to serve.

As Mentioned, serving dragon fruit is best when combined with other assertive tropical fruits. Add a dollop of yogurt atop your morning fruit bowl and you have a colorful and tantalizing taste of the tropics to start your day!


When creating a memorable salad it is all about following  your instincts while produce shopping. Your choice should reflect the essence of the transitioning seasons. And don’t be afraid to select unusual pairings which can really energizer your seasonal salad repertoire.

Consider all options including local organic sources. Standards like romaine, bib and  curly red, lettuces, as well as crisp iceberg for crunch. And consider using a supporting cast of radicchio, Belgian endive, peppery arugula, or mustard greens for diversity. And don’t overlook fresh herbs and red radishes to add a little zing your salads!

C antelope or honeydew melons are ideal for fall salads. You know the routine. Cut the Mellon in half crosswise. Remove the seeds and pith and cut off the outer skin and discard. Slice the flesh into bite size pieces, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the salad.

Likewise beets in a salads add a gorgeous beet red color and as well as a grounding earthy founding flavor.

If you plan to use beets it’s best to prepare them a day in advance for salads, and several days ahead if you are planning to pickled the beets. Pickled beets (recipe here) contribute a subtle sweet sour element to salads. I highly recommend including them if you have the time to prepare them.

And as a general rule of thumb consider your dressing choices thoughtfully. Dressing are meant to compliment a salad, not disguise it! A sweet and sour raspberry vinaigrette (recipe here) is ideal for this salad. I like to sweeten it just a bit for this salad by adding a teaspoon or two tof Bonne Maman raspberry preserves. I always keep a jar on hand. Also delicious drizzled over fruits topped with yogurt or with vanilla bean ice cream!

When all of the components for the salad are prepared and well chilled, you are ready to assemble the salad.

Place all leafy salad greens and radishes in a very large bowl and toss. Spoon raspberry vinaigrette sparingly over all and toss again to evenly dress the greens. Then dd the c antelope and beets and toss with the greens. Top up with a little more dressing if needed.

For serving you can either assemble the salad in a large serving bowl or platter or use individual salad bowls.
To finish the salad crumble goat cheese over the salad, tucking it in here and there. Top with very thin slices of prosciutto and serve along with extra dressing on the table.!

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