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Chef On A Shoestring

Linda West Eckhardt
author, Stylish One-Dish Dinners
October 23, 1999

Chilled Cucumber Soup

4 cups, seeded and coarsely chopped cucumbers (about 4 medium)
1 clove garlic, peeled
16 ounces (2 cups) plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Refrigeration time: 30 minutes
(may be doubled with no change in preparation time or chilling time)

May be made a day ahead, covered and chilled.

Process the cucumbers and garlic together in a food processor or blender until pureed, then stir in the yogurt, salt, pepper and the sugar. Transfer the soup to a clean jar or thermos bottle, cover and refrigerate until serving time. Serve in stemmed ballooned wineglasses.

Beef and Tomato Stir-Fry with Whiskey and Black Bean Sauce

adapted from Stylish One-Dish Dinners

Like most stir-fried Cantonese food, this dish is meant to made and eaten, but believe me, the leftovers taste great the next day. Cover and refrigerate, then re-heat on top of the stove.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Marinating time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes 6 servings


    2 tablespoons kosher salt
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    1 teaspoon whiskey
    1 teaspoon cornstarch
    2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 pound lean flank steak, cut into thin slices across the grain
1 tablespoon dried salted black beans, or 2 tablespoons Chinese-style black bean garlic sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons plus one tablespoon peanut oil
1 green onion with top, minced
6 medium plum tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and quarters
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
4 cups cooked white rice

In a medium bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the flank steak slices and rub the mixture into the meat with your fingers. Cover and set aside to marinade for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl mash the black beans and the garlic together, stir in the water and set aside. If you're using black bean sauce, skip the garlic and the water.

Heat a wok over medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the green onion and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add the black bean garlic sauce and stir-fry for about 15 seconds. Add the meat and cook, stirring until it begins to lose it's pink color, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the meat to a bowl and set it aside.

Add an addition teaspoon of oil to the wok and reheat, then add the tomatoes. Stir-fry a minute or 2, just until they begin to lose their shape, sprinkling them with sugar to hasten their browning. Add the broth, cover and continue cooking until the tomatoes are thickened, about 2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan and add the oyster sauce. Stir-fry for 1 miute more, then serve with the rice.

Almond Custard

½ cup sugar
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk or 1 14-ounce can evaporated milk combined with 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup slivered almonds

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes
Refrigeration: 30 minutes to 1 week
Makes 4 servings

May be made up to one week in advance, then covered and refrigerated.

Spread the sugar evenly in a 9-inch metal cake pan and place it directly over medium heat. Caramelize the sugar by shaking the pan occasionally and lifting it off the heat with metal tongs, until the sugar is melted and light brown in color. Remove from the heat using the tongs and tipping the pan to complete the melting of the sugar. Set it aside to cool; the mixture may crack slightly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir togther the sweetened condensed milk (or the evaporated milk with sugar), the whole milk, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and the slivered almonds. Pour over the caramelized sugar. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it in a Pyrex baking dish containing 1 to 1 ½ inches of hot water. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour, or until a knife or toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack. You may refrigerate the custard at this point until ready to serve. To serve, run a knife around the edge and invert the custard onto a serving plate. It may also be served warm or cold.

Cost Breakdown


Flank Steak
Oyster Sauce
Black Beans

Evaporated Milk


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