Monthly Archives: August 2014

Cooking Ancient Grains with Helen Chen

Quinoa made in Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen Perfect Rice Cooker. This salad also contains edamame, kernel  corn, black beans, red bell pepper, Vidalia onion and chives.

Quinoa made in Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen Perfect Rice Cooker. This salad also contains edamame, kernel corn, black beans, red bell pepper, Vidalia onion and chives.

Article Contributed by Nicole Herman, of HIC, With Helen Chen

Our friend Helen Chen, widely acknowledged authority in Asian cooking, teacher, and cookbook author, is an expert at making perfect rice of many varietals. She has even designed a beautiful porcelain rice cooking vessel with Harold Import Co. so we can all achieve her perfect rice in our own kitchens. We’ve had some lively discussions about the growing popularity of ancient grains on both restaurant menus and in home cooked meals, and Helen offered to show us jut how easy it is to use her Perfect Rice Cooker to cook the grain quinoa. (One tool, many uses. We like this.)

Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen Perfect Rice Cooker used to make Quinoa

Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen Perfect Rice Cooker used to make Quinoa

How to cook ancient grains with Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen®  Perfect Rice Cooker:

Made of high-fired white porcelain, the Perfect Rice Cooker is the ideal vessel for cooking not only all varieties of rice (jasmine, sushi, brown rice and even sweet rice) but it also cooks other grains such as barley and quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), the ancient grain from the Andean region of South America. (Recipes to make both are included with the Perfect Rice Cooker.) Helen recently returned from Peru and the area around Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire where quinoa is a major crop.

Grain Fields in Peru, Taken by Helen During her Trip

Grain Fields in Peru, Taken by Helen During her Trip

This gluten-free grain is enjoyed for its mild nutty taste and valued for its high nutritional value.  It’s an excellent source of complete protein, containing all eight amino acids, making it a perfect substitute for meat.  Cooked quinoa is very versatile and can be mixed with vegetables and seasonings, made into delicious salads or added to enrich soups.  It’s so easy and foolproof to cook quinoa in the Perfect Rice Cooker.

Quinoa made in Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen Perfect Rice Cooker

Quinoa made in Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen Perfect Rice Cooker

All you need:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
Yield:  About 3 1/2 cups cooked quinoa

1. Wash and rinse the quinoa thoroughly in cold water and drain in a fine meshed colander or strainer.  This is to remove quinoa’s natural coating of saponins which can lead to a soapy or bitter taste.  Transfer the quinoa to the bowl of the rice cooker and add water.  Be sure all the grains are submerged.

Quinoa Submerged in Water in Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen Perfect Rice Cooker

Quinoa Submerged in Water in Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen Perfect Rice Cooker

2.  Place the uncovered rice cooker in a stock pot with enough water to reach about 2 inches up the side of the rice cooker.  Lower the bamboo handle so it’s level with the rim of the rice cooker.  Cover the stock pot and bring the water to a boil.  When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a slow boil and steam for about 20 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and white spiral-like threads appear around each grain.  Turn off the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving.  Fluff with a rice paddle or fork and serve hot or cold in your favorite recipe.

Finished Cooked Quinoa

Finished Cooked Quinoa

Biography of Helen Chen

Helen Chen

Helen Chen

HIC, Harold Import Co. is proud to call Helen Chen a partner in Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen® made by HIC Harold Import Co.

Helen Chen is a leading Asian culinary expert, cookbook author, cooking instructor and developer of Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen® cookware and cooking supplies.  Helen learned to cook from her mother and has combined the comfort of home-style dishes with an updated incorporation of heart-healthy oils and readily available supermarket ingredients—making cooking great Asian food easier for everyone.

Helen Chen’s unique line of Asian cooking supplies was developed through many years of culinary experience and provides the kind of high-quality standards that you can expect from HIC, Harold Import Co. Some of the products available in the Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen®innovative line of Asian cooking utensils include steaming accessories, cutlery, cookware, tea & sake, tabletop, utensils and housewares.

*Not affiliated with Joyce Chen products

Alligator Onion Peeler Makes Prepping French Onion Soup a Tearless Job


Contributed by Laura Everage

The Egyptians buried them with the Pharaohs, The Greek used them to fortify athletes for the Olympic Games, and the world has been eating them raw, broiled, caramelized and deep-fried for more than 5,000.

The onion, is probably one of the most versatile vegetable. They come in yellow, red, and white varieties, small or large.

Generally, onions are peeled by hand and knife. It is a simple task, but a task that can cause a bit of frustration — and tears. There are many anecdotes to crying, and ways to make it easier.

How to articles and videos abound, espousing the best method to cut through those outside layers, suggesting to first place the onion in the fridge, in ice water, or even boiling water before peeling with a very sharp knife to minimize the damage to the skin, (and cut down on the release of all those tear-inducing enzymes).

For those who just struggle with the task, or who are peeling a lot of onions at a time, can enjoy the ease of using the Alligator Onion Peeler. A Swedish invention designed to peel the skin off of onions in a quick and efficient manner. (See the Alligator Onion Peeler video.)

Onion, Before Peeling, Perched on the Alligator Onion Peeler

Onion, Before Peeling, Perched on the Alligator Onion Peeler’s Spike

Alligator Onion Peeler

Onion, After First Layer of Skin is Removed From Passing Through The Alligator Onion Peeler’s First Set of Blades

Its razor sharp edges, skim away the layers of skin, leaving a perfectly skinned onion that is ready to be chopped, diced and prepared for use in everything from French onion soup, to a sweet onion potato salad or raw onions for a burger.

Alligator Onion Peeler

Peeled Onion, After Passing Through The Alligator Onion Peeler

Perfect for use with a variety of sized onions, the handy onion peeler is easy to use. Place the onion on the holder, with the root side down. Press down the central part of the tool until it comes in contact with the onion and check to see the knives are centrally located. Press down over the onion. Then, press the upper part slowly onto the oven for the final removal of the skin.

Be careful, as the blades are very sharp!

For a little inspiration, here is a Classic Onion Soup Recipe that will make you want to book your flight to France. In fact, I think I originally found it in an old Jacques Pepin cookbook.

Classic French Onion Soup 

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

Makes 6 servings

  • ½ lb. Emmenthaler cheese, grated
  • ½ lb Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ lbs. pounds yellow (brown-skin) onions, peeled and sliced thin
  • 10 cups homemade or good-quality chicken stock*
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 loaf French Baguette bread, cut into 36 to 48 slices

In a large bowl, mix together the grated Emmenthaler and Gruyere cheeses; set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, heat the butter and corn oil until hot but not smoking. Add the sliced onions and sauté, stirring frequently, for 10 to 12 minutes until they are nicely browned. When the onions are browned, add the chicken stock and garlic. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, at a gentle boil for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Using a food mill, push the soup mixture through it into a large bowl or pan. Add salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE: At this point, the soup can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 days. To use, return to simmer before finishing soup with bread and cheese.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Arrange the baguette bread slices in one layer on a cookie sheet. Place in oven and bake, without turning, for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until they are well-browned on both sides. Remove from oven.

Place 6 to 8 prepared bread slices in each onion soup bowl. Arrange the bowls on a large cookie sheet.

Turn the oven temperature up to 425 degrees F.

Sprinkle approximately 2 tablespoons of the combined grated cheeses on top of the bread slices in each bowl. Add the prepared onion soup by filling the bowls to the rim (if you need a little more liquid, add a little water to the soup in each of the bowls).

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of grated cheeses on top of the onion soup in each bowl, making sure that it not only covers the soup, but also touches the entire inside edge of each bowl, so that it will adhere to the edge as it melts during cooking.

Tip: For an onion soup not to collapse, the soup bowl has to be filled to the rim with the onion soup and the bread. The cheese layer should cover the whole surface, so it will stick to the sides and form a crust that holds its shape and doesn’t sink.

Set the cookie sheet containing the bowls of soup in the oven and cook for 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and browned. Remove from oven and serve immediately. If the top is not well browned after 30 minutes, place the bowls under the hot broiler of your oven for a few seconds before serving.

For a variation on this traditional recipe, Christina of Sweet Pea’s Kitchen shares her favorite French Onion Soup Recipe.

Laura Everage is a writer, editor, swimmer, yoga-lover, wife, and mother of four. Her days start very early in the morning, but thanks to her favorite beverage, coffee, she is able to start each day on a good note. Laura began her journey in all things food and beverage related nearly 20 years ago, as Managing Editor of The Gourmet Retailer. She continues to write about food, coffee, tea and kitchenware and is currently working on a book entitled Courage in a Cup: Women, Coffee and the Global Economy. Laura is also founder and editor of her own website, Family Eats, and is editorial director/partner of Coffee Universe.Her work has appeared in a variety of trade magazines as well as consumer publications Saveur and Consumers’ Digest. Laura’s knowledge of the industry has landed her appearances on both the Food Network and Fine Living Network. To contact Laura, email