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Lyn Nichols column: What's Cookin': Chinese recipes accent potluck meal

A while back, a friend told us about a series of films that were written, directed and produced in Poland. The series, "Decalogue," was initially produced in the late 1980s as a series of 10 hourlong films for Polish television and each segment o...

A while back, a friend told us about a series of films that were written, directed and produced in Poland.

The series, "Decalogue," was initially produced in the late 1980s as a series of 10 hourlong films for Polish television and each segment of "Decalogue" concentrates on one of the Ten Commandments.

The concept of 10 one-hour films based on the Ten Commandments sounded intriguing and the stories our friend shared sounded interesting. She invited several of us to her home for dinner and to watch one or two of the films.

Thus far, the actors, dialogue, black-and-white photography and subject matter have been captivating. Although some of the films are difficult to watch, it is a joy to see films that depend on well-written dialogue and the ability of actors to convey through words and expression the meaning of the film.

Our group has now turned into a weekly gathering. First, we enjoy a potluck supper and then we watch one of the films and spend time discussing it.

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If you would like to know more about "Decalogue," James Berardinelli has a detailed review at http://movie-reviews.colossus.net/movies/d/decalogue.html . "Decalogue" is available for rental or purchase on DVD and VHS.

The first night we gathered, our friend prepared a marvelous Chinese style dinner that was delicious. Here are Margie's recipes.

Chinese Cabbage

1 pound 2 ounces Chinese cabbage

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

½-inch piece fresh ginger, grated

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

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½ cup water or vegetable stock

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Separate the cabbage into leaves, wash and drain thoroughly. Using white paper towels, pat dry the leaves. Cut the leaves into 2-inch wide strips.

2. Heat the oil in a wok and add ginger. Add the cabbage strips and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until the leaves begin to wilt.

3. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until leaves soften. Remove leaves with a slotted spoon and set aside.

4. Add water or broth and the grated lemon rind to the wok and bring to a boil. Combine cornstarch and lemon juice in a small bowl and mix to a smooth paste. Simmer, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute to make a smooth sauce.

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5. Return the cooked cabbage to the wok and mix thoroughly to coat leaves with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Beef Balls in Peanut Sauce

2 cups extra lean ground beef (ground round or sirloin)

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger

1 small red chili or habanera pepper, seeded and finely minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or mint

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons red curry paste

1¼ cups coconut milk

1 cup ground peanuts

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

Fresh basil, chopped or sprigs

1. Combine beef, ginger, chili and basil into a food processor or blender. Add salt and pepper. Cover and process for 10 to 15 seconds until finely chopped. Form the beef mixture into 12 to 16 balls.

2. Heat the sesame and vegetable oils in a wok and fry the meatballs over a medium high heat until well browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer them (with a slotted spoon) to paper towels to drain.

3. To make the sauce, stir-fry the red curry paste in the hot wok for 1 minute. Stir in the coconut milk, peanuts and hoisin sauce. Heat, stirring, just until simmering. Return the balls to the wok and cook gently in the sauce for 10 to 15 minutes. If the sauce begins to get too thick, add a little extra coconut milk or water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Serve garnished with chopped fresh basil or sprigs of basil.

Dim Sum with Pork

1 pound lean ground pork

2 chopped green onions

1¾ ounce canned bamboo shoots, drained, rinsed and chopped

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon dry sherry

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoon superfine sugar

1 egg white, lightly beaten

4½ teaspoons cornstarch

24 wonton wrappers

1. Combine pork, onions, bamboo, soy sauce, sherry, oil, sugar and egg white in a large bowl and mix until ingredients are thoroughly combined. Stir in the cornstarch, mixing until ingredients are thoroughly incorporated with other ingredients.

2. Spread out the wonton wrappers on a counter. Place a spoonful of the meat and vegetable mixture in the center of each wrapper and lightly brush the edges with water. Bring the sides of the wrappers together in the center of the filling, pinching firmly together.

3. Line a steamer with a clean damp dish cloth and arrange the wontons inside. Cover and steam for 5 to 7 minutes, until the dim sum are cooked through. Serve immediately.

A few months ago, Dorothy Cummings, Arthur, gave this recipe to me. I prepared it last weekend and the burritos were simple, quick and delicious.

Dorothy says it can easily be turned into a bean and rice burrito by adding cooked rice (seasoned with southwestern spices). Thanks.

Bean Burritos on Lettuce

1 onion, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 (1-pound) cans black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup tomato sauce

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 or 2 small fresh or pickled jalapeños, seeded and chopped (number depends on amount of heat wanted)

¼ cup chopped fresh coriander if desired

12 (7- to 8-inch) flour tortillas, warmed

1½ cups grated Monterey Jack

Guacamole, sour cream and salsa

Shredded lettuce, sliced black olives, sliced green onions and diced tomatoes

1. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over low heat, add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is softened.

2. Add beans and mash about half of them with a fork or the back of a wooden spoon. Add the tomato sauce, cumin, chilies, and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it thickens, and stir in the coriander.

3. Working with 1 warmed tortilla at a time and keeping the others covered, spread the filling down the center of each tortilla and roll the tortillas, enclosing the filling but keeping the ends open. Arrange the burritos, seam side down, in one layer in a baking dish, sprinkle with the Monterey Jack, and bake them, covered with foil, in the middle of a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

4. To serve, arrange shredded lettuce on plate, center two burritos on lettuce, spoon salsa over top of burritos, spoon guacamole and sour cream on side of burritos (still on top of lettuce). Garnish with sliced black olives, green onions and diced Roma tomatoes. Makes 12 burritos (2 per serving).

Lyn Nichols hosts "What's Cookin'?" weekdays on WDAY-TV. Her column appears Sundays in The Forum. She can be reached at PO Box 2466, Fargo, ND 58108, or e-mail, lyn@i29.net

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