2014 was a summer of blockbuster sunshine, breathtaking thunderstorms, and my first forays into Chinese cooking. This was much scarier than the storms because I’m in such unfamiliar territory and yet catering for an audience, my nearest and dearest, of China hands who were frankly dubious that I could turn out an authentic-tasting dish.

I offered to be a guinea pig chef because we want to make Chinese food and Chinese home cooking accessible to everyone. I’m no novice in the kitchen. I had my first job as a cook when I was only 14, cooked and catered through high school and college, and am comfortable with a wide range of cuisines –  French, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and pretty much anything except Chinese. I’ll be sharing my amateur adventures while introducing you to the experts who will be blogging with us as well as contributing to the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Chinese Cuisines. I expect to learn new techniques and new approaches to menu planning, and will be looking into the health benefits of Chinese food.

In addition to the encyclopedia, Berkshire is developing a database of recipes, ingredients, and book reviews. If you would like to share your recipes, or pose questions, please write to us at mar@berkshirepublishing.com.

My initial focus has been cold dishes, even though Chinese people eat hot food the year round. I liked the idea of dishes that could be prepared in advance and served along with Western summer meals. Cold (or cool or room temperature) dishes provide a thrilling way to explore Chinese flavors, textures, and techniques. Two of my favorite Chinese salads are “Cucumber with Garlic” (also known as “Smashed Cucumber”) and “Smoked Tofu with Celery and Peanuts.” They’re great additions to any summer menu and easy to make from ingredients available in most supermarkets.