Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

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Dreamy. (LAKSA TOFU)

January 4, 2016

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Soup is on and I’m psyched. Lately I just want to take care of everyone and there is no better way than a big soup. It’s also handy to fight the chills, sharpen immunity and transform refrigerator odds and ends into a delicious, shareable meal.

As it’s finally winter in my hometown, I can’t help but dream of a Gilligan’s Island, where it rains coconuts and fish sauce douses everything. I am not sure where that crew landed, but Southeast Asia, and its exceptional array of cuisine, is where my mind is going. All the fresh ingredients that grace the plate and techniques that conjure flavor and texture, make complex dishes of rather straightforward ingredients. Deeper studies reveal an endless tome of recipes, unique to each person cooking. Paradise in more ways than one.

In hopes of bridging my desire for exotic beach holidays and wintry wonderland realities, I spent some time cooking laksa, a coconut-based soup that is served over noodles, the result of a fusion between Chinese and Malay cooking. Laksa is also hearty with protein, vegetables and spices, it will ground an appetite with satisfaction and warmth, while the mind gets in a boat and sails.

In Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Southern Thailand, laksa is wildly popular and comes in many varieties, sporting tofu, fish, poultry or beef  intermingled with an endless parade of vegetables. I fill my quota with a couple of contrasty colors like orange, green, red, white, thanks to things like winter squash, green beans, tomatoes, parsnip, eggplant, or whatever seems logical. A simple homemade spice paste, with a healthy dose of curry and turmeric, sets the backdrop a golden yellow. A handful of bean sprouts adds crunch on top. Like many dishes from this part of the world, garnishes are key. Bright, aromatic lime, chilis, fresh herbs and extra fish sauce complete the dish, and the daydream.

LAKSA TOFU

Spice paste:
2 stalks lemongrass
1/2 cup roughly chopped shallots
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup roasted macadamia nuts or almonds
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Soup:
1/4 cup oil
2 cups cubed eggplant (1 inch cubes)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 can coconut milk (14 ounces)
3 cups water
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 cups cubed butternut squash (1 inch cubes)
1 cup sliced napa cabbage
1/2 pound tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 scallions, chopped
1 cup mung bean sprouts, plus extra for garnish
cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
red chili slices for garnish (optional
kosher salt
1 lime, cut into wedges

your favorite noodles, cooked

Remove the tough outside layer or two from the lemongrass stalk.Slice off the hard end (root end) and discard, along with the outer layers.

Make thin slices, starting at the root end, up the pale part of the stalk just until it starts to become deeper green. Reserve the green stalks.

Place chopped lemongrass in a small food processor (or blender) along with shallots, garlic, nuts, oil and salt. Puree the ingredients to form a paste-like consistency. Set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a medium sized pot. Fry the cubes of eggplant with a generous pinch of salt until golden brown.

Remove eggplant with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

In the same pot, fry the spice-paste until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the curry and turmeric, and sauté for another minute or two before adding the coconut milk and water. Scrape the bottom of the pot to release any cooked bits that are clinging.

Toss in the kaffir leaves, sugar, fish sauce, a teaspoon of salt and squash. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the leftover lemongrass stalks, using them to stir the soup occasionally. Simmer until squash is almost cooked, about 8 minutes.

Add in the cabbage, tofu, scallions and sprouts along with the cooked eggplant. Simmer all together for another 5 minutes and taste for seasoning.

Add more salt, sugar or fish sauce as needed. Remove kaffir lime leaves before serving. Place a serving of noodles in each bowl. Ladle soup on top and garnish with fresh mung bean sprouts, cilantro leaves, lime wedges and/or chili slices.

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Not missing a pig. (VEGETARIAN SOPA VERDE)

February 17, 2015

HLE_sopaverde1
As the chill seeps through the crack under the door, our heaviest defense is in our soup pot. I am a soup person. In addition to being the perfect immune-boost, to me it is the best comfort food. And though it is quaint to work all day on a home cooked meal, I would secretly trade slow cooking for fast any day of the week. This shouldn’t mean that your food isn’t awesome. There are plenty of express meals that will keep the whole family happy, satisfied and fit, and come flying out of the kitchen in under 20 minutes.

Soups are especially good for this. It’s the ultimate one-pot meal. My auto correct wanted to write ‘unlimited’ instead of ‘ultimate’ and it is that too. A soup can be as decadent or as lean as the cook wishes. Many classic soups have a base of salt pork, hock, belly or some other flavorful cut that appreciates in taste with a long cooking time. I definitely support this style but when you want to get dinner out a bit faster or cook a little leaner, the pig can easily be
omitted from any recipe. The trick is to make up for that missing savoriness by building flavors as you go. Starting with garlic, cumin, red pepper flakes or onions with a little extra caramelization and finishing with a touch vinegar, olive oil or sea salt can really bring a soup to the next level. The recipe below features smoked paprika, or pimenton de la vera. It has a deep smokey spice akin to chorizo, without the fat and calories.

In this recipe, a take on a Sopa Verde, the ingredients are really flexible. The greens can be swapped out for any hearty leaf like chard, turnip greens, escarole, mustard greens or spinach (which will wilt straight into the finished soup –no cooking required*). You can also use any kind of broth or even water. Another way to get a little extra flavor if using plain water is a splash of white wine or beer.

 

VEGETARIAN SOPA VERDE

6 main course-sized servings

3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups stock/water
1 pound white or sweet potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups kale and collards, washed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 cans (15oz, each) white beans (great northern or cannellini)
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
a few dashes hot sauce (optional)
Kosher salt
Black pepper to taste

cilantro leaves for garnish

• Warm the oil and butter (if using) in a large saucepan. Add the
onions with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and sauté on low heat until soft and
translucent, about 5 minutes.
• Stir in smoked paprika and garlic.
• Pour in the 8 cups of liquid, raise heat.
• When it begins to simmer, add sweet potatoes.
• Bring the soup up to a boil and add the greens (except if using
spinach*). Boil for 5 minutes. Reduce to simmer, add beans.
• When the sweet potatoes are cooked through and greens are tender, remove from heat. (If using spinach add at this stage, stir until wilted*)
• Add another tablespoon of salt, mix well. Add 1 tablespoon of red
wine vinegar.
•Taste!
• Adjust the flavor to your liking with another spoon of vinegar,
salt, black pepper and/or hot sauce, if using.
• Serve the soup warm with fresh cilantro leaves and a few slices of
jalapeño if you love heat.

Like most soups and stews, the taste gets better as it sits, especially the next day! MMMMmmmm…leftovers!

HLE_pimenton

 

HLE_greens

 

HLE_sweetpotato

This is a great base recipe with plenty of possibilities. Personalizations can be beans, croutons, pumpkin seeds, dried chilies, mushrooms, tortilla strips and on and on.

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Delicate balance. (POTATO FRITTATA)

January 26, 2015

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Lots of resolutions here. First, I resolve to ignore my blog less. As life is a bombardment of experiences, and I am always hungry for them, the time to stop and write about the thing I love to do most (cook!) escapes me frequently. And because I love to tell stories about cooking/eating adventures I need to practice it more. Hopefully these stories, inspired by experiences, help people to cook/eat well or better! I promise to exercise these meta things.

I have been meaning to write about frittatas for a long time, ever since my friend runningwithreilly and I made a frittata-making video. It’s weird. Why I am whispering at the frittata, we may never know.

Normally in an an 9 inch skillet I would use seven or eight eggs for a thickish round, full of chunked vegetables, cheese, greens or all three. This very different, authentically Italian version, inspired by a chef/colleague‘s mama, uses a mere three eggs and paper thin potatoes fried in the skillet before pouring the few seasoned eggs over. A refinement! I like my own method as well, it yields a hearty product, but this one is nice in many ways. It’s one of those five-ingredient recipes that achieves harmony. Each ingredient is used with a light hand, and together they are solid.

ucc_frittata_round

It would be great with martinis. Or maybe wrapped around the straw of a Bloody.

 

MAMA’S FRITTATA

serves 4

1 potato

1 tablespoon cooking oil

small pat of butter

3 eggs

2 tablespoons milk or water

1 small clove of garlic, minced

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon of your favorite green herb, chopped

  • Warm the oil and butter in a 9 or 10 inch skillet (preferably cast iron or non-stick). Meanwhile slice the potato thinly on a mandolin or with a sharp knife. Place the potatoes in the skillet and allow to cook on both sides until brown and crisp in places but still pliable.
  • Whisk the eggs in a small bowl with the milk or water, garlic and a bit of salt and pepper. When potatoes are cooked, pour the eggs over and swirl around in the pan so they coat it evenly.
  • Sprinkle the herbs over.
  • When the bottom of the frittata is set, place a dinner plate over the skillet. With one hand holding the plate in place, use the other hand to flip the skillet (along with the plate) to invert the frittata onto the plate. The cooked side should be up and runny side down.
  • Slide the frittata back into the skillet (keeping runny side down) to finish cooking the bottom .*
  • Transfer the finished product to a plate or cutting board, slice and serve drizzled with some olive oil.

*if your cookware will allow high heat (i.e. cast iron) the alternative to the janky flip is to place the skillet under the broiler after the bottom has set to finish cooking the top with the direct heat. Just be sure to keep a very close eye on it and take it out when just firm.

 

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A little lesson. (FARMERS MISO SOUP)

September 19, 2013

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I am a miso lover. I need to have miso soup at least once a week, usually as the precursor to some sushi even though that feels like the lazy way out. Miso paste in general has so much more potential than a few cubes of tofu and some lonely sails of seaweed. By learning a few different (easy!) ways to use it, miso can be a staple in your fridge forever and ever. You, as the owner of a high-quality tub of miso, can reap the many health benefits for just as long.

Since it’s a fermented food, it is important is to avoid boiling miso. High heat will harm the living enzymes that make this a genuine superfood as it will also dull the unique flavors. Use miso to ‘finish’ dishes that you have created rather than adding it when there is still cooking to be done.

Miso to-do list:

-Mix into softened butter to make ‘miso butter’, the best topping for seafood ever.

-Mix with minced garlic and chili paste as a condiment for grilled meat.

-Whisk into salad dressing or marinades.

-Just miso solo in a bit of simple broth.

-I’ve seen people use it in pesto as a substitute for parmesan but…

Below is a hearty soup recipe that uses a bunch of fantastic end-of-summer vegetables, but any mixture of veg would work. Once the soup is off of the stove, dunk a measuring cup into the broth, scooping out about one cup of hot liquid. Drop a few spoonfuls of miso into measuring cup and whisk/stir until it is dissolved. Pour the miso mixture back into the soup pot and adjust to taste. You can simply repeat this process until you have reached the desired amount of umami.

Try potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, spinach and/or noodles. This recipe can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like, the main thing is hot (not boiling) liquid*, dissolve miso, enjoy.

FARMERS MISO SOUP

(serves 4-6)

2 quarts stock or water

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 kohlrabi, peeled and cubed into small chunks

1 celery rib, thinly sliced crosswise

1 cup chopped kale leaves

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 pound tofu, cut into small cubes

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 splash of rice vinegar

a few red pepper flakes

1/4 cup wakame seaweed, soaked in cold water until softened

1/4 cup miso paste (any color)

1/2 carrot

1 inch ginger

chopped chives to garnish

  • Place the stock in a large pot and bring to a gentle boil. Add onion, kohlrabi and celery. Simmer about 10 minutes. 
  • Add kale, garlic and tofu. Cook until all vegetables are tender, about 10 more minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in soy sauce, vinegar and red pepper to season. Taste and adjust. Add wakame.
  • Take one cup of stock out of the pot and place in a bowl or measuring cup. Whisk miso into the hot broth and pour it back into the soup. Taste and adjust.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and using a fine grater (preferably a microplane), grate some carrot and ginger into each soup and sprinkle with chives to garnish.
  • When reheating the soup, warm it but don’t boil. I’ll say it again.

*Make your own stock! I love stock making.

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/elaborations-veggie-dashi/

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/balancing-it-out-alkalizing-broth-2/

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BLACK BEAN TACOS WITH ZUCCHINI SLAW

July 17, 2013

BLACK BEAN TACOS WITH ZUCCHINI SLAW

Summer food!!

ZUCCHINI SLAW

2 small yellow and/or green zucchini, grated

two tablespoons of a fresh herb, chopped (cilantro, parsley, mint or mix)

juice of one lemon

dash of red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

  • Mix together all of the ingredients and season to taste.

Proceed to pile Zucchini Slaw onto any sandwich or taco or as a side dish to grilled meat or fish. I think I’m gonna throw it into an omelette tomorrow and see how that flies because morning is the only bearable time to cook these days.

Stay cool. xo

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Balancing it out. (ALKALIZING BROTH)

April 19, 2013

broth_quarts

Remember the science lesson about acids and bases in the form of a number line? Seven is neutral, like water, right in the middle of both states. Anything over 7 is a base (alkaline) and anything under is acidic. Our blood, which our body maintains at a pH of 7.35-7.45, is therefore slightly alkaline. The thing is, many of the foods we eat are acid-causing, even some pretty healthy ones.

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, most grains and legumes in excess and without balancing are not the only things that have the power to make us acidic. Some of our experiences like stress, lack of activity and poor diet choices in general can also be culprits of this undesirable condition. And though we need both acid and alkaline to be in balance, when too much acid is present, the body works overtime to keep the blood in its proper state. Foods that are alkaline*, most fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, seaweed, miso, olive oil, for example, are not only important for daily functions, but when ingested regularly will more readily balance out the less than perfect moments in our lives.

All that to say, hey! eat your veggies!

Lately I have been making extra effort to do just that by keeping the fridge stocked with beautiful organic produce and cooking lots of healthy dinners. Also trying to keep my fridge from being a graveyard of dead leftovers or, even worse, perfectly good uncooked stuff going to seed. One of the ways I like to stretch my organic grocery bucks to the fullest is by making stock. All of the lovely and delicately aromatic things that make for a good, clear stock (carrot, celery, onion, leek, fennel, thyme) go into freezer bags until I have stockpiled enough to be dumped into a big pot with some water, simmered until a lightly golden stock is born.

A few months ago, while doing a cleanse, I learned about alkalizing vegetable broth. It broke every classic culinary rule for stock-making which advises no leafy greens, no cabbage, no squash, no root vegetables, no radish. Each one of these things said to make the stock cloudy, sulfuric, bitter, etc. but the recipe included all of these things. The product was delicious, had none of the qualities Escoffier warned about. Now I am happily breaking the rules and adding all of this stuff to the freezer bag to create broths that can double as alkalizing tonic. The broth is dark and rich and can stand alone warmed  with a little extra sea salt (also alkalizing). The recommendation is to drink it several times daily. That is a great theory and I enjoyed it when I was eating strictly, but I am more often using the stuff in soups, stews, curries and risotto in lieu of more boring stocks, giving a nutritional boost and extra flavor.

ALKALIZING BROTH

You can really be creative with the vegetables you put in there, this is just a guideline:

1 onion, quartered

(plus shallot, onion, leek or scallion trimmings)

3 carrots

3 celery stalks

2 fennel tops

4 cloves garlic

2 cups green leafy vegetables (kale, chard, collard, beet greens, etc.)

1/4 head of cabbage + the core

peels, trimmings (no seeds) of one (organic) butternut squash

1 sweet potato, large dice

1/2 cup seaweed (I like kombu)

2 cups mushroom stems (or 1 cup dried mushrooms)

1/2 bunch of parsley or cilantro stems with or without leaves

1 cup of radish (with or without tops) -optional

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

4-5 quarts of water (enough to cover all of the ingredients by a few inches)

  • Place all ingredients in a large pot.
  • Cover with water and bring to a boil.
  • Immediately turn down to a gentle simmer. Cook about 1.5 hours.
  • Strain out the vegetables and save the stock in containers.
  • Freeze what you are not using. Defrost as needed.

stock_bag

Scrap bag! Red cabbage, mushroom, leek, scallion, celery, sometimes chicken bones too.

In culinary school after  pastry classes when we were ingesting sugar all day long, we were told to go home and alkalize with a hot miso soup. Yea! I give it to my kid too, after parties and stuff.

*A proper alkalizing food chart lives here. These sistas are serious!

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Strictly speaking. (BAKED SALMON CROQUETTES)

January 29, 2013

salmoncroq

For a couple of weeks MG and I have rid our diets of sugar, caffeine (Coffee, I miss you), wheat (Bread! I didn’t mean it! Please take me back), dairy, booze, etc. As the 14 days of clean eating were coming to a close I was making up stuff to ease us back into our really fun and slightly decadent reality. The key word is ‘ease’ because I didn’t want all of that abstaining to wind up being in vain. So, for these cute little suckers, I allowed for a dredge of breadcrumbs. Without the dip in the crumbs, this version of the recipe would be all-of-those-things free and full of healthy protein, salmon. I used the canned stuff for the sake of speed cooking but using 1 3/4 cups of freshly cooked salmon flaked with a fork would be a million times better.

This recipe can be seasoned in different ways, scallions, soy, ginger, or with mayo or add an egg, some old bay seasoning, cayenne, chopped herbs, etc. Just make a delicious mixture and form into patties. I left it at easy, threw some cooked brown rice (for sticking power), garlic, shallot and rosemary in the mini chop and mixed it with the fish that I seasoned a little. Simple as bonjour.

salmoncroq_minichop

BAKED SALMON CROQUETTES

(makes 10-12 small croquettes)

1 can of salmon such as Icy Point, about 14 ounces

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

a splash of red wine vinegar

1/3 cup cooked brown rice

1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, or scant teaspoon dried

3 cloves garlic

1 small shallot

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon herbs or spices of choice*

Cooking oil, preferably in spray form.

  • Preheat oven to 400F. Cover a baking sheet in foil and spray (or drizzle) with your favorite cooking oil.
  • Flake the salmon thoroughly and mix in a medium-sized bowl with dijon, oil and vinegar.
  • Place rice, rosemary, garlic and shallots in a food processor until it forms a paste (or finely chop with a knife).
  • Combine the rice mixture with the fish in the bowl. Season well. Set aside.
  • Mix the breadcrumbs with the seasonings of your choice*.
  • Form the salmon mixture into 1/4 cup patties (not too big or they will be very break-y), dredge patties in the deluxe breadcrumbs and place on the prepared sheet pan.
  • After all of the patties are formed and crumbed, spray (or drizzle) the top of each one lightly with oil.
  • Place in the oven and cook as close to the heat source as possible until the desired color is achieved and croquettes are heated through. Flip once, about 8 minutes on each side.

* Here you can use dried herbs or any mix of spices to trick out the breadcrumbs. I used this blend from Penzey’s that I got from my rad sister.

Salmon croquettes are also excellent served on tiny bread to tiny people…

salmoncroq_burger1

And here is something I wrote about Icy Point Salmon back when I used to wear a thumb ring. I really do like this stuff.

icypoint

‘I think we can consider it a ‘whole food’, so much so that the salmon still has its bones! When you open a can of this stuff you are looking straight into a cross section of a beautiful Alaskan salmon. It is steamed in the can this way, bones and all, so that every part of the fish is edible and needs only to be broken up with a fork and used in your favorite recipe. It is a staple in my pantryXX’

The bones are soft and edible. What that looks like:

salmoncroq_icybones

That’s healthy but if it freaks you out, just cook up the fresh salmon. Ça va.